Archive for month: February, 2016

Today’s guest post comes from Stephanie Dorworth, a doctor of physical therapy, pilates instructor, and internationally published fitness model. Together with her husband Zachary, they provide health & fitness tips and coaching on their website

Beautiful to the Core

In 2012, I attended a bodybuilding show and I was deeply inspired. The competitors opened my eyes to the fact that competing is a form of art. I left there with a newfound passion and goal in life: to compete in a bikini competition. In 2013, that goal was accomplished. During my prep, however, I struggled to find help and information about competing, so I set out on a journey to offer quality help to fellow competitors.

When it came to signing up for a show, curling my hair, putting on my makeup, getting dazzled with my jewelry, and posing, I was on point! However, when it came to my training, cardio, nutrition, and happiness, things were a little more of a disastrous, hot mess. I prepped my body completely wrong for my show. This was a huge mistake. Due to my ignorance, I was unsuccessful on stage, did not place well, and did not fully enjoy the experience.

Placing or not, it's clear that Stephanie looked beautiful on stage.

Placing or not, it’s clear that Stephanie looked beautiful on stage.

You see, I was trying to do a contest prep on my own. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, I would blindly take in free advice that I had found online and adopted the old school method of prepping for a show. I read about girls who would eat plain chicken and asparagus, do over an hour of cardio each day, never have cheat meals – and they looked great! So I was naive and assumed that that was the way to do go about my own prep. My excitement to compete clouded my judgment on my education and what I knew was right. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have looked much better under those stage lights and had a far more pleasurable experience.

I am sharing my struggles with you today in the hopes that I can prevent you from walking down the wrong path. As I share my story of then vs. now, if you feel you can relate to the old Stephanie and you believe that you are heading down the same road as I was, then please: detour, honey!



Way back when, my workouts were focused on isolation exercises. I did not pay attention to timing and I took little rest breaks between sets. I thought a five-minute bike ride was sufficient warm-up, even for upper body days. I never asked for help, I never asked for a spotter, and I therefore was not improving with my lifting techniques. I was working out with bad form and using momentum to lift and cheat my reps, which is detrimental to your joints, not to mention unproductive and unsafe.


My training has shifted from isolated exercises to heavy, compound exercises like bench press, squats, and deadlifts (though I still incorporate isolated movements toward the end of a workout). I time my rest breaks and focus on the timing of each exercise by putting a longer emphasis on the eccentric over the concentric contraction.

My body has completely transformed as I have gained muscle and trained more effectively and safer. One way to train safer to avoid joint pain is to include active warm-ups, pre-workout dynamic stretching, and post-workout static stretching and foam rolling.

Research shows that static stretching pre-workout may negatively impact performance (1), so instead practice active warm-ups, which are safer and better for performance outcomes (2). Your training should also involve techniques conducive to muscle hypertrophy, such as time under tension (TUT), daily undulating periodization (DUP), and blood flow restriction training (BFR). BFR is shown to be beneficial for increasing strength if used 2-3x/week at less than 50% of your 1RM (3-4).

(See related: Longer Rest, How to Avoid Joint Pain While Lifting, Total Body Stretching Program, Making Gains with a Progressive Active Warm-up, DUP Step, Blood Flow Restriction Training)



Many moons ago, I would spend 20-60+ minutes daily performing steady state cardio with very little variation in speed or intensity. If I missed a session, I would feel anxious and incomplete. Due to my overexercising, however, I experienced frequent joint pain like knee pain, sacroiliac joint point, and shin splints. On top of that, my metabolism took a serious beating.


Excessive steady state cardio promotes muscle breakdown. When it comes to cardio, more is not better; smarter is better. Intensity, not duration, is what elicits results, which is why high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is what I implement now if I desire to lean out for a vacation or photo shoot. Research shows it is a better option for fat loss than jogging because your metabolic rate stays increased for up to 48 hours after your session! HIIT can be performed 1-3x/week for <20 minutes (6). My favorites are bike sprints or deadmills on the treadmill.

(See related: To Cardio or not to Cardio, Beat the Holiday Bulge with HIIT)



Back in the day, I ate dangerously low calories for my build and activity level, including low carbohydrates. My meals consisted mostly of plain chicken, asparagus, sweet potatoes, almonds, and protein shakes. I therefore had cravings all the time and felt unsatisfied. If I ate a little piece of chocolate, I felt immensely guilty. I did not enjoy my diet and experienced a good deal of anxiety surrounding food.


