Fitness Secrets from a Figure Competitor
With the weather warming up, who doesn't want to sport a sculpted physique and look and feel great in a swimsuit? I chatted with ACE-certified personal trainer and National Physique Committee (NPC) competitor Riana Rohmann to learn the fitness tips and tricks that she follows to get in competition-ready shape.
Jessica Matthews (JM): What exercises and training techniques are a must in your workout routine?
Riana Rohmann (RR): Lunges and shoulder presses are the two exercises that have made the biggest difference in my physique. Lunges are one of the best exercises for targeting that stubborn glutes and hamstrings tie-in. It is by far my weakest area, but since adding various weighted lunges to my routine, I have seen my booty lift and my hamstrings develop. Shoulder presses and Arnold presses using dumbbells or barbells are also really effective for shoulder strength. The key is to lift hard and heavy, and no matter how many repetitions you do, try to max out your weight. I always lift to fatigue my muscles.
JM: What does a typical week of training look like for you as you're gearing up for a competition?
RR: My plan changes weekly as I get closer to a show, but typically I keep to large-muscle-group circuit training. On Mondays I focus on upper body; Tuesday is lower-body day; Wednesday I focus on abs since training the core is so important, both for competition and for activities of everyday life; Thursday I train upper body again but do more reps with slightly lighter weights to really solidify my muscles; and Friday is another leg day, but I include more bodyweight moves like plyometrics and exercises using a TRX and Bosu. Depending on how far I am into my training, I will add arms and calves on Saturdays. For cardio I generally opt for interval training, starting at 20 minutes per day and increasing the amount as I get closer to a show.
JM: Are there any exercises or training techniques you think women can do without?
RR: I think most people can do without performing excessive amounts of high-repetition exercises using light weights and also long, slow steady-state cardio.
JM: What can women do to maximize their workout results?
RR: To achieve your goals in the most time-effective manner possible, you have to step outside your comfort zone-you need to feel it and sweat it out! When you are weight training-which everyone needs to be doing-by the time you hit that last repetition, whether it is 8, 10 or 15 reps, you need to feel the burn. You need to feel like you could not possibly do another repetition. Same rule with cardio interval training. Whether you are exercising to lose weight or improve your fitness, exercise at an intensity that makes you sweat and breathe hard-even if just for a couple of minutes-then slow it down with some active recovery and do it again.
JM: As a personal trainer, what are some of the most common misconceptions that women have about working out?
RR: You will not get bulky! Weight training with heavy weights makes you stronger, your metabolism faster, and lit helps you sculpt a leaner physique when combined with a proper diet. To this point, there are two different photos that you see in this post-one is a stage shot where I look lean and ripped, the other was taken about 18 hours before I stepped on stage, looking considerably softer and feminine. Do not be concerned by the images of women you see on stage, because that is not the norm.
I strive to lift as heavy as I can in my daily exercise routine. My body has gotten smaller, tighter, and stronger-not bulkier. The funny thing is, my weight has not changed since high school, and sometimes I am heavier but a size smaller. This brings me to the other small point of not being concerned with the scale. The best way to measure your true body changes is with progress photos and circumference measurements.
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JM: What training advice would you give to someone who is thinking about competing?
RR: Go to a show first to get a firsthand view of the organized chaos-then research the cost. As for training, focus on the weight training and avoid overtraining-make sure to give your body adequate rest. Pick a show that is far enough away-usually 10 to 12 weeks-so that you don't need to crash diet or overdo it on the cardio, a mistake that many competitors make which wreaks havoc on their metabolisms. Finally, find a coach, one that has come highly recommended from someone you know or trust ideally, and stick to their plan. Last but not least, have fun with it! Mix up your training, think outside the box, and give it 100 percent!