‘Spot reduction’ and targeting ‘trouble areas’ has long been deemed a myth.
100 crunches a day won’t get you washboard abs – the way that 100 glute bridges won’t get rid of stubborn leg fat.
The answer is to get lean and lose fat all over.
But what if you’re already a seasoned Figure Competitor with countless Ms Olympia and Ms Australia Titles?
Meet Janet Kane. She hovers around single digit body fat percentages (measured by skin folds) when she steps on stage.
But when she stepped on stage in the 2009 ANB Australasian Titles only to be told by the judges, “your legs are too soft, you are out of symmetry“, she had only one goal – and that was to come back leaner, better – and WIN. ‘
As a trainer, I like to be challenged. So I told Janet, “I think I can get you in the best shape of your life, your legs leaner than ever, and without doing cardio” (which is no easy feat mind you as this meant we had to top her condition at the Ms Olympia as seen below).
In 2010, I spent 11 days straight with world renowned strength coach Charles Poliquin. Three of those days were solely focused on addressing specific female problems such as menopause, oestrogens, detoxification and supplements for pregnancy. Spelling note: As I am Australian, oestrogen is spelt with an o. I gained so much from those 11 days, I was chomping at the bit to start apply my new knowledge. When I got back, the conversation between Janet and me basically went like this: Me: “Hey Janet, this year’s comp prep:
- You are not doing any cardio
- You have to stop heating meals up in plastic (something I didn’t make clear enough at the start)
- You are only allow to use make-up and cosmetic products approved by the environmental working group (www.ewg.org)
- And we are doing an oestrogen detox.”
Janet: “Ok!” The thing I love about training Janet is she has total faith in my research and knowledge.
Janet’s body-fat on the 27th of October 2010 was 15.4% and she weighed 60 kilos. The ANB Australasia’s was on the 12th of June 2011, so we had plenty of time to prepare. The initial plan was to start cleaning up her diet with a night out here and there. From the detox point of view, the first instruction was: “Go on the ewg.org website and look up all your make-up and skin care products.” EWG rank make-up and skin care products out of 10; 10 being safe, 1 being highly toxic. To Janet’s shock, the products she was using scored a 2! I told Janet “You must buy higher scoring makeup and skin care products if this protocol was going to work. You can’t detox oestrogens if you are absorbing them through the skin every day.” On the 8th of January 2011, Janet’s body-fat was 11.5% with her quad fold reading 22 and her hamstring fold reading 22. Translation: bloody high for someone as lean. The quadriceps and hamstring sites are what we would call oestrogen sites in BioSignature. At the start of January, I found Janet wanting to start slipping into her old ways and start doing cardio. However I insisted she must remain focused and must continue to trust in the process. Cardio was strictly banned as I told her: “During this phase of training you are focusing on strength, not fat loss.” So I started to apply my new knowledge. I told Janet, “It’s not a case of more cardio, we need to start looking at lifestyle factors.”
Enter Oestrogen Detoxing
With all detoxing protocols, you must first stop the toxins at the source. If you are detoxing metals, it would make sense to stop exposing yourself to metals. Likewise, if you are detoxing xeno-oestrogens, it would make sense to stop exposing yourself to xeno-oestrogens. One of the biggest sources of xeno-oestrogens is found in plastics and skin care products. Xeno-oestrogens have a huge effect on the human endocrine system: The average sperm count fell from 113 million per millilitre in 1940 to 66 million in 1990. In addition, the definition of a “normal” sperm count fell from 60 million per millilitre to 20 million in the same period. (1) I wrote a very detailed article about xeno-oestrogens for T-Nation called Fighting the T-killing Toxins which you can read here. To simplify, a xeno-oestrogen acts as an oestrogen in the body, but with two differences:
- It’s foreign to the body.
- It’s more harmful than natural oestrogen.
