My First Contest: Here’s How I Prepared

By: Marc Shulman,
Magazine 13 #1

Without weight training, I really don’t know what I would be doing right now in terms of choosing a career and enjoying a healthy lifestyle. It has provided me with the tools I know I need to be successful in any endeavor; discipline, mental toughness, and confidence. I began lifting seriously my junior year in high school after I sustained several injuries that kept me out of athletics. Weight training is an outlet for me to relieve stress, forget about my surroundings, and feel a sense of accomplishment.

’d thought about competing for a long time, however, things like work, school, or other obstacles would always come up. Then one day at the gym a friend of mine who had done several shows came up to me and told me I should give it a try. He persuaded me to just try a pre contest diet and see how I looked, then take it from there. Once I started the diet I saw that it was something that took a lot of time and discipline. I looked at my school and I was taking a light schedule so I figured if there was ever a time it was now. The time was right; if I was going to diet I might as well look for a show to enter. That’s how I decided to enter the NPC Mid States Novice.

Fear and Anxiety

Marc Shulman abs crunch

Once I decided to compete the doubts started flowing. Everyone gets stage fright, but I’m a natural introvert and just getting up there on stage and exposing myself to a crowd of strangers was a really scary thing for me. However, if you have a fear, the best thing you can do is face it, so I thought the competition would be a great learning and growth experience. In a sense it would be the ultimate exposure therapy. I thought, "If I can walk onstage in next-to-nothing then I can do just about anything else that my fears have been holding me back from doing". I hope this contest opens doors in terms of breaking down limits, in my personal and professional life, that I never thought I would be able to overcome.

My Contest Diet

I was introduced to Beverly International through Chris, a friend of mine from the gym. Once I had decided I’d try to follow a contest diet I had to find one. Chris had recently competed and I asked if he would help me choose a plan. He recommended Beverly and advised that I use their supplements and their Pre Contest Bodybuilding Workshop Manual. This manual provided me with a three phase diet plan as well as a cardio and workout schedule to follow. Without this vital information I do not believe that I would have been able to lose fat while maintaining a great deal of lean muscle mass. I lived by the manual, tweaking only a few minute details, and would recommend it to anyone looking to diet for a photo shoot or bodybuilding show.

I started the transition from my off season to pre-contest at about 16 weeks out. I began dieting using the their Pre-Contest Bodybuilding Workshop Manual with Phase 1-B. From there, I used Phase 2-C at 10 weeks out. I have to tell you that I really bought into the Beverly International method. I had always heard that diets were extremely tough and left you feeling drained but at this point in my preparation I felt great. My workouts were energized and fun.

My typical daily nutrition at 4 weeks out consists of the Phase 3 contest Peaking Nutrition Plan, specifically 3-A, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on Pre Contest Bodybuilding Workshop Manual.

My meals were as follows:

  • Meal#1: 5–oz.96% lean beef, 6 egg whites, 1 whole egg, and grapefruit, cup of green tea
  • Meal#2: Protein Drink: 2 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein (chocolate flavor), 1 tablespoon cod liver oil or almond butter, 4 strawberries
  • Meal#3: 8–oz. chicken, 4 cups salad, 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, and 1 tablespoon cod liver oil or olive oil
  • Meal#4: Protein Drink: 2 scoops Muscle Provider (post training)
  • Meal#5: 8–oz. fish (tilapia or salmon), 2 cups broccoli
  • Monday and Thursday: 6th meal: 4-5 slices of Ezekiel bread, 10–oz. sweet potato (baby food), 4–oz. banana (baby food), 1 cup mixed vegetables, and 1 tablespoon almond butter.

If you’ve never used Beverly International supplements I’d start with one of the protein powders because of their amazing taste. When dieting for the contest it was the highlight of my day when I got to drink my Ultimate Muscle Protein and Muscle Provider. I think the cookies and creme and chocolate flavors are phenomenal when compared to other protein powders that are currently on the market.

I would also recommend Glutamine Select plus BCAAs for the simple reason that the act of working out is very catabolic, however, by taking amino acids with glutamine during your workout you can create an anabolic environment as well as reduce recovery time after your workout. Reducing recovery time is imperative for anyone who is looking to either put on size or strip the body of excess fat while trying to maintain a good amount of lean muscle mass.

My three favorite pre contest supplements were Ultra 40, Glutamine Select plus BCAAs and Muscle Mass. There was a point around the 6 week mark when I really felt awful and increasing my Ultra 40 from 4 per meal to 6 per meal improved both my mood and stamina throughout the course of the day. Glutamine Select and Muscle Mass were of extreme importance, as mentioned above, in allowing me to maintain lean muscle mass while stripping off every vestige of body fat.

