With Free Workout Plans For Busy People I’m always keen to talk to people who’ve made vast changes to their bodies which can inspire others, as my guest today tick’s this box completely!
Nicky Perry is a super-talented, NPC Figure Athlete, female fitness model, personal trainer and if her track record is anything to go by, soon to be successful Bikini competitor.
I first came across Nicky when I saw her stunning before and after transformation photo’s. I showed them to female friends as testament that lifting weights really is the best way for them to workout and they really had an impact on the training of these ladies.
No longer did they pound the treadmill, lift pink baby weights and eat very little, they actually started to believe what I was telling them was true!
I wanted to reach out to Nicky to find out more about her and just how she went from frumpy and lumpy to fit and funky!
Skye: Nicky, firstly thanks for taking the time out to talk to us, I know there are a lot of people desperate to find out more about you and I hope this interview will cover the fundamentals.
Let’s start with what everyone wants to know…how Nicky Perry works out!
Working Out: Where, How and Why
Skye: Your gym of choice is 24 hour fitness where you can workout around your schedule with is obviously very convenient.
Do you like to workout while the rest of the world is asleep?
Nicky: I really enjoy the flexibility of a gym that is open at all times. For me, the early morning hours are my favourite times because the gym is peaceful, I don’t have to wait to use any of the equipment, and it is almost my meditative time to myself.
Also, I love walking out the gym to the new morning feeling like I have already accomplished so much! However, although I am much more a morning person than someone who likes to workout in the evening, during competition season, sometimes you really have to just get in your workout whenever you can fit it in.
Skye: So what does a Nicky Perry workout look like right now?
Nicky: I suffered a pec tear last year that kept me from competing for a full year.
During this time off, I spend a lot of time rethinking my philosophy on working out, and where I saw myself best fitting in to this sport.
I am now preparing to return to the stage, however, this time as a bikini competitor, and therefore my training has changed a lot.
I feel bikini is a better fit for me both in terms of my natural physique, and now my body responds to the training. I now work out in a slightly higher rep range, however still to failure and still challenging myself every time I walk in to the gym.
In order to build intensity in to my resistance workouts, I keep my rest periods short, and combine muscle groups that I can superset, so that I can keep my heart rate up and maximize fat burning. When I get done lifting, I look the same as when I am done with cardio – drenched!
A sample week’s routine looks more like this:
Mon – AM cardio, PM – Chest/Bi’s/Abs
Tues – Quads/Calves
Wed – AM cardio only
Thurs – Back/Tri’s
Fri – AM cardio, PM- Shoulders/Abs
Sat – Hams/Glutes
Sun – AM Cardio only
Incline press – 4×8-12
ss. Incline Db curl – 4×8-12
Flat Press – 3×10-15
ss Standing Hammer curl 3 x 10-15
Pullovers – 3×8-15
ss. Pec Dec Flyes 4x 12-20
ss Preacher curl – 3×12-20
Leg Extension – 4×10-15
Squats – 4×8-16
Leg Press – 4×8-20
Hack Squat – 3×15-20
Standing Calf Raise – 3×20
Seated Calf Raise 3×25
Unassisted Pullups – 3 x fail
Lat Pulldown – 4×8-15
ss. lying barbell skullcrushers 4×8-12
Bent over barbell row – 4x 8-16
ss. Tricep rope extension 4 x 8-16
Close grip seated row 3 x 12-20
ss. tricep kickbacks 3 x 15-20
Military press – 4x 8-12
Arnold Db press – 3x 8-16
Lateral Db Flyes – 4×15-20
Rear Delt Db flyes – 4×12-16
Lying leg curl – 4×12-15
Stiff leg deadlifts – 4 x 8-16
Seated Ham Curl – 3 x 15-20
Lying stability ball curl – 2×20
For abs, I usually do 2 exercises supersets with no rest, and tend towards adding weight vs. bodyweight crunches. My favourites are hanging leg raises, cable crunches, and machine crunches, working to failure in the 15-20 rep range.
Skye: How important is weight training for women, even those who don’t want to compete and just want to lose weight and “tone up”?
Nicky: I can’t stress enough how important weight training is if you want your body to look lean and tight.
Aside from how good a body with lean, toned muscle definition looks, weight training supports your metabolism so that you can prevent a weight loss plateau. Sure you can lose weight and become smaller just doing cardio, but it will become harder and harder to see results with the same amount of effort as your body adapts and your metabolism slows.
Skye: If your schedule was so hectic that workout time was severely limited, what exercises would you do for a solid, short duration workout?
Nicky: I would do a total body circuit workout with high intensity cardio drills in between. I would alternate upper and lower body exercises. For example:
Chest exercise: ex. Pushups, DB chest press etc.
30 seconds burpees
Leg exercise ex. squats, leg press
30 seconds stair runs or jump squats
Back exercise – ex. pullups, assisted pullups, lat pulldown, bent over db row
30 seconds skiers (bounding side to side)
Leg exercise ex. deadlifts
30 seconds lunge jumps
Shoulder exercise – ex. dumbbell press
30 seconds jump rope
Leg exercise – ex. walking lunges
30 seconds bench hops
Repeat circuit 2-3 times.
