Denise Maxwell One to Watch on National Level

•September 7, 2012 • 1 Comment

Figure Competitor & Fitness Model Denise Maxwell

It might be easy to overlook Denise Maxwell, a great new fitness model who premiered on the site recently, among a flood of impressive talent coming aboard this year. But the tall brunette comes with a solid pedigree after winning her figure class at the Emerald Cup.

Denise’s sharp new photos and video come from a shoot at USAs over the summer, where she made her national-level debut. The result in Las Vegas didn’t exactly make headlines (she placed 15th out of 21 in class E) but this is still a competitor worth watching for many reasons.

And she has made impressive leaps before. Consider her win at the Emerald Cup last April came just one year after she placed 13th in her class on the same stage, a pretty notable turnaround for the registered dietician and protégée of Tanji Johnson’s Save Fitness team.

Denise has competed sporadically since 2000. She did her first show in bodybuilding at age 19, but like many others, discovered her niche when the figure division was introduced. She actually has a physique that could be ideal for today’s bikini look, where her lighter muscularity compliments her exquisite, girl next door appeal.

Either way, it’s important to remember that several distinguished fitness and figure careers started with success at the Emerald Cup. Denise has that feather in her cap and it’s one reason to watch out for her in the near future.

Two more reasons—this smile and this bicep.

Dawn Fernandez Wins Overall at North American Figure Championships

•September 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Dawn Fernandez is the 2012 NPC North Americans Figure Champion.

Dawn Fernandez capped her stunning rise up the national figure ranks with an overall win at the North Americans this past weekend. The Phoenix, Arizona native started competing in bikini in 2009 and was soon encouraged to switch to figure. She’s been a consistent top-ten competitor in the division ever since.

This has easily been her best year. Dawn almost turned pro at Jr. Nationals (she finished second in the tall class) and again at USAs (she placed third with the top two earning pro cards) before her big win over more than one hundred figure women in Pittsburgh.

The picture in this post is from Dawn’s debut shoot at the Arnold over a year ago when she was just beginning to make her mark in the sport. Even back then, there was a look of determination in her eyes that suggested she was a future pro.

Unlike previous North Americans, all class winners turned pro this year. But Dawn left no doubt in topping six class winners for the overall title. The peaking and polished 42-year-old hasn’t made plans for her pro debut yet, but with four competitions this year, she’s due for a rest—and a little celebration.

Click here to check out an interview that Dawn did with Muscular Development after her North Americans win.

Interview with Physique Competitor Holland Canter

•August 25, 2012 • 2 Comments

Holland Canter

One of my favorite responses from Holland Canter during this interview actually came before the first question. When I pitched the idea, she quickly accepted, politely explaining the reply would be delayed a bit because her plans over the weekend—mountain climbing in Northern New Mexico—went on longer than expected.

In this age of instant, anywhere communication, I couldn’t help picturing her hundreds of feet above ground, typing a message with one hand and gripping a wedge of rock with the other, her mighty muscles quivering ever so slightly under the extra strain keeping her steady.

Holland has always been pretty good at keeping her balance. She was a gifted gymnast growing up, elevating her skills to the division-1 level in college where she competed for the Air Force Academy and went on to earn multiple awards both athletically and scholastically. Today, the 24-year-old is in her first year as a physique competitor, juggling training and contest prep with a career as a lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

Remarkably, she’s still a newbie to the weight room (gymnastics training used only body weight resistance) and has been lifting about a year. Still, she won her first two physique shows before moving on to the national-level at USAs, where she came in arguably underrated at 13th in her class. Indeed, she’s poised for a dramatic rebound at her next show, NPC Nationals in November.

Coming up, Holland talks about the roller coaster of emotions during her first show—a thrilling win at the Ironman in California—and also reveals thoughts about making a switch to fitness one day, possibly even next year.

For the moment, she’s focused on the physique division and bringing a more balanced, conditioned look and improved stage presence to Nationals. Holland combines striking good looks (deep brown eyes, long dark blonde hair and a warm smile) with great physical highlights (thick, vascular sledgehammer forearms and powerful legs with diamond calves) to create a perfect mix of femininity and athleticism.

