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It’s a question that many clients ask me - ‘Can I see good results in just 12 weeks?’ My answer: “of course, but it will depend on you.”
First of all to show what is possible in 12 weeks, Let's highlight some of the results I have gotten with my clients.....
But whether these results will be typical of a 12 week training program is going to come down to the following two factors. The first being the responsibility of the coach to in essence create the perfect blueprint, or to architect the plan for change, and the second I the joint responsibility of the candidate and the fitness coach to actually see that blueprint through to it's completion. The role of the candidate therefore is to actually do the workouts, eat the meals and deliver on the lifestyle factors that influence the program and the responsibility of the coach to keep the candidate accountable throughout the process.
There are two big factors at play here:
1. Contrast - There is a big difference as to what can be achieved in 12-weeks if you are coming into a new training program or health initiative without everything being perfect beforehand, simply because there is a lot of low hanging fruit. Essentially where you optimise eating habits, workout structure and methodology, you will see very fast results. Whereas if you had everything perfect for a whole year in the run up to an online personal training program and then optimised very small details you would be looking at marginal improvements.
For most people who seek out a personal trainer, the changes that can be achieved in 12 weeks are very impressive, this is how we came to have the classic '12 week body transformation'
2. Consistency - The other big factor at play when discussing how much can be achieved in 12 weeks is going to be down to consistency, you could have the perfect 12 week workout program but unless its followed consistently it isn't going to deliver. I don't say that to be some kind of drill sergeant, it's to plant the seed that consistent action aggregates, and carries forward it's own momentum and delivers results exponentially.
When looking to turn your health around, there are often several aspects of lifestyle that I would consider ‘low hanging fruit’. The first of these is making exercise a consistent part of your lifestyle. I speak with many clients who are active but just aren’t seeing the progress they would like, and by speaking with a personal trainer, you will be able to establish the most linear route to your goals, meaning that you’re going to make more progress, quicker.
It’s worth considering at this stage what your goal is - fat loss is usually quicker to achieve than muscle growth, but pursuing this goal too aggressively can jeopardise hard-earned muscle mass. In many cases, taking a more gradual approach to fat loss can be beneficial in the long term, and make it less likely that you’re going to put that weight back on once the program is over. To that point, muscle growth typically takes months, rather than weeks, although this can vary from person to person due to a huge number of factors.
What to expect after 12 weeks by goal:
Fat Loss - If you take considerable steps toward creating a lifestyle that will naturally burn more fat than it accumulates then you could look to achieve substantial fat loss, aiming for a pound of fat loss per week is reasonable, you can then calculate what that rate of weight loss would mean for your body fat percentage. One nuance here is that fat loss is more of a linear goal, you want to aim for a fairly consistent rate of fat loss throughout a 12 week period, however the aesthetic results are not linear. At various body fat percentages, your body can look very different.
Weight Loss - I would always suggest that a weight loss goal be approached from what I usually describe as 'through the lens of recomposition' which means to prioritise fat loss and preserve muscle mass, rather than seeking indiscriminate weight loss on a scale. Having said that, sometimes there is just a lot of weight to lose, which makes the goal different from fat loss. Typically with a weight loss goal, you can expect to see substantial up front weight loss in the early weeks, it is not uncommon for example to see 6-8lbs of weight loss within the first weeks of a weight loss program, but after that it is normal for the rate of weight loss to slow down somewhat, this is normal and actually intended as it is important that weight loss be approached in a non-restrictive manner if it is to be maintained long term.
Muscle Gain - A 12 week muscle building goal can yield excellent results when the mechanics of muscle building are consistently maintained, this means maintaining progressive overload, exercising with good technique and tracking workouts consistently. Typically I advise my 12 week online personal training clients to stay in a given training protocol for 4-6 weeks, then take an active rest week to recover before beginning a new muscle building protocol. This is how muscle building is approached to deliver consistent results, over 12 weeks considerable muscle gain can be achieved.
The second lifestyle change would be to get forensic with nutrition. I’ve worked with clients who exercise frequently but can’t make the progress that they’d like because they don’t examine the food that they’re eating. A coach can offer you personalised nutritional advice, tailored to your goals. Counter to the logic of fad diets, extreme calorie restriction isn’t the way to achieve good progress - your body needs fuel for the increased level of activity that you’re doing.
Again, too much restriction may deliver shock weight loss in early weeks, but you may lose muscle mass in the process and will likely just regain that weight once the program comes to an end. Seeing your initial 3-month program as the first step toward sustainable fat loss that you can keep long into the future is far more effective. This way a 12 week online personal training program can be looked at as both a vehicle to deliver excellent results, but also as a learning process that will teach you how to establish and maintain the kind of lifestyle that will naturally allow you to keep the results you get from the program.
Thirdly, consider your activity level outside of your workouts. Although it may not feel like ‘a workout’, your body burns the most calories from fat with activity at around 100-120BPM. Splitting your focus between structured resistance training and lower intensity ‘steady-state cardio’ will help you to achieve positive recomposition, i.e. gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously.
Regardless of your goal, the best shot you have of getting in shape in 3 months is to speak with a fitness coach, who will be able to give you the toolkit to achieve your goals in the most linear way. It will take discipline and a willingness to apply your efforts across to every aspect of your life, but by removing the guesswork, you can make great progress in12-weeks as well as laying a strong foundation for continued improvements in health and body composition for the rest of your life.