The Sci-MX Challenge: The results of eight-week training programmes

Before and after pictures from Alex Rea and Dan Owen

Sport360’s Alex Rea and Dan Owen have been working alongside Sci-MX and their athletes for the last two months – this is how they got on….

Alex Rea

The eight weeks are up already?! Nobody was counting…

It’s been a challenging couple of months and while the word journey is exhausted when it comes to describing processes like this one, it’s comfortably the most appropriate.

For this humbled author, it has been hallmarked by discovery. Firstly, about myself and my body when met with resistance be it from training or dieting, and secondly in the unlocking of new knowledge from working alongside Sci-MX and master trainer Aaron Agnew.

Here, is the story of the last eight weeks.


Heavy with volume has always been my methodology but deep down there was a sense it wasn’t the most beneficial form of training. It was enough to stay in shape but it was directionless and ultimately that is where Aaron proved pivotal.

The Canadian is a WBFF pro and Exercise Physiologist who has built a reputation in the region as a transformation specialist. Take one peek at his Instagram and you’ll see a dedicated lifetime natural athlete who has shown tremendous discipline to get into incredible shape. And what struck me most was the vascularity of his stage-physique which was akin to the icy cracks which blanket his homeland during winter.

Being road-map ripped is something I’ve long considered but the route was unclear and the lack of knowledge a road block. But the first consultation with Aaron provided the vehicle to a positive outcome as he set realistic targets and implemented structured training.

The initial aims were simple; strip down to 83kg from 86kg and shred 10 percent bodyfat from 14 percent. As the process gathered momentum, those markers shifted.


The program was focused on structured hypertrophy and fat loss methodologies with a three-day split essentially consisting of push and pull movements alongside legs and abs finished off by either HIIT or LISS cardio.

There was strength training elements, so the compound lifts I was accustomed to, but the one-minute break in between sets for accessory work was a tough adaption.

Muscles fatigued and fast. However, that was one of the standout benefits of the challenge. My body acclimatised to the new stresses as the weeks passed and as the correlation between less nutrition and harder work grew wider, mentally, I developed a tougher mental fortitude.

Here’s a breakdown of a typical training week:

Sunday: Chest, shoulders and core.

Monday: Back and deadlifts with stairmaster

Tuesday: Lower body and shoulders with HIIT

Wednesday: Push and abs focused with stairmaster

Thursday: Repeat Monday Friday/Saturday:

Repeat Sunday.


The cliche is 80 percent diet and 20 percent training but after this, I would go one step further and bump the nutrition up to 90. Fat loss in essence is very simple. If you’re in a calorie deficit, you can shift the weight and if you ensure the quality of those calories, you’ll shift it quicker. But the manipulation of my physique from day to night was truly astonishing, as too were the effects of negative food on the system.

Granted, it wasn’t easy to fight off the sugar cravings, quite regularly going to bed dreaming of donuts, at one point my orange air freshener seemed awfully appetising.

However, the accountability to Aaron was key for staying disciplined because I knew there would be weekly weigh-ins and there was no hiding from the naked reality of the numbers. It was the hardest part of the challenge, but it was also the most rewarding and enlightening.

Here’s a breakdown of the nutrition plan (the last two weeks carb and calorie cycling was introduced): ► Calories 2400

► Protein 190 -228g

► Fat 51-63g

► Carbs under 220-250g

The results

Alex Rea, pictured by Arief Ferdinand (@fdndfilms_) at Warehouse Gym, Dubai

At the start, I considered myself to be in good shape, now I think it’s fair to say I’m in great shape.

My bodyfat dropped to seven percent and my weight dropped to 80kg. The numbers don’t lie. While it’s not entirely sustainable, there are elements which definitely are. Healthier nutrition throughout the week will be balanced with more relaxed weekends.

The cardio will be maintained as will the core exercises and although training will be tweaked, the knowledge will remain ingrained for the rest of my life.

There really is a huge sense of accomplishment from these eight weeks.

As said previously, it was never about the final result, but the process to getting there and at times it was incredibly tough. Being exhausted in training, feeling completely depleted and drained but coming out the other end taught me that only the limitation was my mind telling me I couldn’t push it anymore.

Towards the end, when I felt tired, I said to myself ‘good’ because it meant I was better for coming through it. When I felt weak, I said ‘good’ as it meant I was being challenged. In the end, I feel stronger and look better than ever after these eight weeks and that’s a satisfying space to be in.

Coach Aaron Agnew’s verdict

Sci-MX athlete Aaron Agnew

Sci-MX athlete Aaron Agnew

Alex came to me already in very good shape with a healthy body fat of 14 percent. His building block was the amount of muscle he’d already packed on so a worthy goal was to shred down his body fat as low as possible to reveal all the years of hard work.

To do so, I implemented a strict diet, implored for the tracking of calories and almost immediately we saw improvements to his body composition as we held weekly check-ins to discuss and discover progress.

He began the process at 86kg and was able to drop 5kg of body fat over the eight-week challenge. From 14 percent, he halved his body fat to seven and although getting that lean isn’t for everyone when it’s done right, with the correct guidance and support, it can be a very rewarding experience.

