Fitness challenge trio - how did their first month go?

After the first four weeks of #TopfitMorning, the SCMP’s 12-week fitness challenge, our three challengers have made significant progress, but the hard work is far from over

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 March, 2016, 7:08pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 19 March, 2016, 8:54am

With four weeks of the #TopfitMorning 12-week fitness challenge completed, our three challengers have moved onto a new phase of training. In the past month, they worked out under their respective Topfit trainers using the German Body Composition method. All three challengers have seen significant improvements in muscle mass and strength, and reductions in body fat (just look at the photos!). Now, the focus has changed depending on each of their fitness goals. Here, their trainers detail the plans for the next month of training.

Arnold Wong, trainer for Janice Lee

After the first four-week phase of shocking the muscles with weight training using big compound movements, and focusing on technique (set up, movement, breathing) and muscle time under tension, we now enter the second four-week phase where we will focus on speed, agility and explosiveness. We spent the first four weeks building good lean muscle size and strength, as well as training for muscular endurance and muscle control – now we put them to functional use and really open up the work capacity of her body.

Her training will consist of speed/agility ladders, box jumps, plyometric body weight movements, battle ropes, prowler pushes, core strengthening and stability, high-intensity interval training and supersetting. The objective is to train the body to move as fast as possible, as well as move quickly and in various directions.

We’ll work on Janice’s motor skills and train the mind to control and connect with all limbs as effectively as possible. Skills such as arms and legs control, fast feet and controlled footwork, explosive forward and vertical movement, general awareness of limb movement and coordination will have significant benefits for her triathlon races and obstacle or trail running competitions.

Performance-wise, Janice’s progression has surpassed my expectations because as I review all the logged exercises and weights she has done over the last four weeks, she has increased her strength in every exercise. Every session I kept pushing her to increase the weight while keeping the repetitions constant and she was able to hit new records each time.

In terms of technique, Janice has also exceeded my expectations - she is very fast at learning and understanding the mechanics of the body. She is also very good at learning how to breathe and brace her core for heavy lifts.

Diet-wise I will start to decrease her calories but maybe by only 100 calories - I don’t want to move her carbs around too much because she will need good energy to complete this training phase. Her macronutrient breakdown of carbs, protein and fats will roughly remain the same as before – that is, well balanced.

Janice Lee’s body measurements since week 1:

Weight: 56.3kg to 54.1kg

Lean muscle mass: 24.1 to 24.9kg

Body fat mass: 12.9 to 9.3kg

Body fat: 23 per cent to 17.2 per cent

Louis Doctrove, trainer for Lee Tsui

Next up for Lee we will be focusing on trying to really build muscle and increase his skeletal muscle mass. We spent the first four weeks utilising the GBC training method, building up his strength levels, now it’s time to put that increased strength to the test. We will move into a training style where each session will consist of hitting two muscle groups: chest ant triceps (Mondays), back and biceps (Wednesdays) and legs and shoulders (Fridays).

During Week 1 of phase 2, his type 2B fast-twitch fibres will be targeted for improvement. These fibres are the big, explosive movers of your muscular system, and they need to be trained aggressively. They produce a lot of power but fatigue easily. The ideal way to hit these fibres is with explosive reps in the 6-10 range.

In the second week of training in phase 2, we will be focusing on his type 2A fast-twitch fibres. These respond best to slightly lighter weights, with reps in the 12-15 range.

The third week will see us really batter his type 1 slow-twitch fibres. To effectively target this group of fibres, all exercises will be performed with slow controlled repetitions with a lot of time under tension. Reps will range anywhere from 20-100 reps.

The theory behind this training style is that because the rep ranges, intensity and rest pauses are always changing, the muscles don’t have a chance to adapt, and as a result the only thing they can do is grow. I have found this training style to be very effective at putting on lean, dense muscle because it hits every aspect of the muscle within a short time period. Both fast and slow-twitch fibres are targeted with a great deal of emphasis placed on stretching the muscle fascia, the connective tissue fibres that wrap themselves around the muscles. This in turn can help increase your muscle growth potential.

This style of training also has a very low risk of injury as it focuses more on the muscle fibres and less on the body’s joints. You get the benefit of heavy lifting, but it’s reduced to once every three weeks rather than on a weekly basis, thus reducing the wear and tear on the body.

Lee’s progress so far has been on track, with him down about 4 kilograms after the first phase of training. We will be more focused on making sure the body fat percentage keep dropping at a steady rate and that his muscle mass starts to increase.

For Lee’s diet plan, we will be dropping his calories from 2,000 to 1,800 for the next 3 weeks. This includes 224 grams of protein (up from 100g), 100g of carbs (up from 50g) and 90g of healthy fats (down from 150g).

Lee Tsui’s body measurements since week 1:

Weight: 88.1kg to 84.5kg

Body fat: 23.9 per cent to 19.4 per cent

Heanney McCollum, trainer for Elizabeth Wu

Elizabeth really enjoyed free weights and machine-based exercises in phase one. Now that she is comfortable with trying new exercises, in phase two we will continue with circuit-based training (similar to GBC training style), and combining heavy weight lifting with intervals of high-intensity cardio moves (like sprints and jumps) in between strength moves (body-weight exercises, free-weight exercises or machine-based exercises).

Each week, we will divide our three workouts according to focus: one on lower-body training, the second on upper-body and the third on full-body. Even though each training will be focused on a section of the body, pairing strength moves along with cardio moves will kick her fat burning furnace into high gear.

As the weeks go on, we will slowly increase the intensity of the cardio moves by changing the speed, distance and difficulty level, along with altering resistance training by changing the amount of weight she lifts and reps she completes.

One of Elizabeth’s goals is to be able to walk up the Lan Kwai Fong slope in Central without panting like a husky and I have high hopes that phase two will get her closer to achieving that.

Her diet in phase one has been a cleanse for her body. We cut out dairy, complex carbs and sugar. In phase two of her diet, we will slowly decrease her daily calorie intake by 150 calories. Elizabeth has been very good with what she eats; I offered her a cheat meal a week in phase two, but she quickly turned me down in exchange for one cheat alcoholic drink. She works her butt off - how can I say no?

She is doing so well and she surprises me each week. She has become my fitspiration to all, her positive energy is so refreshing, and it makes our sessions that much more fun. She’s inspired many of her friends through her social media posts of her delicious clean recipes, and many have joined her in our group sessions. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Elizabeth Wu’s body measurements since week 1:

Weight: 57.4kg to 53.3kg

Chest: lost 5.5cm

Waist: lost 4.8cm

Hips: lost 4cm

Glutes: lost 3.4cm

Thighs: lost 7.5cm

Calves: lost 2.1cm

Arms: lost 2cm