Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Science Behind the 6-Pack

There is much debate over the best ways in which to reveal your abs. Everyone wants flat abs at the very least. I have never met anyone who has said, “Nah…I like my round paunch. The way it oozes over my jeans is awesome!”  Whether you want is 6-pack is debatable, but flat abs at least! With all the research that goes on in the fitness and health industry, for every new study that says to “do it this way for fast results!” there is always a rebuttal study that says “wrong! This way is best!” So which way is right?

All about Fat

The subcutaneous fat on the top of your tummy (you know, the stuff covering your rectus abdominus, aka 6-pack) is more responsive to diet than training. Sorry to tell you, you have to eat clean, unless you’re a genetically gifted god or goddess, then everyone just wants to shoot you (J/K!…kinda).  Jade Teta, CSCS and Registered Dietician, has been doing numerous studies about hormones and belly fat.  The subcutaneous fat has more alpha adrenergic receptors, which block fat release.  Without getting into crazy scientific detail, Dr. Teta is finding that a diet rich in protein, water and fiber elicits the best hormone response in regards to losing subcutaneous fat because these diets block the alpha adrenergic receptors (ever hear the phrase abs are made in the kitchen?). The fat underneath your rectus abdominus is called visceral fat. This is the “beer belly” fat, the stuff that makes your stomach bulge outward but still appear hard (sorry, it’s not muscle).   This type of fat is richer in beta adrenergic receptors, which enhance fat release and is therefore more responsive to exercise, namely high-intensity exercise (HIIT!), as well as diet.

Fiber Types

There are so many debates about whether your abs are primarily fast twitch (Type II) muscle fibers which are bigger, more powerful, anaerobic,  but easily fatigable; or slow twitch (Type I) which are more aerobic, and fatigue resistant. Your fiber type determines which training might be best for you. One argument claims that the abdominals are slow twitch dominant, since your abs need to be active all day without fatiguing in order to support your spine and the connection between your upper and lower body.  Other arguments claim that the abs are primarily fast twitch, and that a strong core and abdominals make heavy lifting, throwing and other functional movements possible. Some claim that the transverse (deep) abdominals are slow twitch for spinal support, and that the obliques and rectus abdominus are fast twitch, for movement. 

The truth of the matter is that everyone is different.  In general, sprinters have a high volume of type II muscle fibers in their body, thus eliciting their power and speed. Endurance athletes like marathoners and cyclists have a greater distribution of Type I fibers, which have a greater mitochondrial density and are fatigue resistant at slower speeds.  So, this still doesn’t answer the question on how which kinds of workouts are best for the abs.

Well, type II muscle fibers respond well to heavier, more powerful exercise. They have more potential for growth and development, so for more defined abdominals, add some high intensity exercise into your routine! High intensity exercise also releases growth hormones, which has HUGE fat burning properties. Steady-state, moderate-intensity cardio has its place, and is definitely fat burning, but not when it comes to the abdominals. That steady moderate cardio (such as light jogging) is actually shown to increase cortisol stores, which is a hormone that packs on the pounds around the midsection. Precisely what you DO NOT want to do. However, long SLOW cardio, such as long walks on the beach, decreases cortisol levels by reducing stress.

So, what do I do?

1.       Getting your abs to show is a combination of developing the abdominal muscles along with manipulating hormones and fat loss. Basically, grow the muscles and get rid of the fat. General total body weight training increases insulin sensitivity better than traditional sit-ups. Being insulin resistant can pack on those pounds, especially in the belly, so sensitivity in the muscles is a good thing! Weight-lifting also increases Human Growth Hormone (HGH), a muscle builder with huge fat burning properties.

2.       Total body high-intensity exercise raises your post-exercise oxygen consumption for up to 24 (some studies show 48!) hours post exercise, as well as HGH levels. This means you’re still burning, burning, burning calories while your body fights to return itself to homeostasis.  You do not get these results from steady state moderate aerobic exercise. Also add in stress-reducing long SLOW cardio, such as walking (maybe some laughing in there) once or twice a week. This decreases cortisol levels further.

3.       Incorporate fast twitch muscle exercises to stimulate growth in the abdominals, making them more defined while still burning fat.  These exercises include various medicine ball throwing, plyometrics, heavy lifting, Kettlebell swings, Olympic lifting, and other fast movements through the trunk, obliques and abs. When you are doing your weight training, keep the abs tight and braced with whole time.

4.    Get off the floor! If you are stuck in the rut of doing 5 sets of a billion crunches, then knock it off. Incorporate hanging exercises (like leg lifts hanging from a bar, Roman chair, or Ab Slings), twisting exercises,  stability ball exercises, and planks.

