Your A-Z of Powerlifting jargon

March 7, 2016

With my recent foray into the world of powerlifting, the content of my blog posts has changed. Just as you lot got used to “mandatory posing” and “bikini bite”, I’m throwing you for a loop with talk of “openers” and “bombing out”. Here’s my A-Z of powerlifting lingo.

(You might also like The A-Z of Bodybuilding Lingo and the weeing-into-a-cup content of The Grime Behind The Glam).

The name for each “go” at a lift. In full power (see below) powerlifting, every lifter has three attempts for the squat, then three for the bench and then three for the deadlift. You have to declare your weight for each opener at weigh in or registration. And then you declare your second attempt weight after you lift your opener, and your third attempt weight directly after you lift your second attempt.

The funny posture powerlifters get into when they set up for benchpress. Why do they do it? Because it reduces the distance between point A and B. As long as you follow the rules of your federation (usually head and bum on bench, feet flat on the floor), you can have as big an arch as you can manage. The higher the arch, the less distance the bar has to travel to the chest.

Bar’s loaded
What the referee will call out when your bar has been loaded with your desired weight. That means it’s time to get on the platform (see below) and get ready to lift.

Benchpress – the second lift of a powerlifting event. The one most people will ask about when you tell them that you go to the gym. (aka “how much can you bench press?”) Also the name of the thing you lie on to do the benchpress.

One of the few bits of kit all powerlifters will wear. Unequipped (or “raw”) usually means you can only wear a belt and wrist straps (as well as your singlet and shoes, obvs). Equipped is a whole different world, involving bench shirts and other things I know very little about.

Bombing out
If you fail all three attempts, you bomb out. You can’t continue the competition, and that’s the end for you. So if you bomb out on squat (if you fail all three of your squat attempts), that’s it. Home time for you.

What powerlifters eat a lot of.

Anything more than 5 reps in training.

Either liquid chalk, or big blocks of chalk. Powerlifters rub it on their palms (to assist with grip, and to minimise the effect of sweating), and you can also rub it across your back where your squat bar will sit, and on your upper back and bum to help you stay in place on the bench.

The silver things that go on the end of the bar, after your plates (see below). Collars are different to clips (clips are the things you probably use on your bars in the gym). Their weight is taken into account as part of the weight on your bar.

What the referee will call out during all lifts. You will be given red lights if you fail to respond appropriately. Commands include “squat” and “rack” for squat. “Start” and “press” for bench.

The third and final lift of a powerlifting comp. The one which looks the least technical, but is often the most demanding. You can lift conventional (narrower stance hands outside your legs) or sumo (wide stance, toes turned out, hands inside your legs). The bar is on the floor. You walk up to it, and pick it up until you are standing up straight. The one which usually results in the most epic facial expression in the photos.

What you must hit on your squats. It’s deeper than you think. The top of your hip-crease must be below the top of your knee. Try it next time you squat.

Dumping the bar
What you mustn’t do if you fail your squat. Dumping the bar means throwing it from your back onto the floor. This is dangerous (to you and to the spotters) and could get you disqualified. Instead, let the spotters do their job. They will know that you’ve failed the lift and will take the bar from you. No harm done.

The term for a “batch” of lifters. Similar to “wave” in triathlon.

Full power
The name for powerlifting competitions where the lifters do all three lifts. You can also have push/pull events (bench and deadlift) or single lift.

Good lift
3 (or 2) white lights show after your lift. Hooray!
One of the few ways you can fail a deadlift. Hitching refers to the small movements a lifter sometimes makes when the deadlift bar gets to mid-thigh. It’s a small stop-start movement to inch the bar up the thighs.

Hole (The)
The “hole” is the term given to the very bottom of the squat, when you hit depth. You need to be powerful out of the hole (so to speak) to successfully squat the weight back up.

Lock out
The final bit of each lift, where you make it clear that you’ve finished the lift. Particularly important for deadlift.


No lift
2 red lights, or 3 red lights. Sometimes a no lift is obvious (the person got stuck at the bottom of the squat, couldn’t press the bar, or couldn’t lock out their deadlift). Sometimes it’s less obvious (they didn’t quite hit depth on the squat).

Nose tork
Ammonia in a little bottle (essentially very strong smelling salts). Lifters sometimes waft it under their nostrils before a max attempt.

Your first lift of each exercise. Choosing your weights for openers is strategic and challenging! Open too light and you might risk having to jump up by too much weight in your subsequent lifts. Open too heavy and you risk failing the lift.

What you have to do with the bar during the bench press. It’s only a short pause (long enough for the referees to see that the bar is at your chest, and for the referee to call out “press”) but it’s very different to touch-and-go style benching.

The name for the large weights that go on the bar.

Where you lift. Usually just a small area of special flooring (to take the impact of weights). The platform will have squat rack or bench, bars, and spotters on it waiting for you to step up and make your attempt.

