On November 2005 I had set a personal goal of achieving my best possible shape to compete in several 2006 shows. A series of transformation articles featured on Bodybuilding.com charted my progress as I added 13 pounds of lean body mass to my rather out of shape 177-pound physique.
As stated at the time, the program I used, overseen by training and nutrition expert Dan Gastelu, featured a wide range of training variables to target both fast and slow-twitch fibers, while addressing all body fat reduction goals without the need for excessive aerobics.
It also ensured muscle building occurred at a rapid place, with the inclusion of a complete nutritional supplement and the right diet plan, which was balanced with just the right amount of bodybuilding nutrients. The overall goal for me throughout this transformation process was to arrive onstage in 2006 in the best shape of my life for the both the Auckland Championships - held on May 19 - and the Waikato Champs - held on July 29.
I did achieve my best shape to come in at 182 pounds at 4% body fat at the Waikato Champs, a significant increase in muscle size and loss of body fat compared to the soft, underdeveloped look presented at the beginning of my transformation in November the previous year.
In the Auckland show I placed second, but held a small amount of water - enough to obscure some of my definition. Not exactly the planned result, but changes to my physique compared to previous outings were impressive nevertheless. Overall I could not have been happier with this year's results, and am now convinced anyone can achieve their bodybuilding objectives with the right training and nutrition approach, and plenty of motivation, commitment and desire.
On the day of the Waikato championships my body had peaked sufficiently to destroy my previous best conditioning by a wide margin. The show went great and I took home second place for my efforts - an achievement that took a distant second to my main goal of surpassing my personal best shape and conditioning.
Looking back on the process, it is evident to me that a good plan is the essential requirement for bodybuilding success - all of the pieces need to be in place for results to be realized. This article will show exactly how I transformed my physique, and provide an overview of all the lessons learned along the way.
The improvements I had made from the beginning of my transformation on the 26th of November 2005 to the 29th of July 2006 demonstrated a gain of 13 pounds of solid muscle. Considering the fact I had trained for over 16 years before this time, and had to peak for a show in May of this year (which necessitated a one week layoff after the show), the results were impressive.
November 26, 2005
Weight: 177 lbs.
Body fat: 8%
Lean body mass: 163 lbs.
Body fat: 14 lbs.
Biceps (right): 16
Thigh (right): 24
Calf (right): 16.5
Bench press: 85 kg for ten
Squat: 110 kg for12
Deadlift: 115 kg for 12
July 29, 2006
Body fat: 4%
Lean body mass: 176.
Body fat: 7 lbs.
Increase in lean body mass: 13 lbs.
Biceps (right): 17.
Thigh (right): 27.
Calf (right): 17.
Bench press: 90 kgs for 10.
Squat: 140 kg for 15.
Deadlift: 160 kgs for 15.
The training program used was divided into various phases, with each phase producing a different result. My plan for November involved a multi pronged approach (Program One) where I would vary the rep range across a wide variety of exercises to build overall muscle mass, while improving weak points to enhance symmetry, and gradually reducing body fat (without the need for aerobics at this point).
The remainder of my training plan, which would take me from December at the end of Program One to the first of my 2006 competitions, The Auckland champs on May 19, would include Programs Two and Three - built on the foundations established in Program One - to further improve muscle size, while reducing body fat. For program One and links to the others go here.
For my final competition, the one I would peak to the best of my abilities for, I simply used the guidelines set out in Program Two with a few adjustments as the competition drew near - these came in the form of power sets of a heavier weight at the end of my usual work sets to maintain muscle mass, and the inclusion of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to strip any remaining body fat. The key points I took from the training plan used to get me into the best shape of my life follow:
1. Vary The Rep Range:
Throughout all three programs there was a focus on activating both slow and fast-twitch fibers to build them to their respective potential. Although the fast twitch fibres are responsible for the majority of the size a bodybuilder carries, the smaller, endurance oriented slow-twitch fibers can still be made to respond to a specific workload, and grow as a result.
Activating these fibres also enhances the body's fat burning potential. Thus, my training included both high reps (for slow twitch) and lower reps (for fast twitch). Fat burning, greater stamina (which enhanced recovery and enabled me to train harder with the heavier weights), and overall improvements in muscle size and shape was the result.
