Even if this was your first year of bodybuilding, you need to start thinking about a plan that will lay the foundation for your future success. First and foremost, relax and enjoy what you have accomplished. You must begin by letting go of all the stress and enjoy the moment. Reflect on where you started and how you progressed. Take note of those experiences that you enjoyed as well as those you hated. Afterward you will be able to truly develop a well-defined plan.
Before you can decide how to prepare and improve from any experience, a well thought and realistic goal must be established. To begin this year's bodybuilding season, I had one and only one "bodybuilding" goal. I wanted to become a WNBF pro. It was achievable, it was realistic, and I developed a plan that I believed would enable me to reach it. No matter what goal you desire to achieve, it cannot be reached without a plan. My goals for next year are:
1. Compete 7-10 lb. heavier next season.
2. Place in the top 5 in my class in at least two professional competitions.
3. Stay healthy.
With any well-defined plan, action is needed in order to implement it. Without action, a goal is just a dream that will never be realized. What action will I take to ensure success? In order to compete 7-10 pounds heavier next year, it will be necessary for me to do several things:
1. Train heavy and short.
2. Eat and increase "good" quality calories.
3. Rest more frequently.
4. Allow time to grow.
Sounds easy? It looks good on paper but anyone who is a serious bodybuilder can tell you how complicated it can be. Train heavy to me means simply one thing. Continually push yourself to increase your "load" while paying attention to strict form. No matter what exercise, I try to add to my load in 10-pound increments. For instance, if I'm able to chest press 100 pounds, dumbbells for 5-8 repetitions for 3 sets with strict form (no back arching and no assistance), the next time I will try 110 pounds. Brevity is also important when trying to gain size. During this time of the year, my training time is reduced to about an hour.
With extreme and uninterrupted intensity, you'd be surprised how much you can accomplish in an hour. There are so many variations of training programs based on experience levels (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) and fitness goals (gaining, losing, maintaining). The key to success is learning your body and how it responds to any program you decide to use. Eating and increasing my caloric intake is my second goal. Even in the off-season it is important to good quality foods. What is good quality food?
Foods consider "good" in nature are those that provide your body the proper nutrients it needs. To make it simple, select lean cuts of meat, plan meals in advance, pay attention to portion size, eat slower, minimize refined sugar and saturated fat intake, maximize fiber intake, and eat small complete meals (5-6) during the day. Lean cuts of meat are just as available as any other meat. In my experience, I had to adjust to the taste of lean cuts of beef. Eating 96% lean ground beef takes a little getting used to. However, over time, it tastes no different to me than 80% ground beef. Other lean meats that I define as "good" are: turkey, chicken, fish, ostrich, and buffalo. Preparation of lean meats is important to consider. Baking any lean meat is the best choice.
The problem that many of us encounter when it comes to eating is portion size. Since we usually wait until we experience "hunger" before we eat, we subject ourselves to overeating. Overeating occurs due to our desire to satisfy the hunger signal transmitted to our brain. We shovel loads and loads of food into our bodies to suppress that hunger. Problem is that it takes approximately 20 minutes for our body to notify the brain that it's been satisfied. In 20 minutes, you can literally eat an entire cow! Not really but you can eat a whole lot of food in that time. That's where planning meals having distinct portion size becomes important and eating slower is critical. Planning your meals in advance includes having knowledge of the foods you like to eat, deciding the right fat, carbohydrate, and protein ratios for your plan, and preparing and portioning your meals to ensure a 5-6 meal plan.
For example, a single meal I have prepared consists of 9 oz. lean turkey, 2 cups salad with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 medium apple. I will slowly eat this meal over 15-20 minutes to allow my brain time to receive the signal that the hunger has been satisfied. To achieve my 3,450 calories per day intake, I sometimes eat up to 7 small meals. Minimizing refined sugar and saturated fat intake is easily accomplished by becoming more aware of nutritional labels. Many people still don't realize that each gram of carbohydrate or protein equals 4 calories or that 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories. It is this basic knowledge that will open the door to much more! When selecting a food to include in your plan, it is paramount that you understand its nutritional components. Always read the label! Its information will help you decide and determine what's appropriate and/or inappropriate to include in your plan.
Why is rest an important part of my plan to succeed? While at rest, your body will place into high gear its recovery and repair processes. You've probably heard that growth does not occur in the gym but outside of the gym. That is as real as it gets. I guarantee proper rest by using a 3 on 1 off training split. Right now, I have the following split:
Day 1 - Shoulders/biceps/abs
Day 2 - Quads/back/calves
Day 3 - Chest/triceps/abs
Day 4 - Off
I make certain to train as hard and as heavy for 3 days and take 1 off. Depending on how I feel, I sometimes make the 1 day off 2 days off. When I was much younger, I believed that missing time in the gym sacrificed progress. Not true! Lack of intensity and proper rest and nutrition is what sacrifices progress.
When I repeat the cycle, following my "Off" day(s), I vary my training routine. For instance, on day 5, my shoulder/bicep/abs routine will be vastly different from on day 1. I will use all dumbbells vs. barbells. The order of exercises will also be varied. This keeps my training fresh and new!
Allowing time to grow will require that I avoid pre-contest dieting until I've achieved the level of gain that I desire. At the rate I hope to progress, I will need about 12 months to achieve my growth goal and hopefully, with clean eating habits, reduce the pre-contest diet time.
With these actions that I will invoke, my additional goals to place in the top 5 and to stay healthy are all dependent on how I prepare and take care of myself. I truly believe that to be my best at anything, I must prepare for what is needed to succeed. By taking care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally, I will guarantee that I will benefit no matter what the outcome. Remember, it is the off-season and this is the time when champions are born and raised! Keep in your mind that what you do now will make all the difference in what you will achieve next year!
Well, welcome to a new day and stay positive, train hard, and BELIEVE.
As always, thanks for reading,
"If you're getting disappointing results, it's not a sign to give up on your dream. Instead, it's an opportunity to make that dream so absolutely compelling that you cannot fail to achieve it. "
- Ralph Marston