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Fasted cardio: Friend or foe?

18 Jun

If you’re new to the world of fitness competitions, one of the first challenges you will face – before you even pick up a set of barbells – is deciding on the right workout regimen. And, believe it or not, figure competition training can actually get pretty contentious. Perhaps one of the most surprisingly controversial practices is fasted cardio.

Fasted cardio typically means that you’ll spring out of bed and hit the gym without so much as an energy bar to fuel your efforts. There are few people who would be immediately drawn to this idea, but the rationale is that, by working out on an empty stomach, your body will draw from existing fat stores, rather than simply burning through the calories you just consumed.

And, according to industry experts, that is absolutely true. Your body will inevitably be forced to target these stubborn pockets of fat if it has nothing else to run on.

However, one of the big concerns about this method is that it may eventually start to work away at your lean muscle mass as well – and who wants that after you’ve spent so much time toning up? The fact is that is a risk to this kind of cardio. But, you can keep muscle loss to a minimum simply by checking the intensity of your pre-breakfast workout.

So, what is your top priority – burning off fat or building up muscle? The answer to that question should help you determine if fasted cardio is the right choice for you. Just keep in mind that some events, like bikini competitions, actually call for a more feminine physique, so a bit of extra fat might be a good thing!

Whatever workout routine you go with, it’s important to give your body the time (and energy) to recover. Oxygen magazine urges aspiring competitors to eat soon after every training session to help their bodies bounce back from the strain.

Don’t forget recovery time: The best post-worko​ut foods

16 Jun

Every athlete knows that competition training isn’t just about working out for hours on end. To really push your body to the limit, you also have to let your muscles recover between sessions. And, did you know that there are certain foods than can actually enhance this process?

As well as shedding light on raisins, apples and other tasty treats that can rival your favorite energy drink, the nutrition experts at The Huffington Post have also zeroed in on a few foods that promote cell restoration.

If you’re preparing for a body competition, you undoubtedly know the importance of loading up on protein on a regular basis. Unlike carbs, which actually fuel you on the treadmill, the benefits of protein kick in much later in the game. Athletes of all shapes and sizes should get a good dose of protein post-workout, because it promotes muscle repair, replenishes energy stores and can also prevent the loss of muscle mass after heavy resistance training.

And, though figure competition supplements can help in this area, The Huffington Post points out that greek yogurt is a particularly versatile way to consume this compound. After all, preparation time is approximately 20 seconds from tub to bowl, and you can toss in any of your favorite fruits for a bit of flavor. Add a drop of honey and you have a delicious, protein-rich treat that will help your body bounce back.

One of the downsides of really giving your all in spin class is that your muscles may become inflamed – which may put off your next visit for longer than you’d like! But, the source explains that cherry juice contains specific agents that can reduce swelling. So, while you’re sitting back with an ice pack, why not pour yourself a glass of this somewhat unconventional but delicious and nutritious beverage?

The Military Press: A must for shapely shoulders

16 Jun

Whether you’re competing in a bodybuilding, physique or bikini competition, the impact you make when you step on stage is the key to success in this field. And, though the level of definition is certainly different across these platforms, having a strong, commanding set of shoulders is an important part of the package.

No matter how tight your glutes or rock-hard your abs, if you don’t have a strong set of shoulders, you just won’t have the same stage presence – end of story. Your shoulders dictate everything from how you hold yourself to how you’re proportioned, so shoulder workouts are a crucial part of figure competition training for any entrant. 

One of the most tried and true techniques to tone your deltoids is the classic Military Press. This is known as a compound exercise because, as MuscleMagFitness.com explains, it works mulitple joints and requires all three sides of your shoulder muscles to kick into gear.

This exercise can be performed standing upright or sitting at the edge of an exercise bench, depending on how many other muscles you want to involve in the process. Then, with all your core muscle tightened to keep your upper body stable, grab two dumbbells and hold them up on both sides of your head so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Then, simply lift both weights so your arms are nearly straight up in the air, but be sure to avoid locking your joints.

