Fitness

Gym special: The 12-week body transformation

When Boyz editor Luke Till signed up to the SWFitness 12-week body transformation programme at Jubilee Hall, his goal was to simply have a better body. Yet the wider benefits he continues to experience far outweigh his initial expectations. Here, Luke talks to SWFitness founder and personal trainer Steve White about their journey together.

Hi Steve, so how did I do?

I think you did incredibly well. It’s hard to make anyone really understand how difficult the process actually is and what it’s going to do. The majority of people think that they can come to the gym a few times and gaining muscle will be really easy, but once they get into it they realise it’s a lot more difficult. And I think a lot of it is down to psychology more than the actual training – if you don’t have the drive then you won’t be successful; you won’t get the results. I think there’s been a big change in you as an individual, which is why it was successful.

Looking back, I think it took a few weeks to really completely dedicate myself to it.

The thing is the process is painful. It’s not the most enjoyable thing; you come into a gym, you’re being worked hard five to six times a week, you don’t have any idea of actually how much it is going to push you. And there’s a good risk that a client will turn around and say ‘I can’t do this, it’s too much’, and walk away.

Did you have concerns like that with me at the start?

I thought it was going to be too much for you. Because of your body type – being more ectomorph; naturally lean – it’s very, very hard to change your body type. If you were an endomorph – a larger frame that holds a lot more fat – you can strip a diet down and straight away they’ll lose weight, even before they begin training. The other body type, mesomorph, can change more or less instantly.

With an ectomorph body there is going to be such marginal differences that you can make, so it’s going to be much harder to do. One of the other traits of an ectomorph body is sometimes personality-wise they don’t attach to something as fast as the other two types might. When you first started I don’t think you realised that it was going to be something you had to think about all day, every day. So I think the difference in what you were to what you are now is huge for your body type. So my main concern at the start was whether you would find it too difficult and want to give in. And there must have been occasions where you thought ‘I just fucking hate this’.

Yeah, there were occasions, but like you say I think it was down to a frame of mind. I started with the idea that I wanted to throw my whole self at it, and I didn’t want to flake out after a couple of weeks. So I think if someone comes to you thinking that they can get away with doing just what you tell them to do while they’re on the gym floor, it’s not going to work; they need to apply self-discipline to every area of their life.

It’s a huge lifestyle change. I’m very much of the view when it comes to training that I am just someone who empowers someone to do something. My job is to make them understand mentally how to change. I don’t lift the weights; I tell them what do to, but I don’t lift the weight for them. I don’t make them come in and put the effort in. I can help motivate them and inspire drive, but what I’ve got to do is understand what is going on in their mind more than whether they’re going to be able to lift a given weight. Occasionally you might not be able to lift a certain weight that I think is right. The big thing about change is your approach to a situation.

What were our aims at the start of the process?

The objectives were: gain lean mass; build correct body proportions; reduce fat percentage; increase core strength in a 12-week timeframe.

And we achieved all those…

I think we achieved them incredibly well. We put your body through quite a lot and one of the things that had to happen is your core and stabilising muscles had to really improve. Doing things like deadlifts, squats and overhead presses was a lot for your core to manage; you were doing five days of these exercises and that’s a constant battle. But you performed with everything and did incredibly well. It’s very rare that someone can say that they put 5kg of lean muscle mass on in 12 weeks – which is a lot for your body type – and lose the amount of body fat that you did. In this industry we all aim for two things: one is to reduce our fat, the other is gain lean muscle, and trying to do both at the same time is very, very difficult.

Another point I want to make is that this did start out as a vanity project for me – I wanted to improve the way I looked, I wanted a bigger chest, bigger arms. But quite quickly I realised I was feeling better about myself, even before I could see a difference physically, and I think it was because I was putting good stuff into my body. And this feeling good about myself had a knock-on effect in other areas of life outside of the gym, like in the office and at home. So I’ve noticed a lot more pros than just abs or bigger quads.

