At Beverly 26 females, ages 20-52 completed an extensive, sixteen-week figure contest countdown series of workshops. In this article, I’m going to hit the most important points concerning training, and especially diet, that we discussed in the workshop series. My goal is to give you the tools for you to formulate a plan that you can follow to achieve the same results as the girls who completed the workshop. The girls’ average body-fat percentage at the beginning of the program was 23 percent, ranging from 31% to 14%. Most were in the 21-27% range. Four months later, twenty-one of the girls had reduced their percentage to 14% or less. No one ended at higher than twenty percent. Their work culminated in competing onstage at the Northern Kentucky Figure Championships.
Our workshop series lasted four months which is a realistic amount of time if you’re interested in competing (or just looking like you could compete if you wanted to). It’s a long enough period to get results and short enough that you can maintain your enthusiasm. So let’s start by making a goal to get into the best possible shape that you can during the next four months.
To look like a figure competitor you need to improve your muscle to fat ratio. That means you’ll need to build lean muscle tissue, lose fat and choose the right exercises to create a beautiful, symmetrical physique. Progressive weight training is more important than light training or cardio in helping you develop lean muscle and improve your shape. For the next four months I recommend that you try training six days per week on the following split:
V-shape is one of the most important things you can do to improve your figure. Here’s a sample lat workout you can try that works your muscles from three different angles.
Here’s a sample lat workout that works your muscles from three different angles.
For a complete figure training and cardio program designed check out Fit Figures.
Yes, correct training is a requirement for building lean, shapely muscle, but it’s only 30% of the battle. If you’re like me you won’t be satisfied with just 30% effectiveness. I just can’t overemphasize how important proper nutrition (including targeted supplements to help you add lean muscle and mobilize stored fat) is. Honestly, your nutrition is at least twice as important as your training. It accounts for the other 70% of the results you’ll achieve.
To improve your nutrition the first step is to clean up your diet and make better food choices. This is the time to remove processed foods, high fat fast foods, sugar, white flours and pastas. A diet consisting of approximately fifty percent lean protein, twenty percent quality complex carbs and thirty percent healthy fat works best. You should consume 10-15 calories per pound of bodyweight (depending on your metabolism, age and current condition).
You should consume closer to 15 calories per pound of bodyweight if you have are already in decent shape, if not, you’ll want to start in the 10-12 calories per pound range. Eating enough calories in the proper macronutrient proportion will help you build muscle, increase your metabolic rate, and ultimately lose more fat. It will also set a solid foundation for your body and help it adapt properly to each new phase of contest dieting.
Here’s an effective nutrition plan to get started.
Easy to prepare Breakfast
Start most days (or every day) with egg whites and oatmeal. Yeah, it’s boring but it’s also effective and pretty easy to prepare. You have to stick with regular Oatmeal; the flavored packets won’t get the job done. You can add Splenda and Cinnamon for flavor though. For the egg whites, you can crack your own eggs and throw away the yolks (and don’t worry if some yolk gets mixed in, it won’t hurt anything at this point). The easiest way is to buy a carton of egg whites or egg beaters.
One of the fastest ways to get breakfast is to mix four or five egg whites in a blender with half a cup of oatmeal, a couple of packets of Splenda and some cinnamon, then pour the mix into a skillet and cook them like pancakes.
It’s okay to add three or four ounces of 95 percent lean ground beef or ground turkey breast to your egg white – oatmeal breakfast a couple of mornings each week. Maybe one day eat egg whites and a ground beef patty, but no oatmeal. A couple days later have egg whites, a ground turkey patty and oatmeal. The rest of the week it’s egg whites and oatmeal only.
Developing Your 6-Pack Strategy
The one common thread for just about everyone achieving abdominal greatness is DIET. The most successful formula for creating lean, tight and chiseled abs is: proper diet + targeted supplements + effective training + cardio + lots of time and patience = a drop dead 6-pack.
Diet Without question, the most important ingredient to building and displaying an attractive midsection is diet. Training alone will not take the fat off the abs. You can crunch until the cows come home, but if there’s too much fat covering your abs, you won’t see them.
My key supplement recommendations for an ab specialization program are: 2 Ultra 4 twice daily, 3 EFA Gold capsules twice daily to provide Essential Fatty Acids, 2 Muscularity BCAAs along with 1 Lean Out capsule before each meal and before and after each training session. There are more advanced protocols we’ve developed at Beverly and you can call or email me with questions, but the above is the perfect supplement starter kit for a great ab six-pack.
Ab Training Strategy There really are no secret exercises or magic formulas for abs. I will give you a couple of tips that I think might be very helpful to you.
