At the end of my first bodybuilding season I decided that bigger was better. I got off to a fast start gaining 20 rebound pounds the first 3 days post contest. Then I got the dream bulk thing going with the mindset of eat big, get big. I worked out hard and ate and ate, but this experiment did not end well. Within 6 months I had gained 70 pounds. I wish I could say it was mostly muscle, but facing the facts honestly, I knew it was not. I’m a natural competitor and I should have known that I couldn’t possibly gain 10 pounds of muscle a month.
At my previous contest in April, 2013, I weighed in at 189 pounds. Now six months later I was starting contest prep again at 270 pounds – definitely bigger, but not better. It was September and I was shooting for the Mr. Natural Ohio IFPA Pro Qualifier the following April – six months away. Could I undo the damage I had done? Besides starting my precontest prep too fat, I had a couple of other setbacks. First, the flu sidelined me for a couple of weeks, and then I suffered a bulged disc which prevented any leg workouts for a month or so. I stepped on stage at a shade under 200 and won the open heavyweight class. But, the overall (and pro card) were out of reach and I knew that I needed to get majorly ripped if I wanted to be at my best, and hopefully win that natural pro card.
My Road to Pro
I put my nose to the grindstone and really got strict. In a minute I’ll share my May-August, 2014 plan with you, but first, here are the contest results that I achieved as a result of this plan.
August 23 → NGA Northeast Ohio Natural 2nd open heavyweight
September 13 → NOBA Mr. Natural Ohio Overall winner and IFPA pro card (I had finally reached the condition I needed to be in, ironically I weighed 188 (a pound less than the previous year; and 71 pounds lighter than at my heaviest one year prior).
September 20 → Natural Muscle Association-Cleveland Overall winner and NMA pro card
I start work late in the morning so I am able to prep my meals each day fresh. I also cook my last meal when I get home. But, everyone’s schedule is different, so find out what best fits your schedule. If you don’t have time each morning, prep your food a couple days in advance. If you hate leftovers, wake up a little earlier and prep it daily. I hate 3 day old chicken, so I avoid it.
I generally follow a flexible dieting plan, but I feel that term is taken too loosely so let’s start with a typical day of precontest dieting for me.
Meal 1: Egg white sandwich – 184 grams egg whites seasoned with chili powder & bacon seasoning; 2 slices P28 protein bread; jalapeños and reduced sugar ketchup on top
Supplements: 4 Ultra 40 tablets, 4 Mass Aminos, 1 Super Pak, 3 7-Keto, 2 Lean Out, 3 EFA Gold
When I say I follow a flexible dieting plan, I really mean it. I’m acutely aware of the macronutrient numbers that I personally need to stay within daily; therefore I am able to incorporate some of the foods that I lovethroughout the course of the contest season. Here aresome of my favorites: Halo Top ice cream (only 4 netcarbs per serving), homemade pizza (usually on Friday),gnocchi bakes, Quest Bar cookies, microwave popcorn,and pancakes (usually every re-feed meal). It gets worse, Sour Cream & Onion Pringles, Cocoa Krispies, FruityPebbles, Oreos, Goldfish, and the list goes on. However,let me emphasize, this is not daily or even weekly, but if I felt like it, and my macros and supplements were ontrack, I ate it!
Flexible dieting isn’t for everyone. Most competitorshave success with a regimented diet plan, I have triedthat and it’s not for me. Here’s my best advice aboutflexible dieting. Create a regimented meal plan first, thenslowly substitute some foods in and start playing withthe numbers. I always have two goals, hit your macrosand hit your micros. I will say as I get closer to mycompetition, I really clean things up to see how my body reactsto certain foods. When you’re very lean, something your body isn’t used to might have an impact physically on your appearance.Each night my girlfriend, who also competes, and I will sit downand plan our meals for the next day, she gets way more creativethan me, my meals are actually considered boring to her.
A proper supplement plan is essential if you are going to try to add some flexibility to your diet. For example, Ultra 40 and Mass Aminos will ensure that your protein needs are being met. Glutamine Select and Lean Out will help regulate blood sugar and prevent your going into a Cocoa Krispies coma.