Try Some New Exercises

Try these intense exercises that work the total body (for calorie burn), but focus on the core (for muscle development) once or twice a week on non-consecutive days.

1.       Tuck Jumps (focus on bringing your knees to your chest and landing softly). Do one at a time to start, working on stabilizing the landing and really focusing on good form. Once you have mastered the movement, do sequential tuck jumps with a quick rebound in between each one. Do 3 sets of 15


2.       Medicine ball crunch throws. These can be done with a partner, but I like to do them against a wall. Grab an 8-12 lb. medicine ball (not too heavy because you’re working on speed of movement, not heavy lifting).  Lie on your back, knees bent with toes about 12 inches from the wall. Start fully extended with the ball overhead on the floor. Grab the ball with both hands, and using your abs, crunch up quickly and at the same time, throw the ball forward to the wall as hard as you can. DO NOT SIT ALL THE WAY UP. Keep your low back on the floor. Immediately catch the ball, and bring it back overhead so it contacts (not slams) the floor, and finish in the same position you started. Do 3 sets of 10-15.


3.       Oblique Medicine Ball Throws. Sit with knees bent, about 2-3 feet away from the wall. Turn so that your right side is next to the wall. Lean back halfway, but remain sitting up. Tap the ball on the ground to your left, then, using your abs and obliques, throw the ball hard against the wall. Immediately catch it and turn back to the left and tap the ball. Do this for each side, 3 sets of 10-15.


4.       Push-Up to Tuck. This is basically a burpee without the jump. Get on the floor in push-up position. Do a push-up, then jump your feet in to land in between your hands. Immediately jump them back out to push-up position. You can do this with or without the push-up, but really focusing on brining your feet in between your hands, don’t neglect the quality of movement. Also try this in a frog position, by bringing your feet to the outsides of your hands instead, and then jump back out to push up position.


5.       Mountain Climber Up-Downs. Do 10 standing high knee runs on each leg, the drop to the floor and do 10 mountain climbers. Repeat this sequence for 45-60 seconds. For added intensity, hold a medicine ball at ribcage level and try to tap your knees to the ball. When you drop, keep both hands on top of the medicine ball and try to get your feet as close to the ball as you can, or try and touch your knees to the ball.

 (I will be adding a video shortly with demonstrations of all these exercises!)

Other Tips:

Drink plenty of water! Dehydration can cause water retention in lower abs

Eat Clean! Lots of fiber and lean protein

Include Fish oil and CLA in your supplements for added fat loss benefits

Brace your abs during all resistance training


Len Kravitz Ph.D and Aaron Bubbico, B.S.; Eccentric Exercise: A Comprehensive View of a Distinctive Training Method; University of New Mexico

Len Kravitz, Ph.D; SuperAbs Resource Manual; University of New Mexico

Jade Teta ND, CSCS; Facts about Belly Fat; The Metabolic Effect

Jade Teta ND, CSCS; FAQ on Belly Fat: The Metabolic Effect


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Myotropics + Vegas = GOOD TIME


Fear of failure. Sometimes that is the only thing that holds people back, not talent, education, or skill…just fear. I know I am afraid to put myself out there, for fear of judgment or failure. In late June, I decided that I needed to start taking some risks in life if I wanted to get anywhere in the fitness industry. I mean, I have a ton of fitness certifications (including my CSCS, CPT, TRX, Schwinn Cycle, Weightlifting, etc.) I have a great job with the Marine Corps, and I am a decent NPC Figure competitor. But I want more, I want to be a staple in society. I want to live and breathe this industry, including starting my own fitness business, modeling, and progressing in Figure competitions by hopefully picking up a sponsor. Well, as many of you know, this requires all requires a certain amount of…self-promotion. You have to get your name and face out there! As someone who loves the spotlight, but doesn’t love blatant self-bragging and promotion it takes to get there, this is a difficult task.


Well, Myotropics held a Facebook Photo Contest this last June, so I decided I would enter. I actually had some hope in this one, as it wasn’t a contest purely based on votes. The top 5 females and top 5 males with the most votes would move on to round 2, in which a panel would choose the winners. Well, I am not loaded down with Facebook friends, so I knew I could never get TOP votes, but I thought I might have a shot of making it in the top 5. So I appealed to friends, family, Facebook and Twitter followers to help me out, and I secured the #4 position!! I was so stoked! My goal was to make top 5 and I did, and to me that was a huge success. I didn’t think I would progress any further. The other women in the top were amazing, beautiful, and with plenty of fitness and personal achievements that would make Myotropics proud.

