Monthly Archives: October 2009

Transformation: What Figure Training Can Accomplish

“Can’t believe how much confidence this has given me.” (Melanie’s comments after competing in her first figure competition). Below is the transformation of Melanie Berg one of the nicest and hardest working figure athletes you will ever meet. Melanie began losing weight with the help of Calin, her boyfriend and personal trainer. When she decided she was interested in figure competition they sought me out to get her ready for competition. The end result is her qualifying for pro status a few days ago.

Frustrated by a stubborn metabolism, Melanie overcame this with strict dieting and intense workouts… and trust me, she had  rough spots and doubts along the way, but she never gave up!



Melanie combined the key ingredients to accomplish her goals:

  1. the right mindset (MOST important)
  2. the right diet – Figure Prep Diets – written by me
  3. tough calorie burning workouts – she followed my bootcamp workouts
  4. hard cardio – intervals

Below is a short video of Melanie’s training for her figure competition:

How To Do More Pushups

One of the most beneficial but most hated exercises is the pushup. For anyone looking to put on more muscle and/or increase their upper body strength… pushups are excellent. Most of my figure competitors can do between 25 – 40 pushups. Most started out just being able to do a few.

What often happens is that women will get stuck on a particular number of pushups and have a problem increasing the number of reps they can do. What most trainers would do is to try and make the exercise easier (ex. by having you do them on an incline). If you are struggling to increase the number of reps you can do, the secret is to make the pushups harder… not easier!

In the video above you see me placing a 18lb medicine ball on Melanie’s (by the way, Melanie is my new figure pro as of 2 days ago! Congratulations) back for added resistance. She is more advanced than most women so I wouldn’t start out using this much weight… a 5lb weight will do just fine. You won’t be able to do as many reps (you may actually surprise yourself and squeeze out your normal maximum reps)… but you are forcing your muscles to work harder during the pushup – this will translate into you pushing harder when there is no extra weight on your back, which will lead to you doing more reps. I would suggest doing this for 3 consecutive workouts before you try to do pushups without any resistance…. you will be surprised at the results when you try regular pushups again.

“What if I’m alone and don’t have anyone to place a weight on my back?”

In that case you could do negatives. Without going into detail as to why they work, just trust me… they work better than anything else for building strength.

  1. from the top of the pushup position, lower yourself SLOWLY to the ground (or as far down as you can go without doing a face-plant… splatt!)
  2. use your knees to get back into the top position (don’t use your arms to get up), you are trying to save all of your energy for the lowering portion of the pushup
  3. lower yourself again toward the floor… all the way, if you are strong enough
  4. continue these ‘negative’ pushups until you can no longer control yourself as lower yourself toward the floor (remember, no face-plants)
  5. the most important points to remember are Not to use your arms to push upward back into position and that you MUST lower yourself slowly… this is essential to getting stronger… lowering yourself down too quickly will be ineffective.
  6. do 3 or 4 good sets each workout, for three consecutive workouts without doing regular pushups and you will see results when you try the pushups the regular way during your 4th workout.
Negative Pushups For Figure Competitors

Figure Judging 101

Figure judging is subjective, which means that there are no exact judging criteria that judges can follow so that they all get the same result, every time. Therefore two different sets of judges could score the same group of competitors completely differently. Each organization may have different criteria for figure competitors:

  • some organizations like a little more muscle than others
  • some organizations may want you to flex more than others
  • some organizations may be more picky about posing or have different posing requirements


Regardless of whatever criteria an organization has… judges will often go off on tangentsFigure_posing

I’ve seen shows that were supposed to emphasized/advertised a softer look… but award first place to the hardest/leanest competitor onstage…. Or shows that encourage competitors to come in leaner… but award the first place trophy to a softer competitor. This leaves competitors confused, angry and wondering what they have to do to satisfy the judges. There’s nothing worse than a pissed off figure competitor on low carbs

I tell competitors the same thing… all you can do is come in the show in the best possible shape and hope the judges like your total package because you never know how the judges will judge. The judging panel can be made up of a mix bag of judges. If the judging panel is made up of a group of male bodybuilders… they will probably judge differently than a group made up of mostly women. Newer judges will score differently than more experienced judges…. former competitors will probably judge differently than current competitors.

It’s not that one group is better than the other… it just means that you never really know how each judge will interpret the figure guidelines. Personally I like the leaner competitor and try to bring my competitors in fairly ripped, but some judges don’t like a hard look on a figure competitor. I’ve found in my experience that the leaner competitors seem to do better even though some promoters emphasize more softness… not always, but usually. The trend I don’t like is the girls who are winning with the bikini-like bodies and no muscle… it’s one thing to want a softer physique – but their should be a definite distinction between a bikini model and a figure competitor.

One possible solution is to bring in the same group of judges for competitions within an organization. This could make things more consistent BUT the possibilities of politics becoming involved is great (sucking up to the judges on Facebook would become a full-time hobby for some competitors – and you know who you are!)… and that is another issue i don’t want to get into because I just makes me sick when I see politics in this sport…. how badly I want to stir up this pot right now but I will resist, because I don’t like to swear!