I am currently reverse dieting and working on increasing my calories above 1,800 per day with a healthy balance of proteins, carbs, and fats. I practice flexible eating, meaning I eat wholesome, nutritious foods 80% of the time and treats 20% of the time. As a result, my cravings are satisfied and I no longer feel the need for “cheat meals”. Very low calories promotes metabolic damage. It may also lead to symptoms like fatigue, hormonal disturbance, poor concentration, and irritability.

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible while staying on track to meet your goals. So if it is your off-season, reverse dieting may be an appropriate approach. An excellent source to learn about metabolic damage is Dr. Layne Norton’s videos as well as the e-book Reverse Dieting



In the old days, I was doing excessive cardio, which made up the majority of my workouts. I did not leave the gym unless I did cardio on a machine or went on a run. Looking back, I don’t know how I made it through those runs while eating such low calories and carbohydrates. I was completely drained! I had low self-esteem and poor confidence and I was extremely unhappy.

When my bikini competition rolled around, then, I was still unsatisfied and even more miserable than before despite having lost body fat. I did not enjoy the contest prep process because I was constantly irritable and tired.


Today, I am much happier and more confident in my body. Who wants to be moody for the rest of their life when there’s a better way to get in shape?

Choose happiness and love your body.

While many women think that attaining a lean physique will bring happiness, it’s unrealistic to stay that stage lean year-round. It’s important, then, to find peace with your off-season body. This is another reason why having other goals, such as shooting for a double bodyweight deadlift, can help you stay motivated and in an optimistic frame of mind. For example, when I hit a new PR at squats, I celebrate! Always challenge yourself and be better each and every day.

A much happier and healthier Stephanie!

A much happier and healthier Stephanie!

Are You Ready for Contest Prep?

As coaches, my husband Zachary and I are often asked when you know you’re ready to begin contest prep. First and foremost, you should make sure you fall into the “now” category. Then go through our checklist and ensure you meet the criteria below:

  • You are experienced in lifting heavy with an emphasis on compound exercises (squats, deadlifts, bench press).
  • You are keeping cardio to a minimum.
  • You are experienced with tracking macronutrients – meaning that you are capable of consuming foods in the right quantities such that you can meet a prescribed set of macronutrient numbers (grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fats) everyday.
  • You have spent a reasonable amount of time out of a caloric deficit.

Training and eating right during off-season will not only enrich your health right now but they will also make future contest preps much easier and healthier.

Let’s go over an example of two women:

  • Anna is a young female who wants to take her try at a bikini competition. She comes to us for coaching and is currently 5’4″, 130lb, does not do cardio, and consumes 2,000 calories per day. After looking at her history. we would likely take her on as a client because she appears to have a great metabolism and plenty of room to adjust her macros. So over the course of a 12-week prep, we would be able to slowly adjust macros based on her progress. She would likely be able to drop body fat fairly easily without having to take her prep to the extreme.
  • Beth is a young female who also wants to compete and comes to us for coaching. She is currently at 5’5″, 130lb, runs 5+ miles a day, and consumes 1,400 calories per day. We would likely take her on as a client under the condition that we need to implement reverse dieting and wean her off of all the cardio first before we beginning a fat loss phase. If we were to begin a contest prep right away, we would have little room to adjust macros because they are already too low and unable to increase cardio because she already does plenty. We’d have no room to make tweaks to her program, in other words, and as a result, she’d likely obtain suboptimal results in the 12-week span and be disappointed. If she were to agree to set aside her short-term goal and do a reverse diet first, she would ensure better long-term success when it finally came time for contest prep.

Now you can see how important a healthy off-season training and nutrition program is. It is crucial to take charge and make smart choices. You only get one body – take care of it now and invest in your long-term health.

Take a look at some of our contest prep clients who did things the right way. You can, too!

I could not have achieved this goal without your help and guidance during the 12-week journey. I have to be honest, the journey was tough and there were days when I felt like I could not keep going, but I was dedicated and determined to finish it. It was also a very unexpected but delightful surprise that I placed 5th in 2 different bikini classes. There were so many beautiful girls competing and I made many new friends, so I plan to compete again next year. For everyone out there wanting to compete in a bikini competition or if you have just been thinking about it. Beautiful to the Core is your best online resource. Stephanie is amazing and very knowledgeable in every aspect of competing. I’m glad I had her with me each step of the way. I love you!!!! And Beautiful to the Core rocks!

Carrie R., Wake Forest, NC

Carrie on show day!

Carrie on show day!

Working with Stephanie using the Beautiful To The Core bikini prep was a great experience.  Stephanie was prompt, professional, super pleasant, and always supportive.  Not only did her plan get me the body I had been striving to achieve, but Stephanie was there to make adjustments and help me through all the way up until show day.