Xeno-oestrogens do all the things that we don’t want. Think of it as the complete opposite of injecting testosterone. Xeno-oestrogens decrease testosterone and increase oestrogens. Researchers have also linked it to insulin resistance. (2)
We didn’t use any specific detoxification supplements until she implemented the make-up and skin care changes. The first protocol seemed to work: it took Janet’s body fat from 11.5% on the 8th of January to 10.5% on the 20th of February (Photos below). This was a one percent change in body fat whilst doing no cardio and making no changes to diet. Additionally, Janet’s training at the time was a very heavy strength phase and reps average 3 to 5. Needless to say, there was no fat burning work; I was impressed. The first protocol was:
- Calcium D Gluractate – 1 X three times a day
- DIM 2 X three times a day
- Estro Clear for Women 2 X twice a day
Plus the essentials like fibre, HCl 4.0, zinc and magnesium. Note: All supplements are from the Poliquin range, except for Protein powder which was from Janet’s sponsor, Max’s Protein. After three days on the above protocol Janet reported clearer and calmer thinking. This is often a side-effect of an oestrogen detox protocol. I remember something Charles Poliquin said in class: “Oestrogens can cause illogically thinking. Think of the 18-year old female who takes 3 hours to choose an outfit. That’s illogical behaviour.” Not that Janet had by any means “illogical thinking” (she is a very savvy business-woman) however, reporting calmer and clearer thinking was a sign that we were on the right track. Janet on Friday the 25th of February
I muscle-tested Janet on the 22nd of February and found that her body was in much need of more anti-oxidants. The new protocol was:
- Multi Intense
- Vitamin E
- Anti-oxidant supreme
- Estro Clear for Women
Janet on March the 9th 2011 – Janet at 10.5% body fat
March 18th We rotated the estro-detox protocol from using Estro Clear for Women, to using Rhurbarb px to using Poly Estro Detox. Janet’s body fat didn’t move despite starting the new protocol. I was getting a little frustrated. I mean, this was supposed to work! However, I didn’t let it phase me. I realised her hamstring site was going down, but it was her quad site that wasn’t moving. This meant that she was in fact detoxing to some degree but there had to be another lifestyle factor at play. Taking another look at her BioSignature results, I noticed the tricep site was priority number 3. (I realise the above paragraph will only make sense to BioSignature practitioners.) In a nutshell it meant Janet was changing but I was addressing the superficial issue with the oestrogen detox. This got me thinking to something that Mark Schauss said when I interviewed him for Maximus Radio.
“Phthalates are the worst toxins to suppress testosterone.”
So I asked the questions: “Hey Janet, by any chance do you microwave plastics with your food?” Janet respond, “Yea, why? It’s only Tupperware” At this point I wanted to strangle Janet! Instead I went home and wrote her a program that had cycle squats in it. Janet was puzzled on my stance on plastic containers, so I explained: “In an ideal world, you use glass containers… However, if you must use plastic, just don’t heat them with food. Plastic leeches into the food and you consume the food. That is how things like BPA and phthalates are transferred. It’s a real problem that no one pays attention to. Fat cells store toxins… plastics are toxins.”
The other BIG issue: Sleep!
The second biggest problem was Janet’s calf site. In the BioSignature, the calf site is an indicator of IGF-1 or how well someone sleeps. Janet’s calf measurement was 14 when we started. That is huge when you consider the fold on her stomach was only 4.2 at the same time! This meant she had more fat on her calf than she did on her stomach. Again, it was very high for someone that lean. To me it proved the point it’s not just a case of “more cardio”. Something more had to be at play. Could Janet’s sleep be the limiting factor in her body’s ability to produce lean legs? The answer was yes! Janet admits she usually goes to bed late working on business and doing other motherly duties. The other problem was Janet would often wake up in the middle of the night. In functional medicine, if you wake up for more than three seconds it’s classified as interrupted sleep. Needless to say, when Janet woke up in the middle of the night, she had problems falling back to sleep. This had to be addressed. So I emphasised: Let’s focus on getting 8 hours every night. It will help you get lean. Funny, Janet would rather find an extra hour to do cardio than to go to bed early. But in the end, my advice prevailed. We tried a few different supplements from the Poliquin line to help Janet stay asleep, the most effective being 3 grams of Taurine before bed. Janet reported that she would usually wake up in the middle of the night at around 4 am. In eastern medicine this means you need more antioxidants. Note to reader: This is not to say that Taurine will work as magically for you as it did for Janet. I find Topical Magnesium the best starting point for assisting people with restful sleep. Using this knowledge, we also added Vitamin E and Anti-oxidant Supreme as these products were also confirmed after muscle-testing Janet. After about a week, Janet reported a full 8 hours of staying asleep (un-interrupted sleep was achieved)!
