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Training Like a Fitness Pro E-mail
Written by Laura Mak   


Sports specific training is essential in any sport regimen. I have been an athlete all my life but I have had to change my training as I competed in different sports. Although I was competitive in dance, elite level and collegiate gymnastics, and Olympic weightlifting, I am most known for competing as an IFBB Fitness Pro. My body has changed through the years as I have adapted my training and nutrition to meet the needs of my specific sport.

Since earning my IFBB Pro Card by winning the 1998 NPC Nationals, I have incorporated the knowledge I have gained from earning my masters degree in exercise science as well as credentials from the NSCA's Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist program. I have eleven years of personal training experience in which I worked with a variety of clientele, men, women, athletes, professionals, and seniors. I have worked with some of the top trainers of the industry. I have taken the best from their programs and blended it with my own training experience to create a winning fitness program that works. 

My favorite part of preparing for a fitness competition is the routine round. This round has always been my strength, but it is only one portion of training a fitness athlete must endure.  The other parts include, weight training, plyometric training, cardio programs, and nutrition.

Weight training is so important to be sport specific for fitness. This means a fitness athlete should train like a fitness athlete and not a bodybuilder. Her weight training should include more quick movements and with less rest in between. It should consist of several exercises back to back with little or no recovery time between. The heart rate should remain elevated through out the weight training session.

My sessions are typically a quick and efficient 30-40 minutes long. I have found a short and specialized four or five-day a week weight training program will change the body and increase the stamina. I do four to six exercises per body part, depending on how far out from the contest I am. I do abs every weight training, but I make sure to include a variety of exercises and vary the repetitions and speed. Typically, I do my abs during my "active rest" period. For example, I like to do two exercises then my abs for my active rest before repeating the exercises again. This allows rest time for the muscles I am concentrating on that day, and also enables me to train the abs throughout the session instead of the end of a training period.

Plyometric training is an integral part of a fitness athlete's training program. This type of exercise should only be executed once or twice a week during a six to eight week period. I do not do any plyometric training the week before the competition. Plyometric exercises are anaerobic, meaning it is performed without oxygen. This type of training should not be incorporated in the first few weeks of training. It is too taxing on a body that is not already conditioned. This type of training consists of a variety of exercises such as jumping, sprinting, leaping and bounding. An athlete may do three to five different plyometric exercises during a session. That is enough to generate results. All of these movements are performed at a high intensity for 30-60 seconds at a time. The recovery period between plyometric exercises should be about one to two minutes depending on the condition of the athlete. This should be enough time to allow the heart rate to return to normal or slightly above.

The cardio portion of fitness training typically consists of a daily one to two hours of cardio. For fitness contest training, the more intense the cardio the better the results. It is imperative to mix up the cardio routines. I have discovered that the treadmill on an incline works great for hips and legs. Running is another excellent form of cardio but for me, it was more difficult on a regular basis since I have foot injuries. If an athlete likes running it should be a consistent part of their cardio one to four times a week. Some of my other favorite machines are the gauntlet, stair climber, recumbent bike and the elliptical with the moving arms. I have found that interval training by varying the intensity and level on each of these machines not only provides better results by burning more calories, but also makes the cardio session go by faster. Remember if you are switching machines during the cardio session, move quickly so you keep your heart rate elevated. If you take too long or rest in between, this breaks the aerobic cycle your body is striving to achieve.

Lastly and most importantly is the nutrition. It is the most difficult component of reaching that competitive fitness physique. All meals must be eaten on a regular schedule. Ideally an athlete should eat at the same times during the day every day of the week. The body does not know the difference between Monday and Saturday, so try not to sleep in and change meal times on the weekends. When the athlete stays consistent with her eating times, it will help increase metabolism and efficiency of the body.

I like to plan out my meals for the week. I look at my daily menu as well as my weekly menu. By planning my menus, it helps me when I do the shopping and cooking for a few days at a time. I buy fresh meats and vegetables and prepare enough food for one two days at a time. It is important to eat a variety of protein, carbohydrates and lots of green vegetables. Yes, we all have our favorite foods, but if you include a wide variety of clean foods, this will enable you body to keep a higher metabolism. If you eat the same items, the body will know and could slow its metabolism. I always keep extra protein powder with me when I am working, even if I have my scheduled meal with me. I have found it is worse to skip a meal or cheat than to have an extra meal on hand. It is easy to carry protein powder, which mixes instantly with water. This way, if I have an extra appointment or I am stuck in traffic, I am not tempted to make bad food decisions.

The reality is competitive fitness is time consuming, but the rewards are amazing. If you want to be a fitness athlete you have to train like a fitness athlete. In the upcoming issues I will be giving you more specific training tips for the routine rounds, weight training, plyometric training, cardio programs, and nutrition. .

About the Author 

Muscle Mag Fitness fitness expert Laura Mak
Laura Mak 

Laura Mak is a fitness and health expert at where she regularly writes about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness and figure competitions, nutrition, and yoga. Laura is a highly sought after personal trainer, and also owns a successful online company called, offering health and fitness eBooks, fitness equipment, apparel and offers customized personal training services.




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