2. Incorporate Intensity Techniques:
A variety of intensity techniques were used on this program to provide the muscles with the extra stimulus needed to promote additional growth.
The two methods used were rest/pause and descending (or strip) sets and these were introduced usually on the final set of a particular exercise (predominantly the exercises used to target weaker muscle groups). I really felt that these gave me previously lacking finished look to my muscles, to give my physique the edge it needed.
For rest pause training I would select a weight that would allow me to fail at 10 repetitions. After this I would perform as many as I could with a two second rest between reps.
||Rest-Pause Video Guide:
Strip sets would involve performing a set a maximum weight for ten repetitions. Weight would be removed to allow an additional 15 repetitions, before a third set would be completed with an even lighter weight for around 20 reps. Using these techniques in every second or third workout seemed to work well.
||Strip Set Video Guide:
3. Use A Variety Of Exercises:
To effectively hit all muscle groups from a variety of angles, a wide range of exercises was used. In comparison to previous programs where I would focus more on the heavy compound exercises at the expense of many of the so called smaller ones such as fly's for chest, lunges for legs, and bent laterals/front raises for shoulders, this program specified attention to detail.
As the photos show, my muscles have considerably more detail compared to previous contests and I attribute this to a greater volume of exercises and increased workload overall.
4. Use Aerobics Strategically, And Sparingly:
During the initial stages of my program (Program One) aerobics were omitted entirely. I found this allowed me to build a greater degree of muscle mass, while retaining more of this size. At the time of the Waikato Championships, my lean body mass had increased by 13 pounds in a nine month period of natural training.
Much of this could be attributed to the non-reliance on aerobics to achieve contest shape. I did, however, use aerobics - in the form of HIIT, starting at four times per week, four weeks out, progressing to six times per week, one week out - in the final period before the Waikato show, to lose any remaining body fat.
HIIT (working in a high intensity fashion for no longer than 20 minutes) worked extremely well and didn't seem to target muscle tissue the same way longer duration, less intense aerobic work had done in the past.
1. Include A Variety Of Foods:
To fully recover from the increased workload and stay in positive nitrogen balance while maintaining adequate energy to train on, a wide variety of foods were needed. To achieve at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, meals were scheduled six times a day with 30-to-40 grams of protein consumed at each sitting.
Carbohydrates were used strategically to ensure adequate energy levels, with most of these supplied earlier in the day, and before training. In comparison to previous competition diets, the calories I did consume came from multiple sources.
Fish, chicken, egg whites and EGB nutrition supplement supplied my protein whereas before it was mainly egg whites with the occasional whey protein shake. Eating a wider variety of protein sources helped me to get the additional nutrients - namely fats and additional vitamins and minerals - needed to ensure recovery and muscle building were achieved at a higher rate.
For carbohydrates I ate plenty of green leafy vegetables to help to supply nutrition without all the additional calories (especially closer to contest time), and lower glycemic foods such as sweet potato, yams and oats for sustained energy release.
Most of my fats were consumed through hidden levels found in the various protein foods eaten, with essential fats coming from fish, which was consumed daily. Overall, a diet based on variety seemed to work well for me as energy levels were higher, and gains in muscle were greater then expected.
2. Sufficient Water Intake:
Given the high volume of intense training, higher caloric consumption and use of a special supplement (Explosive Growth Blend - that required additional water intake), H2O featured prominently in this program. At least four liters of water was consumed daily (around 17, 8-ounce glasses) with a view to enhancing the digestion of the variety of foods eaten, assist with fat loss and improve muscle fluid volume during training (properly hydrated muscle cells will allow for greater power and leverage output during training - a hydrated muscle is a stronger muscle).
As far as fat loss was concerned, the higher than normal water intake helped me to mobilize fat stores so they could be burned as an additional energy source during intensive workouts. It has been shown that when the body is well hydrated, blood levels of oxygen are greater. The higher the level of blood oxygen, the greater the body's fat-burning potential. Upping the water intake is a strategy I would recommend to all bodybuilders looking to improve performance and burn fat.
3. Caloric & Macronutrient Modulation:
A strategy Dan had me try was caloric and macronutrient modulation, which basically meant upping total caloric intake to match energy expenditure for two days (by increasing carbs and protein while keeping fat intake low), before reducing calories from carbs for three days, while keeping protein high, but maintaining a low fat intake (eating plenty of low calorie vegetables was advised at this time).
