How To Prep For a Fitness Competition
If you are training to peak for a figure or fitness competition, or just want to look like you are, there are ten principles you must adhere to, to reach your full physical potential.
They have been proven over and over again in science and in the real world.
If you want to be a fitness model (or just look like one), then these 10 principles are for you.
My husband and I own a facility, called Results Fitness, where we work with hundreds of clients and we strictly follow these ten principles with every client we work with at our facility to achieve the best results possible.
We have to get results or we would have to change our name. I thought it was time I let the women of Muscle with Attitude in on these ten principles.
I divided this article into two parts. This gives you a chance to get Principles 1-5 down before part two comes out. Don’t wait until part two comes out to use this information.
Get started now. Go through each principle and apply it to your own training.
Some of them are very basic, but are often neglected.
I guarantee that if you follow all of these principles you will reach your full potential, and would absolutely be ready to step on stage in a bathing suit, whether that is your goal or not.
1. The Individualization Principle
“For customized results, you need a customized program.”
Where did you get your last training program? Out of a magazine? From the internet?
A friend of yours was doing it and so you joined them? Your boyfriend showed you some exercises that he has been doing (that he probably got out of a magazine)?
Many women make the mistake of assuming, “If it worked for so and so, why shouldn’t it work for me?”
It may work for you, but unless you start following a program designed individually for you, with your strengths and weaknesses in mind, you won’t reach your full potential.
Each person is different and responds differently to different training programs. No single program will work for everyone.
At our facility, before we even consider training you, we perform a comprehensive evaluation where we sit down and talk to you about your training history, health history, and training goals.
From there, we take a look at your posture to see if there are any obvious signs of imbalance which will show up later on, when we test your range of motion and functional movement.
The Functional Movement Screen, developed by Gray Cook, is what we use to see how your body moves and what exercises you could benefit from in a program.
Gray Cook’s Function Movement Screen
Here’s a story from our facility that exemplifies this principle.
Two women came into the gym to find out about what we could do for them.
They had both been working with another trainer for a number of years, but were ready for a change because they hadn’t seen progress for the past year.
Although they appeared to be in great shape, they wanted to get in even better shape, and possibly compete in a figure competition.
We took them through our evaluation and found specific things we could work on with each of them. They had completely different body types, one being a mesomorph (easily puts on muscle) and the other an ectomorph (has a harder time gaining any muscle).
They also had specific things come up in their evaluation. For example, one of them lacked shoulder strength and flexibility.
She said that her shoulder did bother her but that she always just pushed through it. Neither of them could do a full body weight squat, despite the fact that their last trainer had them leg pressing 500 pounds.
Up until then, they had always trained together using the same generic program provided by their previous trainer.
So the first thing we did was to design each of them an individualized program.
Giving each of them a specific program that addressed their individual weaknesses while taking advantage of their strengths was just what they needed to take them to the next level.
They could only get so far doing the same program, because they had completely different bodies and responded differently to different training programs.
After following an individualized program with us for about 32 weeks, they competed in their first figure competition and both looked fabulous!
The evaluation we use gives us a roadmap of where to start with the client, and allows us to really identify what her individual strengths and weaknesses are.
Just like her goals, her specific program likely won’t look like any of our other client’s programs, because it has been specifically designed for her.
I highly recommend you hire a qualified coach to assess your strengths and weaknesses and design an individualized program for you, but if this is not an option, then consider the following questions when designing your own programs:
1. Are you a beginner or advanced? What is your training history?
2. What are your unique physical traits? Tall, short, fat, thin, flexible or inflexible?
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Are you quad dominant? Can you push more than you can pull?
4. What is your goal? Where do you want your training to take you?
I hope these questions have stimulated you to examine your current training program and think about how you can make it more specific to your needs.
You are unlike any other woman in the world. What works best for someone else may not work best for you.
Your training must be specific to you.
With this in mind, you should be asking yourself every time you train, “Is this program best suited for my individual strengths, weaknesses and goals?
2. The Build a Solid Foundation Principle
“Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more important than the outcome.”- Arthur Ashe
Before getting specific, you must first build a solid foundation of general physical qualities.
At our gym, during what we call our corrective exercise phase, we address the client’s specific weaknesses and build a solid base of strength using basic strengthening exercises including squats, push ups, and lunges.
I see this all the time: a client joins our gym and sees other clients doing exercises that look really cool or more fun than the boring squats, lunges, and push ups that she is doing.
I also see trainers get bored in the gym and start to progress their clients before they are ready.
Stick to the basics for a longer, rather than shorter, period of time.
The longer you stick to the basics, the better your foundation will be.
Even if you have been training for a while it is always a good idea to go back to basics. Can you perform an overhead squat with good form? Can you lunge with good form and without pain? Can you row the same amount you can press?
Going back to these basic exercises and starting with a solid base will allow you to take your training to higher levels, and you’ll be more likely to reach your full potential.
Get back to basics and build a solid foundation!
3. The Periodization Principle
“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
Periodization simply means having a plan to get to a specific result. Many women don’t know or don’t care about the science of training.
They may have heard about periodization but usually don’t use it when designing their program.
Periodization has been scientifically proven to work and is something women need to include as part of a long term successful training program.
Periodization consists of changing your training volume and intensity over periods of time to “peak” for a specific date or goal, such as a figure competition.
You can’t continually push your body more and more, week after week without giving it a back off week to recover. If you continually push your body week after week, your body will eventually make you take a break by getting injured or getting sick.
This will set your training back and can be avoided by using the science of periodization.
Here’s another story that should hammer the point home.
A client joined our gym. She is an endurance athlete, and her training plan has always been: “Wake up, do whatever you feel like, as much as you can do, go to bed, sleep, repeat. “
She would work out for a couple hours a day, every day, with no plan of what she would be doing tomorrow.
She had no rhyme or reason to her training, she just trained.
Naturally, she was severely over-trained, she had stopped menstruating years ago (a big red flag, so to speak, that you’re over-training!) and her goal was to become a pro triathlete in the next five years.
At the rate she was going, she would end up with adrenal fatigue or an injury before that would ever happen.
We designed a plan for her leading up to her next race using periodization to include recovery weeks to keep her from getting over-trained, and to make sure she would peak for her race.
The plan was a lot less then she was used to, but she stuck with the plan exactly as written. We also included specific weight training workouts to complement her endurance training.
Within two months, her period had come back after years of not having it (a good sign her body was getting back to normal), she had a personal best at a half marathon, and was feeling ready to compete in the Half Ironman, which was her goal race.
She couldn’t believe how much better she felt, and how much better her performance was.
It pays to have a plan.
The other component of periodization is being able to focus on improving one thing at a time.
If you try to improve everything at once, nothing will improve.
With a periodized program you can spend 4 weeks focusing on building muscle in your upper body and then the next 4 weeks building muscle in your butt and hamstrings while you maintain the muscle you built in your upper body, and then take 4 more weeks to lean out and show off all of the muscle you have built.
Try to do all of this in one program and you won’t accomplish half the results.
With the client discussed above, we alternated focusing on speed and endurance.
We would work on increasing her speed with shorter distances for four weeks, then we would switch gears for four weeks, working on maintaining the speed she had built while improving her endurance so that she could maintain that speed for a longer period of time.
We switched her focus every four weeks leading right up to the race so she was always only focusing and improving one aspect of her training in any four week period.
The following rules will get you started on your own properly periodized program:
Make a goal, then start with the end in mind.
You have to plan your training backwards.
Where do you want to be in 12 weeks or 16 weeks? Work backwards from there.
Use three weeks of building your volume followed by one week of recovery where you cut your volume in half.
Focus on one thing as your priority during each program.
Don’t try to include everything in your program. This is a common mistake: women putting every new exercise they see into their program.
Instead pick one priority to work on for a 4-6 week period.
Put everything else on the back burner.
Change your program every 4-6 weeks to keep your body from adapting to it. Do not stay on the same program for longer than 6 weeks.
4. The Bang for your Buck Principle
“Train movements, not muscles.”
Once you have begun your plan, you must choose exercises that give you the “most bang for your buck.” This means selecting exercises that give you the highest returns from your training, in the least amount of time.
This usually means using compound exercises that use a lot of different muscle groups, burn a ton of calories and get more done at once. Avoid using too many isolation exercises, which don’t give you as much return and take up time in your program.
You should never train for longer than an hour at a time so you have to fit everything into that hour.
Don’t waste time with biceps curls when your biceps will get plenty of work doing chin ups and rows.
How big do you want your biceps to be?
They need to be in balance with the rest of your body anyway, so doing compound exercises will assure that your biceps don’t overpower the rest of your muscles and you’ll get more done at once.
Some great “bang for your buck” exercises include squats, overhead squats, dead lifts, chin ups, push ups and bent over rows.
These exercises give you a higher return on investment than wimpy bicesp curls
5. The Consistency Principle
“It’s not what you do between Christmas and New Year that matters, but what you do between New Year and Christmas.”
Now that the plan has been figured out, it is imperative that you work continuously toward your goal. It is always easy to start something, but very difficult to carry it through.
Like the Nike ad says, “Just do it!” If you want to reach your true potential, you can’t be inconsistent or take long breaks from training.
No matter how scientific your training program is, or how much you know about fitness and training, the biggest key to seeing results from your training is simply showing up every day and getting it done.
Sometimes people spend so much time reading the internet, books, and magazines to get ideas for their training they end up confused by all of the different philosophies.
When it comes down to it, the one principle they all have in common is that you need to get in the gym and train, day after day, week after week, and month after month.
Now that you have learned about individualization, building a solid foundation, periodization, and which exercises to choose- get started and be consistent.
Without consistency none of this information will help you prep for a fitness competion.
One of our clients had been training for about two years and was happy with the results but hadn’t been really consistent with her diet and missed a workout here or there.
She had made progress but really wanted to see her body get to the next level. She would always bring in pictures from magazines of girls she wanted to look like.
She was already following an individualized program which included all of the right exercises, she had built a solid base, why wasn’t she where she wanted to be? The answer is consistency.
So she decided that for the next 12 weeks, she was going to be extremely consistent with both her diet and training, just to see what happened.
Guess what happened?
She made so much progress she was hooked, and stayed consistent for another 12 weeks.
We started to see her body transform before our eyes to look like every picture she had brought in from the magazines.
It’s amazing what a little consistency can do for you!
Good things happen when you stick with the program.
This also goes for your nutrition program. You can’t start one plan and then decide you’re doing a different plan on the weekend and then Monday you change your mind again. Decide on one plan and stick to it, be consistent.
Consistency is the key to seeing results.
“A goal is a dream with a deadline.”