Contest Prep With Anthony Catanzaro: How To Get Big And Ripped Naturally!

Bodybuilding champion, Anthony Catanzaro, answers some great questions about his contest prep and recent transformation. Read on to discover why his new approach worked and some insight about the show.

"Change brings about change." Applied in its most authoritative sense, this dictum could be used to describe the incredible results bodybuilding champion, Anthony Catanzaro, recently experienced as he prepared for the contest of his lifetime, the INBF Naturalmania Nationals held on September 23.

Although he did not win the show, Anthony succeeded in adding 10 quality pounds to his already impressive physique, while reducing his body fat to unsurpassed levels. As a natural bodybuilder, Tony had always risked the possibility of dieting away precious pounds as his contests approached.

Indeed, he says he would often take to the stage looking like someone in dire need of an ambulance; such was the drawn appearance he presented. He has finally found the perfect formula.

A successful competitor with several good wins to his credit, Tony, a natural middleweight, decided it was time to mix it with the big boys. He added the additional muscle necessary to contest the light-heavyweight division and stepped onstage in his best shape ever, comparing favourably at 185lbs, 4.5 percent body fat.

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A big believer in self-improvement, Anthony felt he needed to add size while maintaining the symmetrical shape he is known for. This required complete change in the areas of diet and certain aspects of training. His mental approach — always positive — and cardio regimen — 30 minutes twice a day - remained the same.

He says he has finally found the best approach for gaining size and getting ripped and hopes this will bring him future success. Anthony is a man who has acquired a great deal of knowledge in the areas of training and nutrition. In light of his recent transformation he has more great insights to share. Read on to discover why his new and improved approach works.

Anthony Anthony
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Anthony, Before & After.

[ Q ] I understand you recently achieved your best level of size and conditioning ever. What did you do differently this time around in the areas of training and nutrition to attain these results?

    Well David, I surprised myself this time. Going into my pre-contest diet I had so much stress and drama happening in my life, that I'm actually surprised I achieved what I set out to do.

    As far as my training went, I wanted to get bigger. So to get bigger, I knew that I had to lift heavier than I ever had before. I know people will say "why would you lift heavy prior to a show when everyone is set on believing that you should be going lighter before a show, to focus on reps and separation."

    I truly do not feel that these qualities come from training. I feel that muscles are only stimulated when they are subjected to something they are not used to. So if you're in the gym lifting the same old weight and doing the same amount of reps with no drop sets, supersets, giant sets and so on you are going to look the same.

    Click Image To Enlarge.
    I Wanted To Get Bigger.

    I always say change brings change, so now was the time to change. My friends would ask me why would I want to change. I achieved champion status with my conditioning every year. But for me, I had to prove to myself that I could go into a bigger class and look better than I have ever looked before.

    Well, this is what happened. I had to not only change my training, but my diet as well. I was always a big believer in high protein low carbohydrates and zero fat while dieting for a show.

    Well I did some thinking to myself and thought about what would happen if I ate good fats with every meal: like 15-20 grams per meal over six meals, which would equal 120 grams of fat each day - over 1,000 calories from fat a day. Everyone hears about the benefits good fats provide the body. Well I was a skeptical until I began to eat a tablespoon of natural peanut butter with every meal.

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    As the weeks went on I saw myself losing fat and not an ounce of muscle weight. I actually started my pre-contest diet at 182lbs with around 8.5 percent body fat. I was 185lbs with 4.5% body fat at my show. Go figure.

    By eating a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate diet, I was able to actually gain muscle while I was losing fat!

[ Q ] Can you give a more detailed explanation of the training strategy you used prior to this recent showing?

    Like I said, I had to train heavy, so I went back to the basics. Do you remember when you first started to work out? Everything grew quickly, and as time went on it just seemed your body hit a plateau? Well here is how to change all of that.

    First of all, change brings change, so this is what I did. I started doing deadlifts, pullovers, more barbell, less machines and more full body movements, which means I forgot about cables: it takes iron to make you hard like iron. I was doing four sets of everything in a rep range of 12, 10, 8, and 6.

