In 2012 my company, Enterprise Fitness trained and coached 6 female figure and fitness competitors to success- and when I say success I do mean they all won their divisions…
Janet Kane, successfully defended her title of INBA Ms Australia for the fourth year in a row and won the INBA Ms Olympia for the third year in a row (Open division)
Belinda Walker, won the ANB Australasians (Masters) and the (Intermediate) INBA All Female Classic division
Kristine Coffey, won the INBA All Females (Novice) division (not just won, dominated)
Caroline Hutchinson, won the INBA All Females (Novice) fitness model division
Lauren Webb, won the INBA Olympia figure short (Open) (pictured below)
Amanda Brown, won the INBA victorians (Novice) and placed second at the INBA Australian (Novice)
Weekly, I sit down with lovely women who tell me their story of how they competed and how it was one of the worst experiences of their lives. I couple this with the experience of the women we prep and think how can other people get it so wrong?
This year at the INBA victorian titles, one of the judges made a comment to the lovely Amanda Brown, saying that she was the healthiest looking competitor that he had ever seen.
So with that I decided it was time to give an insight of what we do. What makes us so special? What do we do different, isn’t it just diet and cardio? Surely, people have been getting on stage for decades now, what they heck could we offer?
Our plan is to revolutionize the way female competitors prep for their comps. What do we do different? Everything! And in regards to the diet and cardio, these are the very two reasons why females struggle so much with the contest prep.
Step 1: You must measure
Every client that comes to see us, regardless of 4 time Ms Australia or first time gym goer starts with a BioSignature assessment and structural balance test.
The BioSignature is session one. This is a 12 site body fat test that is a good overview of what is happening with the client hormonally. More importantly, it offers us data on the clients body fat and lean muscle mass.
Most females who starve themselves during prep get obsessed with weight on the scales. Weight tells you nothing about body composition. And no, I don’t care that you were 48 kilos for your last comp and 55 kilos now. What I care about is the body fat percentage and how much lean muscle mass your carrying.
I have had many female clients put on 4 kilos of lean muscle mass and lose 4 % body fat in four weeks from starting with us. This rapid transformation is always due to the fact that they have been way too restrictive with their diets for too long. If it was not for the BioSignature, our female clients would freak out and think they are getting fatter. They’re not, they are changing body composition and thats the name of the game.
Having the BioSignature to track our clients progress is key in assisting clients to improve week to week. Just ask the four time Ms Australia and three time Ms Olympia…
“Having the weekly measurements, I was able to see the incremental changes in my body and that the program was working; seeing these changes, I became more confident in Mark’s plan as I am very results focused. If I were only to judge by the scales, then I would have ditched the program as there was not a whole lot of change in the body weight. Gratefully my body-fat was dropping, lean mass remained the same through the whole process and the targeted sites of my legs were also significantly dropping.
– Janet Kane, 4 time INBA Ms Australia, 3 time INBA Ms Olympia
Step 2: Understand structural balance (yes- even for a physique competitor)
The structural balance assessment is standard practice before writing a clients training phase. The three most common weaknesses with females are:
VMOs (Vastus Medialis Oblique)
VMO AKA: The tear drop muscle in the leg
Most people (many personal trainers included) have no idea of the difference between a high bar squat and a low bar squat. Most gym goers will do a retarded version of the low bar squat which does sweet FA for the VMO. Females are more at risk as they do those God awful body pump classes which teaches them to 1/10th squat.
Then people wonder why they get injured when they run then blame squatting. Its not the squatting, its the impact of running on weak VMOs.
Most people (many personal trainers included) have no idea how to:
a) Retract their scapula and
b) Teach someone else how to retract their scapula
We live in a pronated world. From sitting in our car, sitting on our desk, facebooking to a 3am RedTube lap dance – in all these activities we are pronated. Teaching someone how to retract their scapula is one of those things that is hard to write about, you have to experience it (as most training principles).
Women have weaker forearms. This one is blatantly obvious and self explanatory. Women have little wrists, little hands and therefore a weaker grip. The only time I implement fat grip training with my female clients is for my entertainment.
Enterprise Fitness Trainer, Chris Churchward training with the Gripsfear… Devastation for the forearm flexors!
You might think a structural assessment is not needed for a ‘physique competitor’. I find it very valuable to do as most competitors only do things they enjoy, they are grossly unbalanced and identifying weaknesses early on enables for greater strength and muscle gains later on. Just ask Amanda Brown, when she came to see us her best deadlift was a mere 80 kilos. With a sixteen week comp prep, she not only kicked serious arse on stage but increased her deadlift to 125 kilos (yes, this was whilst dieting).