Climbing remains one of her great passions. “It helps continue my drive to get stronger and train harder,” she said. It takes a courageous young woman with tremendous reserves of strength and cardiovascular endurance to pursue such daring sources of inspiration.

Holland still calls competing a hobby. It might become more if she finds herself winning a pro card in a physique or fitness show down the road. But even then, it would still be just another trophy and title, empty of meaning without the main ingredient that fueled it. “Fitness is something that I will continue for a lifetime,” she said.


Holland Canter: I am 24 years old. I am 5’3″. My competition weight ranges from 124-127, and my off season weight is 135-139. My hometown is Dadeville, Ala. My husband and I are currently stationed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.

Dean: You’re getting ready to compete at NPC Nationals after making your national-level debut at USAs. What kinds of things did you learn at USAs and what improvements are you trying to make to prepare for Nationals?

Holland: At USAs, I learned that if I want to excel on the national stage I need more competition experience, posing practice, and muscular maturity. Since I have only been lifting for one year, some of my muscles just aren’t as developed as the other ladies. This is just going to take time, but I’m still putting in 100% every day to try to speed up the process. Currently, I’m working to balance out my lower body by widening my lats. I’m also trying to build my shoulders. I would also like to come in leaner on the day of the show. While I need to make these improvements, most of my weaknesses can be hidden with good posing and stage presentation. Although I practiced posing before USAs, I plan on making posing a part of my daily workout routine and treat it as importantly as cardio this time around!

Dean: You started out the year winning the Ironman Naturally contest. How did it feel to win your first show and did you expect to come so far so fast in your first year competing?

Holland: The Ironman Naturally was a great show! I did the show with my former gymnastics teammate and fellow Air Force officer Stephanie Frick. We didn’t train together, but we texted and kept up with each other’s progress, which was great! Since the Ironman was our first show, we were so anxious and nervous. It definitely helped to have someone by my side the whole day.

On the day of the show, I cried after prejudging because it went so fast. The lights were in my eyes, I couldn’t tell if the judges liked me or not, and I didn’t know if I did all the poses right! Because the physique category only had five girls, there were no call outs during prejudging. I couldn’t believe that I had to wait hours to see how I did! In gymnastics, I was used to getting immediate feedback with a score, but this experience was so different. I was much calmer by the time the night show started. I loved performing my routine, and when my name was announced as the winner, I had tears in my eyes again. Winning the contest made me feel like my sacrifices and hard work had been worth it, and it helped me to truly appreciate my muscular physique for the first time.

Dean: Could you talk a little about your accomplishments in gymnastics and as a Division-1 gymnast in college? What university did you attend and did you receive a scholarship?

Power and Beauty: Holland once won an arm-wrestling contest during freshman year at the Air Force Academy.

Holland: After high school, I received the once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in D-1 gymnastics for the United States Air Force Academy. The Academy is a military institution, and all cadets are on academic scholarships. You must maintain a certain grade point average (GPA) to stay at the Academy and an even higher GPA to compete in a collegiate sport.

After two hard years of training, I finally made the gymnastics line-up my junior year as a competitor on the uneven bars and vault. In most meets, my coach put me “first up.” First up meant I would compete first on bars and vault. It also means that you may not be the best gymnast on the team, but the coach has faith that you will hit your set and start the team off right. My junior year I received the “Most Improved Gymnast” award, and my senior year I received “Most Consistent.”

I also graduated from the US Air Force Academy on the Dean’s list of Academic Excellence with a Bachelor of Science degree in Management with a minor in French. I also graduated on the Athletic Director’s list for Excellence in Physical Conditioning with a perfect score on my Physical Fitness Test.

Dean: I’m sure you’ve been told that with your background, you could compete in fitness as well as physique. Is that something you might want to try someday?

Holland: I have definitely considered making the switch from physique to fitness. The IFBB Pro Fitness girls are truly inspiring. I love watching Oksana Grishina! I was speechless after watching her Avatar routine. I also have a former gymnastics teammate who is an IFBB Fitness Pro, Tiffany Robinson! She won her pro card at Team U last year, and she been a huge inspiration in my journey this year. I know the pool of girls is much smaller in fitness, and I would have a greater chance at making top 5 or even winning on a national stage. One day (maybe next year), I would like to compete in fitness, but I know it will require more time and financial commitment. I’m going to see how Nationals goes, and then I will make my decision.

