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Bodybuilding Success Story: Becky Holman’s Physique Transformation and Emotional Rescue

Shaking the Shock of a Fat Before Photo to Bask in the Glory of an In-Shape After

The old saying is, "A picture is worth a thousand words." In my case my before picture evoked a thousand emotions—primarily disgust and depression. I didn't realize I looked like that till I saw those awful photos. It's amazing how your mind can play tricks on you when you look in a mirror. On top of that, clothes can help reinforce the denial. Throw on a baggy shirt and some jeans, and, see, you don't look fat at all. Amazing. It's so easy to hide it'even from yourself. It's hard to deny it, however, when you see a photograph of yourself in a bathing suit head-on. Now, that's a slap of reality'and in my case the reality was worse than anything the folks at "Fear Factor" could dream up.

I felt so terrible after I saw my before photos that the idea of changing my appearance seemed almost hopeless. And to make me feel even worse, my daughters, Chelsea, 11, and Lindsey, seven, kept saying, "Mommy, you're fat; go on a diet," but my husband, Steve Holman, IRONMAN's editor in chief, did his best to put a positive spin on things. He encouraged me and told me that changes would start to happen fast if I buckled down. I knew he was right, but I just couldn't find the motivation to be persistent. I knew I could do it because I'd get a spark, but then it would quickly be extinguished by thoughts of how far I had to go.

Those false starts were disheartening, and I had a number of them. My before pictures were taken in September '02, and that's when I decided to begin a transformation program. The problem was I couldn't commit completely. I went to the gym a few times in September, but I didn't stick with it. I decided that Thanksgiving would be my starter pistol, and right after the holiday I'd go full force. Nope, it didn't happen. I put it off till Christmas, New Year's and, finally, my birthday, which was my 41st, at the end of February.

Birthdays are milestones, and turning 41 finally ignited my enthusiasm to more than a flicker. I'd gone through my first year in my 40s in perhaps my worst shape ever – not a good way to enter the prime of life. It was time to change that and prove to myself that I could achieve my best shape ever and be a happier, healthier person. Steve was beginning his annual cutting phase, so that helped my mind-set. (I strongly recommend having a partner or friend go through the process with you. Steve and I ran and walked together a lot'and ate a lot of the same things.) I started with some easy full-body sessions for a few weeks, training two days a week (see the Phase 1 Break-in Workout on page 112), and then Steve created a split routine for me, using his Positions-of-Flexion training method. I started going to Mavericks Gym in Ventura, California, (5171 Telegraph Road; three days a week and training more intensely. The first two days I did a split routine, and then on Friday I did a full-body workout with slightly higher reps on each exercise.

If you look at my Phase 2 routine on page 112, you may notice that there's direct and indirect work for every bodypart on Monday and Wednesday. In other words, I really trained every bodypart on both of those days. For example, I did chest on Monday and triceps on Wednesday, pressing for chest trained my triceps and flat-bench dumbbell presses with my arms held into my torso for triceps trained my chest. Close-grip upright rows for midback on Monday also trained delts, and delt work on Wednesday, presses and dumbbell upright rows hit midback. On Friday I did one or two sets of higher reps, around 12, for key exercises, and I did only one exercise per bodypart although there was direct and indirect work for almost every bodypart within that day's routine. For example, I did feet-forward Smith-machine squats for my hamstrings, but they also work quads, which I trained directly with the next exercise, leg presses, which also hit hamstrings. It may sound a bit confusing, but trust me, it works, and you'll know you've given every muscle the once over (and usually twice-over if you count the indirect hits). With direct and indirect work on Monday and Wednesday and a full-body workout on Friday, I was essentially training every bodypart three days a week.

Steve went with me to the gym a couple of times to answer questions I had, and I also read through the exercise section Appendix B of Train, Eat, Grow to make sure I was doing all the movements correctly.

For extra calorie burn I walked a couple of days a week, but that was it for cardio the first six weeks. I introduced running twice a week after that, doing one to two miles a session.

As for eating, the first thing I did was stop having anything after 8:00 p.m. That took some weight off me immediately, as I often had ice cream or other goodies late'which is how I got in that horrible before shape in the first place. I think most people's metabolisms slow down in the evening, and they tend to sit around anyway, so adding extra calories during that time does nothing but feed fat cells. If I got a craving, I'd have a big glass of water with lemon squeezed in. That was refreshing and usually killed the urge to splurge.

My next step was to add protein to every meal. In the beginning I was having one or two Muscle Meals meal replacements during the day to supplement my regular food intake, but as I progressed into month two, I replaced each MRP with one or two scoops of Pro-Fusion protein powder to reduce my calories. One Muscle Meals has about 340 calories, while two scoops of Pro-Fusion has 220. Chocolate Pro-Fusion is my favorite, and sometimes I'd put a tablespoon of peanut butter in the drink to give it that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup flavor (that's when I'd only use one scoop of protein — I was good about keeping my calories in check). It was delicious and satisfied my sweet tooth without spiking my insulin.

Another strategy I used was what Steve calls carb stacking. I tried to get most of my carbohydrates before noon, with the remainder of my meals being mostly protein and cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli and asparagus. I trained in the morning, so my last higher-carb meal was around 11:30, which was my postworkout RecoverX shake. That supplement has fast whey protein and fast high-glycemic carbs, just what you want after an intense workout to replenish and build muscle.

