Compiled by Steve Holman
Photography by Michael Neveux
Hometown: Winlock, Washington
Current residence: Palm Desert, California
Occupation: Commercial model, fitness model, certified personal trainer and aspiring movie action hero in the mold of Matt Damon and Jason Statham. I personally think the world is ready and waiting for a buff 43-year-old female action star who doesn’t have twigs for arms. Here I am.
How long have you been training? I’ve been training for 25 years, some years with less intensity, some years with more. I am currently in a more phase.
What got you into working out? In high school I was voted most athletic by my class, but it was the early ’80s and most women weren’t lifting weights back then. I played volleyball, basketball and ran track. When I attended the University of Washington for my undergraduate studies, I started looking for a new athletic challenge. A friend who was a bodybuilder introduced me to weight training, first machines and then free weights. I was hooked immediately and haven’t stopped training since. Back then I was known as Crystal “the Body” West, and I actually did compete in a bodybuilding contest in 1986.
Workout schedule: I currently train six or seven days a week. My body seems to thrive on high-intensity workloads, although I don’t recommend my schedule for most people. I’m always changing things up, and I definitely follow an instinctive training method. On Monday I work legs and calves, Tuesday is chest, Wednesday is shoulders, Thursday is back, and Friday is arm day-bi’s and tri’s. At the end of the cycle I will take a day off, but I still do light cardio on that day.
Monday is legs. I do squats, Romanian deadlifts, one-leg split squats, lunges, kickbacks, lying leg curls and leg presses. I do each exercise for three to four sets and stay in the eight-to-10-rep range. I have also added plyometric work, which seems to have tightened my quads and glutes-always a good thing, right? For calves I do seated and standing calf raises for 20 reps, two to three sets of each.
Tuesday is chest. I usually start with incline dumbbell presses, four sets of eight to 10 reps. I actually just got a personal best of five reps with 50-pound dumbbells. After that I do incline flyes for four sets and then four to five sets of cable crossovers, setting them high, midlevel and low to work my pecs thoroughly from multiple angles. For my last chest exercise I like to do pullovers as heavy as I can and very slow, contracting and squeezing at the top.
Wednesday is shoulders. I start with standing or seated dumbbell presses for four sets, eight to 10 reps. Next, I do a tri-set of lateral raises, front raises with a plate and pullups with a mixed grip. I do four rounds of that. Then comes my quad set, which consists of front raises with a 40-pound bar, arms stiff; close-grip upright rows; behind-the-neck presses and military presses with no rest. It’s a killer combination but very effective. I do three or four rounds. For my last shoulder exercise I do four sets of bent-over lateral raises.
Thursday is back day. My favorite back workout is either pullups (various grips) for 60 to 80 minutes or compound sets of pullups with traditional back exercises. Let’s say I start with a set of 10 wide-grip pullups; then I might do a compound set with pulldowns for 10 reps, etc. I like to do wide-grip pullups with a narrow grip, both pronated and supinated, as well as mixed-grip and traveling pullups. I also do a pull-up with legs vertical (toes to the ceiling) that hits the rhomboids hard. This year I’m attempting to perfect my one-arm pullups as well. I can currently do sets of one arms, eight reps each side, but with my nonworking hand gripping my forearm, so they aren’t true one arms-yet.
Friday is arm day, and I’m currently doing bi’s and tri’s together. My arms are probably my strongest bodypart, and I love to work them. I start with dumbbell curls, four sets compounded with chins and semisupinated-grip pullups. I’m a huge advocate of compound and tri-sets to completely fatigue the muscles. I then move to triple-drop sets of dumbbell curls with 25 pounds for six reps, 15 pounds for eight reps, and then 10 pounds on one leg, alternating arms, for seven reps per arm. Then I usually finish with rope curls. I normally start supersetting with dips at this point because I’m transitioning into my triceps workout. For tri’s I do dips (sometimes with added weight), skull crushers and bench dips. Then I add weight-a 45-pound plate and a 35-pound plate on my lap-and do a triple-drop set, having my partner remove a plate after each set and, finally, repping out until failure. I like to finish off my triceps with kickbacks and really squeeze the muscle at the end of the movement
I tend to do abdominal work every day, but I do take a day off here and there if I feel drained or just don’t feel like working them. My abdominal routine is a bit Cirque du Soleil, as I do lots of hanging exercises, including tick tocks, also known as windshield wipers, for reps of 10, as well as around the worlds, 180 degree leg sweeps, for 10 reps. I always do compound sets for abs and also tri-sets, as I think it takes a lot to really fatigue the entire rectus abdominis area.
