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A Bull's-Eye Peak!

Everyone I talk to has a different concept of how to get from offseason to stage. Find out how to keep your hard earned muscle while dieting for a contest!

Bodybuilding engages competitors in an intense love/hate relationship; wouldn't you agree? There are so many highs and so many lows and in the end, we plan another year of competing. Of course the health aspects make bodybuilding worth it all (assuming you approach it in a health-building way) but wouldn't you like the competitive aspect of the sport to consistently take you to the greatest high, again and again?

Peaking All Year?

Perhaps making the entire process of bodybuilding fun instead of a bipolar anxiety trip? How would peaking perfectly every time be? Let's back up a step first and look at how you approach the contest season before we focus on the day of the show. Philosophically speaking, I would emphasize keeping training, staying leaner, and doing a modicum of intense cardiovascular work as a lifestyle base and separate from competition life.

In other words, if you stopped competing, would you still look like a bodybuilder, train, and be healthy? If you can say yes, you'll find peaking perfectly much easier and you'll enjoy the ride a lot more.

"Regardless of your time in the sport, integrating an entire year of planning into the target of competition is necessary for you to hit a bull's-eye and achieve the best look you possibly can."

I assert this broad, non-technical brush stroke of ideology because for you to do your best and experience elation in our sport, you can't rush a perfect peak - it has to be planned and executed. You also have to be honest and know you're potential and you have to be passionate about your pursuit for more than a placement or title.

I view genetics as the outer and encircling level of the target because ultimately the goal is to maximize your genetic potential. Now, I know there are younger competitors reading this that want to believe they can be drug-free and weigh 250 pounds shredded with hard training, good nutrition, and time.

Far be it from me to take the wind out of any youngster's sails; I was once driven by the same dream. There are, however, laws of physics, genetics, and biology that will allow you to only go as far as your slice of the gene pool will carry you. The irony of my potentially depressing news is that rarely do I meet someone who knows how to actualize the genetics they actually have. Let me paint some tangible examples for you. One of the best is none other than the Texas Shredder, Dave Goodin.

Competing anywhere from 158-170 pounds, he has become the most successful WNBF pro in our history. Has he gained 10 pounds a year every year since training like every amateur I talk to states as a goal? How about five? No, he has simply trained as hard as he can, peaked as well as he can, sought more knowledge, and in the process he has learned exactly what it takes to make his body the best it can be. He has learned to maximize the genetics he has, and lucky for him, that includes virtually no flaws.

Others are lucky enough to possess genetics that make size easy to obtain but often is difficult to get lean. Few possess both. Still others have a mixed bag of superstar body parts with a couple weaker muscle groups.

The Bottom Line...

The bottom line is that ultimately you will only go as far as your DNA will allow, but it should be our goal in every workout, every training plan, every training season, every year, and every competition cycle to push to the edge and learn where that boundary is and leave no stone unturned. If you pursue this quest doggedly, you'll never be disappointed. You'll get denser, fuller, and as big as your genetics can allow as the years go by.

As I type this, the WNBF World Championships ended eight hours ago. I had the pleasure of helping clients win pro cards and pro titles at the event, but I also had clients who finished throughout the pack in their divisions. The most competitive pro show I have ever witnessed, no one was unprepared. In my camp, everyone sported lifetime best conditions.

Those who won obviously lived a dream on stage. Those not at the top of the judges card were understandably disappointed but at the same time very happy with an incredible sense of accomplishment. They each expressed that they couldn't be happier with their condition, the preparation and experience was incredibly valuable, and they're sights are already set on the game plan for next time.

This is the attitude of a professional and someone who derives value, passion, and perspective from their work, not their number in a line up. Don't get me wrong, there's nothing I work harder at than winning with a client, but it's the process that makes them a champion.

Knowing that everything else we do is blanketed by the blessings and curses of our genetics, it's time to talk about how this translates into your off season training. Whether or not you have the genetics to be a heavyweight behemoth or slighter of frame, consistent heavy resistance is necessary. I can't even begin to touch on every aspect of training, but to use heavy, core movements progressively is necessary. Your off-season nutrition must match your training to maximize your efforts.

I have written articles regarding off-season nutrition and there are just two points I want to draw out.

First, you won't be surprised to hear me say that you need to cover any holes in your nutrition by having enough muscle-building protein, muscle-sparing carbohydrates, and anti-catabolic rest and sleep.

Most don't have a problem here, but some go too far and end up with 30-50 pounds to lose because of undisciplined off-season gorging. Obviously you're anabolic the entire time when over consuming, but you have to be severely catabolic for far too long a time in dieting off the fat. Your off-season nutrition has to be planned in light of what you want your pre-contest condition to be. More on that in a minute.

"To be honest, most people can do enough right on accident in the gym to reach high levels of development. I like to see them obtain the last 10-15% they may be missing."

A planned, progressive heavy training plan is needed with an interspersing of higher volume, higher intensity workouts for recovery between the core lifts and to make sure all fiber types are being offered on the alter of crushing intensity. The edges of the error spectrum are either doing just "bodybuilding" (pyramid) training all the time, especially with non-core lifts (squat, dead lift, etc.), or with doing only heavy training with no high intensity training along the way.

