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A STAR SHINES BRIGHT

BY JOHN PLUMMER // PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PALMER, ROBBY BRAND & THIERRY PEIFFER

Clare Taubman is one of the UK’s most successful figure and bodyfitness competitors. Since winning her debut contest in 2005 she has competed internationally in the United States, Spain and Italy and has twice represented the UK at the World Championships. Last year she finished sixth at the IFBB World Cup in Madrid and in 2007 she placed fourth at the prestigious Emerald Cup in America.

Domestically she has the unfortunate distinction of having placed, second, third and fourth at the UK Championships but never first, which is something she is planning to put right at this year’s national finals in Nottingham in October.

So why does she rate so highly? Well, we can answer that in two words – ‘legs’ and ‘glutes’. Judges often say that when it comes to marking figure and bodyfitness contests, it’s the lower body that counts. Most women have well tapered upper bodies but it’s often the legs and glutes that separate the best from the rest. Getting muscular, shapely and lean legs is extremely tough, especially for women who tend to store more fat in these areas.

The rear poses, in particular, usually expose flaws but Clare’s physique comes alive when she turns around. Her lower body combines just the right amount of muscle with beautiful shape and has the kind of detail and separation, including excellent glute-hamstring tie-ins, that is rarely seen. It’s been two years since we last featured Clare in UK’s Muscle & Fitness so we thought it was time to catch up with her to find out what she has been up to and to discover the secret of shapely lower limbs.  

“Well since my last article with UK Muscle & Fitness I had a very disappointing result at the 2008 UK Championships, when I came fourth. Afterwards was a very tough time because I had put so much into that competition. I was totally gutted at the result and it made me question many things.I eventually decided to go and give it my best shot at the 2009 IFBB World Championships in Lake Como, Italy. I loved the experience so much despite missing the top 15 in my class. It was another huge disappointment because I felt that even though my class was the largest, with more than 30 women from around the world in the line-up, I had improved so much from the previous year’s World Championships in Santa Susanna, Spain, I really felt that I should have been in at least the top 15.

I was upset but quite a few judges approached me and said they loved my look and that I just needed some more exposure. They said that because all the competitors are crammed on stage together for 60 seconds it’s hard for them to really see and compare everyone so being a known face really helps.

I did loads of photoshoots that day, it was stunning outside the venue and I have since appeared in many magazines and websites across Europe. I am also being flown out to Germany for a shoot in September. At the World Championships I was also invited to the IFBB World Cup in Madrid six weeks later, which I did and came 6th.

Although the World Championships did not go well for me I was so happy to see my fellow Brit Louise Rogers get her pro card and we have become great friends since. In fact, Louise and her partner, Mark Palfery, are doing my contest preparation for the UK championships this year. I have some great people who are there for me, especially in the tough times and to pick me up. Besides Mark and Lou there is Karen and Harold Marillier and my boyfriend, Gary, who has always flown everywhere with me and gone through all my ups and downs with me. I just hope that this year I can put a huge ghost to rest at the UK finals and finally take home the title! I can’t explain how much it means to me... I am going all out to try and win and hopefully all my international experience will help me to bring my best package yet to the stage. I want the recognition I feel I deserve for the last five years of hard work. I don’t want to have to go home with another disappointing result.

Work-wise my personal training business is going really well. I am also working on bringing out my own training and nutrition DVD, which is aimed not only at competitors but also anyone wanting to sculpt amazing legs and glutes and to receive honest information about diet myths etc. It should be really good fun with lots of high energy workouts and healthy tips. I am still part of team EAS, which I love and I thank them for their amazing products and support. I am also continuing to do as much fitness modelling as I can.

I train either at the gym where I work or at Lougars Gym in Southsea, Portsmouth. A couple of times a month I try to go up to Mark and Lou’s gym Studio 1 in Farnham, Surrey. I love to go train at Forest Gym in Crawley, too. I like to mix it up and keep things fresh. As far as my training goes I think I have enough muscle on my legs so I am trying to streamline them more now so I am training more circuit-style and using high reps on them. I have not lifted heavy or squatted since October 2009.