The two biggest mistakes the female competitor makes in training are:
- They believe they know ‘how’ to train.
- They are always trying to burn fat. This can be confirmed by the constant use of fat-burner products.
I can’t tell you the amount of hours and effort that have gone into perfecting Janet’s technique on every exercise (especially stiff legged Deadlifts). Needless to say, Janet today is near perfect from tempo to execution. My magic is not in getting Janet to train hard; Janet always trains hard. My magic is planning Janet’s training with the end in mind. You see, when most girls see the scales go up, they want to start dieting and doing cardio, Janet included. I tell Janet ,“The scales are irrelevant, if you want to build muscle and strength, you’re banned from cardio. Cardio is an inefficient use of time and your nervous system. I WANT your body-fat to sit around 15% to 17%; it can be lower if your body can effortlessly get there, but NO CARDIO! Also, make sure you are regularly menstruating and you simply must be eating well with adequate amounts of protein.”
Planning with the END in mind
As I knew, Janet wanted to bring something extra special to stage; I knew that would take proper programming and foresight. As I said before, most women are always “trying to burn fat” and if you’re always trying to burn fat you’re not building muscle or making improvements. So of course, being a lover of strength, Janet’s programming from October 2010 to February 2011 was centred on getting her STRONG! The biggest lift she performed was 137.5 kg deadlift from blocks. Here’s a video of Janet performing 127.5 for a triple. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0iufYwoo9qg From March till mid-May, we focused on hypertrophy. From mid-May till the end of June, we focused on conditioning and fat-burning.
The golden rule is one month, one focus. Don’t mix methods and only focus on one thing at a time.
May 5th 2011
There is no doubt about it: Janet took a leap of faith when I said, “I’ll get you leaner than ever before without cardio.” For this leap of faith I will be forever grateful to Janet. Whilst I can’t say we did absolutely no cardio, I can say we did get her body fat down to 9.2% with no cardio and no stupid starvation diet (actually with the way Janet eats I’m surprised she still has food left over to feed her family!) With that said, I can also say I was successful at dramatically reducing her cardio pre-comp. Here’s what Janet had to say about the whole experience: “When faced with the task to come in harder with much leaner legs for this comp and improve over the last comp, I was very hesitant to remove the cardio as Mark had wanted. There was no logic that I could apply from my experience that would give me the confidence with this plan, but with the sheer confidence I had in Mark’s knowledge, I trusted the result would come. “In previous comp prep, I was used to doing 45 min cardio at 5 am (before the kids would wake) and then a grueling 2-hour weight session at 9, immediately followed by the second cardio session of 30-45 minutes. The third cardio session would be somewhere in between doing the home reading with the kids after school and cooking the dinner. And all this was done at least 12-16 weeks out from a comp. “Needless to say this comp prep did not have all that cardio included. Sure I trained incredibly hard in the gym and in the kitchen, and I literally swapped the cardio with more sleep and happier moments with my children. I also felt much more calm and balanced and surprisingly still maintained a higher level of carbs up until the competition than I had in previous times. “Having the weekly measurements, I was able to see the incremental changes in my body and that the program was working; seeing these changes, I became more confident in Mark’s plan as I am very results focused. If I were only to judge by the scales, then I would have ditched the program as there was not a whole lot of change in the body weight. Gratefully my body-fat was dropping, lean mass remained the same through the whole process and the targeted sites of my legs were also significantly dropping. I was very happy. “Now that Mark has a process to eliminate the excess cardio and only use cardio as a final prep, WHY would you do it any other way? “Thanks Mark – you truly are a trainer with exceptional knowledge and the results are there for all to see on stage”
So why did I allow cardio back in at 6 weeks?
On the 21st of April, for the third week, Janet’s body-fat was still sitting in the 9’s. I made a deal with Janet that she could start doing some cardio, under the condition that if her body-fat didn’t change, we would try something else. One week later and her body-fat was in 8’s. The next week in 7’s, then 6’s followed by 5’s. The best part about it was I shaved 10 weeks off the cardio process AND shaved down the two cardio sessions per day to just one 45 minute session after training… Additionally, when the cardio was finally introduced, it worked way more effectively.
