Monday, October 12, 2009

Where are they Now - Robin Schaefer

Lethal Legs with Robin Schaefer
By Mike Falcon, Max Muscle

Fitness competitor and model Robin Schaefer is definitely a woman on the way up! The 5’6" 120-pound former Denver Broncos cheerleader took 5th in the 2000 Fitness America Pageant. In the same contest a year earlier --- her first fitness competition ever --- Robin finished 10th. In between she earned a 7th place showing at Miss Fitness Universe.

Although Robin says, "I have a lot of trouble putting on muscle," the consensus is that her legs are pretty much perfect.

These 4 exercises form the basis of her leg routine. "I can add additional movements to work on some specific strength goals, or to change size or shape," she says, "but these work well." For overall shaping and the type of explosive strength needed by fitness competitors, try these fabulous 4:

Plyometric bench side jumps

"This works virtually every part of the legs," says Robin, "and builds power and explosive strength. Because of this, it’s pretty much a staple with me for helping in my fitness routines." From the Los Angeles Lakers to local recreation centers, plyometric training, particularly this movement, is huge.

Standing adjacent to a bench (start with a low one) bend your knees into a half-crouch and jump onto the bench from the side. As you hit the top of the bench, crouch quickly without hesitating and jump to the other side. Immediately crouch again, and repeat the process from this opposite side. This constitutes one repetition. Robin does 4 sets of 20 reps, but if this is new to you, 2 sets of 10 reps should be more than enough.

"Stay tight during the entire exercise," suggests Robin. "Keep your arms close to your body and don’t let them flail to the outside."

Seated calf raises

Great for shaping the calves and building lower leg jumping strength, seated calf raises are almost self-explanatory. "I try and go heavy here to build strength in the smaller lower leg muscles," explains Robin, who does 3 sets of 15 reps after warm-ups. She emphasizes that you should come all the way up on your toes, hold and squeeze the muscle for a moment, and then slowly allow the heel to come as far down as it may for a full calf stretch before pausing again and starting the lift again.

Dumbell squats

This looks easy, but these overall thigh developers are done as giant sets: Robin does 5 reps with 8-pound dumbbells, then grabs the 10-pounders without stopping, and goes through 12s and 15s, for a total of 20 reps in one giant set. "The weights have to be right at your side and you can’t let your muscles rest by carefully putting the weights back until the end of the giant set," explains Schaefer, who does 3 or 4 giant sets this way.

Robin emphasizes that you should not come below a 90-degree angle, formed by your upper and lower legs, in this movement. "Make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart and when you come down your glutes should push backwards. Always do this in a very slow and controlled manner so you get the most out of it and always pay attention to your form."

Straight-legged dead lifts

"The most important thing in this exercise is to make sure that your hamstrings and glutes get real involved in this lift, which also works your lower back and inner thighs, and that your biceps do not," says Robin. Toward that end, Robin usually uses a thumbs-over grip, rather than keeping the thumb and fingers in opposed position. Note that Robin’s back stays straight throughout the exercise, and that she keeps a slight bend in her knees to help deter excessive stress on the lower back. In order to get a full range of motion Robin has to stand on a block or platform so that her hands are able to come down to what would be "floor" level.

Schaefer usually does 3 sets of 15 reps of this movement.