TOPIC: How Do You Prepare For A Bodybuilding Competition Only 4 Weeks Out?

The Question:

The contest is right around the corner and you have to be in the best shape of your life. You're only 4 weeks out and you have some major decisions to make.

What is your training routine going to be like?

What is your diet going to consist of?

What are some of your other plans for entering the contest at your best?

What are you going to do to get shredded? What tips can you give others?

Bonus Question: What are you going to do for a tan? Are you going to use a certain product? If so, when will you start it? What will you use?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:

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1st Place - UliqMadiq Getting Shredded For Showtime!

Alright, you're four weeks out from stepping on a stage in a room of people and sporting the most conditioned physique you've ever had in your life. To prepare for that big day, you need to keep a few incredibly critical things in mind:

  1. Know Your Food Inside-Out
  2. Maximize Training While Minimizing Error
  3. Supplement Intelligently
  4. Prepare Your Body Inside-Out
  5. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Let's get into those in-depth.

1. Know Your Food Inside-Out

Recreational bodybuilders can build up a powerful, cut physique with a general, perhaps just slightly incisive knowledge of their diet. They can keep track of basic macronutrient ranges, basic caloric intake, basic glycemic manipulation... in short, they can have a sort of sweeping purview of their diet and still perform some impressive physique recomposition.

You, on the other hand, cannot. You need to clamp down on your diet until it is 100% in the palm of your hand, until you're its lord and master, until it's calling you 'Big Daddy' and moaning your name in a tone of hushed, respectful awe.

I'm not kidding either: in order to achieve complete mastery of your physique, you need to achieve complete - absolute, total, full, all-inclusive - mastery of your diet, and to do this you need to be controlling it, not the other way around. There is no margin for error here.

So in order to be stepping on that stage in sterling form, you need to know what you're eating inside out. This means -

Keeping Track Of Everything:

No ranges, no between-X-and-Y calories daily or "around" 300 g. of protein. You need to keep track of your diet like your life depends on it, because, well, it sort of does.

Know exactly what you are eating and in what percentages your macronutrients work out. At four weeks out, there is absolutely no margin for error; therefore there is no scope for margins in your diet.

Monitoring Sodium:

You'll need to start keeping tabs on your sodium intake four weeks out. That said, at four weeks out, you do need a reasonable amount of sodium to compensate for electrolyte loss during cardio and training.

As far as sodium goes, here's a good plan for each week leading up to the contest:

  • 4 Weeks Out - Cut all condiments and seasonings
  • 3 Weeks Out - Cut all eggs and dairy
  • 2 Weeks Out - Start sodium cycling (loading+lowering, described below)
  • 1 Week Out - Continue sodium cycling, follow final day depletion plan

Sodium Cycling Described:

  • 1 Week Out - reduce sodium to ~3500 mg. daily
  • 5 Days Out - reduce sodium to ~1500 mg. daily
  • 2 Days Out - reduce sodium to ~1000 mg. daily
  • 1 Day Out - reduce sodium to ~800 mg. daily

The rationale behind this is to have the cell pump upregulation persist from the sodium loading as sodium is gradually depleted, helping to shed subcutaneous water more efficiently but not too rapidly or unsustainably, which could result in messing up your "peak" at show-time.

Macronutrients In A Low-sodium State:

To sustain a low-sodium state, the macronutrients in your diet should primarily come from the following:

The Protein From:

  • Chicken breasts
  • Whey protein
  • Lean beef (ground, flank, top round)
  • Tuna fish in water (not brine/oil)

The Carbs From:

  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Brown rice
  • Vegetables

And Fats From:

Oil Content:

Know Your Food:

You probably already know the protein content of your can of tuna or the carbs in your oatmeal; now is a good time to memorize the sodium content too.

Macronutrient Ratios:

Protein:

Protein is anabolic and muscle-sparing in a hypo caloric state; to preserve your hard-earned muscle at four weeks out, step up protein intake by 40%. So if you normally consume 1 g. of protein per lb. of bodyweight, start popping 1.4 g.

Carbohydrates:

The most efficient way to 'keep it guessing' and continue burning fat as you diet down is to cycle your carb intake. I have outlined this more in the next sub-heading, Manipulating Glycogen.

Fats:

Instead, allow the rest of your fat to simply be the by-product of your protein and carb intake.

