Spring is the time of year when athletes and fitness enthusiasts start revising their workout routines, changing their goals and leaning out for that hot summer look.
We wanted to get some expert advice on training for a lean physique, so we approached Brandan Fokken, Fitmark Ambassador, and Top 5 Online Winner of the 2012 BodySpace Spokesmodel Contest, and Muscle & Fitness Online Winner 2011-2012 and 2013.
From a very young age, Brandan has always wanted to be big and strong, “I looked up to people like Superman and Hulk Hogan. They were my idols. Nobody messed with people like that and they were always helping other people.
“Growing up, I played all kinds of sports. I didn’t grow up in the best of conditions. We moved around a lot, so athletics is how I made friends.”
But “things didn’t always go the way I wanted them to. I was a good athlete, but I was extremely small, extremely skinny, I couldn’t gain a lot of weight, I wasn’t very strong, and I got a lot of crap from people for that. It always contradicted my athletic ability, so I started lifting weights in high school and I’ve been going ever since.”
Q: What kind of learning process did you go through?
“I’ve studied nutrition, I’ve studied the human body, but most of what I’ve learned is through trial and error. Everybody is different. Everybody has unique conditions to themself and has to train for their particular body type. You need to get to know your body in order to know what works for you and what gets results. It’s the same with my clients. What works for one client won’t work for another client.”
Q: How do you tap into what works for clients and what doesn’t?
“You can look at someone’s body type and get an idea of what’s going to work. I like to give them two weeks to see how they react to training. I look at how they heal, I watch for body weight changes and other physical changes, their hunger levels, are they always hungry? But then, everybody goes through changes too. What works one time, may not work the next time.”
Q: What does your typical training season look like?
“I’m just coming out of my off-season right now, which is typically from September/October to February. If you’re training year round and dieting all the time, you’re training for injuries. You need to take time off from what I call the ‘working season’ to prevent injuries and get back to health. It’s also a good mental break for me. Then I really get after it.”
Q: What are you training for this year?
“I’ll train for some major photo shoots and video shoots coming up in June and July. Then it’s competition time. This year will be August and September for the Muscle & Fitness Male Model Contest, and The Olympia. Some of my favorites are local shows like the Minnesota North Star Championships and the Fargo Upper Midwest Contest. Last year I did four major shoots in May and June and shot two magazine covers.”
Q: What does training look like for you?
“I go straight to cut, which involves lots of cardio – about 30-40 minutes a day. Sometimes I’ll split it up into two 20-minute sessions. If it’s a high intensity day, then it’s a 20-minute workout. If I’m doing lifts, it’s 30-40 minutes of steady state. I walk a lot and do the stair stepper. In the off-season, I’ll put on some body fat and work to maintain.”
Q: What about weight training?
“I split train. So one day I’ll do legs, next day chest, then arms, then back and shoulders, and then I’ll top up on Saturday. The weekends are for touch-ups and spending extra time on my weak points. I’ll retrain whatever muscles need improvement. I mostly work out in the morning.”
Through hard work, I believe you can accomplish anything you want ~ Brandan Fokken
Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to lean out for the summer?
“It’s important to start off slow. Don’t do it all at once. Most people quit because they get frustrated. Just take it one day at a time and start with your nutrition. Once you get that down, the training is easy. Most people enjoy the training but not the nutrition part so much. Then ramp up your cardio and before you know it, you’re working out 3-6 days a week on cardio and 5-6 days a week on weights.”
Q: How long does it take before you begin to see results?
“It’s not going to happen in 5 weeks. Some people say 8 weeks, some say 12 weeks. If you ramp up your cardio and really watch your nutrition, you should see some great results. You can also accelerate results with supplements.”
Q: You say everybody is different. How would you describe your body type and how did you learn what worked for you?
“I was always very skinny – very athletic but not very strong. It took a lot of trial and error. For the first 15 years, I lifted heavy and got big – that’s what most young guys do – but I became injury prone. I’ve graduated since then. I still lift heavy and do heavy volume training. I work the different angles and change hand positions, as opposed to lifting really heavy for fewer reps.”
Q: What kind of reps and sets are you talking about?
“Now I train smarter and concentrate on form and really squeezing and lifting a lot lighter for a lot of reps – 10-20 reps on average, sometimes 10-15 for 3 to 5 sets – and doing a lot of muscle confusion by doing different rep ranges in between.”
Q: What are your favorite exercises?
“When I was growing up, it was bench press because I was good at it. Now it’s front and side raises for shoulders, also leg extensions and hanging leg raises. These are my favorites because of how they feel and my lower abs are my weak point. My quads, I want to improve. When I was growing up, it was all about my strong points, now it’s my weak points.”
Q: What nutritional advice would you give someone who wants to lean out?
“If you drink soda, cut out soda. If you’re eating a lot of bread, cut it out. You don’t need to rush into it. You’ll just create a barrier if you go too hard. Be conscious of what you’re eating, know what you’re putting into your body – how much fat, how many carbs, how much protein. I track it for my clients. For me, I’ve been doing this for so long, I don’t need to track it. Plus I eat the same thing every day, so I know where I’m at from a macronutrient standpoint. There are a lot of good trackers out there and it helps to write it down.”
Q: So what happens after you achieve your goal of leaning out. What’s next?
“How you train all depends on your goals. Do you want to do a photo shoot? Put on muscle? Drop a pant size? Always have long-term as well as short-term goals. Without a plan, you’ll never reach your goals. Through hard work, I believe you can accomplish anything you want.”
If you want to learn more about Brandan Fokken’s split training regime, visit Fitness 360 on BodyBuilding.com.
The Fitmark Team