The bit of kit that holds your squat bar, ready for you to unrack, walk out (see below) and wait for the squat command.

Rack height

Squat racks can be adjusted. You need to go and squat the bar a couple of times after you weigh in, find out your rack height, and tell the officials so they can adjust it when it’s your attempt.

Another word for “unequipped”, this means powerlifting with no additional kit. Just a belt and wrist wraps (as well as your clothes and shoes, obviously).

The delightful outfit lifters wear.

The first lift of a powerlifting competition. You get under the bar, put the bar on your back (not too low, as per the rules), walk out, wait for the “squat” command, squat down (to depth of course), and stand back up. Do not move your feet until you hear the “rack” command.

Just regular talc, but you put it on your thighs before deadlifts to help the bar slide up smoothly and to avoid the need to hitch (see above). There’s a technique to talcing up – after all, you don’t want to get it on your palms or on the soles of your deadlift shoes!

The all-important number you get when you add up your heaviest squat, bench and deadlift of the day. If you compete full power, this is then number that matters.

Walk out
Part of the set up for the squat. The bar will be in a rack. You get underneath it and stand up to lift the bar from the rack. You then need to walk backwards so you have free space to squat down. This little walk is called the walk out. The ideal walk out is three steps: back, back, side.

Weigh in
The bit where you find out whether you should have laid off the ice-cream for a few more weeks before comp. As long as you are within your weight category, it’s OK. (For example, I lift as a “70” lifter, which doesn’t mean under-70. It means 70… or under. So if I was 70 on the day, that’s fine.) If you weigh in heavy, you have the opportunity to go and go a bit of cardio (or a poo) and try again. Or you can just lift in the next category up. If you weigh in light, you can’t move down a category.

White lights
The sight every lifter really wants to see after each attempt. There are three referees, and each of them has a “red” or “white” light button. They will press a button after your lift, to signal whether they assessed your lift as good or a fail. White lights are good. Reds are a fail. You need 3 white lights or 2 (of 3) for it to be a good lift. 2 red lights, or 3 red lights, is no lift.


How you’d describe your meet if you got all 9 lifts (3 attempts in squat, bench, deadlift) successfully.

Your A-Z of Powerlifting Jargon is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Brace Yourself: A Mass Sense Of Entitlement & Elitism Is Coming…

January 3, 2016

Ah, January.

Specifically, January in the gym. Or, out on the roads (if you’re a runner), in the pool during lane-swimming sessions, or in your favourite exercise class/bootcamp session.

Social media this week is full of whinges, whines, and passive-aggressive memes about “newbie” exercisers. The problem? Apparently they are all about to arise from their sofas (where they’ve been lazing for the past 20 years whilst us fit-folk have been #beastmode 24/7). And they’re about to have the audacity to venture into our gyms.

That’s not all! They’re going to mess things up for us for a few weeks in January (you know, using the equipment and possibly not knowing how to load a bar properly) and then they are going to GIVE UP AND GO AWAY AGAIN! (Why could that be… ?)

These gym-newbies are thus a dual source of sustenance for the gym community’s elitist comments and holier-than-thou attitude. Firstly, they turn up at the gym never having been before (remind you of anyone… like… you? And me? And indeed everybody?) Then they fail to stick it out (because, of course, they haven’t got the commitment and willpower you have. It could also be that they were put off by that sense they had of not being quite welcome. Or perhaps, just maybe, it’s because the gym isn’t for them after all).


Well, I hate this time of year. Not because of the gym newbies. Because of the attitude of gym “oldies” who posts memes like this one, and write stuff on Facebook, and then crow with I-told-you-so glee when the newbie isn’t there any more in February.

I get it, I do. It’s annoying when you turn up to squat, and all the squat racks are taken. It’s frustrating when the weights are all out and strewn around the floor. It can be irritating when you really want to use a certain pair of dumbbells and they’re being used by someone who doesn’t look like they know what they’re doing.

But I really think we need to get over ourselves.

Worst case scenario: you are doing your final workout before a competition. Or you’re someone who makes money from your sport/physique, and you can’t do the exact workout you wanted to do.

I can’t imagine there is ever a situation where there’s literally not one thing you can do in the entire gym that day. If there is, I guess you need to talk to management and tell them they’ve been ambitious with their new sales targets, or need to re-invest in kit.

Here’s what I hope I’ll be doing if any new folk decide to join my gym in January.

  1. Say hello and/or wave (depending on the Headphone scenario)
  2. Introduce myself
  3. Ask if they’re new (because I’m terrible at remembering people I’ve actually already met)
  4. Ask if they’ve come from another gym or if this is their first go in a gym environment
  5. Tell them amusing stories about the gym dog
  6. Tell them to let me know if they need a hand with anything
  7. Say goodbye and hopefully see you again soon

It’s really not difficult. I was new to the gym, once, too. I still feel unsure and a bit intimidated and nervous if I go to do a brand-new sport or type of training. And I just think it’s nice to be nice.