I love to help others compete and to give them as much advice as I can about tans, suits, posing etc. I know it can be so hard, especially at your first show. There are so many more things to think about than you realise. I really enjoy being backstage helping.

CLARE’S LEG AND GLUTES TRAINING

Over the last couple of years I have built some good muscle on my legs. Legs have always been my strongest and easiest to develop body part. I guess I am lucky genetically but I do train very hard as well.

I received a few comments from the judges at last year’s World Championships in Italy that I needed to streamline them more so my training has changed. In fact I have not lifted heavy since October last year although the muscle has yet to budge!

I received what was probably the best compliment of my life recently: Monica Brant actually saw my pictures from Lake Como and said: “Wow, I think you have my legs.” it was the best compliment I think anyone could get because it came from such an iconic figure in the fitness industry. Monica has always been my inspiration when I have tough times. So although I have to streamline my legs I don’t want to change them too much. I just don’t want them getting any bigger now.

To achieve this, my current leg programme is based on higher reps while still training intensely and with very short rest in between sets. Doing this really does keep my heart rate up the whole session. I try to restrict all my weights sessions to no more than 45 to 
50 minutes and limit rest between sets to 30 to 45 seconds. To help me achieve this I do a lot of supersets and drop sets, especially in my pre-contest training.

So a typical leg session at the moment would look like this: to focus on glute/hamstring tie-ins, which I feel hardly any competitors, not to mention other women, manage to get right, I start with hamstrings. I feel it is very important to use a full range of motion and to really go for the ‘squeeze’ with every rep on hamstrings.

So I start with three drop sets of lying leg curls then I do three or four sets of walking lunges with a barbell, which I superset with either squat jumps or lunge jumps.

Then I do three sets of wide Smith machine squats with my feet turned out slightly in order to hit higher up in the glutes and inner thighs. I superset this with box jumps then I do three drop sets of leg extensions. To finish, I usually do single leg presses followed by dumbbell or barbell or stiff leg deadlifts to finish.

I actually do a slightly different routine every time I train; I have my favourite exercises (walking lunges) but I train instinctively now because I like to adapt according to how I feel on the day. I probably do around 21+ sets for legs as I keep it high volume and intensity to really get them lean. I find this works for me.

To build my legs up I used to do heavy squats of 140 kg or more and even tried splitting up my leg workouts by doing quads one day and hams/glutes on another. So my legs are strong but I need to just focus on shape now. What I tell people to do is to always get the right intensity; yes, legs day is really hard but that is 
how it should be. Women especially should not shy away from lifting heavy enough weights with good form. If you do not put enough stress on the muscles or stimulate them enough they have no reason to change. Also, I think it is very important to use as many different exercises as you can to hit your legs from every angle.

So my training routine is this: my first cardio session is always before breakfast and the amount I do increases the closer I get to contests. Off-season I don’t do as much cardio and I train legs in one session so I get two whole days off a week. I split it into two sessions in order to get better separation and tighter legs coming up to competition. 

Most important of all is diet. In fact, if you are training correctly at least 80% to 90% of the results you see come from eating correctly. So remember… aim to consume smaller portions with high protein, moderate carbohydrates and small amounts of good fats every three to four hours. Supplements, such as EAS CLA and whey protein, definitely help but getting your diet right is the first thing you should focus on. Cardio is also important for helping to keep any excess fat off. I find that shorter, more intense sessions like interval training work for me. Having said that my pre-contest cardio does go up to sixty minutes long, twice a day, seven times a week. Women do tend to store more fat than men do on their lower bodies and that’s why questions on how to get rid of it are the most commonly asked. But if you are consistent with your diet, and by this I would say being good 80% of the time and allowing yourself treats 20% of the time, and you are training heavy and intense while performing regular cardio you should see results.

Keep a training log and write down your food and training and how it feels. Experiment with what exercises you feel working and learn what works for you. It takes time and dedication but anyone can see good results if they put in the hard work.

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