How to train like a fitness model

Fitness model Sarah Norsica
Fitness model Sarah Norsica

When Sarah Norsica walks into the gym with her chiselled abs and highly toned body there are few people who do not stop and stare. Yet, while this petite brunette, who is also a personal trainer, is clearly no stranger to a stringent fitness programme, most people are unaware of the amount of time and dedication that goes into being a fitness model.

“I can maintain a 7.5% body fat ratio, but its hard work. Often when people meet me for the first time they comment on how ‘lucky’ I am to look like this – but there’s no luck involved, just lots of hard work and sacrifice. There are many days I don’t feel like training or eating steamed fish. I love my food,” she says.

And considering most slim women have about a 20% body-fat ratio, that’s no mean feat. However, she is quick to point out that she has been doing this for a while and – and it has taken her years of experimentation to find the balance that works for her.

At the moment Sarah is ‘out of season’, which means that she is taking a break from her regular gruelling training schedule and has relaxed her ‘in-season’ diet. This, she says, is her personal choice as she prefers to train for a maximum of only two competitions a year.

How she trains

Looking at Sarah, it’s clear she is comfortable in the weights section of the gym, while still appearing decidedly feminine and elegant –a balance not many fitness models manage to achieve, and something most women feel is near impossible.

“There is nothing better than walking into the weights section and feeling confident among the men – knowing that you know your way around. I wish more women felt this way. So many women tell me they want to ‘tone’ and yet are scared of lifting weights, even though the only way to look ’toned’is to  build muscle,” she explains.

Her training schedule in the lead-up to a competition is rather gruelling and usually includes two workouts a day. It looks something like this:

Monday morning: run 6 - 10km

               afternoon: leg workout – such as power squats, and glutes and hamstring workout

Tuesday morning: shoulders and triceps

              afternoon: interval stepping for 30-40 minutes

Wednesday morning: cardio and abdominal work – often including up to 500 burpees

Thursday morning: 6 -10km run

                afternoon: back and biceps workout

Friday morning: a long run

Saturday: rest

Sunday: fun cardio like a hike up the mountain

How she eats

The strict diet that goes hand-in-hand with looking as great as Sarah does when she steps up on stage to compete is not for the faint-hearted, and speaks volumes about the dedication required to compete seriously in this sport – especially for a self-confessed chocaholic like Sarah.

“Generally my diet is quite clean, and in the weeks leading up to competition it is very bland and boring, consisting mostly of steamed fish, chicken and vegetables. But I do believe in cheat meals and I think they’re actually necessary to spark the metabolism.

“One thing I have learned though is never to tell people you’re on a diet; that’s just looking for trouble. Nobody notices if you quietly make your own food choices,” she says.

An average day of eating during the weeks leading up to a competition can look like this:

Breakfast: a whey protein shake with water, fruit and a fat-free yoghurt

Lunch: lean protein such as chicken with a bit of cheese or avo and a huge salad

Supper:  lean protein such as fish or chicken with salad or steamed vegetables

Snacks include lean proteins and salads/vegetables and lots of water in between.

Advice for aspiring fitness models

Given the strict eating and training regime that’s required if you want to be a fitness model, it’s not surprising that there are only a few who make it to the top. It’s a very demanding and unforgiving lifestyle, and therefore Sarah advises that you don’t take the decision to become a fitness model lightly.

“A fitness model is a lot more muscular and well-developed than a bikini model, but less developed than a female bodybuilder. Which means it takes a lot of effort to look like this and is also one of the reasons I only enter one or two competitions a year. It is an extreme lifestyle, but I love it,” she says.

The first step she advises anyone who wants to become a fitness model to take, is to find a good nutritionist – preferably one who has been on stage themselves, Sarah says, as they will understand the demands and requirements of this sport.

Secondly, Sarah says, anyone who is looking to step up on stage needs to say a firm no to steroids.

“I am dead against steroids. Everything I have achieved has been thanks to training and hard work and I have beaten girls who have used steroids hands down. Don’t do it. Just diet hard and train even harder!”

For more inspiration from Sarah you can follow her on Facebook or e-mail her for more details on the kind of training she offers at

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
28% - 9938 votes
72% - 26009 votes