I hope Alex enjoyed the journey, it’s been great for me to be a part of another transformation project and I expect to see some great photos from his first ever photoshoot.

I’ve been impressed with Alex’s attention to detail and work ethic over these eight weeks and I’m confident he has taken a lot away from the experience.

Dan Owen

Eight weeks. 56 days. 32 gym sessions. 24 conditioning sessions. 250-ish meals. And we are now at the end of the Sci-MX challenge, and what an experience it has been.

When I started on this journey, there was a rough target of getting fitter for the start of the rugby preseason. This would mean working on my conditioning, whilst trying to increase overall strength. Two months later and I would not have imagined the transformations both physically and mentally. This is the story of those eight weeks


I had never worked with a trainer over a concerted period of time, so taking on their principles and plans was going to be an eye opener – but something I was very much looking forward to. I was paired up with John Britton, an Olympic lifter, sportsman, and general lifter of heavy things. He has arms like Popeye, and the abs to match. My doughy midsection didn’t feel great alongside him.

From a gym perspective the idea was simple – go explosive and go heavy. This resulted in a four-day split per week – day one would be concentrating on cleans, overhead press, squats and core. Day two included bench press, deadlift, and explosive leg movement and core. Three and four would be in a similar vein but with reps/sets and sometimes exercises changed.

Having usually done body part training previously, this represented a big change – but lifting heavy is fun and introducing new movements such as cleans really freshened things up. I quickly started to notice my speed of movement increasing on cleans, overall lifts feeling a lot better as the core got stronger.

Overall, my cleans went from 70kg at the start to 102kg for sets by the end, overhead push press from 95kg for 1 rep to 102 for three reps. The ability to move, and quickly, has been really noticeable at the program has gone on. I’m faster and stronger – which can only be a good thing!


This was the biggie for me. Whereas I had a decent base level of strength, my conditioning was off. I had pretty much focused only on strength work for 12 months, so the gas tank was pretty limited.

This part of my program was held at F45 Training in Dubai Motor City. I have never really been on for classes, but was more than willing to give this a go. One of the most attractive things for me was the High Intensity Intervals (HIIT), that are very much consistent with rugby. Work hard in bursts, and rest for short periods.

These intense workouts, get a real sweat going, but crucially really improve the heart and lung capacity. Week by week I found myself able to work harder for longer, move better and generally feel more comfortable with dynamic exercise.

The structure, and the fact that no two workouts are ever the same is a revelation, and something that has been genuinely life changing for me.

The results

Test Week 1 Week 8 Improvement
Standing box jump 40-inch 44-inch 10%
Strict shoulder press 70kg 80kg 14.3%
30-cal assault bike 35 seconds 30 seconds 14.3%
500m row 1min 48 seconds 1 minute 33 seconds 13%


Eight weeks ago, I carried out four pretty rudimentary tests alongside John. A standing box jump to measure explosive power, a standing strict shoulder press for strength, then two conditioning tests. First was on the assault bike, seeing how quickly I could burn 30 calories – a test of being able to sustain power output.

The second was a 500m row, again sustaining output, with both tests relative to the amounts of work being done for rugby. It’s fair to say I did ok on the power and strength tests, but died on the two conditioning markers.

Dan Owen, pictured by Arief Ferdinand (@fdndfilms_) at Warehouse Gym, Dubai

Eight weeks later and thankfully it was a much better story – with improvements of around 13-14% across the board – and improvement in explosiveness, strength, and conditioning.

Thankfully, this was never an aesthetic project for me. Being a prop in rugby is something I need to keep my bulk for, as well as building on strength and power. I am happy to have leaned-up quite considerably while still keeping my bodyweight around the 100kg mark.


First conclusion is just how much John knows his stuff. Being able to improve across the board, lose fat, and pretty much maintain my weight has been life-changing.

His knowledge, support and insights have been incredible.

The team at Sci-MX has also been outstanding, delivering support in diet and supplementation, with some of the best products I have used.

It has been a period of learning, discovery, and ultimately a set of results I am really happy with. This is just the start

Coach John Britton’s take

Sci-MX athlete John Britton

Dan Owen is a stud.

The final numbers here speak for themselves – significant improvements in every single category.

The strict press, measuring Dan’s upper body strength, was the one I didn’t expect to see much change in, but a 10kg improvement is incredible.

With Dan, my main thought was to do full body movements that would produce power – dynamic movements like cleans and push presses coupled with squats, deadlift and bench would produce a more powerful athlete. The max box jump and 30 cal bike are likely the result of that work.

Lastly – a FIFTEEN second improvement rowing 500m? There is his cardio coming back – the work at F45 has paid off.

All these numbers and the progress is great, but the main goal of Dan still needs to be addressed – will he be better as a prop in rugby? Dan is more powerful, quicker and fitter.

He says he feels better, is a touch lighter and likely has more confidence. I have trouble thinking all that won’t have an extremely positive effect on the pitch – I’d be worried if I were a part of any other club.


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