    I went to failure with everything. I also took my time with the sets. That is a big problem with bodybuilders who want to grow. They think the more they train, the bigger they will get. But nothing is further from the truth. You don't grow when you lift; you grow when muscular recovery is allowed to take place.

    In other words, if you train heavy and then rest, your muscles will recover thicker and stronger. If you do reps like crazy, your muscles will need more time to recover and they won't re-build thicker and stronger, they will ultimately look smaller and leaner to compensate for the high reps.

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Train Heavy & Rest For Thicker, Stronger Muscles.

    Don't believe me? Look at the best marathon runners. They all have small skinny legs. Then take a look at a football player who runs fast over short distances like a sprinter. They all have muscular, thick legs. See what I mean? As long as you hit them in the right spot you only need one bullet to kill someone, not a machine gun. Less is always more.

[ Q ] You mentioned having to deal with additional stress this time around. How did you counter this negative influence, to focus on the task of getting big and ripped?

    Everyone has stress, but the problem isn't the stress, its how you handle it. Some people let the littlest things get to them. I myself have been a victim to this, but what I have learned is that problems can always be solved and sometimes even avoided.

    You always have to remember that the more energy you put into something, the more energy it will have. So this means if you always worry that something bad is going to happen to you, then it will. This is what I call power of thought. If I truly believe with all my heart that I will become a millionaire one day, then I will.

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    The Power Of Thought.

    It's very easy to think the worst of something, but nobody wants to believe in miracles. It is a miracle that you were ever even born. Have you ever even stopped to think how you were developed, what you went through to take on the form you are today?

    The world is bigger than it seems, and there are things and signs we see everyday that we ignore. It's always the simplest things that are the most impressive. So what I do to combat my stress is trust in God, that he is working in my life and in wife Tina's life to help us become stronger and to shower us with the blessings we deserve.

[ Q ] Exactly what improvements had you made to your physique? How would you describe the way you're your physique looks now?

    I train my body so that everything fits together. I don't neglect anything and if I feel something is lagging behind, I would hit that body part every other day heavy for five sets. When I hit the stage this year, I was a small version of Arnold.

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I Was A Small Version Of Arnold.

[ Q ] To make such great progress, you must have made some major improvements in several areas. At the beginning of your recent pre-competition phase did you set out to make any specific improvements? What were these and what approaches did you take?

    My goal was to look the best I have ever looked and I was willing to make sure everything was 100 percent on track. I focused on my posing and ensuring everything was balanced. I never was a fan of freaky body parts and bodybuilders who were known for their legs or their back or whatever.

    I'm more impressed with bodybuilders who show perfection in any pose they hit. Bodybuilding today has become a freak show instead of what it originally was intended to be. Guys used to train with a view to sculpting their body into works of art. Now, to me, they look like they should be in the circus.

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I'm More Impressed With Bodybuilders Who Show
Perfection In Any Pose They Hit.

    Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the bodybuilders of today, but the sport has become a freak show and I don't care if I'm the one to say so.

    Again, my goal was to be as perfect as possible to attain that work of art. I set out to accomplish this goal back when I was 15-years-old.

[ Q ] What body parts had you improved for this show? Exactly how did your physique reflect the fact it had a better balance?

    Basically nothing was depleted. I was able to display my true physique. To me, bodybuilding is all about muscle balance, size, symmetry and posture. A true bodybuilder looks at everything and does not neglect anything. I always had a complete package, but now the package is bigger.

[ Q ] You have mentioned making some radical improvements, which I am sure we can all learn from. This must mean you had made a few mistakes, or, at the very least, overlooked some key training and nutrition aspects, in the past. What training and nutrition mistakes had you made leading up to shows that prompted you to change your approach?

    One of the biggest mistakes I have always made was that I was always coming in to the shows looking like I was in need of an ambulance. I see this time and time again. Bodybuilders will diet away all of the muscle they worked so hard to gain. What's the point? Build muscle, and then starve yourself to look like a dried up prune onstage?

    Year after year, I would always have a drawn look and was never truly happy with my looks on stage.

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Anthony Back In 2005.

[ Q ] What caused this drawn effect? Was it diet or overtraining, or both?

    I have to say it was both. An inexperienced bodybuilder will always go over board with their dieting and their training. I always said that your pre-contest diet should be like flying a plane, which will include landing perfectly on the day of your show.

