Some of you may have read my NNN article from 2-1/2 years ago. In the fall of 2003 I was feeling pretty good about having achieved my all time best condition and having brought home a 4th place trophy in the Masters Division at the Virginia/DC State NPC show, a non-tested event.
The BI board is a member’s message board that is hosted by Beverly and utilized by people like you and I - Beverly clients or people who have heard of Beverly and who stop by to check it out to find information, ask questions or offer suggestions. 95% of the posts come from people who are simply drawn to the site because of the high caliber of information that is there and because of the feeling of camaraderie that is generated by the board members.
I mention the site because, in many ways, the information and support that I gained there and the friendships that I established with other members had a great deal to do with the improvements and progress that I was able to make in the past two years. Training and dieting for bodybuilding or fitness competition tends to be an individual activity. Participating in a forum like the BI Board makes it more of a group activity where you can regularly exchange information and ideas with others who have the same interests and experiences as you have. Having a "support group" like this makes a world of difference no matter what your goals are.
My goal for the past year two years was to noticeably improve my level of conditioning for my next show, but to also come in to the show having added some Lean Body Mass (LBM, i.e. more muscle). If you have been at this game for any amount of time you recognize that this is the ultimate challenge. At age 45 I wondered, "Could I still do better or had I reached the point where I might not be able to improve much more?" After all I am not 20 something anymore.
I have always heard things like "Just wait until you are 30, or 35 or 40... then your metabolism will slow down and your natural testosterone levels will drop and it will become a struggle to stay in shape." I can happily say that with the help of BI products as part of a solid training and nutrition program that I have not fallen into this predicted dilemma. I keep waiting for it to happen – but thus far I guess that I have been beating the odds. What has my secret been? As I mentioned before; sound nutrition, a good training program and most recently the addition of a solid resource/support network have been the keys to achieving my fitness goals.
Before I describe the results I was able to achieve over the past two years I want to share a few of my beliefs about leading a fitness oriented lifestyle and dabbling in being a competitive Bodybuilder. I like to win just like everyone else - Bodybuilders are especially competitive by nature – but I truly believe that anyone who competes is a winner just by the fact that they have followed through with their plan and have achieved the goal of competing. I’ll go even further by saying that I feel that anyone who has embraced the fitness lifestyle, and who has made significant changes in their life so that they are now healthier, look and feel better are all winners. I hope that you agree. Perhaps most importantly, is my belief that you can make significant improvements at any age. Whether you are 20, 30, 40, 50 or older you can accomplish your goals with the right approach and support. So if you are asking yourself these questions; "Can I do it?", "Will I be successful?", "Can I achieve my goals?" I will suggest to you that the answer is a clear YES. Will it be easy? No, probably not, but what in life that is worthwhile comes to you easily? Will it be difficult? No, I don’t think that it has to be. The biggest factor will be your desire to succeed and your willingness to follow through on your plan.
So here’s how I did... I entered the Old Dominion Open, an NASF Natural event held in Hampton, VA the past two years. In both 2004 and 2005 I entered both the Men’s Masters (45-54) and the Men’s Open (Medium height class). Both years I took home a 1st Place trophy winning the Masters class, and finished 2nd in the Men’s Open medium class. My level of conditioning improved each year as my bodyweight slowly edged up. In 2004, I was about the same weight as the year before, yet at a lower bodyfat level, so I had accomplished my goal of adding LBM (probably 3-5lbs). In 2005 my results were identical to 2004 in the Old Dominion Open - I took 1st Place in my Masters Class and 2nd place in the men’s open middle class. The person who took 1st in the open middles went on to win the overall.
I found a second show two weeks later – the OCB Battle of the Swords in Pittsburgh. Doing two shows in a season was a new experience for me. The OCB show was extremely competitive. After the morning pre-judging I was tied for 1st place with another Masters competitor and only broke the tie during the evening show – in the end winning the class by one point. The person who took second went on to win his class in the men’s open. My body fat levels were even lower than last year, probably down to the mid 4% range, yet I was the same contest weight again – so for the second year in a row I had managed to add a few pounds of LBM in the off – season.
As I mentioned in the beginning, I did not know if this would be possible at age 45 (46 this year). My main competition is always me, I try to improve each year and so my new base line is always my previous best. I can tell you that it is very satisfying to know that even though I am in my mid-40’s now that I can still look forward to improvement from year to year.
