In this article Josh King gives you a pretty thorough treatise on how he gets ready for a contest. Josh has been training for seven years, has been competing since 2005, and wrote this article just one week before the 2007 NPC Northern Championships.
Training Off-Season to Pre-Contest
I follow nearly the same style of training whether it’s off–season or pre–contest. As the saying goes, "Why change what works?"! However, in the off–season I typically train one bodypart each day, 6 days a week with Sunday off. That way all my focus and power is devoted to just one muscle group per training day with the exception of calves; I usually train them 3 times a week. I always stay in the 6–12 rep range. I also like to work quickly and get my workouts done in 45–60 minutes.
When it’s time to start preparing for a contest, say 12 weeks out, I’ll follow a 2 days on, 1 day off routine hitting a couple muscle groups together but still doing all the mass building exercises as I hope I’m still building muscle at this point. Still training with great intensity in the 6–12 rep range to total muscle failure on every set all the way up to the 8 week out point. Then, at 8 weeks out I change to a 3 days on, 1 day off schedule with lots of supersets. I rest just one minute between sets. This gives me a great pump and really keeps my heart rate up. I do throw in a few isolation exercises like cable crossovers, dumbbell or cable concentration curls and replace deadlifts with machine hyperextensions during the last 8 weeks.
During the final 4 weeks before a show I really concentrate on squeezing each muscle contraction and getting as much blood as I can into the muscle instead of going to total muscle failure. This really brings in my conditioning, improves muscle density, and reduces the chance of injury when I’m so close for the ensuing battle on stage.
Cardio Stairmaster, elliptical, or walking
Cardio has always been on my list of "don’t like to do’s"! Who does, right?! When I decided to do my first show, the NPC KY Muscle in 2005, I had just 8 weeks to get ready. Consequently I had to do way more cardio than I wanted to. I did 30 minutes first thing every morning and another 30 minutes every evening. In 2006 I took a different approach, and started contest prep at 18 weeks out. With more prep time I did absolutely no cardio and came into the show better than I had the year before.
At two weeks out I felt I was a little behind schedule so I bumped it up to an hour for one week, then completely eliminating it all together for the final week. I break my cardio up by using different pieces of equipment. My favorites are the gauntlet Stairmaster, the elliptical, or just walking on the treadmill. Side note – I do NO cardio in the off–season.
Presentation practice your posing
Not only do you have to find time for your dieting, training, and cardio when preparing for a show; you also have to find the time to practice your posing. There’s no doubt that if you don’t present yourself to the best of your ability on stage you can drop a few placings. That’s why you have to practice your quarter turns, and mandatories until they become second nature. Like it says in the Beverly Workshop Manual, You can over train, you can over do your cardio, but you can never practice your posing too much. I’ve found that posing improves my conditioning, makes me look harder, and brings in those deep cuts and striations.
I start posing practice as soon as contest prep begins. I’ll work into it slowly, starting at 4 days a week holding each quarter turn and mandatory for 10–15 seconds. By the time I reach the 4–week out mark I’m usually posing 7 days a week for 30–45 minutes per session. I practice holding each pose for 30–seconds. I also start working on my individual routine at this time. I’ll usually go through it 2–3 times and get my timing down on the transitions to my music. One important note – I always trying to hit poses that present my physique to its best advantage. Don’t do poses in your routine that show your weak areas. Let the judges and audience see your best features!
One last thing on presentation, “Don’t neglect your tan!” Those lights are bright on that stage and any flaws with your color or oiling will show up if you have not spent enough time on perfecting your tan.
Competitive Bodybuilder Mental Aspects
Another aspect to being a competitive bodybuilder is mental.
When you start preparing for a contest, whether it is your first show or your 10th show, you’ll always worry whether you’re on track or behind schedule with your prep. These thoughts run through every competitor’s head, Am I going to make weight? Am I peaking too soon? Am I looking flat? All this worry does nothing to help, but it does cause a great deal of stress and stress leads to water retention.
