In the world of figure competition, not only do you have to in great shape come show day, you also have to have the right amount of muscular development in the right areas; in essence to create a certain ‘illusion’ or silhouette. Contrary to the thoughts of a lot of new competitors, competing isn’t just a fat-loss contest. Some muscles are more important developmentally in figure as well. For example, the key upper body parts for a figure girl tend to be back (both lat width as well as some depth and thickness) and shoulders – without question. Of course, everything needs to be developed so as to look balanced, but these are really stand-out muscle groups. If you’ve got nice, full, round shoulders, it makes a huge difference to your overall look in your front relaxed. Throw in a really nice, sweeping V-taper and some quality back thickness/depth, and you’re sitting strong when you turn around as well.
Most often, well, I’d argue in all but a small, very small percentage of cases, people are pretty much training everything relatively equally, with the mindset of overall improvement. Most times that’s a great idea. But there comes a time when the need to focus on one or two body parts and concentrate on bringing THEM up takes precedence. We call this a specialization routine, in which the volume and frequency of the specialized muscle groups is increased while the same parameters are decreased for the remaining body parts – since during this phase, we’re just putting them on maintenance (not trying to improve them). Specialization routines tend to become more applicable the more advanced a person is in their training since it’s really hard to bring everything up at once.
This is the approach I took with with Alexandra Johnston who is incidentally under two weeks out from the North Americans and looking excellent). When we first started working together she asked me, what I would want to do with her physique; or what I felt needed improvement. Now, this is a really solid physique to begin with; tremendous lower body and a pretty solid upper body at the time too, and really nice conditioning at her last show as well. But in my opinion, those two key groups mentioned, back and shoulders, were in need of some improvement. These were the ‘missing pieces’ so to speak.
So that’s what we did. Six hardcore weeks of hammering back and shoulders three times a week with different loading parameters and workouts; essentially, tons of training volume. We then took two weeks and barely even touched back and shoulders in the gym, at least with direct work. Check out the results. The before picture is taken at her last show in May, right before we got things rolling. Check out how she looks just two months later, literally.
So what we once considered a ‘weakness’ if assessing Alex constructively, looks to now be actually her STRENGTH. That is a darn good back relaxed now, don’t you think? In addition to the improved back width and thickness you can also note the improved shoulders even from the back shots. Just as impressive is how lean she remained during the specialization.
Here’s a back comparison in the same suit.