1. Diasta-what-the…?! Diastasis Recti. If you’ve been pregnant, there’s a good chance you have some (abdominal separation).
The last time I hit stage, there was abdominal protrusion I did my best to mask. I de-emphasized any side views and transitioned from front to back as quickly and directly as possible. My signature side pose B.D. (Before Desiree) was no longer a winning pose for me.
As you can see below, I was able to hide the issue well in my front pose (far left), which is the primary pose judged for the front side of the body. But, as you can see, from left to right, the belly protrusion was more apparent in my finishing pose and quite apparent in my transition!
Since I competed so soon after delivering (Desi was 16 weeks old), I assumed that the protrusion was temporary as my uterus continued to shrink back to “normal”. However, now as my daughter turns three, I realize there’s more at play. I will be exploring this issue in the weeks ahead, so if you suffer from mommy tummy, a pooch or anything less than desirable in the mid-section, stay tuned. One thing I will not be doing is “squeeming”…see next.
2. Squeem at your own risk.
A lot of bikini competitors and female celebs are bringing back the ancient waist torture device a.k.a. the corset. Consider your body as a tube of toothpaste. Squeeze the toothpaste in the middle and the toothpaste doesn’t disappear, it moves into other sections of the tube. Same thing when using a corset. You simply squeeze your fat above or below the corset temporarily. More worrisome is any permanent displacement or squishing you can cause to your intestines and other vital organs as well as the reformation of your rib cage. If you’re still on the fence or not convinced, I recommend reading this article: The Truth About Waist Trainers.
3. TVA all day!
Your Transverse Abdominus (TVA) is the key muscle to activate when trying to trim your waistline. Arnold made the stomach vacuum method well-known and the aesthetic standard for bodybuilding. This is the teeny tiny waistline we all covet and a “core component” of my strategy to address #1 as well.
One of the best exercises you can perform to shrink your waistline in a very short amount of time. Many can knock 2 to 4 inches off their midsection in as little as 3 weeks with this technique.” ~Karen Sessions
4. Continuing on… do not bother with direct abdominal or calf exercises until having sub-20% body-fat (women) or sub-10% body-fat (men) is on the 6-month horizon.
Compound lifts are your best tool for lowering body fat due to the recruitment of multiple muscles (particularly large muscles…) and the higher caloric expenditure that brings. Your metabolism is assisted by building (or preserving) muscle tissue throughout the body. Until body fat levels are low enough, you will not see any visible results from training abs or calves. And, without lowering body fat adequately, you may not be happy adding muscle tissue in these areas as it will make them look thicker!
Remember…you can’t spot-treat fat, so abdominal or calf exercises are neurotic, not effective, at ridding “love handles” or “cankles”.
5. Rep Range matters.
8-15 is a good rep range to keep in mind when you’re lifting. Higher rep ranges don’t lead to “longer” muscles, “leaner” muscles, or “tone” vs. “bulk”. You either fatigue a muscle or you don’t by the end of a rep range. When the rep range goes too high, the exercise becomes less about building muscle and more about muscular endurance or cardio. This is the way to think about BodyPump. You may build a little muscle tissue initially — particularly, if you’ve never strength-trained before, but you will plateau in that department pretty quickly. BodyPump is an excellent way to stimulate the muscles throughout the body and burn heaps of calories. To develop muscles in strategic areas, though, dedicated strength-train you must. For these sessions, really work to get to fatigue by the end of your 8th-15th rep. Work with a trainer or training partner who can assist you, safely guide, and encourage you through fatigue.
6. Do NOT wear a lifting belt during BodyPump!
As a corollary to #5, don’t belt it in BodyPump. Trust me, I tried twice…ouch! Due to the high-rep nature, the lifting belt caused me sharp lower back pain and reduced my Range of Motion (ROM) in squats by the third continuous set. In my traditional lower-body lifting day, it worked effectively to reduce the core recruitment without any pain.
Here’s why. When we squat, lunge, dead-lift, etc., we utilize our core. The heavier we lift, the more that core develops…and oft-overdevelops. Working our core is in and of itself a good thing, but, for the aesthetics of bikini, we’re trying to create the look of a teeny tiny waist alongside a big ol’ booty. A lifting belt helps us reduce the firing up of the core as we fire up the glutes. When we train as high-rep as BodyPump, firing up the core is a necessary component.
7. Get rid of the cardio “training wheels” as much as you can.
These are the handles, railings, and screen around the cardio equipment. Only hang onto them when necessary…like when your calves are insanely sore! But, when they’re not, limit their involvement in your workout. These safety features will limit the work, intensity, and, quite likely, sacrifice your posture and form in the process. I’ll be talking more about cardio next week, so stay tuned!