07 Aug Hirsh Case Study: How Hirsh Finally Achieved A Fitness Model Physique As A Busy Physician
The day after his photoshoot, Hirsh messaged us saying he couldn’t believe he’d finally done it. He’d been trying for years to achieve a fitness model physique, but had never been successful in his pursuit.
All along, he had three key factors driving him to change:
- As a physician, he wanted to be a good example to his colleagues and patients.
- Having recently moved to Los Angeles, he wanted to be beach ready for the year-round sun!
- Coming from a family history of cardiovascular disease, he wanted to serve as an inspiration to them.
The latter was a real big one for Hirsh. His father had his first myocardial infarction at the age of 45, and after getting some blood work done, Hirsh was placed at a high cardiovascular risk with concerning cholesterol levels.
Being a physician, he knew change was needed. At the same time, his life wasn’t very accommodating to make the necessary adjustments.
His working hours were long and unpredictable, and the little time he had spare he needed to balance between the following:
- Finishing his neurology specialist training
- Networking, making new friends, and socialising in a brand new city (he only moved to LA about 12 months ago)
- His fitness needs – training, preparing food, cardio, etc.
Life was busy, and Hirsh made it clear from the onset he didn’t want to be known as ‘that guy’ in a new city. He was out networking for both professional and personal reasons most nights out of the week, and this almost always included food and/or drinks. For this reason, we played the long game.
This didn’t mean accepting little progress. For the past few years Hirsh had been stuck looking exactly the same, which is why he came to us at RNT. A combination of dirty meals out and happy hours meant he was undoing all his hard work quickly on a daily basis.
In this case study, we’re going to dig into the strategies we used to help Hirsh drop over 30lbs of body fat and build the physique he always wanted, while at the same time balancing his life as a serially networking physician!
Hirsh’s Comments: I have always been interested in health and fitness my entire life. Thats one of the reasons I went into medicine. When I turned thirty I looked around me and saw a lot of my friends were settling and gaining weight and attributing it to poor genetics or “just getting older”. Also being a south Asian people often frown upon dieting and exercise for some reason. Akash really captured it in his Asian social stigma article. I was in an environment that wasn’t necessarily promoting a healthy lifestyle so I decided to move to California and leave a lot of comfort family and friends behind in order to better focus on my career and health. I knew from past experience in various endeavours that whenever I had a coach or mentor I was able to 10x my results. For a long time I was spinning my wheels not getting anywhere in my fitness goals and I felt like I was finally in the right environment to make dramatic changes. I knew I wanted a coach. I couldn’t find a suitable coach for a long time because it was important for me for the coach to be no nonsense, well versed in the theory and science, and relatable. When I stumbled across RNT’s transformations I was absolutely floored. When I did further research on RNT I realized these guys knew what they were talking about, were no nonsense, and were exactly what I was looking for. So I decided to take the leap in faith.
Prior to starting with RNT, he was doing the following:
Training – Hirsh was training four days a week on an upper body push/pull split, rotating between heavy days focused in the 6-8 rep range, and lighter days training in the 10-12 rep range. This approach to training works very well, but the only issue was that Hirsh wasn’t training legs at all!
Cardio – Hirsh wasn’t really do any cardio per se. He aimed to take 10,000 steps a day, and some days on his non weight training days he may add something in. But it was never structured.
Diet – On paper, Hirsh’s diet looked solid. He was tracking his food and his average was coming out at 170g protein, 130g carbohydrates and 60g fat. The problem is, if you’ve been following those macronutrient targets and haven’t made any progress for 6 months, it’s likely not a true representation of your intake!
Starting Bodyweight – 165lbs
To start Hirsh off, here’s what we did:
Training – While Hirsh had no interest in building his legs, there are benefits to incorporating some leg work into your routine. And so we moved Hirsh to the following split:
Day 1: Chest/Back/Shoulders
Day 2: Rest
Day 3: Legs/Arms
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Chest/Back
Day 6: Shoulders/Arms
Day 7: Rest
His starting macros were as follows:
The real key for Hirsh was being organised with his meal prep, batch cooking in advance, and keeping a track of calories when eating out.
Hirsh was well versed in tracking macros, and preferred this approach for his lifestyle. So while he had a base meal plan to work off, he make frequent adjustments accordingly.