Dean: You must already face some significant physical demands being an Air Force Lieutenant. Do you find that being in shape makes it easier to balance your career with competing, or do certain challenges—like finding time to train or prepping for a show—make it harder?

Chiseled Legs: Holland can lift almost the whole stack on standing calve raises.

Holland: Fitness is a way of life, and it is very important to be fit as a member of the military. I could deploy at a moment’s notice, and I’m expected to uphold certain standards. As an officer, those standards are higher because my airmen are looking to me to set the example. However, staying fit for the military and competing in physique are completely different. As most people already know, competing takes fitness and conditioning to a whole new level. At times, I have found it very difficult to balance training, work, and my home life.

Being in the military, I have to report to Physical Training (PT) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays at 0630. At those PT sessions, I either lead my squadron with a group workout session or I do what a fellow Physical Training Leader (PTL) has planned for the squadron that morning. After PT, I go straight to work until at least 5pm every day. Many times I stay later because I am a flight commander, and I have many additional duties for the squadron as a 2nd Lieutenant.

Because of my busy schedule, I have to find time to train around work. Towards the end of prep, the balance between work and training is especially hard with two hours of cardio a day plus strength. Through the past several months, I have found splitting up my workouts to be the easiest way to get it all done. During PT, I will work out with my squadron, which usually includes running, plyos, and bodyweight exercises like pushups and pull ups. Then, I will do 40 minutes of cardio during lunch. Finally, after work, I will lift and finish up my cardio.

During prep for USAs, I didn’t think I was going to make it through work some days. However, I tried my best not to show it. Like I said before, my airmen look up to me, and if I have a bad attitude or if I am slacking, they will feel like it is ok for them to do it too. I feel like my prep for Nationals will be a little easier mentally because now I know what it takes to train for a national competition.

Dean: I read that rock climbing is one of your favorite activities and it must have played a role in developing those great forearms you have! Have you ever surprised someone with your especially strong grip or tried armwrestling before?

Holland: Yes, I love rock climbing! Working out in a gym can get boring sometimes. Climbing really rejuvenates and inspires me. It helps continue my drive to get stronger and train harder. Nature has a healing effect on the body that you just don’t get in a gym. I also love to train climbing inside. Bouldering inside or top roping is a great tool to strengthen your upper body, and it’s even great cardio! At the climbing gym, I’ve developed what I call “Climbing Drop Sets.” I use the Auto-Belay device and climb the hardest route on the wall, and then, I climb all the easier routes surrounding the Auto-Belay until I can’t make it up the wall anymore. My forearms were actually small at USAs because I took a month off from climbing to train for the contest on the weekends. They usually get about 2 inches bigger.

Gripping Strength: Years of climbing and gymnastics have further sculpted Holland’s formidable upperbody.

As for arm-wrestling, I was shy about my muscles growing up, so every time someone would ask me to arm-wrestle I would turn them down. However, I won an arm-wrestling contest during my freshman year at the Air Force Academy against all the females in my squadron. During my junior year of college, I tore my labrum in my right shoulder doing the uneven bars at gymnastics. I did not get surgery after the injury because the team needed me to compete. It is still torn now, so I have a hard time arm-wrestling anyone. I will do it if you ask, but it’s painful, and I’m not as strong as I would be if I was 100%. The labral tear causes me problems lifting, but the pain is nothing like doing uneven bar routines every day while I was in college.

Dean: Speaking of strength, was there ever a time in the gym when you surprised someone with some particularly strong lifts? With the calves you have, for instance, you’ve probably been able to lift the entire stack on standing calve raises!

Holland: Since I only starting lifting a year ago, I don’t really have any particularly strong lifts yet. I maxed out on bench at 145lbs before USAs, and I can do 22 pull ups in a row. Yes, I can move almost the whole stack on standing calve raises, but I usually don’t lift that heavy because I get blisters on my shoulders! I can be tough, but sometimes, I’m still a baby when it comes to lifting. I went 18 years of my life only using my body weight to train for gymnastics, so I’m still getting used to throwing the weights around in the gym.