The fat is essential in keeping your testosterone levels normal to preserve muscle mass, but also in order to keep your body out of a 'starvation' state and in a fat-burning state through the sustained flow of fat in the diet.

Manipulating Glycogen:

Essentially, you can manipulate insulin to work in your favor by consuming carbohydrates around your workout. As a general rule, if you have X grams after the workout, consume half-X grams before. This will keep energy levels up to fuel your workout and also prevent muscle loss under stress.

As far as carbohydrate cycling, there are multiple options to performing this. The easiest method to follow while still maintaining efficiency and not accompanied by a feeling of deprivation is the 'carb structuring + cycling' format. Such a diet will help preserve muscle while shedding body fat speedily.

In Brief, This Entails That You:

Essentially, this allows you to take advantage of insulin to have it either kick you out of or keep you from possible catabolic states, without fat storage. Workouts will continue to be productive with minimum strength loss.

Refeed once to twice per week, depending on body type and personal preference. In this case, you'll have to apply your own knowledge of your body to decide how many times a 'refeed' - essentially a caloric and carbohydrate surge - will benefit you without stalling fat loss.

The purpose of a refeed is to boost the actions of the hormone leptin, which is incredibly effective in burning fat. At this point you need to consume approximately maintenance calories, with the increased calories coming from carbohydrates. Protein can be lowered to 1 g./lb. of bodyweight.

2. Maximize Training While Minimizing Error

Alright, your training needs to be at that fine line between low-intensity effort and high gear, full-throttle lifting. Why? Simple: You need to maintain muscle without the risk of injury, without sacrificing perfect form and with the understanding that your energy will be lower than in the off-season.

Consequently, you need to stay out of the lower-rep ranges (2-6) and stay away from exercises that may lead to injury (most notable among these are the ones that compromise rotator cuff flexibility).

At the same time, do not completely revamp your training split. This is not a time to be experimenting, at four weeks out. Keep the basic premise of your training in play, employing all the exercises, techniques and routines that regularly work for you, just make tiny modifications in the following senses:

Add A High-Rep Drop-Set:

After finishing the normal amount of sets you do for an exercise, insert one high-repetition drop set, where you start with a weight you can handle for 6-8 reps, perform 6-8 reps, drop the weight for another 6-8 reps and finally one last time for the last 3 reps.

This will take the wind out of you, but will be excellent from a cardiovascular standpoint and in taxing the muscle fibers to "bring out striations" (I say it in quotes because it is a controversial issue).

Pose Between Sets:

Additionally, it will give you a fantastic idea of what you need work on right as you are working on those muscles, and show you your dieting progress too.

Vacuum:

End every workout with 3 sets of stomach vacuums

This will not only tighten up your waistline, but also improve the overall aesthetic appeal of your upper body poses.

3. Supplement Intelligently

Four weeks out, you'd want to supplement a little differently than you might otherwise, but there would be no major changes overall.

Standard Needs:

Of course, you need your standard whey protein protein

Fat Burners:

Should you choose one, use it prior to your workouts and cardio and ease into the full dose gradually.

Sesathin:

sesa Avant Labs' Sesathin is a great supplement for contest dieting, as it allows you to deplete calories without consequent muscle loss, while at the same time down regulating fat storage.

However, you should cut use of Sesathin about 1 week out of your contest, since even though it drains subcutaneous water (a useful effect), it can leave the muscles looking flat and depleted.

Green Tea:

Green tea is another great addition at four weeks out not only because of metabolic and fat-burning effects, but because it is excellent for the immune system. Around the days nearing the contest, the immune system is usually at risk due to nutrient deprivation, and getting sick is the last thing you want before the big day.

Do Not Take:

Supplements I do not recommend close to contest time include creatine since it stores water and blurs definition and protein bars since although they can provide a nice caloric addition to a bulking diet they are sub-optimal nutritionally at a critical dieting time such as this.

4. Prepare Your Body Inside-Out

In preparing your body inside-out, here are a series of tips I've compiled.

Stay Anabolic:

Stay anabolic, always. Your meals must be frequent without a single exception. Most bodybuilders can opt for anywhere between eating every 2-3 hours.

Never, ever, feel starved. If there is any point where you do, it is because your caloric deficit is too large or you are leaving too long a time between meals. Either one of these leads to muscle loss.

The only exception to this is in the last week, when a combination of factors (including sodium and carb depletion) may leave you feeling deprived.

