On Aamir Khan’s Transformation
Disclaimer: This is NOT a criticism of Aamir Khan or his team. Merely me, noting some things in this promotional video that literally had me shaking my head. Going from 38% body fat to below 10% is not easy, even when your livelihood depends on it. No bones about it: this took a lot of hard work and the results speak for themselves. So, good job Aamir and co.
I realize I’m judging the video on scanty information but I’ve already heard a couple of kids discussing what their routines are going to look like based on this piece of heavily edited footage. This post will keep me from biting my lip to a bloody pulp every time I see that happening.
Here’s what bugged me:
Cheat reps with assistance on a heavy squat. Progress on lifts need to be recorded. “Assisted” reps don’t count because it is impossible to decide how much of the effort comes from the subject rather than the one doing the assisting. How much of a “boost” is the subject getting? 5 kgs worth? 10? No one knows. So what the hell goes in the log? You’d be better off dropping some weight and training your ego out of the gym. Assists compromise form too. This is especially bad on heavy technical lifts. Its hard to judge from this angle but I’m guessing that bar is not exactly above the mid-line anymore.
Goddamn Smith machines. I’m willing to bet anything that these abominations have wrecked more bodies than built them. What are they most used for? Military presses, squats, bench presses and dead-lifts. Precisely the sort of technical lifts where you do NOT want to be locked into a set pattern of movement. You might get away with poor form for a few months or even years but good-luck holding on to any soft tissue around the joints after decades of working on these damn things. (Yes, yes I hear you bodybuilders. I’m not saying they don’t have a place in a hypertrophy/rehab scenario with advanced lifters. They just do more harm than good to newbies.)
No talk of training volume. How long was an average training session? What about methodology? Frequency? But most of all: What the heck did his training look like during the “fat” phase. It’s not like he sat on ass eating samosas all day. Look closely at the video and you’ll see Aamir’s underlying musculature, even under those slabs of fat. (Full disclosure: I’ve gone through some shitty diets all in the name of bulking. Don’t do it folks.) Aamir made a great comment about the importance of his diet, which I’m glad was included. But no mention of what was happening in the gym during the Michelin man phase. Why leave that out?
Look, I get the desire to “look good”, who wouldn’t want that? I chased that for years at the expense of everything else. But here’s what most people do wrong: making that the priority. A perfect set of kidneys doesn’t sound or look as sexy as a six pack does. But the former is going to matter more. Washboard abs are pointless if you end up feeling gassed after a flight of stairs. Body builders value aesthetics above everything else, as such their goals and methodologies differ from someone just trying to get and stay healthy. It behooves us to understand the difference.
The video is a promotional piece for a movie. It states quite clearly that this protocol was dangerous and not recommended. But it does leave the question open: What does one (read average Joe) do in order to physically transform? In very broad strokes, this:
- Start with the kitchen, not the gym (so glad the video didn’t gloss over this). You cant outrun/out train a shitty diet. Wont happen. Cleaning up your diet will account for 70% of most peoples goals. More so if aesthetics is priority. The information is out there, go find it.
- Get enough sleep. The business of living is the business of taking damage. In a very literal sense, that’s what aging essentially is, accumulation of damage. Training is added damage, its the good kind of damage, but still damage. Sleep is how your body repairs itself. Do not compromise.
- Prioritize being active. An hour of training will NOT make up for 12 hours of sitting, no matter how intense that hour is. Move. Get up. Walk while you are on the phone. Take the stairs. Move. Notice I haven’t mentioned anything about exercise yet. That’s not an accident. You are not just transforming your physical self but your whole lifestyle. Understand what that means.
- Do NOT start with a “routine”. Yep. Read that again. This is the number one thing that I’d like people to change. Routines will come, there is definitely a place for them in anyone’s tool-set. But if you’ve been riding a desk for a decade or so and the only exercise you are getting is walking to and from your garage, you need to re learn what your meat wagon can do. This is why just being “active” is key.
- Forget specializing. There’s nothing wrong in choosing a particular activity and basing your program around it (programs are not routines, in case you are wondering). Like lifting? Great, so do I. But as I tell anyone I train, “You may indulge in that for NO MORE than 70% of your training time.” The remaining 30%? That’s everything else. Run, swim, climb a tree, play a sport (highly recommended). Again, movement is key. Humans were build to walk, run, swim and climb. Be human.
- Fall in love with body weight exercises. I recommend sticking to nothing but these for 3 months before even touching a bar/dumbbell. Remember, relearn what your body can do and what it should do. Crawl, then walk, then jog, then sprint. I haven’t seen many diaper wearing sprinters, have you?
- Log everything. Religiously. You need to know whats working and whats not. Progress is only real if it is measured. This goes for both training and calories. You use your phone for everything else anyway. Well, here’s another thing it can do.
- Most of all, understand that this is for the long haul. This isn’t homework, or an assignment, or a project. You don’t get to check out at the end of the day, or 5 months, or 10 years. You never get to say “I’m done”. Unless you’re dead. Then, you’re done. This is like breathing, eating, brushing your teeth or taking a shit. You don’t complain, you don’t protest, you don’t even “think”. This is just a part of you now. This IS you. Your body cant help but transform.
That’s all it is folks. Its not complex, it’s not rocket science, you don’t need fancy equipment or pricey nutritionists. Just an intelligent plan, patience and like Aamir, a LOT of hard work.