After all, what’s the alternative? Whingeing about how people are lazy and can’t be bothered to do anything about changing their weight, health and fitness… ? Oh wait… our industry tends to do that, too. 😉

What are your thoughts on the January gym-influx scenario? To what extent is your training affected? Have you posted that ^^^ meme and do you plan to unfriend me on FB now? 😉 (bye)

Chat with TFW on social media
Here’s where you’ll find me:

Brace Yourself… is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Prep update: what’s been going on?

July 14, 2014

It’s been a while since I blogged about this year’s bodybuilding contest prep, so I thought it was time for an update!

I’m now mumble-mumble weeks out… let’s call it “about 12” although it could be less than that, or more than that, depending on what I decide to do, which will depend on when I feel I’m ready. How’s that for vague? 😉


Training is going really well, I always enjoy my lifting sessions and am enjoying doing my own training programmes this year. I stick to the same split (same bodypart/s on the same days) but tend to mix up my actual sessions from week to week. I have some favourites which I gravitate towards, and always include big compound lifts, but enjoy trying out new things and mixing stuff up, too. I share ideas and new finds with friends (often over whatsapp, in the form of spontaneous videos using household objects in place of the barbell… LOL you know who you are!) In general I am a high-volume person, and also use things like supersets and dropsets.


Diet is going OK too, it’s tough at times of course but that’s bodybuilding dieting for you! I find it fascinating how my body holds fat differently each year. This year for instance, my quads were as lean at the start of prep as they were at about 8 weeks out last year (on skinfold) and my abs (amazingly!) have remained pretty lean. In previous years, most of my bodyfat has been on my abs. This year it’s on my triceps (standard) but also on my bum and hamstrings. Boo! Oh well, I suppose it has to be somewhere. I just hope it starts coming off soon! Everything else is definitely getting leaner. I spotted my friend Gary Gristle last week (<< this is a weird lump of gristle on one of my shoulder blades, which is only visible when I get to a certain point of leanness). Next up will be spotting the knot on the stitch of my hernia repair operation. Then we'll really be motoring!


I’m doing a lot more cardio this year than I did last year (which wouldn’t be difficult, since I did no cardio – other than powerwalking with my dog – in last year’s prep). This is partly because I genuinely enjoy it, and partly because I feel I need to extra push (I refer you back to the fat-bum comment above). I’ve been doing either off-road rides on my mountain bike (love it!) or running hill sprints (don’t love it quite so much) in the mornings, or doing a bit of “gym cardio” (usually stepper or Arc machine) after weights sessions. I prefer morning cardio, though, and I prefer doing my cardio separate to my weights sessions.

Does anyone else find that, during prep, they start to enjoy training bodyparts which are boring or uninspiring off-season? For me, that’s shoulders, and arms. I’m loving both at the mo!

Oh and I got tutted at by an elderly lady in the High Street today. I take this as a good sign! I was wearing gym kit (including sleeveless top) and she stared, patted the top of her own arm, and shook her head crossly. Cheers, lady! 😉

The amount of #gymselfies ^^^ (arrest me, social media police! 😛 ) has increased, which is also a sign that I feel I’m getting leaner. So, if you want to keep up with prep in pic form, follow my instagram. Other than that… what can I tell you? Any questions, just ask 🙂

How’s your training, racing, competing or generally being-active going? Hope you’re having a great Summer so far.

Prep update: what’s been going on? is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic

June 2, 2014

I’m shattered!

I was away last weekend at the UKDFBA (United Kingdom Drug-Free Bodybuilding Association) Caledonian Classic, a 500-mile round trip from Kent to Livingston in Scotland. I wasn’t competing, I was actually the other side of the judges’ table this time, delighted (and honoured) to be one of the panel of judges who got to scrutinise the athletes’ hard work up close. Best seat in the house! The show was the UKDFBA‘s first show outside England, and it was a resounding success with both competitors and spectators (tickets sold out weeks ago). I had a fantastic time meeting back up with some of my Team UK buddies, supporting the UKDFBA and judging. Well done to everyone.


That’s not why I’m shattered though.

Another member of the UKDFBA “family” is WNBF Heavyweight Pro and former WNBF World Overall winner Richard Gozdecki. I’m not sure how I got myself into it, but I found myself training (legs, what else?) with Big Rich early on Saturday morning before the show. He’d never trained with a female before, so he told me. I channeled my inner Beyonce and represented for all womankind.


Evidently I didn’t do too badly because Rich then suggested we train again on Sunday morning, after a long day at the show on Saturday, and before a very long drive home. Sure! I’m hardly going to pass up that kind of opportunity.

