The pre-contest prep period is when we really separate the first and second placed athletes. As such, I would advise that you seek expert advice from an experienced athlete or coach. This will guide you through the final stages of your prep and could make the difference between standing in a division line-up and the overall. Having access to this expert will also help you mentally, as many athletes will start to psych themselves out of the contest with mind games during this time.
So, to help you through the final stages I will share my top tips on training during the pre-contest preparation period. In my experience many athletes will change everything in their training programme when they switch from their off-season to pre-contest training phase. During my time as an athlete, coach and advisor I have realised that this may work for some athletes, and can be totally detrimental to others. This relates to one of the biggest myths being perpetuated in the industry, which is the ‘one size fits all’ approach to conditioning, training and dieting, which does not work.
The point here is that everyone is different and why the sport of bodybuilding is such an individual endeavour. This means that what works for one athlete might not work for others, so whatever information is shared here in Muscle Evolution or in the gym should be considered and then tried and tested to find what works for you. But to assist you in finding the right combination you can stick to a few basics.
Firstly, I believe that you should keep training as heavy as possible in the pre-contest phase, and not lift lighter weights during this time. The reason for this is that this type of training forces the muscle to retain its density. Another tip is to combine supersets, tri-sets and giant sets with shortened rest periods in between to keep the muscles conditioned. It is also important to stick to compound movements during this phase, with isolation exercises done at the end of a workout.
But most importantly, plan your training schedule to ensure you don’t become overtrained or injured in the final phase of your training. Another tool that can assist you in achieving this is to experiment with high and low volume training plans or change up your training splits. For example, you can manipulate your body’s recovery rate by training two days on, one day off, three days on, one day off or four days on and one day off, depending on your previous training structure. Keep a close eye on your recovery rate to see what combination you recover best with.
As athletes we can often become overeager and excitable in the final few weeks before a show, so it is important to stick to your plan and not get carried away. The trick here is to listen to your body and train accordingly.
In terms of cardio, introducing a bit into your programme will assist with leaning out and fat reduction. Start with 30 minutes of low to medium intensity cardio a few times a week and then adjust it according to your condition and fat levels. Many athletes will shy away from cardio as they think that it will reduce muscle mass, but this is not always the case with every one.
BY JULIAN NAIDOO