Skye: Women who actually lift weights tend to stay in the higher rep ranges, whilst it’s better than not lifting at all, do you agree that heavier weight with lower reps is likely to be better?
Nicky: Actually this year has taught me that there is no one size fits all workout prescription. While there are general rules to training, every one’s body responds differently.
For example this year, training in a slightly higher rep range with more of a focus of rep tempo and form, I see a lot more definition and lines to my musculature. I would say you have to experiment with all rep ranges to find what works best for you, but also to have periods where you train in all rep ranges just to keep your body guessing.
The only thing I would say would apply to everyone is to always train in a way that challenges you. If your last rep is as easy as your first, you are not challenging your muscles enough to produce any change in them.
Cardio Style and Application
Skye: An older workout plan of yours I found suggests HIIT is your cardio of choice; do you favour HIIT over lower intensity, longer duration cardio?
Nicky: Again, this year my training has changed a lot, and has become a lot more flexible. I have been experimenting with low intensity, aerobic cardio, medium intensity cardio, and HIIT training. I think it all works; it is just a matter of keeping enough variety in your program to prevent plateaus.
Skye: What’s your view on performing cardio on an empty stomach?
Nicky: This is a controversial topic that has adamant supporters on either side of the fence.
I could cite a ton of articles that convincingly argue both sides of this debate. In my opinion, this again comes down to everyone’s individual body.
For me personally, I have experimented with fasted cardio over the years and I have to say it has given me good results. I do however make sure I take in some BCAA’s and Glutamine before performing cardio on an empty stomach.
Skye: Do you think women have to do cardio if they want to get to low bodyfat levels (e.g. below 15%)?
Nicky: I do believe cardio is an important component of a fat loss program, but I really feel women place far too much importance on this one component.
Dropping body fat involves a sound diet first and foremost, followed by a solid weight training routine, and then cardio to add to the calorie deficit caused by diet and weight training.
Also, sleep and recovery are factors that also affect your fat loss efforts, and I have seen for myself that although they are not given as much attention as the other components, they absolutely make a difference in your success at losing those last few stubborn pounds.
Cardio really should be used sparingly and as little as possible. When plateauing, I think the first thing that should be modified is diet, and THEN cardio. If you continually increase your cardio, not only will you start to experience faster plateaus and diminishing returns, you could risk losing muscle which in turn will translate in to a slower metabolism and increased body fat levels.
Dieting For Fat Loss
Skye: What’s your view on low carb dieting? Essential to get to low bodyfat levels or a misguided, irrational fear that holds people back?
Nicky: As with everything else, I really feel everybody’s body is different and there is no one-size-fits-all rule that will produce results in everyone.
Some body types do well with a higher carb intake and need it in order to have the energy needed to work out intensely enough to lose fat and build muscle. Other body types like myself, can be on a very carb restricted diet and still have enough energy to fuel intense workouts.
I think every person has to experiment with their carb intake in order to find the level at which they are losing fat while still having the energy to train intensely. Obviously for competitors close to a show, energy levels will be low regardless due to months of intense dieting, but for the ordinary workout enthusiast, I feel one has to find a balance between calorie and carb restriction and energy levels needed to fuel workouts that push you past plateaus.
Skye: What does your diet look like when you want to lose fat? Do you cycle low carb days with higher carb days or anything in particular?
Nicky: My diet so far this year has been very simple, as I am still a few months away from returning to the stage.
Basically, I have been following a carb and calorie restricted diet for most of the week, with a higher carb day on one of my leg days as they require so much more energy, and 1 cheat meal at the end of the week to keep me sane, motivated, and to keep my metabolism guessing.
Right now a sample day would be:
Meal 1 – 1c egg whites, 1/2c blueberries, 1 slice Ezekiel bread
Meal 2 – 4 oz chicken, 1 grapefruit
Meal 3 – 4 oz ground turkey, 1/2c quinoa, 4 ox broccoli
Meal 4 – 4 oz salmon, 4 oz asparagus, 4 oz broccoli
Meal 5 – 4 oz chicken, 4 oz green beans
Meal 6 – Protein shake and 1/2oz almonds
Skye: How often do you eat a cheat meal? Does this change in the run up to a contest?
Nicky: Right now I get a cheat meal every week on Saturday.
It has done wonders in terms of keeping me motivated and compliant on my diet during the week, since I know I have something to look forward to at the end of the week.
In the past, other coaches I have had did not build cheat meals in to my plan, and I feel it set me up for terrible eating habits once my contest was over after so many months of deprivation. I haven’t competed yet this year so I am not sure when I will have to drop my cheat meal, but I think I will probably have to forgo it during the last 4 weeks before the show.
Skye: How important is tracking your food intake and what method do you use?
Nicky: I don’t currently track my food as I have a coach that takes all the thinking out of the equation for me and gives me my set meal plans. However in the off-season my favourite meal tracking program is MyDailyPlate on the Livestrong website. I find it has the largest database of trackable foods.
