From 10th Place TO FIRST Here’s How I Did It!
No Nonsense Magazine 2015 Collection
By: Nicole Phinney
At a Glance: Nicole Phinney
Family: Fiance, Daughter, 6; Son, 3
Occupation: Director of Sales and Marketing, Total Nutrition Shop, Sheffield Village, OH
Residence: Cleveland, Ohio
Years training: 3
Weight: 128 (off-season), 117 (contest)
Favorite Bodybuilding or Fitness Meal: Flank Steak, Sweet Potato, Grilled Asparagus with Salad
Favorite Supplements: Glutamine Select and Muscularity!! They were integral to maintaining my muscle mass while leaning down. The pharmaceutical grade quality ensures great results.
What would you recommend to someone who has never used Beverly supplements before? Hands down I would recommend they start with UMP! It tastes delicious and is second to none with regards to nutritional benefits.
In my CD player: Rob Bailey and the Hustle Standard
Hobbies or interests outside of bodybuilding: Baking (watch out for my chocolate chip cookies!!)
Words to live by: "The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results." - James Dean
“People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” - Maya Angelou
My journey started on May 14, 2011, when my then husband turned off the car while the windshield wipers were still on, leaving them stuck in the middle. This action filled me with such fury that I literally exploded hours later with the birth of my second child via C-section, two weeks ahead of schedule. As with my first child, I had gestational diabetes. I had spent the last five months visiting doctors weekly, checking my sugars multiple times a day, eating on a strict nutrition plan, and giving myself insulin shots (something I had avoided with my first pregnancy). When all was said and done, I waddled into the hospital at 160lbs on my 4’11” frame and unfortunately, I did not give birth to a toddler.
Six weeks after my son arrived, I decided it was time to get my body back. I was going to do something insane; I was going to go to the gym. Nervously, I placed both of my children in the “child watch” center and I ventured into the gym wilderness. I immediately mapped out the “safe” areas which left me with the cardio machines and the group fitness classes. I tried many classes including Zumba, Aerobics, and Step. I wasn’t particularly enjoying myself in these classes nor was I very good (once the step instructor had to stop the entire class because I was so off-tempo)! I persisted and finally found a class that I actually enjoyed and did not require any K-kick, jump over step or grapevine combos. The class taught basic weightlifting, and I gradually moved my way up from the 2lb dumbbells. Over time, I began to feel more comfortable and I took the next step. I ventured out of my “safe” zone and into the machine area.
I started going to the gym in July and by October I had exhausted my training knowledge base, but still craved more, so I hired the gym’s personal trainer. She suggested that I set a goal for myself, and I very naively decided to compete in a Bikini competition the following March. The more I trained, the more I fell in love with the sport and the harder I pushed. I started taking progress photos and they added fuel to my fire. Eight weeks before my competition, I decided to switch divisions and set my sights on competing in Figure and I made what has come to be one of my fitness journey’s greatest decisions; I hired Dave Liberman as my trainer.
Our short timeline meant Dave had to teach me a completely new way of looking at fitness and nutrition, and quickly. (Needless to say, it was a tough 8 weeks.) This is when Dave introduced me to the incredible Beverly International products. Combining my new meal plan, lifting style and Beverly products, I was able to achieve the leanness necessary for Figure in eight weeks.
Through the process of leaning down it became apparent that there had been some serious damage to my abdomen from my pregnancies beyond the normal abdominal separation. The leaner I became, the more pregnant I looked. If I laid on my side my abdominals would sort of slump over in a mushy mass. Many hours were spent sobbing in frustration. I was in the best shape of my life but there I was looking 3 months pregnant and about to step on stage! I consulted with a surgeon and discovered that regardless of how many abdominal exercises I did, the damage could only be repaired surgically. He actually said that he had never seen a patient with this much damage but who could also flex their abdominals into a six pack.
Despite the abdominal difficulties, I had committed to a goal and was going to follow through. My daughter, who was 3 at the time, had grown to recognize my change in lifestyle. I wanted her to see her Mommy as a strong and dedicated woman. I hit the stage for the first time weighing 94lbs on March 23, 2012 and again one week later for the NPC Natural Ohio. I had followed Dave’s training, the nutrition schedule, and supplementation with Beverly International precisely and came in looking in the best shape of my life!
