I started Phase 3 of Visual Impact back on November 13, 2011 with two goals in mind:.
- Get lean
- Build some ridiculous strength
I prepared my meals, I structured my workouts, and I prepared myself for a few weeks of what I quickly discovered to consist of unusual training and endless mind games.
Let me fill you in…
It was November 13. I stepped on the scale and it read a solid 184lbs.
Using the Visual Impact program, I embarked on a mission to get as lean and as strong as I can in the shortest time possible. I set goals of dropping 10lbs of fat and improving my strength by at least 20% in 4-6 weeks.
A mere 5 weeks later, the results (once again) blew me away.
I was 15 lbs lighter.
And my strength was up by an average of 15%.
I was happy with my results, just like I was when I gained 19lbs in 8 weeks.
Before I get into the details, I want to make sure you’ve had a chance to check out the previous posts in this series. If you’re interested to see, in detail, how I’ve set up my training and how I’ve structured my diet for getting lean, you can check out the following posts:
- How to get Lean with VI Phase 3: Eating for Fat Loss
- How to get Lean with VI Phase 3: Training Strategy
- Getting Ripped with Visual Impact Phase 3
My objective, as it was during my muscle building challenge, was to record as much information as possible so I can relay it all to you guys. I want to give you everything you need so you can replicate the results.
So let’s get into the details.
The Beginning – November 13, 2011
Here were some pictures of me taken on November 13, 2011, the beginning of my getting lean challenge.
I was fresh off of finishing up Phase 2 of Visual Impact – a 5 X 5 style of training and more of a transition phase from Phase 1 to Phase 3. I weighed in at 184lbs and my body fat percentage was around 12-14% (this wasn’t measured just estimated using reference pictures). I had decent muscle mass, mostly in my chest and my back.
Let’s fast forward 5 weeks…
The Transformation – December 17, 2011
As you can see, I’ve completely leaned down. I dropped to a solid 169lbs and my body fat percentage was hovering around 9%. My waist completely shrunk down, my chest expanded, and, most notably, my back got super defined.
What you can’t see in the picture is how dense my muscles got. They became hard to the touch even when they weren’t flexed. The feeling is amazing!
To see how my weight has fluctuated over the 5 week period, I’ve put together a little graph to show you exactly how my weight shifted from week to week.
Notice how my weight change was fairly consistent over the course of five weeks, with my largest spikes being in week 2 and week 3 where I lost 4lbs in each week. The reason behind these spikes was mainly because my body started to adjust to the caloric deficit it was experiencing and was quickly shedding the stored fat that I had accumulated over Phase 1 and Phase 2. It started to slow down to about 2lbs per week (still impressive) in my last two weeks as I had less and less fat on my body.
As a side note, if I was to continue through with this phase, I would make sure to switch to doing only LIT cardio after my workouts and forego the HIIT. This would ensure that I continue to burn fat (whatever is left on the body) instead of breaking down protein, turning me into one lean-ass mofo.
Here is another picture that shows the changes my body has gone through over the 5 weeks:
You can definitely see the changes in my overall body fat. My waist also shrunk dramatically but my muscle mass stayed fairly consistent. This goes to show that going on a calorie (and carb) deficit doesn’t mean your muscles will break down.
What about Strength?
Let’s take a look at how my strength has evolved over the 5 week challenge. What I’ve done is I’ve kept a training log with me and filled it out each training session. So after I was done I wanted to be able to look back and see exactly how my lifts improved over the course of five weeks.
Here’s a chart that shows my progress in strength development:
The Max Weight at Start column simply refers to the weight I was lifting in week 1 of the Phase during my last (and heaviest) set. The Max Weight at End column is the same thing, only for week 5 of the Phase.
You can see that there are areas where I’ve had some good gains and some areas where I’ve had quite minimal gains. Dumbbell exercises, such as the incline dumbbell press, the seated (shoulder) dumbbell press and the one arm dumbbell row saw the greatest boosts in strength. Major barbell lifts such as the bench press and the military press saw minimal gains.
The reason behind this is that a lot of the major gains I’ve had in these big exercises came in Phase 2 when I trained in the 5 X 5 style so there wasn’t too much improvement left to make here in Phase 3.
My biggest boost in strength was in the weighted dips where I was able to work up to doing dips with two 45lbs plates hanging off of me. Now that felt good!
What I Learned from this Challenge
Lesson: To build strength, NEVER go to failure.