Supplements – Here’s what we used to begin with:
- Whey Protein – to help protein intake where necessary
- EAAs – 10-15g during training
- Creatine Monohydrate – 5g with any shake
- Greens Powder – Hirsh wasn’t a fan of veggies so we opted for a greens powder instead to get his vital nutrients in.
Cardio – No traditional cardio to begin with. All Hirsh had to focus on was consistently taking 10,000 steps a day.
For this case study, we won’t be taking a ‘week 1, week 2, week 3, etc.’ approach. This transformation wasn’t as clear cut, and it required more flexibility than normal. Instead, we’ll discuss the key driving forces behind transforming Hirsh from ‘skinny fat’ to six pack.
One question we get asked by potential clients on a regular basis is, ‘what type of diet will I be put on?’. It’s always a tough one to answer because there is no answer. There is no specific diet that we use, or a particular methodology that we live by. Instead, it’s all about building a plan to work with the client’s lifestyle.
With Hirsh’s busy socialising schedule, we needed a strategy that enabled him to stay in a calorie deficit and continue to make progress, while at the same time appearing at various events and ‘fitting in’.
There’s a time and place for sacrifice, but for the most part we needed the best of both worlds. This isn’t easy, and it meant Hirsh needed to accept gains will come slower, which he was fine with.
To create this balance, we utilised intermittent fasting strategies. Hirsh was a fan of this from the past where he’d tried it on and off, and so as the social and networking calendar ramped up, it became the obvious strategy to use.
From morning to lunch time, Hirsh would do his fasted cardio using yohimbine and caffeine and then sip on a mix of greens and amino acids. It’s important to note that this worked well for him and his lifestyle, and he felt great on it. No clock watching or extreme hunger pangs. It was a strategy that he could follow and manipulate depending on the day, and played an important part in maximising his adherence over time.
Relative Strength Focus
No matter what phase of training you’re in, the goal of your training remains the same: progressive overload with perfect form.
This doesn’t just mean adding weight or reps. It can be classified as any improvement on your previous performance. One aspect of this that’s often forgotten about is relative strength; the ability to maintain loads on the bar while your bodyweight decreases.
When you’re dieting hard, there will be a point when absolute strength gains will certainly slow down, plateau and maybe decline. This is completely normal. But what you may not realise is that if you’re lifting similar loads now to what you were doing when you were 20, 30 or 40lbs heavier, that is a tremendous gain in strength.
Relative strength is underrated, but on some lifts, especially pressing, if you can maintain loads while dropping bodyweight you’re doing very well.
Hirsh experienced this exact phenomenon. At first, he was worried he was getting weaker, the program wasn’t working and he needed a training overhaul. Once he realised what was happening, he embraced it and began to set relative strength targets.
Mentally this was a big win, and it kept him on track during the potential lulls at the tail end of a hard diet. So if you’re reading this and discouraged that progression in the gym may be slowing down, but you’re at a new low of bodyweight, don’t be!
A strategy we incorporated to help this was the use of reverse pyramids, whereby we focus on improving one key money set at the start of the workout.
Here’s an email exchange outlining how to work around a plateau on a particular lift:
Hirsh: So next week should I do my first set 85lbs x 10. reps and then see how I feel and do the rest of the sets at 80lbs and Work my way up to mastering 85×10 before I move up to 90lbs for 10 reps?
Akash: You’re correct. Next week go for 85lbs on the 1st set, then back down to 80lbs for next two sets. Then maybe try get 2 sets on 85lbs, and the last one on 80lbs. Then creep up to 90lbs on 1st set, and maybe do 85lbs 2nd, 80lbs 3rd. Then move the 3rd set up, etc, etc.
Low Margins for Error
As you get lighter, your margin for error becomes less and less. It becomes easy to pull yourself out of a deficit, and small things can really add up.
In Hirsh’s case, he had a real weak spot for cookies and small treats at the office. While one cookie may seem harmless, having one here and there a couple days a week can substantially eat into any calorie deficit you may have created.
If you’re not careful, this can leave you with little to show for all the other hard work you may have put in during the week.
Once Hirsh became aware of this, and learned to dial in the level of self-awareness required to stop this happening (it can be easy to go on autopilot when ‘picking’ at foods at the office if you’ve done it for years), his results took off.
Travelling, Festivals & Parties
The body thrives on routine and what we like to call ‘ruthless consistency’. There’s something to be said for creating as much ‘gathered’ momentum as possible during a transformation that can be responsible for eliciting remarkable changes in a short space of time.
But that’s in an ideal world. For most of our clients, they’re all living busy lives where events will crop up. In Hirsh’s case, we had a combination of extensive work (conferences all over the US), family (they were all based in Detroit, including his wife, who only recently moved to LA) and personal/social travel (Coachella, Cinco De Mayo, Ultra Festival in Miami, all inclusives in Mexico, etc.!) to work around.
This was never going to be easy, but a combination of smart choices, accountability and individual adjustments made it possible.
Of course, these trip were never going to be progress makers, but our aim was always to come back the same. More often than not, we achieved this.
The strategies we used revolved predominantly around incorporating buffers into the day and/or week. By creating a greater than normal calorie deficit, Hirsh was able to create an estimated balance in calories to prevent body fat gain when away.
There seems to be a growing disparity in our population between those who are health conscious, and those who just don’t understand it, or see any benefit to eating well and being in shape.
Hirsh saw this huge gap, and knew he could very easily be stuck on the other side that could further predispose him to the cardiovascular issues he was already at high risk of.
He saw many of his friends and family gaining weight and attributing it to poor genetics or ‘just getting older’ (as he talked about earlier in his comments), and knew he needed to do something about it. He also experienced much of the social stigmas surrounding health and fitness in the Asian community.
To that end, he faced a difficult situation whereby he wanted to 1) transform his body, 2) stay social and maintain gains when travelling and 3) avoid the social pressure and act ‘normal’ in social situations, especially around family.
To make this happen, it involved a combination of the intermittent fasting strategies, buffering and most importantly, a maintained focus when in these situations to not cave in and overeat.
Lessons To Learn
There will never be a perfect time in your life to get in shape. There’ll never be a 3 to 6 month period in your calendar with no social events or trips away. And why should there be? That’s no way to live life!
But we see this too often being a deterrent in starting on the path to achieving your goals. The aim for this case study was to not only highlight Hirsh’s amazing results, but also show that it can be done in ‘imperfect’ conditions. If you’ve got unpredictable working hours, a hectic social schedule and a frequent travelling timetable, you can still get into the shape of your life.
You just need to play the long game, have a high level of accountability and employ the right tools and strategies to keep you on track, even when it may seem you have your work cut out!
Hirsh’s Comments: I think an important thing to consider is the fact that I spent years reading in knowing the theory behind fitness and fat loss. A lot of the things that Akash was doing for me I already knew or understood what he was trying to do. I know a lot of people that are hesitant to sign up for a coach because they think they have the knowledge already and while that may be true so many people look the same to me year in and year out and that was me. What also really convinced me is that Akash himself let it be known that he uses a coach as well. This just goes to show anyone and everyone even if you’re an elite performer or athlete can and sure to use the coach if you’re serious about having results. The accountability is priceless and it allows you to just simply focus on execution.
Final Bodyweight – 143lbs
These were his final comparison pictures:
Stay lean year round! Hirsh is happy with how his physique has developed, and while he’d like to gain a little muscle here and there, his main objective now is to learn the tools and strategies to stay lean all the time.
With beach weather all throughout the year on the West Coast, he wants to be ready at any time to take his shirt off and sport his six pack!
Here’s what Hirsh has to say about his overall experience of working with RNT Fitness:
My experience with Akash was phenomenal. He would always answer any questions I had within 24 hours. He was good at motivating me when I needed it and taking it easy when need be as well. It was easy to trust him because it was clear he knew what he was talking about from his podcasts articles and other commentaries. Most of all he is no nonsense. He doesn’t believe in gimmicks and believes in good old fashion hard work and ruthless consistency. The plan is truly individualized and I never felt like I was part of a cookie cutter program. I had the pleasure of meeting Akash when he came to the US on a business trip and it almost felt like meeting a friend because of our constant and personalized communication together throughout the preceding months. I never ever thought Id be able to get down to the weight and physique I got down to and I have to credit the accountability Akash provided me throughout these months. I have been recommending him to all my friends and family.
To read more case studies like Hirsh, have a read of the different articles here.
For more examples of our transformations, have a scroll through growing page of before/afters here.