How To Really Piss Off A Figure Competitor:

There is nothing more frustrating than when figure competitors get conflicting advice from judges:

  • A competitor places lower than she expected, she asks the judges what she could have done differently to place higher. The judge tells her she is too lean and that she should come in softer for her next show. So, in preparation for her next show she eats a few more twinkies and comes in smoother. She places the same or maybe does worse in this second show! Again she approaches the judges after the show… and they tell her she is too soft and should be harder… WTF!? You talkin’ bout one pissed off figure competitor!

The problem is consistency… or the lack thereof in some figure competitions/organizations. I have 2 simple solutions that will make figure judging more consistent:

  1. I think all organizations should have their criteria for figure competitors posted on their websites. Not just a list of criteria…. I mean actual pictures of what the judges are looking for. They should show competitors what ‘some muscularity’ really means or what a ‘thin layer of fat covering the muscles’ actually looks like. To me, and maybe to you, It seems obvious what those things mean, but apparently judges have different interpretations. There are always going to be differences in opinion but when I see in the criteria: “a thin layer of fat over the muscles” and I look at the winner and she has no definition …or if she is ripped to shreds then I start to wonder if anyone is actually reading the guidelines they’re supposed to be following.
  2. Here’s a favorite among angry figure competitors: Judges who have affiliations with the competitors that they’re judging! Are you kidding me? I know the figure world can be a small community especially at the local level but organizations have to do a better job at distancing judges from their trainees and friends. You cannot possibly be fair if you have 3 competitors in the show you are judging. Judges should remove themselves from scoring any competitor they have any connection with other than a casual one… if you’re training them on Tuesday, you shouldn’t be judging them on Saturday! I could never be a judge because I train too many competitors and come into contact with many others… I wouldn’t feel right judging someone I trained or helped along the way (I would feel terrible as I gave them all perfect scores ha ha….. just keepin’ it real).

So anyway, I think those two things would eliminate a lot of the issues I see with figure judging and would go along way in reassuring competitors that they are being judged fairly and consistently.

Corny Figure Videos

The wrong way to make a workout video

I’m laughing as I’m writing this thinking about a video I saw the other day about figure competition shoulder_presspreparation (I won’t name the video because I think the people who produced It are very nice and genuine, the kind of people we need in this sport… but the video just plain sucked!).

  • I actually got the video from a first-time figure competitor who bought the video and was very disappointed after viewing it. She was at her gym complaining about it when someone overheard her and told her about me. We talked on the phone and she came in a few days ago with video in hand.


A video on figure preparation should be the last place you would expect to see women using light weights, wearing bright beautiful lipstick, perfect mascara, and doing exercises fit for a beginner. What figure competition were the women in this video getting ready for? I’ve never seen so much smiling and mugging for a camera.

I’m positive that the competitors in the video did not get in shape doing lateral raises with 5lb dumbbells! I realize that it’s easier to sell workout videos when the workouts are made to look easier (that’s why you never see anyone sweat on those late night infomercials because they know that no one will buy their exercise gizmo if it looks like you may actually have to work hard to get results)… but don’t mislead women into thinking they’re going to do a few exercises, practice a few poses and win a figure show.

One of the videos actually said to start to practice posing a week or two before the show! I’m assuming they are referring to an experienced competitor because… If a first timer waits until the last minute to practice posing, the end result won’t be pretty:

Back_Pose_001 Please stop making corny figure videos… I’ve actually seen a few of these videos. I would suggest to all video makers to stop worrying about how good you look on camera and how perfect everything has to be and focus more on the hard training, the ups and downs and everything else that makes up a competitor. I keep getting first timers who come to me thinking this is a glamour sport complete with glamour workouts. They soon find out that the only glamour part is when you walk onstage in that beautiful suit you paid big bucks for. Truthfully, that wouldn’t even seem so glamorous if the audience knew you were probably constipated from all the protein you’ve been eating… or worse, suffering from diarrhea because you did something silly like took a laxative to lose weight.

If you are going to make a video for figure competitors, show how hard it can be for the average woman with average genetics. Don’t pay some genetically gifted competitor who stays within 5lbs of competition weight all year round to shoot the entire video… you should also show the woman who has to lose 20lbs she gained in the off-season, show the woman who carries extra weight in her thighs – lets see how difficult it is for her to get lean. Let’s see the face of the competitor whose eaten chicken everyday for two weeks straight, as she opens up her Tupperware container to reveal …another chicken breast! This is what i deal with everyday.

Who wants to pay $49.99 to see make-up heavy, scantily clad women who are barely working out… when you can go to any large gym and see that for free! (ha ha… you know, the girls walking on the treadmill at level 1 and talking on their cell phone)

You will have plenty of time to look pretty onstage, but workout time is not makeup friendly:


THE END (of corny workout videos)