Client Study: Brandi Laughlin

Fitness Revolution Rowlett | Client Brandi Laughlin

Background

One year ago Brandi Laughlin walked in our doors and wanted to essentially compete bikini competition within one year’s time.

She had already lost about 60 pounds on her own through making better eating choices,  running for the past five years, and had just really started getting into lifting weights; but she even testified that she wasn’t quite sure if she was doing everything correctly.

After spending more time talking to her I realize that she had actually taken care of a lot of the hard things its comes to when training someone. Things such as hormonal imbalances, changing lifestyle habits, ridding the notion that the number on the scale is a reflection of her health and fitness, etc…

Those make a trainers job a lot easier since we have to spend quite a bit of our time coaching, not just the education process that goes with exercising and diet, but coaching a person to transition to healthier habits that lead to their end goal.

After our conversation and movement assessment I decided to treat this as we were going to start from the ground up, other words a clean slate.

The Workout and Diet

I don’t hold anything back from people that are curious when it comes to designing my client’s workouts or nutrition because, to be honest, it is nothing that you can’t look up online. Even our blog page has quite a bit of info for workouts and our theories on diet.

With her wanting to do a bikini competition we made this a year long goal.

A year is a long time in someone’s eyes and this can be a double edge sword because if they have a bad month… well it’s ok because there are still 11 more to go, if they have a bad week that’s fine because there are still 50+ weeks left.

That thought process can quickly catch up to anyone, because next thing you know you ONLY have three  months left before you step on stage.

So, what I tend to do is break these year plus long goals up into 12 week mini goals and each of those 12 weeks mini goals SHOULD give us the end result we are looking for when the year hits.

It’s much easier for the mind to think in terms of 12 week or three months vs a year or longer, and with Brandi we broke up her training into several different phases.

 

Phase 1: Acclimation – The acclimation phase was all about just teaching her how to move properly, correcting any movement imbalances, activating muscles and showing her how to properly engage muscles that may not have been worked from years of running or previous lifestyle.

In this phase her program was just total body movement three to four times a week with some HIIT at the end of each session.

 

An example of a workout for this phase:

1A. Squat or deadlfit x 20

2A. Overhead press of any kind x 15

3A. T-bar rows (or any rowing variation) x 20

3B. Dips (or any push up variation) x 15+

4A. Pull-ups/chin-up x failure

5A. Skull Crushers x 20

6A. Bicep Curl Variation x 20

6B. Ab movement x 20

HIIT cardio for 10min

*We would do anywhere from 2-5 sets depending on the goal of that day’s session.

 

Phase 2: Strength – The Strength phase was all about getting her STRONGER, because to be honest, most people that start out and want to do competitions are NOT strong enough to lift the weights they need to lift to elicit the muscular development they are looking for.

Do these people (Brandi in that case) need to be superman/woman strong? Course not. BUT, they need to realize that lifting a 20lb barbell for squats, 5lb dumbbells for back and arms are NOT going to give them competition winning body NOR an fit strong athletic physique.

So we had to focus on getting Brandi stronger in some core movements (squats, deadlifts, dips, overhead press, lunges, etc..) so that she felt comfortable with heavier weights and could handle these weights safer with solid form.

 

An example of her Deadlift day looked like:

1A. Deadlift 3 reps at 85%, 87%, 89% of her E1RM (E1RM = Estimated 1 Rep Max)

2A. Front Squats 6 reps at 75-80% of her E1RM

2B. Chin-ups x 8

3A. Glute Ham Raise x 20

3B. Ab Wheel x 12

4A. HIIT for 10-15min

 

These workouts were VERY heavy and taxing on her nervous system so they weren’t ever very long, but instead designed to get her more and more comfortable with heavier weights. This phase though did start adding some muscle to her frame which was a perfect transition into the next phase.

 

Phase 3: Building – The building phase was all about making her muscles grow and develop, and for Brandi we had to focus on her legs and arms… a LOT. She had such long limbs that they needed a lot of work to fill out; so we spent a bulk of this phase on her legs/glutes and arms.

