Being a bodybuilder is a lifestyle that we live. It’s not just the amount of time we focus in on preparing for a show. However there are a lot of differences between pre contest and what some call the offseason, or what I like to call, life.
In this article I hope to give a bit of an eye opener in the changes that happen between the two distinct phases of being a bodybuilder.
Let’s start with the phase most people are familiar with...
Well we have picked our show date or dates, had a productive offseason and are ready to get back on the stage. I will break this down in to three categories:
For me nothing really changes too much in my training between what I use to get bigger and what I use to keep my muscle on prep. Unless you’re very genetically blessed on prep you will be maintaining muscle and not growing any new muscle, mainly due to you being in a calorie deficit.
I train with weights three days a week. This is the split I follow:
Back and Biceps
Chest, Shoulders and Triceps
I find sticking to the basics of Deadlifts, squats and bench press really help the muscle stay with you and keep you looking strong. I do add in isolation work, such as side laterals, pushdowns and the like as I feel these are of benefit. I do make changes when I start to get weaker, as the body fat becomes lower. I may add in drop sets, rest pause sets etc Just to try and add some intensity, due to me not being so strong. I also like to mix things up a bit to hit the muscles in different ways. A good way of doing this is to use different grips - Globe Gripz are great for this as are resistance machines.
For me training during prep is about training hard and as heavy as I can but you need to be safe and not risk an injury.
I am also doing some form of cardio work every day during prep. This is generally on the bike, before meal 1 and the duration changes depending on how far I am during my prep.
During a prep your diet is absolutely key. Every gram of food is measured, food choices are very clean. By clean I mean unprocessed, things like oats, sweet potatoes, chicken breasts and lots of green veg.
We eat six times a day on average and have a post workout shake. Most of the food will be whole food and not shakes. It keeps you fuller for longer.
Meals have to be eaten on time. This is no matter, where you are, what you’re doing or if you feel like it or not.
It’s also a good idea to start upping your intake of water. I like to start at 4 litres per day and then add water as the diet goes on. This helps keep hunger at bay and stop you looking watery.
How much food you have and the food choices depend on your personal body type and how much fat you need to lose. One thing that is paramount is don’t cheat on your diet.
I also like to use the great supplements that my sponsor Smart tec provide me with.
I use Whey fx ( in meal 1 and post workout), Easily digested and tastes great.
glutamine fx (to stop me being catabolic), taken through the day. 10-20g per day.
smart bcaa, I take these around activity to help with recovery
xcelr 8 shots (great preworkout when you’re tired).
I also use. Smart vits, cla, vitamin c glucosamine and Udo’s oil
The supplements add to my recovery and help me retain muscle.
Now with the training, calorie restriction and the impending show. You will find you become very focused, potentially drained (more so as the diet goes on) and you life will be like groundhog day. This can really affect your mood. You might find it’s hard to focus, feelings of lethargy and the worry that you might not show up looking your best.
Prep is a great learning experience. Your body changes every day, you make small changes to diet and training and your body will change with those for you. The thrill of getting on stage and getting to show all your hard work is well worth every moment. You’re working towards a goal, every day, every meal. It’s a great feeling.
Offseason (normal life)
The show is over, you have had a good time on stage, maybe won a trophy but you have learnt a lot about your strengths and weaknesses, both physically and mentally. Now it’s time to make some improvements and put in some work that no one see’s.
Training for me is very basic. I am trying to add muscle so I will use the basic exercises. Squats, bench press and deadlift. The difference in the offseason is that I am trying to get stronger on the key lifts. Every workout I am trying to beat my last times effort, without using bad form. I generally don’t use drop sets. I’m just looking to use the weight increase for intensity. I still use free weight isolation work but the use of machines is limited. I do like to use Globe Gripz if my wrists are feeling sore, or to beef up my forearms.
The offseason is not an excuse to slack in your training. Just the opposite, the work you do now will show when you get on stage next time.
Cardio wise I want to be healthy so I still do 3 sessions per week on the bike, just 30 minutes.
Some see the offseason as an opportunity to shovel as much food in their mouths as possible. Now this is not a great idea. Getting fat is not the same as adding muscle. Naturally you’re going to add muscle at a slowly, maybe a few kilos per year if you’re a very lucky person.
The way I play food in the offseason is to eat like my pre contest diet for the working week but with more of the clean food. The weekend I just make sure I eat the majority of my food from clean sources but have a few nice meals and desserts. You can also be more flexible in the offseason with food choices. Enjoy meals out with the family and friends and enjoy being strong and healthy.
Supplement wise. I don’t use as many Aminos due to my body being in a calorie surplus.
I still use
Whey fx. Breakfast, post workout and if I can’t get a meal in
Creatine fx. Pure creatine, helps you recover quicker, more explosive power.
Glutamine fx. Just during training
I still use glucosamine, smart vits and Udo’s oil
The offseason can be hard if you have done a few shows in the season. You no longer look as sharp, you have a bit more insulation around your muscle and joints. I personally know my limits and that staying contest ready will not help me grow muscle and in fact make my next prep less effective as the body gets used to working a certain way.
Embrace the offseason, make improvements, be strong, healthy and enjoy the extra time you have with friends and family. I personally find the offseason much more relaxing as I worry a lot on prep.
I hope this gives you all and insight to the 24/7 365 nature of Bodybuilding. I don’t like to think of it as a sport but a lifestyle. One that I really love.
Photo of Scott by Fivos Averkiou of Showshoots.
This is a guest article submitted by Scott Galton. Scott is a natural bodybuilder that competes with the UKDFBA and NPA federations. He is also a fitness blogger and a Smart Tec sponsored athlete.
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