NPC Figure Competitor, Fitness Model and More!
Skye: You were scouted at a gym by a trainer who asked if you’d ever considered competing. Prior to that did you follow figure competitions or did you just workout to look better?
Nicky: Although I had seen fitness competitions here and there on TV, I didn’t know anything about this sport or what it involved back then. I worked out just to look and feel better, having struggled with my weight during my late teens and early twenties.
Skye: In the days leading up to a contest or photo shoot do you manipulate your diet or fluid/sodium levels in anyway to appear leaner?
Nicky: I have never manipulated my fluid or sodium levels to the extreme that some other competitors do. Because I have never salted my food, my body is already pretty sensitive to sodium so I do have to stay away from anything processed or packaged in general, so that doesn’t change before a contest.
As far as water intake, mine stays pretty normal until contest morning where I sip as needed.
Skye: What are your aspirations and goals as a figure competitor?
Nicky: My goal for 2012 is to return to the stage and qualify for the USA’s in July. From there, I would love to get my pro-card and gain exposure as a bikini competitor in order to be a positive role model for anyone who is experiencing the same struggles with their weight as I have.
Supplements: What and Why?
Skye: How important are supplements and how much do you think they add to your results?
Nicky: I believe supplements are important as long as they are viewed as just that: Supplements.
No product that replace the foundation of a solid, healthy diet. However, the sad reality is that our food supply today does not contain the same levels of nutrients that is did before, and therefore supplements are very important in order to reach your daily minimum values of vital vitamins and minerals.
Also, the more active you are, the more prone you are to being depleted in any number of nutrients, and supplements can help bridge that gap.
Skye: So what do you supplement take to maintain optimum health and support your goals?
Nicky: Currently I take a good quality multi-vitamin, vitamin C, calcium, fish oil, a probiotic supplement and digestive enzymes for their health benefits.
To help support my fat loss goals, I take L-Carnitine, CLA, and Chromium, as well as BCAA’s, L-Glutamine, and a good quality whey protein isolate sweetened with Stevia to aid in recovery.
Skye: Women can be intimidated by creatine as it’s often branded to make it sound hardcore. This coupled with the myth that it makes you look blurry is probably why women avoid it.
What’s the truth and what benefits are they missing out on?
Nicky: I used Creatine last year when I was training for my figure competition and I had great results.
I noticed an appreciable change in my strength levels and recovery time. It does bloat you when you first start taking it, but then your body adapts and the bloated look changes to one of just fuller looking muscles.
A Personal Trainer Who Knows Her Stuff!
Skye: What are the biggest mistakes women make when they want to lose weight? Do you notice any issues that seem to always crop up before you get their training/dieting organised?
Nicky: The biggest things that I struggle with when it comes to training women is their fear of getting bulky if they train with heavy weights.
The belief that they need to do endless amounts of cardio to lose weight, and their underestimation of how important a sound lifestyle way of eating (vs diet!) is to getting the results they want.
As far as the bulking concern, a lot of women quit when they see the initial fullness in their muscles when they first start weight training. I always have to explain that that will go away and give way to a tighter, more defined body once their body adapts to the new stimulus and approach to training.
I also have to pry them off the treadmill and show them how quick bouts of intense cardio can give them faster results in less time, and who doesn’t want that?
Finally, I have to explain that exercise is really only 1-2 hours of your day, and the other 22 depend on your diet. So it makes sense that working out alone will not produce changes you can see in your body if your diet does not support your goals.
Skye: How can people tell the difference between a good personal trainer and an average one?
Nicky: In my opinion, a good trainer isn’t necessarily one that has a long list of certifications or fancy exercises.
A good trainer is one that takes the time to learn about your individual goals, your lifestyle, and your likes and dislikes when it comes to diet and exercise, and then design a plan that is not only customized for you, but fits in to your life in a way that is manageable and doable.
Even the best plan won’t work if it is difficult to implement in to your particular lifestyle. Also, as I said earlier, everyone’s body is different and responds to general prescriptions for diet and exercise in a different way.
Therefore a good trainer is one that takes the time to figure out what your body responds to the best, and then modifies your plan as needed.
Skye: Many people try to justify eating excessively by training more. I always make the point that burning calories is painfully slow compared to eating them!
Do you find that this is a commonly held perception with people you work with?
Nicky: Absolutely. And until I became a trainer, I believed the same thing. Ignorance is bliss, and when I would overindulge or not follow my diet exactly as it was laid out, I would justify it by saying I would just do more cardio the next day.
Not only does this not work, it sets people up to plateau faster, or simply give up exercise when they don’t see results.
The reverse is also true. When you exercise more, you also feel more hungry, which is a great sign that your metabolism is working hard in response to the extra activity.
However, at the end of the day, weight loss is indeed linked to a deficit in caloric intake, and until I have my clients track their daily intake, they tend to underestimate how easy it is to tip that balance in to surplus!
Find Out More About Nicky!
You can keep up to date with Nicky as she works towards that Pro Card and get tonnes of useful advice and tips over at Nicky’s website, plus you can follow her via her Social Media channels too: