Joe Dowdell reveals how he whips his supermodel clients into amazing shape—fast

Q: If you only had six to eight weeks to prepare a client for a movie role, Victoria's Secret photoshoot, or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, what are the top five things you would focus on?



Nutrition is the most important factor in improving body composition. That's why one of the first things I do is refer my clients to industry experts such as Dr. Mike Roussell (You may know him as SHAPE's Diet Doctor) or Dr. Brooke Kalanick. I let them do what they do best so that I can focus on what I do best-designing highly effective strength and conditioning programs and coaching. That said, here are five must-follow rules to help anyone dial in their nutrition:

  • Eliminate processed foods
  • Eat a high-quality lean protein source at every meal
  • Include a large quantity of high-fiber veggies with your meals
  • Include good sources of fat like avocado, nuts and/or seeds, and Omega 3's
  • Drink 2-3 liters of water a day, more on days you work out



Improving sleep will absolutely improve your body composition. A lack of sleep causes an increase in the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and a decrease in leptin, a hormone that helps you feel full and burn fat.

Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night. While some people operate fine on six hours of sleep, most function best with a seven-hour minimum.

Can't fall asleep? Try taking a magnesium supplement before bed. If staying asleep is your problem, make sure that your room is cool and dark. A tryptophan supplement can also help you fall into a deep sleep, which is critical for physical recovery.

Total-Body Strength Training


Strength training should be an integral part of anyone's quest to build a strong, lean body. Resistance training, providing that it is progressive in nature, builds lean muscle mass, which ultimately helps burn more calories, even when your body is at rest. I recommend three total-body strength training sessions a week. For best results, perform your resistance moves as a circuit or use non-competing paired sets (alternate between exercises that train opposing muscle groups). That's the sweet spot for scoring a lean body.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)


High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective and efficient way to perform cardio. I typically find that most people do very well with two days a week of high-intensity intervals (on the days between strength training sessions). Here are two simple rules for creating a great HIIT plan:

1. Work intervals should be 30-60 seconds at more than 80 percent of your max heart rate or, if using a rate of perceived exertion (RPE), your work intervals should be somewhere between a 7 and 9 (Click here to see the RPE scale).

2. Recovery intervals should be 60-120 seconds at 55-65 percent of your max heart rate or an RPE of 2-3.

There are many ways to perform these intervals, but my favorite methods include: hill sprints, stationary cycling (preferably on a fan bike or a spinning bike), rowing, Versa-Climber, or treadmill.

Here's the formula to determine your max heart rate:

Max HR = (207 – (0.7 × age))

To determine your target zones during work and recovery intervals, simply multiply your max HR by .8 and then by .55 or .65.

Low-Intensity Steady-State Training


Finally, if you have extra time in your schedule, I would suggest adding in one day of an aerobic recovery session (low-intensity steady state exercise). This could be a 30- or 45-minute workout on the elliptical or treadmill at about 55-65 percent of your max HR or an RPE of 2.5-3.5.