What type of cardio work do you do and how often? I try to mix it up. I do the elliptical, the stair climber and walk outside as well. I do cardio six days a week, 45 minutes to an hour a day. Additionally, I do a little bit more if I am preparing for a photo shoot.
What motivates you to keep training? I have three sources of motivation. The first is my desire to inspire and motivate others with my training and healthy lifestyle. I get approached fairly often with comments from people about how they find me inspirational. I absolutely love that, and I feel fortunate that I can impact people in that way. The second is that I love to feel healthy, strong and sexy. The truth is that training actually makes the aging process fun-well, okay, at least interesting-because although you’re another year older, you can still make strength gains and look pretty darn good as well. The third source of motivation is my training partner. I have a terrific one right now (thank you, Carlo), and it really helps me on the days I’m just not feeling it.
Favorite foods: Healthful ones are steak, fish and broccoli. Foods I eat rarely but love are chips, nachos and margaritas. I also love chocolate, and I eat it a lot; life is short, you know.
Diet nutrition philosophy: I think everyone is unique, but I have yet to meet an over-40 athlete who can eat a lot of carbs and stay lean. I eat lots of protein, lots of vegetables and healthful carbs, such as oatmeal, brown rice and sweet potatoes.
How do you stay lean? I stay lean by lifting heavy with maximum intensity, doing cardio every day and, most important, eating a healthful, high-protein diet. When you’re over 40, it’s even more important to eat clean, or you’re not going to get the investment back that you’ve made with your training. For men and maybe even more for women, proper nutrition is a key component for staying lean.
Goals: Not quite two years ago I decided I needed a new challenge in the gym, so I thought I would try to do pullups. When I first tried, I could only do two, and I was disappointed in myself. So I set a goal to do 10 wide-grip pullups. Well, let’s just say that I surpassed that 10 because my current goal is to beat the 12-hour men’s world record in wide-grip pullups. I can currently complete 50 in a minute and 1,123 mixed-grip pullups in 80 minutes. Breaking the world record will be extremely challenging, but I think I can do it. I’m going to attempt it in April or May of this year. The men’s world record for 12 hours is 3,116 wide-grip pullups.
Factoid: My background is unique in that I did go to law school after college and obtained my Juris Doctor. I went on to practice law in New York City for 10 years as a criminal defense trial lawyer and loved it. I have also been lucky to be able to travel rather extensively in China-Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai-as well as Singapore, South Korea, Bali, Russia, Germany, New Zealand, northern Europe, France, the U.K. and the Middle East. I think traveling is a gift, in that it opens your eyes to different cultures and different ways of living. It truly does expand your horizons.
What advice do you have for people who start working out in midlife? I think the most important thing to remember is to start slowly but don’t ever stop. Life as well as training is a process, and it should be enjoyed as such. There is a man who inspires me every day, a friend named Moe. At 89 years old he still works as a personal trainer, working with people in my gym. If he can do it, you can do it.
I want to thank IRON MAN for featuring me. I love this magazine, and I have to say Mike Neveux was fantastic to work with. Thank you so much, and for all the readers out there, keep training hard! It’s worth it.
Contact Information: Send e-mail to [email protected], or visit her Web site, www.CrystalWestFitness.com. IM
Compiled by Steve Holman
Photography by Michael Neveux