Do Not Go Overboard On Cardio:

The enthusiasm to achieve your contest shape is understandable, but going that extra mile in cardio will usually lead to more muscle loss than anything else.

Keep Lifting Intense:

redem Make it a point to lift intensely through whatever techniques work for you: blast heavy music in your earphones, watch a Ronnie Coleman video or Pumping Iron once in a while, psyche yourself up before each set - do everything you can to keep your workouts productive and anabolic.

Sleep Adequately:

Don't let any other stresses detract from your sleep time. This is critical in maintaining muscle mass, burning fat and keeping your body healthy overall.

Practice With An Audience: 

Practice your posing, with an audience. A close friend, a girlfriend, a family member - all of these will work just fine - but even better would be a fellow competitive buddy, perhaps your workout partner, to closely critique you and watch your posing routine for any flaws or errors.

If you can, have someone tape your routine and watch it on video, making notes on any small things you can improve on.

The Tan:

And finally, of course, is the all-critical tan. For more skin types, tanning naturally will not be altogether productive in getting your skin dark enough for that ideal competitive look.

Instead, use Pro Tan as the tanning agent for your base tan, and Dream Tan as a bronzer. Extra oiling is optional, depending on how your skin responds to the sheen.

5. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

Alright, here's the down-low: contest prep is stressful. You have to be tough as nails to undergo the weeks of physical and mental duress that lead up to the contest date, and you need to continually bite the bullet in sacrificing other stuff in your life in preparation for the big push.

Through all this, it's vital that you keep your eyes and thoughts on the day of the contest. You need to believe supremely in yourself that you are going to come out on top, with that killer body you've been working hard on for months.

Remember the fact that on contest day, you're going to be a rock star. Well, as close to it as you can get. You're going to hit a most muscular and hundreds of people will cheer for you - that's pretty rock star if you ask me.

Remember to incisively know your diet, train on that fine line between method and madness, supplement selectively and wisely, prepare your body from the core outwards, and most of all, keep your eyes on the prize of the most rewarding day of your life.

2nd Place - ho_124 Contest Prep Four Weeks Out

What is your training routine going to be like?

Although training is a big part of getting big and ripped, there isn't much to say about how different your training program will be. It should basically stay the same; some people actually like to lower their reps and not go above 10, but it's not going to be the difference between life and death.

Compound Movements

Basically you want to do a lot of compound movements, and you should have a variety of them in your schedule as well as isolation

  • Deadlift

  • Squat

  • Bench Press Movements

    • Decline
    • Incline
    • Wide Grip
    • Dumbbell Bench Press

Other great compound movements are:

  • Dips

  • One Arm Rows

  • Chinups

  • *Any Type Of Rowing *

    • Seated
    • Bent Over Rows
  • Military Press

  • Lunges

  • Pull Downs

Doing compound movements will give you better gains than isolation exercises since it involves more muscle groups. So don't just rely on fly's and cable crosses to develop your pecs.

Do bench, dips, and maybe add in an isolation exercise at the end. However don't totally eliminate isolation exercises since they are good for targeting specific muscles and are still an essential part of training.

Lagging Body Parts

This might also be a good time to work lagging body parts. For example if your biceps aren't up to par, then you might want to consider working them an extra time. Although four weeks isn't enough to get your biceps huge, it can still help if your biceps are a behind a bit.

Toning

There is also one more thing I should mention. A lot of people, I mean a lot of people think that doing high reps like 15-25 will help them tone their muscle and increase muscle definition. Let me say that this is totally wrong. To cut up you must do cardio and continue your weight lifting program.

There is no such thing as toning with weights only.

Schedule Guidelines

  • Keep workouts under an hour. If you go above, your performance decreases and you might overtrain before a competition; meaning you will have to stop a lot of activities screwing up your cutting process.

  • Have good form, this ensures all your muscle fibers are hit correctly and full development occurs. Using bad form might injure yourself and you don't want that before a competition.

  • Have a spotter, he can make you go to your max and prevent injuries waiting to happen, like dropping a bar on yourself when you can't push it up anymore.

  • Don't train legs then run right after. Try to keep cardio sessions as far away from legs as possible.

  • Don't start working body parts more than you need to in hopes of gaining more muscle before a competition. Your body won't be used to it which can prolong recovery and risking overtraining.

  • Give yourself at LEAST 1 day of rest per week. 2-3 is optimal.

