My passion for physique improvement began over 19 years ago. I started lifting when I was 14 years old for cheerleading and haven’t stopped. My first physique idol was Monica Brant. Being from a small country town with not a lot of money, I couldn’t fathom how someone like me could ever have the opportunity to reach the level of development that Monica had achieved. Still, I kept her image in my mind and kept lifting to achieve the best physique I was capable of.
Over the years I continued lifting while working my way thru college, getting married and starting my career. I then suffered a devastating and life-threatening Ectopic miscarriage. I thankfully was blessed to have my second child, but soon after having my son, I was diagnosed with level High-Grade Dysplasia (beginning cervical cancer if left untreated) at which point I re-evaluated my life.
I decided to not return to the corporate world. I would now focus on what I had always loved and dreamt of – my passion for fitness. I began training even more intensely in the gym. Months later, I entered my first show, the NPC Northern Kentucky Bodybuilding and Figure Championships where I earned my National qualification! Now I am competing for my pro card!
I’ve now competed in 14 shows, and come away from each show learning something new. I’ve been sharing my experience with my training, nutrition, and figure prep students, and I am hoping to share some of this insight with you to guide you in your show preparation, inspire you to compete or just look your best!
Nutrition and Supplements
I often get asked, "How can I get my abs to look like yours? My answer is, "Abs are made in the kitchen!" Sure, I do ab exercises to develop my abs (I’ll give you those exercises later in the article), but they don’t come out of hiding until I pull the curtain of fat back with good nutrition! Here’s how I do it as my contest approaches.
Meal # 1: 1 scoop Muscle Provider blended with ice, water, and a of blueberries or strawberries. I have this shake as soon as I get up. An hour later, I’m in the gym.
Pre Workout: I take one scoop each of Creatine Select and Glutamine Select along with 5 Density, 4 Quadracarn, 3 7-Keto, and 3 Lean Out. This combination is a must! I never workout without it!
I use the new Creatine Select with beta alanine for increased strength, lean muscle mass, and the ability to train harder and longer. I use Glutamine Select with BCAAs and Density to prevent muscle loss. Ultra 40 helps me build muscle and increases my energy. Quadracarn is amazing, 21 pharmacological actions that improve health, appearance, and my physique! And of course the 7 Keto / Lean Out stack to pull that fat curtain off my abs.
Workout: I drink the Creatine Select / Glutamine Select combination again during workout. Midway thru, I take 5 more Density tablets.
Meal # 2: 1 scoop Muscle Provider with water as a post workout shake
Meal # 3: 5 egg whites, 1/3 cup oats or brown rice, 1 cup green vegetables; supplements 3 Ultra 40, 3 EFA Gold, (½ hour prior I take 3 Lean Out and 3 GH Factor)
Meal # 4: 1 scoop Muscle Provider blended with ice and water; I take my last serving of 7-Keto (3 capsules) with this meal which keeps me energized the remainder of the day.
Meal # 5: 5 egg white omelet with 5 oz chicken breast or tuna, onions and mushrooms; 1/3 cup oats; 3 Ultra 40, (½ hour prior 3 Lean Out and 3 GH Factor)
Meal # 6: 5 egg whites, 1 cup green vegetables: 5 Ultra 40, 3 EFA Gold(½ hour prior I take my last serving of 3 Lean Out and GH Factor)
Meal # 7: 1 scoop Muscle Provider blended with ice and water; 5 Density, 3 Quadracarn
Some things I do to help with hunger are to drink a lot of water or unsweetened iced tea, sip on a water jug full of water with 2-3 scoops of Beverly Glutamine Select mixed in, and chew sugar free gum. If I’m having trouble sleeping I’ll drink my Beverly Glutamine "cocktail" before bed with a melatonin supplement (which you can find in the vitamin section of your grocery store).
From Sara’s Kitchen
Oatmeal protein powder cookie
Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Delight
½ cup whole grain oats
1 scoop vanilla UMP
1 tsp natural honey
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ cup water (or ½ cup skim milk)
Microwave oatmeal and water to a slight soup consistenc (about 35-40 seconds). Stir in protein powder. Add honey and cinnamon. Very simple, nutritious and so good!
I have to be very careful when it comes to cardio. I add muscle fairly easily during my off-season mass building phases; however, I can lose it just as easily between the diet and the cardio while in pre-contes mode. I start my contest prep at 3-4 days per week for 20-25 minutes per session. I gradually add more days until at 4 weeks out I’m up to 6 days per week. But, I never do 2 a days!
My cardio goal is to burn the fat and sustain the muscle. That’s why I always use HIIT for my cardio. I normally use sprints on the treadmill starting with a fast pace warm-up for 1-2 minutes, then I’ll go into a full sprint for 30-40 seconds, then back to a fairly fast pace walk for a minute or so. I alternate sprints and fast pace walk or jog for 20 minutes and then slow to a medium pace walk to safely bring my heart rate back to normal. If I get bored with the treadmill, (which I certainly have) I will switch to
the elliptical or spinning bike while using the same concept.
During my mass building training phase I lift as heavy as I can (without compromising form) for 4 sets of 4-6 reps for each exercise. My first set is always a warm up then it’s time to push to the limit.
I also increase my calories during this phase and include a fair amount of red
meat in my diet. Precontest, the goal becomes to maintain muscle while
bringing out my definition. Now it’s time to incorporate supersets, circuits,
and other intensity techniques.
My training schedule is normally a Monday thru Saturday mornings’ layout. I train right after I drop my son off for school. When I’m finished with my own training, I work with clients until it’s time to pick my son up from school. I design my workout around the current standards for figure competition – a –– taper, nice rounded shoulders, tight midsection, and shapely defined legs.