Super Pak: With breakfast to make sure I fulfill all my micronutrient needs for the day.
Lean Out/7-Keto MuscLean: I use these to help with burning that stubborn fat while dieting and aiding in keeping my energy levels up.
Ultra 40: To help sustain adequate iron and energy levels and add more protein to my diet
Mass Aminos: I use Mass tablets throughout the day to support protein synthesis and support higher training volumes.
Creatine Select/Glutamine Select: To aid recovery from my workouts so I am fresh and ready to go for the next one.
Muscle Synergy: I used Muscle Synergy in this year’s prep and have noticed a huge difference in my pumps along with keeping my strength up as I get deeper into dieting.
EFA Gold: 3-6 capsules daily to maintain good heart and metabolic health.
Multiple Enzyme Complex: To aid in digestion of protein and other nutrients that I consume in my meals.
Sunday – Deadlifts/Back/Legs/Biceps
Conventional Dead Lifts: 4 sets x 8 reps
ISO-Lateral Low Row: 4 sets x 8 reps each arm
Close Grip Lat Pulldowns: 4 x 10
Dumbbell RDL’s: 4 x 10
Hack Squat: 4 x 10
Chest Supported Rows w/Prone Grip: 4 x 10
Dumbbell Bicep Curls: 4 x 10
Monday – Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
Dumbbell Chest Press: 4 x 8 Barbell Incline Press: 4 x 10
Weighted Dips: 4 x 10
Cable Flyes: 4 x 10
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 4 x 10
Overhead Rope Triceps Extension: 4 x 10
Tuesday – Off
Wednesday – Legs
Glute Ham Raise: 6 x 8 Superset with Leg Extension w/Bands: 6 set x 8 reps
Barbell Back Squats: 4 x 8
45 Degree Back Extension: 4 x 8
Leg Press: 6 x 6
Seated Calves: 4 x 8
Thursday – Back/Biceps
Seated Cable Rows w/Neutral Grip: 4 x 8, 2 x 6 One-Arm DB Rows: 4 x 8, 2 x 6 (each arm)
Barbell Bent Over Rows: 4 x 8, 2 x 6
½ Inch Band Pull Apart: 4 x 10
Superset w/ Barbell Standing Bicep Curl: 4 x 8
Alternating DB Cross Hammer Curl: 4 x 8
Friday – Chest/Shoulders/Triceps
Dumbbell Seated Military: 3 x 8, 3 x 6
Dumbbell Incline Press: 4 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell Seated Lateral Raise: 4 x 8
Superset w/ EZ Bar Skull Crushers: 4 x 10
Rope Triceps Extension: 4 x 8
Seated Machine Shoulder Press
with 5 second negative: sets 3 x 8 reps
Saturday – Off
I did 3 days a week of High Intensity Interval Training (Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays) six bouts of 10-15 seconds with a 45-60 second recovery or sometimes full recovery. My total time for cardio each session was just 7-9 minutes, that’s it. For the most part I used a spin bike, but every now and then I changed it up and used the Prowler. I did not do any formalized low-intensity steady state cardio, but I did walk my dog every night.
My best advice is practice, practice, practice, especially 6 weeks out and closer. Focus primarily on the mandatory poses. I have seen a lot of competitors with great posing routines, but their pre-judging mandatories, where the judging is really taking place, aren’t that great. I personally
can’t understand why someone would practice hours on their routine, but not the mandatories. Cramping up on stage or not hitting each pose in the best way possible can really be a detriment to your placing. Everyone’s body is different; you need to practice to find which angles best bring out your features.
In closing, be sure to take notes on your preparation and summarize each contest experience. Each year you compete, you’ll learn more and more about what works best for you. I am excited to see what I will learn 1, 5, 10 years down the road. I have set lofty new goals for myself and
I will achieve them. One of the biggest things I can take away from my prep to date is the need for consistency.
Stay consistent with your training and food regimen and things will fall into place. Take each day of prep into consideration and don’t look towards tomorrow or the NEXT show, just focus on today. This mentality helped me greatly during this past year. Sometimes I would look at the finish line mid prep and it would mess with me mentally. Once I was able to just forget about yesterday, focus on today, and prepare for tomorrow, things began to fall into place.