    Think about it for a moment. When you begin your diet, it's like a plane taking off. It needs a lot of push and it takes a lot of will. Once you get up to 35 thousand feet, your body is in the fat burning zone. You want to idle there for quite some time before beginning your descent - this is the most crucial part of the flight, which relates to your diet.

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    You Want To Stay In The Fat
    Burning Zone For Some Time.

    You start to descend and you actually have to slow your body's momentum down the same way a plane descends and begins to slow down. You want to land the plane perfectly, so you add some carbohydrates to your diet so you don't become catabolic.

    You start to land and touch ground on the day of your show looking perfect. But unfortunately, this is what often happens: the bodybuilder will take off and not stay idle at 35 thousand, instead he will climb up and down trying to keep the altitude, then at the last minute, he will go nose down because he didn't slow down his diet in time.

    He wasn't ready because he did not stay idle in the fat burning mode, and crashes on the day of the show. This is an inexperienced bodybuilder or pilot. You always learn from your mistakes, the more shows you do, the more flight hours you have, so to speak.

[ Q ] Great analogy. You are known for having somewhat of an anti-supplement stance? I hear you have finally seen the light. What supplements did you use this time around and how did they benefit you?

Syntha 6

    True, I'm not a believer in supplements. But to be a carpenter you need all the right the tools to get the job done. So yes, for this contest I asked Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman, about his supplementation. Why not ask the best to be the best.

    He told me about BSN's Syntha-6 whey protein. This is a great protein by the way, it has no bloating effects whatsoever and the taste is unbelievable. I also was taking three spoons of glutamine morning noon and night plus a good multivitamin twice a day.

[ Q ] Can you provide the exact training program and diet you followed this time? How far out did you begin?

    I started my pre-contest diet around eight weeks out. The exact date was August 1. My show was on September 23rd. I was on 325 grams of protein a day, 100 grams of carbohydrates, and 100-125 grams of fat.

    Nothing changed until the final week when I began to drop my fat intake to 50 grams a day, and upped the carbohydrates to 400 grams on Friday before the show. I don't believe in carbing up the last three days prior to the show. I start carbing up a week before, slowly adding the carbohydrates more and more each day. This is better for the body I feel. If you overload your blood sugar will skyrocket and you will risk looking flat and smooth come contest time.

[ Q ] In hindsight, would you do anything differently for your next show? What improvements, if any, could you make to the program and diet you have provided?

    Well to be honest with you, not winning the show and not placing in the top five was a disappointment. But I can't look at it that way. I set out to do something I had never done before: to enter into the light heavyweight class. I was 10lbs heavier than usual, with the same body fat percentage. To me that is truly unbelievable. I did it all natural, as I have always done, and nobody can say any different.

    Like I always say,

    "It's not about winning on the outside,
    it's about winning on the in side."

    Sure it feels great to always come in first place, but like I always say, if you need a trophy to feel like somebody, then you're nobody without it.

[ Q ] How did you feel about your contest performance overall? In the photos you provided you seem to have stacked up very favourably.

    To tell you the truth David, I don't know what I could have done differently. I have to admit the competition was strong, but like I always say I'm not in competition with others, only myself. I know for a fact, and you can see from the photos also, that I have the most projected image of a champion, onstage.

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I'm Not In Competition With Others, Only Myself.

    But on the bodybuilding stage, I came up short handed because unfortunately they (the judges) are not really looking for balance and stage presence, they are looking for freaky body parts, crazy separation and they don't care if the guys head is chopped off. It truly is a shame that competitive bodybuilding has become what it is.

    I once remember looking at a photo of Arnold when I was 15 year kid and saying "WOW I would love to have a smaller version of his body." I truly looked at him as a work of art, not only his body but how he held his body like a splendid artwork.

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    I'm proud to say that I have accomplished my dreams a thousand times over, and always remember its not about what others see in you, its what you see in yourself. You don't need a first place trophy to know you are special. Look into the miracle of your existence, and you will then see how unbelievable you truly are.

[ Q ] you certainly did yourself proud onstage Tony. In light the improvements you showed, what have you discovered to be the main keys to achieving a ripped, rock-hard physique?

