Blog Archives

Can I Lose Body Fat & Train for a Competition at Home?


What Type Of Equipment Do I Need To Lose Body Fat?

A lot of figure and bikini competitors think they need the latest high tech equipment or training philsophy to get ready for a show. I’ve always gone low-tech when I train clients. I use to work in large gyms with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment…. but I would only need a corner of the gym, a few dumbells, a bench, a bosu ball and a few other low-tech pieces of equipment. My clients ALWAYS got the best results! This is why I developed my diets and training program… to dispell all of the misinformation out there about training, diet, and exactly what it takes to get ready for a figure or bikini show. I also realized that most of your training will be done on you own, without a trainer looking over you shoulder (if you’re lucky enough to get a knowledgeable trainer)

The other day, I received the following email from a Julie Valencia who used by online program to get ready for her first show in Toronto Canada. She prepared in her house without fancy equpiment or a trainer. She proves that determination goes a lot further than the latest piece of exercise equipment or DVD fad workout.

“Hi Terry, 
   I just want to thank you for the training and diet program (  As you can see from the attached – I kicked ass today.  I won the IDFA      (International Drug Free Association) Transformation Challenge Award, Novice Figure Short Award and the  overall Novice Figure Award.
I stood by your plans and never gave into the negativity nor the other suggestions – I never gave up.  It definitely was one of the most challenging journeys to date (with two kids on my own)…but I managed. I did it!! All at home with a few dumbbells, a barbell and my own body. “

Then I received the following email a few days later…..

“Hi Terry, 🙂
    I want it to be known that I did not use one piece of gym equipment throughout the whole process and that I trained at home in a 8×11 room (except for dumbbells and a barbell).  🙂 
It was a frustrating process until I found your program…being a single mother …all I could think about were my kids throughout this whole process and how this would shape my business… (
thanks, terry” 

What Program Should I use?

The most important factors in training to lose body fat or a show are hard work, the proper diet and smart training. Don’t get caught up in the newest piece of gym equipment, cardio machine or new fangled exercise DVD that promises to burn 3x as many calories as the last exercise craze. Whatever program you decide to follow, just make sure it burns enough calories and preserves the muscle you already have and it will work, as long as you train hard enough. The unfortunate part is that many of the workout programs I see, either don’t burn enough calories or don’t put enough load on the muscle (which may lead to muscle loss during the fat loss process). So pick your programs wisely.   …..Terry Stokes

How to increase intensity in your workouts

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
If Laurie does this exercise twice a week for 3 months in prep for a figure competition she will have lifted 120,960 total pounds using 140 lbs on the weight stack… but she will have lifted only 47,520 lbs, if she only used 55 lbs on the weight stack. That’s 250% more work done in the same time period of time. You can see why some competitors have to work out for 3 hours a day, when someone else (working with higher intensity) can get better results in half the time spent in the gym.

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.

Steroids in Figure Competition

Steroids in figure

Steroids and the figure competitor

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.


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:

Progressive Intensity Workouts for Fat Loss


As a figure coach I see women who have varying degrees of difficulty losing body fat, therefore it is important that I continue to try and develop new techniques to burn even the toughest body fat off figure competitor’s bodies. Here is one of my favorite techniques – Progressive Intensity

Progressive Intensity is a technique I use to raise the workout intensity level for figure competitors during precontest fat loss training.  There are a few ways to do this, the video shows my favorite version of Progressive Intensity…. increasing the reps with each successive set. The goal is to make your body do more work as your level of exhaustion increases.

Basically what happens is that as you go through your circuit of exercises (usually only 2 or 3 exercises) the reps will increase as you progress through the set. In the video, Laurie  (who holds several figure pro cards) begins set #1 with 5 reps of Db Duck Squats followed immediately by 5 Jump Squats.  Set # 2 is: 10 reps of each (duck squats and jump squats). Set #3 is: 15 reps of each exercise etc etc…. You can see how exhausted Laurie gets as she progresses through the set. The idea is to do this continously until the required number of sets are completed. Try to get to 30 reps of each NON-STOP. You can do this with practically any 2 or 3 exercises as long as you can switch quickly from one to the other. This particular example is tough because both exercises focus on the legs…. give it a try.

One round of this, at the end of your workout, is enough when first trying this out. Eventually you will be able to do an entire 60 minute workout in this manner

(CAUTION: a burning sensation in the legs, exhaustion and heavy breathing are side effects of this workout… ha ha).

Here is another example below. This is a hard one:

You will never get in a size 4!

Saxonny is one of those competitors who doesn’t say much… sorta gets in her zone and proceeds to bust her butt during her workout, sorta gets all sweaty and stuff. Then she will quietly leave and RUN home… running home is hardcore ’cause my workouts ain’t easy! So one day I asked her what motivated her to get in shape… then her eyes lit up, it was something a friend said to her once:

“You will never get in a size 4!”

That’s what a friend told Saxonny when she picked up a a size size 4 one day. She was shocked, angry and embarrassed. The fact that she was a size 14 made the statement all to real!

I always say that successful people are more often driven by negativity that by positive feedback… Saxonny is no different. We’ve all heard the feel good stories of “The teacher who told me I was special motivated me to accomplish great things”  – Those stories definitely have their place, BUT… proving others wrong, now that feels a whole lot better and is a much better motivator! The end result: A bikini champion and NO trouble getting into that size 4 anymore!!!!

The one thing Saxonny hears that makes her skin crawl is: “It’s easy for you to stay lean because you are naturally thin” (Saxonny) “It angers me when people assume that I didn’t have to work for the body I have. It took the proper diet and workout to get in this kind of shape. People are usually shocked when they see my ‘before’ picture… then they realize how hard I had to work. Once I started working out, I began to look forward to the adrenaline rush I got from being totally exhausted after a workout or run… now I’m hooked for life!