I finished 10th out of 12 girls. I stepped off stage after being in the last call-out, destroyed a chocolate chip cookie (or a dozen) and cried. What made it worse was that I still had to go back on stage for the night show. (Bodybuilding competitions are broken into two parts, the morning prejudging and the evening awards show.) I could have left, but I couldn’t let myself not finish. I took the afternoon to lament in self-pity. I pulled myself together and went back to the evening show with the attitude that it was time to celebrate my accomplishment of stepping on stage in the best condition of my life!
Two days after competing in the NPC Natural Ohio, I was rolled into the operating room for an abdominal-plasty. As it turns out, my abdomen had not only separated medially, but also horizontally. Originally, we thought that I had a hernia, but it was discovered that the abdominals surrounding my belly button had completely torn apart as well. The surgeon had to stitch my abdominal wall back together twice during surgery. It had been almost a year exactly; I was once again wrapped in an abdominal support band just as I had been after my C-section. Right then and there I committed to stepping on stage again, but only after I had appropriately healed and trained for a significant length of time.
Dave had designed an off-season bulk nutrition, supple-mentation and training program for me. I stepped back into my iron cathedral in May 2012 to implement his plan. My training split was 6 days a week, training a different muscle group each day and my lagging muscle group twice. Here’s a sample of my workout program. I’m sure that any female who is trying to develop more muscle mass will benefit from it.
Leg Extension: Warm up
Superset Wide Stance Leg Press / Hack Squat: 5 sets 12 reps each Leg Extension: 5 sets 12 reps
Walking Lunges: 4 sets 15 reps
Incline Dumbbell Press: 5 sets 12-10-8-8-8 reps
Incline Flyes: 5 sets 10-12 reps
Barbell Bench Press: 5 sets 10-8-6-6-6 reps
Cable Crossovers: 5 sets 12 reps
Lat Pulldowns: 5 sets 12-10-8-8-8 reps
Bent Over Barbell Rows: 5 sets 12-10-8-8-8 reps
Seated Cable Rows: 5 sets 10-12 reps
Deadlifts: 5 sets 10-8-6-6-6 reps
Standing Barbell Presses: 5 sets 10-8-6-6-6 reps
Lateral Raises: 5 sets 10-12 reps
Rear Delt Raises: 5 sets 10-12 reps
Shrugs: 5 sets 12 reps
LEGS (Workout #2)*
Leg Extension: 5 sets 12 reps
Squat: 5 sets 12-10-8-8-8 reps
Superset Leg Curl & Stiff Leg Deadlifts: 5 sets 10-12 reps each
Barbell Curl: 4 sets 12-10-8-8 reps
Skull Crushers: 4 sets 12-10-8-8 reps
Preacher (or Machine) Curls: 3 sets 10-12 reps
Seated 1-DB Triceps Extension: 3 sets 12 reps
Alternate DB Curls: 3 sets 12-10-8 reps
Triceps Pushdowns: 3 sets 12-10-8 reps
*Work abs and calves on your leg days. Pick two exercises for abs and two for calves. Perform 3 sets of 25 reps on each exercise.
It is very important that you track your workouts when trying to add muscle mass. Start a little lighter than you think you should. Work on perfecting your form. Once you get the form down it’s time to start building muscle. In order to build muscle you’ll need to gradually increase the amount of weight you are able to use. Add weight to the exercise whenever you are able to perform all your sets for the prescribed reps in good form. For example on the Incline Dumbbell Press you might be using 25x12, 30x10, and 35 for 3 sets of 8. At first, you might not be able to get 8 reps on each of the last 3 sets. But, keep working and when you successfully get 8 reps on each of those sets in good form, increase the weights the next time you do that exercise.
Nutrition and Supplement Plan
In order to successfully build the muscle necessary for Figure, I had to put on some bodyweight. Here is a sample nutrition plan from the Beverly website (www. BeverlyInternational.com) for a female who is trying to add muscle mass.
Meal #1 (choose 1 of the following)
Option A: 3 egg whites, 1 whole egg omelet with 1 or 2 ounces cheese; 1 slice whole-grain toast with almond butter.
Option B: 2 whole eggs, 5 ounces lean beef or 1/2 cup cottage cheese; 1/2 cup oatmeal
Protein Drink: 2 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein; 1 tbsp. healthy fat source (olive oil, flax oil, almond butter) or heavy cream. – Optional: 1 serving low carb fruit.
6oz ground turkey; 2/3 cup cooked brown rice (or other complex carbohydrate source).
Optional: 1 or 2 servings of low carb fruit or vegetables.
1 can tuna or 4oz chicken breast, 1/2 cup cottage cheese; 1/2 cup pineapple (unsweetened) or 1/2 cantaloupe
Option B: Protein Drink with two scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein; 1 tablespoon healthy fat source (olive oil, flax oil, almond butter or heavy cream).