»Workout Schedule at 4 Weeks Out from a Show
Legs, Abdominals (see ab routine listed below
Tuesday: Back, Biceps, Abdominals
Incline dumbbell curls
Preacher curls with an EZ bar
Lat pull downs both wide and close grip
Pull ups (an old school staple that I swear by and gives me an amazing v taper)
Bent over rows
Wednesday: Chest, Triceps, Abdominals
Incline dumbbell press
Incline dumbbell fly
Bench tricep dips
One-arm cable triceps extensions
Thursday: Shoulders, Abdominals
Seated dumbbell press
Reverse bent over dumbbell fly
Shoulder press on Nautilus
Friday: Legs, Abdominals
Repeat Monday layout
Saturday: Biceps, Back, Abdominals
Repeat Tuesday layout
Sunday: Rest Day
Some people say you shouldn’t work your abdominals everyday. I disagree based on my own results. I use my nutrition to remove the fat covering, but ab development comes from my workout. I do four sets of 25-30 slow isolated crunches. The key is slow and controlled. There is no need
to do 400 reps a day. Some days I do substitute decline crunches, jack knifes, pikes or hanging leg raises to change it up, but I always keep it at 4 sets for 25-30 reps at a slow controlled rhythm.
I spend a lot of time working on presentation with my students. You don’t want to waste the months or years of work you put into your body with a crummy appearance once you actually get on stage. Here are some tips that will help.
Start practicing for 30 minutes every day at least 4-6 weeks before your show. It is especially important to work on holding your mandatory poses. You never know how long the judges are going to ask you to repeat them onstage. Practice is also very important to tweak your posing to showcase your physique in the best possible way. You’ll perform 3-4 model poses during your individual presentation. This is a chance for you to pick your very best poses. I advise my students to pick poses that show off their best assets. Got a great – taper? Make sure you put a back pose in your presentation.
Hair: The more natural, the better. Have it styled, but not in a wedding look. Make sure that if you cut or color your hair you do it at least a week before the contest to allow time for any possible emergency fixes.
Makeup: Wear stage make up or a quality brand that will stand up to the heat of the stage lights. Be sure to practice applying your makeup before the show. As a Figure Competition Specialist my motto is, NO SURPRISES! For example, you don’t want to find out on the day of the show that your makeup doesn’t match the rest of your body color.
Suits: A Brazilian or Rio cut is great to go with. It meets the NPC standards yet still allows you to show your glute hamstring tie-ins. Make sure your suit color complements your hair color. A safe bet is to go with the color that looks best on you in your everyday clothing.
Jewelry: Less is more. Keep it simple. Too much or too big can be distracting. Wear your wedding ring, a rhinestone bracelet for the wrist, and classy earrings are a nice competition look. If you have a navel ring keep it small and classy. I advise not to wear a necklace. Too much distraction.
comfortable in your show shoes. I have my students wear their shoes every time they practice posing. Recommended heel height is 4"–5" with very little, if any, platform. Clear shoes are fine, whatever you choose, keep them "classy".
Personality: Smile! You may be tired, hungry, sore, and dehydrated but hold it together on stage. It’s your job to engage the judges and the audience. Don’t let months of preparation get wiped out in minutes by your inability to project your best personality on stage.
I teach my students, Train to win! But winning doesn’t always mean 1st place. It could mean top 5, but just getting on stage in front of hundreds of people is also quite an accomplishment. Whether you bring home a trophy or not, you are a winner regardless just by getting up there on that stage! Keep your head held high entering and exiting the stage. Let everyone see that you feel great about being up there. Let them see that you feel that you deserve a chance to win, but don’t cross the line and give
the feeling that you believe you are the only one who should win. Be proud,
but humble. Embrace the memory, the new friendships you make, the proud
family and friends cheering in the audience for you, and the amazing celebration
meal waiting for you after the show!
National qualification Arnold Pro-Am
Personal Experiences, I have to say every show I’ve done has been memorable in some way. Whether it was the caliber of the show, the trophies I won, or the lasting friendships I’ve made. Some of the most memorable and exciting in addition to earning my national qualification at the Northern KY have been the Europa Super Show, North America, Nationals, Team Universe and my most memorable, the Arnold Pro-Am where I got the 4th place trophy. I was also chosen Ms. World Physique for World Physique Magazine along with being honored as bodybuilding.com’ "Figure Athlete of the Week".
In closing I’d just like to say, If you have a dream, set a goal, become passionate about it, then achieve it! If you have that mind set, your opportunities are endless. Not just in physique competition, but in life. Achieve your goal, live your dream!
Sara Shcuman At A Glance
Occupation/Education: BA in Medical Social Work and Psychology; Personal Trainer, Figure Competing Specialist
Family: Married to Tony for 11 years. One son, Samuel who is 7 yrs old
Current Residence: Northern Kentucky
Years training: 19
Height: 5′1″ Off season weight: 114-116lbs; Contest weight: 110-112lbs
Favorite Bodybuilding Meal: Beverly Goo I could live on it! My other favorite is "Oatmeal Cinnamon Swirl Delight" (see From Sara’s Kitchen).
In your CD player: Currently I have loaded; Miley Cyrus "The Climb", Avenged Sevenfold, Nickleback, Black Eyed Peas, Akon, Disturbed and every Metallica album made! Most Inspiring Book: "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert Another recent favorite is "Just Peace" by Mattie Stepanek.
Words to live by: "The energy you give off will be the energy you attract."