Last year I worried about all of the above and more. First I stressed about an injury I had sustained, then I was afraid my legs were too far behind. Finally, I sent some photos to Beverly and they gave me the best advice. They had to keep telling me I was on track and would come in fine, and they were right. Being so stressed did cause me to not come in as dry as I would have liked, but you learn from your mistakes. So, just take the information you get from Beverly (whether it’s in their magazine or in their special publications dealing with contest prep) and run with it. I promise you will come in to your show looking better than you ever have.
Mistakes I made how I corrected them
The biggest mistake I have made was not using Beverly supplements to get ready for that first show. I decided to do the show, then tried to figure out what to do. A friend of mine told me about Beverly and I got a hold of them and got my first diet. I used it all the way up to the show. I went through the whole preparation process figuring that the diet alone was enough. Following the diet but not using Beverly supplements caused me to lose a lot of hard earned muscle during those 8 weeks.
Another mistake I made was going into the show with no idea about how long a show day really is. I didn’t pack near enough food and half starved. Still, I wound up finishing 4th in the novice middles and 6th in the open middles at the KY Muscle show.
The following fall I allowed myself 18 weeks to get ready and used Beverly supplements for the first time in my life. My prep couldn’t have gone more smoothly. I lost fat and retained my muscle. The only downfall I had was an injury at 10 weeks out. I hurt both shoulders and still don’t know what I did to cause the injury. Instead of backing out I decided to work around my injury. The pain got worse as the show got closer, but I was determined to fight through the pain and go with it. I didn’t even go to the doctor. I admit that wasn’t too smart!! At the 4–week out mark the pain was so excruciating I had to eliminate all pressing movements. I emailed Beverly and asked I can’t do presses or flyes, what can I do to train chest? Roger asked if I could do Cable Crossovers. When I said that was about the only exercise I could do, he said well then do 10 sets of 15 reps with 60 seconds between sets. It worked – great pump and my chest actually improved!
I made it through those final 4 weeks, packed plenty of food this time and won the novice division at the Big Dust Classic and finished 4th in the open middles. The next week was the KY Muscle. This year was quite different, and even though my training was severely compromised, the diet and supplements carried me through. It just goes to show just how effective these great products are as I made tremendous improvements with my placings over the prior year. I took 1st in the novice middles and finished 3rd in a very close race in the open.
Again I reviewed the tapes from 2006 made a lot of improvements this off–season and look forward to see what 2007 brings as I plan to bring in my best package yet. It’s all about getting better and making new improvements year after year.
I went to the doctor after the show and found that my injury was severe tendonitis down deep around the acromion process where the shoulder connects to the collar bone. I still have the pain in my right shoulder from time to time but, believe it or not Beverly’s Joint Care product has helped tremendously. I was out of the gym the remainder of the year to recuperate. Now I have to really warm–up the shoulder joints before training chest and shoulders.
I personally use 17 different products that Beverly offers. I use so many different products because each has a different effect on my body in terms of how I use it and what I want it to do. Being a natural bodybuilder I need all the help I can get. Using Beverly supplements for the past year has taken my physique to a level I could have never imagined. Only the people that are closest to me even believe that I’m natural!
Whether it’s off–season or pre–contest I always use Super Paks, Ultra 40, Mass aminos, Muscle Synergy, Muscle Mass, Creatine Select, Glutamine Select, Joint Care, and ZMA.
In the off–season I use Ultimate Muscle Protein and Mass Maker for building muscle mass. When I start my contest dieting I continue to use Ultimate Muscle Protein up to the 8 week out point as I’m still building muscle at this point. I personally get better size gains from Ultimate Muscle Protein. At 8 weeks out I start using Muscle Provider and Ultimate Muscle Protein for my proteins as they tend to have a better effect on my conditioning. I’ll also throw in EFA Gold when I start my diet. The essential oils are really important during a strict diet. At 8 weeks out I also add Lean Out and Muscularity to my program. As far as Lean Out goes, the name says it all! It literally does what it says, shifting your fuel source toward fats leaving your amino acids and glycogen free to build muscle. If you’re looking for a product to help get you lean this product is a must. I absolutely love Muscularity, too. As your diet gets tough, you need all the aminos you can get to hold onto that hard earned muscle you’ve worked so hard for in the off–season. And Muscularity does just that. At 6 weeks out I add Energy Reserve. The extra l–carnitine helps decrease muscle fatigue during training by preserving muscle glycogen through the use of fat for energy. Listed below is my supplement schedule illustrating exactly how I incorporate each product into my plan.
