Stop Using the Same ole’ Training Ideas for Transformation Contests

by | Jul 6, 2015 | Articles, For Fitness Pros, Stage 2 | 0 comments

(Last Updated On: March 14, 2024)

The Transformation Contest Guide (Part 3)

How to create effective transformation contests that will set you up as the go-to fat loss expert in your area.

To get big time results you can’t continue to use the same ole’ training protocols that are in your regular programs. That might work for the beginners, but a transformation contest is all about getting big results and getting them fast. To do that you need to pull out all the stops and use any tool in your toolbox that will get the job done. Typically I recommend doing the least possible to get the best possible results. But that is when we are talking about training in general. If you want to elicit big changes in your clients’ physiques you need to push them a little bit. I have placed transformation clients into our regular programs and got good results, but when I started changing training ideas for transformation contests to a slightly more aggressive model —I got amazing results!

…when I started changing training ideas for transformation contests to a slightly more aggressive model —I got amazing results!

The best thing that you can do to get results quickly and to cause a high metabolic demand is changing up their training stimulus. A change in the program will create inefficiencies that cause the client to burn more calories.

That may not be an option though…. So, what are you supposed to do?

IMG_1159Here is my hierarchy of fat-loss training:

  1. Strength Training
  2. Metabolic Resistance Training/High Intensity Resistance Training
  3. High Intensity Interval Training /Metabolic Conditioning
  4. Increased Non Exercise Physical Activity
  5. Steady State Cardio

A majority of the clients that I have ever worked with on fat loss plans lack the level of strength and muscle mass to make them a fat burning machine. When programmed correctly a strength program can be just as effective, if not more so than interval training.

If the client is a cardio lover or has been in interval training or boot camp type workout programs for a long period of time it might be a good idea to change up their workouts and focus on strength a bit more.

A good base of strength training will help them not only be able to get more out of the interval workouts but it will help them keep the muscle mass that is valuable when we are looking at a transformation program.

Keep your rest periods short, focus on big movements and work in a moderate rep range 5-8 for men and 8-12 for women. These basic parameters get you started and you can refine it from there based on client needs.

Metabolic Resistance Training or High Intensity Resistance Training as I am using it here involves more of the density type training that you see using high demand training movements and preforming them on a time basis. You can set this up to train for a certain period of time and get as many sets in as possible, train a set every minute or on a time interval, or perform rounds as quickly as possible.

The toughest part about implementing this type of training is managing the intensity and rest periods. You want to be working at the highest level possible in the safest manner possible. So performing 30 reps of a clean and jerk with a barbell is probably not a great idea for most people. It is also easy for clients to try and push through without rest periods and not really challenge themselves.

Things like complexes, combos and density sets are great ways to train Metabolic Resistance Training or High Intensity Resistance Training.

Note: There was a study that was done on High Intensity Resistance Training and training to failure. I am not using the same definition here in this blog post.

Metabolic Conditioning or High Intensity Interval Training is the most commonly used method of fat-loss training. I would classify most boot camp or group training programs into this category. It is also the most commonly used by those clients that are coming into your transformation programs.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see in the programming of HIIT is the lack of proper rest periods and the use long work periods too frequently. There is a fine line between challenging your clients and making them feel as if they got in a great workout and ensuring they are getting the most out of a workout. This is especially true for a beginner where it is tough to get them to push the intensity of most movements to the level needed for shorter work periods and longer rest periods.

The use of proper progressions and a balance in the programming is the key to success. When I was responsible for the programming of our Metabolic Resistance Training program at Force Fitness one of the ways that overcame the programs of programming in strength based intervals and more aerobic based intervals was using undulating periodization in the programming.

Each week we would focus on three of the following:

Transformation Contest Training Ideas

Each week at there would be at least one power or strength workout, one strength or hypertrophy workout and usually one strength-endurance workout.  The power workouts typically included work intervals of 5-15s, strength had work intervals of 20-40s strength hypertrophy would be 30-50s and anything over 60s was considered strength-endurance training or aerobic training.

We matched the exercises/movement selection to the work periods and then balanced out the rest intervals to ensure that the intensity could remain as high as possible for each workout.