Want to know what we did? I’ll tell you. Although I should point out that we were only able to use the kit and equipment available to us (one commercial/chain gym and one hotel gym). Richard’s own gym – The Workout Mill in Leamington Spa – is his usual training ground. And Rich says to also say that we were up against the clock both times because he had to get breakfast before the kitchen stopped serving! ;D

Before I left:
I received the following ominous whatsapp

“Things you’ll need:
Hot pants or bright leggings
Lifting belt
Lifting shoes
Sick bag
Spare pair of knickers
Baseball cap (essential)
And a huge pair of balls”

Well. Hot pants would not be happening at this early stage of a diet, although I do own a fine selection of jazzy leggings. My belt perished in The Great Mould Incident of 2013. Shoes are Converse or Vibrams. Women don’t puke (we leave that to the men). We do however sometimes wee ourselves, so he got that bit right. Water and oxygen go without saying, as does the hat (I have many). And huge pair of balls is not a problem (although please rest assured I am a drug-free bodybuilder!)


Before our sessions, Richard kindly mixed me up his own blend of USN goodies so I could sample the combo he uses as a pre workout (he is sponsored by USN): anabolic nitro-X, BCAA amino gro, and glutamine.

Here’s what we did, working with the kit available, and somewhat up against that breakfast clock:

Calves and quads
– Calf raise/toe press on leg press – 2 warm up sets, then 4 x 20 working sets (heavy!)
– Rotary calf superset with stretches/standing on your toes (no idea how many sets – lots – 4-5)
– Leg extension – 2 warm up sets then 3 x 12/12 rep dropsets, then a 36 rep triple dropset (working fast on these)
– Plate loaded leg press 4-5 (?) sets of 20 reps (heavy!)
– Then the real work started: barbell back squats – 3 working sets, climbing in weight, then a triple drop set from the top weight (I got 32 reps out). Rich did 100kgs more than me and he wasn’t working at 100% 😮

– Standing dumbbell laterals to warm up, then 5 x 15/15 rep dropsets
– Explosive seated DB laterals (never done these before!) 2 sets of 12
– Cable laterals 4 x 12-15
– Giant set of 2 types of cable face pulls, then seated dumbbell rear delts (15 reps) – 4 or 5 sets of this
– Seated overhead press type machine (not sure what make) lots of sets, climbing in weight, until we really had to go so Rich could get breakfast with his Mrs!

Heaviest and hardest I’ve gone on shoulders in a long time, thank you Rich!

The following day, another of our WNBF Pro bodybuilders – Gordie Adam – who was the UKDFBA’s “man on the ground” up in Livingston, popped into the gym where we’d done legs. Apparently the staff were talking about how much of a machine I was, going at it like-for-like with Rich and smashing it. Thank you to the kind staff at Bannatyne’s Livingston. The cheque is in the post. 😉

Did you have a great weekend? Did you compete at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic, or come along to watch? Are your quads as sore as mine?

Training with WNBF Pro Richard Gozdecki at the UKDFBA Caledonian Classic is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

An A-Z of baffling bodybuilding lingo

December 2, 2013

A is for… “Ass to grass”
A rarely-seen but highly sought-after squat consisting of good and proper technique, whereby the glutes (“ass”) travel almost to the ground (“grass”) before the person completes the concentric phase of the squat (ie stands back up again)

B is for… “Broscience”
The dubious wisdom, typically based on anecdotal evidence, first-hand experience or Google searches, of bros. A bro is a male (although a first-generation of female bro can now be found) who appears to walk around with an invisible rolled-up carpet under each arm, and whose diet consists of 85% protein shakes. An example of broscience is “bro, I’ve got to drink this SuperMaxProGainzZz shake within 20 minutes of my workout otherwise I’ll go catabolic, bro, and I’ll totally lose my pump”. This youtube channel – BroScienceLife is a hilarious resource for broscience comedy.

and also for…. “bulking up”
Also known as “off-season”, the time of year when your beloved bodybuilder turns from a small, lean, wizened figure to a somewhat larger version of themselves. Some bodybuilders purposefully bulk up over Winter in a bid to add more muscle size underneath (so they’ll be larger next time they diet down to get on stage). Others just enjoy their food a bit too much after they come off their diet. Either way, how effective bulking up is as an actual strategy is open to debate.

C is for…. “Catabolic”
The hormonal state which bodybuilders fear even more than PMT. Catabolic – the evil twin of anabolic – is the state in which the body is breaking (rather than building). Of course, catabolism is actually necessary (you can’t build without a bit of breaking) but the key is in knowing how to manipulate the situation. Too much catabolism (typically through stress) is not what we’re after.

and for… “Christmas tree”
Nothing to do with getting festive, but everything to do with getting lean for a bodybuilding competition. The Christmas tree refers to the pattern created by the muscles of the back where they lay across each other: a pattern you can only see when a person is lean.

and for… “clean eating”
A term to refer to real foods, ie ones grown in the ground or sprung forth from their mother’s wombs, as opposed to processed foods made in a factory or by a marketing man. Clean foods, clean eating and the dubious dichotomies encouraged by such thinking are behind perhaps the biggest row in the health and fitness industry at the moment. Washing your food with soap will not make it clean, by the way. Buying it from a farmer’s market (or Whole Foods), apparently, will.

