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Cory Everson's Training Secrets


by Ruth Silverman - 1997

During Cory Everson's early competitive career, bodybuilding was just a sideline for the future six-time Ms. Olympia. Even after she and Jeff Everson got married in 1982, "We were having fun...but we weren't contemplating a move to California or becoming world-famous bodybuilders," he said. Their initial success in the couples arena he modestly chalked up to the fact that there wasn't that much competition. " A lot of people were afraid of couples, particularly men. They didn't know if that was going to be their "bag."

Nevertheless, because of that initial success when Joe Weider offered Jeff a job at "Muscle & Fitness" and they moved to Southern California, the question came up as to whether Cory should look for a job in her field or try bodybuilding full-time. she had good job offers, Everson reported, but "she wasn't all that fired up to go into interior design, and she wanted to try it" "He'd always believed in her physical potential, and since he was making more money, they decided, she should give bodybuilding a go.

They moved to Los Angeles in January '84, so she had a full nine months to train hard before the Nationals. "She was almost there," he said, but she was still making mistakes, especially before the bigger shows, overstraining and not always eating right. Once Cory made bodybuilding her main focus, however, "she settled down". She got a good training partner and followed the routines, and she just made phenomenal progress in '84."

During those nine months before her victory at the '84 Nationals, she was in the gym everyday, a practice some might question. Frequency of training is "not just a matter of the body; it's also a matter of the athlete's psychological makeup," Jeff explained. "Cory came out of this tremendous background of sports in which she was used to constant work and having a task and goals - even back to the days when she was involved in club swimming in fifth and sixth grade. So for her to go to the gym for an hour and bust her buns every third day was unacceptable."

As a result, he said, he had to set up a routine that walked the fine line between her need to be in the gym for a long time and over-training - "to make her think that she was doing all this work."

Cory has told him that she thinks she was overtrained at that point. "That might well be true," Everson acknowledged, "but she's not considering the factors that were very important to her: the camaraderie between her and her training partner and the fact that they might set a goal.

"Bodybuilding is so nebulous that bodybuilders can to the gym and deem the workout successful if they got a good pump," he observed, an approach that's totally foreign to a weightlifter or a goal-oriented track athlete.

The split was essentially the same: upper-body pushing exercises on day1, lower body on day 2 and upper-body pulling movements on day 3. Now, however, she was training once a day, six days per week on a three-days-on/one-off rotation.

"The theory is you can do more now because, one, the mental stress is removed. You're no longer a student studying for exams. Two, business stress is removed. You're not under pressure from somebody at a job. So you remove stresses from your life, and your body should recover better. You sleep better and you eat better, therefore you can do more work."

The exercises, he recalled, were mostly the basic movements she'd always done. For example "for chest it was bench presses and high-incline dumbbell presses or low-incline dumbbell presses. I don't think Cory ever did a pulley crossover or a flye. It was not something that she found appealing." She also didn't use many machines, he said.

She trained abs three to four times per week on upper body days, using three to five exercises in a giant set, and worked calves with legs.

To accommodate Cory's need for goals and lots of work, Jeff said, "I'd plan out what I called guide lifts. For example, the squat is your guide lift for lower body, the bench press is your guide lift for upper body. Here's your workout. Here's what you want to get today; here's what you want to get to next Thursday. So there's always a progression with either weights or reps or sets."

At this point she stopped pyramiding the weights and concentrated more on performing standard sets for a variety of reps. The routine that she did is a typical bodypart rotation.

From 1984 through '86, when Cory used the type of program discussed here, she was still growing, in terms of adding mass. Jeff believes that by 1986 she'd hit her peak. "It stayed the same, and she made small changes after that." The same thing, he observed, happened to Lee Haney, whose seven-year reign as Mr. Olympia coincided with Cory's run at the top. "Lee had mostly al his size in 'i4 and '85 - never got any bigger and just basically made refinements."

In effect, he said, Cory's physique didn't really change from 1986 until the end of her competitive career. She was either in great shape or she wasn't.

"Eighty-six was Cory's top year for body mass - hardness and size. She was a little bit fluidy in '84 and more refined in '85. It tends to alternate years because one year you'll come in a little heavier, and the judges will say, well, she was a little more ripped last year. Then you come in tighter the next year. It actually goes back and forth only by a pound or two, but a pound or two at that level makes a big difference."

Once she hit her stride, the strategy shifted from building to refining,. For variety's sake they changed the routine a number of times, trying out other popular bodybuilding splits and sometimes working out twice a day. Although she always trained with high intensity at 70 to 80 percent of maximum, in the past he'd discouraged Cory from doing intensity techniques like forced reps and negatives. Such methods are principally for "advanced bodybuilders who are using steroids heavily," he said, in addition to the fact that small-jointed athletes like Cory "are going to be more prone to injury if they're trying to lift heavy weights constantly and trying to push themselves with those techniques."

