So you want to look like a fitness model? What does it take to get from the right picture to the left one?
I’ve always wondered just how it is those fitness models and figure competitors get so darn lean for photos and competitions.
I recognize there’s a lot of photo editing that does go on to get models looking so perfect for covers (see here: but for those gals that do decide to compete in a teensy weensy bikini, there’s not much “editing” they can do, other than to look their best, after all that diet, preparation, training, posing, tanning, etc etc.
In preparation for an upcoming photo shoot, I put myself through a temporary “cut” to drop some body fat and look leaner for the pics (more shredded, ripped, etc).
Bodybuilders always talk about “bulking” and “cutting,” so in the spirit of one of my passions, I decided I was ready to do it, and share my experience. Welcome to part 1 of 3 of my cutting journey to ripped, lean, and sexy!
The journey was truly a learning experience for me (I love data and experiments!), and I learned how rigorous the process of “leaning out” really is. After all, I’m coming off of lean bulking program, and I worked HARD to gain lean body mass (LBM) and ended up, happily, with 6 lbs of LBM gained over the course of 12 weeks, with minimal body fat. My weight post bulk was approximately 118 lbs and around 15-16% bodyfat. I initially told myself I didn’t want to drop below 113 lbs and 12% bodyfat, but I wasn’t sure exactly what numbers I would look “ready” at, so I gave myself ample time- almost 3 months!
Importantly, I was lucky enough to have found some really supportive members in both the body building and figure community, and they truly helped me dial in the physique adjustments as I got closer to my shoot date with valuable input on cardio, diet, program design, and water and sodium manipulation. It’s an art form! The goal was to maintain as much of that LBM and strength while dropping body fat. Boy, did I have my work cut out for me. And if you decide that you want to get this look, enlist a great support network. It’s among one of the many tools you may need to use, and that are discussed in further detail below.
I started dropping cals gradually in early July, making minor modifications every week. While on my lean bulk, I ate close to 3000 cals every day, and dropped cals by 150-200 each week when I started “cutting.” One month later, in early August, the scale hadn’t budged downwards one bit and I was determined to get lean and mean by mid-late September! I told myself not to get frustrated here as the scale might not be the best tool for me (i.e., the goal was not weight loss but fat loss), and it took me lots of practice (and I still am working on it!) to understand how to self-administer the calipers. Come mid-August, I get to the point where I am operating at 1000 calories less than I was consuming while on the bulking program. Aside from this, another important tool needed to be implemented, and that was…program modification.
I’ve always been a big fan of the program design described in Fat Loss Revealed’s (FLR) four day split , but had never actually tried it myself since bulking had been my main goal. But, as one awesome moderator on FLR pointed out, in order to maintain strength and LBM while cutting, a serious level of intensity had to be included in the weightlifting routine. For me, that meant shorter rest periods (hard since I was spoiled by 5X5 and 6X6 rest periods!), and rep ranges that corresponded with an intensity of 65-75% of my 1 rep max. I seriously missed operating at 80-85% of my 1RM as I did on the Hybrid program, but as I cut calories, the heavier weights and efforts get harder and too stressful on my body.
My first week on the Phase 3, FLR 4-day split begins on 08/16/2010 and is a far cry from my performance on the Hybrid. The short rest periods are kicking my tail, and the energy level from the reduced calories starts to kick in during set 3 for most lifts and especially by the end of the workout. It is MUCH more FUN to eat lots and be strong. I tell myself that the end is in sight! Here’s how the first week went:
|Machine Chest Pr||90/11||90/10||90/9||90/10||90/10||90/9|
|DB incline press||35/12||35/12||35/12||35/12||35/12||35/12|
|Flat Bench Press||75/12||75/12||75/12||75/10||70/10||70/10|
|Machine Low row||90/8||90/8||90/8|
|BB Military Press||55/12||65/8||65/8|
|Machine Shldr Press||30/14||30/11||30/8|
|DB Side Lateral||15/10||15/8||15/8||15/12||15/10||15/10|
|Seated DB Curl||20/11||20/8||20/8|
|Seated DB Curl Incl Bench||20/8||15/12||15/12|
|OH DB tric ext Seated||40/9||40/6||35/12|
|Close grip Bench||45/15||55/8||55/10|
|Standing EZ curl||40/12||40/10||40/8||40/12||40/12||40/11|
|BB Box Squats||95/12||95/12||95/12||95/8||100/8||100/8|
|Seated Leg Ext||110/15||110/10||110/8|
|Straight leg deads||115/12||115/12||115/12||115/12||115/12||115/12|
|Standing Calf Raise Smith||160/8||160/8||160/8||160/12||160/9||160/8|
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series (diet, cardio, and progress pics), and feel free to leave comments below! Thanks for tuning in!
–Sumi Singh is a Personal Trainer in Austin, TX and an online diet coach. Her website is www.shailafitness.com
Sumi Singh is an Austin-based personal trainer with nearly 2 decades of experience in fitness. She holds specializations in pre-and post natal fitness, group fitness, and sports nutrition. She’s the author of Stay at Home Strong, a complete workout program for new moms. She’s also an online diet coach, a busy single mom, has set various world, National and state records as a powerlifter, and holds an BSc from Tufts, and a Masters from Duke University.