My Training

A typical program at 4-6 weeks out consists of the following:  Three-on-one-off split.  Most exercises done in supersets to maximize fat burning and limit time in the gym.  No rest in between exercises, rest 30-45 seconds once each set is finished.
Day #1 Chest, back
Day #2 Legs
Day #3 Shoulders, arms
Day #4 *Off (Weighted abs)
Day #5 Repeat cycle with Day #1

*Technically Day 4 is a day off, however, I go into the gym and do some weighted abdominal exercises. *Rest 30-45 seconds once each set/superset is finished. I find that with 45 seconds rest or less I am able to innervate more muscle fibers. This is because with the lack of rest time the muscles begin the next set moderately fatigued causing them to recruit more muscle fibers toward the end of the set. I also noticed that this short rest time increased my pump and vascularity.

Day #1

Superset #1:

  • Incline Smith Machine Press 4-5 sets x 8-12 reps per set
  • Chin-Ups 4-5 x max reps per set

Superset 2:

  • Bench Press 3-4 x 8-10
  • Bent Over Row (BB) 3-4 x 6-10

Superset 3:

  • DB Fly’s 3-4 x 10-12
  • T-Bar Row 3-4 x 8-12

Superset 4: (optional)

  • Cable Crossover or Peck Deck 2-3 x 10-15
  • Close Grip Pull down 2-3 x 7-10
  • Finishing Exercise: DB Pullover 3-4 x 10-15
  • Lower Back: Hyperextensions 3-4 x 15-20

Day #2

Superset #1:

  • Leg Extensions 3 x 8-10
  • Leg Press 3 x 8-12

Superset #2:

  • Squat 4 x 6-12
  • Romanian Dead Lift 4 x 10

Superset #3:

  • Lunges 3 x 10-15
  • Leg Curl 3 x 6-10
  • Standing Calf Raises 4 x 15-20
  • Seated Calf Raises 3 x 10-15
  • BW Calf Raises 3 x 35-50

Abs: Three or four exercises, 3-4 sets each for 15-35 reps per exercise.

Day #3

All shoulder excercises done as individual sets.
Shoulder Press (machine) 4 x 6-12
Lateral Raises 3 x 8-12
Rear Lateral Raises 3 x 10-12 Cable Lateral Raises 3 x 8-12
Superset #1:
DB Concentration Preacher Curl 3 x 6-15
Triceps Pushdown 3 x 10-15
Superset #2:
Standing DB Curl 3 x 6-10
One Arm Underhand Cable Extension 3 x 8-12
Superset #3:
BB Curl 3 x 6-8
Dip Machine 3 x 10-12 or Dips 3 x max per set

Tri-set #4:
Reverse EZ Bar Curl 3 x 8-12
Wrist Curl 3 x 15-20
Triceps Machine 3 x 8-15

*With arms I believe in using more volume work. It creates a more vascular look by pumping more blood into the arm region.

Day #4 (Off); Repeat Weighted abs: Three or four exercises, 3-4 sets each for 15-25 reps using weights.

Cardio Training

Heart Rate (HR) at 60-70% Max HR

8 weeks out: 6 times per week, 20 minutes each session
6 weeks out:
6 times per week, 30 minutes each session
4 weeks out: 6 times per week, 40 minutes each session
2 weeks out: 6 times per week, 50 minutes each session
1 week out: Monday- 50 minutes, Tuesday- 40 minutes, Wednesday- 30 minutes, Rest of week walk 20-40 minutes to de-stress.

The Final Two Weeks

The final two weeks before the show were by far the most difficult. You are so close to the show, but the days just seem to crawl by. Your diet is getting old, your workouts are getting old, and most notably your entire contest preparation is getting old. This is when you really need a good support system around you. My support team included family, friends, lifting partners.

My only refuge was to follow the diet, workout, and cardio regimen laid out for me by Beverly International as I continued to see results right up until the show. I wanted to make sure that I came into the show with no regrets. I knew the plan would not let me down and that if I followed it I would look my best, my overall goal. Cheating on my diet was not an option, and I would certainly not skimp on my workouts or miss a cardio session. I just had to trudge along, and I knew eventually it would be Saturday and I could show off all my hard work.

I can’t give Beverly International enough credit for my transformation. I followed their diets to a "T" based on the descriptions provided by each plan in their manual. I saw results, and I can say that I felt immensely better than my competitors as they described their contest preparation as pure torture. My energy levels were high in comparison, as was my mental state. Beverly allows you to diet the smart way. No drastic caloric cuts or crazy new methods, only tried and true formulas that actually work. I thank the company for helping me with my pre-contest preparation, and am looking forward to a great off-season.

Final Thoughts

I hold Beverly International in high regard. I really think that they have taken the guesswork out of dieting and working out, especially in my pre contest preparation. Beverly has provided me with a step by step process outlined in great detail of what to do and when to do it. You really cannot go wrong with this program. Whenever someone comes up to me and asks what they can do to either lose weight or gain weight I always steer them towards The Beverly Method, because it works. They also have great customer interaction as I feel I can e-mail any one of their amazing staff at anytime and come away with an answer that I am satisfied with. The Beverly International products are also top quality. They use the best ingredients and are on the cutting edge in terms of products they have on the market. I like the taste of their proteins and the way I feel when taking their supplements. I am a customer for life!

Just want to send out thanks to everyone who has helped me prepare for the show. My family, friends and namely my friend Chris.