Category Archives: figure training
Don’t Gain More Weight By Dieting Wrong
I would say that 75% of the women I know/train are trying to lose weight. Anyone who’s ever tried dieting knows how difficult it can be. The best way I’ve found is to diet consistently throughout the week and have a cheat meal on the weekend. Unfortunately when staying consistent gets difficult, bad things start to happen… really bad things! Let’s take a look at a few of these contest diet pitfalls:
Starve and Binge:
- Sometimes people lose their ability to stick to a diet and go on a binge. This is often followed by starving themselves to make up for the binge. It doesn’t happen just once but often becomes a regular pattern. Instead of eating chicken, fish, potatoes and vegetables over the course of 3 days…. a person may binge on eat ice cream, chips, chocolate etc…. for 1 day and then barely eat anything for the next 2 days! Not very healthy! It happens more than many women will admit. Doing this will torment you mentally with feelings of depression and failure… I’ve gotten many a midnight text message from a clients in the middle of the fallout from one of these binges. Why one person can stop after one brownie, slice of pizza or candy bar and the next person continues until she wants to puke is something that’s hard to understand – but it happens.
Some competitors will talk about how closely they follow the diet… EXCEPT they forget to mention the constant nibbling they do during the day:
- a handful of nuts
- scoop of peanut butter
- piece of bread
- a little bit of this and a little bit of that
- etc, etc, etc…..
These calories add! These ‘nibbles’ are always on the highest caloric foods (fats) too: cookies, nuts, chocolate etc. No one seems to want to nibble on a few vegetables or a piece of chicken…. not only would that be better but your stomach would feel fuller. Those last few pounds you need to lose to be in great shape and reach your goals, may never come off if you don’t get control of the ‘nibbles’.
No carbs (or very low carbs) can be used as a diet technique BUT… you shouldn’t be using it on Day 1! This is a sure way to lose a lot of water, dehydrate yourself, slow your metabolism down and make it twice as hard to get lean (slow metabolism). If you cut your carbs too much, too soon, you will stand a much higher chance of mental and physical burnout when you couple this with hard workouts.
Sometimes women will go day after day on no carbs trying to lose more body fat… especially if they haven’t been consistent with their diet. They use this as a way to ‘catch up’. Your body gets real tired of this, real quick… pretty soon you will be walking around with your brain in a fog, like a zombie, struggling to figure out the simplest daily task (brain cells needs twice as many carbohydrates as the other cells in your body to function normally). Your workouts will become more difficult also. Low carbs + low energy + poor workouts (because of low energy) + slow metabolism = 1 miserable, unhappy person!
Those are 3 of the main diet malfunction I see. There are more but If you avoid these 3 and follow a consistent diet you should find it a lot easier to lose body fat (I didn’t say easy…. just ‘easier’).
You’ve either said this yourself, or heard someone else say it: “I’m on this new thing now It’s called the Blah Blah Blah Program. I’ve lost 8lbs… This product is GREAT and very nutritious. You drink two shakes during the day and eat a sensible dinner at night.” I hear this all too often these days. Most of the time this fat loss is not the real aim of the company that sells it. The aim of these companies is to get you excited about losing weight so that you can become a seller/distributor of their Protein, Diet, OR Health shake. Once you become a distributer then you are pressured to recruit more people into the business (“that’s where the real money is” they tell you, then they say that if you can just “get 5 of your friends to join, you can make money from their sales forever” blah blah…). THAT’S THE REAL AIM OF THESE COMPANIES… to get you excited (about your fat loss) then sign you up, then push you to recruit more people to sell their miracle protein powder. Then they say you will be “owning your own business” by recruiting more people (this is absolutely not anything like having your own business… but it does sound good). Wow, you went from losing 8lbs to starting your own business in just 14 days!
AN 800 CALORIE DIET? YOU MUST BE KIDDING?
