How I Won My First Figure Competition

By: Autumn Edwards
Magazine 13 #3

A Complete Program

As a young girl, I would sit in my living room for hours and watch physique competitions and mimic the fitness moves. As an adult, I have now completed my first competition, Beverly International’s NPC Northern Kentucky.

Not only did I participate, but I WON! In this article I am going to illustrate my plan as well as some tips and hope that you can adapt it to reach your own personal competition goals, or to just become the best that you can be.

It seems like my whole life has prepared me for this moment. I can hardly remember a time when arduous exercise, focused nutrition, and tenacious athletic goals (gymnast, dancer, cheerleader, soccer player, and track and field athlete) have not been part of my life. My first high school anatomy class really piqued my interest in health and fitness. In college it continued to grow.

As I was earning my degrees in Exercise Science and Spanish from Transylvania University, some of my extracurricular activities included instructing group fitness, personal training, life guarding, entering 5k’s and a mini-marathon, as well as taking on various jobs in athletic training, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

Now, I’m working as a high school Spanish teacher (temporary filling in for a permanent teacher on medical leave) and taking physics in college.

And, at last, I can now officially call myself a Figure Competitor..

Now, let’s get to work and see if my program can be of help to you in achieving your goals..
We’ll start with diet:

Key Diet Tips

  1. My starting macro-nutrient ratios were 40% protein, 30% carbs, and 30% fat and my ending were 50% protein, 20% carbs, and 30% fat.
  2. I liked to prepare my meals fresh each day. I tried preparing them a week in advance and it really didn’t work for me. I am allergic to oats and grains so I almost always turned to fruits and vegetables for my carbohydrates.
  3. I found that I could eat more of certain foods like asparagus and tilapia and still end up with the same calories so I ate a lot more of them as the contest approached.
  4. I used tons of spices and seasonings on my food, but my favorites were Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipotle and Weber Sweet’n’Tangy BBQ.
  5. Fish oil capsules and guacamole were key fat sources. I tried nuts and nut butters but I wanted to eat a whole can/jar rather than a single serving.
  6. To deal with hunger between meals I drank a ton of flavored sugar free iced tea, coffee, water, and Glutamine Select.
Autumn Edwards Figure Pose
Throughout the final weeks of contest prep,
I followed a 50-20-30 having 50% of calories from protein, 20% from carbohydrates, and 30% from fats.
At 4 weeks out I was consuming 1200 calories so my daily totals were 150 grams protein, 60 grams carbs, and 40 grams fat:
Meal 1:
35g protein, 25g carbs, 10g fat
Meal 2:
20g protein, 5g carbs, 10g fat
Meal 3:
20 grams protein, 5 grams carbs, 5 grams fat
Meal 4:
20g protein, 5g carbs, 5g fat
Meal 5:
35g protein, 15g carbs, 5g fat
Meal 6:
20 grams protein, 5 grams carbs, 5 grams fat
I always made sure I met my numbers while eating a little more for breakfast and post workout.

Here’s a sample of my final diet program. Take note though, my nutrition varied throughout my contest preparation. In the beginning, I can remember having trouble even getting all my meals in. There was no way to "eat all these greens!" By the end, I was counting down the meal hours!

