Submitted By Timothy Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT
2019 has arrived! Welcome to your brand new year in fitness and the launch of the all-new Ultimate Fitness Events (UFE) blog.
The impressive array of natural fitness athletes and models you observe gracing this website all have three things in common: (1) none of them were born with the same physique you seem them with now; (2) they all arrived at a point in their lives where they observed they had potential – then followed through by taking measures to fulfill their goals; and (3) they incorporated fitness training as an adjunct to health, nutrition, diet and a clean lifestyle. These three common denominators reliably produced not only physical but mental and emotional gains, culminating in substantial improvements to their overall quality of life. When it came time to step off-stage at the conclusion of a fitness competition, the gains and wins remained, accentuating each individual’s family life and work life. It’s easy to see that fitness competition literally changes you for the better, forever.
As the leading fitness competition organization showcasing athletic individuals of any gender, age, ability and fitness category, Ultimate Fitness Events (UFE) provides opportunities to those for whom fulfilling their potential is a priority. With a full calendar of events operating in a multitude of international locations, you’re sure to be able to match your schedule with a competition at a convenient venue. While not everyone can win a fitness competition, the achievement produced from a 4th place finish, 12th place finish, or even simply the experience of competition, is not only rewarding unto itself but also a platform for further personal improvement and commitment.
In this initial blog installment, we’re going to give due recognition to training, for this is the leading activity around which fitness competition revolves. The training protocol you’ll read below has an emphasis on a certain group of weight-training exercises known as compound movements. In simple terms, these represent a battery of exercises in which more than one muscle group is involved in performing the action. There are numerous advantages to performing compound moves, which we’ll explore below, and some key considerations to appreciate as you incorporate them in your training.
BEGIN WITH A CLEAN SLATE
It’s impossible not to notice the size and tone of muscles on fitness competitors; this is their lifeblood and what they work so hard to achieve. Certain muscle groups carry great aesthetic appeal (for example, biceps and chest in males, and legs and glutes in women). Many people mistakenly convince themselves upon beginning a training regimen that they should focus on such body parts only; they consequently devote excessive amounts of time performing isolation movements targeting these groups. Other individuals perform something of an ad hoc self-examination during which they consider all of their own muscle groups in order to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Some decide to play up their strengths as it’s the easier course of action; others consider a more balanced approach and in turn begin training by emphasizing their lesser-developed muscle groups.
Whichever approach, there’s a tendency for novice fitness competitors to erroneously launch their training by emphasizing single-joint isolation moves. While this strategy may seem logical, it misses out on the grand spectrum of advantages provided by compound exercises, which are indeed recommended for novice competitors.
Best, therefore, to wipe the slate clean entering a targeted training program and ignore what you assume you know about muscle-building. Fact is, those champions and other competitive athletes on-stage did not get to their current shape by performing endless sets of isolation moves only. Such moves certainly have a place in refinement and definition, but right from the get-go, all beginners need to emphasize overall size and mass development which is most readily achieved by training heavily with multi-joint compound moves.
Furthermore, while it’s good to possess an appreciation of your own state of physique, it’s to your advantage to look at the bigger picture. Fixating on your own impressive biceps will lead to an imbalance in your physique, creating a negative element to your presence on stage. And if you feel the smartest approach to balance is by emphasizing only weaker muscle groups with isolation moves, you’re taking a very inefficient path to refinement. Your best approach is to learn what the standards for a competitive physique are, regardless if you’re a bodybuilder or figure, physique, glamour or bikini athlete.
Competitor’s takeaway: WHen you launch your fitness competition training, wipe the slate clean from what you’ve previously assumed. Kickstart your muscle growth by emphasizing compound lifts that hit multiple muscle groups and act as a catalyst for initial msucle growth more efficiently.
COMPOUND EXERCISES FOR YOU
So how can you use compound exercises to help get yourself on stage? Keep in mind that some compound moves are so all-encompassing that they involve the synergistic use of the majority of muscles in your body. It’s no coincidence that the “Big 3” compound exercises happen to be the same three lifts in which powerlifters compete. These are the squat, deadlift and bench press. But as we’re not concerned about powerlifting since we are training for fitness competition, let’s get back to focusing on your respective muscle groups.
At the first thought of training your chest, what’s the one exercise that immediately springs to mind? If you’re honest, it’s likely the bench press. Reasonable assumption. The bench press definitely has a place in hitting your pectoral muscle group – but did you know it also works your anterior deltoids (front shoulders), triceps, forearms, and even your back, glutes, and other muscles? Here’s a breakdown of the respective major muscle groups trained when you perform any of the “Great 8” of compound movements:
THE GREAT 8 COMPOUND EXERCISES
- Compound Exercise
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Upright Row
- Major Muscle Groups Employed
- Quadriceps, Back, Hamstrings, Abs, Shoulders, Trapezius, Biceps, Forearms, Calves
- Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Abs, Back, Glutes, Forearms
- Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Glutes, Calves, ABs, Back
- Shoulders, Triceps, Trapezius, Back, Abs
- Shoulders, Trapezius, Back, Forearms, Abs
- Back, Biceps, Shoulders, Abs
- Back, Biceps, Shoulders, Abs
- Chest, Shoulders, Triceps, Abs
As you can see, the full spectrum of muscle groups can be trained efficiently with the battery of compound exercises. This being the case, you should be conservative when starting out by not performing more than three compound moves each workout. To be sure, you would never construct an entire workout around this full list of moves, which would lead to rapid-onset fatigue and over-training.