They know that you are most suggestive in the first few weeks of any new thing (this just happens to be your fat loss) so they have you starve yourself for a few weeks with a diet consisting on 1 meal a day and two of their “special” shakes. Many times these diets are only about 800 calories (some have been tested and found to have only 500-600 calories). These diets are always low in carbs because a low carb diet will cause sight dehydration It doesn’t matter what you eat… if you are only eating 800 calories YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE WEIGHT regardless of what you eat! THEN you are afraid to eat anything but the two shakes-a-day plan because you know you will gain the weight you lost right back! You can’t continue to eat like that! It’s not healthy! Your body is designed to digest food… not powder for 66% of your meals. (it’s ok to have a few protein shakes a day but you need to be eating real food also at every meal).
THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT (Don’t Fall for the HOOK)
I tell anyone that It’s much healthier and you will look much better doing it the right way (proper diet and exercise). That’s why I always offer a money back guarantee on any of my programs, because they are based on what has worked for many years with many types of women and men! I hate to see people taken advantage off because they are excited about their weight loss (which is mostly water from dehydration – these companies are really good at hooking you early with this technique). Don’t get caught up in the hype! If you or anyone you know wants a program fat loss program that really works and makes you look better (not drawn and exhausted looking). Then check out this 12 Week Fat Loss Program, complete with Maintenance Diets (very important).
PS the 12 Week Fat Loss Program is a complete actual 12 week program that I use to get women in awesome shape (workouts, diets, videos, maintenance diets etc). It comes with a full Money Back Guarantee
Women think because I train competitors that their diet is some special mix of foods designed only for competitors. Nothing can be further from the truth. Competitors eat like we all should eat to be healthy. The only thing that’s different is that during competition prep the diet is higher in protein than I would recommend for a year round diet… but this is only for a short period of time. The food choices for a competitor are limited only because it’s easier to now exactly what they are eating if the choices are limited, not because there are ‘special’ foods that competitors “Must” eat – for example, chicken is the main staple meat of most competiton diets but you can eat practically any meat as long as you know the calorie count. Below is a diet for a competitor or anyone trying to lose body fat.
Figure Diet: the competition diet is pretty basic. Lean protein, fibrous carbs (vegetables), complex carbs and good fats. The diet should be structured to change as the body gets leaner.
- Meat: Chicken is the food of choice 80% of the time with fish and tuna being eaten 20% of the time. Some competitors switch to fish in the weeks prior to a show to help with fat loss.
- Protein powder: Every competitor uses protein powder each day between, 2-4 scoops. Closer to competition, competitors will replace some of their chicken or fish meals with protein powder to keep fat loss going. You should choose a powder that taste good to you, otherwise you get tired of it real quick.
- Supplements: A multivitamin once a day and protein powder, that’s about it for 95% of my competitors. Creatine should only be taken in the off-season. If i find that someone is taking creatine during precontest training, I will have them stop immediately because it makes you hold water.
- Cheat foods: Peanut butter seems to be the big winner when it comes to cheating. Almost every competitor admits to cheating on the diet. 70% will choose peanut butter. Ice cream is enjoyed by 30% of competitors and potato chips are eaten by 40%. They say the best thing to do is make sure there is none of the ‘offending’ food in the house… otherwise it will be eaten.
- Compliance with the diet: 99% of competitors cheat on the diet. I know a few who I ‘think’ won’t cheat… but I can’t be 100% sure. They often try to lie about it, but i get the truth eventually. Actually cheats are harmless and can be beneficial if kept to a minimum. The brain (psychology) and body (extra energy) benefits from the extra boost a cheat can give them.
- Artificial sweeteners: 60% say they use some sort of artificial sugar or flavoring in their coffee (also about 80% drink coffee). These have to be eliminated the last week of a show because they can hold on to water in your body. You can lose 3 or 4 lbs just by eliminating artificial sweeteners from your diet (depending on how much you use).
I think other trainers and competitors expect me to have some secret food or supplements that I use. I don’t. The only ‘secret’ is how the diet is structured… but the foods are just basic foods.
