Seven Truths That’ll Set You Free
Think you can get rich by competing in Figure, get stage-ready by doing an hour of cardio daily at sixteen weeks out, and lunge your way to great glutes? It’s time for a reality check.
It’s time to examine and expose several trends I’m seeing in the Figure industry. I’ll cover everything from training and dieting to drugs — and expose once and for all the outright insanity that occurs at all levels of the industry, even among the “experts.”
Let’s get right to it. I’m fixing to ruffle some feathers, barbecue a couple of sacred cows, and hopefully light a fire under more than a few bikinied asses.
Stoke up the grill!
Truth #1: Good Genetics + Drugs Can Overcome Anything
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a girl on steroids with good genetics follow a workout and diet, show up looking outstanding, and everyone suddenly thinks her coach has the Holy Grail of contest prep.
Then another girl, drug free with marginal genetics, will work with the same “coach” and end up looking awful! What gives?
I’ll tell you: The second girl’s weight training, energy systems and eating pattern all sucked.
And why, you ask, did the first girl get such different results? It wasn’t because of anything the “coach” had her do. She looked good in spite of the program, not because of it.
If you see a girl with really good genetics, who’s able to achieve an impressively lean, hard and aesthetic physique, chalk it up to genetics. Don’t misunderstand me, I definitely believe the quality of your training and nutrition can play a huge role in optimizing your physique and performance. However, genetics will determine your ultimate potential.
If you see a guy who’s 6’6″, you don’t ask him what he did to get so tall, do you?
I’ve seen girls do almost everything wrong in their training and contest prep, yet still look surprisingly good on stage. You can bet that not only were they were born with very good genetics, they also had quite a bit of pharmacological help.
Taking steroids can provide a tremendous advantage. They can also make up for a lot of flaws in training and diet.
Then you notice a profound loss of muscularity and an increase in bodyfat from the photos “on anavar” to the “off anavar” ones. This illustrates the distinct advantage steroids give those competitors who use them.
Notice that the “off anavar” photos display an even worse condition then the “before anavar” photos. This shows that people use steroids as a substitute for smart training and diet. When they return to a drug-free regimen, and the crutch is taken away, the transition is very difficult
Truth #2: Somatotype and Number of Weeks Out are the Biggest Factors in Contest Preparation
One of the most frightening things in contest prep is that you have “gurus” who because they themselves respond a certain way to specific diet they assume that everyone they work with will respond the same.
Just because they have to start out at fifty grams of carbs a day at ten weeks out to get ripped doesn’t mean an ectomorphic female has to do the same. Just because they might not need any cardiovascular activity, and can eat McDonalds every week up until the show, doesn’t mean the same rules apply to a female endomorph.
I’ve known some girls who take thermogenics twice a day along with some form of cardio every morning on an empty stomach at 16 weeks out! If you’re doing all that at 16 weeks out, where do you go from there? What can you possibly add to the equation if you hit a plateau?
You can’t add anything, because your adrenal glands will be fried to a crisp, and you’ll be up to your eyeballs in cortisol. And no, a “cheat” meal won’t fix it.
However many weeks out you are, start out with one anaerobic session on week one. On week two, add an aerobic session, week three, add an anaerobic session, week four add an aerobic session. At four weeks out, you can top out at five energy systems training sessions per week.
Take one day completely off per week. No thermogenics, no weight training, no energy systems work. Obviously, the competitor’s bodyfat level will dictate exactly how much energy systems work should be adjusted.
For the remainder of the contest prep period, simply add an extra five minutes per week to each of the aerobic energy systems days and an extra two repetitions per anaerobic energy systems days.
Over the course of the entire contest prep period, the energy output is increasing on a weekly basis while the energy intake is decreasing. This results in ongoing productivity throughout the entire contest preparation, and prevents hitting a plateau.
Below is the exact energy systems timetable that Amanda followed for her seven-week contest prep. She hadn’t been doing any energy systems work at all for the previous three weeks before starting the diet. When she decided she wanted to do a show on the spur of the moment, her body was in a de-conditioned state. This allowed a profound response to the newly-introduced energy systems work.
Week 1: One energy systems workout, consisting of five 100-yard sled drags of 125 pounds with a two-minute recovery period.
Week 2: Same as week 1, plus 25-minute walk on incline treadmill.
Week 3: Same as week 1, plus 30-minute walk on incline treadmill, and six 30-yard prowler sprints with two minutes recovery.
Week 4: Same as week 3, plus 35-minute walk on incline treadmill.
Week 5: Same as week 4, plus 40-minute walk on incline treadmill.
Week 6: Same as week 5, plus 45-minute walk on incline treadmill.
Week 7: 30-minute walk on incline treadmill Monday through Thursday.
Amanda only started out with one energy systems day per week on week one! Seven weeks out from their first show ever, most girls would be on the treadmill fifty hours a week!
Two different recovery factors that accelerated fat loss, and prevented plateau and potential burnout were:
• Higher carbohydrate intake on leg days
Training legs expend more energy and by increasing the carbohydrate intake you increase the overall “G-flux” or energy turnover. The release of glucose from the high carbohydrate meals spikes leptin levels, which keeps the entire fat burning process moving at blazing speed.
• Sundays completely off
Sunday was a complete recovery day: no weights, energy systems work or thermogenics. This gave the adrenal glands a breather, and let the nervous system recover a bit. Amanda often commented that Mondays were her strongest days, and felt the biggest “kick” from Monday thermogenics as well.
Truth #3: Drug-free Competitors Must Train and Diet Differently than Enhanced Athletes.
Why is this principle so difficult for trainers to grasp? I know a girl with very good genetics who started a contest prep diet ten weeks out at 15% bodyfat. Her coach had her doing fasted treadmill walks early every morning.
Two weeks later, her bodyfat had dropped down to 11.5%, but he still had her walking the treadmill every morning before breakfast, even at eight weeks out. Two weeks later, she was at 9.5%, still plodding on that treadmill every single morning on an empty stomach.
Fast-forward to the week of her show. She was now depleted to a gaunt 6%, and better suited to star in the sequel of the Machinist than in a figure show.
Holy hypotrophy, Batman!
The reason her “coach” recommended this nonsense is that he didn’t know any better. He was used to working with drugged-up bodybuilders, and he’d done a cycle or two himself. His lack of understanding of the profound impact drugs have on muscle preservation and fat loss made him unable to understand that a drug-free competitor is a totally different type of animal.
I knew a girl two years ago who was a drug-free fitness competitor. She was getting training and diet advice from her boyfriend, who was on more steroids that you’d find in a Tijuana pharmacy.
She told me she was having trouble as she put it “bringing in” her quads: they were too soft, and needed more definition. I asked her what she’d been doing for them. She said her boyfriend had her doing sets of 50 leg extensions, and walking on the treadmill for an hour every day.
When I heard this, I had a Chris Shugart flashback.
When professional bodybuilders say this:
“Do high reps to burn the cuts into your quads.”
What they really mean is this:
“I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, but I’m big so people will listen. Luckily, my great genetics and massive steroid usage more than makes up for my complete and total lack of knowledge.”
The training regimen the boyfriend had her doing was only making things worse. All that long duration cardio and high rep machine work was taxing those slow-twitch fibers like crazy, but wasn’t doing squat (hardy har) for the fast-twitch fibers, which are crucial for myogenic and neurogenic tone.
My advice to her was 8×3 front squats, 3×8 Bulgarian split squats, and her only cardio should be extremely intense quick burst interval work on a recumbent bike.
I talked to her a week later, and she was up to an hour and thirty minutes on the treadmill, and sets of a hundred reps on the leg extension. Those un-stimulated fast twitch fibers lay dormant, leaving her vastus medialis, intermedius and lateralis as soft as a fluffy roll of Charmin.
Truth #4: Walking Lunges Suck
If there was ever a near worthless movement, walking lunges would be right there behind Smith machine squats. Yet the walking lunge is a crowd favorite in workout routines of many a figure/fitness competitor. Ask any competitor why she’s doing endless sets of walking with 5 pound dumbbells across the gym floor, and you’ll always get the same answer, “I want my butt to be sore!”
Brutal truth: Walking lunges create a shearing force between the feet and the floor, recruiting the quads a lot more than the gluteus. The reason you aren’t training the gluteus as much is because this body position transfers the load to the quads, leaving little stimulus to the gluteus.
This is how to do a walking lunge. Now don’t do it.
The red lines in the photo above represent what we have but don’t want, shearing force created between the feet and the ground. The blue lines represent what we don’t have but want, compression force created between the front foot and the ground.
If you were lunging like this on an ice-skating rink, what do you think would happen? Your legs would shoot in opposite directions and you’d end up doing a full split right there. What you want to create is compression between the front foot and the floor.
I suggest doing Bulgarian split squat and step up with knee follow-through. Notice the yellow arrows in the photos below, demonstrating the compression in the front foot with zero shearing.
1 | 2
1 | 2
Truth #5: Prowler Sprints Burn Fat Like Nothing Else
The Prowler sprint is to bodyfat…
…what a hot knife is to butter.
I’ve been using the Prowler for over a year, and I can tell you one thing: the prowler is unlike anything you’ll ever experience. Tired of hour long walks on the treadmill? Sick of running stadium steps?
Meet the Prowler. It’ll light up your gluteus, hamstrings and quads like a welding torch. And metabolic? It’ll send your metabolism into the stratosphere. Some of my athletes are still breathing hard for hours after only a few pushes of the Prowler.
So how do you use the thing? The vertical poles are the least challenging.
The horizontal handles are very challenging and will elicit a very profound effect on the heart and lungs. Finally, the bucket handles force you to stay low, providing for one brutal challenge. If you raise your hips too high, you’ll just be pushing down; you have to lower your hips and push forward in order to get it to move forward.
The Prowler opens up a new window to rapid fire-fat loss that you never thought possible.
Truth # 6: Competing in a Figure Show Won’t Lead to Fame and Fortune.
What’s the deal with these chicks who think that by standing on stage with twenty other girls in a show, they’ll end up on magazine covers as some kind of celebrity?
I once had a girl tell me that the reason she wanted to do a SNBF figure/bikini show was that after she won first place she’d get her picture along with a write up in Oxygen magazine. She felt this “coverage” would attract housewives to seek her out as a trainer and massage therapist.
First, winning first place out of ten girls in a local SNBF bikini show ain’t gonna land your photos anywhere but the family scrapbook and schmo websites. And second, housewives don’t really read Oxygen. Their ilk gravitates more to Shape and Cosmo.
And what about these girls who think they have any sort of market value with photography?
While I was writing this article, I was looking for one more model for some exercise snapshots. I asked a girl who was two weeks out from her first figure show, and although she had a pretty kyphotic posture, I figured she’d suffice.
A kyphotic posture.
The first thing she asked me was, “will I get anything?”
I wasn’t about to pay her a dime, but I thought I’d have some fun. “What do you want?” I asked.
“What have you got?”
“Well, what are you worth?” I shot back.
That stumped her. “I’ll get back to you on that,” she said.
After I stopped laughing, I told her I’d find someone else.
The bottom line: if you think that entering a figure show will lead to fame, fortune and stardom, you’re sadly mistaken. Step onstage to conquer a personal goal, make a statement or prove to yourself that you’re capable. Anything more and you’re setting yourself up for a big letdown.
Truth #7: Doing Stupid Shit is Ineffective
Just because it looks cool doesn’t mean it is.
If you want to create a “burn” in the quads don’t drag someone across the gym floor on one of those aerobics mats from the Jane Fonda era. The friction coefficient is way too high, the load distribution is uneven, and the nasty sweat-stained thing will probably tear.
Instead, drag a sled on an asphalt surface.
Challenging for the quads, very metabolic, and no lesbians are required.
As a general rule, training your lower body while sitting on your butt is an oxymoron, and anyone who advocates this type of exercises is an oxygen-wasting moron. I’m talking about the leg press, and especially leg extensions.
Instead, pick a squat press complex that uses multi joint movements and will provide for a much greater training economy, also known as “a bigger bang for your buck.”
Hopefully, this article will cast a ray of light on the many dark spots of this industry. Many who read this perhaps won’t recover, but hopefully the great majority will leave with a better understanding of the problem and a better solution in hand.