4 Steps to Designing an Efficient Physique Transformation Plan

With the Paddy’s Day drinking and debauchery behind us, its time to wash our face; put our pants back on; take a long, hard, existential look in the mirror; and ask ourselves what the hell we’re doing with our lives. With each passing year, I keep telling myself that this is the year I might grow up a little bit. But as fortune would have it, I just seem to…seamlessly…fall back into the same ol’ childish shit.

Regardless, right now, at this moment in time, there is a real reason why we need to stop messing around and get our shit together. With Daylight Savings Time comes the official opening of Beach Physique Season. And with summer (Summer-Summer Time) right around the corner, mandatory workouts and physique training camps across the country (nay, The World) are opening soon.

So I figured this is the perfect time for me to share some of the strategies and resources I use as an athlete and student of the physique game. Personally, I just did a photo shoot with my training studio a few weeks ago, have some potential gigs coming up in the summer, and am contemplating doing a physique competition in The (Physique Legends of the) Fall.

And You? If you want to shred up for the summer, you gotta start that freakin’ process now. No 10-Day Juice Detox will get you ripped despite your best (but misguided) wishes. In other words, our physique philosophy is more like a no-nonsense Mike Ditka than a Juice Box Guy around these parts.

Juice Box

I’ve always believed the best place to start any physique season is to return to the foundation = the big picture process of how to effectively design a targeted, strategic, customized, and efficient game plan.

This is the process I use to make sure I am giving myself the best chance at succeeding with my fitness goals. I return to this big picture strategy session every year before the physique season kicks off as an objective analysis of whether or not I’m on the right track, based on my current situation and the specific cosmetic shit I want to get done.

And if I’ve strayed too far from The Way, and some bad habits or distractions have cluttered the most efficient path, it’s the kick in the ass I need to hack away the unessential and get back to what works in real game-time situations.

This is a process that I wish someone would have shared with me 15 years ago when I was first starting out. It would have saved me a lot of time, money, frustration, and wasted effort.

And with social media making us all a little scatterbrained, over-emotional (hey that dude or diva is ripped so let me just copy his/her plan like a monkey), and A.D.D., I think stepping back and going through this big picture process is much more important now than ever.

4-Step Process Overview

*In this video, I run through the general process, and why I feel each of the 4-steps is so valuable.

Video Summary

1. Clearly Define Your Main Goal: Figure out your main goal first and foremost. This will help you hack away the unessential, irrelevant, and non-applicable; and narrow your focus. It will also help you apply the principle of specificity (matching the training and nutrition program to your specific goal) in order to maximize efficiency. Don’t be too egotistical or entitled and think you can be exceptional at everything all at once (unless you are a genetic outlier). Most of us have to prioritize, and put one foot in front of the other in a singular direction, to get optimal results.

2. Study the Process: There’s a lot of bullshit out there. So I suggest starting with existing research to make sure that some informed and objective principles form the foundation of your plan. From there, I’d also pull from the practical experience of successful people in your field of focus.

3. Streamline the Process Down into a Few Simple, Actionable Strategies: Getting results is not about what you read, think, study, or know. Its all about you do. In any process, there are usually a few high-level steps that will take you 90% of the way.

4. Be Consistent with the Biggest Rocks: You’ll have to put forth the greatest amount of effort in the beginning to change your habits. But if you can start automating as much as possible, the process becomes a hell of a lot easier.

*In the rest of these videos, I talk about how I’ve personally applied these steps in designing and executing my own physique-focused game plans. Hope it gives you some good insights and ideas when it comes to your own plan…

Step #1 – Define Your Main Goal

Video Highlights

My main goal falls within the realm of Natural & Sustainable Physique Training

1. “Physique Training”: My main focus the last few seasons has been to achieve some sort of a specific physique goal — lose fat, build muscle, body re-composition, etc. This is different than “Sport Performance Training”, or training specifically for some sort of a performance goal — getting stronger, improving running times, rehabilitating an injury, preparing for an athletic competition, etc. There is overlap amongst these plans. But there are distinctions as well, that is if you have shitty genetics like I do and want/need to take the most efficient route to results possible.

2. “Natural”: This is not for any moral, judgmental, or condescending reasons. People can do whatever the hell they want based on their own goals. The main reason I even mention it at all is that to design optimal programs, the specificity principle must be applied. Performance/Physique-enhancing drugs change your internal physiological, metabolic, and hormonal environment. This affects many factors related to designing a targeted and customized training program.

3. “Sustainable”: My main goal these days is to stay in shape year-round for any potential fitness opportunities, photo shoots, physique competitions, or just to look good naked; all without compromising my health (physical or mental), or sacrificing my family, career, sanity, sex, or social life. So I shy away from extreme programs – training 7 days a week + endless hours of cardio + no carbs + popping fat burning pills like Pez candy, etc. I think you should too if you have a career, and a life that you dig, outside of fitness.

Step #2 – Study the Process

Video Highlights & Relevant Links

1. Here are some researchers doing great work in the fields of Exercise Physiology & Sports/Physique Nutrition:

Alan Aragon: http://alanaragon.com

Brad Schoenfeld: http://www.lookgreatnaked.com

Eric Helms: 3DMJ YouTube

Stephan Guyenet: http://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com

2. There are a ton of strength coaches out there working with performance athletes. But there are only a few coaches who have a depth of experience specifically in the field of physique transformation. And I tend to try to learn more from coaches than athletes. Or, I wouldn’t just follow some random bodybuilder or fitness model with a great physique, but who doesn’t have coaching experience. The reason? Getting yourself into shape is a whole different skillset than the ability to teach others how to get in shape (especially when genetics and drugs are factored into the equation). Here are some of the dudes I follow:

Lyle McDonald: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com

Scott Abel: http://scottabelfitness.com/blog/

Vince Gironda: http://www.ironguru.com

Chris Aceto: various online articles in a bunch of different spots (Google his name to learn his game)

Step #3 – Streamline the Process Down Into a Few Simple, Actionable Strategies 

Video Highlights, Additional Tips, & Relevant Links

The strategies I’ve found to be the most important/provide 90% of physique transformation results are as follows:

1. Set and hit targeted calorie and macronutrient numbers. My numbers generally fall within the following ranges:

0.7-0.9g protein/lbs of lean body mass

0.2-0.4g fat/lbs of lean body mass

Remaining calories from carbohydrates, a range of 1-2.5g carb/lbs of lean body mass and 11-16 cals/lbs of lean body mass (calories are adjusted up or down via carb intake, based on the training phase and physique goal).

2. Emphasize predominantly real, whole, natural foods over processed, refined foods. I use a Traditional Japanese Diet, Island-style Diet, or Paleo + Safe Starches Diet as simple templates. Regardless of the name, the players in the food choice game are:

Meat and fish, eggs, root vegetables (sweet potatoes and regular potatoes), whole fruit, vegetables, and white rice.

I wrote a massive piece on carbs, white rice, and food choices in general here: http://natemiyaki.com/2015/09/29/white-rice-for-athletes-fitness-peeps-physique-transformation-plans-the-updated-unedited-version/

*I stick to this 90% of the time, the other 10% I eat whatever I want for practicality and sustainability.

3. Strength train 3-4 days a week.

I wrote about the big picture process I take to physique transformation, and how my training programs fit within that overall framework, in this post: http://natemiyaki.com/training/

Most of the details of my training templates fall within Brad Schoenfeld’s research and broad recommendations:

Although everyone has varying recuperative abilities, a period of about 48 hours is required for adequate recovery between strength training sessions. Research has shown this to be the approximate time for protein synthesis to fully run its course (protein synthesis is the phenomenon where muscles are “rebuilt” from the breakdown that occurs during training). Accordingly, for most strength training protocols, a three-day per week routine is ideal, with training performed on non-consecutive days (i.e. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, etc). This is true even for split routines. In certain cases it can be beneficial to periodize this type of schedule with a four day split, such as a two on/one off, two on/two off schedule (i.e. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday) if the routine is structured properly. But any more than four days of hard training per week and you begin to risk overtraining when such a schedule is maintained over time.

Moreover, it’s important to make judicious use of your sets. Marathon sessions will only serve to overtax your neuromuscular system and deplete your energy reserves. Even at the highest levels of fitness, large muscle groups generally require no more than nine to twelve total sets while smaller muscle groups need only six to nine; any more is basically superfluous. – Brad Schoenfeld http://www.lookgreatnaked.com/blog/training-frequency-on-a-split-routine/

Schoenfeld, et al. The Mechanisms of Muscle Hypertrophy and Their Application to Resistance Training. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Oct;24(10):2857-72.

Current research suggests that maximum gains in muscle hypertrophy are achieved by training regimens that produce significant metabolic stress while maintaining a moderate degree of muscle tension. A hypertrophy-oriented program should employ a repetition range of 6–12 reps per set with rest intervals of 60–90 seconds between sets. Exercises should be varied in a multiplanar, multiangled fashion to ensure maximal stimulation of all muscle fibers. Multiple sets should be employed in the context of a split training routine to heighten the anabolic milieu. At least some of the sets should be carried out to the point of concentric muscular failure, perhaps alternating microcycles of sets to failure with those not performed to failure to minimize the potential for overtraining. Concentric repetitions should be performed at fast to moderate speeds (1–3 seconds) while eccentric repetitions should be performed at slightly slower speeds (2–4 seconds). Training should be periodized so that the hypertrophy phase culminates in a brief period of higher- volume overreaching followed by a taper to allow for optimal supercompensation of muscle tissue.

Step #4 – Be Consistent with the Biggest Rocks

Video Highlights, Additional Tips, & Relevant Links

One of the best ways to accomplish this is to automate as much as possible. Some of the things that have helped me in the past to do that:

1. Tracking your food to see how your normal food choices, meals, and serving sizes impact your nutrition numbers. You could use something like MyFitnessPal.

Here are a couple of posts I’ve done on this topic:



2. Pre-set your grocery shopping list/shop based on the simplified food templates/don’t keep shitty foods in your house, etc. Also, scope out restaurants around your house and work place that have decent, physique-friendly foods/meals on the menu.

3. Schedule your 3-4 strength training workouts in your digital or paper calendar like you would any other important business meeting or appointment.


The athletic season plus the focus on continuing education that I promised myself this year is starting to heat up, so I don’t know when I’ll be able to get around to posting again. As such, I tried to make this a comprehensive piece. I hope it gives you some good resources and strategies to help you reach your peak physique in the Summer of 16.

Just remember that bodies aren’t built on whiteboards, or in blog posts, or in strategy sessions, or in fitness forums, or on social media platforms. They’re built in the real world, by your daily actions.

So get out there, hack away the unessential, set a simple game plan, and then consistently execute.

The physique glory that no one other than your own ego really cares about (hahahaha) shall soon be yours.