6oz beef, chicken, turkey or fish; 6oz baked potato or sweet potato; 1-2 cups vegetables or salad.
Meal #6 (Optional)
Protein pudding – mix one or two scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein in a bowl with just enough water
to make a pudding texture. Add one tablespoon of almond butter, walnuts, or heavy cream.
Dessert Saturday and Open Diet Sunday:
On Saturdays I had a dessert with meal #5 and skipped Meal #6. Sundays were my “open diet days”. I tried to keep portions within reason, but was al-lowed to eat whatever foods I wanted.
Muscle Building Supplement Plan
Fit Tabs: 2 tablets with meals #1 and #5
Ultimate Muscle Protein: As noted in nutrition plan
Mass Aminos: 3 tablets with each meal
Ultra 40: 3 tablets with each meal
Optional: Creatine Select & Muscle Synergy
While most of your off-season weight gain is muscle, you may gain a little fat in your quest to add size. This fat had to hit the road for me to step on stage and we began my prep for the Spring of 2013 in early October. The plan was for an incredibly slow-paced lean-down in order to preserve as much muscle as possible. We adjusted my off-season nutrition plan in steps, so it was a very manageable progression. My in-season plan has turned out to be incredibly similar to my off season plan.
Contest Prep Nutrition Schedule
6 egg whites; 40g oatmeal
4oz lean ground turkey; 3.5oz sweet potato
8oz chicken breast; 1/3 cup cooked brown rice; 170g asparagus, salad
4oz chicken breast; salad
6 egg whites
Pre-Contest Beverly Supplements
Once again, the cornerstone to my contest prep was the use of multiple Beverly International supplements. I researched the entire line and with the recommendations from my coach, we incorporated the following into my supplement schedule:
7-Keto MuscLean: 3 capsules twice daily
Lean Out: 2 capsules with each meal
Density: 3 tablets with each meal
Muscularity: 2 capsules with each meal
Glutamine Select: Before and during training, between meals whenever I started getting hungry
It is with complete honesty and sincerity that I say these prod-ucts absolutely helped me to lean down AND preserve my muscle mass. As an added bonus, the Glutamine Select also helped curb any bouts of hunger I encountered between meals. I followed the recommended guidelines for dosages of each product and stacked them with my meals and training sessions.
As a result of my nutrition schedule and the use of the Beverly International products, my cardio schedule was adjusted in manageable stages. At the height of my season I was doing fasted cardio 6 days a week for 35 minutes on the elliptical at a comfort-able pace. While I had to say goodbye to my beloved “Dessert Saturdays” and “Open Diet Day Sundays” earlier than the com-mon 12 week prep, I will forever allow more prep in this slow and steady fashion.
Back On Stage
I stepped back on stage on March 30, 2013, exactly one year later and 5lbs heavier. I competed at the NPC Natural Eastern and placed a very close first runner up in Open Figure Class A! I was elated. The feedback I received was that I came in too “hard” and needed to soften up a bit. The following week before the NPC Natural Ohio Dave adjusted my peak week cycle daily. I stepped back on stage April 6th, fuller and slightly softer and won Open Figure Class A! One year ago I had been sobbing in the back of the car binging on cookies over being in last call outs. This year I was sobbing in happiness over winning! My dream has literally become a reality. This season has been filled with such incredible positivity. The beautiful sentiments that have been expressed to me from family, friends and even complete strangers have exemplified even more how beautifully a blessed life can be. These kind words fuel me, they inspire me, and they lift me up when I’m struggling.
The following summer I began working with IFBB Pro Mike Ely. After another year of intense training and adherence to my nutritional plan I stepped on stage at the 2014 NPC Junior USA’s and won Open Figure A! I missed my IFBB Pro Card in the Over-all by one place! Two weeks later we tried again at the NPC Junior National’s where I placed second in Open Figure A! For the IFBB North American Championships, we made the necessary tweaks to bring my best package to date! All of our time and efforts had paid off; I placed first in my class and earned my IFBB Pro Card. This has been an incredible journey and I truly would have never thought I would be where I am today.
Nicole’s Contest Prep Tip:
Organization! Schedule and chart everything, it makes your day less stressful knowing you are pre-pared and have appropriated the proper amount of time for all of your tasks. And most importantly, listen to one person. It is easy to be overwhelmed in this industry by a myriad of different training and nutrition styles. Follow your coach’s plan; you hired them for a reason!