3 Ways the Platform Prepared Me for the Stage

TAGS: Three Ways the Platform Prepared Me for the Stage, figure competition, Alycia Israel, Strong(her), bodybuilding, diet, powerlifting

To give everyone a little background on myself, I did not start seriously weight training until the fall of 2010 when I began to train for my first figure competition. At the time, I was pursuing a degree in Exercise Physiology and was quickly falling in love with it. I competed in my first figure competition in the spring of 2011, and my next two competitions were in the spring of 2012. Although I saw some decent physique and strength gains within that time frame, I was hungry for more. At that point, I could bench about 70 pounds, squat 135 pounds, and deadlift 150 pounds...on a good day. Therefore, I knew that if I wanted to pursue figure seriously, I simply needed to get strong(her). It was then that I began to dabble in powerlifting, and I signed up for a few meets within my off-season. Switching gears into powerlifting seemed like a perfect transition to build my physique in order to prepare for the stage. Little did I know that I would build much more than just a better physique. Below are three ways the platform prepared me for the stage.

I Got Strong(her)™

I was given a hard time by some folks about using powerlifting as a tool to become more competitive in figure. I heard a lot of, “deadlifting will thicken your waist” as a reason to stay away from powerlifting. For the record, however, my waist actually got smaller and my back pose is now my strongest. My back is more developed, my shoulders are broader, and I have better glute development. All wins in my book. (Although, it is true that powerlifting may not be as useful for some people or as necessary as it was for me). I competed in powerlifting and trained like a powerlifter for a reason. For me it was purposeful. Point blank–I was weak. How is a weak person supposed to be a jacked person on stage? They can’t...at least not to their fullest potential. Genetically, I am gifted with many things, but strength is not one of them. I had to start from scratch.

heel figure alycia israel 060314

Personally, I needed to get strong(her)™ before I was ever going to build the shape I needed to be competitive in figure. Coincidentally, my aesthetic weaknesses are also my physical ones, so training for powerlifting was quite complementary to my physique-based goals. Training within the lower rep ranges with heavier weight on a regular basis was a complete shock to my body both physically and mentally. From a physical standpoint, I was able to increase muscle density and overall work capacity, allowing me to transition to higher volume training during my figure season with the ability to strain through tough sets. From a mental standpoint, I was able to dig a little deeper and push a little harder. Simply put, I didn’t give up when it started to burn. I was able to push the envelope.

I Was Forced to Mentally Switch Gears

The hardest part of competing in an aesthetic-based sport is the lingering mental effect it has on a competitor, especially a female. For months and months my training, eating, sleeping, and every waking moment was designed to better my physique. That’s all that mattered. After a while that mindset can be very exhausting and overwhelming. Competing in powerlifting throughout my off-season was not only the healthiest thing I could do for my body, but it was also the healthiest thing I could do for my mind. It forced me to focus on what my body could do rather than what it looked like. And as a female athlete, I believe that mindset is imperative to long-term success in aesthetic-based sports. I had to focus on my performance, not my physique. Even more so, it was really empowering to continually get strong(her)™, and that motivated me to smash weights every day. I wasn’t tearing my body down, I was building it up. I was able to design my goals in terms of strength gains, rather than basing my success on what I saw in the mirror. After a heavy training session, I felt like I could conquer the world. I felt like I could do anything! Going into my figure season with that mindset started the ball rolling in a positive direction. I felt strong and confident going into my season, and sometimes that is more than half the battle.

alycia israel training at elitefts figure 060314

I Ate to Perform

I ate a lot. Training like a powerlifter forced me to eat like one. This, in the end, paid off for my metabolism. I placed the majority of my food around my training in order to fuel my performance. Again, that was my goal at the time—performance. I didn’t eat like a bird in hopes to keep my stage body. For me, and for most women, that expectation is just unrealistic. For my spring 2014 figure season, I started a long six-month prep beginning in October. I had my calories set at an all-time high of 2,500, and my carb intake was pushing 300 grams a day. I was quite proud of my food smashing ability at that time. (To note, it took me one and a half years to slowly build up to this amount without completely blowing up). I did gain a little more body fat, as to be expected, but when I started dieting down the weight flew off. My metabolism was like a roaring fire throughout my entire prep, making it easier to progress without tons of cardio. My coach actually started pulling cardio out of my regimen toward the end simply because it was unnecessary at that point. I probably didn’t start feeling the effects of dieting until about four weeks out from my competition, which is a whole lot better than the 12 to 16 weeks of hell most women experience. Long story short, eat in the off-season. You’ll thank me later.

Although I still have room to grow and a lot to learn, I truly believe that these three factors influenced a huge turning point in my figure career. I have yet to walk off the stage with an Overall Winner trophy in my hands, but I continue to walk off the stage looking better than I did before. I never walked off the platform with a record or an amazing total, but I definitely walked off the platform with a ton of PRs. It’s all about individual progress and what works for you. My hope in writing this article is that you can take what I learned and be able to apply it to reach your goals on the platform or the stage.

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