If you are like most bodybuilding fans, then you probably have thought about competing in a bodybuilding show before. However, the problem with this is that many of us don't know how to properly prepare for a contest. Since contest season has arrived, I'm going to save all of you the trouble and lay out guidelines that you or anyone else can follow. First off, I'd like to say that pre-contest preparation is not for the weak minded. If you are susceptible to quitting, then I would suggest that you really set your mind right before you undergo such a task because if you don't, it is highly likely that you will not do well. Now I will tell you guys what I do when I prepare myself or a client for a show.
Assess Your Current Status
First and foremost, I like to be realistic. If I don't think I or a person will have enough time for a show, I will say so. The trick here is to be honest with yourself. You need a good muscle base if you want to look good on stage and you can tell who has and doesn't have a good base. Now that I've said that, the first thing I will do is assess my current condition. I will measure body fat levels and gauge the physique. This alone will determine how the diet will go, how much cardio needs to be done and what type of training will take place. Normally, I would allow a beginner anywhere between 10 and 12 weeks for contest preparation. Why so long? Well, a beginner needs more time than an experienced lifter because I believe the body is able to memorize, so to speak. Since a beginner hasn't been in contest condition before, his or her body is unable to memorize whereas an experienced competitor is able to memorize.
Simple Math to Calculate Your Dietary Needs
Judging by body fat levels, I am able to determine how much cardio needs to be done. For the sake of confusion, I will use myself as an example. If I am currently 12 weeks out from a show, I will measure my body fat level. If I am less than 10%, which I always am, I know that I can diet easily and lose a little bit of fat each week and just coast into the show. Then I would aim for about a 1% decrease in body fat per week. Without getting too technical, I would start eating clean while keeping my calories up. Since I am 190-195 lbs 12 weeks out from a show and I will eat roughly 3000 calories per day. To calculate this for someone else, just take your bodyweight and multiply by 12 and add anywhere from 500-700 calories if your body fat level is below 10 percent. If your body fat level is above 10 percent, I would multiply your bodyweight by 10 and add 300-500 calories. I divide this up into 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat for someone with less than 10 percent body fat and for someone with more than 10 percent body fat, I would increase the protein to 50%, pull the carbs back to 30% and keep the fat at 20%. So the aim for the next six weeks would be to shed some fat while preserving or even adding muscle. This is quite tricky so I would recommend closely monitoring your condition. If I notice myself getting softer, then I would pull the carbs back a little more. The tricky part here is not to burn muscle. So in order to test for this, it would be wise to purchase some ketone sticks and test for ketones once every few days. If the tests come out in your favor, then keep the diet the way it is.
Training and Cardio
The next thing I will do is look at the training aspect of myself or the individual. Once again here, the body fat level determines how much cardio needs to be done and how the training should be done. The training part is simple because if you train heavy and with intensity, then you are right on track. I recommend performing all of the classic mass builders and using a pyramiding system. Anywhere between 9-15 sets is all that is needed to properly work a muscle group.
Frequency can be between once every five to seven days per body part. This is where you can be creative and I suggest that you be creative because if training becomes monotonous, pre-contest will become boring and just drag. And with 12 weeks, the last thing you would want is something that bores the hell out of you. However, the cardio part is a bit more complicated. There are many theories out there but I stand by my theory because it has worked for me and for some others. This may sound strange to most but I believe in performing short bouts of high intensity cardio. Why? Well, just take a look at sprinters and marathon runners. Sprinters are well built machines while marathoners are strung out poles. Which would you rather look like on stage? I thought so. Now if you can't perform high intensity cardio, then you need to perform whatever kind of cardio you can as long as you do it. If you are below 10% body fat, you would be better off performing 15-20 minutes of high intensity cardio such as sprinting once a day. If you are above 10%, you better be prepared to do moderate intensity cardio for 30-60 minutes per day once a day. Always remember to take ONE day off from training altogether so your body can recover. Remember, a rest day is a rest day and nothing more.
Posing: Practice, Practice, Practice
The next thing I would do is learn how to pose and practice posing. This is important because I have seen many guys get on stage and look stupid on stage because they didn't know how to pose. If you learn how to pose, you can learn how to hide your weakness and show your strong points. Besides, you can do it everyday in the comfort of your own home. I used to practice my posing every day for about 10 minutes after I got out of the shower and this was long before I wanted to do a bodybuilding contest. Not only does it help you gain control of your muscles, but you are also conditioning your muscles. Posing also helps you in the gym since it helps you better control your muscles. If you really think about it, muscle hypertrophy is more about contracting a muscle than it is about moving a weight from point A to B. If you are really serious about doing a bodybuilding show, I would suggest that you go view one from the audience first to get a feel for it. If you realize that this is something you really want to do, then I would highly recommend purchasing a Mr. Olympia or Ironman Invitational video and studying it. I promise that you will not regret this.
My Posing Video!
In the end, a bodybuilding contest is something that requires your total attention. If you aren't willing to make the sacrifices, then you should think about whether or not you really want to do one. However, if you are serious about it and still have questions, please e-mail them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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