So what were the keys to my ability to attain my goals? The most important piece, the one that you have to have right, is the nutrition piece. Even if you know that, it is still very easy to not quite get it right. When your goal is to be your very best and to be able to stand next to the other competitors who are "ready" and who "did their homework" it can be a bit intimidating. To reach that level you really have to study what has worked for you and what has not. You need to consider new approaches and in the end you have to have confidence in the products that you are using and in the advice that you are following. Contest preparation is a big mental challenge. As you drop your overall level of calorie intake and as you drop your carbs it takes its toll on you mentally. It is also difficult to "see" the progress that you are making and to get a good sense as to whether or not you are on track to where you should be at "x" weeks out from a show.
Every contest prep phase is like a living experiment. Your success in Bodybuilding is measured by your ability to get desired results from that experiment. I had confidence in Beverly Products and saw that there were other Beverly Clients out there who had achieved what I was hoping to accomplish. I did not see a need to create a new strategy but I did have to refine my approach if I wanted different (even better) results than I had seen last year. I always feel that real life experience and success are the best paths to follow so in this regard I sought out advice from other Beverly clients who had proven their mettle. I found that resource on the BI board, in addition to looking through past NNN’s and other BI publications. I couldn’t just blindly do everything that everyone on the board advised. I still needed to keep things in perspective and balance their advice against what I knew about myself – but having access to that advice was an important key to my progress. One key resource for me, and someone who I would be remiss if I did not mention, was Aram Hamparian another BI client, Board member and accomplished Natural Bodybuilder. He and others offered excellent advice and support as I worked toward attaining my goals.
Nutrition StrategyI had seen success previously from Mark Ritter’s gaining/hardening program where you cycle two diet plans intended to help you gain LBM but also stay at a fairly low body fat level. I had to adjust the calories for my body weight and metabolism, but this basic nutritional strategy worked well for me. On the training side of the house I used a new program that is based on constant progression, active stretching, limiting total training to allow for adequate recovery and providing ample nutritional support for muscle growth.
Do not be afraid to modify another person’s strategy to best fit your personal needs. There is no such thing as one size fits all when it comes to bodybuilding. You have to learn what works for you and what does not and apply that information to get the most from a particular strategy. It is wonderful when you can use a proven program, but in most cases you do need to tinker with it a bit to get the most out of it for your own situation.
No matter what nutritional program you choose to follow these diet basics will apply:
• Eat 5-7 smaller meals/day with the proper Protein, Carb and Fat balance.During the gaining phases of my nutritional plan: Mass Aminos with each meal, Ultra Size and Mass Maker for two meals a day ZMA (cycled 6 weeks on, 2 off), FitTabs, 12 Mass Aminos during training and 2 Antioxidants after training. I also added additional BCAA’s and Glutamine during training by mixing water, crushed ice, Glutamine Select and sipping it during my workout along with an additional dose of BCAAs.
• Eat your heavier carb meals earlier in the day.
• Use quality supplements where you can be confident in the nutritional values and results. (Beverly products clearly fall into this category)
During the hardening phases: I dropped the Mass Maker, heavy whipping cream or natural peanut butter from my meals plus I added 2 Lean Out before every meal.
Pre-contest phase: At six weeks out drink Glutamine Select with additional BCAAs between every meal and add in 2 Lean Out before meals plus one Energy Reserve about 4 weeks out. I bumped the amount of both Lean Out and Energy Reserve at the two week out point. Switch from Ultra Size to Muscle Provider at about 4 weeks out.
I followed this gaining/hardening cycle for about 10 months before switching to my pre-contest diet plan. If you set out a strategy like this and decide that you are going to stick with it over a longer period of time you can also afford to cheat a little. A free or cheat meal or even a free or cheat day once a week is not a problem and will not negatively impact your results. In fact it keeps you sane and helps you stay on track over the long haul, which is the secret to success.
TrainingOn the training side I have found that a three-day a week (Monday/Wednesday/Friday) program works well for me. I need more recovery time between training sessions so this plan gives me one or two days off between each training day.