Dean: You look amazing in your new pictures taken at USAs! Has it felt sort of empowering doing photoshoots and showing off your hard work for the camera, sort of like a fitness magazine covergirl?

Holland: After not placing well at USAs, I was definitely down on myself. I didn’t go into the contest with aspirations of winning, but I thought I would do better than I did. It’s hard to put your all into something and then fail. The photo shoots were my favorite part of USAs!

Ready to Shine: Holland is training for her upcoming show, the NPC Nationals in Atlanta on November 9.

Dean: What would you say are your biggest goals with working out and being involved in the fitness industry? Are you also a personal trainer or hoping to get certified?

Holland: My short term fitness goal is to bring my best package to Nationals in November. I’m my biggest critic, and I just want to do better. While I would like to move up in the ranks, I just want to go into this next competition knowing that I give it my all and know that I did not “leave anything on the field.”

As for a long term goal, I’m very much a “Live for the Moment” type of girl. I like to do things that inspire me. Competing is a hobby that I picked up this year, but fitness is something that I will continue for a lifetime. If competing continues to inspire me, I will keep it up, but the last thing I want is to become a cynical competitor wrapped up in the politics of the sport. While I have loved competing this year, I find my passion for fitness outdoors. In the future, I would like to climb a few mountains including Mt. Rainier, Denali, Aconcagua, and do the Patagonia Ice Trail. I would also like to boulder a V9 and sport climb a 5.13.

Dean: Thanks so much for taking time out to do this interview! Is there anything else you’d like to promote (website, sponsors, personal training business, etc.) or any special shout-outs you’d like to give?

Holland: First, I would like to thank my husband for his never ending support. This year has been a learning experience for both of us, and I couldn’t have done it without him. Next, I would like to thank my family. They have always supported me through all of my adventures. Whether I was climbing a Colorado 14,000-foot mountain, making the decision to go into the military, or prancing around on a national stage in a little bikini, they have always been my biggest fans! Finally, I would like to thank my trainer Rick Dobbins. He is the one who discovered me outside of Tao nightclub in July 2011. Without him, I would have never made this journey. He has truly helped me to see my potential and love myself for who I am, muscles and all!

Photoshoot Recap: 2012 Tampa Pro

•August 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Pro Form: Casie Sheppard poses after winning the physique tall class at Jr. Nats this summer.

Six more shoots from the Tampa Pro coming soon so here’s a quick recap to get you caught up. This was a good show for bodybuilders (27 competitors turned out, more than any other division) and three familiar names are in the queue, including new shoots with Emery Miller (who took ninth place), Janeen Lankowski (third), and Marina Lopez.

The other half of shoots are with brand new models, tall class figure competitor Kamla Macko, who finished fifth in her pro debut; pro physique’s Jen Louwagie, who placed sixth; and Cristina Ortiz, a local NPC competitor who took the stage in bikini but will likely slide into figure next time (better fit for her look).

* * *

Elsewhere on the pro scene, continuing a dream season new IFBB physique star and personal trainer Casie Sheppard will be appearing as a guest poser later this fall at a show in her homestate of Minnesota. Enjoy a couple more sample pics from her latest shoot at Jr. Nationals—showing those powerful traps in a sporty black top and back bicep in a sleeveless peach bebe—one day after she became women’s physique tall class champ.

Nicole Logan’s Peak Reflections

•August 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Charming new figure competitor Nicole Logan shows off her trademark bicep peaks.

Nicole Logan was the short class winner and overall novice figure champ at the 2011 Southern Colorado & Armed Forces Natural Championships. The Colorado Springs native made her national level figure debut at Jr. Nationals this summer and took ninth place in class B.

Later, she talked to Lou about her background and how she began to develop the strikingly peaked biceps we’re all smitten over. You can now hear the audio in clips 3-5 of Nicole’s excellent video gallery; but if you’re not a member, don’t worry, today’s post offers a brief summary of the mini-interview with our latest peak princess.

Nicole grew up around horses and started training, so to speak, around age 9-10 by carrying five-gallon buckets of water (about 35 pounds) from one stall to the next taking care of the animals. The hard work showed so much that she eventually earned the nickname “muscles” in high school and beat guys at challenges like doing sets of 100 pushups in a row. “It was easy,” says the soft-spoken blonde.