Toward the end of her career, however, "she started doing some partials, forced reps, negatives as a way to keep progress going." She'd also periodize on certain lifts over a year, doing "little cycles where she'd do one or two sets to a point of absolute failure with a couple of assisted reps. She wouldn't do it on the squat, because it's too dangerous, but on leg extensions, pushdowns or the bench press every once in a while."

She did a lot of sets, he said, 'but that was Cory...She was famous for varying from the protocol. The standard joke was that the first thing she and Darcy (Cimetenko, Cory's longtime training partner) would decide at breakfast was how much they were going to cheat on Jeff's workout today. Usually they would do more sets or reps on the exercises ...I remember one day she came back and said, Darcy and I did 80 sets for legs."

In addition to the psychological factors described above, doing more work meant that she could eat more. "She wasn't one of those bodybuilders who can sit and eat chicken or count out the grams like the guys do. She needed to eat a lot, and she wanted to have her breads and all of those foods. Consequently, she had to up the training a bit."

Every year after the Olympia she'd take a break from training, "but it was never very long," Everson said. "She'd always wait to get back into the gym" She'd ease into training and then six months before the show he'd put together a formalized program, including a basic diet. "I peaked her bodyweight at pretty much the last eight weeks. People rely on the mirror, but I knew form the judging that bodyweight was very critical for her. When I knew her bodyweight was at a certain level, I pretty much knew where her muscle balance was."

After 1987 Cory's training "got a lot more esoteric. That's when she really got into the stair bounding and that sort of thing to try to sharpen her physique and give it a different muscular look and maybe get a pocket of definition up here or look different there."

The Eversons understood that while the judges compared Cory to other people, 'they wanted to see what kind of progress she made from year to year." "Their strategy for satisfying the judges on that score extended outside the gym. "That's why we did all the stuff with her hair and the suit," he said, referring to the eye-catching hair extensions and other flashy costume touches she affected in various years.

It's difficult for someone who's been training for years to continue making progress, he said. "That's why it's so hard for these bodybuilders to make changes year after year after year. And that's why they push the envelope with the drugs...It's a very demanding thing when you're number one to try to keep showing the judges that you're progressing, as well as looking better than the person you're standing next to."

In Cory's case the cosmetic and costume changes helped create just the right illusion. Although the couple disagreed on whether she should include more dance or stick to classic bodybuilding posing in her routines, he admitted that her performance in 1989, while it may not have pleased the judges, "was phenomenal. She went way over-board and did a combination of three routines, wearing a black suit....She worked on it like for three or four hours at a crack - and it was great. I still haven't seen any bodybuilder who can move like Cory did on stage."

Her last year of competition, 1989, was also the year in which "she almost got knocked off by Sandy Riddell," he said, although the proud coach and friend later commented, "On the basis of overall look I still believe that Cory should have beaten her."

It was the right time to quit, he said, because her energies were becoming scattered. Neither she nor Jeff were interested in pushing the envelope, "and I think in our relationship we may at that point have started having some disagreements and problems that were manifesting."

Cory's retirement after the '89 Olympia marked the beginning of an evolution even greater than what the Eversons anticipated. On the personal side there was the dissolution of their marriage. In terms of her training, the athlete was striking out on her own without her coach at last.

Peak Ms. Olympia Training
(1984 - '86)

Workout 1: Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Bench presses (warmup) 3 x 8-15
Bench presses (work sets) 5 x 8-15
High- or low-incline dumbbell presses 3 x 8-10
Seated dumbbell presses or
Behind-the-neck presses 3 x 8-15
Lateral raises 3 x 8-15
Upright rows 3 x 8-15
Bent-over laterals 3 x 8-15
Dips or pushdowns 3 x 8-15

Workout 2: Legs
Squats (warmup) 3 x 8-15
Squats (work sets) 5 x 8-15
Leg presses or hack squats 3 x 8-15
Leg extesnions or lunges 3 x 8-15
Lying leg curls or standing leg curls 3 x 8-15
Donkey calf raises 3 x 15-25
Standing calf raises 3 x 15-25
Seated calf raises 3 x 15-25

Workout 3: Back and biceps
Bent-over rows (warmup) 3 x 8-15
Bent-over rows (work sets) 5 x 8-15
Lat pulldowns 3 x 8-15
Low-pulley rows or
One-arm bent-over dumbbell rows 3 x 8-15
Standing barbel curls 3 x 8-15
Concentration curls or cable curls 3 x 8-15

Abs - (three to four times per week)
Giant set below:
Pulldown cruches 3-4 x 25-40
Decline situps 3-4 x 100
Leg raises off bench 3-4 x 20-40





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