The training plan that I follow is based on constant progression of either reps or weight. My body part split is: chest, shoulders, triceps, and back (Call it split A). And, biceps, forearms, calves, hams and quads (Call it split B). I actually have three different routines for each day. An easy way to look at it is calling it Split A workouts 1, 3 and 5 and Split B workouts 2, 4 and 6. So I have six different workouts that I rotate through. For me that means that I go through one entire rotation of all six every 14 days on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule.
The idea within any particular workout is to increase your reps or weight from the last time that you used that same workout. For most of my exercise choices I use a three set rest/pause concept which equates to one extended working set after a couple of warm-up straight sets. (Editor’s note: Rather than reducing the poundage in order to extend a set, Rest Pause involves taking a set to failure and then pausing for two to three slow deep breaths, allowing for enough recovery so that you can continue on to knock out a few more reps.) I’ll give one example. If I am doing chest today the exercise might be Hammer Strength Wide grip benches. My last working rest/pause set was 385 for 8/5/3 or a total of 16 reps at 385. So today I get back to that same workout again (14 days from the last time I did it). My goal today is to either increase the total number of reps from the three rest pause sets (so aim for say 18 total reps) or I could increase the weight to 395 and then try to get the same 16 total reps. You work within a certain range of reps (for me it is usually 17-23 total reps) when you hit the top of the rep range you add weight, your reps will go down and you start the process of adding reps all over again.
There are some exercises that do not lend them selves to rest/pause style for safety reasons. Two examples would be squats/leg press or dead lifts. I still use these exercises but in a straight set style not rest paused. The main idea is to follow this constant progression approach which should equate to gains in strength and that should mean that you have added muscle. It is important to limit total training volume with this approach and to get adequate rest between training days. If you don’t do either, you will be overtraining as a natural athlete and you will not see the desired results. It is an approach that requires a log book as you would never remember what you had done 2 weeks ago without one. I have created a MS Excel spread sheet which works well for me.
Personal Profile: Mike Milas Age: 46 Occupation: Public Safety Consultant Education: B.S. in Business Admin from Marquette Marital Status: Married for 23 years to Paula Children: Two sons, Nathan is starting at Virginia Tech in the fall and Josh will be a Junior in HS. Current Residence: Lynchburg, VA Gym: Gold’s Gym Lynchburg and about 50 other gyms around the country as I travel! Height: 5’10" Off Season Weight: 180 Contest Weight: Last time mid 160’s Favorite Cheat Food: Ice Cream Favorite Meal: A good tenderloin steak Most Inspiring Bodybuilder: Almost any Natural PRO, especially someone 40+ Weird Hobby: Some people think that Natural Bodybuilding is my weird hobby! Favorite Band or CD: Canadian Brass Other Interests: Family, church, home improvement projects, cars
Contest PrepThe beauty of this type of strategy is that you will not only be getting bigger, you will stay within reasonable striking distance of your contest condition all year long. I started my pre-contest diet 9 weeks out and could follow a plan that dropped calories very slowly. This allowed me to hang on to the new LBM that I had added and to stay strong during my workouts as the contest approached. It was only the final 2 weeks of workouts where any of my weights or reps dropped below what my off-season goals had been.
My contest prep phase this year differed from past efforts in the following ways, aiming for more BF loss and better conditioning on contest day;
• I dropped my total calories down lower than before during the final 3 weeks. I was down to about 1,800 k/cals a day, about 1,300 below my maintenance level.I am pleased that I have been able to continue to improve over the past two years and my goal for the next year is to again try to add another 3-5 lbs of LBM while coming in very lean for my late summer 2006 contests. I look at Beverly’s staff and clients as a family that I belong to. If you want to feel more like you are a part of this family I would encourage you to check out the BI board. There are many positive, optimistic, experienced and dedicated people there who are uplifting and very supportive. Bodybuilding has remained for me a constant in my life that adds a measure of predictability and a feeling of being in control of my destiny. It is a huge stress reliever and a positive outlet. I encourage each of you to set positive fitness goals and to work at achieving them and not to hesitate just because you happen to have a bit more "seniority" than others. It can be a stabilizing factor in your life. (I am happy to provide more details or to answer questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
• I dropped down to fewer than 50 grams of carbs a day for the final 21 days.
• I added in Glutamine Select and bulk BCAA’s between every meal during the final 6 weeks to support the retention of LBM and to keep energy levels high during training
• And I followed the Beef/grapefruit diet for the final two days.