D is for… “DOMS”
Not specific to bodybuilders but often referenced as a dubious matter of pride. Bodybuilders love to hate (and talk about) their DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness can result in problems sitting on the toilet (after leg training).

and for… “drop set”
A method of resistance training whereby a number of reps are performed at a heavy weight, and then the weight is immediately lowered (ideally, your training partner will remove some of the weight from the bar or stack so you don’t have to get out of position) and more reps are performed. The process can be repeated a number of times until you are left wondering why you can barely get a handful of reps out at a weight lighter than your Nan’s handbag.

E is for… “ego lift”
The lift you just about manage to struggle through after an attractive/younger/new person walks into the gym just as you are about to perform an exercise. Mistakenly thinking they are a) looking at you b) have calculated how much weight is on your bar and c) care, you add just a tiny smidgen more. Because you are the bodybuilder in this weights room, bro!

L is for…. “lean muscle”
Excuse me a moment.
I’m back! I just had to stab myself in the eye with a spoon. LEAN MUSCLE?! LEAN. MUSCLE? What other kind of muscle is there? Muscle tissue is, by definition, lean. It is the meat of the body. Body fat is the fat. Then there’s bone and fluid and all manner of other things. Please, don’t talk to me about lean muscle. Unless you’d like to explain what other kind of muscle there can be?

and for “lean bulk”
I have to be honest. I don’t even know what this means. To me, the term lean bulk combines the worst of all broscience. Bulking… horrible term which is meaningless really. And the idea of a lean bulk, presumably, is one whereby the bodybuilder puts on size, all of it muscle, and none of it fat. If anyone ever anywhere in the history of time has achieved this, please let me know. I’m even more interested if it was a natural bodybuilder. Because… just… no.
See also: “quality mass”.

N is for… “natty”.
Natty can refer to peanut butter, or to bodybuilders. Both usages refer to the fact that there is nothing untoward added. Natty (“natural” or drug-tested) bodybuilders are tested – by urinology and sometimes polygraph – for banned substances. Peanut butter is not, but it’s probably a good idea to check the label for added sugars, oils and salt.

O is for… “one rep max”
Something bodybuilders rarely test, because we don’t need to (and don’t get the chance). Your one rep max (1RM) is the maximum weight you can lift for a certain lift, usually “the big three” (bench press, squat, deadlift). Bodybuilders don’t tend to train in a low enough rep range to ever really test their 1RM, and it can take so much out of you that we’re not normally willing to devote the recovery time to it.

and also for “off-season”.
ie now! The period of the time between the final competitive show in your bodybuilder’s season and the fateful day when they begin dieting for the next. Off-season typically starts the minute the bodybuilder exits stage left (“where is that Tunnock’s Tea Cake! I know I put it somewhere in my bag!”) and ends… well, that rather depends on how crazy they go in their off-season.

P is for “pump”
“Pumping iron”, “pump up”, “get my pump”… it’s all sounding slightly sexy on the gym floor but no, no, honest, we are just talking about muscles. (Does that make it worse?) The pump (the coveted pump!) refers to the swollen look a muscle takes on when it is full of blood (please, somebody pass me a shovel for this hole I’m digging myself into…) A pumped-up muscle looks rounder, fuller and harder (stop!), and therefore optimal for displaying to the judges in a bodybuilding show.

Q is for… “quality mass”
The elite standard of muscle tissue a bro embarking on a lean bulk intends to gain. As opposed to (one assumes), substandard mass. Quite how one is to assess the difference between quality mass and all-the-other-kinds-of-mass, I’m not too sure. Other than the obvious: when it’s body fat. But people intent on gaining quality mass rarely, if ever, gain any bodyfat in their quest. Ahem.

R is for… “refeed”
A bona fide nutritional protocol, refeeds are misunderstood, misused and misrepresented, often masquerading as “having a great big massive meal because I feel like it”. But bodybuilders have to give everything a label (and, when they’re dieting, have to justify every nutritional move they make). Used properly, a refeed is a meal (or part of a day) with increased calories, usually from carbohydrates, serving to boost a flagging metabolism, rebalance grumpy hormones and cheer up a dieting bodybuilder. What a refeed is not: a night out, followed by a takeaway on the way home, and then a few rounds of toast when you get in. That’s just lack of judgement (and real life!)

S is for “swole”
See “pump”. Swole – short for swollen, one assumes anyway – is to 2013 what pumped was to 1977. Often used by bros (see “broscience”) and sometimes confused with off-season.