Because compound movements involve using several muscle groups together, you’ll have the ability to lift heavier weights (a.k.a. ‘resistance’). But don’t let heavier weights intimidate you. Starting slowly with just a bar is a wise idea, since compound moves also require a presence of co-ordination. This can easily be developed through practice as your muscles are very smart; over time, they develop “muscle memory” which keeps your range of motion during exercise execution along the right path consistently.
Competitor’s Takeaway: Since fitness competition requires you to pay attention to the size and definition of all muscle groups, you can leverage compound exercises to build your muscles more efficiently. Heavier lifting will lead to the quicker development of muscle. Be sensible, especially when starting out, and don’t overdo it.
THE RIGHT RESULTS FOR YOU
You’ve heard the expression that “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole”. This refers to something in which the total of all elements combined actually works out to something more than simple addition. In other words, you get a kind of ‘bonus’ or further benefit. This principle rings loud and clear when it comes to compound exercises. In addition to working a myriad of muscle groups, compound moves have a significant positive effect on your body’s endocrine system. This is your body’s “chemical messenger system” of hormones and glands, including the pituitary and thyroid, plus the testes in men and ovaries in women. Before you think we’re getting too scientific here, the importance of the endocrine system is simple: this is where testosterone and estrogen are regulated. Is it sinking in now?
Research has shown that consistent performance of compound exercises increases your natural production of human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), two closely related steroid hormones that promote muscle and bone growth. Science tells us that there’s a relationship between the quantity of muscle fibers activated during exercise and the volume of testosterone introduced into your bloodstream. What more proof you could you want that compound exercises are essential to building muscle.
Some of you aspiring competitors may be concerned at this point about the thought of bulking up too much, or building excessive muscle mass by using compound moves. Let’s put your mind at ease. First, UFE competition, even among men’s bodybuilders, does not seek enormous-size “athletes” who are so infested with muscle that they can’t even put their hands together in front of them. Second, if you train with compound moves and remain a natural athlete, you simply won’t develop excessive, enhanced levels of muscle. Third, more muscle mass means you’ll have a more efficient metabolism, which in turn helps burn more fat. Yes, you read that right: heavy compound lifting is a very valuable weapon in your war on fat by stoking your metabolic fires to keep you leaner.
Competitor’s Takeaway: Taking charge of your body’s endocrine system (hormones and glands) is facilitated with compound exercises that increase the production of HGH, IGF-1 and testosterone, which leads to muscle growth. An additional benefit from this phenomenon is that you’ll also burn fat more efficiently.
As human beings, we inherently have a predilection to observe others and then immediately contrast them with ourselves. If you’re considering competing in fitness, you’ve no doubt observed the champions who’ve paved the way for your own ultimate success, and thereafter contemplated the differences between them and you. Often, this is a daunting epiphany in that there may be marked distinctions between them and you which will require extensive effort, time, commitment, knowledge and physical output in order to bridge the gap. On their journey to fitness competition, many individuals get off at this stop. But it’s important to consider here that even those champions you revere at present were once in the exact same position as you now. In terms of potential, they didn’t have any natural advantage over you. The reality is that they simply came before you and started on their competition quest ahead of you. Ultimately, the journey to the gold medal in competition came down to their passion and commitment, partnered with knowledge and consistency.
PUTTING THE ‘YOU’ IN UFE
Chomping at the bit to compete, now that you’ve added some fitness knowledge to your interest? UFE makes it easy for you. At any given competition, you’ll find not only champions but novices; not only bodybuilders, but physique athletes; not only figure athletes, but bikini and glamour models. UFE is a universe of competition at your disposal and it’s calling your name.
Unsure about what sets UFE apart? Relative to other fitness organizations, UFE can legitimately lay claim to being the champion organization in terms of:
- Athlete Support
And perhaps most importantly, fun. As the most dynamic and rapidly growing international fitness association, UFE’s competitors testify regularly that the experience of competition has been the highlight of their adult lives. Did we mention we have athletes over the age of 65? If you happen to be of mature years, come on board – there’s always a place for you.
Competing in UFE is not simply about collecting hardware. While it’s very gratifying to walk off stage with a championship trophy or top-three medalling, the experience of training for competition is literally life-altering for the better. A great number of athletes enjoy the experience so much that they immediately begin making plans for another competition. Additionally, many UFE athletes go on to garner modelling careers or sponsorships with supplement companies, brands of apparel, gyms, and lines of fitness equipment. Some of our athletes capture the attention of the fitness media and gain the exposure of photo spreads within magazines and websites.
Early 2019 UFE Competitions Include:
- March 9th – UFE LIBERTY (Tampa, Florida) for Novice and Open
- March 30th – UFE SPRING BASH (Barrie, Ontario) for Novice and Open
- April 20th – UFE RAMPAGE (Godfrey, Illinois) for Novice and Open
- April 20th – UFE INVASION (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) for Novice and Open
- May 4th – UFE UPRISING (Ortonville, Michigan) for Novice and Open
- May 4th – UFE REVOLUTION (Cobourg, Ontario) for Novice and Open
For a full listing of our events, you can click here.
Most importantly, UFE helps you realize your true potential. After the experience of a competition is over, you’ll look back at time spent very meaningfully toward your own personal growth. You’ll have gathered a wealth of knowledge about fitness through training, diet, nutrition and a healthy lifestyle – not to mention the exciting camaraderie and support from other like-minded fitness athletes.
Make 2019 your fittest year yet by registering for an upcoming UFE competition today – you’ll be glad you did!
Until January 31st, we’re making it a little easier to commit to your goals with a very special offer of $75 basic registration for any of our events. Click here to find an event near you.
Timothy Rigby, M.A., NCSA-CPT is a freelance writer and one of Canada’s most published fitness writers.