This ensured that the clients were training different energy systems and allowed us time to educate them on how to get the most out of each workout.

If a client is in a solid strength training program including short bursts of high intensity interval training at the end of workouts or on recovery days will often times give them the extra boost needed to accelerate fat loss or break through a plateau. These can be intense finishers or workouts of their own lasting 8-20 minutes long.

Through personal experience and with clients that I have worked with who are able to perform high intensity activities there are a few things that promote a change faster than others- sprinting or prowler pushing. One of my favorite ways to take a fat loss program to a new level is to include hill sprints or heavy prowler pushes at least one time per week. Typically I am looking for all out efforts of 10-25s and recovery periods of 60s+ to ensure that the intensity remains high.


Pushing the prowler or sled with a heavy load for short bursts can create similar to results as sprinting with fewer risks due to the lack off and eccentric phase during the movement.   It also doesn’t produce as much soreness so it can easily be included on a recovery day.

If you are adding in sprinting to a client’s workout for accelerated fat loss typically I start with short hills 30-60 yards in length and begin a progressive program with 3-4 sprints with ample recovery time. Each individual will have to assess their own recovery but typically 60-90s is plenty for them. Eventually they will get to a point where they are adding in reps each week and reducing rest period as their conditioning improves.

It might be surprising that the next training method on my hierarchy list was not any training at all, but rather non exercise physical activity. In my experience getting clients to own their movement outside of the gym is a key for their immediate and long-term success. This includes things like taking the stairs, parking farther away from the entrance of a store, going for morning or evening walks with your spouse or partner, and even standing at your desk at work or taking breaks to walk around the office ever 55 minutes or so.

Our society and especially our clients are extremely sedentary and the more we get them to embrace movement the higher their chances for success. Encourage them to ride their bike on a Sunday, walk to brunch, or just hit the door for some fresh air after dinner. One fun way to add “off the clock” training ideas for your transformation contest is to help your clients find things they enjoy outside of just training is a critical part of not only their results but in their enjoyment in life.


Me, enjoying a run.

I have experienced this personally and seen it with hundreds of clients. If you get them moving outside of the gym on non-exercise related activities or on activities that they enjoy the likelihood of their success goes through the roof.

Don’t be afraid of them leaving your program or stopping their training because they are getting their exercise somewhere else. They see the benefit of working with you and how it compliments their activities. If they don’t you probably need to do a better job of educating them on it.

Finally, if absolutely need you can put in steady state cardio. Unless someone truly enjoys this type of activity I rarely prescribe it except in cases where we are preparing for a photo shoot. There is a place and time to put this in a client’s program but I high recommend holding off on it as long as possible. It is an inefficient way of training for fat loss because your body adapts and becomes more efficient at performing the activity relatively quickly.

That adaptation requires the client to perform more work either with higher intensity, which can only go so high and still fit in this category, or with more time. Eventually you run out of time!

Not to mention for most of your clients this type of training is boring. I would rather see a client enjoying hikes out on a trail or taking evening walks bonding with their significant other than spending time on a cardio machine.

Training Progressions To Consider

When designing your training protocols for your transformation contests I find it critical to be aggressive with your progressions. The problem with progressions is that most trainers only use straight linear progressions with either an increase in weight or volume.

Here are some of my favorite progressions…

Increased Density Through Rest Progressions

You can make small weekly adaptations to the rest periods you plan in your programs to increase the density (work being performed in a set time) of the workout. Increasing density while maintaining intensity creates a bigger metabolic demand, which will produce better results.

This progression works well if you want to be aggressive and pair it with increased volume in a program but keep a time limit on a workout. The decrease in rest allows you to get more work in during the same time period.

Here is an example of this in a program:

Transformation Contest Training Ideas_Rest Progression

Increase Volume

Adding volume to a training program is a great way to progress a client. You can do this with set or rep adjustments from week to week.


Week 1 – 4×5

Week 2 – 4×6

Week 3 – 4×7

Week 4 – 4×8

This is an aggressive escalating rep progression where you would aim to use the same weight for each set through the program That may be ambitious but if you look at the load being used and multiply it by the reps completed you will get a total workload and you can double check to make sure the client increasing their total workload.

