Like most people who’ve had their workout routines disrupted over the past year, former Olympian Nick Symmonds hit a point in lockdown where he realized he’d let himself go—by his standards, at least—and decided it was time to make a change.
On Instagram yesterday, the 37-year-old athlete and YouTuber shared a ripped, shirtless photo of himself doing a pullup alongside a second, less flattering photo as evidence of where things started 365 days ago. “A year ago I emerged from lockdown pasty, hairy, and out of shape,” he wrote. “But with some encouragement from my gymshark family + a lot of hard work I got things turned around pretty quickly ❤️🦈💪🏼.”
In a follow-up video on YouTube today, Symmonds showed off the results of his hard work, revealing exactly how he got fit—and how he took the best “after” photo to show off his gains. As Symmonds explains, part of the reason the transformation looks so dramatic is that he intentionally took the most physically unflattering “before” photo he could, even eating a full Chipotle burrito before his photo shoot and leaving his beard shaggy to appear bloated and unkempt.
That said, it took more than just a shave and some better lighting to achieve visible six-pack abs over that timeframe. For starters, Symmonds says he hit the gym 5 days a week for CrossFit classes on top of mobility work, running, biking, and more. He also ditched those burritos—or at least, learned to eat them more strategically—mastering the fundamentals of bulking and cutting to build muscle and burn fat, and he experimented with fasting diets for an additional metabolic boost.
Finally, just before photo day, Symmonds pulled out a few last tricks, shaving his body hair, getting a spray tan, and bulking up on carbs the night before to make himself look bigger. Perhaps most crucially, he also hired a professional to take the photos, complete with top-down lighting and, of course, worked up a good pump to make his muscles pop.
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Despite how impressive the photos look, Symmonds says he didn’t get as heavy or as lean as he wanted, and so his new goal will be to pack on more strength while getting even leaner in the next year.
Seeing as he’s also planning to deadlift 500 pounds and run a mile in under 5 minutes in the near future along with his friend Ryan Hall, it appears the former pro has his work cut out for him.
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