For a few, figure can be a lottery hit the first time they step onstage… but for the vast majority it’s a longer journey requiring patience and the ongoing desire to improve. When I first met laurie she was soft spoken, humble, shy and amazingly nice. Three years and 3 pro cards later… she is still the same person. When she won her last overall (NPC) there was no big celebration, no fist pumping… just a nervous smile as they brought her the trophy. Afterwards, almost every picture she took she made sure her daughter, Paris, was in it… that’s because she has always kept everything in perspective. When she first started competing the victorys didn’t come easy… after finishing 5th in her first competition Laurie could have easily given up… but instead she used that as motivation to become the best she could be.
Now she is on her way to compete in the Arnold Classic in a few weeks!
Known for her intense training, Laurie is well respected by the other competitors she trains with. She’s so focused that she rarely talks during her workout. She finds a corner in the gym, goes 100% during her workout, changes clothes… and goes home.
Precontest fat loss workout: A bunch of hard exercises done back-to-back with no rest… until she is ehausted. The idea is to work the entire body and burn as many calories as possible.
“Get Uncomfortable” - Laurie doesn’t feel she is getting a good workout until she gets into her ‘uncomfortable zone’ - the uncomfortable zone is usually when most would stop and rest… her goal is to get into that zone and stay there. This is why she doesn’t have to do a ton of straight cardio to get lean… because she burns so many calories in her resistance-cardio workouts. What the uncomfortable zone really means to me is: “Leave me alone, I don’t want to talk because I’m trying to catch my breath… please go away!” Check out the short video clip of her showing me that she doesn’t want to be bothered.
Laurie is the tye of person everyone roots for. Just as gracious in victory as she had been in defeat. Never one to put other competitors down or brag on herself. I realized just how humble Laurie was when I went to her Facebook page looking for some good pitures (since I didn’t get too many good shots at the show), when I noticed that she had not posted one picture of herself… after winning a show she has been trying to win for 3 years! The only thing she posted were things about her daughter… I think that says it all! Congratulations Laurie! Oh yeah, and good job at the competition too!
Laurie performing one of her favorite exercises:
As a figure coach I see women who have varying degrees of difficulty losing body fat, therefore it is important that I continue to try and develop new techniques to burn even the toughest body fat off figure competitor’s bodies. Here is one of my favorite techniques – Progressive Intensity
Progressive Intensity is a technique I use to raise the workout intensity level for figure competitors during precontest fat loss training. There are a few ways to do this, the video shows my favorite version of Progressive Intensity…. increasing the reps with each successive set. The goal is to make your body do more work as your level of exhaustion increases.
Basically what happens is that as you go through your circuit of exercises (usually only 2 or 3 exercises) the reps will increase as you progress through the set. In the video, Laurie (who holds several figure pro cards) begins set #1 with 5 reps of Db Duck Squats followed immediately by 5 Jump Squats. Set # 2 is: 10 reps of each (duck squats and jump squats). Set #3 is: 15 reps of each exercise etc etc…. You can see how exhausted Laurie gets as she progresses through the set. The idea is to do this continously until the required number of sets are completed. Try to get to 30 reps of each NON-STOP. You can do this with practically any 2 or 3 exercises as long as you can switch quickly from one to the other. This particular example is tough because both exercises focus on the legs…. give it a try.
One round of this, at the end of your workout, is enough when first trying this out. Eventually you will be able to do an entire 60 minute workout in this manner
(CAUTION: a burning sensation in the legs, exhaustion and heavy breathing are side effects of this workout… ha ha).
Here is another example below. This is a hard one:
A lot of competitors think they need the latest high tech equipment or training philsophy to get ready for a show. I’ve always gone low-tech when I train clients. I use to work in large gyms with hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment…. but I would only need a corner of the gym, a few dumbells, a bench, a bosu ball and a few other low-tech pieces of equipment. My clients ALWAYS got the best results! This is why I developed my diets and training program… to dispell all of the misinformation out there about training, diet, and exactly what it takes to get ready for a figure show. I also realized that most of your training will be done on you own, without a trainer looking over you shoulder (if you’re lucky enough to get a knowledgeable trainer)
The other day when I returned home from a competition, I received the following email from a Julie Valencia who used by online program to get ready for her first show in Toronto Canada. She prepared in her house without fancy equpiment or a trainer. She proves that determination goes a lot further than the latest piece of exercise equipment or DVD fad workout.
Then I received the following email a few days later…..
The most important factors in training for a show are hard work, the proper diet and smart training. Don’t get caught up in the newest piece of gym equipment, cardio machine or new fangled exercise DVD that promises to burn 3x as many calories as the last exercise craze. Just focus on the proper training and diet and you will always give yourself a chance to win! …terry stokes
Congratulations Brittany Murchie for doing an awesome job at the NPC Nationals (North american Championships) this past weekend. Introduced to me by a pro competitor I also trained, the first thing Brittany said to me was: “I will do whatever you tell me to do, I want to go as far as I can.” Then she preceded to train with me for the next hour. She didn’t say one word during that workout …and she trained her butt off. I knew then that she had the mentality and work ethic to do this.
The goal with Brittany, as with all competitors, was to get better with every competition, which is what she did. She qualified for the nationals after winning the overall title in the NPC Rochester Bodybuilding and Figure Championships.
On my way home I started thinking of what it takes to be successful in figure competition. What do competitors that do well all have in common. You see, on the outside, Brittany looks like the type of competitor who is naturally in shape… not having to work too hard. She never says a whole lot, doesn’t asks questions just to hear herself talk… she makes it look easy. Then I started to think about Laurie who is doing NPC Nationals in 3 months. Everytbody thinks it’s easy for her to get in excellent condition… she never says a whole lot… she trains hard, says little, she sort of makes it look easy! Hmmm…. seems like a pattern.
Then I thought about all my competitors who have repeatedly done well, often against great odds, doubters and haters… and they all had the same quality – they all make it look easy! But… I know the truth!
I know that they struggle like everyone else, I know the doubts they have… I know when they want to quit sometimes after a day of ‘not so clean eating’ - what I realize is the difference with winners is their ability to focus, to keep setbacks in perspective and bounce back quickly. How easy it is for too many competitors to get distracted during contest prep when things get hard. They concern themselves with things totally irrelevant to their success onstage, they start to listen to everyone who wants to give them advice… they find excuses not to push harder during workouts, or for not following the diet strictly. To become a champion, it’s important not to let irrelevant things distract you. Not to get caught up in the B.S. that often comes with competing.
I love it when one of these veteran competitors (who will remain un-named – but you know who you are) walks through a class and yells: “Stop talking and get to work, you have a competition to get ready for!”
Champions think in a straight line, which is why they don’t say much, they don’t complain and they only ask questions that will help them get better. Often my competitors will wonder why I don’t spend a lot of time talking about certain things, why I ignore them sometimes. I’m not trying to be a jerk. What I’m trying to convey to them is that certain topics/conversations are not going to make them any better or further their progress towards their goal… so I don’t bother talking about it.
Winners ask the question: “What do I need to do to get better?” Winners can be awol for 3 or 4 days and I don’t worry because I know that they still trained hard, they still followed their diet to the letter and they still did their cardio… I don’t have to worry. All my winners have this trait - the ability to avoid a pleasure now (whether it’s food or just slacking off), for a greater pleasure… in a few months!
More and more I get questions from women who are in their 30′s or 40′s who’ve been working out for some time and would like to compete, but they are afraid that they won’t be able to compete with younger competitors. The other day I had a 39 year old woman come to my gym telling me how ‘everyone‘ said she could never compete with younger figure girls. I showed her pictures from a recent show in which all of my competitors were 35 or over (35-45). They won mutiple classes and one of my competitors missed a pro card by 1 point.