This was done in order to replenish muscle glycogen and keep good muscle tissue in a positive status. The main goal was to continue with body fat reduction, while maintaining lean body mass at a higher rate as the contest approached. It seemed to kick start the metabolic rate and the resulting fat loss was noticeable.
1. EGB, The Total Anabolic Supplement:
One of the more significant changes made to my program this time around was the inclusion a new supplement, Explosive Growth Blend, touted to give amazing gains in muscle size and strength, while enhancing fat loss. To say this supplement worked well is an understatement.
The improvements in workout intensity and increased muscle density were first noted after only two days of using it at the suggested dosage. After two weeks my muscles had become full and ripped, and combined with the changes in nutrition and training definitely gave me the edge in performance and size.
At one point in my contest prep, my shipment of this product was withheld for several days, meaning I no longer had it as a training aid. During this time, while keeping all training and nutrition variables the same, I experienced a noticeable reduction in workout intensity and a slight drop in size.
Having resumed my intake, the results were again apparent, which suggested to me it was having the intended effect. It would take a feature length article to describe this products composition and effects, but suffice to say it worked as described to me at the outset.
2. Herbal Diuretic Supplement During The Last Week Before Contest.
The only other supplement taken during my competition preparation was a herbal diuretic formula. This was used last final week before the show and did help to dry me out by shifting water from beneath the skin. This supplement contained calcium, magnesium, potassium, and a specific herbal blend containing java tea, uva ursi, dandelion, buchu, yerba mate, and green tea.
At the beginning of the week, body fat had been reduced to 4.5%, but skin still had a smooth appearance due to obvious water retention. In previous contests, this condition was extreme hard to counter, and I would only marginally improve conditioning from this point, resulting in a smooth appearance onstage. This time, my physique had a hard quality not previously seen. I attribute this, in large part, to the use of this special herbal preparation.
View Top Selling Diuretic Products Here.
Regular Assessments & Record Keeping
Another valuable lesson learned this time around was the importance of keeping meticulous records of both physical conditioning, through regular assessments, and training progress, through the use of a training diary. A training diary helped me to determine exactly what should be achieved at a given workout and served as a map to guide me to the shape and size I would ultimately present onstage.
With the diary I would note all sessions in advance and work through these sessions, ticking off what had been accomplished for that day. Of course changes would be made accordingly (increases in weight and/or added intensity sets, if the need arose) and these were duly noted in the diary. Before preparation for this contest I never used a diary and now know it is an essential component in determining training success.
Regular recording body fat to determine lean body mass and gauge fat loss and body weight helped me to gauge how I was looking and determine what improvements needed to be made to my program and diet. For a full description on how body fat and lean body mass were determined go here.
A Note On Contest Grooming:
In previous contests, grooming was something that was done as an afterthought, with no real attention given to skin and hair appearance. For this prep period I had weekly massages and body wraps (with a seaweed mud) to release toxins from the skin. I found these to work extremely well in providing a healthier complexion while helping with overall body fat reduction.
Getting the all important contest color just right is a problem many bodybuilders experience, myself previously included. Over the years I experimented with various preparations, none of which lived up to my expectations.
Unhappy with these results I decided to use two products that it had been suggested I try: Phil Kabakoff competition colour (an alternative to pro tan) and body shimmer (similar to dream tan, but by far better in my experience). As the accompanying photos show, these products did deliver the results I expected. I would not hesitate to use them again.
There we have it - my competition transformation from start to finish.
The great thing about this program's success, attributable in varying degrees to diet, training methods, supplementation and mental attitude, is the further it progressed the stronger and more muscular I became - a phenomenon not usually associated with pre-competition training (usually the reverse is true, were muscle is maintained while strength levels plummet). I attribute this to the "attention to detail" approach taken.
All the factors responsible for bodybuilding success were in place compared to previous competitions where I pretty much stumbled along with some trial and a lot of error. Having a great trainer and bodybuilding expert, Dan Gastelu, in my corner ensured I could not overlook what needed to be done.
Check Out Dan Gastelu's Awesome Muscles Podcast Here.
Overall, the results were great, but there is always room for improvement and I feel even greater success can be achieved next time. Stay tuned.