Build a Strong, Healthy Back

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One of the body’s largest and strongest parts, there are many benefits to having a strong, healthy back:

  • Improved Posture
  • Prevent/Decrease/Eliminate Back Pain
  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Flexibility
  • Improved Spinal Stability

The back is made up of several interconnected muscle groups, but to keep things simple, we will focus on the 4 main areas:

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  • Upper Back (Traps)
  • Rear Delts
  • Middle Back (Lats)
  • Lower Back

While the rear delts are part of your shoulder muscles, they are highly engaged in multijoint back exercises so we have included them here.

 

 

 

The Top Back Exercises

#1 Wide Grip Pull Up – This compound movement is excellent for targeting the lats while also hitting the biceps, triceps and rhomboids. The wide grip pull up will help create that V taper while also increasing grip strength. Definitely not the easiest of exercises, you can start with the assisted pull up machine or with negatives.

#2 Wide Grip Seated Row- using a wide grip allows you to target the lats while also hitting the traps, teres major and rear delts.

#3 Close Grip Seated Row – This exercise targets the mid-back, lats and lower traps.

#4 Standing T Bar Row – this exercise is great for the middle back. Avoid jerking or using momentum in this movement for best results.

#5 Bent over Barbell Row – another excellent compound movement, the bent over row  hits the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, traps, and even the biceps.

#6 Single Arm Row – this is great unilateral exercise and it allows you to emphasize on the lats while also working the upper back and traps.

#7 Back Extensions – Target the lower back with Hyper extensions or my personal favorite, seated good mornings. Keep your movements slow and controlled, form is key in avoiding injury.

#8 Deadlift – the deadlift is another great compound movement and will target all of the muscles in the back while increasing core strength as it hits all major muscle groups.

 

 

 

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Do I Need to Hire a Contest Prep Coach?

15027615_1072758956174822_1231113419248564194_n1So you’ve decided to enter a fitness competition and now your wondering, do I need a coach? Well, while I cannot tell you personally yes or no, I can offer some things to think about which can help you decide.

As a personal trainer and nutrition coach I figured I could do most of my first prep on my own while enlisting the help of friends who had competed before. Well, at about 3 weeks out I started to panic when I realized I really had no idea how to ‘cut’, when to water load, when to deplete, if I was anywhere close to stage ready and so on. Searching online, through my text books and magazines really only left me confused and overwhelmed as the information and advice is extreme and different from source to source. Plus, as you get closer to the actual competition day, things can get a little more stressful and you start to doubt yourself and your progress, making the entire process less enjoyable. So, I did some research and found a prep coach who was willing to help me at only 3 weeks out and I made top 5, qualifying myself for Provincials. Had I been able to do this without him? Most likely not.

So, with that said, unless you have the experience of preparing for a competition or just want to be on stage for the sake of being on stage without caring how you place, I highly recommend you hire a coach. Not only can they help guide you in the process, they can hold you accountable and help prepare you in what to expect on show day.

Some other important things to consider –

You are being judged in a physique competition so having another set of eyes, more so a set that knows what the judges want, is definitely going to be beneficial.

You need to consider your mental well being when prepping for a show. There is a physiological response to being in a caloric deficit for an extended period of time and the lethargy that sets in can cause a lack of mental focus and an emotional drain that can be very difficult. A coach understands this and a great coach will be there for you on those days where you feel like you just cant do it or want to give up.

Diet and supplementation are huge in prepping for a show and because everyone is different, copying a diet you found online or that a friend followed is risky. Proper nutrition before and after a show is crucial. You may believe once the competition is over you can just eat as you wish but this can have negative effects on your body, mental health, metabolism and hormones.

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So, while the decision is ultimately yours to make, if you are serious about competing and bringing your best package to that stage, it’s pretty obvious, that until you gain the necessary experience, hiring a prep coach is in your best interest. I personally will never compete in a show without a coach, even with my experience and my education in fitness and nutrition as the benefits are far to vast.

6 Tips to Make Your Fitness Resolution Stick

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Photo by Ramirez Creative

With the New Year right around the corner many of you have decided that your New Years Resolution will be to join a gym and get in shape. While I think this is a terrific resolution, less than 10% of you will actually stick to it. This happens for a few reasons, the main one being that we set unrealistic goals for ourselves and fall back into our old habits quickly.

So, lets discuss how we can avoid this and make this the year that our resolution to get fit sticks!

1. Set your goal and be SMART about it. Meaning; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time.  For example, your goal could be ‘I want to lose 20 pounds (specific) in 16 weeks (measurable, achievable, time), so I can feel confident this summer in a swimsuit (relevant). Once you have your goal, write it down on paper and place it somewhere you will see it daily. Remember to stay realistic with your goals.