So let me say that again so it sinks in. . .
In previous comp preps Janet did 3 cardio sessions per day and started this from anywhere between 12 to 16 weeks out. With this comp prep, Janet started doing cardio 6 weeks out and kept it to one 45-minute session after training.
Janet looked absolutely amazing! (Pictures below) She won the overall titles at the ANB Australasia’s and the INBA All Females for the second time. We hit the target… She was in the best of her shape and did the least amount of cardio she had ever done to get ready for a show.
Janet Kane at the 2011 INBA All Females
I measured Janet each and every week to ensure she was on track. Below is a ‘at a glance’ table of Janet’s progress including her body-fat, weight and quadriceps and hamstring fold:
|Body-fat: 15.4%||Body-fat: 11.5%||Body-fat: 10.5%||Body-fat: 9.8%|
|Weight: 60kgs||Weight: 58.5kgs||Weight: 58.5kgs||Weight: 57.3kgs|
|Quad: 26||Quad: 22||Quad: 21||Quad: 17|
|Ham: 22||Ham: 22||Ham: 16.5||Ham: 13|
|Body-fat: 9.7%||Body-fat: 8.8%||Body-fat: 7.8%||Body-fat: 6.3%|
|Weight: 56.9kgs||Weight: 56.2kgs||Weight: 55.7kgs||Weight: 54.7kgs|
|Quad: 16.5||Quad:15.8||Quad: 14.8||Quad: 12.8|
|Ham: 10||Ham: 10.2||Ham: 10.2||Ham: 10|
|Body-fat: 5.3%||Body-fat: 4.8%||ANB Australasian|
|Weight: 54.9kgs||Weight: 54.5kgs|
|Quad: 11.8||Quad: 11.8|
|Ham: 9.2||Ham: 8.2|
|Body-fat: 6.2%||Body-fat: 4.9%||INBA All females|
|Weight: 53.8kgs||Weight: 54.4kgs|
|Quad: 11.2||Quad: 11|
|Ham: 9.2||Ham: 10.2|
Wrapping it up!
After writing this article I probably sound like a witch-doctor and I’m cool with that as I haven’t (nor will I—so don’t bother emailing me) provided hard “research” or any “evidence” apart from my own experience and what I learnt from Charles Poliquin. The fact of the matter is this was the least stressful contest prep Janet had ever done and this was the best she has ever looked. To put simply, these methods help someone get a better result with less effort. If that makes me a crazy witch-doctor—at least I’m a crazy witch-doctor getting people better and faster results. My biggest success was not helping Janet win the ANB Australasian or the INBA All-females by getting her in the best shape of her life: It was actually something her husband said to me: “I can vouch that in past competitions Janet did 2 hours of cardio every day. The thing that impressed me most was that she didn’t do ANY cardio until 6 weeks out from the first comp, and even then, she wasn’t doing anywhere near as much. It was so much less stressful and she just got back so much more time to do things… From spending time with the kids to just running errands.” And when the stage smoke clears, dust forms on the trophies and all is forgotten, I believe Janet will not thank me for the titles she won, but the extra time she got back to spend time on the things that really matter… And at the end of the day, that is the core purpose of my business: Faster results, less stress and effort. By Maximus Mark Ottobre P.S. All products mentioned are from the Poliquin line. P.P.S. I am not endorsing or recommending that you try this protocol on your own. Remember, I was tracking Janet’s progress each and every week and fine-tuning as we went. If you would like me to setup something similar with you, contact my personal assistant here to arrange a meeting. I am based in Melbourne, Australia and am available for one on one consults.
Janet and Maximus Mark Ottobre
References 1. The sperm count has been decreasing steadily for many years in Western industrialised countries: Is there an endocrine basis for this decrease? http://www.ispub.com/ostia/index.php?xmlFilePath=journals/iju/vol2n1/sperm.xml 2. The Estrogenic Effect of Bisphenol A Disrupts Pancreatic Cell Function In Vivo and Induces Insulin Resistance