Imagine my surprise when, Monday July 2nd, the CEO of Myotropics, Vince Andrich, Facebooked me and asked if he could call me. He asked me a few questions and my background in fitness, and told me that I was chosen as the winner. Seriously, words cannot describe how ecstatic I was! I wanted to ask why, WHY ME? But, I didn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth or appear to be fishing for compliments, I’LL TAKE IT!

That week I also got in touch with Brant LaRose, who was the male winner of the contest. He is a genuinely nice guy, so I was glad I got to share the experience with him. He was already planning on competing in the USA’s to try and win his Pro-Card, but imagine his great surprise when he won it 2 weeks before the USA’s at Team U! Congrats Brant, IFBB Physique Pro!

My main concern was that the prize package included a photoshoot with renowned fitness photographer George Kontaxis at the NPC USA’s in Vegas at the end of the month. I started my off-season 3 weeks prior, so food was my friend! I had 3 and a half weeks to get myself photoshoot ready! I basically went back on the competition diet for 3 weeks, peak week included. I was proud that I managed to enter the photoshoot about 5 pounds heavier than stage weight, not bad!


I have never won anything like this EVER, so I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t have any expectations, other than I knew, pretty much no matter what, that I was going to have a good time. Your experiences are what you make of them, and I was going to make this awesome! I flew into Vegas from San Diego on Thursday the 26th. I took a cab to the hotel we were staying at, the Extended Stay Deluxe, which by the way had its own kitchen! That was ideal because I did not have to worry about my food for my stay there. On a side note, it was obvious that competitors had taken over Vegas. I went to Albertsons to buy food, and they were almost out, if not completely out of asparagus, tilapia, halibut, eggs, yams and rice cakes. But I am good at improvising, so I made it work. I met the other sponsored athletes at Myotropics, who were all amazing.


Being able to go to USA’s was a great experience. I hope to compete at this show in 2013, so it was a great warm-up for me and gave me some insight as to what to expect, how things work, etc. I met so many amazing athletes. I met people that I have been friends with on Facebook, but never had the pleasure of meeting. Plus I was there representing a product that I fully believe in. Our job at the USA’s was to work the Myotropics booth, hand out samples, and educate people about Myotropics Physique 2.0 and ThermiCarb. (more later on that). The Friday and Saturday morning shows were all pre-judging, and therefore were pretty casual. The Saturday night show was more formal, as I got to wear a cute mini-dress and my fake eyelashes :).

There were two extra-notable stand-up experiences I had there. One, I got to step on the National Stage as a trophy presenter (representing Myotropics, of course) for Women’s Physique. That was so much fun! Two, I got to be present when Myotropics own and my old high-school cheer buddy Francine Sablan, not only placed first in Figure Class B, but also took the Figure overall. (goose bumps!)It was great to see all her years of hard work pay off, and in such an extraordinary way.


The Myotropics sponsored athletes are some of the coolest and most accomplished athletes I have had the pleasure of meeting. I have some HUGE shoes to fill, but it is so motivating to me and I am determined to do this company proud. I got to meet IFBB Physique Pro’s Matt Christianer, Angel Cordero, and Brant LaRose, National NPC competitors Tommy Reynolds, David Lamb, Ian Lauer, Adelfo Cerame, and Raymond Querido. Of course I got to spend more time with Francine Sablan and fiancĂ© Jason Tweed, two of the most welcoming and motivating people I know. It was great hanging out with former bodybuilder turned Olympic Coach Erick Minor, who writes articles for Myotropics, and I loved picking his brain about athletic training. Meeting Vince Andrich was surreal, for he has been a staple in the industry for 25 years. He is a genuine guy who really has a passion for the company and its athletes. And of course Don Aspinall, who made me laugh and still owes me a cupcake. Everyone was cool, very welcoming, and a lot of fun to spend all that time with. More info on these accomplished people is found at the Myotropics Athlete page


I have never been in a professional photo shoot before. I have paid for a photoshoot with the awesome and talented Casey Withers of C Withers Media, however those were just for fun. My friend Lisa has taken some pictures of me for fun as well, and they are lovely photos, but I have never actually been in a shoot where the outcome mattered. I was so nervous, especially because I was technically in off-season! These athletes have had plenty of experience in professional settings. Not I! That being said, the photographer, George Kontaxis, was very professional and had a lot of ideas. We shot at Gold’s Gym in Vegas the Sunday following USAs, and it was a grueling 12 hour shoot! There were all the Myotropics athletes to shoot, as well as some female models who had competed the day before at the USA’s that joined us. Everyone remained in good spirits, joked around and kept the atmosphere light.