The charts below are based on my competition diets (http://www.figurecompetitiondiets.com/)
Jody and Laurie ate a diet that we all should follow…
Since the explosion of women athletics in colleges, along with the increased number of women in gyms… doctors have noticed that women have a much higher percentge of knee injuries than men. There are a number of reasons for this… but one of them is squatting technique – either in preparation to jump (as in basketball or volley ball) or in the gym doing squats, lunges etc., and not being careful with technique. Below (video) is something I see much too often that can lead to injury, if done on a regular basis: “The Bounce”
Bouncing at the bottom of a squat makes it easier to get out of the lower squat positions – similar to bouncing the bar off your chest while bench pressing. The problem is that the knee tendons/ligaments are under a lot of strain during this bounce. Tendons are very strong and designed to handle more stress that the actual muscle the are attached to… BUT, you don’t want to repeatedly test their strength.
In the video below, the first few reps are done correctly (…no bouncing at the bottom). The remaining reps are done INCORRECTLY (bouncing at the bottom). Ideally, you should try to pause for a split second at the bottom of your squat to eliminate any possible bouncing. This is not only safer, but you get a better workout, because your leg muscle have to do ALL the work …with no help from the much stronger tendons.
Bouncing has always been a problem when doing regular bar squats, but it is even more of a problem now with the many plyometric based exercise programs that use jump squats and simiular types of movements – it’s very important to stay in control of these movements especially when you are tired or going for speed (form can become very sloppy wheh trying to ‘beat the clock’). Figure competitors must always keep in mind that an injury will make it very diffcult to reach competition condition… especially if your legs/knees are affected – because trying to do jump squats, cardio etc., on an injured knee is next to impossible.
(the article below was originally written for a course I ran for figure competitors… But this is actually the same advice I give anyone who has reached a plateau in their weight loss efforts. it’s simple advice but it comes from training hundreds of women)
One of the most frustrating things about getting ready for a figure competition is when you encounter a fat loss plateau. As a competitor you understand that there is no buffer for not getting in shape – you either hit your mark on contest day… or you don’t (then you kick yourself for training and dieting for 12 weeks and not getting in your best condition). So when you get to a point that fat loss slows or stops, it’s easy to go into panic mode. Slashing calories in half is what some competitors do. For those who decide to do that, they are going to have a miserable time mentally and physically as their body tries to adjust to 50% less calories. This is something you definitely want to avoid at all costs.
When overcoming a fat loss plateau you must attack it from 3 sides:
Diet: First you must tighten up your diet. This may mean cutting your diet by as few as 100 calories a day. You want to avoid cutting too many calories because this may cause your metabolism to slow down and go into ‘starvation’ mode. Once this happens, it’s hard to fire the metabolism up again.
Workout: You must increase the intensity of your workouts. Basically train harder: (1) lift heavier weights, (2) perform your normal workouts (same reps and sets) in less time, (3) add on an extra 15-20 minutes to your normal workout time, (4) take less time between sets so that the workout is more cardio-like etc. There are many ways to increase workout intensity. The important thing is not to ‘coast’ but make sure each workout is at a high intensity level.
Cardio: Step up your cardio intensity. This may mean just going harder for the same amount of time, for example, you may be able to run 3 miles in 30 minutes. What you want to do is try and run 3.2 miles in the same 30 minutes, then eventually 3.5 miles in that 30 minutes.
– Or you may change from a less effective form of cardio cardio workout (ex elliptical machine) to a more effective form of cardio (treadmill or outside running). This is a very effective way to increase the amount of calories you burn in a workout.
One mistake I see is when competitors try to do it all by slashing calories… DON’T do that! You will lose weight initially but your metabolism will slow down too much and all progress will stop. This will make it very difficult to lose further body fat. It’s much wiser to attack it a little from all 3 factors instead of just one.
Another Mistake I see is competitors who decide to double their cardio in order to lose body fat. This will work initially but it may take a toll on your body and mind… this can lead to burnout (mental and physical exhaustion).
So, If you do experience a plateau, don’t panic and do something drastic that will cause your metabolism to shut down or that will cause you to burnout… Just use moderation in adjusting your diet and training. This is the one ‘secret’ behind my success in training fitness and physique competitors over the past 10 years.
