Messiah Of Social Media
Wicks is the leader – popularity-wise, at least – of a new generation of trainers and nutritionists democratising fitness by posting advice for free, producing content daily and racking up ‘Likes’ in the thousands. Other people do workouts, training tips or selfies: the Wicks signature at @thebodycoach is the #LeanIn15, a healthy recipe that takes under 15 minutes to cook, delivered via 15-second video, and accompanied by Wicks’ signature high-energy instructions.
People are calling Wicks an overnight sensation, but that isn’t entirely fair. He did a degree in sports science almost a decade ago, spent some time planning to be a PE teacher, then started his personal training career in 2010, running a boxing boot camp called Rumble In The Park. He’s been on Twitter since 2013, hashtagging his first workouts #TeamLean13 – but it’s on Instagram that he’s exploded.
He got serious about the photo-sharing service in January 2014 when it started allowing video content, posting the high-speed recipe and workout videos that have become his signature. It took him, he says, around six months of relentless content-sharing, putting out three videos a day while his friends told him he was wasting his time and ‘nobody was listening’, to hit 50,000 followers. Now he’s got 365,000 – a decent chunk of whom have already upgraded to his ‘Shift, Shape and Sustain’ plan, a tailored 90-day programme that costs £147. Right now, he’s selling 200-300 copies every day.
‘People take about four to six weeks to convert,’ says Wicks. ‘They follow for a while, get some advice, and go “OK, this guy’s legit”, and then they take the plunge. A lot of them are referrals – mums and daughters doing the plan, or people being encouraged by friends. One entire office of 60 people did it.’
Here’s the stuff Joe teaches people to shed fat and feel lean. It’s simple, effort-efficient advice that works for normal people with normal lives:
1 – Prep like a boss
‘It’s the one thing you can do to take control straight away. Just spend half an hour to an hour a night cooking your meals for the next day so you never have to grab stuff on the go.’
2 – Tweet your progress
‘It’s like having a fraternity behind you.’ If you have the support of an immediately reachable community, you’re much more likely to stay motivated and on track.
3 – Eat more fat
‘You should get most of your energy from it – it’s got more per gram than carbs. Stock up on grass-fed butter, nuts and avocadoes.’
4 – Don’t fear carbs
‘If you love white bread or bagels or whatever, you don’t have to give them up. Reduce them on rest days, and eat them as a treat after you’ve done a high-intensity session.’
4 – Train without breakfast
‘I train fasted a lot – it gets you burning fat at the start of the day, and you can refuel with breakfast afterwards. Try overnight oats – put some porridge oats, almond milk and whey protein in a shaker, let it soak overnight and then whack it in the microwave in the morning.’
5 – Go mad for coconut oil
‘I’ve cooked almost everything with it, ever since university. It’s full of omega 3s and it’s a stable fat, so it’s perfect for stir-fries.’
6 – Keep a food planner
‘Plan when to train and when to eat. If you’re having a night out, either train that day or plan to go low-carb when you eat.’
7 – Turn up the volume
‘I like German Volume Training – ten sets of ten reps – because it’s a good, structured way to get a lot of work done. People usually do it with bench pressing or deadlifts, but depending on your strength levels most moves will work – do it with press-ups or lunges.’
8 – Drink more water
‘I ask clients on the 90-day programme to drink anywhere from two to four litres a day. It keeps you energised and keeps all your body’s processes online.’
9 – Eat more
‘If you get your food from good clean sources, you can eat 2,700 calories a day and still burn fat – and you’ll have enough energy for the rest of the day. Don’t starve yourself.’
10 – Keep workouts short
‘I’m all about intensity over duration – less than 30 minutes is fine. You can do the most simple stuff at home: do 30 seconds of burpees, rest 45 seconds, 30 seconds of sprint high-knees, rest 45 seconds, then repeat the whole thing for 15 minutes. Done!’
11 – Get off the sad step
‘That’s what I call scales. They’re so negative. You can do everything right all day, or wake up feeling full of energy, then you step on the scales, see you’ve put on a kilo, and it totally changes your mood. Get rid of them.
12 – Drink Rum
‘I’ll have a cheeky mojito or a vodka when I go out. Clear spirits have less nasty business in them, and usually fewer calories than beer.’
13 – Have days off
‘If you’re an athlete then, yeah, I don’t have a problem with you training every day, but for most people it makes more sense to train four or five days a week. Have a couple of days off a week to recharge, do your shopping and prep your food.’
14 – Take regular photos
‘This isn’t about vanity. If you look in the mirror every day, it’s easy to think you aren’t changing shape, but when people take photos they’re always amazed by the difference their work’s making. Take one progress shot every four weeks, using the same angle and the same lighting so you can see the difference.’
Why Does It Work?
The key, of course, is that people get results: as well as recipes, Wicks’ social media feeds are jammed with side-shots of people on their fourth, eighth or 12th week of the plan, usually in much better shape. ‘Most of them have done diets before,’ says Wicks. ‘But diets just don’t work. This is supposed to be different and enjoyable. I’m about getting people to eat more, but eat better, and getting them to do exercise that makes them feel good about themselves. When I trained as a PT, all the information was so out of date, old science, the Food Pyramid – it’s not stuff that works. This is about letting people know that they don’t have to give up the food they like. I’ll go to Burger & Lobster or Nando’s, I’ll have a mojito. I’m getting people who have tried 1,400-calorie diets to a point where they’re burning fat eating 2,600 calories a day. It’s a lifestyle, not a short-term thing.’