I get a number of people talk to me about how the training we deliver has so much more of an impact than just what you see. A huge amount of it is confidence and to challenge the things that you wouldn’t normally challenge in everyday life. A big underlying element in all of this is about happiness and feeling confidence in yourself to actually be attractive. So as your body improves and your confidence increases, your confidence will be evident when you approach situations that may have been outside of your comfort zone in past times, be it going to a job interview or speaking to someone at a bar. Someone is never going to change whether they are an introvert or an extrovert, but training like you have done does assist you to be able to cope with different challenges depending on your character type.

I also notice I have higher energy levels throughout the day, and feel less sluggish in the morning, which has been brilliant. And also an improved sense of wellbeing and generally a clearer mind. And that’s because of decent diet and exercise, right?

Yeah: you’re not polluting your body. Yes you’re coming into the gym and breaking yourself, but you’re also helping your body to become more efficient. This is a lot of the reason why we do what we do: we push ourselves harder than we did last time, we try and improve our fitness, and it’s not just because of the aesthetics, it’s because it makes us feel better. And if you’re not polluting your body with the wrong type of carbs or sugar or fags or alcohol or whatever, your body will function better.

What would you say were my biggest challenges?

Probably your body type, and also your diet.

Yes, the amount of food I had to eat was a huge change.

If you eat the right things you will gain a lot more size rather than eating a lot more of the wrong things. It’s about eating clean calories. You went from eating average calories to eating a lot of clean calories. And you still need to eat more. But your biggest challenge was being disciplined enough to motivate yourself when me or Paul wasn’t with you. And this is the challenge we have with everyone: are you going to push yourself hard enough when you’re on your own?

Did you learn anything from our process?

I learn so much with every single person. Every process, every situation I enter into is always a learning curve. For me that’s really important because it makes me a better personal trainer. In this industry I think if you treat people with empathy and humility you will always be successful; the results will come in and the business will grow if you understand your clients and actually give a shit. And that’s half the problem with a lot of PTs; they don’t care about what they’re doing, which is why they’re not successful.

As for your process, I think it was quite intensive for a 12-week programme. If I were to do it again I think I’d apply the same rules, maybe structure your training a little differently, but that would be about it. And maybe I’d try to bulk you in the first four weeks, but the problem with that is if you bulk you’re asking the person to lift heavy.

But I was starting from scratch.

Exactly. I had to teach you to train properly first before I could get you to lift heavy. So we’ve not only just done a 12-week transformation of someone who wanted to change; we’ve educated you how to train properly. Your form is amazing, your strength is good, you always push hard, I couldn’t fault your technique and I can’t fault it now, which was great, because that would’ve been another thing to overcome.

The other thing I realised was that once all three elements were working in harmony with each other – lifting well, diet and sleep – I couldn’t believe how fast my body changed. I knew that I was lifting a lot heavier than I was before and that spurred me on a huge amount too.

There’s so much more to fitness, physical activity, exercise than what you look like; it’s about mental wellbeing, it’s about feeling so much better about who you are as an individual. And that’s why I do what I do.

The stats

Name: Luke Till Age: 31 Height: 175cm
Smoker: No Alcohol: Approx. 10 units per week

Week 0 Week 12 The difference

Weight (kg) 66.7 69.5 +2.8

Lean body weight (kg) 59.67 64.45 +4.78

Body fat (kg) 7.03 5.05 -1.98

Body fat weight 10.55% 7.27% -3.28%

SWFitness is a London-based group of personal trainers brought together by founder Stephen White and is predominantly based at Jubilee Hall Gym in Covent Garden, WC2E 8BE.

For more on SWFitness go to swfitnesslondon.com

With thanks to: Bespoke spray tanner James Harknett at the Away Spa, W Hotel London, Leicester Square (jamesharknett.co.uk). Ted’s Grooming Room (tedsgroomingroom.com). Wellman Sport vitamins (vitabiotics.com).

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