Are Plyometrics Safe for Figure Training

Figure competitors ask me about plyometrics all the time. “Is it a good way to train?” …”Are they safe?” …”How often should you do them?”

plyometrics traing and figure competitionPlyometrics were one of the greatest breakthroughs in sports training… ever! Developed by a Russian doctor, Yuri Verkhoshansky in 1964, helped the communists countries (Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc) dominate track and field. The United States went over to see why a small country like East Germany with the population equal that of New York State (abut 17,000,000 people) could dominate the United States (with a population 10 X that of East Germany – 180,000,000) in Olympic competition. They discovered that they were using a training techniques named plyometrics.

Plyometrics are designed to stress the body in a way so that it becomes stronger, faster and more powerful. They were designed for high level athletes. These exercises place high levels of stress on joints, ligaments and muscles – but this is necessary for the muscular and neurological adaptions to take place in the body that will lead to improvements.

That being said…. plyometrics were never meant for group training classes where participants perform hundreds or thousands of repetitions during a single class. Participants, many of whom, may not even have an athletic background – I know quite a few people who who are starting to complain about sore knees etc., from these plyometric classes/workouts that are popping up.

Because of the many workouts and hours of cardio you must do to get ready for a figure competition, It’s easy to get nagging injuries. Too many plyometrics may push already exhausted joints and muscles over the limit… so it is imperative that you listen to your body and stop any exercises the second you feel something “weird”

It’s not that plyometrics should not be done but you have to:

  • know your body’s limit
  • don’t do entire workouts using just plyometrics
  • perform the ‘safer’ plyometric exercises

When done alongside other exercises, plyometrics can get your heart rate up and can help you burn a lot of calories.

  • For example: instead of trying to get your heart rate up doing 35 jump squats. You could get your heart rate up on a spin bike, get off immediately and do 12 jump squats. Now that’s a workout… and you cut your jump squats by 2/3.

One leg dominant exercises: Exercises that requires you to support all or most of your weight on one leg should be avoided or done in a limited fashion. I never have anyone do one-legged jumps/bounds and only occasionally will we do jump lunges. These are exercises I used when I did plyometrics to increase my vertical jumps 20 years ago. They worked great back then for increasing my vertical jump (I ‘posterized’ a few people) but my knees are paying a price nowadays. It was definitely not worth it! My problem was that I did too many reps and exercises. The key with plyometrics regardless if you’re just trying to improve in sports or lose body fat is QUALITY over QUANITY…. don’t overdue it!!! I got an x-ray of my knees few weeks ago and the pictures were not good… the doctor called it right away: “You must have been a jumper?”

Safer exercises: exercises like jump squats are much better because your weight is distributed more evenly when you land, but still not everyone can do them. A small percentage of people can jump really high…. the large majority should be more cautious and jump less aggressively. The landings should be soft so that the knees can absorb the shock as you lower down into a squat position. True plyometric exercise is done exactly opposite (knees don’t absorb the impact) but the strain on your knees would not be worth it… plus you get a better fat burning workout when lowering into a squat position.

conclusion: Plyometrics can definitely be a part of your fat loss workout program. Put them in your workout to get the maximum benefit from them… but don’t build an entire workout around plyometrics.

The over 40 figure competitor!

This is a picture of Karen we will get to her story in a moment. I often get emails from women who are interested in competing in figure but think that they can’t get into figure shape. They think the deck is stacked against them and that they can’t compete against younger competitors. The truth is that there are great advantages to being a little older (and wiser) which make it ‘easier’ to get ready for a show.

#1: Increased focus: older competitors are more focused – they seem to be able to block out a lot of the B.S. and just do what they have to do to get ready for a show

#2: Hard working: older competitors work hard – their extra years of wisdom helps them truly understand that ….you only get out of it… what you put into it

#3: More responsibility: When you’re 40+ years old you feel a sense of responsibility to show other women that they can do it too. I remember when George foreman came out of retirement to win the heavyweight boxing title at age 45 over an opponent that was 19 years younger…  He said he just wanted to show people that you can do whatever you want if you work hard enough and dedicate yourself to it.

#4: Good muscle size: It takes a longer time to build muscle in women, so the older competitor may have more muscle if she’s been lifting for years. A lot of older competitors were lifting years ago when lifting (for women) was frowned upon – which is why the over 40 category is sometimes the best in the entire competition.

Now back to Karen …age 51

Before meeting me, Karen, who is a personal trainer (with a successful blog: competed but was not happy with how she looked on show day. Karen, being a trainer and not being able to get the results she wanted for competition was extremely frustrating… because as trainers we are supposed to ‘know it all’ – what she realized was that ‘competition’ training was a completely different beast from ‘getting in shape’ training. When I first met Karen she was in good shape but she didn’t realize that to step onstage she would have to push herself beyond anything she had ever done.

Karen was the perfect competitor, she possessed all 4 qualities I mentioned above she just didn’t know how to reach her goal of getting onstage and competing for that 1st place trophy. BUT… she had the usual concerns of an over 40 figure competitor:   

Extra fat on the thighs: ‘I will never lose the fat on my things’

Age: “I can’t compete with younger women… I’m too old”

The unknown: “I’ve never gotten that lean before… I could never do it”

One thing that comes with age is knowledge and wisdom… when I asked Karen about each one of these ‘fears’ she realized that they were just excuses to not give 100%. She’s known people in her life who have overcome much greater obstacles to succeed in different aspects of life… so she realized that she would not let the ‘standard’ excuses get in her way. Once she decided to give 100% …the results were amazing!