We caught up with Kristina Vassilievahref> who is a UK fitness bombshell who has worked her way from modeling physique to lifter perfection. Her preparation for the UKBFF and her knowledge as a trainer makes her someone worth noticing. Read on as we get into it with the strong and beautiful Kristina.
Spot Me Girl: Hey there! So, to get started, give us a quick run down on the UKBFF and what makes it special.
Kristina Vassilieva: As you know, the UKBFF is affiliated with the IFBB; the largest bodybuilding and fitness federation in the world, so there are some incredible opportunities to take your competition worldwide! The prospect of qualifying and potentially competing internationally for the IFBB European or World Championships is a dream…and travel is a big passion of mine, so if I could be a part of that journey, I’m in!
SMG: Very cool! You’ve shared on your social media how you use to be much thinner and you’ve gone through an entire fitness transformation and have put on both weight and muscle. Can you tell us about your journey into fitness and the details about your transformation?
KV: It’s a very bizarre phase of my life to look back on; from a very young age I was always very competitive in sports and athletics, took a very keen interest in science, psychology, nutrition and health, so it was somewhat of a complete paradox for me to have gone through anorexia and bulimia throughout my late teens and early twenties. The one thing I’ve learned is that the single most important cog in the machine as it were, is our nutrition. This makes me especially passionate about promoting, teaching and hopefully inspiring people to educate themselves and enrich their lives for the better.
The pivotal moment for me was coming to my own decision that I had to make a change. There is absolutely nothing and no one that can ever make that choice for you. I knew that I needed to work from the inside out; address my brain chemistry, my nutrition, I needed to supplement my deficiencies and bring my serotonin levels up. I knew the benefits of exercise and was determined to start bringing things back into balance, so I got myself back to the gym and slowly began to sort out my diet. Exercise is vital; the endorphins will boost your mood and boost your willpower.
Throughout the early stages of my recovery, the training that I did was mainly a lot of classes that kept me in a good working environment and I couldn’t recommend this highly enough if you find motivation a struggle. Immerse yourself in group situations where you don’t have to do the thinking; whether it’s circuit training, boxing, Bodypump, spinning… get involved in something that will take the responsibility off your hands; all you are responsible for is to get yourself to the gym and follow instructions.
These things got me to a good, healthy weight and I’d never been so fit in my life! So, I wanted to take my training to the next level and found myself an awesome spit-n-sawdust gym on the other side of town; this was the place I’d been dreaming of. No-nonsense, a badass place to train for strength, Olympic lifts, strongman and so forth… I started a 5 x 5 strength program, got myself deadlifting, squatting, pressing, rowing, got involved in some awesome Oly lifting (that I love!) and had never felt so at home in all my gym life!
From the day that I turned my life around I was at 46kg (101lbs) and I’m now at 75kg (165lbs) – it’s so funny how things change; now the more weight I gain, the happier I am!
SMG: That is really incredible Kristina! Dealing with your fitness, can you share your workout split and do you focus on lifting heavier or going for more reps?
KV: Strength is in my blood. From the first day I started lifting, I was more interested in gaining strength and generally being a badass (laughs) but don’t underestimate the size that comes with it. It’s better off in the long run to have a solid strength base, which you can use to your advantage when training for size or aesthetics. As I’ve matured in my training age, I’ve reached a stage where my goals have evolved so I’ve started to progress my training with a lot more volume and supplementary work. I have a balance of strength and volume in all my programs, and I often use pyramid sets or variations in strength and volume days. I’ve always been an advocate of high frequency training – the more often you can consistently train, the better your neuromuscular system adapts and develops efficient motor patterns, solid technique, better mind-muscle connection and also elicits better recovery (due to the repeated bout effect). My programs are usually structured around Upper-Lower or PPL (Push/Pull/Legs).
My current program is:
Stiff Legged Deadlifts
Kettlebell Walking Lunges
Flat Barbell Bench Press
Seated Dumbbell Press
Rear Delt Raises
Skull Crushers (superset with) Close Grip Press
Tricep Push Downs
Weighted Chin Ups
EZ Bar Preacher Curls
Close-Grip Pull Downs
LEGS / ABS B
Unilateral Leg Extensions
Kettlebell Walking Lunges
Toes to Bar
Decline Weighted Crunches
Barbell Overhead Press
Incline Dumbbell Press
Rear Delt Raises
Overhead Cable Tricep Extensions
Rope Push Downs
Weighted Pull Ups
Single Arm Dumbbell Rows
EZ Bar Curls
Incline Dumbbell Curls
Seated Cable Rows
SMG: You’re a trainer so I’m sure you deal with people of various skills and at varying levels. What is your suggestion to women who have been working out for a while and are looking to take their physique to the next level?