  • Do about three exercises of three sets per body part; it might be different for another person. Do larger muscle groups first like chest then triceps.

  • Rep range should be 6-12. Some people don't like going above 10 it's your choice.

  • Don't Train A Body Part More Than Twice A Week Even If It Is Not Up To Par.

  • For lagging body parts do 2 exercises. If it's pretty behind, then do a MAX of 6 sets as far away from the other workout of the body part as possible. So if it is chest day and you are lagging behind try to do it so you train chest one day, then do it again 2 or 3 days later.

  • But if it's just a little bit behind train it for 3-4 sets of one exercise.

Here's a training schedule for people who don't know how to make one:

What is your diet going to consist of?

Your diet at this point, when the contest is right around the corner, is crucial and you can't afford to screw up on this. Remember, diet is a huge part of bodybuilding which is a common misunderstanding among most people.

A lot of people train all out but eat fries and unhealthy snacks all the time. If that's the case your just wasting your time.

Your diet can be the difference from getting fat or ripped for your contest or whatever you might be doing (like going to the beach).

Basically, you've done your bulking for a few weeks by this point, and your looking to get ripped for a contest or what not. You don't want to be bulking four weeks before a contest because then it would be almost impossible to cut away the fat depending on how long you've been bulking.

In bulking you want to eat about 300-500 calories above your diet, but in cutting you want to make sure your eating below how many calories you need each day.

This cuts away the fat since you are in a calorie debt. So where does this come from? You guessed it, your fat which is basically stored energy in the form of unattractive blobs. Now there are a couple of things you should do in your diet, which I will highlight.

1. Calories - The Difference Between Fat Gain & Getting Defined:

Keep a log of what you eat and make sure you don't go over your calorie level you need each day. So in the morning if you already ate that 1000 calorie double whopper forget it. If your having trouble keeping it below for some reason, it's not over. There are other things you can do to eat below your calorie maintenance level I will list.

2. Eat About 6 Meals A Day:

You should be eating about 6 meals a day spaced 2-3 hours apart. No, before you ask you're not bulking. You want to be doing this to keep your metabolism up.

When you eat this many meals a day, your metabolism kicks in and starts burning whatever you've eaten and taking it all up for its nutrients and energy. Eating only three meals a day will make your metabolism slow down and it isn't a fat burning mode.

Also if you wait too long between each meal or eat only three meals a day, you might have the tendency to eat very large meals on those three meals. If you eat heavily on these meals the calories you intake will go to fat storage which is not what we want.

3. Drink Water:

Drinking about 1-2 gallons of water a day is optimal, you don't have to bloat yourself with water and just sit there with 10 glasses in front of you. If you don't drink water then your liver has to help the water needy kidneys to pick up the slack. With this happening, your liver cannot metabolize your fat resulting in fat storing.

Water also has many other benefits like cleansing your system of toxins and increasing nutrition uptake and delivery which is awesome to a bodybuilder. There is one more point on water too.

Drinking water helps you excrete more water. This is beneficial since your muscles might retain water if they are deprived especially in the ab region where you don't want it.

This might look like a layer of fat but it is maybe water. So drinking water will help excrete that water out making you more defined. But keep in mind it wont be the difference of being fat and ripped.

4. Keep Insulin Low & Don't Eat As Many Carbs:

Lower Insulin:

You want to regulate your insulin levels and not elevate it during the day since the goal is fat loss. However don't eliminate insulin from your diet.

The hormone is highly valuable right after a workout. So put a 50/50 blend of maltodextrin and dextrose in your post workout shake to create an insulin spike along with your whey protein which also helps elevate insulin along with carbs and repair damaged muscle.

If you don't know how to keep insulin levels low without eating carbs, you must eat slow absorbing carbs or low G.I. carbs. These include:

  • Oatmeal

  • Pasta (whole wheat is best)

  • Whole grain bagels, bread and cereals (Try all bran buds cereal, even though its gross it's very healthy and fibrous. Fibrous foods absorb slowly and are a good thing).

  • Brown rice. Don't eat white rice since it is highly processed.

  • Vegetables

  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes are a very good choice here

    • Fruits which are best at breakfast and maybe a few throughout the day

    • Some fruits are high and some are low G.I. Example: Apples have a low GI. Bananas have a high GI.

Lower Carbs:

Your body burns carbs first and once it runs out turns to fat. Consume most of your carbs in the morning along with protein to keep you energized through the day.