Myotropics currently has two supplements: Physique 2.0 and ThermiCarb, both of which are revolutionary in their own rights. Physique 2.0 is a complete meal replacement protein, which I love. I train at really random times per day, so trying to figure out when to work out, take my protein, and plan it perfectly in between meals was really hard. Plus, most proteins only fill me up for maybe an hour. Physique 2.0 keeps me full for the 3 hours until my next meal. It contains ThermiCarb, a high molecular weight -resistant starch that does not cause the insulin spike that normal food does, helping me to keep burning fat and stay satisfied longer. Plus those carbohydrates help fuel and build my muscles. I tend to take it post-workout or as a breakfast, but it can really be taken any time. Myotropics also manufactures the ThermiCarb as a separate product, so when you need extra carbs in your diet, or post-workout, you can just add more! It is completely flavorless, but is really thick. When combined with Physique 2.0, it turns it into a kind of pudding, which is just like a dessert! YUM. Anyway, I am no scientist, I just know what works and what I love. For more detailed info, check 'em out at


From my initial decision to enter the Myotropics Photo Contest on Facebook, to returning home from Vegas to my super-supportive husband and son, the whole experience was remarkable. I loved being thrown into the mix, representing a company that I thoroughly believe in, getting to know so many people in the fitness industry, and making new friends and professional connections. This experience has re-inspired me to continue 100% in NPC Figure to hopefully grace the National Stage next year. I want to continue representing Myotropics Physique Nutrition as best as I can, as well as continue improving myself, my education, my physique, all while helping and inspiring people to do the same. There are no limits.

Monday, August 6, 2012

It's been awhile. Let's catch up! How have you been?

My last blog post was in January, 2 months after the October Border States show, and 3 months before I started prepping for the June Armed Forces show. I fell off the blogging wagon! In a nutshell, I tore both my hamstrings at their insertion point just under the glutes and was sidelined from any sort of lower body activity for 2 months. Well, my biggest area of improvement is my glute/ham tie in, so I was pretty discouraged. Discouraged enough to stop training? NO! I just put all my efforts into my upper body! Let’s grow them delts! I did some PT for my hamstrings (useless if you ask me) and started lightly stretching. My problem isn’t tight hamstrings, it’s hyper-mobility and over stretching. Combine that with too-fast lower body progressions and my hams just gradually started to tear. But I got better, I now maintain a good easy stretching routine, and I don’t go too hard.
I competed June 9th in the San Diego Armed Forces/So Cal Championships, my one year anniversary show! I placed 2nd in the Armed Forces category, and 4th (again!) in the open. Now, as you may recall from my post “Winning,” I am ALWAYS fourth. But that’s ok. One year ago, I was 4th out of 5th, then in Oct I was 4th out of 7, now I am 4th out of 11. So even though my actual placing has remained the same, I am actually improving! I have always maintained that your toughest competition. And I still fully believe that. I made even more improvements from October 2011 to June 2012 (even with the bum hams). So I cannot be happier. Strive to always bring a better you! That being said, I am NOW READY to focus on bringing home a class win.

My next competition will be Excalibur in San Diego on Dec 1st. It is a rather large show, but I am ready for the challenge. My main goal is to remain in first call outs; however I am training like I want a class win! I officially started my off-season (improvement season) diet and training. Time to fill out the delts, work on biceps and triceps definition, and slim down the legs. The judges told me that my lats were wide enough, so that is one area I can just focus on maintaining.
My training will be moderate to heavy on the upper body, with shoulder training twice per week, emphasizing the rear delts. Lower body will be all bodyweight stuff for now. Cardio will be running, and I HATE HATE HATE running (did I mention I am not a fan?). Official prep will start immediately following Olympia Weekend. I am hoping to get to Vegas to watch the Olympia and that will be my last hurrah! That is 10 weeks away from Excalibur.
In other AMAZING news, I decided that if I ever wanted to be anyone and go anywhere in this industry that I love and am so invested in, I needed to start taking some risks. You have to put yourself out there to be known, and sometimes you will succeed and sometimes you will fail. Its life, deal with it (talking to myself here). I entered a Facebook contest with Myotropics Physique Nutrition, a company that recently sponsored my friend Francine Sablan (you may have heard of her? Overall Figure champ at USAs? New IFBB Pro?) Well, long story short, I won this photo contest, and with it a one year sponsorship, protein and a trip to USAs in Vegas and a photoshoot with Myotropics and renown photographer George Kontaxis. (Squee!)
The beginning of this year started really rough, catastrophic even. I bore you with the details, but there were deaths, illnesses, and financial heartaches, blah blah blah. The last 3 months have been so amazing, new experiences, dreams starting to come true, etc. I am grateful that after so much hard work, it is all finally coming together. I have so many more blogs to post about these experiences, and they will be up shortly (within the week!). Anyway, thanks for reading and being a part of my life and experiences, and I hope I can inspire you to live your dreams as well.
Happy Training!!