The really great thing about this sport is that age is not the hindrance that it is in many other sports. Recently while watching the Olympics I would hear the commentators praise competitors who are in their 30′s… for still competing with the younger athletes. In figure, age brings about wisdom, grace and often a better physique. I explained to this potential figure competitor that the over 35 competitor makes up the backbone of my entire team. I explained to her that each competitor from the recent show, besides leadership, brings something different to the table …. Erika brings grace and a flawless posing style (and hairdo) that often, as in this show, will get comments from the judges/announcers about her presentation. Karen, who brings a hardcore non-stop attitude – having just completed a national Under Armour challenge where she completed 100 (yes 100!) continous squat presses with a 45 lb Olypmpic bar (she doesn’t want me to mention that she is 50 years old… so don’t tell her I mentioned it). She reminds everyone that it’s just a sport and not your whole life. There is Andrea, who brings a more quiet, more subtle approach to training and competition, sort of a ’just do-it’ attitude… no complaints, not too may questions – just workout, practice posing and get on with life, these are traints I try to get younger competitors to model. Finally we have Denise, one of the hardest working competitors I have ever met. Competing 9 months after having a baby, her before and after pictures are so incredible that people didn’t believe they were real! Told she would never be a figure competitor because of her age, she has won first place trophies in the Untied States and Canada… and proved all her critics wrong.
Then I hear this: “Won’t the judges always go for the younger competitor?” It doesn’t matter what your age is… if you have the best physique you will win, besides, judges respect the over 35 competitor… most judges are former competitors, and they know how much hard work goes into getting onstage in your 30′s and 40′s, when your metabolism starts to slow down, your skin is not quite as tight as it use to be and you have more life responsibilities which makes it more difficult to find enough time to train for a show…. they respect that.
So don’t listen to the naysayers… most don’t know what they’re talking about. If a trainer says you are too old, then find s trainer who is knowledgeable and willing to work with you – the truth is, a lot of trainers only want to train ‘easy’ competitors women who are 24 years old and in shape, who may have competed and done well in the past. They don’t want to start from square one with a woman who is 37 and never competed before… Ironically, as is often the case… that 37 year old will find another trainer (I hope it’s me) and show up at a competition and kick the other trainers competitor’s butt! Nothing like a little sweet revenge!
So without my ‘veterans’ …there would be no “Stokes Crew”
More and more I hear figure competitors complaining about how their competiton diet destroyed their metabolism. If you want to understand what really happens, just watch the video below:
Here are my thoughts on dehydration before a figure competition…
I get so many questions about last week prep and dehydration/cutting water. My stance is still the same… It doesn’t work! Although it SOUNDS legitimate when someone explains how it supposedly work… that doesn’t mean it works.
As far as dehydration before a show to increase definition (bring out your ‘cuts’)… I’ve always said that it makes muscles smaller and decreases definition (and women can’t afford to lose any muscle size or definition going into a competition). Below is a video about one of my favorite bodybuilders, Kai Greene, and his prep for the Arnold Classic. This excerp shows how dehydration can have very negative effects on muscle size and definition of one of the greatest bodybuilders in the world. If it can negatively effect him… what in the heck do you think it will do to your physique!?
Not only is dehydration ineffective in making you look more definined… it will most likely have the opposite effect!! The only tricks are hard dieting and hard work. Competitors are always surprised when I accuse them of dehydration (when they sneak and do it against my advice). They don’t realize that I can tell from the audience and from pictures. It may be a day, a week or a month … but they eventually confess. They think they are going to make up for that last 5lbs they should have lost with diet and training, by losing 5lbs of water right before the show… this doesn’t work and you may very well lose placings because of it.
Terry, did you hear about the new diet? …EVERY week it seems someone is promoting a new diet (or fat loss supplement). They always have some breakthrough scientific study that ‘proves’ why they work. But… like all the other ‘awesome’ new diets, they will disappear in a few months when people realize they don’t work any better… if at all!
For the 937th time!…. There are no new diets that work better for competitors than the one everyone uses (or SHOULD be using) now! I see competitors coming into shows, far from contest ready because they tried some ‘new diet’, that was supposed to speed up fat loss. There is actually a diet that has competitors, who are not lean enough for competition, EAT MORE FOOD! This is somehow supposed to promote fat loss for the competitor who is already behind schedule. The day that this works for fat loss…. I’m quitting!
Every competitor on this page got lean eating the SAME basic foods! No special, exotic or dangerous diets… just the standard competition diet! I know because I trained them all!