    Besides diet, you have to do your cardio. I don't care how hard you train with weights, if you don't do cardio for at least 45 minutes a day prior to the show, your vascularity will suffer. Think about it, what does cardio stand for? Cardiovascular.

    This means, you should do your cardio and your skin will become thinner and your body fat will drop due to increased cardiorespiratory activity. Cardio is a great way to transport nutrients into the cells.

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Cardio Is A Great Way To Transport
Nutrients Into The Cells.

    Think about it. If you sat on your butt and just ate without doing anything, you will begin to get fat and you will start to develop a gut. Cardio is the most natural form of exercise. I love dancing for cardio, but if I can't get to the dance floor I will walk on the treadmill, bike ride, whatever. Just do your cardio, as it is the key to winning.

[ Q ] Many would disagree with you and say that that cardio is not crucial throughout the pre-competition phase. Do you think you could have achieved a similar level of conditioning, but with greater overall size, without so much cardio?

    Absolutely not! Let me be the first to tell you that cardio does not eat muscle. People have this belief that the more cardio they do, the more muscle they will lose — bologna. That would be like saying the more you workout, the less muscle you will have.

    Cardio is awesome and for me it's essential. It actually helps with fat loss and with muscle building because it transports nutrients into the cells as well as sending a cascade of blood throughout the entire body, nervous system, circulatory system, and not to mention the brain.

How Important Is Cardio During The Pre-Competition Phase?

Very Important.
Somewhat Important.
It Should Be Avoided.

[ Q ] We have discussed diet, training and supplementation as they relate to your recent successes. Describe the mental approach you adopted going into your recent show? How did this approach enhance your size and conditioning?

    I knew that I was stressed with everything that was going on in my life prior to my contest, so I had to put myself in a place where I was able to remain focused on what I had to do. I was not going to let anything mess with my head.

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    My goal was to be the best I could ever be on contest day. I prayed to God to give me strength to stay on track. I truly feel that everything good comes from God and if you believe, you can achieve. It's not about how hard you hit, but how hard you can get hit. Getting hit while moving forward is the key.

    When I got to the show I had a funny feeling I wasn't in Kansas anymore. There was a lot negative energy going on and everyone in the show had disgusted expressions. The people who ran the show were more than rude, they were just pure @ss *@#@. But like I said before, the world of bodybuilding has become a sport where there is no more camaraderie and, to me, some judges have no idea about what the sport really means.

[ Q ] In addition to moving forward while maintaining a professional attitude, were there any other little tricks used to achieve your new size and conditioning?

    Well like I said in my last interview the mind is the most powerful weapon. Some guys use their mind to work for them, and others let their minds defeat them.

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    You have to have control over your thoughts. Always keep in mind the reason you are there in the first place. It's not about you beating your opponents, but you beating your own fears.

    I have a friend at the gym that is competing for the first time. He comes up to me all the time and tells me how other guys in the gym are busting on him and talking behind his back. Just today he told me that one of my so called friends, who was at my show to cheer me on, went and told everyone that I lost and that I ran out crying.

    You see, there are always going to be people in your life that are phoney's or who like to spread phoney gossip. They are negative people that never amounted to anything, so they try to steal your hope and dreams away from you because they know they can never accomplish what you have done or what you are doing.

    The world is filled with negative people. To me, a champion stays focused and does not pay attention to those who try to sabotage. Remember, God loves you and he wants you to conquer your fears and to try new things. There is a beautiful blessing that awaits those who have love in their hearts.

[ Q ] Thank you for sharing your recent experiences with us Tony. To conclude, could you provide five tips for achieving a contest-ready physique?

    1. Plan your pre-contest diet 12-8 weeks in advance depending on your current body fat level.
    2. Do your cardio every day. I was doing 30 minutes, twice a day for eight weeks straight.
    3. Don't cheat on your diet. You will only be cheating yourself.
    4. Stay focused and don't listen or hang around with those who are gossipers, or are trying to screw you up. The best way to fight negativity is with a smile.
    5. If you believe you will be the best that day, you will. The body follows the mind.

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    The Body Follows The Mind.

    Like I always say,

    "When your mind is right, your body will be tight."

    God bless