My Preparation for 2004 Bodybuilding Contests
Back in the day (1996-1999), I had it pretty easy getting ready for shows, much to the envy of those who knew me. I would "diet" by having only one Snickers a day and still be in great shape. I was winning my weight class in almost every show and taking a few overall titles as well. In 2000 and 2001, I had a wake up call at the Team Universe, finishing no better than 9th. Then in 2002, I had mild success in a couple of NPC shows, but still had not achieved my 1990's-level of conditioning. I was now in my thirties and figured my career was slowly winding down. After six months of mono in 2003, and no competitions, I realized that this year was going to be my swan song. With that mentality in mind, I picked two shows to prepare for-one in September and one in October-to go "gently into that good night".
The first show would be the INBF Karen Miller Klassic in Youngstown, Ohio, on September 11. I started my pre-contest nutrition program 17 weeks out. The first month included a cheat meal once a week, which I still can get away with, as I tend to lose too much weight too fast (at least that's my rationalization!). At 12 weeks out, here is my "diet":
6 egg whites + 1 yolk
½ cup oatmeal
8 oz. red meat or 3 scoops protein powder
7 rice cakes
6-8 oz. wheat pasta
7 oz. chicken
Meal 4 (post-workout)
6 scoops recovery powder
8 oz. red meat or turkey
white or brown rice microwaveable bag
7 oz. chicken or 8 oz. red meat
Now that I look back at this, I am surprised that I ate this bad (relatively speaking). However, I was still losing body fat, and continued this way for a while. Admittedly, my fast metabolism has always allowed me to get away with things most competitors can not do. Not this time! I had met my match. Here is what my next phase looked like:
6 egg whites + 6 oz. red meat or 8 oz turkey or 8 oz chicken + 1-2 kiwi
2 scoops protein powder + 1 scoop BCAA
10 oz chicken or 10 oz turkey + 2-3 cups salad
same as 2
10 oz chicken or 10 oz turkey or 8 oz red meat + 2-3 cups salad
(Meal 6 when needed)
9 egg whites
Hi Carb Meal (Mon & Thurs)
A typical day yielded around 1550 calories; 300 grams of protein; 37 grams of carbohydrates; 25 grams of fat (all values not including supplements). Well, it worked! I was getting leaner by the day and ended up at 5% bodyfat the week of the contest. The Friday before the show I weighed in at 184, and found out I was the only lightheavyweight! At least I won my class. I also ended up winning the overall. It had been several years since I had accomplished that feat. I was now ready for my next show: the Natural Northern USA in three weeks.
However, between shows, Suzanne, my wife, was going to be running a marathon …. in Maui. Somehow, I had to figure out how to stay focused and disciplined for those ten days. It presented a dilemma as to how to help her and be there for her event, while still staying the course for my event. Everyday presented a new challenge. Even simple things like walking the beach would wear me out. I was not much fun. She understood, though, and I will always remember the sacrifices she made on my behalf.
We arrived home with seven days to get ready for Cleveland. I was down to 4.5%, and had achieved the best shape of my life (at least as a lightheavy). I stayed on exactly the same diet between shows. I weighed in at 181, certainly at the bottom of the weight class, but was confident that I had prepared to the best of my ability.
At prejudging, I was sure I placed 3rd-5th based on callouts. It was one of the toughest classes I had ever competed against (and this was my 16th show!). To my sincere shock, I won the class by just a few points. The overall winner (Shiloe Steinmetz) certainly had me beat on pure muscle, but several judges told me that I had had the better physique (symmetry, aesthetics, conditioning), which made me feel good.
Some other key points:
o As mentioned above, my metabolism affords me to do very little, if any, cardio work. This year I did perform two days of either stair climbing, or sprint / plyometric work. I like this kind of activity, regardless of an upcoming bodybuilding show. It also granted me the exclusion of doing direct leg work with weights for most of the contest prep.
o I am not a proponent of dropping water, or sodium, before a contest. I drank 2.5 gallons of water each Friday before the show, as well as continued to salt my foods. The only change was the addition of potassium Wed-Sat. I lose water through sweating, not so much through dietary changes.
o My strength training also does not change until the very last week. My split looks like this:
o Day 1 = back
o Day 2 = hams / calves OR sprints / stairs
o Day 3 = chest / biceps
o Day 4 = abs / quads OR plyometrics / stairs
o Day 5 = delts / traps / triceps
o My training philosophy is very instinctual, therefore, I never do the same workout twice in a row. In fact, I never plan any workout, other than the body part (s) I am going to perform that day.
o I train in a non-traditional, undulating periodization model. A once popular European model for Olympic athletes has migrated to the United States and has been applied to American athletes (although it has limited application to bodybuilders). There are numerous texts and articles for more details on this philosophy. I have tailored the different cycles found within periodized models to include variety within a workout as well as between workouts. With that said, it is unrealistic for me to outline a typical workout regimen, but this will give you some idea (upper body only).
-¾ Deadlifts 4 x 6
-Front Pulldowns 3 x 12
-One Arm high pulley row 3 x 10
-High Hammer row 3 x 20
-Incline Barbell press 4 x 6
-Incline Dumbbell press 3 x 10
-Hammer Decline press 3 x 20
-Pec Deck 3 x 12
-Seated Dumbbell curl 3 x 10
-One Arm preacher curl 3 x 12
-Hammer Curl 3 x 15
-Seated Dumbbell press 4 x 8
-Seated Dumbbell side raise 4 x 12
-Seated Dumbbell rear fly 4 x 15
-Seated Machine shrug 4 x 8
-Behind-The-back barbell shrug 3 x 15
-Seated Preacher curl 3 x 10
-Cable Pushdown 3 x 12
-One-Arm dumbbell extension 3 x 15
This is my off-season, as well as pre-contest, style of training. The only exception is that rest intervals decrease (ie 60-90 seconds) considerably during a pre-contest mode. I must re-iterate that the above is what I believe works for me. It has a loose base in scientific theory, but more than anything, it is grounded in anecdotal evidence.
This year has been a learning experience, just like every year since my first show in 1990! As I get older, and hopefully smarter, I enjoy the process, the learning, the challenge, much more than the outcome. It is nice to win, but that is only one night, and not up to me anyway. All the weeks leading up to the contest are in my control, and I cherish each small victory along the way.
I am undecided as to whether I will continue to compete. It is hard to just "turn it off", and train for the hell of it! My goals now become more intrinsic-just to keep getting better, not necessarily bigger. By virtue of my achievements this year, I now have more questions than answers ….
How to Get Ready For a Bodybuilding Show by Tony Poggiali