How often should you train abs? For the genetically gifted, one or two days may be enough. But for you less fortunate in the ab department, it will take three or more days a week to sport a great 6-pack. Proper intensity and form are crucial factors in ab training. Hundreds of repetitive cardio-style crunches are less effective than 15-20 crunches executed with focused intensity.
• Always keep your effort focused on the muscles being worked. Your abs should feel like you are crushing an aluminum can. It’s easy to lose focus on your abs because they are so involved with just about every other exercise you do. The tendency is to ignore them so we can focus on the targeted group being worked. Now it’s time for your abs to shine so all focus goes to them.
• Keep your back firmly glued to whatever it’s resting against and force your stomach towards your back while contracting your abs. You can’t really suck in your stomach and breathe properly during a good ab crunch, but the effect is similar.
• Force a peak contraction at the top of the movement by slowly blowing out all of your air. Then slowly return to the starting position.
Here’s a simple ab routine you can try. Choose three exercises from the list below. Perform three tri-sets (all three exercises back to back) for 15-20 reps each. Rest 60-90 seconds, then repeat. Again, it is crucial to execute with focused intensity, control and perfect form. Do these at the beginning or the end of weight training sessions, whichever works best with your workout.
What may work even better for you is to do one tri-set of concentrated ab exercises at the beginning, another in the middle, and a final tri-set at the end of your training. That way you will be able to perform each exercise with even more focus and intensity.
Traditional Crunches: Concentrate on pulling your body forward using your abs. Lift just until your shoulder blades are off the ground and squeeze your abs tightly at the top of the exercise. Hold for a few seconds then release to starting position with complete control. Repeat the movement until you reach your desired amount of reps.
Stability Ball Crunches: This is a great exercise regardless of your fitness level. Stability balls provide support to the lower back and encourage a large range of motion. Sit with your lower back against the stability ball. Your shoulders and bottom should slightly touch. Keep your knees bent at 90 degrees and your legs parallel to the floor. The weight of your body should rest in the middle of your body, not directly on your feet. Curl your shoulders and trunk toward your knees while slightly curling your back. Concentrate on pulling your body forward using your abs and keeping the ball steady. Slowly return to starting position and repeat.
Hanging Knee Raises: Concentrate on using your abs to pull. Keep the movement very controlled. Don’t swing to get momentum. This is a tough exercise. Don’t worry about how many reps you get, just do as many reps as you can with complete control.
Hyper Oblique Crunches: On the hyperextension bench, lie on your side with your arms crossed across your chest. Slowly bend to the side until you get a good stretch. Tense your Obliques (sides) to pull your body back up to the top. Squeeze tightly at the top of the movement.
Reverse Crunches: Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your head and arms flat on the floor, relax your shoulders and keep your back straight. Slowly lift your hips a few inches off the ground. Concentrate on pulling your hips and legs up and toward your sternum with your abs. Hold for a few seconds at the top of the movement then release to starting position with complete control and repeat.
Vertical Leg Raises: On the vertical bench, (a bench that sits vertically, with arm rests and foot pegs) step up on the pegs and position your back flat against the pad. Grab the handles and rest your forearms on the pads. Keep your legs fairly straight, with just a soft bend in your knees. Keep this form throughout the entire exercise. Similar to hanging knee raises, raise your legs by flexing your hips. Lift your legs until they are parallel with the floor. Concentrate on using your abs to pull. Keep the movement very controlled. Don’t swing or jerk to get momentum. Return to the starting position and repeat. Do perfect reps and don’t worry about how many you get.
Cardio Principles: The amount of cardio you need will vary from person to person. If you follow the first three pieces of the equation, proper diet + quality supplements + effective training, less cardio will be needed. If you are following those steps and still not reaching your goals, it is probably time to increase cardiovascular activity to burn more calories. Get in the habit of monitoring your weekly ‘cardio caloric expenditure’. When you hit a fat loss plateau, increase your calories burned by 10%. For example, if you have been burning 1500 calories in cardio each week, then next week increase your calories burned to 1650 calories. Continue this pattern until you reach your goals – then maintain that cardio level. High intensity interval training or HIIT is a great progressive cardio style to try.
Time and Patience: Time and patience are equally important. For most of us, the area in which we tend to store the most fat is often the last place we lose it from. Whatever made us predisposed to collecting it there in the first place stubbornly fights to keep it there. That doesn’t mean it won’t eventually go. But it does mean that we need to allow enough time to override this inherent stubbornness in order to tap into this “resistant” fat. In fact, it may be necessary to become leaner than you intended everywhere else before you start finally seeing your abs emerge.