2. Plan and Schedule. Decide how many days per week you want to work out (3-4 is a good start for a newbie) and schedule those days and times into your schedule. Planning ahead is key and scheduling your workouts ahead of time will keep you from using the excuse of not having time.

3. Create Healthy Eating Habits. While working out can have a great impact on your health, its important that you pair this with healthy nutrition habits as well. Eating the right foods can fuel your workout, aid in weight loss or in gaining muscle as well keep you energized throughout the day. Small meals consisting of protein and veggies every 2-4 hours, 50-75 grams of carbs after your workout, a daily dose of healthy fats and a minimum 3 liters of water per day is a good place to start. Prepping your meals ahead of time is a great way to stay on track.

4. Accountability. There are a few different ways to hold yourself accountable. You can hire a trainer, tell your friends and family of your goals or find a friend who also wants to make fitness a regular part of their lifestyle and hold each other accountable.

5. Motivation. Motivation is key and while the first few weeks into a new resolution is usually smothered in, it can fade fast. Keep your motivation up with trying one or all of these-

    • Set performance goals (hit a 1 min plank by week 2, 5 unassisted chinups by week 5 etc..)
    • Take weekly progress photos
    • Buy a new outfit one size too small
    • Enter a transformation contest

6. Find the right Gym for you! Some gyms have scheduled hours, some gyms are open 24/7. Some are female only and some have sections for just females and open co-ed areas. Some will have classes they offer for a fee or for free to members. Some gyms require a year contract while others will let you pay monthly or as you go. Its important to shop around and find a gym that will not just fit your needs but one where you will feel comfortable as well. Most gyms offer a free week or drop in so take advantage and check out a few before making any type of commitment.

BCABBA Upcoming Fitness Competitions 2017

 

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Thinking of competing or just interested in checking out a fitness competition in BC? Here is a list of upcoming shows being held by the BCABBA in 2017.

  • OPEN STREAM – Non-Tested Show
  • TRADITIONAL STREAM – Tested Show
  • You must place in the Top 3 in the Open stream or Top 5 in the Traditional Stream to move onto a Tier Two show.

 

2017 BCABBA LBMC – March 18th (New Westminster) – Open Stream, Tier One

2017 BCABBA Kelowna Classic – May 6th (Kelowna) – Traditional Stream, Tier One

2017 BCABBA BC CUP – May 20th (New Westminster) – Traditional Stream, Tier Two

2017 BCABBA Northern Classic – June 17th (Fort St. John) – Open Stream, Tier One

2017 BC Provincials Championships – July 8/9th (Vancouver) – Open Stream, Tier Two

2017 BCABBA Knight of Champions – September 9th (Surrey) – Open Stream, Tier One

2017 BCABBA Iron Ore Classic – September 30th (Prince George) – Open Stream, Tier One

2017 Vancity Showdown – October 14th – (Vancouver) – Traditional Stream, Tier One

2017 Popeyes Fall Classic – Potential Date Nov 18th (waiting on venue availability) – Open Stream, Tier One

Train Your Brain – 7 Strategies for Building Mental Toughness

train.jpgSo yesterdays post covered the Mental Aspect of Prepping for a Fitness Competition so today I wanted to follow up with some strategies for building mental toughness.

“Research tells us that top competitive athletes succeed because of their physical talents and their dedication to training. However, they also succeed because of their dexterity in dealing with the psychological pressures of a sport. In short, mental toughness and resilience are tremendously important for any athlete aiming to be the best in a sport” – Forbes

Mental toughness is about consistency and focus. Mentally tough people have created habits which keep them focused on whats important no matter what situations may arise. Its not about inspiration or motivation, as these feelings come and go, but about commitment and again, consistency!

Building mental toughness is just like building muscle, it takes time to grow and develop. So, just like you create a routine for your body, here is one you can start on to strengthen your mind.

 1. Evaluate Your Core Beliefs – we all have core beliefs, and while we may not even realize what they are, they can make a huge impact on our success or failures in life. Our core beliefs are developed over time and are mainly based on past experiences. These beliefs will create our thoughts and actions. If you doubt yourself or think negatively towards your abilities to accomplish certain goals or tasks,  you can most likely expect failure.

Taking time to identify what your core beliefs are can help you to evaluate and modify any negative or doubting beliefs. Modifying your core beliefs requires purposeful intention and work, but it can change the entire course of your life.

