There's nothing that says "figure or fitness competitor" like a wide upper back, a nice set of boulders for delts, and a teeny-tiny waist! So, competitors, athletes, and ladies alike who just want to achieve that coveted look, then read on!
I have created a workout to get you started on sculpting your physique into that x-shape figure that's so desired for competition! It won't happen overnight, but with consistency and progression over time, it will happen!
It's important to start your work out with a dynamic, full body warm up; most workouts prescribe 'any' activity for 5-10 minutes, such as the treadmill, or heaven forbid, the recumbent bike; not us figure girls, we need a full body, heart elevating, warm-up to keep our bodies tight all over, and to get our heart rate elevated fast, and to keep it up there for most of the work out.
This is a training technique I use on myself and clients, that is, keeping the exercise heart rate up as much as possible during the entire workout, not only during the warm-up phase, but also during the active working portion of the training. This also means keeping rest periods brief, and I mean very brief!
I don't give long rest periods very often, usually less than 20 seconds; and my clients will tell you, as will I... this is very effective in raising the body temperature, metabolism, hitting excess fat, and quickly getting results.
Now, this doesn't mean doing four sets of biceps curls with no rest; the method I use is to either move back and forth from one exercise to another, that utilize totally different muscle groups, as we work one, the other is resting; or to utilize slightly less weight, and extremely short (less than 20 seconds) rest periods. We will be using both methods here.
The key is to always keep moving, active rest as its known is just that, staying active even during the rest periods, if there are any. So if the rest period is deemed to be longer than 20 seconds, an alternate active rest movement will be added.
This after many months of consistency and clean eating will provide you with a smaller, tighter, leaner, more muscular physique. This is the 'look' that is preferred in the figure industry now; a smaller, tighter, lean and slightly muscular physique.
Heavy Or Moderate Weight?
Back in the early days of figure, cirque 2000, competitors were much like tiny, jacked bodybuilders, coming in with separated quads, huge biceps, a full 6-pack, and striated and capped deltoids; well no more, although this type of physique is beautiful and the one I want to have, this will not get you a decent placing anymore.
It isn't necessary to lift large amounts of weight, and rest the standard 1 to 2 minutes for a figure physique; this will give you a 'bulkier', squarer shape; at the same time we don't use the 2, 5, or even the 8 lb neoprene dumbbells, ever.
A light to moderate amount of weight for this routine will work, as it provides little rest, so no max weights here; very good form, and progressive overload are the tools to make this program work for you.
All it takes is time, some discipline, and then an @ss-kicking, no rest, moderate weight circuit is the sure-fire way to get your upper body into show condition, so get ready girls and read on!
No-Nonsense Figure Workout
Frequency: 2 times per week; use workout A on your first upper-body day of the week, and B on the second upper-body day that week; allow at least 48 hours apart from each other.
- Duration: 45 minutes or less
Full-Body Warm Up
Use this warm up both days.
- 2 sets of 20 Burpees, resting less than 10 seconds between sets.
- 2 minutes Jump Rope; speed skips (faster than normal jump rope pace)
*If you must use a 'machine' to warm up, you may use the Versa Climber only as it works the entire body.
Using an assisted pull-up machine, or standard pull-up station without assistance, begin with a wide overhand, thumb-under-bar grip; without using momentum, pull your bodyweight up to chin height then lower back down only 90 percent of the way; if you lower too far you may not be able to get back up to the top again.
Cross the ankles at the bottom if this helps keep your body from swinging too much. Move on to a regulation grip, knuckles forward in front of the body, and then to a narrow, palms-facing-inward grip; the execution is the same for all three versions of the exercise.
Lying Prone on the t-bar machine, grasp the bars with a neutral or overhand grip, whichever is most comfortable. Pull the bars straight back, maintaining constant contact with the bench you're lying on, squeezing the shoulder blades at the top of the exercise.
Rope Cable Curls
Using a rope attachment and a hammer style grip, stand firm, elbows at sides without swinging curl the rope attachment up and when you feel the contraction in the bicep at its hardest, stop, squeeze, and then release and repeat.
Dumbbell Front Raises
Sit on the end of an exercise bench, feet right under knees. At the start the dumbbells should be hanging down loosely at your sides. Raise each arm straight up and out to shoulder height, without bending at the elbow; then carefully lower the weight and repeat. Don't swing the dumbbells!
Hold a small 4lb medicine ball at chest height; do not hug the ball to the body, just hold it at the diaphragm/top rip, elbows out, keeping eyes straight forward at all times. Sit straight up, and then when descending back down, keep back straight. Don't let your shoulders round out during the movement. Exhale as you raise your body up each time, inhale as you lower.
3 sets of 8-10 reps
- Lying T-Bar Row
3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Cable Hammer Curls - Rope Attachment
3 sets of 9-12 reps
- Front Dumbbell Raise
3 sets of 9-12 reps
4 sets of 12-15 reps
This routine will be done in 'superset' fashion. You will perform all exercises in each superset block, back-to-back with no rest at all, continually until all sets are done, and then you will actively rest for 45-60 seconds ~ during which we will utilize a jump rope for active rest even during these periods. This is the more challenging upper body day of the week as the cardio component is quite high.
- Side Lateral Raise
2 sets of 10 reps
- Lying Triceps Press
2 sets of 10 reps
- Cable Crunch
2 sets of 10 reps
A Few Side Notes
Make sure to have sufficient water before, during, and after this exercise, especially in these hot summer months!
Having a small amount of protein (the size of a deck of cards) and a half serving of rice, sweet potato, or fruit (2-3 oz max!) if not prepping for a show right before and right after your workout will greatly aid in your performance, mood and recovery.
Make sure to listen to your body, if you are new to supersetting and no rest, don't go crazy the first workout; it is very demanding cardiorespiratory work, and your body will thank you for it!
Add me as a friend on your BodySpace Profile, and then drop me a line and let me know how this work out helped you! Safe and Happy training to you!
- ACSM Resource Manual; 2007
- YMCA Fitness Specialist Manual; 2004-05