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How to Get Ready For a Bodybuilding Show
My preparation for bodybuilding competitions 2004
Back then (1996-1999) I had a pretty easy time getting ready for a show, which was the envy of those who knew me. I would “diet” to only have one Snickers a day and still be in great shape. I won my weight class at almost every show and also won several overall titles. In 2000 and 2001 I had a wake up call in Team Universe and finished no better than 9. Then in 2002 I had some moderate success in a few NPC shows but still didn’t reach my 90’s level of fitness. I was now in my thirties and found my career slowly winding down. After six months of mono in 2003 and no contests, I realized that this year would be my swan song. With this mentality in mind, I chose two shows to prepare for – one in September and one in October – to go “gently into that good night”.
The first show will be the INBF Karen Miller Klassic in Youngstown, Ohio on September 11th. I started my pre-contest nutrition program after 17 weeks. The first month included a cheat meal once a week, which I still get away with because I tend to lose weight too quickly (at least that’s my rationalization!). After 12 weeks my “diet” is:
6 egg whites + 1 yolk
½ cup oatmeal
8 oz. red meat or 3 scoops of protein powder
7 rice cakes
6-8 oz. wheat pasta
7 ounces of chicken
Meal 4 (after training)
6 scoops of regeneration powder
8 oz. red meat or turkey
microwaveable white or brown rice bag
7 oz chicken or 8 oz. red meat
310 g of protein
335 g of carbohydrates
41 g of fat
Looking back now, I’m surprised I ate so poorly (relatively speaking). However, I was still losing body fat and continued this way for a while. I’ll admit that my fast metabolism has always allowed me to get away with things that most competitors can’t. Not this time! I met my match. This is what my next phase looked like:
6 egg whites + 6 oz. red meat or 8 oz turkey or 8 oz chicken + 1-2 kiwis
2 scoops of protein powder + 1 scoop of BCAA
10 oz chicken or 10 oz turkey + 2-3 cups salad
as well as 2
10 oz chicken or 10 oz turkey or 8 oz red meat + 2-3 cups salad
(Meal 6 if needed)
9 egg whites
Hi-carb meal (Monday and Thursday)
A typical day yielded around 1,550 calories; 300 grams of protein; 37 grams of carbohydrates; 25 grams of fat (all values without supplements). Well, it worked! I was slimmer day by day and ended up at 5% body fat the week of the competition. The Friday before the show I weighed 184 and found out I was the only lightweight! At least I won my class. In the end I won the overall. It had been several years since I had accomplished that feat. Now I was ready for my next show: Natural Northern USA in three weeks.
Between shows though, Suzanne, my wife, will be running a marathon… in Maui. Somehow I had to figure out how to stay focused and disciplined for those ten days. It presented a dilemma of how to help her and be there for her event while staying on course with my event. Every day presented a new challenge. Even simple things like walking on the beach would tire me out. I didn’t enjoy it much. She understood though, and I will always remember the sacrifices she made for me.
We came home with seven days to prepare for Cleveland. I dropped to 4.5% and got into the best shape of my life (at least as a lightweight). I kept exactly the same diet between shows. I weighed 181, definitely at the bottom of the weight class, but I was confident that I had prepared as best as I could.
Prejudging, I was sure I placed 3rd-5th. location based on labels. It was one of the toughest classes I’ve ever competed in (and this was my 16th show!). To my honest shock, I won the class by just a few points. The overall winner (Shiloe Steinmetz) definitely beat me on pure muscle, but several judges told me I had a better figure (symmetry, aesthetics, conditioning) which made me feel good.
Some other key points:
o As mentioned above, my metabolism allows me to do very little, if any, cardio work. This year I did two days of either stair climbing or sprint/plyometric work. I like this kind of activity, regardless of the upcoming bodybuilding show. It also allowed me to eliminate direct legwork with weights for most of my competition prep.
o I’m not a fan of flushing water or sodium before a competition. I drank 2.5 gallons of water every Friday before the show and continued to salt my food. The only change was the addition of potassium Wed-Sat. I lose water through sweat, not so much through changes in diet.
o My strength training also doesn’t change until the last week. My breakdown looks like this:
o Day 1=back
o Day 2 = hamstrings/calves OR sprints/stairs
o Day 3 = chest/biceps
o Day 4 = abs/quads OR plyometrics/stairs
o Day 5 = delts/traps/triceps
o My training philosophy is very instinctive, so I never do the same workout twice in a row. I never really plan any training except for the body parts I will be working on that day.
o I train in a non-traditional, undulating periodization model. The once popular European model for Olympic athletes migrated to the United States and was applied to American athletes (although it has limited application to bodybuilders). There are many texts and articles for more details on this philosophy. I modified the different cycles found in periodized models to include both within- and between-training variation. Given that, it’s unrealistic for me to outline a typical workout regimen, but it will give you some idea (upper body only).
-¾ deadlifts 4 x 6
– Front pull 3 x 12
– Single arm high pulley series 3 x 10
– High Hammer 3 x 20 series
– Inclined Dumbbell Press 4 x 6
– Decline with dumbbells 3 x 10
– Hammer press 3 x 20
– Oven deck 3 x 12
– Seated dumbbell curls 3 x 10
-Preacher with one arm curl 3 x 12
– Hammer curl 3 x 15
-Sitting Dumbbell Press 4 x 8
– Seated dumbbell lateral raise 4 x 12
– Seated barbell rear fly 4 x 15
-Squat Machine Squat 4 x 8
– Barbell curls behind the back 3 x 15
– Seated preacher curl 3 x 10
– Cable clamp 3 x 12
– One-arm dumbbell extension 3 x 15
This is my off-season and pre-competition training style. The only exception is that during the pre-competition mode, the rest intervals are significantly reduced (ie 60-90 seconds). I have to reiterate that the above is what I believe works for me. It has a loose basis in scientific theory, but more than anything else it is based on anecdotal evidence.
This year has been educational, as every year has been since my first appearance in 1990! As I get older and hopefully smarter, I enjoy the process, the learning, the challenge much more than the result. It’s nice to win, but it’s only one night and it’s not up to me anyway. All the weeks leading up to the competition I’m in control and I appreciate every little victory.
I am undecided if I will continue to compete. It’s hard to just “turn it off” and train the hell out of it! My goals now become more internal – just to get better, not necessarily bigger. Thanks to my successes this year, I now have more questions than answers….
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