They say that the bikini division is “won from behind.” This suggests that in order to be successful and competitive in the bikini division, one must have high, tight, rounded glutes that the judges can bounce a quarter off of and hamstrings that can pop their eye out. I spent much of my improvement season building my lower body for this very reason. Plus, what fit chick doesn’t want a jaw dropping behind?
Transitioning from a building phase to a cutting phase takes a lot of discipline. I’ve actually had to scale my training intensity back tremendously; My leg day focus shifted completely away from my quads and has been directed solely at my glutes and hamstrings. I have taken all of my weights down (partly due to a decrease in strength from being in a calorie deficit), increased my rep ranges to 20-25 reps and added in a ton of partial reps and burn out sets. I’m staying away from supersets and am performing straight sets only. I’m not trying to build mass anymore, rather fine tune and chisel what I have built. I have also shifted from a more traditional body part split to upper body days and lower body days only. I am training my upper body slightly heavier than my lower body at rep ranges closer to 12-15 reps per exercise and am sticking to straight sets here, as well. Bikini competitors are also expected to have nice, rounded shoulders. Round shoulders helps to give the illusion of a teeny, tiny waist. With that being said, I always try to push it with my shoulder exercises. It’s important to address all angles to achieve that rounded look so I include overhead presses, lateral raises, front raises and at least one rear deltoid exercise. DON’T NEGLECT YOUR REAR DELTS!
The picking weights up and putting them down part is the fun part. The not so fun part? CARDIO. When I first started competing I was that obnoxious girl who got to eat a ton of carbs and do very minimal cardio. I was doing 3 days of HIIT for 20-25 minutes, max, and the fat would just melt off of me. Now? Not so much. My gain in muscle mass has been accompanied by some serious water retention, especially in my legs. I also decided to give myself just 6 weeks to prep, as opposed to the 8-12 weeks I used to give myself * rolls eyes. * This is where the steady state cardio comes in.
For the first two weeks of my prep, I was waking up at 4am to do 45 minutes of steady state cardio 6 days a week. Steady state cardio is just about the most boring thing on the planet to me so I was incorporating speed and resistance intervals. I realized very quickly that 45 minutes of intervals 6 days a week left me in a constant state of DOMS and my body was not happy. This is when things can get a little scary – my adrenals stopped functioning properly, which disrupted my hormones, and in turn, I wasn’t sleeping well and just could not seem to recover. When my cardio increased to a full hour, 6 days a week, I knew I had to make some changes. At 4 weeks out I am now only doing one or two days fasted and the other 4 or 5 days at night. I have stopped doing intervals and stick to the term “steady state,” and let me tell you, I feel like a million bucks. My body is back to burning fat, my hormones are regulating, my energy levels and mood are higher throughout the day and I am sleeping like a baby. The lesson here? Listen to your body. Too much of anything is not a good thing. Our bodies don’t like stress, whether it be mental stress or physical stress, let alone if you combine the two.
As important as training is when it comes to contest prep, what’s even more important is RECOVERY. I have learned that if I do not allow my body to recover, not only am I incredibly irritable and miserable all the time but my body stops burning fat, retains every bit of water and all of my hard work ends up being totally counterproductive. I’ll touch more on the importance of supplementation in my next post but while I am on the topic of recovery I need to mention two of the products I absolutely cannot live without and when I take them:
ENGN SHRED – This is hands down my favorite workout during contest prep. Not only does it fuel me for my workouts the added thermogenic effects are unreal. I love to sweat and I love to torch fat so this stuff was pretty much made for me. Cherry limeade all the way.
BCAA Energy – I add a scoop of this intra-workout. My energy levels are significantly lower when I am prepping so the BCAA energy helps support endurance during my long lifts. Peach lemonade!
BCAA 5000 – I go through this stuff like crazy. I drink it post-cardio AND post-lift. The BCAA 5000 has muscle sparing qualities so that my body holds onto my muscle and targets fat, even when I am in a caloric deficit. It also supports lean muscle development and recovery. Flavor of choice: Lemon Lime.
Sports Glutamine – aka my Saving Grace. I take Glutamine post-cardio, post-lift and before bed. I can tell the difference in just one day if I forget to take my Glutamine. Glutamine reduces muscle soreness and boosts recovery and I buy it unflavored so that I can mix it with my BCAAs.
Remember to ENJOY the process. Eat well, sleep well and wake up to see your physique changing right before your eyes.
Stay tuned for my next post in which I’ll discuss perhaps the most important element of contest prep; DIET!