What you can take away: Most people are under the impression that to develop strength, you need to lift super heavy weights until your arms fall off. The fact is, if gaining strength is your number one priority, you’ll want to end each set before you bring your muscles to failure. You’ll always want to have a few reps left in you at the end of each set. What this does is it teaches your neuromuscular system to create stronger contractions which leads to greater lifts. Temptation plays a huge factor here. Training in this manner takes time to get accustomed to because we’re so used training to failure. There are going to be times when you’re lifting heavy weights and you know you can crank out a few more reps. Don’t! Stop right there and prepare for your next set. That’s how you build strength.
Lesson: I lift more with a spotter.
What you can take away: I typically like training alone. I just find my workouts are more efficient and I’m more focused when I’m by myself. But when you’re training for strength you’re focusing on low volumes and very heavy weights. When you deal with heavy weights, there is a greater risk of injury if you’re doing things by yourself and it becomes very psychological. I found that by having a spotter, I felt safer (and more motivated) to lift heavier weights. When I was by myself I held back a bit, afraid that I might injure myself. If you can, find someone you can work out with but be 100% sure they know what they’re doing when they’re spotting you!
Lesson: I really hate long rest periods!
What you can take away: When you train for strength development, you want to extend your rest periods between sets to 2-3min. What this does is it allows for enough time for your muscles to fully recharge before starting the next set. When you don’t allow your muscles to fail and you extend your rest periods, you can train harder and longer.
Lesson: The mind to muscle link is HUGE here.
What you can take away: I’ve talked about the mind-to-muscle link before, but here it makes a big difference. You need to fully concentrate on each and every repetition you’re doing. Focus on contracting every muscle group in your body during every repetition. You’ll need all the help you can get when you’re facing heavy weights.
Lesson: Your cardio needs to be strategic.
What you can take away: Most people don’t put much thought into their cardio sessions. They jump on the treadmill or the bike, throw it on a certain speed and then go at it until they feel like they’ve accomplished something. If you want to get lean, you need to be strategic. I found that combining high intensity interval training (HIIT) with low intensity training (LIT) after a weight lifting session worked best. HIIT is great for getting your heart rate up, helping turn your body into a fat-burning furnace for hours after the workout. LIT uses your fat stores as energy and is great for burning off those last few pounds. The proportion of HIIT and LIT will change as you progress through the phase.
Lesson: The slow-carb diet works.
What you can take away: This was my first time trying a diet like this and I’m happy to say that it works really well. It’s easy to follow and the results speak for themselves. You can learn more about the diet here.
Lesson: Your body adapts quickly to hunger.
What you can take away: I went from consuming roughly 3,500 calories when I was in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the program down to roughly 1,600 calories for Phase 3. The first week I felt like I was going to literally die of hunger, but I stuck to it. Within a week, my body already adapted to the drop in caloric consumption and my hunger cravings were nearly gone. But when you’re on a caloric deficit for a prolonged period of time, there will be days that you get cravings. I found that coffee, tea, and water are great hunger suppressants.
Lesson: During periods of constant, prolonged calorie deficits, your mood (and personality) can change.
What you can take away: I found this to be fascinating. Although my carbohydrate (and overall calorie) intake was low, I never felt like I was lacking energy. But people told me I wasn’t being myself. They told me I was talking less. It seems as if the body utilizes any means possible to conserve the energy that it does have. Remember, the body is built to primarily do one thing: survive. And that’s exactly what’s happening here. My body realized that it was being deprived of energy (from food) so it compensated by changing my mood (and my personality in a way) which resulted in me talking less. Crazy!
Lesson: Don’t do this shit during the winter holidays.
What you can take away: This is more of a psychological thing than anything. When you are striving to eat less, make sure you’re not setting yourself up for failure by surrounding yourself with endless temptations. That’s exactly what happened to me since I was constantly faced with having to resist food during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, my will power is strong enough to resist the temptations, but it wasn’t easy. So if getting lean is your objective, get rid of all temptations in your environment (home, work, etc.). Make it easy for yourself to succeed.
Lesson: Visual Impact works!
What you can take away: If you’re looking for a program that can help you get lean and strong, then Visual Impact is the way to go.
So what’s next?
Had I stayed longer in Phase 3, I probably would’ve hit the 6-8% body fat range at some point. However, I was not really interested in dropping my body weight any more.
So I’ve decided to move on…
There is actually one more Phase in the Visual Impact Muscle Building program that I’m really looking forward to testing out.
It’s called the Bonus Phase and it uses the same principles that actors and fitness models use to get that truly ripped and defined look.
I’ll fill you in on all the details soon!
Anyways, I hope this post has given you a good overview of what it takes to get lean. I’m clearly not completely there yet but it goes to show how much can be accomplished in as little as 5 weeks.
If you have any questions or comments about my results, my strategies or anything about getting lean, feel free to drop a comment in the comment section below.