Danielle De Haas
Dani is an excellent example of how to look after foundational health and function to be resilient to the stress of intense competition preparation.
She had a coach prescribing her an exercise plan; however, there were no strength targets in place; she had been given a diet plan of 1200 calories and had lost so much strength that her previous best deadlift of 170kg had regressed to 130kg. Malnourishment and lack of training intensity spelt disaster to her progress as someone who wanted to build muscle and look lean.
Her goal was to compete in a bikini competition and eventually build up to a figure. These competitions are physique based events with different qualities. The Figure category is prominently focused on muscle size, shape and symmetry, where the bikini division is after a ‘toned’ look with a particular shape and symmetry. These divisions aren’t very different to train for; however, it will take more time to make it to a figure competition as muscle takes a long time to build.
The strategy focuses on laying down the foundation for successful prep. Preps are challenging and can take a significant toll on your health, so we have to have foundations. We, as coaches, have to ensure the athlete is in the best and healthiest condition to be resilient to the stress of prep. So we planned for a year to get her on stage. Building the foundation is looking at metabolic health, relationship with food, training capacity, good technique, good strength, healthy blood markers and more. We do this with constant ongoing tracking biometrics and weekly consultation.
The initial plan was to bring back her potential. The loss in strength didn’t allow for very effective training for building muscle, and the low calories didn’t give her much energy to train for strength. The caloric deficit was initially too much for someone with her performance capabilities, and being a year out from her competition didn’t leave much room to progress. Focusing on eating to perform and training hard did better for body composition than focusing on an intense deficit at this stage of prep.
Her food intake went from the initial 1200 calories, making it up to 2200 calories for most of the prep. Her training intensity was so good that this created a substantial metabolic advantage, so calories never need to come lower than 1500 calories.
She started at 110kg squat, 60kg bench press and 130kg deadlift. We trained for strength through her entire prep and worked up to 145kg squat, 80kg bench press and 205kg deadlift. That impressive deadlift she was able to do six weeks out from the competition. We also never did long drawn out cardio; at most, we did intervals which totalled 8 minutes of cardio three times a week.
Dani only lost 3.4kg in body weight from her initial weight of 69.9kg and getting on stage at 66.5kg. We grew to 74 kg in the first phase, then 74kg down to 66.5kg. Because we built so much muscle, we competed in Figure, and she took first place at the Arnolds State Qualifier. Then she took it to the National Stage Open Division and took 6th place out of 30, which is impressive.
I am eating more than I ever have, I am the strongest I’ve ever been and I have the lowest body fat % I’ve ever had. This is all thanks to having a coach who is educated beyond a personal training course. He does not apply a “one size fits all” diet. He listens, learns and responds to MY body and uses that information to make weekly changes for me. I have learnt so much about how to fuel my body to maximise my training and subsequently better my weekly results. I am very thankful to be guided by someone who has my health as the number one priority. There need to be more people like this who have a passion for the job and less of personal trainers who do it for the money!