W is for… “wheels”
A term used to refer to a bodybuilder’s legs, particularly when they are notably large or well-formed. I admit to not knowing why, other than the obvious: wheels are a method of transport, as are legs. Who knows. Some bodybuilding competitions award a “Best Wheels” prize.

and also for… “weeks out”
“Just squatted 1.2xBW ass to grass for reps, 3 weeks out”, your favourite bodybuilder might Tweet. What the bobbins are they on about now (and who cares?) Weeks out has come to be shorthand (helpful for Twitter!) for “the amount of time remaining in my diary between this day and the day on which my bodybuilding show is to occur.” Purely as an example, 3-4 weeks out is usually the roughest time for me.

What have I missed? I’ll pop it in a part 2….

An A-Z of baffling bodybuilding lingo is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks out?)

March 5, 2013

It’s been a while since I talked about training, prep or this year’s competitions, so here’s an update.

I’m currently either 20 or 22 weeks out, depending on which show I do. Sorry to be vague and cryptic but I’m not 100% sure yet, and I won’t be revealing the show til a lot nearer the time anyway (although those of you with the various federations’ calendars at hand will be able to work it out fairly easily!)

I’m still working with Vicky Bradley and everything is going really well, I’m very happy with progress and excited to see how things turn out.

I’ve been under Vicky’s small but surprisingly muscular lats for nearly seven weeks now. I’m onto my second lot of training sessions with her – the first block focused on my bigger lifts, great technique, lower reps (very low for me!), working out just how much weigh I can handle and getting some more muscle on me. This new block of training is bringing in work which will bring more balance and shape to my physique.

Progress is being made: not only do I look and feel better, but I’m getting stronger, and the stats are there in black and white. In six weeks I’m down:

We think about 4.5% body fat from Vicky’s calipering.
2.3cms hips
6cms waist (!)
5cms chest/back

The only thing which hasn’t budged is arm measurement, although body fat/skinfold has come down.

This is from about 3 weeks ago…

This is from last Sunday at a BNBF club/meet at Body Bionics Gym

As is this….

I’m in the gym four days a week:
Saturday – deadlifts, hamstrings, glutes, back and calves
Sunday – chest and triceps
Tuesday – back and shoulders
Wednesday – squats, quads and calves

And doing posing practice, stretching, foam rolling and postural/remedial work a couple of times a week at home. No cardio (other than two fast dog walks of about 45 mins every day).

Eating (I can’t really call it dieting yet!) is simple and enjoyable. Lots of meat, fish, eggs and veg, good fats and veg (including spuds). The plan is to slowly bring bodyfat down to a reasonable “year round” level, teaching me and my body good, sustainable habits along the way. Never mind the comp, this is about finding habits and routines which work for me and can then work for me all year round. Then, from there, we’ll worry about “prep diet”. But the idea is that, by then, there won’t be a huge amount to lose anyway.





How about you – how’s your training going? 🙂

Bodybuilding prep update (20 weeks out?) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

What I learned from the Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar

February 17, 2013

A few weeks ago, I went up to Stoke to attend a
seminar led by Phil Learney, PT/trainer/coach who currently works at UP Fitness. The topic of Phil’s two-day seminar was Fat Loss and Performance, and I went along in the interests of personal development and general interest (I think everyone else there was a coach or PT of some sort).

It was a fascinating weekend and I learned so much (and also had my thoughts and ideas on some things clarified or confirmed). I admit it was all quite full-on for my non-PT-brain but I think I more or less kept up 😉 Phil is a really great presenter/lecturer and made sure the content was tailored to the group and everyone’s questions were answered.

I thought I’d write a short round-up of the things which really stood out for me, or were new to me, or have particularly stayed with me now it’s been a few weeks since the seminar. It’s going to be a bit of a brain-dump, but I’m happy to try and answer questions in the comments, or you can find Phil on Facebook and Twitter, he’s very good at answering questions. (He also has a very good blog which covers a lot of the points below in greater detail).

The seminar covered body types and assessment (of clients), nutrition, specific protocols including carb cycling, carb backloading and fasting, optimal feeding patterns, hydration, health (from the inside out), training protocols, contest prep and tons more!