The same can be done with set progressions. It is important to remember that when you increase sets you are increasing the total workload significantly more than with your rep progressions.   It is wise to start of conservatively or increase twice in a four-week program.


Week 1 – 3×8

Week 2 – 4×8

Week 3 – 5×8

Week 4 – 3×8

In this example the final week is a deload week for the client in terms of volume but the intensity should remain the same.

Volume increases can also be achieved by alternating set and rep progressions.


Week 1 – 3×8

Week 2 – 3×10

Week 3 – 4×8

Week 4 – 4×10

Transformation Contest training ideas_Volume Progression

Progression Through Tension

Tension is a highly underutilized variable in training programs. It’s a bit tougher to manage and working in the higher ranges of time under tension can be grueling. However there are some fun (at least for us training junkies) methods that you can use with your clients:

1+ reps: These are mostly done with squats but they can be done with presses as well. Typically you will see them done in 1+1/2 Reps or 1+1/4 reps.   Give these a whirl with front squats, goblet squats, and push ups.

Paused Reps: During a paused rep you would stop and hold a position during the movement. For example you could pause at the bottom of a squat for a set period of time, these could be done with split squats or lunges as well and are great for push ups.

Mechanical Drop Sets: These are used to increase the time under tension by manipulating loads. Here is an example of a curl done with a mechanical drop set:

A1) Supine Curls x 8

A2) Supinating Curls x 8

A3) Hammer Curls x As many as possible

You would perform each variation with the same weight moving from one to the next with no rest between exercises. The goal is to keep moving by making the movement easier through positioning.

Drop Sets: These can be tricky and are usually saved for the advanced lifter but you can perform a drop set on your final set of a big lift. You can work up to your highest weight for the day and then reduce the load by 30-40% to perform as many reps as possible.

Controlled Eccentrics: You can perform higher reps sets with controlled eccentrics to increase time under tension as well

The world is your oyster when it comes to playing with exercise variations and programming ideas. Get creative and use solid training principles to think outside the box when it comes to ramping up the intensity of your programs.

transformation contest training ideas_Tension Progressions

Lifestyle Changes

This is one of the biggest factors in a transformation contest but one of the toughest to control. If you are going to get amazing results 718099from some of your clients you are going to need to get them to adjust their lifestyle.

Not just eating and training but stress and sleep. Those are two of the biggest factors that keep people from reaching their goals.

Try getting clients to reduce stress by:

  • Incorporating deep breathing into their programs
  • Encouraging them to meditate
  • Finding activities that they truly enjoy
  • Get them to have more sex (seriously!)
  • Taking long walks outdoors
  • Starting a gratitude journal
  • Get massages
  • Take time for themselves
  • Enjoy guilt free play

Those are just a few of the ways you can reduce stress. So many of your clients are stressed from the time they get up to the time they go to bed that they never get a chance to recover.

Find a few ways to get them reduce stress and they will thank you…AND get better results!

Two big factors that prevent your clients from reaching their goals—stress & lack of sleep.

Encouraging sleep goes right along with reducing stress and many times you can tie the two together. Pair up stress reducing activities with pre-bed rituals including turning the TV and electronics off an hour before bed, perform 5 minutes of deep breathing before bed, reading something enjoyable, or any of the dozen sleep improvement suggestions you can find online.

Getting 7-8 hours of GOOD sleep will do wonders for reducing their body fat when paired with your training and nutrition!transformation contest training ideas

Hopefully these new training ideas for transformation contests have given you at least one new thing to try, or at least a bit of encouragement as you help your clients reach their goals.  In this series, there are nearly 8,000 words to help you beef up your transformation contests!  If you are looking for a more in-depth resource for creating a Transformation System, you can check out my more in-depth step-by-step plan on creating effective transformation contests.

Learn more about creating a transformation system


Author: Nick Berry

Nick Berry is an accomplished entrepreneur, CEO, mentor, and author, with a track record which includes founding and leading numerous companies to success since his first venture in 2002. Nick Berry is the Founder and CEO of Fitness Revolution.

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