Yes, I was trying to build muscle because I've learned that the more muscle I add to my frame, the more calories I burn. Was I afraid of getting too big? Of course not. As a woman I know my hormones won't allow it, so I trained as hard as I could — and it worked! ALL Becky Holman's Phase 1 Break-in Workout (Four Weeks)

Tuesday and Friday
Smith-machine squats 1-2 x 10
Leg curls 1-2 x 10
Hyperextensions 1-2 x 10
Standing calf raises 2 x 15
Bench presses 1-2 x 10
Machine flyes 1 x 10
Lateral raises 1-2 x 10
Machine presses 1-2 x 10
Cable rows 1-2 x 10
Pushdowns (optional) 1 x 10
Cable curls (optional) 1 x 10
Ab machine 1-2 x 10

Becky Holman's Phase 2 Workout

Monday: Quads, chest, back, abs
Leg presses* 2 x 10-12
Feet-forward Smith-machine squats 2 x 8-10
Leg extensions (drop) 2 x 8(6)
Leg press calf raises* 3 x 18, 14, 12
Standing calf raises (drop) 2 x 10(6)
Bench presses* 2 x 8-10
Machine flyes (drop) 2 x 8(6)
Machine incline presses* 2 x 8-10
Superset (same weight on both)
Incline flyes 2 x 8-10
Incline dumbbell
presses 2 x 8-10
V-handle pulldowns* 2 x 8-10
Dumbbell pullovers 1 x 12
Undergrip cable rows
(drop) 1 x 8(6)
One-arm dumbbell rows 2 x 8-10
Bent-over lateral raises 2 x 8-10
Close-grip cable upright
rows 2 x 8-10
Incline kneeups 3 x max
Crunches 1 x max

Wednesday: Hamstrings, delts, triceps, biceps, abs
Feet-forward Smith-machine squats* 2 x 10-12
Hyperextensions 2 x 8-10
Leg curls (drop)* 2 x 8(6)
Dumbbell upright rows* 3 x 10-12
Incline one-arm laterals 1 x 8-10
Dumbbell presses* 2 x 8-10
Flat-bench dumbbell presses
(arms close to torso)* 2 x 8-10
Overhead dumbbell
extensions* 1 x 8-10
Kickbacks (drop) 2 x 10(6)
Undergrip pulldowns* 2 x 8-10
Incline curls 1 x 8-10
Cable curls (drop) 2 x 8(6)
Crunches 3 x max
Reverse crunches 1 x max

Friday: Full body
Leg presses* 2 x 10-12
Feet-forward Smith-
machine squats 2 x 10-12
Leg curls (drop)* 1 x 8(6)
Hyperextensions 1 x 8-10

Butt Blaster machine 1 x 15
Standing calf raises
(drop)* 1 x 12(6)
Bench presses* 1 x 12
Machine flyes (drop) 1 x 8(6)
Incline dumbbell presses 1 x 12
Dumbbell upright rows
(drop)* 1 x 8(6)
Machine presses* 1 x 12
V-handle pulldowns* 1 x 12
Straight-bar cable rows 1 x 12
Bent-over laterals (drop) 1 x 8(6)
Pushdowns (drop)* 1 x 8(6)
Cable curls (drop)* 1 x 8(6)
Incline kneeups 2 x max
Crunches 2 x max Becky Holman's Diet

Meal 1
High-fiber cereal or two
scrambled eggs
One piece fruit
1 cup coffee
Vitamin-and-mineral capsule
Desiccated fruit capsules, 2
SAN's T3 metabolic stimulator
Syntrax's Radox antioxidant capsule

Meal 2
Muscle-Link's Muscle Meals
meal replacement, 1 packet, or Pro-Fusion protein powder, 2 scoops in water

Meal 3 (postworkout)
Muscle-Link's RecoverX
postworkout supplement, 2 scoops in water

Meal 4
Vanilla lowfat yogurt with
pecans stirred in or lowfat cottage cheese with banana

Meal 5
Pro-Fusion protein powder,
1 scoop in water

Meal 6
Chicken with green veggies
(usually broccoli)
Dessicated vegetable capsules, 2
T3 metabolic stimulator

Before bed
Pro hGH growth hormone
booster supplement

Editor's note: All supplements listed are available from Home-Gym Warehouse, 1-800-447-0008 or

I did my after photos in mid-July, and even I was impressed. Getting there wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, and I kicked myself for all those false starts caused by my feelings of being overwhelmed. The "thousand words" my after photos are worth include pride, accomplishment and satisfaction. I've taped my before and after pictures together side by side and placed them in my closet so I can see them every morning as I get dressed. That before shot is a constant reminder to stay the course. IM

Becky Holman's Fat-loss Tips

Most of my tips come from my husband's book Train, Eat, Grow. In fact, I reviewed Chapter 15, "Get-Ripped Nutrition," often. Here are some of the things I did:

1) Stop eating after 8:00 p.m. Your metabolism slows down at night, and you also have a tendency to binge after a day of reduced-calorie eating. Don't give in to that urge.

2) Have at least 15 grams of protein at every meal and never eat carbs alone. That will keep your blood sugar stable, reduce hunger and prevent insulin surges, which can promote bodyfat storage. If a meal lacked sufficient protein, I'd have one scoop of Muscle-Link's Pro-Fusion in water for an additional 20 grams of micellar-casein-and-whey protein.

3) Get most of your carbs in the morning. I ate fruit in the morning, mostly protein in the afternoon and protein with green vegetables at night.

4) Don't be too strict. I'd have a beer or two twice a week or so, and even ice cream, but I never binged. Control is the key — stay strict most of the time.

5) Eat at least five meals a day. Once again, that keeps blood sugar stable and prevents insulin surges.

6) Gradually increase activity. I added running to my exercise regimen after six weeks. I ran once or twice a week, usually on days I didn't go to the gym.

7) Don't weigh yourself. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you gain muscle and lose fat, your bodyweight will hover around the same number. That can frustrate people who don't understand that a lower bodyweight doesn't necessarily mean a better body. I weighed myself at the beginning of my program, and then near the end; however, I knew I was making steady progress because my pants were getting looser and I had to tighten my belt regularly. IM

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