Health and Wellbeing

The Men’s Health Primal 9 challenge

My 9 week primal 9 challenge.


You may recall here my introduction to the Men’s Health Primal 9 challenge, something I was particularly excited by. The ease of it being on the phone, being able to workout cheaply and freely. Yet I failed. Why, startups like this publication are time-consuming, resulting in sleepless restless nights, followed by moments of highs and exhilaration. So fitness kept getting put on the back burner. So, I have decided to restart. Monday 8th Jan 2018 is when it is going down. Day by day picture, details and tears. I have a bet going with my co-founder, motivation to keep it going.

The goals

Below are my stats and goals.

Target Weight: 95kg/205lbs
How did I come to this weight, well I don’t particularly trust those online scales and BMI guides. When I was 18 and ripped (oh the happy memories) I was 88kg/195lbs. I’m one of those people that at even 18, and trim they classed me as overweight or obese. I may not look like it standing next to Donnie (who is impolitely big) but I am 184cm/6ft and rather broad. Reminds me of a day I stood on a scales for a GP check up and he tapped them because he thought they were broken, as I weigh a lot more than I look. Is being big boned a thing? Well, there you go. I’m not worried about a scientific exact target weight, because who has the time. I am aiming for that look when you sit down your belly remains flat. No bulge. If I turn a few more heads, then all the better!

Week 1

The first week of Primal 9 is set at a good pace, with a few rest days that offer time for some muscles recovery. Now nutrition is a big part of this, so follow the apps guide to what you can eat and when. If you’re frequenting Krispy Kreme daily, you’re not going to see any results. I focused on bulk cooking – helps to plan and stop those days where you run to the shops for your lunch.

Day 1 kicks off with a workout that targets your chest and tricep. The moves are simple enough, the most complicated being the spiderman press-up. Nothing here is so intimidating that if it has been years since your last press-up that you get a cold sweat. It is nicely paced out.

I found in order to keep my pacing right, I kept the app open and kept my pace in tune with the small figure of Ross Edgley. Some moves I found easy, but the app allows you to add move – I suppose consider it a guide. I kept to the required reps the first week to see how I help. I found I could do a few more press ups per set. Next week I’ll be adding some reps to where I found it a little easier, that is not to say that my muscles did not ache after a workout.

The equipment you need is minimal, and to be honest I found ways around having to use a bench, for the times I only have a hotel room. 2 chairs are sufficient for the bench dip.

So how did I compare to last week? Well, I dropped 1.4 lbs (0.63KG). Not bad I guess.

Week 2


The length of each workout varies, but on most days, you should expect to commit to around 30 minutes. There is the occasional exception (every two and half weeks), where you complete a fitness test called ‘The Centurion’, which can last an hour, but the time entirely depends on your fitness levels, as you need to complete 1,000 reps.


The way the app/programme works is that you follow not a prescriptive meal plan, but rather, a guide that includes some recipes. If you are following the programme correctly, you may find you actually eat more than usual, to effectively fuel your body. There is a lot to cover here, but in the app, there is a whole section dedicated to the nutritional principles of the programme, with a variety of foods listed for protein intake, carbs and fruit/veg.

Week 2 Primal

The workout is the same as the previous week, but you will already have a far better understanding of how it should feel. If I’m being honest, I felt that I could have gone a little harder on a few of the routines, especially the lower body workout. Men’s Health says that “If you’re not struggling to walk tomorrow, you’re not trying hard enough” and this was true for me, in week one. As my legs are probably the strongest part of me, I doubled the reps on a few of the moves, trying to end each set with my legs feeling the burn. Overall, I felt far more satisfied this week. The principle is that you will know what you can do the first week, so if you felt you could do more, add a few more reps in the future. Look out for a workout called ‘Caveman Conditioning’, which consists of two moves for 30 seconds each, finished with a 60-second rest, repeated 10 times. This is the HIIT day. I found that I lost focus on the time when I did the workout, or forget the number of rounds I’d completed. To help myself out, I purchased Seconds Pro Interval Timer by Runloop Ltd for my iPhone (available on Android also). It costs £4.99 but comes with a lot of flexibility in terms of different timers. With the app set up and customised, I completed the Caveman. This time, I was far more confident as I could solely focus on the exercise and not worry about counting the circuits. The app also has a handy voice that counts you down from three seconds before the next exercise begins.


So how do my stats compare to last week? Well, I’ve dropped 0.6 lbs (0.27KG), I’ve learnt not to be disheartened, as for me, weight loss is not a perpetually downward trend; it will fluctuate. I weigh myself only once per week, so I don’t use it as my focus. Something I will say is that I do feel more toned and my muscles feel more ‘worked’. In week three, I will try to reduce the number of carbs I eat and assess how that affects my weight loss.

Week 3

The third week is a little more interesting, partly because it starts off with the Spartan routine. You may recall this beastly exercise, as the 1,000 rep session that acts as an indicator of your fitness and progression, but more on that later.

This week, I really pushed each exercise, aiming for maximum muscle fatigue. The last few reps of each set are hard, or at least a serious effort, but I managed them all and felt better for it. My muscles felt far more ‘pumped’ and I already see more definition. This has actually been commented on by astute observers as well, so it’s not just my own optimism.

The Centurion resolutely does not get any easier, in fact, it was as tough as the first time I completed it. It’s because I was pushing myself harder, because I could. After those 1,000 reps, I still fell down in a puddle of my own sweat, but this time, it was finished in a quicker time. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that I smashed it. It took me 41 minutes to complete this time, in contrast to 54 minutes previously. Oh yeah.

Primal 9 Centurion
Primal 9 Centurion Second Time

I think that some of this could be attributed to better hydration and nutrition. I made sure I was well fuelled this time, but I feel fitter in general too.

Here’s a top tip to help you get through the reps:

Grab a pen and a piece of paper. Write the numbers 1-10 on it. Everytime you complete a circuit, you tick one off. Why? Well, I found that when I’m counting four sets of 25 reps in each round, while trying remembering whether I’m on round six or seven and simultaneously gasping for air, is not the easiest. Maybe that’s just me, but it is also a good way, I found, to focus on getting to the end.

Oddly, this week, I put on 1lb (0.45KG). This did annoy me, but weight is not everything and as the Centurion results show, I have certainly made great strides, fitness-wise. I think this is what people refer to as a ‘non-scale victory’.

Next week I will be focusing on keeping a better eye on my diet and making sure I am careful with my calorie intake. Let’s see if I can keep this weight loss going.

Come back Monday 5th Feb 2018, to keep up with how it is going. You can find an ongoing review on our Twitter Page. Or why not even join me, and share your progress with us!