Step 3: Learn how to train
Man, this one is going to piss a lot of people off, but the truth of the matter is most female competitors have no idea how to train for a comp. Keeping fit, doing ‘cross fit’ and general gym work is one thing, but prepping for a comp and planning to put on muscle and build serious head turning strength is another.
One of the reasons our female clients make great gains in muscle and strength is because we implement a strength phase early in the piece.
Example, most of the female competitors who come and see us have been doing the same old 3 sets of 10 reps boring arse program for the last 6 to 12 months. What we do is periodise training programs into 4 week blocks. Again, for us this is standard practice for all clients, regardless if we are training the four time Ms Australia, Janet Kane or a first time gym goer, we block everyones training into 4 week blocks for a number of reasons.
In summary, the human body is an adaptive machine, your body will adapt to any training stimulus in 4 to 6 weeks and because we want our clients to continually improve, we continually adapt and progress their training every 4 weeks. This also has our clients anticipating each training phase, thinking, “what will I be doing next!?” with excitement. They also learn a multitude of training principles.
I could write a book on the above topic. Instead I’ll say, learn how to train from people who know how to train. Hint, its not the fitness/bikini model. Go to people who have impressive strength, very few injuries and awesome mobility- more so than the guy or girl who is just ‘big’ or looks ‘good’.
And here’s a video of me blowing my own trumpet:
Step 4: BE a healthy person before you even think about your next show
This one is perhaps the most life changing of all.
The mistake competitors make is they do a show to get in shape. Our approach is competitors first get in shape, then they decide to do a show. This isn’t just a cleaver pun…
First you must become a healthy person with healthy habits. Then from this place you do a show. Health is your default setting. So many female competitors fall for the myth of an off season and on season diet. I find this ‘belief’ particularly damaging to females. I have written about this topic previous, check it out here.
If you binge eat and have an unhealthy relationship with food, you have no place on a figure/competitors stage as it will make your issues worse and perpetuate your unhealthy relationship with food. You must first start from a place of health and well being, then make minor tweaks to an otherwise healthy diet. You can do it the other way but it wont be enjoyable and we don’t recommend it.
Bottom line, the contest will always be there and competing is one of the few sports that you will peak later in life.
Janet and I backstage after winning she won her 4th Australian title
Step 5: Stop taking useless supplements and start taking the good stuff…
If it glows in the dark its probably not good for you…
What do I mean by that; there are many BCAA, pre-workout and fat burning powders that glow in the dark with food colouring. They also taste really awesome which again reiterates the fact that these things are not good for you.
Example, a common ingredient of many fat burning stacks is L-Carnitine. Whilst being a big fan of L-Carnitine, it tastes horrible! Like lemon mixed with vinegar. Have you ever had raw BCAA powder? This one tastes like chalk that was put in a dehydrator. Lets not even talk about the herbs as the only analogies I have for them revolve around grass, dog poo and a blender.
The point is, these things frankly taste like shit. The only way to get them to taste nice is food colouring and sucrose (which funnily enough is either the first or second ingredient in many of these products.)
You can take the compounds in these products BUT take it without the crap and food colourings. Take capsules (or even the raw powder if you can stomach them).
Coming back to point 4: BE a healthy person. A healthy person doesn’t eat or consume artificial rubbish that was invented for the purpose of increasing food sales. if your not up to date on my nutritional philosophy, watch this video:
If I had a limited budget to spend on supplements I would first cover the fundamentals. Fundamentals meaning vitamins and minerals that get depleted during training. These would include:
- Multi Vitamin
- Magnesium in an absorbable form, eg. UberMag or Zen Mag
- Fish Oil (depending on how long they have been using fish oil and diet)
- Electrolytes (unflavoured and no sugars)
- Vitamin D3 (depending on vitamin D status)
- Vitamin C if high training volume or under extra stress
By the way, I am not saying to take all of these at the same time.
Its no secret that I recommend and use Poliquin products, you can check out his range here
That’s enough for one blog post,
I am running a workshop on the 23rd and 24th of August all about training champion figure and fitness models and athletes… Check it out, only 5 spots left! Click here ——-> http://bit.ly/157M2hV
FYI: This will be the only workshop we run this year on training the female competitor.
Check out our highlights from the 2013 INBA All Female Classic below:
If you want more Maximus Mark action check out my DVD or if your in Melbourne and want to train with us, you can contact us here
Till next time,
Train Hard, Eat Well and Supplement Smart!
Maximus Mark Ottobre
Head trainer dude at Enterprise Fitness
P.S. Of course, if you haven’t already, check out my podcast show!