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No one is hungrier for a title than the perpetual runner-up — but this is not the case for Candice Keene. Since turning pro in 2008 (after only competing in one show!), Keene has placed top five in 25 of her 29 shows thus far, and she has flat out won 11 of them. Therefore, the downtrodden bridesmaid-ever-after cliché does not suit her at all. Still, this does not make Keene any less keen to dethrone the reigning queen of Figure, Nicole Wilkins.
For any other competitor, this would sound like a lofty goal, but it’s conceivably achievable for Keene, who exercises her mental muscle as much as her physical. “For me, it’s as much about the journey as the destination,” says the Orlando, Florida, resident. “You are going to have your bad days and bad weeks, and days when you just don’t want to go to the gym. But you just keep pushing and keep your goal in mind. Be your own motivation and always appreciate every part of the journey — good and bad — because at the end of the day, that is what makes you stronger, inside and out.”
Take on More Iron
Keene decided to make her triceps stronger — inside and out — after being criticized for their underdevelopment after her first pro show in 2009. She buckled down, strapped on some heavy weight and went for it. After several months of intense training, they responded and are now one of her more outstanding parts.
She trains triceps once a week, either pairing them with biceps or with back, depending on how she feels. “I still like to lift pretty heavy weight for triceps, especially with moves like lying triceps extensions or with the dip machine, which I do sometimes in place of bench dips,” she says. “With other moves like kickbacks or one-arm extensions, I use a lighter weight and focus instead on the squeeze.”
Offseason, Keene incorporates one superset or drop set per workout, increasing that to two or more per workout come contest time. She also likes to do giant sets during contest prep to amp up the intensity without having to bump up the weight.
Give her workout a “tri” for yourself — in a few months, you might be able to play horseshoes with the big girls, too.
Setup: Sit on the edge of a flat bench and place your hands on either side of your hips, fingers forward. Extend your legs in front of you and either place your feet parallel or stack them up (as shown) to add an element of balance. Press into your hands and lift yourself up and forward so your glutes are in front of the bench and your weight is balanced between your hands and your heels.
Move: Bend your elbows and lower your glutes toward the floor, keeping your back straight and close to the edge of the bench. When your elbows make 90-degree angles, reverse the move and extend your arms completely to come to the top.
Tip: Keep your shoulders down and back and lift your chest to maintain good form.
Overhead Cable Triceps Extension
Setup: Attach a rope to the high pulley on the cable machine and grasp an end in each hand. Turn away from the machine and take a step forward with one foot for balance. Lean forward with a straight back, abs tight, and draw your elbows down beside your ears.
Move: Extend your arms, moving only from your elbows, to press the ends of the rope away from you, pulling them apart at peak contraction for an additional squeeze. Return slowly to the start and repeat right away.
Tip: Keep your abs tight and your upper arms steady throughout this move to prevent using momentum.
EZ-Bar Lying Triceps Extension
Setup: Lie on a flat bench with your back arching naturally and hold an EZ bar in the center, arms held straight up over your shoulders.
Move: Bend your elbows and slowly lower the bar toward your forehead, keeping your upper arms steady. When the bar nearly touches your head, reverse the move and extend your arms to raise it back up to the start.
Tips: For additional stability, keep your feet on the floor. If you’re going heavy or are new to this exercise, enlist a spotter.
One-Arm Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension
Setup: Sit on a bench and hold a single dumbbell in one hand, arm extended straight up over your shoulder, palm facing forward.
Move: Bend your elbow and slowly lower the weight behind your head as far as you can. Then squeeze your triceps and pull the weight back to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Tip: You also can do this move standing to add an element of balance and engage more core muscles.
One-Arm Dumbbell Kickback
Setup: Take a split stance and hold a single dumbbell in your hand. Lift your elbow alongside your rib cage and hold it there, palm facing inward. Place your opposite hand on your thigh, lean forward and flatten your back.
Move: Press the dumbbell in a smooth arc toward the ceiling, moving only from your elbow. When your arm is straight and parallel to the floor, squeeze hard before slowly lowering to the start.
Tip: Keep your elbow lifted and in place throughout your set to best target the triceps.
Weekly Workout Split
Monday: Shoulders, chest, abs
Tuesday: Quads, glutes
Wednesday: Biceps, triceps, abs
Thursday: Hamstrings, glutes
Friday: Back, abs
Saturday: Plyos, circuit training or off
Offseason, Candice does three to four days a week of high-intensity cardio for 20 to 30 minutes. Contest time, she slowly ramps up from 30 minutes steady-state cardio four days a week to 45 minutes twice a day five to six days per week.
Just the Facts
Birth Date: March 1, 1982
Current Residence: Orlando, Florida
Weight: contest, 132; offseason, 148
Contest History: 2014 Arnold Figure International, 1st; Australia Figure Pro, 1st; 2014 Figure Olympia, 2nd
Sponsor: AllMax Nutrition
Photography by Robert Reiff