Terra M., Belmont, NC

Terra shortly after giving birth

Terra shortly after giving birth

The contest prep process is stressful enough as it is. The information I provide in my latest e-book, Bikini Competition Prep Guidehas helped over a thousand competitor hopefuls to this day. In this product, I share tips on picking a league, choosing a show, typical costs of competing, building a competition suit, shopping for heels and jewelry, hair and makeup, posing tips, and lots more.



With this program, you also get access to our Facebook community group so you can interact with other ladies who are prepping for a bikini competition and learn from one another.

Again, you can pick up a copy of the e-book at this link.


Stay beautiful,

Stephanie Dorworth

Stephanie Dorworth

Stephanie Dorworth










  1. Vetter, R. E. (2007). Effects of six warm-up protocols on sprint and jump performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Researhc, 21(3), 819-823.
  1. Perrier, E. R. Pavol, M. J. Hoffman, M. A. (2011). The acute effects of a warm-up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 25(7), 1925-1931.
  1. Loenneke, J. P. Wilson, J. M., Marin, P. J., Zourdos, M. C. & Bemben, M. G. (2012c). Low intensity blood flow restriction training: a meta-analysis, 112(5), 1849-59.
  1. Takarada, Y. Takazawa, H. Sato, Y. Takebayashi, S. Tanaka, Y. Ishii, N. (2000). Effects of resistance exercise combined with moderate vascular occulsion on muscular function in humans, 88(6), 2097-2106.
  1. Schoenfeld, B. Dawes, J. (2009). High-intensity interval training: applications for general fitness training. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 31(6), 44-46.
  1. Herodek, K. Simonovic, C. Pavlovic, V. Stankovic, R. (2014). High intensity interval training. Activities in Physical Education and Sport, 4(2), 205-207.





Sustaining an injury is never fun. You’re in pain, you’re inconvenienced, and perhaps most annoying of all, you lose your stride from working toward your fitness goal.

With a little creativity, however, there are an infinite number of ways to still get in effective workouts at the gym and progress in other ways.

Getting injured does not have to mean the end of your fitness goals. There’s no need to cancel your gym membership, throw your diet out the window, and relegate yourself to the couch for the remainder of your days. While it sucks to be sidelined, this is actually the perfect opportunity to get creative and focus your time and energy on a specialization goal.

Are you hurt? Challenge accepted.

Here’s how to train around an injury.

1. Take inventory of movements that are pain-free and not contraindicated.

Listen to your doctor, first and foremost. Unless you’re in a full body cast with strict orders not to perform any kind of extra physical activity, there’s probably a chance that there’s still some body part(s) that you can work. If you have a broken leg, for example, your upper body is still in commission, right? And if your arm is in a cast, your legs are still perfectly healthy.

General rule of thumb: If it hurts, don’t do it; if it doesn’t, you’re probably okay.

My long-time client (and also long-time assistant!) Lauren Dasher recently incurred a knee injury. Ugh. What does this mean? Most upper body movements should be fine to do, and if I were to take the easy route, I’d have her simply stick to upper body workouts only. But why neglect her lower body when we can be resourceful and still work her glutes a’plenty? There exist a myriad of lower body exercises that involve little to no knee flexion and are consequently pain-free for her. To be sure, here’s what exercises she definitely can’t do:

  • squats and squat variations
  • lunges and lunge variations
  • hip thrusts and hip thrust variations (I had her test out some bodyweight hip thrusts at home and these still induced pain)

But still, that leaves a lot she can do for her lower body:

  • Romanian and American deadlifts
  • back extensions
  • hip abduction movements (lateral walks, monster walks, standing cable/band hip abductions, side-lying hip abductions, etc.)
  • cable/band pull-throughs
  • straight-leg cable/band glute kickbacks
  • reverse hyperextensions

In essence, all straight-leg hip dominant movements.

While her exercise selection is necessarily limited for the time being, this gives us an opportunity to up the ante on the movements that she can perform just fine. Why not get really good at those and give them some extra TLC that they would otherwise never get?


My other client Sarah rolled her ankle running last week and consequently is unable to do any weight-bearing lower body movements. Fortunately, the injury itself is minor and will heal in time with no major lasting repercussions, and while she probably shouldn’t squat or deadlift at this time, there’s still a lot she can do in the interim:

  • stability ball/machine leg curls
  • leg extensions
  • seated band/machine hip abductions
  • feet-elevated BW glute bridges
  • kneeling band hip thrusts
  • virtually all upper body movements

And finally, just because we haven’t addressed an upper body injury, let’s say you’ve broken your arm by tripping over a dog that appeared out of nowhere on the soccer field (this actually happened to a classmate of mine in high school – true story!). You may think that you’re down for the count since you need both your arms to even brace a barbell against your back, but again, a little bit of innovation goes a long way. Here’s just a sampling of exercises you could still do:

  • standing 1-arm DB military presses
  • 1-arm DB press (flat, incline, floor)
  • 1-arm DB/cable rows
  • just about all unilateral upper body movements
  • single-leg DB Romanian deadlift
  • 1-arm KB swings
  • 1-arm DB front squats
  • bodyweight, band, and single-leg hip thrusts
  • leg extensions, leg curls, most lower body machines
  • banded glute work (lateral walks, monster walks, seated band hip abductions, etc.)