» Protein Brownie Recipes healthy cheat meals

Planned meals and supplements
5:30 am: Awake take 6 GH factor, 2 Energy Reserve, 2 Density.
6:00 am: Low-intensity cardio while sipping 1 scoop Glutamine.
7:00 am: Eat Meal 1, then head off to teach Spanish.
Meal 1: omelet (184 grams egg whites, 1 egg, 29 grams chicken, 7 grams guacamole, 23 grams salsa, cayenne pepper); 172 grams grapefruit.
2 Density, 1 Super Pak
10:00 am: Meal 2 as the kids switch classes
UMP shake: 1 scoop in water.
2-fish oil, 2 Density
1:00 pm: Meal 3 as my students went to lunch
3 oz. tuna pack, 83g green beans
4-fish oil, 2 Density, 2 Energy Reserve
4:00 pm: during my planning period
after my transition from high school teacher to college student,
Meal 4: 105g chicken, 106g broccoli
4-fish oil, 2 Density.
4:30 pm: rest
Take an occasional nap
5:30 pm: Hit the gym for myself and train any clients I might have
2 Density, 2 Energy Reserve,
1 scoop Creatine and Glutamine prior and during workout.
7:00 pm: Meal 5 (same as Meal 2)
And some form of relaxation/recovery
(foam rolling, strap stretching, massage, steam room, sauna, epsom salt bath, cold/hot shower..)
8:30 pm: pack/prepare next day’s meals/supplements.
Meal 6: before retiring 129g eggs, 135g spinach, cayenne pepper.
1 fish oil, 2 Density, 6 GH Factor.
Autumn Edwards db tricep kickbacks
I’ll be the first to admit that my contest training and cardio was far from traditional. One of the most successful weight training programs that I followed during the first stage of my contest prep was a version of German Volume Training. My weight training was limited to just three days per week taking a rest day in between, but I performed each exercise for 10 sets with a goal of reaching 10 reps on each set.

Training and Cardio

Pre Contest Phase 1 Training
Day 1: Chest/Back/Calves
Bench Press
Bent-over Underhand Rows
Calf Raises on Leg Press Machine
Day 2: Quads/Hamstrings/Abs
Front Squats
Conventional Bent Legged Deadlift
Weighted Double Crunch Machine
Day 3: Triceps/Biceps/Shoulders
Close-Grip Incline Bench Press
Standing Barbell Curls
Seated Shoulder Press

German Volume Training Workout Summary:
Three exercises per workout; 10 sets of 10 reps each exercise; 60-90 seconds rest between sets (shorter rest for smaller muscle groups). Use the same weight for all ten sets. I recommend that you start with a weight that you can do for 15-20 repetitions on your first set with good form. Just do 10 reps each set and as the sets mount up 10 reps will become a greater and greater challenge. Once you reach 10 reps on all 10 sets of a particular exercise, add weight to that exercise the following workout.

Phase 2 Contest Training

As the contest approached I switched to a unique training program designed to hold my muscle development while the diet was kicking in harder.

In this phase I prioritized legs, back, and shoulders by training them twice per week. In this phase I warmed up, then did a series of supersets. Each exercise was performed for 3 sets of 5 reps with no rest between sets. Even though I was doing only 5 reps per set, believe me, go from one exercise to the next with no rest made this workout extremely challenging:

Content Prep Workout
Monday: Legs –Glutes–Calves
Front Squats Super Set Good Mornings
Sumo Squat Super Set Glute Ham Raises
Step ups Super Set Cable Pull Thru’s
3-way Leg Press (no rest in b/w stances) 10 continuous reps regular, wide, then close stance
*Calf circuit – repeat 3 times
Calf raises 10 reps
Calf squats 20 reps
Calf jump ropes 30 reps
Tuesday: Back-Shoulders-Triceps
Wide Grip Chin-Ups Super Set "V" Bar Chin-Ups
Bent-Over Row Super Set Corner Bar Row
Upright Row Super Set Fatboy Pull-Ups (hanging horizontally
underneath a racked bar with heels on the floor pulling yourself up to meet it)
Barbell Shoulder Press
Super Set Dumbbell Arnold Press
Dumbbell Swings (with one heavy dumbbell in between legs swinging up parallel to the floor keeping arms straight-3 sets of as many as possible)
Cable press downs (1 Giant Drop Set Non-Stop)
Wednesday: Sled and Abs Sled dragging and Abs
Ab circuit: 3 non-stop rounds
Double crunch 15
Side jackknives 10 each side
Bicycles 25 min
Thursday: Chest-Shoulders-Biceps:
Flat Bench Press Super Set Corner Bar Chest Busters Inclined Close-Grip Bench Press Super Set Dumbbell Neutral Grip (Palms In) Chest Presses
DB Lateral Raises Super Set:
Delt Cable Pull Thru’s (with the bar between your legs extending out with your arms till parallel to the floor) Dumbbell Swings (with two heavy dumbbells at sides swinging up to shoulders curling with palms in-3 sets of as many as possible)
Cable Bicep Curls (1 Giant Drop Set Non-Stop)
Friday: Repeat Monday Workout
Saturday: Repeat Tuesday Workout
Sunday: REST