Negative accentuated exercises:
Negative accentuated exercises means going slower during the eccentric (negative) portion of an exercise. The negative portion is also called the lowering phase, examples are:
- lowering a barbell from the top of the curl position to the bottom (arms straight)
- lowering the bar from the top of the bench press exercise down to your chest
- during a pushup – when you lower yourself from the top position to the ground
Look at most people and they totally neglect this portion of the exercise with sloppy technique:
- during bicep curls – they let the bar fall from the top to the bottom instead of controlling it on the way down
- during bench press – they let the bar fall to their chest and sometimes let it bounce off to make the next rep easier
You are actually stronger during this phase of an exercise (the negative/lowering phase) than you are during the actual lifting of the weight.
- In a bicep curl – you can lower more weight than you can curl upward
- in the bench press – you can lower weight than you can push up from your chest
- etc, etc…
If you are stronger during the negative phase this means that there is the potential for more size and strength gains if you focus on that phase of the movement.
this holds true for any exercise – this concept (negative accentuated exercise) is one of the most important in all of weight training, whether you are trying to gain size, strength or increase the number of reps you can perform in a particular exercise.
For now just concentrate on lowering the dumbbell/barbell slower during the negative phase of all exercises. You will find that you won’t be able to perform as many reps but your muscles will be more exhausted after a set. In a later article i will go into more advanced negative accentuated techniques.
Don’t get carried away: start out slow with negatives, they place increase strain on ligaments and tendons, therefore don’t do a bunch of them the next time you workout out, do a few sets per muscle group where you really focus on the negative phase then perform the rest of your sets as you normally would. Eventually all of your sets should be done in the negative accentuated manner. You should notice some soreness the day after if you do them correctly.
When someone tells me that they’re eating good but are not seeing the results they want (usually fat loss), the first thing I do is watch them workout… because when it comes to results, what matters most is effort and the amount of work that is actually done during a workout. Many times a competitor may think they are training hard, they talk about how hard they are training, how many hours they spend in the gym… and even tell others how to train… but in reality they should be working out much harder themselves.
Take a look at the video below. The first few reps of the squat rows look ok… but in reality Laurie could lift heavier weight, which would give her a much better workout.
When Laurie increases the weight from 55lbs. to 140lbs for the last 12 reps, this greatly increases the amount of work she is doing.
Let’s compare the two:
- 12 reps with 55 lbs = 660 lbs
- 12 reps with 140 lbs = 1,680 lbs
Imagine the difference in someone’s physique if they used the heavier weight for 3 months, instead of the lighter weights. This is why I always tell figure competitors to put their work in early in competition prep because there is no making up for lost time …. you can’t catch-up if you slack (at the lower weight) for 11 weeks and think that there is some magical trick that will ‘bring it all together’ the last week before a show – sorry but it’s not going to happen! So train hard everyday so you get the results you want …and so that you don’t have to spend all day in the gym.
Over the past 12 months this issue has repeatedly been raised among newer competitors I meet. Figure competitors often want to know if they need to take steroids to compete in shows that are not drug tested. The answer is no. Many drug free figure competitors compete and are champions at every level. Do steroids give a figure competitor an advantage? If their goal is to gain muscle and lose body fat (depending on what steroids they take) then they absolutely will make it easier for a woman to achieve both of these objectives… but any competitor can gain muscle and lose enough body fat to compete, with time and hard work. Besides, when it comes to figure competition, you don’t need a ton of muscle to do well.
I just had two competitors compete and do very well in the Arnold Classic both are drug-free and one made top 10. Where there bigger more muscular competitors there? Of course there were – but figure is about more than just size, so my competitors never really worry about whether a show is tested or not – I just tell them to go in to competition in their best possible shape.
Although steroids can accelerate muscle growth, larger muscle may not be what the competitor needs. I’ve seen competitors change their physique so much that they began to do worse in figure competitions and had to switch to bodybuilding or one of the newer fitness/physique body categories that require competitors to carry more muscle. So competitor’s need to take that into consideration when deciding whether or not to take steroids.
I tell competitors who are worried because they think a certain competitor is on steroids or because a show is not drug tested, that their goal should be to bring the best possible package to the stage. Muscle size is only a part of winning a figure competition… symmetry, stage presence and proper conditioning are much more important. Just look at the top figure competitors in the world… they range from hard/more muscular to softer/less muscular. It’s the total package the judges are looking for. Therefore you should never let what anyone else does discourage you from competing.
For 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 corner 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: