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Pick My Program: Beginner Joining 2018 T-ransformation

I read about the T-ransformation contest and decided to go all in. In all honesty, I’m pretty intimidated but the way I see it, I have nothing to lose (except a ton of fat) and everything to gain.

My absolute singular goal is fat loss. I’m driven to see my abs for the first time in my life. I want a healthy & attractive body. This past January I was a fat 235 and was a life wasting 35% body fat. As of today I’ve lost 46lbs, weigh 189, and believe I’m between 20-25% body fat. I’ll post pics soon, but guess I have another 20lbs to drop to become noticeably lean. I’ve cleaned up my diet, have gotten stronger running StrongLifts since April, but now it’s time to pour it on and really get after it.

I want to choose a program from this site, and essentially act as a guinea pig for the community. My only stipulation is I want to workout in my garage/home. I have all the typical garage gym equipment: rack, barbells, pull up/dip, row machine etc and have no problem picking up other equipment if needed. Also, living in AZ I have unlimited ability to workout outside during the winter/spring so no issue there.

The programs that I’ve read about include: 10X3 For Fat Loss, Athlete Lean Athlete Strong, 5/3/1, etc. Beyond just these few, which program are you interested in? Which program do you want to see tested in the real world? I want this to be fun, and as a beginner I’m open to anything, I just thought this would be an exciting way to engage the community. Let me know what you think, we’ll settle on a program, then I’ll get my ass to work.

My promise to you is that no matter what program is picked I will put the work in, and give you my all. I will start a training log and give back to the community as much as possible. You’ll share in the wins, and have a front row seat to my failures. My goal, besides fat loss, is to transform my body and hopefully inspire others to consider their next steps. Let’s do this. Let’s make it fun. I’m in. Are you?

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Do SMOLOV mwuahahhaha.


Congrats on weight loss so far.

Diet will determine your success. Priorities should be consistency, caloric balance and so on as shown in the infographic below. If you are losing weight steadily then continue on with what you’re doing. When you stall or weight loss is inconsistent it may be time to start counting macros to ensure you’re in a caloric deficit. If you are not already maybe loosely count/ball park daily protein intake to maximize favorable changes in body composition.

Cardio too… but fuck that shit.

Unfortunately there’s no special secret Soviet training programs for fat loss other than a program of Soviet Sports Supplements nomsayin and the results of any program are not really surprising once you know what to look for so having a guinea pig run it is pointless.

That being said progress is what you should be after. This will provide the stimulus for your body to gain/hold onto as much muscle mass as possible in a deficit.

The appropriate program will depend on where you are at.

If you are still making progress on Stronglifts I’d advise to stay on it. Tbh the program itself is a bit squat heavy so unless you want to be extra thicc maybe change it up a little to emphasise upper body. e.g. been a while since I looked at it but I think you can add chins and dips or someshit.

Next up is the Texas Method of something similar where gains have slowed and you can’t add weight everytime anymore but can still milk linear gains week to week. Googling “Texas Method” also comes up with lots of good info and templates.

5/3/1 variations are for when it becomes hard to make week to week linear gains.

Some of the other programs you listed are somewhere inbetween and can be great if you’ve been “strength” training for a while and its grown a little stale. A change in volume, rep ranges, frequency, intensity, exercise selection and other variables can be just what is needed. e.g. Stronglifts has made you extra thicc so you do a program that emphasizes upper body hypertrophy to balance yourself out.


This for diet, which is what will determine your outcome

Training less important, but I would recommend four plus days per week


Thanks for the great response!

I am still making progress. My current lifts may not be impressive, but considering I started with the bar a few months ago I feel like I’m headed in the right direction: Deadlift - 285, Squat - 270, Bench - 210, Row - 200, Overhead Press - 120. My only issue is the workouts are pushing 1.5 hours as I’m pretty fried after squats. I’m going to eat more to see if I can gain some energy and cut the time down.

Thanks for this. I haven’t read this article, excited to check it out.

After six months on StrongLifts I feel a bit torn. On one hand I’m now 100% comfortable and know the routine, my weights, and what to expect every workout. However, after six months on StrongLifts I am certainly getting board. The thing that keeps me going is I can still add weight to the bar and set new PRs. I’ve also added in a few other things during the week like walking a few miles with a 30lb backpack, and adding in some dips and pull ups to change things up a bit. Just for fun I’m also thinking of sprinkling in some farmer carries.

This is good to know. I plan on sticking with StrongLifts until January at the least, but maybe at that time I’ll be ready to change things up. I have 2 months to get ready and will plan to get as strong as possible before the contest starts.

Thank you for the great feedback. I really appreciate you taking the time to check out my post and provide me with some actionable and insight.

@MarkKO You’re one of my inspirations to get off my ass and into this competition. I’ve read through your log and so impressed with the work you put in. Seriously, your hard work has paid off and I look forward to following your lead.

Diet has led to 99% of my weight loss so far. It’s been trial and error and I still have a lot to learn. I will dig into the article, ask some follow up questions, and follow the advice as best I can.

My current diet method has me losing an average of .5lbs a week. I calculated my TDEE to be 2,600 calories and eat approximately 2,100 per day following a 40%/30%/30% macro breakdown. That breaks down to 210g Protein, 70g Fat, and 160g Carbs.

I look forward to optimizing my diet and giving you a run for your money in this years competition :).

Thanks for everything, your insight is invaluable.

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Solid post @khangles

@azwildcats I’ve personally found something like CTs Strength Circuits combined with a caloric deficit to be the most efficient way to lose fat. Again, that’s me personally and will be part of my approach for the 2018 T-ransformation.

One other thing that is often overlooked, but I think can make a huge difference, walking. Plain ol boring walking or rucking if that’s your thing. It’s low impact and can have an astounding effect on body comp particularly over a longer time frame like 6-9 months. I think its better to do it outside, but obviously that’s not always an option.


You’re very kind @azwildcats

One thing I noticed, you said you’re around 189 lbs, but your intake is 2100 cal/day. That seems very, very low to me, especially when you’re just fluffy and not super fat any more. It gives you very little room to move down. I never bothered with a TDEE. I just went with bodyweight times 14 as my low end maintenance and started there to decide how low to go. For you that’s around 2700 cal/day. In your position I’d probably start around 2500 cal/day and go from there.

Obviously if what you’re doing is working there is no need to change, but that’s about the only thing in your post that jumped out at me.

At your height (6 feet, which should’ve been mentioned earlier because it’s above average and gives your weight more context), dropping to 160-something will have you looking marathon runner-lean. If you want abs at all costs, go for it. If you want a lean and actually muscular build, we need to find a better way.

Pics would help figure out where you are now, but it sounds like you’re “skinny fat”, which means the best route is recomping, not strictly fat loss. You’ve done well with the fat loss so far, but if you’ve still got a ways to go, it’s long-past-time to pay attention to building muscle too.

The “How to Stay Strong When Dieting” plan Mark posted is a solid approach. You need something that fuels hard training to build muscle instead of over-focusing on a calorie deficit that prompts fat loss.

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I’m ready to find a better way! I want that lean muscular build and I’m ready to make a change. I’ll get pics & details posted tonight. Definitely “skinny fat,” improved from just “fat fat,” but I have been laser focused on maintaining a calorie deficit, while most likely missing the big picture.

Have now read, taken notes, and will start incorporating and see what happens. Because I’ve been eating at 2Kish calories I’m sure I’ll gain some weight, but I’m fine with that and will commit to the process.

More info tonight. Excited to not just move forward, but to move forward in the right direction!

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Careful what you ask for :). For context I’m 6’ and weigh 189.

This first set of pics were taken July 2016. I was approximately 220, and proceeded to gain an additional 15lbs by December. Ugh…this is embarrassing…


This following pic was taken July 2017. I had been dieting for six months, been on StrongLifts for 3, and weighed 205, down 30lbs from my heaviest. Far from perfect, but I was pretty excited about my progress.


Here are pics from tonight. Yes, I have a prominent love handle. This is because my other one, plus 4 ribs, a chunk of lat, oblique, and diaphragm were resected during bone cancer surgery. I have a large dinner plate size patch of Gortex & Kevlar held together with concrete anchors but hey, at least I’m breathable and bullet proof :).



Well…that’s me. I hope this provides context and we can work together to achieve some great stuff during the 2018 T-ransformation!


You’re being a bit hard on yourself. You’ve got a decent platform to build on. Some extra lean mass will probably do more than cutting any fat initially, especially if you add it around your chest, shoulders and upper back.


Slowly ramping up my calories starting with this mornings breakfast. Got squats, overhead press, and deadlifts tonight. Will start working in some pull ups, push ups and dips and probably farmer carries/sprints for conditioning once my energy levels pick up a bit. I want to be in the best shape possible come January with the hope that the better my base the better my transformation will be.

Any workout plans I should consider, or you’d like to see me put to the test?

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You’ve got a solid base to built from for the comp. You’ll be fine.

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WS4SB is a cool program you might want to look at.

3 days of lifting and you could easily add a couple of days conditioning


Yeah man, you’re definitely in a good spot to go from. Steady work on a good training plan and diet, and you’ll be on track. The thing to remember if you bump up calories is that you need to “earn them” by attacking the training each workout and not pussyfooting it. (I have a feeling that’s not your style anyhow)

As for programs, really anything that’s been suggested would be fine. I get the idea of wanting to experiment with something, but anything on the site is going to be legit. Find a coach whose info speaks to you and then get after it.

Also, congrats on kicking cancer’s ass. Pretty sweet that you got some cyborg-style upgrades out of the deal at least.


I second this. Defranco knows what he’s talking about.

Oh, shit, I didn’t even see this. That’s awesome OP.

a few things…

seriously stop worrying about which program you run. Everything you mentioned is fine, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. It’s literally impossible to be a guinea pig in the fitness world without going off the deep end and doing truly stupid things. Why would you even want to be a guinea pig when you could, you know, make progress off a tried and true program we have experience with? Doesn’t make sense.

Out of everyone on this site competing this year so far, you may legitimately be in the best spot, right now, to win. I’m not exaggerating. Being a beginner makes you such a stronger contender than someone like me.

Now for the approach I would take if I were you. Stop eating at a deficit, TODAY. Building muscle takes more time and is more difficult than cutting fat. And you’re not THAT fat right now anyway. The goal here is to look awesome on June 1, not January 1. Which means you have to look at the big picture. That means you should be working towards a better body composition and a bodyweight you would like to be at. I believe that bodyweight should be about what you are at now, and I would eat to maintain that weight and try to recomp. Work hard in the gym, and eat appropriately to gain muscle, at least until April. In April, you can assess where you are, and figure out a ‘finishing’ game plan. If you’ve ended up really successful on your recomp road, and are getting close to the leanness you want to be at, and think you can continue to add muscle while reducing fat, do that. If you get to that point and say ‘man, I’m still not seeing abs. I need to cut’, then you can begin a cut at the beginning of April to shed some bodyfat and cap off the transformation. 2 months of a really good cutting diet would do wonders for you at that point. There are a lot of ways to approach this thing, but I believe that you HAVE to make the fat cutting your final stage rather than doing it now, in order to present your best package on June 1.

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I don’t know if I can pull it off, but I do know I’m going for it 100%. It’s gonna be a great time competing with guys like you, such an awesome opportunity to learn, push myself, and see what we can collectively accomplish.

Done. I’ve been eating at a deficit for months…I’m ready for some food :). I’m upping my calories and changing my focus to building muscle today.

This makes total sense, and I’m on board. I think I’ll start a training log now rather than waiting until January. Better to ensure I’m on the right path to succeed in the long run.

Thanks for your thoughtful response, and insight. You sharing your experience with beginners like me is one of the best things about T-Nation. Thanks for doing what you do.


awwwww you’re sweet.

Yea, getting on the muscle-building path right now will definitely be a good decision. 2 additional months of lifting for size will benefit you for sure when we get to the end of this, and it won’t substantially affect your ‘before pics’ on January 1 if you haven’t shed any more fat by then. You’ll just end up with more muscle after your cut at the end :slight_smile: win win!