I recently worked with a young lady that had a wedding to attend in her near future. It was hers! It was exciting, scary and even super stressful at times. She came to me with many goals in mind for this day (mostly regarding her physical appearance) and needed a program to follow and accountability to get there. Without hesitation, I knew that we had to do one thing: get stronger.
My “get stronger” focus came about because I knew if we did that, everything else would fall in to place. But to get stronger, a few very important things had to happen.
In this order:
1) Get nutrition nailed down
2) Train smart, consistently and intensely
3) Sleep well
Luckily, this bride to be had given me plenty of time to help her get where she wanted to be. We started about 8 months out from the wedding day.
The first order of business was nutrition, no doubt. This may be the biggest factor for anyone who wants to get in shape, build muscle, lose fat, get stronger, perform better, etc. This is often overlooked, as many people will change nothing when it comes to their diet and expect their training to trump the crappy diet they’ve sunk into over the last 5+ years. I’m sure you have heard it before- “you can’t outwork a bad diet” is 100% true.
We started with a rough calorie goal but mostly focused on a macronutrient-based diet while making sure she got all the MICROnutrients and hydration she needed, too. We wanted to look good AND feel good. I prescribed specific daily macro goals and her job was to hit it 80-90% of the time. I knew if we did this for 8 months, the results would come. We checked in each training session to make sure things were on track.
This was fun because Bride To Be was a former college athlete and a former Crossfitter. You know that got me excited! I wrote a 10-week program to get her started, focusing on compound movements that work many different muscle groups at the same time; trying to get the best bang for our buck!
We followed a linear progression for the squat, sumo deadlift (because an extra nice booty for the wedding would be great), overhead press and bench press, adding weight incrementally each week. We focused on mastering those challenging bodyweight movements such as the pullup, chinup, and pushups.
We also threw in the power clean, mostly because who doesn’t want to throw heavy weight around sometimes?! If the weight we added wasn’t moving the way we wanted it to, we would lower the weight just a bit and focus on better form/technique, more repetitions at that weight, or just simply moving that weight faster. These are all great gages of improvement in the gym.
Her maxes were re-tested after 10 full weeks of work and just as we thought, her numbers went up. A LOT.
Conditioning/work capacity efforts were mixed in each week and we were constantly doing accessory movements to help increase the weight on those big lifts. Maintaining/increasing our trunk strength was also a priority in order to stay durable and injury-free throughout the entire process (certainly NOT because doing 10 thousand sit-ups a day gives you a six pack- please don’t do that!).
Training was fun and she worked HARD! We took full advantage of the time we had together in the gym. She showed up ready to train hard for 2-3 sessions each week and as the wedding got closer, we trained together 4-5 times/week. She would train on her own as well, taking at least one full rest day every week.
Sleep is inarguably one of the most important aspects of health and fitness. If you do not get enough quality sleep and rest, you are truly missing out on the gains. During that wonderfully amazing deep sleep, your body gets to process, grow and recover from the hard training sessions that day. If you miss out on it, you’re putting yourself at serious risk for injuries, fatigue, illness, etc.
In this specific case, Future Mrs. worked NIGHTS! Yikes. I knew this could be a challenge, really getting her on a regular/routine sleep schedule, but we did it… for the most part. Recovering from workouts was not an issue as long as she followed her nutrition program and got some quality rest.
Through all of this, we took progress photos. Seeing your numbers increase for a bunch of lifts is one of the best feelings ever, but I don’t know if there’s anything that beats a side by side progress picture.
Here are a few progress photos that I have permission to share with you:
This all happened because our focus was to get build muscle. It wasn’t to lose weight, get skinny, or to just simply “tone up.” It was extremely hard work, dedication, and commitment to a well-rounded strength and conditioning program. Take note: lifting weights did NOT make this bride “bulky.”
I will never forget when she texted me and said “We did it! I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world.” Marked that down as a big W.
Brides, grooms, and everyone else reading this: If you work on getting STRONG, all the good things you want to happen to your body will come along with it! The time, effort, and sweat will all be worth it when you look good and feel good on your special day.