5. Eating Before Bed:

This means that your meal will be stored as fat since it cannot be effectively burned off as energy. Maybe a glass of milk or two is fine, but don't order a bucket of fried chicken and go to sleep.

6. Have A High Protein Diet

Keeping protein in your system not only elevates your metabolism and keeps burning fat but also ensures that your body won't burn muscle for energy. You should be eating not 1.5 - 2 grams of protein per pound of weight.

Here Are Some Sources Of Protein:

  • Lean red meats
  • Lean beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Shrimp
  • Nuts
  • Eggs and egg whites
  • Peanut butter

7. Cardio

There are many forms of cardio you can perform such as biking, running, stair master machine, rowing and even playing a sport. You want to be somewhere around 60-70% of your max heart rate which is a fat burning zone.

A 4 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein is ideal in the fitness world nowadays. You might want to try running in the morning where glycogen stores are low. This means your body will tap into fat for energy. But you might lose muscle which is why you should consume a protein shake 15 minutes before your run.

Do cardio a minimum of 3 times a week for 30 minutes if your new to it. Gradually you want to build up to 30-45 minutes max for 4-5 sessions a week.

Basically you want to keep a good diet and good training program.

Flexing:

Another thing you can do is practice flexing and posing. Believe it or not, flexing can take out fluid in your body making you more defined. So flex a lot of the time, it's also good for developing control of certain muscles which is good for training since you can concentrate easier on different muscle groups.

Limit Salt:

Also I will limit the salt I intake since it promotes water retention making someone less defined. You only need about 2000 Mg a day for most people. Don't get me wrong and not eat salt, you need it or else you will die, just don't eat salt loaded foods like chips and fries.

Stop Creatine:

Stop your creatine 4 weeks before competition to be safe. Creatine retains water which also makes your muscles less defined and it takes a while to cycle out of your system. Also you won't be making magnificent gains in 4 weeks of cutting with or without creatine.

Fiber:

Fiber is also something to keep in mind for staying defined. Fiber helps you stay regular or in other words go poo.

Excreting this helps you cleanse your body of toxins as well as expelling fluids that will lessen muscle definition. All though all these things won't make a huge difference, it will help a little bit, and all the little things help when competing.

Posing:

  • Posing is also a good way of entering at your best. Practice posing in front of a mirror or another person and see what they think. If you look good but you can't pose and don't show your muscles off properly, then all that training is wasted.

Tips For Shredding

What are you going to do to get shredded? What tips can you give others?

Again there isn't a whole lot I can say since 99% of your contest prep is in training and diet which I already explained, and I already told you above what you can do to enter a competition at your best.

Supplements: I guess I can tell you the supplements you can use to help you get shredded.

Protein Bars:

First of all eating 6 times a day isn't always easy. That's why protein bars are very good for this.

Remember you want to limit your carbs. But although a bar may say there are only say 4 carbs or something, they may add sugar alcohol which act similarly to carbs and are actually pretty much carbs with just less calories.

Companies just don't list them because they don't have to and sugar alcohol's aren't classified as carbs yet. Things that contain malitol, sorbitol, Xylitol and other sugar alcohol's aren't recommended while cutting. But it still is ok to take it if you can't find a bar without them.

Just make sure you don't take too many grams of sugar alcohol's because it will act like carbs and stop your fat burning process and you wont be as ripped. It can also cause diarrhea if consumed too much and make sure you don't go Atkins style and totally eliminate carbs in other parts of the day.

Fat Burners:

Although I wouldn't do it because I don't like fat burners it could be the thing for you. It will help you burn fat and cut up for a competition. Some also suppress appetites meaning you could be able to eat under your carb maintenance level easier.

Whey Protein

Whey protein as you probably know adds on lean muscle mass which is what we want, so if your going into competition whey protein is almost essential. The next fastest absorbing protein is egg whites but that would be even more expensive than using whey protein.

Cardio & Diet

Of course the gains won't be as good when your bulking since you need excess calories to gain muscle fast (But it also makes you less defined when you bulk).

BONUS QUESTION

What are you going to do for a tan? Are you going to use a certain product? If so, when will you start it? What will you use?

Since I'm Chinese, my skin color is already dark. I don't have to tan as long to get good skin color. I can just go to the beach a couple of weeks before my contest and tan it out by turning over a couple of times to get all my body parts. But you must make sure to get all your body parts!

A tanned upper body will look horrible on pale white legs. That is why it may be easier to use a tanning salon which tans your whole body in this little chamber. All body parts are tanned and you can wear a skin tight Speedo to get your upper legs without embarrassing yourself.

The problem is that these tanning salons if gone to frequently may cause skin cancer. It could be a rumor or it could be the truth, but I would rather stay away from them.

There is also another alternative that is relatively new. It is a cosmetic spray that you apply to your body that colors the skin and makes it look like you have a tan.

You have to apply this a few days before competition since it only lasts for a couple weeks or so. This is probably the most convenient, but again I have no clue what chemicals they use in that and I wouldn't want to use that on my skin.

It could cause my skin harm but I really don't know so I think I will be safe and not use it. It could be alright if you need a last minute tan because you forgot about it or something.

3rd Place - bigcalves How Do You Prepare For A Bodybuilding Competition With Only 4 Weeks Out?

Let's face it, bodybuilding is one of the hardest sports. It takes a special mindset, discipline, patience, and consistency. Bodybuilders are a special breed. We have goals and we are determined to reach, no matter what.

Called 'perfectionists' or 'vein' bodybuilders are what we are. To some people eating 8-10 meals might be vein and self-centered, but to me making a stamp collection and spending all your money on paper with ink pictures on it is a boring, self-centered lifestyle. By bodybuilding, we increase our longevity, make ourselves healthier and more aware of our bodies.

Bodybuilders are the only athletes on the planet training for looks and that's what sets us apart from every other person on earth. Talk about unique. Along with bodybuilding, sacrifices come along. Sparing time to workout, to eat each planned meal, and resting will take away most of your day. It's not a hobby, but a lifestyle that we choose.

So you've spent years, even decades on building your body. You've imagined how it would look from the day you started lifting, and every day since then until now, and you will also imagine yourself getting bigger and more improved. Now it's time to show off all your hard work. By competing in a contest you will see what you're made out of. Sure, tons of people underestimate bodybuilders and say that all they do is take drugs, tan and then go on stage. That's the jealousy talking, you and they know it.

Now back to the contest. Competing will give you a sense of pride and maturity/wisdom that you never had. Bodybuilding is not all about the body, but the mind also. You need to be strong and conditioned in your mind to withstand challenges. Being in a contest will bring a lot of them out, so you better be ready.

Temptation of quitting your diet and workout are only a small part. You will start to say in your mind,

"Am I crazy?", or "What am I doing this for?"

Even when you overcome and actually get ready for the contest, competition day will also be challenging. You will as yourself if you look good, then you will compare yourself to others. Even when that passes, stage fright and nervousness might set in.

As you can tell a bodybuilding contest is very challenging and comes with a lot of down sides. But I believe there's more positives than negatives. Competing will give you a sense of pride and strength. Not only physically but emotionally and mentally also. You will feel way better.

There is no feeling on earth to describe how you feel after a contest. It feels great. Just stepping on stage and seeing thousands (OK maybe less than that sometimes) of people looking at you. You get an incredible 'pump' that is very hard to describe.

As you can tell it's not about the trophy. Winning the trophy is just the topping of the cake, like getting your last rep in on a hard arm workout. But even if you don't win, that's okay, and you will get a lot out of the experience. You will have fun showing your body off, and at the end you will win. Even if you don't come in first, you will gain a lot of motivation for building yourself, and as bodybuilder's motivation is needed.

Prepare For The Challenge

Like I said, competing will give you a lot of benefits. First of all it will be loads of fun; it's not torture. If you don't have anything to loose, there's tons of things to gain.

The feeling of changing your body and being in control is unbelievable. Millions of people each day try to take control of their life's and fail. But you will be able to set a goal, make a plan, achieve it and be in control for the whole 10 or 14 weeks that you are preparing.

It will be exciting and challenging at the same time. Trust me, I have not me anybody that ever competed and regrets it. There are some that will never do it again, but they do not regret competing in the first place.

The adrenaline rush when competing is amazing. It feels like pumping out the last rep on a set of heavy squats. Your stomach is full with overgrown butterfly's and you are trying to stay in control. And all your doing is standing on stage and posing.

Bodybuilding is an art form. By competing you are showing off your body and telling the world that you work hard and that you cherish every sweat, tear and blood drop that comes out of you. It says that you are disciplined and that you live a life worth living.