2. Get Focused – set your goals and stay focused on the long term outcome. Depending on your goals, some may be accomplished within days whereas others can take much longer. Staying focused on the outcome of reaching your goal can help you keep your cool when obstacles pop up. Writing your goals down, telling them to a close friend or family member can also be a great way to hold yourself accountable.

 3. Have Some Patience – anything worthwhile takes time and expecting results immediately will only leave you frustrated and potentially giving up on hitting your goals. Life is a constant work in progress so relax, and let things happen as they will. Stay focused!

4. Learn Acceptance – you cannot control every situation which arises but you can change your attitude and reactions to these situations and create a more positive outcome. Accept what you cannot control and don’t waste your energy on complaining or allowing them to get in your way of accomplishment.

5. Practice Gratitude – focus on being grateful for what you have and not on the things others have that you don’t. Be grateful for your accomplishments and the achievements you have made or will make.

6. Put things in Perspective – not all days will be perfect but keeping things in perspective can help keep this bad day from turning into a bad week or month. Mental strength allows you to see the positive and keep on keeping on when it feels as though the world is against you.

7. Stay Positive – staying positive when things get tough, don’t work out as planned or don’t happen as quickly as you like, is crucial. While some life events may seem impossible to turn into a positive experience, over time they can. Patience, perspective and acceptance can help.

 

Mind Matters – The Mental Aspect of Prepping for a Fitness Competition

indexWhile some may argue, mentally preparing for a fitness competition is probably the most important part of prep. Your mindset from the moment you decide to compete will set you up for success or, unfortunately, failure.

Why are you competing?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself and answer, truthfully. Is it because you want to prove to others you can? Your friends are doing it? While these reasons can play a small part for any competitor, if they are your main reason, you’re off to an erring start.

Now, I cannot tell you what your reasons for competing should be, these will be different for everyone but if not for yourself and your (unique) personal reasons, you may want to reconsider or at least give some more thought into why you want to compete.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

Preparing for a competition is much more than just planning out your routine, supplements and nutrition plan. Prepping for a show is an all day, every day event that can last anywhere from 8 weeks to 6 months +, depending on the competitor. Planning is crucial and includes everything from meal prep to training time to rest days, all on top of your daily regular routine of work, school, kids etc.

Life is full of distractions and stress, expected and unexpected. How do you plan on handling these situations as they pop up? Not having a plan can have a negative effect on your prep as well as leave you feeling overwhelmed and potentially lead to burnout.

Mental Resilience

is defined as an individual’s ability to properly adapt to stress and adversity”

I’ll be honest in that I went into my first competition thinking I had the mental toughness to see me through my prep at ease. Yeah, I was wrong. While it turns out I did have the mental resilience to see it through, it was only because I refused to give up and took every opportunity as a challenge to learn. Having lived with a mental illness for 15 plus years now (anxiety/panic disorder and depression), I have spent a lot of time learning to master my thoughts and doing so to my benefit, in every aspect of life. I truly believe everyone has the ability to do the same, many just do not know how or think they are already ‘mentally tough’ and until they are in a situation where this toughness is going to be tested, they really have no idea.

The best advice I can give here is if you want to step on that stage with your best package and have a positive experience no matter the outcome, don’t be ignorant to the fact that some days may be really hard. Hell, if they aren’t, you’re not doing it right!

 

Be sure to check out the follow up post Train Your Brain – 7 Strategies for Building Mental Toughness

 

Bye Bye Bat Wings! 6 Moves for Strong, Sculpted Arms

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One of the biggest questions I get asked when training is “How do I get rid of my jiggly arms?!” While this question comes mostly from my female clients, males are just as concerned about this area. So, what to do? Try adding these arm focused supersets to your fitness routine and you’ll be on your way to stronger, sculpted arms in no time.

The exercises below will be performed back to back to create a ‘superset’. Rest 30 seconds in between sets and repeat each set 3-4 times. Rep range should be between 8-12, if you can hit 13 reps, up your weight.

 

(Click the link for how to’s)

Superset #1

Dips – can be performed on a bench or dip bar. The tricep dip targets all 3 heads of the tricep making it a must have in any routine.

Narrow Grip Barbell Curl – a classic move, keep grip narrow to target the long head of the bicep.

Superset #2

Overhead One Arm Tricep Extension – this move hits the lateral head of the tricep as well as the long head, perfect for creating that aesthetically pleasing ‘horseshoe’.

Seated Concentration Curl – seated dumbbell concentration curls yield 97% biceps activity making this a perfect way to isolate the bicep muscle.

Superset #3

Reverse One Arm Cable Tricep Extensions – this move isolates the medial head of the tricep.

Wide Grip Barbell Curl – by switching your grip this exercise targets the short head of the bicep.