Developing Your Personal Strategy: It’s important to understand that ab training isn’t just recommended for building a great 6-pack. It is crucial for strengthening the body’s core and making all other muscle groups stronger. A strong mid section will help increase strength and performance on almost any exercise. It’s especially helpful on free weight exercises where body stabilization is up to you instead of a machine. This includes bench press, shoulder press, dead lifts, squats and just about every other exercise you can imagine. Now it is time for you to develop your own personal 6-pack strategy. With all of these factors in mind, you should be able to create a terrific strategy for building a strong, lean and great looking 6-pack.
Mid-morning protein shake
There’s no doubt that the most convenient midmorning meal is a quality protein shake. The best out there for improving your muscle-to-fat ratio is Beverly’s Ultimate Muscle Protein, aka UMP. UMP is made up of 20 percent fast acting proteins that rush to your muscles with amino acids right away and 80% time released proteins that stick with you longer and keep you from feeling hungry between meals.
If you like thick and creamy shakes mix a scoop or two of UMP with eight ounces water for each scoop of protein. You can use a blender or simply shake it up in a shaker bottle. If you use a blender try adding a teaspoon of no sugar added raspberry preserves. A couple of frozen strawberries makes a UMP shake into an awesome low-carb smoothee. You can also add diet red pop, Crystal Lite, or other diet drinks to the mix to get any flavor you’re craving.
UMP also makes a perfect pudding. Again, mix one to two scoops powder in a bowl with a little less than half the water you’d normally use for a shake (just enough water to make a pudding texture). I know it sounds too easy, but it really is. Some people even use coffee instead of water for a mocha dessert. Top it with a tablespoon of Cool Whip and pinch yourself. No, you aren’t dreaming; and Yes, it is good for you!
You may also add a little low carb fruit (one-half peach, three strawberries, or one-fourth cup blueberries) or a teaspoon of nut butter in your pudding (or shake) for variety.
Lunch is going to almost always be chicken or turkey breast with rice or a sweet potato. Sounds bland, but believe me, this is what just about every figure competitor you’ve seen in the magazine eats for lunch in one variation or another. Now I’ve found some ways to make it easy to prepare and pretty tasty to eat. Chicken tenders fresh or frozen in the bag are great. They’re about an ounce per tender, so it’s easy to determine how much you need even without a scale. Warm up the grill, throw the whole bag on the rack, and in 15 minutes or less you have enough chicken to make five or six meals. If you don’t have a grill, just bake them in the oven. If you like turkey better, ground white turkey breast is great. You can make patties to cook on the grill or just "fry" it up in a pan like you’re making taco meat (you can even use a little taco seasoning for flavor.) Having tuna, shrimp or chicken packets handy is another way to assure you always get your protein in.
Cooking a lot of rice at once is a cinch. Get a big pot and a box or bag of rice and cook away. Even more convenient though, are pre-cooked rice packets. They contain about two servings and you’ll find them in the grocery right by the boxed rices. Just open the packet, pop in the microwave for about a minute and voila. Eat half and save the other half for later. Most grocery stores have sweet potatoes or yams wrapped individually in plastic that are convenient and the plastic wrap helps the potato cook faster. These usually weigh six or seven ounces; a great size for a lunch carb. Canned sweet potatoes are also an option, but be sure they are canned in water, not syrup. If you are tired of rice and sweet potatoes, try canned black beans or red beans. They offer a good change of pace and a great source of fiber too. Eat half the can and save the other half for another meal.
Remember, your food doesn’t have to taste bad to be good for you. Play around in the spice, herb and seasonings isle to find flavors that will help you make your food more enjoyable. As long as they aren’t loaded with fat and sugar, you will be fine. You can always add a small serving of any of the vegetables I’ve listed as "Free Foods" to your lunch without hurting your diet.
Midafternoon protein shake
Half your day is over, but your tank is running on empty. Don’t wait until dinner to eat. That’s a bad idea, as it puts too much time between meals and may cause your body to use muscle for energy and slow your metabolism (which means less fat loss). Besides, this could be your post training meal, even more reason get in a high quality protein shake. The best protein for a fast acting fill up after your training session is Muscle Provider. Muscle Provider will get into your muscles quickly, give you maximum protein absorption, and since it’s loaded with BCAA’s it will you build lean muscle and help you burn fat at the same time. It’s light enough on your stomach that you’ll still have a good appetite for dinner.
Use one or two scoops of Muscle Provider. It’s easy to mix in a glass of water with just a couple of swirls of a spoon.
Dinner lean ground beef
Many days this will be your last meal and should consist of either rice or a sweet potato again and chicken, turkey, fish or a couple of times a week you can do some very lean ground beef or a small steak. I recommend skipping the starchy carb two or three nights each week. You can add a double serving of vegetables from the "Free Foods" list on these nights. This will rotate your calories a bit, keeping them high enough for muscle building, but low enough to still burn fat. On the "no carb" night, don’t stress out, you can still have a tasty and satisfying meal.
