Category Archives: figure posing

From 5th Place …to 3 Pro Cards to the Arnold Classic!

Laurie winning figure overallFor a few, figure can be a lottery hit the first time they step onstage… but for the vast majority it’s a longer journey requiring patience and the ongoing desire to improve. When I first met laurie she was soft spoken, humble, shy and amazingly nice. Three years and 3 pro cards later… she is still the same person. When she won her last overall (NPC) there was no big celebration, no fist pumping… just a nervous smile as they brought her the trophy. Afterwards, almost every picture she took she made sure her daughter, Paris, was in it… that’s because she has always kept everything in perspective. When she first started competing the victorys didn’t come easy… after finishing 5th in her first competition Laurie could have easily given up… but instead she used that as motivation to become the best she could be.

Now she is on her way to compete in the Arnold Classic in a few weeks!

Known for her intense training, Laurie is well respected by the other competitors she trains with. She’s so focused that she rarely talks during her workout. She finds a Laurie winnin NPC figure in buffalocorner in the gym, goes 100% during her workout, changes clothes… and goes home.

Precontest fat loss workout: A bunch of hard exercises done back-to-back with no rest… until she is ehausted. The idea is to work the entire body and burn as many calories as possible.

“Get Uncomfortable” – Laurie doesn’t feel she is getting a good workout until she  gets into her ‘uncomfortable zone’ – the uncomfortable zone is usually when most would stop and rest… her goal is to get into that zone and stay there. This is why she doesn’t have to do a ton of straight cardio to get lean… because she burns so many calories in her resistance-cardio workouts. What the uncomfortable zone really means to me is: “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk because I’m trying to catch my breath… please go away!” Check out the short video clip of her showing me that she doesn’t want to be bothered.

Laurie is the tye of person everyone roots for. Just as gracious in victory as she had been in defeat. Never one to put other competitors down or brag on herself. I realized just how humble Laurie was when I went to her Facebook page looking for some good pitures (since I didn’t get too many good shots at the show), when I noticed that she had not posted one picture of herself… after winning a show she has been trying to win for 3 years! The only thing she posted were things about her daughter… I think that says it all! Congratulations Laurie! Oh yeah, and good job at the competition too!

Laurie performing one of her favorite exercises:

Shut up… and become a Champion!

NPC North American

Terry Stokes and Brittany Murchie and NPC Figure Nationals

Congratulations Brittany Murchie for doing an awesome job at the NPC Nationals (North american Championships) this past weekend. Introduced to me by a pro competitor I also trained, the first thing Brittany said to me was: “I will do whatever you tell me to do, I want to go as far as I can.”  Then she preceded to train with me for the next hour. She didn’t say one word during that workout …and she trained her butt off. I knew then that she had the mentality and work ethic to do this.

The goal with Brittany, as with all competitors, was to get better with every competition, which is what she did. She qualified for the nationals after winning the overall title in the NPC Rochester Bodybuilding and Figure Championships.

On my way home I started thinking of what it takes to be successful in figure competition. What do competitors that do well all have in common. You see, on the outside, Brittany looks like the type of competitor who is naturally in shape… not having to work too hard. She never says a whole lot, doesn’t asks questions just to hear herself talk… she makes it look easy. Then I started to think about Laurie who is doing NPC Nationals in 3 months. Everytbody thinks it’s easy for her to get in excellent condition… she never says a whole lot… she trains hard, says little, she sort of makes it look easy! Hmmm…. seems like a pattern.

Then I thought about all my competitors who have repeatedly done well, often against great odds, doubters and haters… and they all had the same quality – they all make it look easy! But… I know the truth!

I know that they struggle like everyone else, I know the doubts they have… I know when they want to quit sometimes after a day of ‘not so clean eating’  –  what I realize is the difference with winners is their ability to focus, to keep setbacks in perspective and bounce back quickly. How easy it is for too many competitors to get distracted during contest prep when things get hard. They concern themselves with things totally irrelevant to their success onstage, they start to listen to everyone who wants to give them advice… they find excuses not to push harder during workouts, or for not following the diet strictly. To become a champion, it’s important not to let irrelevant things distract you. Not to get caught up in the B.S. that often comes with competing.

I love it when one of these veteran competitors (who will remain un-named – but you know who you are) walks through a class and yells: “Stop talking and get to work, you have a competition to get ready for!”