As far as diet is concerned – If you are just trying to lose weight to get in shape, then I can understand wanting to eat something other than a figure competition diet – chicken and vegetables get a little boring after….. the FIRST day! I understand that. BUT If you are a bikini, figure, Ms fit/fitness competitor or bodybuilder, why would you not follow the diets that have worked for many, many years… and still continue to work today? Diets that can get you as lean as you need to be.
Desperation will drive trainers and competitors to try all sorts of things. Every week, there is some new wonder diet that everyone is buzzing about.. or fat burning supplement that burns fat 137 X faster! …Let’s see, if this new fat burner burns fat 137% faster than the other fat burner that was advertised to burn fat 70% faster…. then you should be ready for your competition after about uhhmm… 2 days of taking this supplement! Twelve weeks of training down to 2 days… amazing!
Seriously though… The competitors pictured are all competitors I trained and gave diets to. (bikini, figure, bodybuilding). Three of them just recently won pro cards! No crazy diets, no special shakes… no supplements.They all ate the same foods to get lean. The only difference is that figure competitors diet a little harder than bikini competitors, Ms fit/Fitness competitors diet a little harder than figure competitors and bodybuilders diet the hardest of all because they have to get the leanest… that’s it folks!
Losing body fat is one of the simplest things to do (…but also very difficult mentally). Your body can only accumulate fat from protein, carbs and fats… that’s it! All you have to do is eat regular food and learn to manipulate calories and macronutrients to cause fat loss. No need to go any further than the foods we eat everyday… it works for the top competitors in the world, I’m sure it will work for you!
In this sport everyone is looking to get an edge… I realize that doing the same thing that everyone else is doing can be boring. So competitors are on the lookout for something new and exciting. This makes the conditions ripe for a slick marketing campaign (usually backed by a lot of money) to push their new diet on the public… through the internet, blogs, TV, social media etc. The idea is to expose you to it so many times that you think it’s legit (Oh yeah, I think someone posted about that new diet on Facebook the other day… it must really work). I’m sure I disappoint a lot of people when I tell them that I don’t have any diet secrets or special techniques to strip off body fat overnight… but I refuse to blow smoke up places it doesn’t belong… and i ain’t talkin about a chimmney!
Whether you are a figure competitor or any type of physique competitor - YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO WASTE TRYING NEW DIETS THAT HAVE NO HISTORY OF SUCCESS BEHIND THEM. You can get as lean as you need to be for ANY competition by eating: chicken, fish, tuna, oatmeal, egg whites, protein powder, a wide variety of vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, good fats, some fruit (not too much) and a cheat meal once a week.
First time competitors usually want to start right away talking about what the diet consists of, how much training is involved, where to get a suit from etc… Before I talk about any of that, I want to make sure figure competition is what they really want to do, because it’s not as easy as they think it’s going to be. The stress on relationships can be tremendous. Below is a video of me giving advice to first time competitors.
Saxonny is one of those competitors who doesn’t say much… sorta gets in her zone and proceeds to bust her butt during her workout, sorta gets all sweaty and stuff. Then she will quietly leave and RUN home… running home is hardcore ’cause my workouts ain’t easy! So one day I asked her what motivated her to get in shape… then her eyes lit up, it was something a friend said to her once:
“You will never get in a size 4!”
I always say that successful people are more often driven by negativity that by positive feedback… Saxonny is no different. We’ve all heard the feel good stories of “The teacher who told me I was special motivated me to accomplish great things” – Those stories definitely have their place, BUT… proving others wrong, now that feels a whole lot better and is a much better motivator! The end result: A bikini champion and NO trouble getting into that size 4 anymore!!!!
The one thing Saxonny hears that makes her skin crawl is: “It’s easy for you to stay lean because you are naturally thin” (Saxonny) “It angers me when people assume that I didn’t have to work for the body I have. It took the proper diet and workout to get in this kind of shape. People are usually shocked when they see my ‘before’ picture… then they realize how hard I had to work. Once I started working out, I began to look forward to the adrenaline rush I got from being totally exhausted after a workout or run… now I’m hooked for life!