Is this enough to get sufficient training effect with a properly designed program? Hell yeah.

2. Determine a new training goal.

Okay, so perhaps if you were a few weeks out from a powerlifting meet and you’ve broken your leg, it would make sense to bow out of the event. It sucks, and it’s totally a bummer – I get that. Take a day or two to mope, and then come back with a new goal in mind. You can set a performance goal, an aesthetic goal, or even just a well-being goal.

If your lower body is out, how about you take advantage of this time to finally get really, really good at pull-ups? Perhaps you can build up some mighty lats or hit the double digits you’ve been after for a while.

If you’ve broken your arm, maybe you can really hone in on your glutes and up the ante on working them not just three days a week, but five or even six days a week. Why not? You’ve got the extra time, after all.

Finally, you may have determined that you were pushing it too hard in the gym and it’s been taking up too much bandwidth in your life. Getting sidelined with an injury may just be the wake-up you needed to realize that you’ve been neglecting your relationships, school, and/or work. I’ll be the first to concede that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go balls-out in the gym 24/7/365. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to simply workout what you can when you can to feel good, and otherwise shift your focus toward making your spouse, family, job, or grades a priority. Or try out a different physical activity you’ve been meaning to get into all these years but never made the time for (yoga! hiking! rock climbing?). The gym will always be there, after all.

3. Slap together a modified training program.

There are lots of ways to write effective training programs that don’t involve the mainstay squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

Last year, when my hips started bothering me from squatting too frequently (my body’s anthropometry is simply not suited for high volume squatting), I had to take some time off from the movement. I kept up my deadlift and bench regimen – because I had my first powerlifting meet to train for, after all – but while I let my hip rest up, I simply replaced back squats with Bulgarian split squats, another knee-dominant movement that didn’t involve so much hip flexion.

If you have cranky shoulders, perhaps incline bench press with a neutral grip or even floor presses may feel better for you. If you are unable to deadlift due to a back condition, you can swap it out for hip thrust and glute bridge variations. No big deal.

The most basic training guidelines are as follows:

  • Perform the main compound movements first.
  • For full body workouts, try to do an upper body push, upper body pull, lower body hip dominant, and lower body knee dominant movement (barring exceptions, of course) – not necessarily in that order.
  • Incorporate a variety of rep ranges, typically with longer rest periods for the low-to-medium rep range (let’s say 1-8) and shorter rest periods for the higher rep range.
  • Track your workouts to ensure that you are progressing from week to week.
  • Keep the goal the goal.

The ins and outs of writing a quality training program are beyond the scope of this article, so the above will have to suffice for now. For the most part, sticking to these principles, even with a lackluster training program, can yield some pretty respectable results provided that you are consistently showing up and doing the work.

Below is the program I wrote up for Lauren and her bum knee. Her primary goal is aesthetic, with strength gains coming in a close second. Her instructions are to take at least one day off in between lifts, so something like a Monday-Wednesday-Friday training schedule would work great. She is to rest as needed in between working sets unless otherwise noted.

Training Day 1: Full Body

A. DB back extension (glute emphasis) 3×10-15
B. DB stiff-legged deadlift 3×10-15
C. Standing cable hip abduction 3x10ea
D. Lateral band walk 3x15ea
E. Standing DB military press 3×8-12
F. Chest-supported DB row 3×8-12
G. Face pull 2×20

Training Day 2: Full Body

A. Bench press 3×3-8
B. Underhand grip lat pulldown 3×3-8
C. Standing DB lateral raise 3×10-15
D. DB pullover 2×10-15
E. Romanian deadlift 3×5
F. BW back extension (glute emphasis) 3×30 // 45s rest
G. Side-lying BW hip abduction 2x30ea

Training Day 3: Full Body

A. Good morning 3×5
B. Chinup 3xAMRAP
C. KB swing 3×20 // 60
D. Incline DB bench press 3×10
E. Pallof press 3x8ea
F1. DB hammer curl 3×10-15
F2. 1-arm DB tricep extension 3×10-15ea

As you can see, there’s plenty of lower body work and ample upper body work in her program to keep her busy. None of the movements bother her, and she’s doing enough in the gym to keep her happy. I also gave her the option of tossing in an extra upper body “bro” day of sorts for when she’s feeling antsy. And if she’s feeling particularly ambitious, she can even do lateral band walks and seated band hip abductions daily since they’re so low-impact.

