You Can’t Change a Skeleton…

by Erin Fergus

But you can build around it.  I didn’t believe that for most of 2013, but I do now.

Think about the traditional body types, such as the hourglass, the pear, the apple.  Now think about the “ruler” – straight up and down, which is sometimes referred to as “boyish,” “straight,” “the banana,” or sometimes even “athletic” for women.  My upper body is slightly broad, my torso is long, my hips are narrow, and my legs are short and muscular.  That was the body type I was given, and it’s the one that I’ve spent a lifetime learning how to dress so I don’t look like I have a faux muffin top or so I have some semblance of a shape.

No one has ever put my body type under the microscope until I started competing last summer.  I knew I’d stand out on a stage of trophy-esque hourglasses, but stepping up there was more about being successful in the process of getting competition ready than coming home with a first place trophy.  When I started, my chest and hip measurements were in proportion at 34”, but my waist measurement was around 28-29” – several inches away from an hourglass.  I worked out my upper body with a student trainer for 12 weeks, and I did all my other body part workouts on my own.  I was disheartened to find out that I lost an inch from my hips at the end of the 12 weeks (which was funny because it increased my risk for heart disease based on the waist-to-hip ratio!)

I was happy with my definition and conditioning on stage in June, but there was no denying that I didn’t have the silhouette that is desired in the figure category.  The judges (in the nicest way possible) told me that although it was clear that I worked hard, I’d never be competitive unless I drastically changed my shape.  I was also encouraged to experiment with different suit styles to create the illusion of more of an hourglass.  It wasn’t until one judge specifically said I needed more conditioning in my hamstrings and glutes that I realized one huge mistake.  I so focused on creating a “V” in my upper body and getting my abs to pop that I completely neglected my hips and glutes.  I naively thought that squats and lunges (which I didn’t perform as deeply then as I do now) were working them enough.  I didn’t want to keep competing simply to always place last, but I didn’t want to be told I couldn’t do something I wanted to, either.

I took some time off from heavy lifting and leaned down to compete in a fitness model category in August.  My definition caused me to place well, but I realized just how disproportionate I looked with my wide back and tiny hips and glutes (there was even a woman backstage who said, “Girl, you need to get yourself some hips!” – as if I could grab the perfect pair off a shelf…)

I went into action by eating more (not counting calories but eating when I wanted while making smart choices), continuing my focus on my lats and delts, and adding concentrated hip and glute exercises.  My favorite exercises are weighted pull ups, angled lat pulldown (stand behind the seat and place one foot up on the knee pad; brace yourself and pull the bar to your chest with a wide grip and elbows out wide), straight arm pulldown with a wide grip (focus on squeezing in the armpit area), heavy dumbbell overhead presses, weighted glute bridges with weight plates in the lap, and ‘monster walks’ with a resistance loop around the ankles (turning your toes in, leading with your heel with each side step, and maintaining shoulder width distance between your feet with every step will make it most effective.)

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