 

Sample Leg Day:

1A. Squats x 10-12 at 70%(ish)

2A. Single Leg variation (her favorite was Bulgarian) x 8-15

3A. Hip Thrust x 12 with a 303 Tempo (3 seconds up, 3 seconds down)

3B. Wide Grip Pull-ups x 8+

4A. GHRs x 20

4B. Side Laterals x 25+ (or beating her numbers from last workout)

5A. Ab variation

 

Phase 4: Contest prep – The contest prep phase was all about the diet and diet manipulation while having her stay as close to the weights that she was lifting in her muscle building phase when we are slowly cutting her calories. During this phase as well we did increase her cardio to 3 HIIT sessions a week.

*Typical Day of Eating:

Meal 1: 4oz of protein, 1 cup of greens, 1/2 avocado

Meal 2: 4oz of protein, 1 cup of greens, 1 serving of nut butter

Meal 3: 4oz of protein, 1 cup of greens, 2/3cup of rice

Meal 4: 4oz of protein, 1 cup of greens, 2/3cup of rice

**Meal 5: 4oz of protein, 1 cup of greens, 2/3cup of rice

*There were plenty of changes we had to make but this was the staple of her diet for most days of the week. 

**The 5th meal was optional depending on how she was feeling or looking that day

***We subbed in a cheat meal/refeed meal about ever 7-10 days for her last meal of the day

On some days we had to bring her carbs WAY down to 1/2 a serving for the day and on other days her carbs were nearly 50% of her total calories, it was all a learning experience to find what her body responded best to.

Side Note: Everything that was listed her was BRANDI’S diet and exercise program designed for HER body/history/phases; feel free to try it, but understand that you may not get the same results as she did so adjustments will need to be made.

 

Challenges During These Phases

Nothing EVER goes smoothly in life and there is always going to be challenges with training as well, but that doesn’t mean we ever stopped and said “F.. this”, we just map out a plan and kept trucking forward.

Really Brandi was a trooper for the entire process, but I will say she didn’t have any problem expressing how “excited” she was to me for more Bulgarians and lunges, lol.

BUT we had PLENTY of challenges that we had to overcome and this is just part of the process with any client.

Some of the challenges that really caught my attention during this year long progress were:

Experience – The more I work with newer people the more that I realize experience in the gym, under the weights hold a LOT of value. The more time you have under your belt lifting and pushing, and straining to a degree, the more muscle you have, the better you know your body and the faster we can get diet you down because the body has been to a similar level at one point in time.

If you ever take a look at the top physique competitors you’ll notice a VERY substantial difference in their bodies from their fist year to their fifth. AND you’ll especially notice how much easier it is for them to get contest ready (could be because they are constantly closer to contest shape).

The level of awareness and mindset from a person that just has the experience of dieting and working out just makes the process so much easier; not only for the body but the MIND because for anyone that has ever dieted down to VERY lean levels probably understands that somedays are just mindf–ks.

 

Brandi had spent more years as a runner than as a lifter so her body is making a transition.

 

Stubborn muscles – Everyone has them but Brandi had some stubborn delts and glutes, these things made us WORK to find what they liked and even then we had to hammer the hell out of them to really get the response we were looking for and I think this ended up costing some time. BUT it IS part of the process; needless to say if you are on a competition time schedule losing weeks/months isn’t ideal, especially in a building phase.

Mindset around lifestyle – This is the hardest thing to change even for the most wanting and willing of people and with her life taking a turn this year to say her plate was quite full is an understatement.

She had to start over multiple times creating a new eating habit and routines due to HER lifestyle changing. Some days she was just flat out exhausted from “life” and just didn’t have an appetite nor the mental energy to even workout. If anyone has ever been through any emotionally taxing life endeavors then they know that developing and keeping a new routine during those times can tire even the best of us.

 

Overcoming The Challenges

There really isn’t anything we can do with experience challenge except get her in the gym more often so that she can become more comfortable with the movements, the weights and finding out what works best for HER body.

With the stubborn muscles what we did do that made a WORLD of difference was to incorporate paused and tempo work with her glutes to keep them under tension longer.

We found that when she rushed the rep with her legs she wasn’t really using the glutes to lift the weight, instead other muscles were starting to take over. What we did was have her do a Bulgarian squat but hold the bottom portion of the movement for a 2 count FOCUSING ON THE GLUTES then standing up. Instantly she felt her glutes activate which led me to believe that she just needed to slow down and take her time (easier said than done when your muscles are on fire and you have weight on your back).