Depending on preference, this can be performed with a barbell as well. However, the source warns that competitors who go this route avoid lifting the weight behind their necks, since this can cause shoulder strain. 

A great set of shoulders is the perfect accessory for any posing suit, so don’t skimp on this section of your workout regimen!  

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Sparkle 601 Clear Competition Shoe

16 Jun

Sparkle 601 Clear Competition Shoe

Bikini & Figure Competition Shoe

Ladies: Don’t skip your chest workouts

16 Jun

For all the time female competitors spend tightening up their glutes, carving out their abs and slimming down their thighs, it’s amazing how often these ladies neglect their chests! It seems that some women – particularly those with a smaller cup size – are a little hesitant to really work this area for fear that building muscle mass may take away from their natural assets.

For girls competing in bikini competitions, it is especially important to keep a bit of extra weight up top. After all, these events favor toned yet feminine figures, so you still want a few curves when you take the stage in that posing suit. That’s why the experts at Bodybuilding.com have taken the time to address some key concerns that aspiring competitors may have about giving this area a rigorous workout.

Anyone who has seen a professional bodybuilding competition may understandably have some concerns about what may happen to her chest if she ramps up her workout regimen. Will all of that tissue be replaced by rippling pectoral muscles? In a word: no.

“This myth gets perpetuated because female bodybuilders sometimes hit the stage with flat-looking chests that are far from what we normally deem feminine. It’s not the muscle that makes their breasts smaller; it’s the extreme diet,” the training resource states.

Basically, because breast tissue is essentially fat, competitors who fall below a healthy level of fat will notice a difference in this area. No matter how much time you spend doing bench presses or chest flies, as long as you keep your body fat at a healthy 10 to 13 percent, you should be able to develop muscle without sacrificing your feminine physique.

Building your Personal Brand

16 Jun

Hard work, determination and a lot of self control can get you up on the stage, but in order to win, you need to stand out from the competition. Whether it’s an amazing posing suit or your glowing femininity, you need to make sure you bring something unique to the table.

If you play your cards correctly along the way, you may be able to go from amateur figure competitor to famous fitness model, just as so many other women have. The key to doing that, though, is to “build your own brand.”

But, what exactly does that mean? Just as any company establishes an image that it becomes permanently associated with, you want to give yourself a personality that judges and fans can’t forget – that personality is your brand.

Establish your brand at competitions

No one likes a poor sport, and it’s likely that you’re not always going to come out on top. Whether it’s your first competition or your fiftieth, make sure you treat the other girls with respect and always be friendly. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but if you want to make yourself a well-known figure in the industry, people need to be rooting for you.

Next, it’s crucial that you know what you’re talking about. If someone asks you why you choose certain figure competition supplements over others, make sure you can give them a firm answer. You need to actually sound like an expert in women’s fitness and figure competition training if you want to be taken seriously.

Perhaps the most important factor you need to pay attention to is your look. A smile and good conversation will certainly get people to like you, but if you want them to remember you, you need to have your own, unique style.

From your competition shoes to your rhinestone jewelry, you should look like the superstar you want to be. You’ve worked tirelessly to shape your body perfectly, so don’t spoil all of your training by wearing a dull figure suit or bikini. It can’t be just any posing suit though, you need to make sure that it’s an outfit that you can be identified by.

Finally, make sure you really dive into the industry. Don’t just be a regular at one competition every year – expand your horizons and try your luck in various federations and contests. This is critical for keeping a fresh image and networking with other important figures at fitness competitions.

Keep your brand alive even when you aren’t on stage

When you leave the arena or auditorium, don’t just put away your competition jewelry, head straight for the gym and disappear from the world until the next contest. If you want to make sure that people associate you with the industry permanently, associate yourself with the industry as much as possible.

