International Transformation Of The Month: A Russian's Evolution

A new country and a new language made Sarkhan forget his fitness. Tired of his stubborn belly flab and a soft body, he made serious goals and stuck to them. See his serious results!

Name: Sarkhan Lyutfaliev
Email:, BodySpace: Sark0n
Country: Originally from Russia, currently living in Spain.
Sarkhan Lyutfaliev Sarkhan Lyutfaliev
AGE 23
185 lbs
AGE 28
176 lbs

Why I Got Started

After I moved from Russia to Spain, I completely abandoned all my sports activities because I was trying to learn a new language and adapt to my new environment. I became accustomed to a sedentary lifestyle and got soft and chubby. I wasn't super fat or anything, but I wasn't happy with my body. I always had that excess of belly fat which I hated, and there seemed to be absolutely no way to get rid of it no matter how hard I tried.

I needed a goal; I needed motivation to start taking steps in the right direction and get in better shape. After a couple years in Spain, I started to feel well integrated and knew it was time for me to start doing something about my lifestyle.

I decided to look around for some sports I could practice and discovered a good one - rowing. It gave me what I needed: commitment to a team and to myself to improve, to get better, to finally get in good shape. I recovered my lost motivation to practice sports once again.

My years in rowing helped me to get some solid fitness knowledge, discipline and the right mindset to achieve goals. It also helped me to get in better shape and to build the base of my further transformation.

After about four years of rowing, I moved to a different city and had to abandon that sport. After several years of casual training in the gym, I realized that I wasn't doing things the right way, the results just weren't showing. I reached my plateau (that belly fat wasn't going anywhere).

I decided to take a few steps back and think about what I REALLY wanted to achieve. I wanted to answer to a few simple questions: Why do I work out? What are my goals? How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?

I asked myself those questions about a year ago, in March 2011. Only after I answered those questions, could I continue my transformation journey.

How I Did It

Rowing was my fitness basement. It helped me gain endurance, strength and discipline. I worked on a team of committed individuals. Rowing also gave me some solid fitness knowledge as well as some initial understanding of my body. I started to figure out what kind of macronutrients I needed: protein for building muscle and more carbs to survive a long training session.

After my rowing period, I started to work out in the gym with without knowing much about anything. I just heard things here and there and did typical excersises you see 90% of people doing. After a few years of doing that, I came to a conclusion that I was wasting my time since the results I wanted just weren't there. I wasn't improving at all. What was the reason? Well, basically I was doing it all wrong. I wasn't training right, I wasn't eating right and most importantly, my mindset right.

I started to research different methods of training and nutrition. There's a surprising amount of free information out there if you're willing to invest some time into finding it. I had some goals: burn fat (get leaner), get visible abs, build some lean muscle mass without fat gains, and ultimately obtain a fitness model kind of physique.

I didn't need an expensive trainer or "magic" weight-loss pills. I read articles on, read other people's experiences, and watched training videos on YouTube. It doesn't cost much money to get in great shape.


I currently have the following principles applied to my nutrition:

  1. Low carbs, high protein diet. I consume the great majority of my carbs during the first part of the day (most are complex; I try to avoid simple sugars). Primary source of sugar is fruits.
  2. High protein intake during the day both from natural sources (chicken, fish, milk, eggs and red meat) as well as protein shake supplements.
  3. Control portion sizes.
  4. Create slight caloric deficit in order to burn excess of stored body fat (never really measured, but I know my body pretty well at this point).


My training philosophy right now is based around the following principles:

  1. High intensity training with short rest periods between sets and exercises (anywhere between 15 and 45 seconds between sets and maximum 90 seconds between exercises).
  2. Incorporate classic heavy compound movements to my routines (Squats, Bench press, Dumbbell presses, Deadlifts, Bent over row, Weighted Pull-ups, Push-ups etc).
  3. Incorporate a lot of super-set and drop-set exercises into my workouts.
  4. Maintain a high heart-rate during the whole workout.
  5. Never repeat same training routine twice; use small tweaks to always keep the muscles guessing.
  6. Be focused during my whole workout-get 110% out of each training session.

Suggestions For Others

You need a goal, that goal will give you motivation to wake up every morning and work toward that goal.

Believe in yourself - believe that you can achieve your goal, that's the first step to success.

Train hard, train as hard as you can. Don't look at other people in the gym, forget about your ego and the weights you're lifting. The weight doesn't matter, the important thing is yourself and how you feel about what you're doing. Raise your intensity levels in each training session. Lower your rest times between sets.

Don't neglect your legs: legs are the biggest muscle groups in your body and strong legs will make for stronger upper body as well.

Train cardio - your conditioning is as important as your lean muscle mass. Pick up a sport where you can train cardio if you get bored of treadmill. I picked kick-boxing and it's a lot of fun.

Take care of your diet: substitute your soft drinks for water, your donuts for fruits and your hamburgers for veggies and lean meats.

Country-Specific Details

I'm currently living in Spain and fitness here is big part of people's lives. Your public image becomes more and more important these days. Both men and women are trying to take care of themselves and gyms and fitness centers numbers are rapidly growing.

Spain is a big sports nation; we have huge soccer tradition here. The Spanish national team just one the Euro cup. Outdoor sports in general are popular.