Although my weight training program was different than most figure workouts that I’ve seen, I did some pretty traditional cardio on the treadmill and stationary bike as the contest approached. I did low intensity (up to an hour) incline walking or resistance biking in the morning and a short, high intensity cardio session after my weight workout in the evening. In my evening session I jumped rope, used the stairmaster, pulled the power sled, or did a plyometric drill listed below.

As for plyos, I’d rotate the chosen drill from the list below avoiding interference with my weight training completing 12 sets of 7 good reps with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.

  • Clap push ups
  • Explosive pull ups
  • Jump Squats
  • Jump Deadlifts
  • Explosive chin ups
  • Explosive dips

One final note on training: Whether you try one of the workouts I’ve listed above, or one that you have read about in the No Nonsense Magazine (Training Diary PDF download), make everything measurable. Write down the exercises, sets, reps, and weights you are going to use before you go to the gym. That way there’s no guesswork when you get to the gym. You know exactly what you are going to do and you do it.

Where to Get the Stuff You Need to Compete

First, I recommend that you try to get your hands on the Beverly Workshop Manual. I attended the sessions in person and they were invaluable. In fact, the Beverly Workshop Manual has a Figure Competitor Checklist that tells you exactly what you need to compete. It’s on page 7 in the Figure Section of the manual.

I’d get a copy of Julie Lohre’s posing video. I practiced over and over with it.

Plan to have an excellent tan. Don’t wait until the last minute and hope. Experiment a head of time. I used Elite Tan for my tanning spray.

I picked up everything else I needed locally and used a number of things I already had. I got my jewelry from a local shop Bridal World, a hair clip from JC Penney salon, and used a pair of old pageant shoes and body glue.

Challenges and Solutions

My first figure competition has been the biggest physical, mental, and spiritual challenge that I have ever faced. Very few people in my everyday life "got" what I was doing and even fewer could understand "why". But I leaned on that handful that did "get" it. I am forever grateful for those who realize what a huge personal achievement this was and for those who have served as a blueprint towards making it happen.

I found how truly powerful the mind is over the course of preparing for this contest. I made a special effort to avoid stress and see the absolute best in everything I faced. When you’re dieting down, you are so much more aware of your internal and external environment and how it is affected. I was continuously figuring out what was hindering and what was helping me to reach my goals as I ridded myself of any hindrances. With all disruptions ranging from a negative word or action towards me to a misbehaving student to getting the flu to insomnia, I had to immediately gain control of the situation and man up knowing that other girls in this competition were facing the same and greater obstructions and still training and dieting just as hard as or harder than me!

Here are some other tips that I found helpful:

  1. Set up a network. I suggest telling as many people as you can what you are into because not only are you inspiring others and yourself, but there is no pulling out when tons of people are rooting for you! I even had t-shirts made with local sponsoring businesses and wrote an article for our local Health & Fitness Magazine.
  2. Use motivational tools. I encourage you to use motivational boards (with inspiring quotes, images, cards, personal goals, progress pictures, etc.), inspirational books (I would always read The Jesus Habits or 100 Women of the Bible during my low-intensity cardio), shows (I would pose to Joyce Meyer), and music (I would begin my day with Point of Grace and end it with a relaxation cd).
  3. I made tons of friends at the show and since then, I have joined various fitness forums, posted a bodyblog ( ), and actually used the website I originally designed during my contest preparation (