Dieting is a year round science project for me that I absolutely enjoy. I am a big eater and eat at least 4000 calories a day in the off–season of mostly clean foods. I very rarely pull into a fast food restaurant for something to eat. I look at it as if my body is a work of art in process and I’m working very hard to sculpt a masterpiece. Putting a load of greasy fast foods in my body would be like throwing a bucket of paint on to the canvas where I am meticulously creating my painting. Don’t get me wrong, I have a cheat meal on occasion. It might be once a week or just once a month. It just depends on how badly I’m craving that large pizza or something.
I like to keep meal planning simple. I am fortunate that my schedule allows me to prepare my meals every three hours. I like to prepare my food fresh for each meal, but when necessary I prepare them ahead of time and pack in a cooler. But no matter what, I stay consistent when it comes to my meals on a year round basis.
In the off–season if I’m going to somewhere where I can’t get a meal in I pack a bowl of the famous Beverly Goo. But, when preparing for a contest I pretty much eliminate all going out. I go to the gym or the grocery store and that’s basically it. Listed below are a couple examples of the off–season, and pre–contest diets I used to come in this year my best yet.
Meal 1 – 8 oz. 96% ground beef, 4 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 1 cup oatmeal
Meal 2 – 4 scoops Mass Maker, 3 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein
Meal 3 – 8 oz. chicken tenders, 8 oz. sweet potato, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup broccoli
Meal 4 – 4 scoops Mass Maker, 3 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein
Meal 5 – 10 oz. sirloin steak, 8 oz. sweet potato, 1 cup strawberries, 1 cup broccoli
Meal 6 – 3 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein
Contest Diet (for the last 6 weeks)
Meal 1 – 5 oz. 96% ground beef, 6 egg whites, ½ grapefruit
Meal 2 – 2 scoops Muscle Provider or UMP
Meal 3 – 6 oz. chicken tenders, 2 cups broccoli
Meal 4 – 2 scoops Muscle Provider or UMP
Meal 5 – 6 oz. tilapia, 1.5 cups broccoli
Meal 6 – 6 egg whites, 1 cup broccoli
On Monday and Thursday I replace meal number 6 with 1 cup oatmeal, 3 slices Ezekiel bread, 4 oz. banana, 1 tbsp butter, 1 cup broccoli
My chest has always been my best body part
I get asked all the time what exercises to do to build a thick chest, so here is a sample program I use in the off–season to do just that.Incline DB or Smith Machine Press – 3 sets, 6–10 reps, pyramid – 225, 245, 265 ( I will use a high 45 degree angle on the bench as it hits more in the upper chest / front delt tie–in rather than the lower incline you see on most incline benches.
I always had a weak upper chest until I started using the 45 degree angle.
Flat DB or Barbell Press – 3 sets, 6–10 reps – pyramid, 275, 295, 315
Decline DB or Barbell Press – 3 sets 6–10 reps – pyramid, 275, 295, 315
Seated Hammer Strength Press – 3 sets 12–15 reps – same weight on all sets – 180
On all exercises I really make sure I squeeze the contraction. Explode up and squeeze! Then lower the weight nice and controlled before exploding it back up. Depending on how I feel I may use more weight or less weight. Sometimes I’ll use a lot less weight and work my reps real slow on both the positive and the negative.
Summary nutrition, supplement, or training plan
Now that you know exactly what I do to get ready for a show, I’ll finish by saying no matter what nutrition, supplement, or training plan you decide to follow, to get results you have to be consistent and stick to your plan!