She’ll stick to this program for a month and diligently record her workouts week after week (hint hint!), after which we’ll re-assess how her knee is doing. If she’s still in pain and not ready for weighted knee flexion, no worries – I can write up another program for her to keep her gains coming.

(If you’d like a custom training program written up by yours truly, I offer that as a one-time service in my online store.)

4. Stop feeling sorry for yourself and make the most of what you’ve got. 

Nobody plans on getting injured, but shit happens. You can’t change what’s already happened, but you can absolutely be proactive about what you do about it moving forward.

Are you going to let yourself become a victim and give up altogether? Or are you going to find a workaround and find other ways to get better?

Attitude is everything.


See related:

25 Things to Know About Training & Conditioning
Training Guidelines For the Beginner
Workout with Sohee – Every Month! 




I’m so excited to announce that this year, I’ll be hosting my first ever #eatliftthrive camp on April 22-24 in Phoenix, Arizona. This event has been a long time coming, and I very much look forward to bringing together a group of like-minded women to learn about fitness, train together, and bond in an intimate setting.

A glimpse of a small handful of past and present #eatliftthrive teammates at last year's dinner in San Francisco.

A glimpse of a small handful of past and present #eatliftthrive teammates at last year’s dinner in San Francisco.

Who is this camp for?

If you’re a competitor, powerlifter, or general fitness enthusiast, this camp is for you. We invite all women of various backgrounds and levels of fitness experience to come join us for a weekend. You do not have to be a current client of mine to attend.

The only prerequisites are that you have an interest in learning about fitness and you want to embody the #eatliftthrive mindset.

What does the camp entail?

The event starts on Friday, April 22 afternoon and ends on Sunday, April 24 with a brunch and will include the following:

  • introductory mixer
  • seminars on nutrition, fat loss, and mindset
  • optional posing session and competition Q&A with IFBB bikini pro Karey Northington – learn how to strut your stuff like this (yes, that was Karey’s doing!):

  • optional entrepreneurial/career segment plus opportunity for professional headshots with photographer Crystal Hollman
Photographer Crystal Hollman

Photographer Crystal Hollman

  • 3 hours of lifting practical plus opportunity to train in a USAPL-approved gym and group train with Sohee
  • ample opportunity for bonding time with fellow like-minded women and creating friendships that will last a lifetime
IFBB Pro Karey Northington, here to help you get shredded and strut your stuff with grace and poise!

IFBB Pro Karey Northington, here to help you get shredded and strut your stuff with grace and poise!

A more detailed itinerary will be released as the event nears.

As well, you will have unlimited opportunity to chat with me and Karey and pick our brains about any topic under the sun. We’re a hoot to be around, I can promise you that much!

How much does it cost and what does the fee cover?

The entire camp costs $549 USD. This fee covers all meals, seminars, and training fees, plus opportunity for a bikini posing session and competition Q&A with IFBB Pro Karey Northington as well as a fitness entrepreneurial segment with yours truly and professional headshots with photographer Crystal Hollman. We will also take care of transportation to and from different venues.

You will be responsible for your flight and hotel fees if you’re coming in from out of town.

If you are a local (ie. you live in the Phoenix area), we are looking for up to 3 individuals who would be willing to help with transportation to and from different venues. We offer $100 off for anyone willing to help with driving.

Is there a deadline?

While there is no hard deadline to reserve your spot, we do have limited spaces and slots will be reserved on a first-pay, first-serve basis. Once we fill up all spots (and we’re about half full at this point), registration will close.

What hotel are we staying at?

Information about hotels and other logistics will be released as soon as possible. Please sit tight – we are working on securing a group rate so we can all stay at the same hotel for a reduced fee.

We do encourage women to pair up and share rooms. If you need assistance with pairing, we’d be happy to help with that.

How do I pay and/or get more info?

To reserve your spot, please email my assistant Lauren at She will send over an invoice and a brief questionnaire to get to know you as an attendee. You have the option of paying via PayPal (recommended) or, alternatively, you may mail in a check.

Please note that you do have the option of paying 50% deposit upfront with the remaining 50% due 2 weeks before the event. Payment is nonrefundable but is transferable.

Here's how pumped I am about this camp ;)

Here’s how pumped I am about this camp 😉


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

©2018 Soheefit. All Rights ReservedTerms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?