KV: Don’t be afraid to lift heavy. Women should be training just as hard as the guys so don’t shy away from getting on a good, solid strength program that’s built around heavy compound lifts. You want to be focusing on physical integrity first and foremost. Deadlifts, squats, rows and presses will build overall strength and these basics will never lose their value in any program. These basic lifts stand the test of time for a reason; they work.
With that in mind, I always advocate doing as much as possible away from the machines; barbells, dumbbells and a dipping belt for weighted pull ups, chins, and dips are king. Machines do have their place but you’ve got to dominate your priorities! Whenever you feel like you’re at a dead end, stay consistent. These will be the most pivotal moments in your journey. These are the times that will instil resilience, self-confidence and an unyielding work ethic.
SMG: That’s great advice. Let’s talk nutrition! You know how difficult it is to eat healthy, do you have a favourite go to recipe?
KV: In all honesty I’ve always really loved good, healthy, whole foods so eating well has never been a chore for me. I usually love all the really boring stuff; salads, greens, oats, cottage cheese…the things that people usually find less than exciting. I can remember back in high school trying to educate my best friend who was eating snickers bars, hotdogs and burgers, with my healthy salads and super foods (laughs) I got nowhere! Don’t get me wrong, we all have our vices, but if you struggle to eat healthy, you have to experiment with flavourings, spices and herbs…just be creative.
I’m going to share something a bit more interesting for you though. My favourite flavours in foods are usually anything with coconut, banana and nuts, and although I’m not actually a huge fan of cooking (I love good food and I can cook, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a therapeutic hobby!) but I LOVE to bake.
Here’s an awesome recipe that’s one of my all time favourites:
1 cup of almond milk
1/2 cup of banana flavoured whey
2 ripe bananas
1/2 cup liquid egg whites
3 tbsp coconut flour
1 tbsp vanilla extract
4-6 pitted dates
1 handful walnuts
1/2 tsp baking powder
1. Blend all ingredients together.
2. Pour the batter in a bread tin.
3. Bake at 335 F (170 C) for about 45-60 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.
Makes 10 Servings. Values per serving:
Fat 2.6 g
Carbs 9.1 g
Protein 6.4 g
Fibre 2.3 g
SMG: Yum! I’m going to have to try that! Back to training: what is your favourite muscle group to work and what is your hardest muscle group to define?
KV: That’s a tough one. I’ll say back. I like workouts that incorporate big, heavy lifts so bigger muscle groups like back and legs have usually been my top favourites; when it comes to deadlifts, squats, rows, weighted pull ups…I’m in my element!
The hardest to define for me (and I’m sure I’m not alone on this one) would be abs. I used to get upset if they weren’t visible but don’t let it get to you! The more you mature in your lifting experience, the more you appreciate the fact that abs aren’t always going to be there. They’re not always the priority and there’s nothing wrong in losing them when needed.
SMG: So for your competitions, how do you get lean? What special tricks do you use, cardio, and dieting changes?
KV: As far as tricks go, I wouldn’t say there’s any secret to dieting down; no matter what you decide to implement, there are no shortcuts and it just boils down to hard work. Having said that, there are certainly ways that are more resourceful, efficient, healthy, and progressive in nature. You want to be smart about how you diet down in order to get the most bang for your buck. One of the biggest mistakes I see people making is getting bogged down in ridiculous amounts of low intensity cardio and lowering their calories too low, too quickly. By doing this, your metabolic rate soon downregulates and you have to sustain that amount of energy expenditure just to maintain your progress, so essentially there isn’t much leeway in your progression.
I personally start off with diet manipulation, but one thing I always say is that you should be trying to keep your calories as high as possible whilst getting results, so try not to drop your calories carelessly. You have to remember that everyone responds to all methods differently and it’s a good idea for everyone to educate themselves and experiment with their diet and training to understand what works for them and what doesn’t. I find that carb backloading and carb cycling works really well for me.
I’m a big fan of HIIT (high intensity interval training) cardio, which increases the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle (basically mitochondria produce energy; their primary role is the production of ATP)…and more energy production means increased metabolic rate. If I ever do LISS (low intensity steady state), I always keep it at a minimum and I’ll usually do it straight after the HIIT because the HIIT mobilises fatty acids and makes them readily available to be burned for energy more effectively.
Remember to give yourself more time than you think you need to diet down; slow and steady wins the race and you want to retain as much muscle mass as possible. Aim to lose between 1-2lbs per week.
SMG: This was awesome getting to chat with you! There is a lot of really great advice in here which I knew you’d share. Must help being a trainer too! Good luck in 2015 and thanks for sharing from across the pond!