When she wasn’t beating classmates at strength contests, she impressed them with poses. “Nicole, flex your biceps!” was a common request echoing from the hallways, she remembers. Armwrestling? Check. The southpaw has armwrestled often enough (winning most of the time) to consider putting together a photo album and naming it, “Chronicles of Nicole Armwrestling.” Not a bad idea.

Another look at Nicole from her shoot at Jr. Nationals.

These days, the outdoorsy young country lass keeps intimidating the boys, maintaining her sculpted arms doing six sets of 50 pushups and 10 sets of 30 curls. In addition to training and competing, she still works with horses and is a bit of an equestrian. The only question left is now that Nicole’s signature bicep peaks have seized the spotlight, will the competitor herself—one of the year’s best kept secrets in the figure division—be next?

* * *

• Coming Soon: Meaghan Faragasso is back for a new shoot for the first time since debuting in 2010. This time she’ll be in contest shape and looking better than ever after competing at the recent Los Angeles Championships (she placed third in her figure class) and then at the USAs. New pics later.

• North Star: Michelle Krack competes at Canadian Nationals tomorrow in her hometown of Vancouver. The 35-year-old won her class at the same contest last year, narrowly missing a pro card. Here’s a link to my interview with the splendid, multi-sport athlete earlier this year. Don’t miss her impressive latest clips and new-look website.

• Bonus Coverage: Also this weekend will be the Tampa Pro featuring bodybuilding, figure, physique and bikini divisions. The show will also host an NPC amateur event. Lou will be there this year and should bring back some bright new faces from the Sunshine State. More news on all the latest photo shoots to come.

Photoshoot Recap: USAs 2012

•August 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Gemma Santos

At least two changes marked this year’s NPC USAs. First, Jon Lindsay, the avuncular west coast promoter, took over the reins as top sponsor; and second, the event this time around awarded pro cards to the top two in each class in all divisions except bodybuilding, borrowing a page from Team Universe.

Here’s a roundup of six new photoshoots coming soon to the Studio. All the models listed competed last weekend and will be in contest shape. More news and pics from Red Rock to come.

The bodybuilding category wasn’t well represented at Jr. Nationals this year but that changed in time for USAs. A total of 31 women competed in the desert and none were better than Tierany Chertien of Austin, Tex., who won the light-heavyweight class and then overall title to claim the division’s only pro card.

Two new physique competitors around the corner including Michelle Trapp out of San Diego, who won a pro card after winning class C. Also, Holland Canter, a 24-year-old Air Force lieutenant and longtime gymnast who brings cute looks and enthusiastic posing. The newcomer placed 13th in a tough class B lineup but is a rising star in just her first year competing.

Over in figure, Jayla McDermott took sixth in class E and could have been better, the judges told her, if she competed in physique. The 30-year-old will reportedly heed the advice from the front row and enter WP next time. Fitness would also seem like an option considering her background in dance, gymnastics and cheerleading.

Also joining the roster, Denise Maxwell, who won her height class earlier this year at the Emerald Cup, adds to our strong collection of athletes from the Northwest. And capping things off, Gemma Santos, featured at the top in a picture from her debut shoot at last year’s show, returns for an encore.

Caroline Williams Prepares for Physique Debut

•July 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Caroline Williams, a chiropractor and personal trainer in Las Vegas, is back on the competition scene.

Caroline Williams just began her pre-contest diet ahead of her next competition, the Las Vegas Classic slated for November 3rd. It will mark the physique division debut for the former figure and fitness competitor, who was on the same stage last year and took fourth place her figure class. Caroline also placed fifth in her only other show of 2011, the California State Championships.

Taking on the physique division will be something new and exciting for the 40-year-old longtime athlete and personal trainer, who played soccer, basketball, ran track and was a cheerleader in high school. “I was always active growing up,” Caroline told me in our interview this week. “In younger years always outside climbing trees, riding bikes, took swimming and tennis lessons and some dance classes.”

Working out was a natural transition and even began with a memorable flourish recounts the long-haired, classic brunette beauty. “I literally joined a gym on my 18th birthday,” she said. “I had been doing some working out before then and couldn’t wait to get into a real gym and start lifting. I saw results right away and got hooked.”

