Veteran figure champion Candice Keene has competed every year since 2009, garnering a succession of first place finishes (11 and counting!) and hitting the top six in three of her four Olympia appearances.
One of a select group of top tier IFBB figure pros, Keene – winner of the Arnold Figure International in 2014 and the Australian Pro the same year – is again poised to win big in Columbus come March 5.
Crediting her winning ways to a strong drive to succeed and a will to persevere under all circumstances, the ALLMAX Nutrition athlete Keene continues to improve and shows no signs of slowing down.
Here she reveals her strategies for achieving figure success as she prepares to claim the Arnold figure International title for the third time.
What changes, if any, have you made to your training and/or nutrition in preparation for this year’s Arnold Classic?
With this year’s Arnold preparation, my approach to training has changed in several ways. I still train for muscle hypertrophy, but I make functional and mobility exercises/movements one of my main areas of focus. With this being my 33rd show prep in the last 6.5 years, it can do a number to the body.
The last year and a half my body finally took notice that it’s been getting “beat up” for numerous years, and actually started going against me last summer during my Olympia prep. After a challenging prep, I added in different supplemental therapeutic modalities to correct certain instabilities and imbalances which I had developed throughout my hips, thoracic, sacrum and lumbar, which resulted in pain and a lot of aggravation.
My prep for the Arnold focuses on the right exercises for my body and to maintain and enhance structural integrity and mobility while keeping my body’s stabilizer muscles strong and “awake”. Because of certain structural imbalances I have had for so long, certain stabilizer muscles pretty much turned off/fell-asleep over the last year or two and that creates a downward spiral.
So, implementing thoracic and hip mobility exercises, scapular retraction activation, glute activation before every leg workout (very important for the medius muscle, which is a key play in hip stability), and trunk rotational/core moves has made me feel alive again!
My pain is dissipating, my important stabilizers are waking up again, the right muscles are firing, and my strength has increased. And as I am leaning out for the show, I am seeing muscles I haven’t seen on my body in a very long time. The body is an amazing thing. Even though I have been competing for seven years and have good amount of shows under my belt,
I have gained so much knowledge about my body during this challenging experience. I also have been stretching a lot more along with foam rolling and body work (ART, massage, etc).
It has been very frustrating at times and for me, this show will be my most challenging, but more mentally. But at the same time it will be my most rewarding as well. To know I pushed through my personal obstacles and to show up the best me yet, and to defending my title and claiming my 3-peat.
How would you describe your training style?
My training style is a mix of several styles. I implement the traditional bodybuilding style (with weights), circuit style training (I will sometimes perform giant sets to keep my heart rate up), functional training (multifunctional moves focusing on core and another body part), perform metabolic workouts implementing plyometric exercises and high intensity intervals. I find my body responds nicely when I keep it spicy with a variety of styles.
As a figure competitor, what kind of physical look are you aiming for, compared to that of a female bodybuilder?
The physical looks of a figure competitor and a female bodybuilder I feel are very different. For the figure look I always use the analogy of a martini glass, meaning a nice wide v-taper into a tiny waist with proportional legs (not too muscular but just enough to really bring the package together), and of course the rounded, capped shoulders; the same along goes for the rear, in addition to strong rear delts and nicely rounded glutes.
Figure is about perfect proportion of structure and muscles, along with the “beauty pageant” look.
It is the whole package; Hair, Makeup, Flawless Tan, Just enough bling to sparkle, a beautiful suit to capture the judges’ eyes, and a confident elegant presentation with strong and flowing quarter turns.
What improvements are you expecting to present on stage in Columbus? What are you doing to ensure these improvements will be made?
My improvements will be my correction of the structural and muscular imbalances my body created through the last few years, and to come in with crisper lines and the Winning Physique.
The corrective and therapeutic modalities and customized training for my body, as mentioned above, will ensure I will step on the Figure International stage with my best package and Winning Physique.
What are your secrets for achieving the perfect shape needed to compete against the world’s best figure athletes?
Implementing my techniques mentioned above, along with giving my best each and every day inside and outside of the gym.
Describe your nutritional approach? How does your nutrition change in the weeks leading up to a contest?
What works best for my body is carb cycling. The last month prior to the show, the amount of carbs decrease while my fats increase slightly. My body loves the fats weeks prior to stage. It helps maintain and create the fuller look while dropping my carbs.
The last 2 weeks are very structured, precise and planned. Every bit counts at this point.
During prep I also try to eat organic as much as I can, limit any sweeteners, and I implement plant protein powder (Nova Forme PhytoPro) versus whey when having shakes. Otherwise I love IsoNatural from ALLMAX.
How important is supplementation for dialing in your physique ahead of major professional contests, such as the Arnold?
I feel supplementation is very important.
The body is so sensitive if any vitamin or mineral deficiencies are present. It can affect your performance along with energy and well-being big time. It is also important to optimize mitochondrial function, since the mitochondria is the powerhouse of every cell creating energy throughout the entire body (coenzyme Q10, acetyl-L-carnitine, and alpha-lipoic).
Another important focus is the detoxification process, involving the liver and methylation process in the body. The methylation phase (2nd out of 3 phases) is very crucial to get right because if it is not right, any bad estrogens and toxins in the body never make it to the third phase and get re-circulated in the body. Nutrients to optimize this are Methyl-B12, TMG, Folate, Methionine, Taurine, Glutathione, Cysteine, and Magnesium)
I also like to take adrenal support nutrients and adaptogens such as Rhodiola, Ginseng, Maca Root, Shizandra, and Astragalus.
What key supplements do you personally use and how do they enhance your performance in the gym, and onstage appearance?
The supplements listed above as well as ALLMAX Nutrition supplements including Omega3, CLA, Taurine, Leucine, Agamine Sulfate, Citrulline Malate, Glutamine, Carnitine, ZMA, Yerba Mate Green Tea, Yohimbe, R-ALA, AminoCore, HVOL, Razor8, MusclePrime.
Everything I take helps me push every day at my optimal output, because I am nourished properly to feel my best physically, mentally, and internally.
What drives you to be at your best whenever you compete?
My driving force to be my best whenever I compete is without a doubt intrinsic. Even though competing is a competitive sport amongst others, all in all it is a competition of you versus you.
Our self-doubts and our confidence are instilled and built within from within. Improving each time I step on stage and each year, is what drives me. The human body and the human mind are never static; they are constantly changing. Either increasing in strength or running into obstacles, you yourself are that driving force within to excel and be your best.That is why I love this sport so much.
The structure, the self-realization and self-growth you obtain on your journey to the stage. It’s an amazing thing. I always embrace every step along the way.