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Joe Warner, the deputy editor of Men’s Fitness, the UK’s best-selling fitness lifestyle magazine, went from flabby, out-of-shape man to a cover model star – complete with rock-hard six-pack – in just 12 weeks, and reveals the secrets to how you can build a brand new physique with only four hours of exercise per week.

So what’s his secret?

“I spent most of my 20s doing a lot of running but no matter for how far or how long I ran I would always have a bit of a belly and never any muscles on my chest, shoulders or arms,” he says.

“After turning 30 I decided to see whether I could get into the best shape I have ever been in.

“I deal with a lot of fitness models for my job but always thought I would never be able to get a physique like theirs.

“I believed I just didn’t have the right genetics or enough time to make it happen. But it turns out that there is no legitimate reason for not making huge changes to the way you look without a t-shirt on.

“If I can do it, anyone can. I’m an average guy with a busy, deadline-driven desk job so finding the time to train is always difficult, but the regime I followed proves that you don’t need to spend hour after hour exercising to dramatically transform the way you look, even in a relatively short period of time.”

Nick Mitchell, the founder of Ultimate Performance, which has two personal training gyms in London, who designed and oversaw Joe Warner’s training programme says: “When Joe came to me he had a <<skinny fat>> physique, which is when you have very little muscle mass on your torso but a large amount of fat stored around the stomach.

“It’s a body shape I’m seeing increasingly among UK men and one that can lead to a lot of long-term health issues, especially diabetes.

“But Joe and I have proved that an effective training regime, which doesn’t require hours of boring exercise, coupled with smart eating can radically reduce body-fat levels while also packing on significant amounts of lean muscle for a better, and ultimately healthier, body.”

Nick Mitchell’s training programme revolved around just one hour-long gym session four times per week, and in 12 weeks Joe Warner shed 8 kg of fat – the equivalent to 16 large packets of butter – while building 10 kg of lean muscle mass to completely transform his body into one worthy of gracing the cover of Men’s Fitness magazine.

Joe Warner’s four sessions were carried out on Monday, Wednesday and Friday lunch times, and first thing Saturday morning, so it had minimal impact on his work or social life.

“Instead of working through lunch with a sandwich at my desk I got out of the office, trained, worked off some steam them came back to my job more energized and focused,” he says.

“I found my productivity soared once I started training. Even if you have a very busy, very stressful job finding just four hours per week to train will not only have huge benefits to your physique, it will also help you combat stress levels and allow you to work more effectively and efficiently.

“I booked my training sessions into my diary just like I would any other meeting. It sounds silly but it makes them feel more important so you’re less likely to cancel them.”

“I started seeing major changes after the first week and after a fortnight by body-fat percentage had tumbled from nearly 17% to 12.8%, with nearly all of the fat falling off my stomach,” says Joe.

“I was also adding lean muscle mass to my chest, shoulders and arms, so being wider on my torso but narrower at my waist made me look radically different relatively quicker.”

“The key to getting rapid results is to work out intensively for a short amount of time, then give your body time to recover fully before training again,” says Nick Mitchell.

“Training for too long in one go is counter-productive to getting a better body: it places too much stress on your body, which actually eats away at your muscles and encourages the storage of fat.

“It’s also important to frequently change the exercises you do, and how many sets and reps of each you do so that your body is always out of its comfort zone so must keeping burning fat and building muscle so it’s ready for anything.”

How to build six-pack abs in 12 weeks

How to build six-pack abs in 12 weeks

Joe Warner’s diet revolved around plenty of lean red meat and white meat, fish, fresh vegetables, eggs and slow-release carbs, such as sweet potatoes.

“The diet I followed was simple but effective so I was never hungry,” he says.

“You do need to be organized so that you are never tempted by a quick sandwich and crisps at lunch, but I found that I was actually enjoying my food more on the diet than before, mainly because steak, vegetables and sweet potato mash is far more delicious than a pre-packed sarnie or ready meal.

“And when you are training hard you want to feed your body the right food to keep your muscles growing and your belly shrinking.”

“I could even have a glass of red wine at the weekends, so never felt as though I was sacrificing anything,” he adds.

“At first it was hard to go out and not being able to drink or order anything I wanted off the menu.

“But most restaurants will serve steak, chicken or fish and happily give you as many vegetables as you want.

“It didn’t take long before I stopped craving for sugary foods and snacks because I could see that my training and diet regime were really working.”

“Joe has proved that training hard and eating healthily is all you need to do to transform your body into one that can grace the cover of a magazine,” Nick Mitchell adds.

“A smart training plan, executed with 100% effort, really is the best, and most effective, way to build the body you’ve always wanted.”


Monday: 60-minute run
Tuesday: 45-minute run
Wednesday: 60-minute gym session
Thursday: 60-minute run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 45-minute run
Sunday: Rest


Monday: 60-minute gym session
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 60-minute gym session
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 60-minute gym session
Saturday: 60-minute gym session
Sunday: Rest


Breakfast: Cappuccino and croissant
Snack: Tea and biscuits
Lunch: Jacket potato with cheese and coleslaw
Snack: Fizzy drink and crisps
Dinner: Pasta with vegetables in tomato sauce


Breakfast: Bacon and scrambled eggs
Snack: Handful of mixed nuts
Lunch: Tuna salad with peppers and olives
Snack: Greek yoghurt
Dinner: Steak with sweet potato fries