Try making a stir fry with chicken or lean strips of beef and a bunch of peppers, onions, broccoli and mushrooms. A leafy green salad with veggies on top and a piece of grilled fish is tasty too. Some nights I put veggies in a foil packet, spray with Pam and cook them on the grill for about 20 minutes. Toss those on the plate with a nice piece of grilled sirloin and I’m in heaven.
I know you’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat before going to bed if you want to lose fat. Well, that’s true for the most part. But remember, you’re also trying to build muscle, especially during the first two months of your four-month figure competition project. So I’m going to tell you it’s okay to eat an hour or so before going to bed, but you have to eat what I tell you and only if you feel like you have to have something. Egg whites with some tomato (and green peppers or onions if you like them) is one option. The other option is protein pudding made with Ultimate Muscle Protein, almond butter, and water. The same recipes as midmorning (minus the cool whip this time); will give you a great tasting bedtime snack.
There’s a very important reason why you should stick to egg whites or UMP pudding before bed, both sources of protein will give you an extended release time so that the protein slowly breaks down into amino acids helping you build muscle all through the night.
Free foods low calorie option
You can add any of these foods to your nutrition plan during the first two months without compromising your results. Most important is water. You should drink at least one-half gallon each day. That’s the minimum, drink all you want. Other beverages you can drink are diet sodas, Crystal Light, coffee (no cream or sugar) and unsweetened ice tea. (It’s okay to use Equal or Splenda to sweeten your coffee or tea.) Low carb vegetables are fine with any meal. I like broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, cucumber, lettuce, and spinach are low calorie nutrient dense. Seasonings are fine also. I rely on vinegar, mustard, relish, salsa, hot sauce, and just about any dry seasoning. Sugar-free gum is a life saver; a pack of gum a day is about right for me.
Supplements for womens physique
It’s crucial that you take extra vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids when you are dieting.
For example if you tend to hold fat in your abdomen, then Lean Out becomes essential. Here is what I consider the very best supplement program for the woman who is trying to achieve her best physique.
• Lean Out is the most important supplement you can take with this nutritional plan.
Lean Out helps your body burn stored fats, not your hard-earned lean muscle. Your diet is the hub of the wheel – the foundation on which your results depend. Once you have the right nutritional plan, and follow it consistently, the addition of Lean Out will create a big difference in your rate of fat loss. Lean Out contains a combination of fat emulsifiers along with its two key ingredients: L-Carnitine and Chromium Picolinate.
The first vital ingredient in Lean Out is L-Carnitine. This is the substance your body uses to transport a fat cell into the mitochondria where the fat can be burned for energy. Without L-Carnitine your body simply could not burn fat for energy.
Chromium Picolinate is another crucial ingredient found in Lean Out that can make your diet much easier. In many studies chromium has been shown to cause increases in the speed of fat reduction, helps control appetite, improves the way the body utilizes sugars and carbohydrates, and may also speed up muscular growth. It may help reduce sugar cravings too.
• Muscularity BCAAs or Glutamine Select plus BCAAs are next in importance. How do you decide which one to take?
Glutamine Select plus BCAAs is a drink mix powder that many professional figure athletes sip on before, during, and after training. It is great for recovery and will help you spare and increase your lean muscle tissue.
Muscularity comes in capsules. You’ll get best results from Muscularity by taking two capsules with each meal. Muscularity also contains the same form of chromium as Lean Out and will help you lose more fat and retain more lean muscle.
If you are super motivated to build some nice lean muscle and your budget allows it then maybe you’ll want to try them both. Take two Muscularity capsules with each meal and then mix up two scoops of Glutamine Select in your water bottle and sip from it as you train or perform cardio.
• FitTabs (vitamin/mineral formula) contains all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and micronutrient catalysts you need to support protein synthesis and muscle building. The ingredients in Ultra 4 sustain vital metabolic processes – energy production and fatty acid metabolism. They also provide powerful antioxidant protection for recovery, repair, and resistance to illness. Take two Ultra 4 tablets with breakfast and two more with dinner. Or, if you prefer a once-a-day mega pack use a Super Pak instead – one pak per day with breakfast.
EFA Gold provides essential fatty acids that support metabolism, improve energy levels, and stimulate natural hormone production that aid in muscle growth and fat metabolism.
Take three EFA Gold capsules with breakfast and three with dinner.
The plan I’ve detailed should work great for you for at least a couple of months, but somewhere in the six to four week out from your show period, you’ll probably need to make some changes. I’ll be glad to help.