One of the best ways to do this is to create a huge online presence. Be active in women’s fitness forums, and definitely start a blog. If you can produce engaging, informative and fun content on your blog, women – both pro and amateur – will start to recognize you as an authority.

Create a Facebook page that’s all about you as a competitor (not for just your friends) and a Twitter account to promote your blog and share quick thoughts and bits of information that you find interesting or valuable. That, of course, is also great for developing your public identity.

Lastly, take some time to get out of the weight room and volunteer. Not only are you obviously doing a good thing for others, you’re also showing people that you have a good heart.

Once you’ve established your brand and have fans from all over rooting for your success, going from figure and bikini competitions to fitness magazine cover model will be a lot more realistic than you ever imagined.

Jennifer Nicole Lee: From homemaker to fitness model

16 Jun

While there are many different reasons to enter the body competition arena, one of the most appealing aspects is the challenge. This demanding but rewarding field forces you to burst out of your comfort zone and really push yourself to the limit. And, for professional body model Jennifer Nicole Lee, signing up for a fitness competition was one of the best decisions of her life.

Before she began competing, Lee was a married mom of two who was still struggling with her baby weight. In 2008, she appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and opened up about her battles with depression and insecurity during that time.

“I felt horrible being overweight,” Lee confessed. “I was depressed. I had a lack of energy. I wasn’t able to feel pretty,”

After years of being ashamed of her physique and hiding behind big hair and baggy clothes, Lee had enough. For her, the first step to self-empowerment was to sign up for a bikini competition. With that end goal in mind, she was able to motivate herself through months of rigorous training.

By the time the competition rolled around less than a year later, Lee had shed an amazing 70 pounds, and took to the stage looking beautifully tanned and toned in a posing suit. All of that hard work paid off, and she was ultimately named Miss Bikini America 2005.

“I was like an animal that had been unlocked out of its cage,” Lee says of her first fitness competition. “My confidence level just went through the roof.”

That was just the beginning for Lee, who has acquired countless titles since then, and is now one of the most well-known fitness models in the business. Her story shows that it is truly possible to change your life for the better.

Bikini & Figure Posing

15 Jun

To win a figure competition, you of course need to look good and be confident. While you’ll have a few opportunities to impress the judges throughout the contest, your mandatory poses can really make or break your shot at the title.

Since this is one of the only times during the competition when you’ll be making the same exact poses and movements as your competition, there’s a lot riding on not only how you to present the poses, but also your facial expressions as you make them.

The poses, also commonly referred to as quarter turns, give competitors a chance to show off their toned bodies from four key angles that give judges the best possible look at their muscle mass, symmetry and definition. The four mandatory poses are front, right, back and left.

Front pose

You’ll start your routine facing the crowd straight on. It’s crucial that you keep a big, genuine smile throughout the four quarter turns, but it’s particularly important for this pose. Make sure you keep your chin up and don’t put any stress on your neck. If your neck is tense, your poses will look strenuous and unappealing to the judges.

Lower Body ♦ Keep your heels and legs together. ♦ Flex your quads very hard. ♦ Make sure you don’t lock your knees or hips. Keep them slightly bent.

Upper Body ♦ Do not hunch or scrunch your shoulders under any circumstance. ♦ Your shoulders should be flexed and wide. ♦ Keep your chest up and pushed outward. ♦ While the judges can’t see your lats in this pose, they should be spread to emphasize your upper body. ♦ Keep your abs very tight and extended.

Arms and Hands ♦ Hang your arms at your sides, with a bit of distance away from your body. ♦ Your upper arms – biceps and triceps – should be flexed. ♦ Your arms should be completely relaxed from your elbows down. ♦ Have you elbows bent slightly so your hands are level with your hips. ♦ Your palms should be facing inward.

Right side pose

To go into this quarter turn, smoothly swing your left foot in front of you, while pivoting on your right. Shift your body weight to your back foot, and lift the heel of your front foot.