Feminine but Muscular

Caroline remembers the days when most of the fittest physiques could only be glimpsed on the magazine racks, and how they inspired her. “I started getting into reading the bodybuilding and fitness magazines early when Cory Everson was on the scene.”

One of Caroline’s favorites was the popular Rachel McLish, whose look—similar to the one Caroline has by now sculpted for herself—compares with some of today’s physique competitors. “A beautiful physique, feminine but muscular,” she describes Rachel. “Interesting how that’s coming full circle and physique is now up and coming.”

Caroline’s first two competitions—both fitness shows—were in 1999 in her hometown for 18 years, Kansas City, Mo. “I did Fittest of the Fit and came in second, and an NANBF show that same year and placed first,” she said. “It was a great experience but took a lot of work. I knew if I had a goal and deadline to meet I could take my physique to the next level. That’s been my motivation, to see what’s possible. I was so proud of the transformation at that time.”

Caroline’s stats: Age: 40; Height: 5’6″; Weight: 150; Hometown: Kansas City, Mo.; Currently: Las Vegas, Nev.

Back in Action

These days staying fit is not only part of Caroline’s lifestyle, it’s an integral part of her career. Currently, she’s one of the leading chiropractors in Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev. Not surprisingly, when some of her patients who come in for treatment get a good look at her—all 5-foot-6 and 150-pounds of fitness competition quality muscle—they ask for tips on how she stays in such amazing shape, especially right before a show.

“I had quite a few patients and friends asking me to help them, so I added it into services I offer,” Caroline said on the strength and conditioning training she’s added to her repertoire. “Being a chiropractor, we receive training on how to rehab injuries, sports injuries and help reeducate muscles for specific performance. I also have a history of personal training over the years. It’s great because I can work with the average person who just wants to lose a few pounds or get in shape, all the way to performance athletes. It’s a lot of fun.”

Caroline also gets a lot of support on her fitness lifestyle from family. “My sister is a tri-athlete and has always been competitive, so she’s really proud and gets it,” she said. “My daughter’s not really into building muscle but appreciates the time, commitment and dedication it takes, and admits I look better than I have in a longtime.”

On her own physique, Caroline says her back is her best feature but legs seem to be close behind. “I naturally have a strong back and strong core,” she said, adding, “I’ve been really working on my legs and shoulders and have a lot more development in my legs. My sister was really impressed with how strong I had gotten in my legs last time I visited her which was last August. It motivated her to start training harder with weights and push herself which is always great to hear.”

Getting Ready for Physique

The new women’s physique division has seen its share of successful crossovers and Caroline hopes to be one of the next. “I’ve been preparing this last year to move into that category,” she says on making the switch. “I’ve been working on my size and shape all year so expect this next show to be my best look. You really need to have it all: a great shape and the conditioning to see it.”

Caroline resumed competing in 2011 in figure. She shifts to the physique division this year.

After the Las Vegas Classic, Caroline plans to do the NPC Excalibur in California this December. Meanwhile, there’s the chance of earning a national qualification and the opportunity to compete for a pro card down the road, something she never really thought about until now.

“First and foremost, I enjoy training and the physical transformation that occurs; it meets my need to be creative. So I definitely do this for myself,” Caroline explained. “I didn’t start out with any grandiose goals, but now I do see the possibility to get my pro card with physique. It’s a great time to be entering this new category so we’ll have to see what happens. Either way, I enjoy the process.”

Caroline’s Websites and Special Thanks

“My website for my chiropractic is, facebook page is drcaroline williams or personal is caroline kay williams. I will be lauching a site with more modeling pics and contest photos, solely representing me as a competitor. It should be pretty cool.

“Long term, I’d love to create and market a new clothing line focusing on sportswear and swimwear. I was approached by two different people on partnering with them last year so that’s a work in progress.

“I’d like to give a shout out to Theresa at Axiom med spa. She’s my office mate and does the most amazing work with permanent makeup and eyelash extensions among other things. Check out her website at

“Last but not least, thanks to all my friends, family and patients, and all those I have yet to meet personally that support the bodybuilding and fitness industry. Much Love!!”


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