Here’s what I took away from it…

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing”
“Only a fool never changes his mind”
– Body type assessment using somatotypes and phenotypes (I think this was kind of “client assessment 101” for most of the people in the room but it was a fascinating start for me!) (I am totes a mesomorph… of course.. what’s that? You too? 😉 )
– “We aren’t what we eat; we’re what we digest” – the importance of food quality, gut health, digestion
– The importance of protein turnover (the balance between protein synthesis and protein breakdown) – the more we break down during training, the more we have to synthesize to maintain an anabolic environment
– Leucine! We should look to take in 3.2g leucine (minimum) per protein serving. Phil then showed a fascinating table, demonstrating how much we’d have to take in of a few different protein sources, in order to get 3.2g leucine. 230g chicken (237 kcals/53g protein), 190g steak (375 kcals/54g pro)… 1070g (yes, more than a kilo!) pork (1223 kcals/224g protein). There’s a reason why bodybuilders eat chicken and steak! And I’m glad I’ve never liked pork…
– The importance of kidney health, what poor kidney health means for the rest of the body/its functions, and how we can boost renal function
– The massive importance of fluids and electrolytes (something I know I’m guilty of ignoring – but not any more – a review of elete electrolyte drops to come on the blog!)
– Endocrine (hormone) manipulation and macronutrient (protein, carbohydrate, fat) intake and why this is so important/beneficial (hugely interesting to me as a natural bodybuilder)
– In fact everything Phil said about the endocrine system, the “master hormone” (insulin), leptin, ghrelin, the thyroid hormones and how they all relate to creating/maintaining anabolic growth was great.
“We build, or we break” – referring to everything we do in training/nutrition for physique/strength/performance sports being either anabolic (regenerative) or catabolic (degenerative).
– A lightbulb moment was when Phil said something which most attendees probably thought very simple and basic: he pointed out that achieving a lean and muscular physique, particularly for natural females, is more about retaining (and fiercely guarding!) the muscle we have got (especially as we diet down) rather than constantly thinking about building more. He likened it to finances: you could say you want to earn £10K more next year. Why not spend £10K less? Same outcome, different outlook.
– It’s about preservation – decreasing catabolism – as well as growth/anabolism…
“Why diets can’t work”… a look at why the “calories in vs calories out” model really misses the point, and discussing what happens to key hormones when we restrict calories. “A report in the April 2007 issue of the American Psychologist showed up to 66% of individuals following the caloric model of weight loss end up fatter two years later than they were when they started the diet. Any other model, in any other discipline, with a failure rate this high would have been discarded long ago and labelled as useless.”
– An in-depth look at various nutritional protocols with a view to stabilising insuling for optimal hormone management (and the male and female responses to each)
– A look at advanced nutritional strategies including carb cycling, food rotation, refeeds/”cheat meals” and when/how/why you might employ these
– On training, the discussion about absolute strength and the force equation was really interesting to me (and reinforced what I already know about my woeful lack of power and acceleration!)
– The practical work we did – on glute activation, hip/glute mobility, squat and bench technique and force/acceleration were an eye-opener and have really added a great deal to my own sessions.

What I learned from the Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

An exciting weekend ahead (Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar)

January 25, 2013

Right, that’s me done for the week. I’ve got a lot to do this evening and an early start tomorrow as I’m off up to Stoke (from Kent) for a weekend seminar led by Phil Learney.

Phil’s a PT, trainer and prep coach who currently works out of UP Fitness in London. I’ve been reading his blogs for ages and love what he has to say and the way he presents it. When I heard about this workshop, I decided to book on.

Here’s what Phil recently wrote on Facebook about some of what we can expect from the weekend (please note there are no longer five places remaining!)

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 17.09.30

(Bit small – sorry – you can click to enlarge if you like)

Right up my street!

I’ll be meeting up with a few friends in the industry, training at the Cave (where the seminar’s being held) and generally absorbing ideas and knowledge all weekend long. I can’t wait – I think my head might explode from all the learning, but I can’t wait!

Right, I’m off to prep two days worth of food and pack it all up ready for the weekend.

An exciting weekend ahead (Phil Learney Fat Loss & Performance seminar) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

New music for the gym – free playlist

January 23, 2013

I don’t know about you but I need music when I’m lifting: preferably transported directly into my earholes from a good pair of very large noise-cancelling earphones.

I feel better when I train to a soundtrack: stronger, more focused, more ready to attack the lift.

So it was interesting to read a well-timed press release today:, the music streaming site, has teamed up with neuroscientist Dr. Jack Lewis Ph.D. to look at how music affects the brain and plays a valuable part in helping us stick to fitness plans.

Screen shot 2013-01-23 at 15.12.22

Dr. Lewis has put together an ergogenic playlist which is exclusive to, and it’s available for free download (until January 31st) as part of a 7-day trial. It’s been designed to help fire you up and keep you focused.

I’m forever putting together new playlists for the gym, so I asked Dr. Lewis for his top five tips:

1) If you’re looking for both motivation and relaxation, try classical music
“Energetic but not overly fast classical music can be ideal in the gym. Not only does upbeat music increase speed, strength and endurance, but the relaxing qualities of classical appears to reduce heart rate, blood pressure and lower perceived exertion. In addition, relaxing music has been shown to lower levels of cortisol in the body, the hormone associated with stress.”