Lower Body ♦ Flex your front hamstring and calf muscle hard. ♦ Keep your front knee slightly above the back knee. ♦ Your feet may need to be together depending on the competition you’re in.

Upper Body ♦ Keep your back arched so that your chest is prominent and your shoulders are still wide. ♦ Make sure you are still really flexing your abs.

Arms and Hands ♦ There is a degree of freedom with your arm placement. Play to your strengths. ♦ Arms may be at your side as they were in the first pose, but with your shoulders turned so your left hand is behind your left buttock and your right hand is in front of your right thigh. ♦ Or, you may bend your front elbow a bit to put your biceps and triceps on display a bit. ♦ As with the front pose, keep your arms relaxed from the elbow down no matter where you hold them.

Backside pose

Turn so that you’re facing the back of the stage. This quarter turn gives the judges their best look at your shoulders, glutes and calves, so make it count. If you have long hair, gracefully move it over your shoulder so the judges can see your entire back. Raise your heels so that your body weight is all on your toes.

Lower Body ♦ Keep your feet and legs together as you did in the front pose. ♦ Flex your calves as much as possible. ♦ Make sure your glutes are tight, but do not squeeze your buttocks together. ♦ Bend your hips just a bit. ♦ Stick your behind out and up.

Upper Body ♦ Squeeze all of the muscles of your back together slightly. ♦ Keep your shoulders wide apart. ♦ Arch your back, and keep your head high and chin up. ♦ Flex your lats as much as you can.

Arms and Hands ♦ Your hands and arms should be in the same position as they were for the front pose, but put a little more emphasis on your triceps.

Left side pose

This will be your final quarter turn. This pose is an exact mirror of the right side pose, but as it’s the last shot you’ll have to impress the judges, make sure you keep a big, glowing smile that they can’t forget.

Different Types of Competitio​ns

15 Jun

Different Types of Female Body Competitions                      

You’ve finished your final half gallon of rocky road ice cream, and you’ve decided to hit the gym hard and get in the best shape of your life. Sure, you may simply want to look great in a bikini, but what better way to show off all of your hard work than to let your guard down and enter a body competition? Just like your dessert, the road to competing in even an amatuer contest is going to be rocky, but you can do it and we’re here to help!

Before you get started, you’ll need to figure out what type of competition you’ll be training for. There are five major types: figure, bikini, bodybuilding, physique and fitness.

Bodybuilding competitions

This is probably the competition you’re most familiar with. Bodybuilding certainly isn’t for every woman, but it’s extremely popular. Women in these contests are judged on their muscularity, definition and leanness. As with all body competitions, muscular and physical symmetry is one of the most determining features a judge will look for.

It’s important that these women have toned essentially every visible muscle in their body, and while extremely intensive weight training is key, strict dieting is most imperative if these competitors want to walk away with the gold.

Female bodybuilders can be described as “ripped” and “chiseled,” which isn’t necessarily true for competitors in other formats.

Bikini competitions

Today, bikini competitions are growing faster in popularity than any other format. While bodybuilders are typically blessed with the ability to bulk up more than the average person, bikini competitors have a look that’s attainable for a wider range of women.

In essence, judges look for the girl who can rock a two-piece swimsuit better than anyone else on stage. These women typically aren’t very muscular, and the winners aren’t necessarily the skinniest competitors. As a matter of fact, it’s important to have a bit of body fat so muscles aren’t too defined.

Figure competitions

Figure competitions fall somewhere in between bikini and bodybuilding. It’s important that these women are muscular, but not the way that bodybuilders are. Judges look for a bit of separation between the muscles, but there can be no visible striations. In other words, muscle tone is valued much more than muscle size.

It’s crucial that women aren’t too skinny, and skin tone is key in these contests as well.

Physique competitions

The National Physique Committee (NPC) explains on its website that physique competitions are “for women who enjoy weight training, competing {and} contest preparation.” It’s a bit different than bodybuilding and figure posing, as the NPC says these women shouldn’t be vascular, massive, grainy, thick, ripped or dense.