Another trick was 303 tempo work, 3 seconds to lower the weight then 3 seconds to lift/stand it back up. Each rep took about 6+ seconds so when you have 8-12 reps you have a pretty long set BUT the RIGHT muscles were firing and starting to develop.

With her delts we had to incorporate an HFT protocol (high frequency training), we saw that overhead pressing just wasn’t cutting it so we switch to dumbbell lateral raises BUT with VERY high reps almost every workout.

We kept her form strict and would have her do lateral raises with a lighter weight for sets of 25+, and each workout (sometimes 5 workouts a week) that she had she would have to do more than the previous workout. This quickly started developing her medial delts.

 

End Result

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Key Points YOU Can Use:

– Experience helps… A LOT. If you are just starting out don’t be discouraged if you don’t look like a fitness model after your first year, remember those people have been at this for YEARS.

– If the muscles are being stubborn it usually means that you need to slow down and do MORE reps with a lighter weight until you finally feel the muscle being worked THEN you can start adding the weight.

– Spend some time getting STRONGER, a strength phase does wonders for the body when it comes time to build some quality muscle.

– Have shorter term goals/focus points, don’t do the year long thing. Instead, find something to focus on for an 8-12 week period and kill it.

– Track what your body responds best to, everybody’s BODY responds differently and if you take the time to just track and see what worked for you it will make any leaning out or dieting process 10x easier.

 

Some Stats and Observations:

Beginning stats:

5’6

139.4 lbs.

22% body fat

 

Show day stats:

5’6

123.6 lbs.

14% body fat

 

Brandi didn’t have as much muscle showing as she had wanted during this show even though she was as 14% because she didn’t have enough developed muscle. For her to get her abdominal wall showing we would have to take her bodyfat down to nearly 10-11% and at that point in time you run the risk of looking gaunt.

 

It’s surprising to people doing their first show that they realize they do NOT have as much muscle as they think.

 

This is/was a bikini show NOT a figure or bodybuilding so her being absolutely shredded and getting down to gaunt levels would have counted against her.

Mentally she was exhausted. This, in my opinion, was a combination of prepping for her first show (taxing for anyone) and transitioning her life to being a single mother (even more taxing), so her last month I could tell that the struggle was real. For her to tough this out was impressive with everything that she had going on.

In my opinion she did VERY WELL for her first show! I’m freaking proud of her and know that in a few years she will do some damage on a national level.

 

Moving Forward

We’re gonna keep Brandi leaner this go round, we’re trying not to let her body fat above 18% at the high end, so to makes it easier for her to get even leaner for her next competition which we are looking at July of 2015, this will give us plenty of time do make some BIG changes.

Since we get to skip the acclimation phase we are going straight to a 12+ week building phase so the big focal points are building her glutes, delts, arms, and abdominal wall to add some quality muscle to those areas.

Poor girl…it looks like LOTS of single leg work and handicap stalls in her future.

We will probably still have to bring her bodyfat for her next show lower than 14% but with the newer muscle that she is going to get over this off season it will show so much better, and sooner.

Ever since I first met her I told her that she had a TON of potential just just needed to stick with it for several years, in all reality this will be 3+ year project to get her where she has the potential to do some national level damage.

She has been bitten by the iron bug and she is hyped up to get back into the gym to start working on what she needs to, so I’m pretty sure this next show we will see some BIG changes and I’m excited about it!

If you want more updates or pictures on Brandi check our her site www.mamalaughlin.com

 

Fitness Revolution Rowlett | Client Study Brandi Laughlin

 

 

 

In Health and Awesomeness,

Travis Signature 300x62 Worlds Shortest Blog Post

Travis Merritt, BS, CPT, (and other cool letters behind the name) is the Owner of Fitness Revolution in Rowlett, TX.

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Comments

  1. Brandi you are such an inspiration! Keep on keeping on Darling!!

  2. Ive been following Brandi ‘s blog for years! She is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing her journey from the trainers point of view.
    I was wondering, do you know/can you recommend a gym or trainer in the Portland OR/Vancouver WA area?

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