2) Listen to music before exercise to get ‘in the zone’ like an Olympic athlete
“Listening to upbeat music (around 120-130 bpm) gets your brain into a highly aroused state. Music at this tempo or above stimulates the Reticular Activating System, the part of the brain that increases alertness and prepares the body and mind for action. Technologic by Daft Punk (128 bpm) would be a good choice here”

3) Choose songs that are ‘beautiful to your ear’
“Try to choose songs that mean something special to you personally – ones that remind you of something motivational or inspiring. This could perhaps be a song from a favourite movie or a track that reminds you of a great holiday with friends. Research shows that the premotor cortex, an area of the brain involved in planning sequences of movement, is stimulated when subjects have been played music that is beautiful to their ear.”

4) Match playlist tracks to desired heart rate for optimum results
“It is important to match your tunes to your desired heart rate. Musical beats robustly stimulate an area of the brain called the basal ganglia which initiates movements and also has recently been found to increases crosstalk between areas responsible for generating hearing and movement. This may be why we have a natural tendency to match the energy of our movements to the beat.”

5) Bear in mind that motivational music is especially important for women
“In tests, women were able to perform more repetitions in a medley of different exercises relative to men when motivational music was playing. We’re not certain why this is as yet, but it may help explain why exercise classes often have a female majority.”

His point no 2 is my excuse for the fact that I can often be seen bellowing tunefully in my car on the M20.

I just downloaded the free playlist and will try it out… It’s got 11 tracks, and has been structured to build in bpm throughout your training session. Looks like it’s got a bit of MJ, some Swedish House Mafia, good old Baby D, Tinie Tempah, Rizzle Kicks and even some Johnny Cash! If you give it a go, let me know what you think!

Just go to, download the (free) app (apple, windows 8 devices or android), and use the code HOLIDAY2012 to get seven days of free access to 18 million tracks. It ends January 31st 2013.

After the seven day free trial is just 99p per month for the first three months, then £4.99 per month after that.

Right, I’m off to go clubbing with Dr. Lewis. Boom shake the room!

New music for the gym – free playlist is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

New moon, new beginnings

January 14, 2013

Lovely little new moon out there tonight; have you seen it? (This intro does not apply to anyone reading this from the Southern hemisphere).

It prompted me to tell you about the new start I made this week: with a new coach!

I’m very happy to have been taken under the lean and muscular wing of Vicky Bradley, a Personal Trainer and prep coach based not too far from me here in Kent.

I’ve know of Vicky for ages (she’s a BNBF Figure competitor, and actually won her Pro Card with them in 2010) and is very active on Twitter and Facebook. We started chatting a few months ago and then, when I realised that I was in the right place to start working with someone again, I approached her and asked her if she’d take me on.

A long phone call later, and I felt sure Vicky was the right coach for me at this time. She’s been there, done that, and gone through most if not all of the issues! She knows what it’s like to diet, prep, train and navigate off-season as a natural female competitor. And she came very highly recommended (not just for training and diet, but for “getting it”.)

So I went to see her last week, we had a nice long consult, she took my stats (and photos… in a competition bikini… !) and we chatted about everything I wanted to achieve.

So, I’m now working with Vicky in the long-term. We’ve got two distinct goals: firstly, to get me into a good, healthy, sustainable diet/nutrition routine which gives my body everything it needs to build and retain muscle whilst slowly dropping fat. Perhaps as importantly, Vicky’s diet plan challenges me to eat in a more structured way. Previously, I’d eat very well for a few days, then end up undereating either because I was busy, or preoccupied, or thinking I was eating enough (when I wasn’t) and then inevitably a few days later I’d find myself overeating. It was all very unstructured – which is fine, if you’re in tune with your hunger cues. And I’m not at the moment, and we need to train my body back into being in tune with itself.

And secondly, to prep me for stage later in the year! 😀 (More on that later but let’s just say – you ain’t seen nothing yet!)

So my diet for the next few weeks is small, regular meals, not leaving me long enough between meals to feel like I’m missing out, and reintroducing stuff I’ve previously been avoiding (“I can’t have peanut butter in the house!”) because I assume I’ll just eat it all in one go. I get to eat it every day now (just not very much of it), so I can chill out! 😉

Vicky’s also doing my training, and she’s challenged me there, too (<— sign of a good coach if you ask me). No cardio. Less volume. Lower reps. One less day in the weights room (to be replaced by postural work, which is badly needed). Vicky agrees wholeheartedly with my physique goals and thinks that what I want to achieve is perfectly doable, but she’s also identified key areas in which I’m weak, lacking or am just simply not connected.

We're approaching this year in three stages. First of all, a "lifestyle" diet, getting me into good habits and dropping some fat, and a consistent approach to training, using lots of compound lifts and lower rep ranges. After that will come prep, bringing me down from what will (hopefully by then) be not a million miles from stage weight and condition anyway. And after that? Yes, Vicky is already thinking about how she can help me with my next off-season.

Ah… it all feels very positive, calm and exciting!

Here’s to 2013. What plans have you got for fitness, training or competing?

New moon, new beginnings is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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