Studies have made it clear that a planned, progressive, goal-oriented micro cycling of your training yields the best results by far. I have developed a training cycle that I use myself and with clients a couple of times during the year that confirms the science with fully recovered, fresh, strong training sessions and personal records every time.

It's not for the weak of mind, but if you're looking for growth you won't find anything that beats it. When heavy, core movements are combined with high intensity training, a system that emphasizes maximum work with maximum recovery and matches off-season nutrition, the results will push you to the upper limits of how much muscle your frame will hold.

The end goal of the off-season training and nutrition plan is to leave you as big and strong as you can be within the scope of the body fat level that you want to start the pre-contest phase. I cannot emphasize enough that, yes, more fat means you are stronger because at a higher body fat level you have over consumed food more often, therefore stayed more anabolic and end up with more muscle. But the law of diminishing returns is never truer than in this case.

The "extra" muscle you gain by gaining more fat is less and less as you accumulate more weight. The longer and harder you have to diet to get that fat off will not only take the "extra" muscle but leave you with less than if you had the luxury of dieting slower and for less time because you stayed closer to your contest weight. I know I'm spitting in the wind; most have to learn this lesson the hard way, but consider yourself warned.

Pre-contest dieting is a difficult thing for many to grasp, but it need not be. There are many general guidelines that are implicit to everyone, but we all lie somewhere on the metabolic continuum between ecto- and endomorphism. The percentages of protein, carbs, and fat are dictated by these body types as are concerns such as how much cardio to perform and what pace of body fat loss to shoot for.

Most of my articles explore these details in depth. Space constraints dictate that I don't go too far on one detail here, but I want make sure you understand the foundation of your pre-contest plan. Merging your off-season plan into your pre-contest phase should be an easy exercise in continuity.

You should allow plenty of time to be contest ready early enough to allow your body to get harder while you fine-tune and add food into your diet so you're moving upward by the time of the contest instead of still being in the throws of hard dieting right up to the week of the show. Nothing will leave you smaller and flatter than dieting hard right up to the end.

The Stages Of Pre-Contest Dieting

A successful pre-contest begins with your being at a close enough starting point to allow slow, conservative dieting and ends with you being ready early as discussed. The actual execution will better serve you if broken into stages.

For example, stage one may be for four to six weeks and include strict dieting with appropriate and precise amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and fat with a moderate amount of cardio and a moderate cheat meal per week if you've done your homework and ended the off season closer to your contest weight.

Phase two may include dropping that cheat meal and dropping carbs and/or fat if necessary to quicken the pace of your loss.

Phase three may necessitate increasing cardio and further dropping carbs and/or fat or doing a cycling pattern of carbs. After these three phases, each four to six weeks, a perfectly targeted peak would allow two to four weeks for a slow increase of carbs and maybe a decrease in cardio if body fat levels are appropriate.

Slowly accustoming your body to a higher level of carbs is walking a fine line between getting fullness and strength back to peak levels but not stopping body fat loss altogether.

The center of the bull's-eye, of course, is a perfect peak. There's only one thing better than watching a client experience being the hardest, fullest, driest they've ever been on contest day: being that person!

Once again I have to say that I have written many detailed articles on peaking, which have appeared in Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness and this article encompasses too much to include all of the critical information. Some of the highlights, however, include the debates over how to handle the last week. There are a couple basic principles that I want you to hear to at least get you thinking.

Peak Week: It Has To Be Perfect!
Learn how to lose those last couple of pounds and come in perfect for your contest!
[ Click Here To Read The Full Article ]

First, if you've seen your body transform and for the days and weeks prior to the show you have been looking very good (I know some days you'll look harder than others) why would you want to risk some extreme locker room myth on peaking, rendering you a soft, squishy, smooth blob on contest day?

Eating no carbs for days, then slamming three times your current amount, dropping water down to nothing for a day or two, eating jars of peanut butter the last day or two, sodium loading and depleting - I've heard more weird, concocted "methods" than you, and trust me, none of them will leave you as perfectly peaked as working with the normal fluid dynamics your body was designed for.

First of all, water makes your muscles hard, not carbohydrates. Cut that sentence out and hang it on the fridge until you believe it. Carbs only dictate how much water is actually in the muscle. That, as virtually everything else, is a level dictated by body type and individual genetics. Everyone is different but the principle applies to everyone. If you drop water out, you'll end up flat, soft, and smooth, period.


Knowing how to guide yourself through the entire last week so that a maximum amount of water is in the muscle and not under the skin is the pinnacle of peak week and it takes a perfectly conducted symphony of protein, carb, fat, water, and sodium levels orchestrated by an experienced hand.

So there you have it: an entire year's game plan to expand every part of your preparation to fulfill your genetic potential and point it all to the center of a perfect peak. Bull's-eye!!

About The Author

Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro with graduate degrees in health and nutrition. He designs nutrition programs and monitors contest diets for top professional and amateur bodybuilders through his unique online peaking program. He may be reached at