Day 1: “Human Foie Gras” by Nick Mitchell

Today was a momentous day.

Not because it was the first day of the 12 week program that forms the basis for my new book “The Ultimate Body Transformation Guide” (working title – publication date Christmas 2015, HarperCollins), but because Joe Warner dragged his sorry arse into the gym for some real training for the first time in nigh on 3 years.

After his first session Joe is already regretting the next 83 days, 22 hours and 7 minutes...

After his first session Joe is already regretting the next 83 days, 22 hours and 7 minutes…

A quick bit of background (you can read more about the story so far here…), Joe was my guinea pig, collaborator and cover model for the UK’s bestselling fitness book of 2013 and 2014, “The 12 Week Body Plan”. In that book we detailed the progression of “ordinary Joe” from armchair athlete to magazine cover model in 12 weeks, over just 4 workouts a week, whilst working as a busy magazine editor at Men’s Fitness. We are following that exact same formula this time except there have been a few key changes:

  • The program is different – in 12 Week Body Plan we gave you Joe’s exact workout and that was it. In this new book not only are there novice programs, the 12 week plan itself has an almost infinite variety of ways that you can tailor it to your own specific goals and commitment levels.  In fact, whilst it is structured as a step by step 12 week program you can easily chop and change it so that you have a different program every month for 12 months rather than just 12 weeks!
  • The exact same principle also applies to the meal plans and nutritional advice that is going in the book. It is no longer just about getting as lean as possible, we also have separate chapters on the methodologies I would employ to add maximum muscle mass in the shortest possible timeframe.

And the biggest material difference right now as we run through the program and finalise the manuscript?

Joe is in worse shape than for the first book!

JW day one front relaxed

This is Joe at Day 1. Ground zero with a LONG way to go to get into cover model shape in 12 weeks. We really do have our hands full!


By worst shape, I mean so damn bad that when I sent this photo (below) to his business partner at Iron Life magazine he coined Joe’s new nickname of “human fois gras”.

By way of comparison, here’s how he looked for the start of our first project in 2012 next to his current condition.

JW two befores

You may think I’m being mean to christen him in public with such an attractive sobriquet as “human foie gras”, but after all, there’s no love quite like tough love to get your game face on.

joe game face copy


I’m going to answer a couple of questions that I know some of you will ask:

Why is Joe in worse shape? Has he just got out of shape for this book?

Joe is not a man who loves weight training. It doesn’t call to him in the way that it does to someone like myself.

He is in the fitness industry and is fascinated with that, but he isn’t a professional fitness model / trainer. He is a journalist who loves the art and craft of building fitness magazines. His first exercise love is actually distance running and he has completed a respectable number of marathons in pretty decent times.  Not really the ideal test subject for a “body sculpting” program, but that’s good because we want to try to do the nigh on impossible and create a relatable “everyman” situation.

The 12 Week Body Plan was Joe’s first foray into effective training (versus a few weekly jogs, sporadic gym sessions, and a really patchy diet) and this is one reason why he had such a great body recomposition, ending up 2kg heavier than when he started but about 10% body fat leaner. Naysayers say this is impossible but one look at what we consistently do with UP personal training clients should knock that bit of negativity on the head immediately.

personal training

Post 12 Week Body Plan Joe slowly dropped his gym habit, and then he set up Iron Life digital magazine, THE serious magazine for serious weight trainers, and the wheels came off completely. As it does with many of us, life and work got in the way.

So he’d come to me here in Marbella in some serious need of help.

Starting body fat % three years ago was about 16/17% if memory serves, this time round as the photos attest he presents a much more significant challenge. According to our caliper readings he is a whopping 25.3% body fat!

biosignature result

We can take that reading with a pinch of salt as caliper reading BF % can be a bit off, so I only ever use this one as of a number of ways to assess progress. Of much greater importance is that fact that he has turned up with cellulite on his stomach! And yes, he does have slightly unusual BF distribution with a massive preponderance to store it all around the midsection and love handles.

Day 1 JW grabbing fat full res copy

We know there’s a lot of cynicism for “before” photos so here’s a nice close up of Joe in all his glory. He carries a disproportionate amount of fat around his midsection so getting him cover model ready is going to be a tough challenge.


So whilst choosing Joe to do the challenge with means I know that I will have a partner who is dedicated and follows my instructions (the one thing every trainer must have to ensure he can showcase his work properly), it is certainly not a slam dunk where we can what we did before.

Additionally, this new program in The Ultimate Transformation Guide allows me to plug and play different workouts and programs based on creating the best possible body. So with Joe for example, I know that his pectorals grow relatively easily so we’ll run a fairly simple option from the book for those, but instead pull out the routines and periodised plans that will allow maximum arm and deltoid development.

That’s the beauty of the new book! And it works really well for me and Joe as I already know what his body looks like when he is very lean and followed a program. Now, like a sculptor, we need to graft like hell to create a better silhouette and appearance. 

Doesn’t Joe have muscle memory?

If Joe had trained for years to get his 12 Week Body Plan physique then possibly muscle memory would play a role, even though he’d taken nigh on three years off.

However, the faster the body comes, the faster it goes, and the less muscle memory plays a role. In his case, 12 weeks of hard training three years ago isn’t going to do too much for his physiology, although psychologically he knows he has done it before so the actual dedication and sacrifice of the training and diet process won’t be as big a worry as it was previously.

The key advantage to using Joe for the Ultimate Transformation Guide is that I have eliminated my risk in working with a clown who doesn’t follow my advice or who will quit midway through the process.

As the owner of an expanding international business this is not the thing that pays my bills, it is my love and passion for teaching what I believe to be the most effective and time efficient methods for the ordinary man to develop a body that he can be proud of. In other words, I don’t have the time to spare on this so choosing the right partner was vital.

Joe isn’t a machine who you can throw anything at (eg barbell squats and Joe don’t go all that well), but he will be committed, focused and has a point to prove.

He will also take great delight in being in better shape than me by the end of the program. Although based on today’s evidence there is one hell of a long way to go and not a lot of time to do it in!!

Stay tuned for the next step and how we get on. Both Joe and I will be updating this blog every couple of days at least for the whole 12 week period leading up to his shoot.

And the one critical thing that you need to do now is look at the sign up box on this page and leave your email address.

That way I will let you know when the book is ready for pre-order as last time we sold out of print copies even before any were in stock and readers had to wait another month whilst the publisher frantically printed more!

And if you’re of a competitive frame of mind then you may want to check this page out for a unique chance to train with me at UP Marbella!