Champions think in a straight line, which is why they don’t say much, they don’t complain and they only ask questions that will help them get better. Often my competitors will wonder why I don’t spend a lot of time talking about certain things, why I ignore them sometimes. I’m not trying to be a jerk. What I’m trying to convey to them is that certain topics/conversations are not going to make them any better or further their progress towards their goal… so I don’t bother talking about it.

Winners ask the question: “What do I need to do to get better?” Winners can be awol for 3 or 4 days and I don’t worry because I know that they still trained hard, they still followed their diet to the letter and they still did their cardio… I don’t have to worry.  All my winners have this trait – the ability to avoid a pleasure now (whether it’s food or just slacking off), for a greater pleasure… in a few months!

You can be a figure competitor if you believe in yourself!

(Sorry I’ve been gone so long but I’ve been working on some new projects for figure competitors. I will have details in a few weeks).

The following email I received epitomizes the reason I became a figure coach. This is what it’s all about… if you’ve ever doubted yourself read below and get re-energized!!!!

Dear Terry,

I owe you my thanks. You don’t know me, but it was nine months ago in February that I decided to do some research on how to go about doing a Figure Competition, nine months ago when I found your website and purchased your e-book on line. Nine months ago when your website convinced me that I COULD do it!

I’m a mother of three, a wife, a full time worker with an awesome 70 mile commute (one way). The odds were against me. How would I ever find time to train? How would I be able to cook meals for myself and then turn around and take care of my family? How could I cram the workouts I needed into my 1 hour lunch break?  It seemed impossible at the time, but now that I look back, the hard work was well worth it. I would have never gotten as far as I did had it not been for your Figure Guide. The idea of it was overwhelming, but your workouts and your diet plan made it easy for me. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to figure anything out and I didn’t have to spend 2 hours a day at the gym. I just had to follow the plan and stay focused. Follow the plan, take your word for it and trust that my investment would pay off.

Well Terry, IT DID!!!  I followed the Figure Guide workouts religiously and stuck with the diet. I only had 12 weeks to get ready for what seemed like the impossible and all I had was your book. I had 20lbs to lose and was sitting at 27% body fat.  It was hard to imagine that I could shave it all off in just 12 weeks, I was scared and I consistently wondered if I would make it. I had no one to guide me, no teacher, no trainer but I could see myself changing weekly and I enjoyed the challenge of each workout.

On June 19th, after only 12 weeks of training, I stepped out on stage for my first ever Figure Competition. I was 22lbs lighter and sat around 13 to 14%BF. I took home second place in my height category and realized then that it wasn’t over, I had the bug and I was going to keep going. Since my first show on June 19th I’ve entered two more NPA shows where I placed 1st in my height category and recently on October 16th I took the stage to battle for Pro. I was 25lbs lighter and sat at 10%BF. I placed 5th in the NPA Pro Classic barely earning my Pro Status and winning my first check!

At first I was pretty bummed out about getting 5th place. I was going for the gold and felt like I didn’t train hard enough, but after giving it some long thought I realized, “wait”…here I am, a mother of 3, a wife, a full time employee with a 70 mile commute, and I managed to do all of this on my one hour lunch break. In just 9 months I did the unthinkable, I transformed my body, I became a Figure Competitor, I became an NPA Pro Athlete and I changed my life.

I will admit that I no longer follow the Figure Guide like how I use to, but I owe my success to you, it’s where my success started. The book was my stepping stone; it was where it all began and it’s what convinced me to commit to achieving my goals. I still use the concepts weekly tweaking things here and there, but since I’ve come to know and understand my body I realize that I no longer need to follow a guide,  I now know what works for me, I now know myself and what my passion is. Thank you Terry for the “no more guessing” and making it easy for someone like me. I often wonder what would’ve happened if I never stumbled upon your website. I’m so glad I did. Thank you!



That’s the reason I’m a figure coach!

Getting Lean: The final 4 weeks

I always try to stress to competitors how important it is to push even harder the last 4 weeks before a figure competition. These weeks are the hardest because your body fat is low and your body is fighting to keep from losing more fat. But the pounds you lose during the final weeks can have a dramatic effect on your overall appearance… as opposed to early on when a pound or two didn’t even register when looking in the mirror.