The judges look for shape, proportion and muscle tone, but also poise, femininity and beauty flow, which aren’t necessarily as important in the other formats.

Fitness competitions

Fitness competitions are probably the most unique of the bunch. These call for women to perform a short routine that entails more than just posing. Instead, these performances involve dancing, gymnastics or other physical activity that demonstrates the athleticism and stage presence of the participants.

The presentation and tempo of the performance, in addition to the competitor’s flexibility, are looked at closely by the judges in fitness competitions.

Whether you’re showing off your cut muscles or wowing crowds with a pole routine, you need to look good if you want to win. Each format has very specific clothing and accessory requirements, and at Fitness Pro Direct, we have everything you need, no matter what competition you’re participating in.

We have tons of posing suits, competition jewelry, figure shoes, tanning products and other items, but if we don’t have what you need, let us know, and we’ll get it for you!

Training for Figure & Bikini Competitio​ns

15 Jun

Training for Figure & Bikini Competitions

If you’re new to the world of figure and bikini competitions and you’re just mapping out your training plan, you may be unsure of which one you’ll be better suited for. Don’t worry. That’s quite common for a lot of women when they first dip their feet into the industry.

At the amateur level, the competing women may look like they could try their luck in either field, but as the competition becomes more advanced, the discrepancies are very clear.

The biggest difference is that figure competitors have very defined muscles, while the ideal bikini competitor has toned muscles without a lot of noticeable separation between them.

If you’re over 30 years old, it’s much more likely that your body will better lend itself to figure competitions. As women age, their bodies become less fatty, so long as they maintain a healthy diet and plenty of exercise. Bikini competitors actually need a little body fat to make their physique appear smoother and softer, while figure competitors aim to have as little fat as possible.

With that in mind, women who are naturally lean and have a hard time gaining weight should aim for figure posing, and women who are trying to lose weight to get competition ready are more likely to succeed in bikini competitions.

Once you’ve decided the type of competition you’re going to take on, you need to formulate a training and diet plan specific to that contest.

In both cases, one of the most important characteristics the judges will be looking for is symmetry in your physique. Make sure that your entire body is proportionate, and that no muscles or individual parts of your body are significantly larger or smaller than the rest. Beyond drinking a gallon a water every day, the training and dietary needs for each is quite unique.

Training for a figure competition

Perhaps the biggest difference compared to training for bikini competitions is the focus on working out. For instance, you’ll definitely need to make sure you have strong, toned lats and cap shoulders, which are rounded with a very clear line separating them from the triceps.

If you’re used to doing cardio and plyometrics when you hit the gym, you’ll need to dramatically alter your workout regimens. In order to stand out in a figure competition, all of your muscles will need to be toned, which includes a ton of little ones you may have not even known that you have.

Big lifts like cleans and presses will definitely be key parts of your workout, but there will be a lot of light free weight exercises that will be much more difficult and important than they seem.

Women with big appetites are in for a treat, as the typical figure competition diet requires five to seven meals per day, each of which must be packed with protein, carbohydrates and fat. Don’t get too excited though – sweets and complex sugars are a big no-no. You’ll need to cook from scratch whenever possible to avoid using unhealthy preservatives and the like.

There a lot of figure competition supplements out there, but there are some certain things women should be taking, such as a multi-vitamin, calcium, glucosamine complex, glutamine and echinacea.

Training for bikini competitions

Working out almost everyday is very important for these contests as well, but the focus on lifting weights is certainly less. Flexibility and a natural, sexy physique are much more likely to catch the judges’ eyes in bikini competitions.

Protein shakes, lots of vegetables, some fruits in the morning, and whole grains and other healthy carbs will make up the majority of your diet.

For competitors, taking supplements such as calcium, creatine, fatty acids, leucine, glutamine and antioxidants are crucial.