You are not just a slacker waiting for the days to go by until they die. You have a desire for life, you have challenges, and you will let nothing stand in front of your goals. Bodybuilding is a form of expression and by competing you are taking it to a next step. You are going public.

You will gain tons of discipline and wisdom out of competing. You will be able to see how hard bodybuilders actually work. Your self esteem will be high, you will feel good about yourself and what you accomplished, and at the end that's all that counts.

There is a saying that goes: 'Winning isn't everything', and it is right. When you compete in a bodybuilding show, it's not about winning, but about gaining important values through your experience. But hey, I wouldn't mind getting a 1st place trophy!

Training

What is your training routine going to be like?

Weight training and cardio can be tough. All the cardio and weight training that you don't have energy for. Since your food intake will get lower, so you can burn fat, you will increase your cardio. That will make you feel very moody.

Low food supply and higher burning of energy will turn into exhaustion. You will be moody and won't feel like talking to people, especially in the last 3-4 weeks. Weight training will suck also. All your lifts will go down (lbs) and that will usually result in a loss of motivation and asking questions.

Also you will ask yourself if you look too small or too fat and might regret why you started the process in the first place. It is no walk in the park and most average people that cannot get through a hard leg workout will not get through this. This is not for whiners or 'girlie men' but if you look at it in the end it will be a positive benefit from all the hard work you did.

Even though it will be hard, when you are on stage it will be well worth it. Even though it's not going to be that long you will understand why you did it. The last 4 weeks are the hardest and that's the 'do or die' time for any bodybuilder. Pro or amateur, that's when you will find out if you really want it.

Weight Training

Think about it, you will NOT gain muscle when your barely meeting your caloric needs. The point now is to create good muscle separation, work on posing, and making good striations because that's the moment that this should happen.

Striations on shoulders and chest always impress judges and working on those and squeezing those parts in between sets will be beneficial for that. Also make sure your load is less, and the reps are higher.

Take fewer brakes so you keep your pulse up in the fat burning level and control each rep as your joints and tendons are not at their best at the moment; hurting those will make posing a nightmare.

Make sure you get some sleep so your body can recover, and before every weight training session have a good amount of carbs, so you can have energy and keep yourself from going catabolic during the workout.

Workout as usual and train all your body parts like you always do, except with lighter loads, less reps, and shorter breaks with a lot of squeezing in between. Here is a simple split that always works for me.

Cardio

The last week is more about getting rid of water rather than fat. So by now you should be lean, but still have little bit you can work for. I would suggest 4-6 cardio sessions per week, keeping in mind that your weight training and cardio are at least 6 hours apart.

Otherwise your body will over train, especially when your eating less. That can be a very bad experience. Your mood will be affected because you will be tired.

Your daily tasks will seem harder, but hey it's all worth it at the end! Also make sure to talk to your boss about what your doing, and explain that you can get mad easily and that you are very hungry!

Anyways, here is the perfect cardio routine for keeping the mass and loosing the fat.

  • Monday - 35 minute jog
  • Tuesday - HIIT 20 minutes
  • Wednesday - HIIT 20 minutes
  • Thursday - 35 minute low impact swim
  • Friday - HIIT 20 minutes
  • Saturday - OFF
  • Sunday - OFF

Diet

What is your diet going to consist of?

Diet is very important at this point. It's that important and can make or break you for your contest. It's very easy to gain water weight, and even if your body fat is low you won't look good on stage.

Your mood will be affected by your diet, and some say that this is the hardest part, but the discipline you get is unreal. You will still eat the same foods but you will eliminate all the foods with sodium.

Make sure you don't eat any canned foods and that all your protein sources are low sodium whey, no sodium (aka dry) chicken breast and very lean fish that's also dry.

Foods such as beef jerky, hamburgers are very, very bad for you at this moment. They will retain water, and with most males, that will occur in the ab/back region and that will be very critical for you.

Also all your veggies and carbs have to be sodium free too. Most people don't do this, and like different foods, but I always eat the same for the 4 weeks before the contest. I mean come on, it's only 4 weeks. I only eat dry chicken, veggies and dry brown rice. Sure the amounts lower as the contest approaches but I eat the same.

Here's a short list of my diet at the 4 weeks out stage. My usual split is 40/30/30 (protein/carbs/fat). But it can vary from person to person.

  • Dry Chicken Breast
  • Dry Brown Rice
  • Veggies (no carrots, high sugar)

Also my caloric intake gets low. I never go lower than 1000 calories per day, but at the last week things can change depending on my water level. I also cycle up my carbs so I have 3 days of higher carbs and 4 days of lower carbs for the day.

I make sure I switch them up so I can find out which works for me, and before every contest my body reacts differently. Also make sure that you are getting enough protein, which can be expensive at contest time.

I tend to have almost no fats at my last week. I maintain a lean diet and take fish oils in pill form. Water intake will range, but at the last week, I tend to drink a lot and then stop the day before so my body can dry out and look it's best. Here are some diet tips.

  • Microwave almost everything to dry it out
  • Chicken breast is your friend
  • No canned food, as they contain high sodium
  • No egg whites as they have sodium too
  • Low fat diet for the most part

Other Plans

What are some of your other plans for entering the contest at your best? What are you going to do to get shredded? What tips can you give others?

Bodybuilding is not all physical, there's tons of other aspects that you need to focus on. Physical and mental also need tons of focus and preparation.

Posing

If you don't practice, but still know what to do you will be in trouble. Posing requires endurance and cardio vascular strength. Make sure you eat something sweet before your contest so you can have energy to pose, and to bring out your vascularity.

Remember that if you don't know how to show what you have, most judges will overlook you even if you have a better back or shoulders, but if you don't know how to display them at their best you are in trouble.

Mental Preparation

You have to prepare mentally. What if you win? What if you lose? Don't be discouraged or too happy. Take it like a man and go on. Being mentally prepared will help you perform at your best without any mistakes from being nervous or scared.

Visualize your body and how each part looks good and how when you flex it and do your mandatory poses. Imagine your body and the feeling from being tired but still going on. This will help you as you will know what to expect. Also don't look at other people before the contest as you will think you look smaller.

Don't be intimidated if there's someone that's clearly better than you, after all there's always going to be someone better. So instead of whining about it, just take it like a man and go out there and show your best, and if you win good, if you don't then you'll get them next year.

Jay Cutler hasn't given up because of Ronnie's wins, but he is still going strong and knows that one day his time will come.

Shaving

Then at 1 week out I suggest going to a waxing place, and waxing your whole body. That way your hair won't have enough time to regrow, and the skin will be able to heal up and you won't have any marks or irritations. Also remember to shave your knee caps, because there's nothing funnier than someone with hairy knee caps on stage.

Picking Your Music

Pick music that makes you excited and helps you visualize your victory. For most people this is techno, but for some it might be rap or old school disco.

Doesn't matter as long as you and the audience like it, and as long as it helps you bring out the best in you. Try to coordinate your movements to the songs beat if possible.

Getting Shredded

Take all sodium out and drink lots of water until 1 day before the competition. Then stop and you will get very lean and dry. I would suggest going tanning the night before so you can really make that paper thin look. Don't overdo it and always remember that the water will come back, but your health is always at risk.

Don't do anything stupid or dangerous especially if it's an amateur contest. I would understand it if you are going in at the Arnold Classic and you have the chance to make money and fame, but if you are going in for your gyms yearly competition it's stupid to risk your health.

Glycogen

Everybody reacts differently to carbs and the insulin spike that they've created. For some it's good to fill on carbs right before, and for others a few hours before.

It all depends on your body and you can feel free to experiment with this. I personally stop training 3 days before, and I eat some sort of sweets right before I go on stage but everyone is different.

BONUS QUESTION

What are you going to do for a tan? Are you going to use a certain product? If so, when will you start it? What will you use?

Sure you went tanning at a bed, but that will not be enough. The lights on stage are very bright. So after all your tanning session, it's time to apply the pre-contest tan. You will look weird and dark in front of your mirror, but trust me that once you get on stage you will look perfect.

protar For this we will use Pro Tan Instant Competition Color. This product is simply the best, and it's used by many pro's.

Bodybuilding.com sells this product at the best price you can find, and the quality is amazing. I wouldn't risk all my hard work and preparation on some cheap product that can ruin everything.

I would apply this the night before, and if you manage to get sleep, in the morning before the show use a sponge and apply evenly and have someone help you.

This is not that hard, but can ruin your show if not done properly, so ask someone that's competed or has tons of knowledge to help you apply it and spend the last few hours giving you tips for the contest.

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