This is the time when many competitors plateau and make very little improvement. It’s easy to just “stay the Figure Judgingcourse” …thinking that somehow you will continue to improve. This, of course, is the wrong attitude – what you must do is work harder, more often… and keep your diet tight. Having this attitude can be the difference between winning and losing – or the difference between looking like you belong onstage… or looking like you don’t.

Sometimes when a competitor complains why they can’t do this or do that, I tell them: “Get over yourself” …not to be a jerk, but the competitors you will go up against are probably training hard while you are coming up with reasons not to train. Whether it’s doing cardio before the kids get up in the morning, running on your lunch break or working out after everyone has gone to sleep – you just do what you gotta do.

When your body fat is low and you are low on carbs and energy, the diet becomes very difficult your mind starts to think:

  1. “why is this so hard?”
  2. “why am I doing this?”
  3. I have not lost a pound this week (…so shouldn’t I just quit? …or have that piece of cake?)

This is your subconscious mind trying to justify you quitting, or eating your son’s birthday cake that’s in the fridge…. or maybe participating in the office party next Friday, going out drinking with friends or any number of other temptations you will surely face …everyday! Only the strong survive in this sport.

Tips to keep you focused during the final weeks:

  1. focus on how good you will feel getting onstage in good shape win or lose. You will have done something many women have talked about ….but very few have accomplished.
  2. remember that your competition is probably training hard and not cheating
  3. refuse to make excuses: If I had a nickle for everytime I heard: “It’s harder for me because… I have kids, I’m in school or… I don’t live near a gym or… i work full time etc. etc. etc… there are a thousand excuses. It’s hard for everybody…. each person has things going on in their lives, whether its a full-time job, kids, or a spouse who is unsupportive. Just get over yourself and do it… like Jennifer (aka ‘applejack’) did below.

figure competitorfigure Posing

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)

How Figure Competitors Build A V-Taper

My last few posts have been about the psychological gymnastics one must go through in the figure world, whether it’s with the competition diet or dealing with those closest to you. Today I am going to focus on training because I’ve gotten quite of few training questions lately, so let’s start with widening the back.

V-Taper: Wide back and narrow waist – What figure competitors need to develop to improve symmetry and score higher in competition. The wider your back is the narrower you waist looks… this is the illusion of the v-taper.

Exercises that build the back are categorized in 2 categories:
1) Exercises where your arms are parallel to your body (pull-ups and pulldowns)
2) Exercises where your arms are perpendicular to your body (all rowing exercises)
– Both types need to be performed to completely develop the back

Today I’m focusing on the #1 exercise for building a V-Taper – Close-Grip Pulldowns

Most women are under the impression that wide-grip pulldowns will make you back wide… not really!

The reason close-grip pulldowns are more effective is because the lats are stretched more at the beginning of the movement (arms are extended overhead), which means you are getting a fuller range of motion (the fuller the range of motion – the more muscle fibers that are involved). The wider your arms go out toward the side – the shorter the movement becomes (in wide-grip pulldowns). So my suggestion for someone looking for size is to begin your back workouts with close-grip pulldowns because you are strongest at the start of your workout.

Wide-grip and underhand grip both have advantages:

Wide grip pulldowns hit the muscle from a little different angle which means different muscle fibers are affected, you can also lean back slightly when pulling down to help squeeeze out a few extra reps
The Underhand grip is great because the biceps are more involved which means you may be able to squeeze out a few more reps.

BUT… The best way to use the underhand grip is right after going to failure with the overhand grip, this will help get out a few more reps. Let me explain:
a) perform OVERHAND pulldowns until you can’t do another rep
b) immediately switch to the underhand position and continue the set
c) because you biceps are more involved with the underhand grip, you should be able to pump out a few more reps and really exhaust those lats (this is intense)
caution: always keep a slight bend in your elbows (when arms are overhead) when performing pulldowns. This insures that the muscles are supporting the weight. If you completely extend your arms overhead you put all the stress on the shoulder and elbow joints… ouch!

Posing the back is the most difficult thing for a figure competitor to learn. Many women compete in show after show without learning how to flex their back properly. This will cost you points and leave you looking narrow and unsymmetrical. I wrote a detailed article on my website about posing the back. It explains everything and has some good graphics: