There is little doubt that prepping for your First Bodybuilding Show is a complex, complicated, and multi-faceted process, which seems very intimidating and daunting if it’s your first time placing your feet in these deep waters. After all, there are so many vital “moving parts” necessary for bringing to the stage a ripped, separated, well-proportioned, symmetrical and muscular body, that it is quite easy for any newbie to become intensely confused, anxious, and/or overwhelmed by all that is ahead of him/her. With that said, this is exactly why I am writing this piece for ALLMAX NUTRITION! I want to help newcomers feel more at ease with overall contest preparation process by providing a basic outline for diet, training, cardio and supplementation that can serve as a basic guideline for those who wish to step onstage proudly for the first time. And while each of us is somewhat unique in the manner we respond to specific “prepping” protocols, I have (after 30 years in this “game”) been able to create a rather “universally effective,” sensible, efficient and healthy foundation regimen that will help just about anyone to walk on the competitive stage with confidence, and the kind of physique that will definitely grab the judges attention!
Let’s Talk Timing for your First Bodybuilding Show
Before I get into the “nuts and bolts” of the various areas of contest preparation for your First Bodybuilding Show we need to discuss “timing,” or how long of a period you will need to be ready for a show. This is something that will vary from person to person, and depends largely on where your body fat levels are before beginning prep. Obviously, if you have let yourself get way out of shape, you will not be able to pick a contest that is only six weeks away. I feel it is important to have your fat levels tested by a professional so you have a concrete view of what is ahead and how long you should give yourself to prepare. It is a realistic expectation, when doing things correctly, to lose about 1% body fat per week – although some may find things to progress more or less quickly. So, with the aspiration for most men being to walk onstage with about 4-5% body fat, and for women 7-8% body fat (generally, and depending on what division is being entered), it is easy to calculate about how far out you will need to start your regimen.
Diet and Nutrition for your First Bodybuilding Show
This is perhaps the most important facet of successful show prep, and for most, also the most difficult. For 8-16 weeks you must be willing to give up all sorts of junk food (such as pizza, burgers, fries, cakes, cookies, candy, ice cream and more), as well as high calorie condiments, and of course, alcohol. The diet must be comprised of only high quality, clean proteins, fats and carbohydrates, with each meal specifically timed and carefully measured for content. When getting ready for a contest, a digital food scale will become your most trusted ally! There is no room for “guesstimating” or eyeing portions when the goal is getting into top shape. You must also make sure to plan ahead, especially if you work a full-time job and/or go to school. You will not be able to skip meals, grab a protein bar or hit the fast food drive-through when a show is nearing. Thus, I will introduce you to another one of your greatest allies, which is known as Tupperware. Before leaving home each day you must pack each meal into containers and take them with you wherever you will be going. This is all part of something competitors like to hashtag as #PrepLife.
Below you will find a list of contest-friendly foods that can be included in your diet for the entirely of your prep, as well as sample meal plan so you can see how to put things together. While it is not mandatory that you include all of the listed foods, it is best to try and have the widest variety as possible so as to take advantage of the nutritional strengths of each. With that said, do not force feed yourself any foods that are unpalatable to you, or you will find the process to be even more difficult. Additionally, you can use various spices and even some salt to make your meals tastier and may even be able to find various condiments that are calorie-free/artificially flavored to keep things more interesting to the taste buds. It is not until the final few days before a contest that salt and sweeteners need to be eliminated.
- Proteins: 96+% lean beef, 96+% lean turkey, turkey breast, chicken breast, lean cuts of steak, egg whites, game meats, white fish, salmon, non-fat cottage cheese, and whey/casein isolate protein powders (can be used for up to 3 meals per day).
- Carbohydrates: brown rice, white rice, sweet potato, white potato, whole grain bread, oatmeal, cream of wheat, cream of rice quinoa, rice cakes, brown rice/quinoa pasta, engineered carb powder, and all fruits.
- Vegetables: all green and colored types.
- Fats: walnuts, peanuts, almonds, avocado, olive oil, fish oil, flax oil, MCT oil, coconut oil, nut butters.
Now that we have a solid list of foods in place, here is a basic example of what a typical day of dieting might look like about 12 weeks before a contest for someone weighing approximately 200 lb. and carrying between 10-12% body fat.
(Note: Each week I recommend that you lower carbs in the daily diet by about 10 grams and protein by about 5 grams. Along with increasing cardio – discussed in detail below – this progressive approach will keep you in a fat burning state without doing anything drastic to compromise your health).
Meal Plan – First Bodybuilding Show
P: whey isolate protein powder mix (approximately 2 scoops)
C: oatmeal (3.1 oz. uncooked measure)
F: no added fats
P: chicken breast (7.1 oz. cooked measure)
C: brown rice (6.7 oz. cooked measure)
F: no added fats
Meal 3 (pre-workout)
P: tilapia (8.3 oz. cooked measure)
C: large mixed salad
F: MCT oil (1 tbsp.)
Meal 4 (post-workout)
P: whey protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
C: engineered carbohydrate powder = 60 grams carbs
F: no added fats
P: top round steak (7.1 oz. cooked measure)
C: sweet potato (5.5 oz. cooked measure)
F: no added fats
P: casein protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
F: natural peanut butter (2 tbsp.)
Totals: 300 g protein; 200 g carbs; 28 g essential fats (aside from naturally occurring fats)
Supplements – First Bodybuilding Show
When it comes to supplements for your First Bodybuilding Show always remember that no matter how much you take, they can never make up for a faulty diet or training program! However, if everything else is on point, then there is no doubt that the right products can take your muscularity and stage conditioning to another level. But the keys to an effective supplement protocol is reliant on several things:
- Taking products only of the highest level of quality and purity.
- Taking products with proven ingredients/compounds, and at proper dosages.
- Consistency of consumption.
- Proper timing.
ALLMAX Nutrition designs and produces the finest products in the sports supplement industry and I have been utilizing them myself and with all of my clients for nearly three straight years. They never fail to produce the desired result, and most often exceed expectations.
Below is a highly effective, yet simple supplement program that you can use when preparing for your first competition. I have no doubt it will contribute greatly towards your success.
- ISOFLEX: Take 1-2 scoops (depending on protein needs) with meal 1 and the post workout meal.
- CARBION: Take 1-3 scoops (depending on your carbohydrate needs) with your post workout meal.
- CASEINFX: Take 1-2 scoops (depending on protein needs) with your final meal if a solid food protein is not desired.
- AMINOCORE: Take 1-2 scoops upon awakening and throughout your workout. Can be used in between meals if hunger pangs strike.
- RAPIDCUTS: Take 1 capsule upon awakening and 1 capsule before training (do not take second dose within 4 hours of going to sleep).
- IMPACT PUMP: Take 1 serving 30-40 minutes before your workout.
- CVOL: Take 1 serving immediately after training.
- VITASTACK: Take one packet with meal 1.
- HYDRADRY: Begin using as recommended on bottle 1-2 weeks before the day of your competition.
Training Plan – First Bodybuilding Show
Yes, there are some genetically gifted people out there that have such naturally high metabolisms that they do not even need to utilize cardio as a fat burning tool leading up to a competition. However, for the rest of us “normal” individuals, cardio is a necessary evil for getting into top shape. That said there should never be a need for excessive amounts, which will only serve to burn off the lean muscle you worked so hard to build! Like I mentioned earlier, the key to a truly successful, easy (or well, easier) and efficient contest prep is making sure you never let yourself get too far “out of shape,” and to allow yourself a reasonable amount of time to prepare for a show. I like to start competitors off with a base amount of cardio at the beginning of prep and then progressively increase the amount just a bit each week. The best time to do you cardio is first thing in the morning before eating meal 1 (aka “fasted cardio”). If this is not possible, then get cardio done right after your weight training workout. Here is a sample progression for 12 weeks:
- 12 Weeks Out: 30 minutes on non-workout days.
- 11 Weeks Out: 30 minutes on non-workout days and 15 minutes on workout days
- 10 Weeks Out: 35 minutes on non-workout days and 15 minutes on workout days
- 9 Weeks Out: 35 minutes on non-workout days and 20 minutes on workout days
- 8 Week Out: 40 minutes on non-workout days and 20 minutes on workout days
- 7 Weeks Out: 40 minutes on non-workout days and 25 minutes on workout days
- 6 Weeks Out: 45 minutes on non-workout days and 25 minutes on workout days
- 5 Weeks Out: 45 minutes on non-workout days and 30 minutes on workout days
- 4 Weeks Out: 50 minutes on non-workout days and 30 minutes on workout days
- 3 Weeks Out: 55 minutes on non-workout days and 30 minutes on workout days
- 2 Weeks Out: 60 minutes on non-workout days and 30 minutes on workout days
- 1 Week Out: 30 minutes per day.
The goal when preparing for an initial contest is to keep every ounce of muscle you worked so hard to accrue during all of the time that led up to your first prep. In order to accomplish this, you must continue to train intensely, but also vary your methods so that you are stimulating every pathway responsible for hypertrophy. A training protocol, that I pioneered almost twenty years ago, has to this day helped thousands of competitors prepare for competitions – both men and women. It is known as “Hybrid-PRRS”™ and while I cannot go in to detail in this article about the specifics of evolution of this program, and why it is so effective, I have provided for you actual sample workouts that can be used throughout your contest preparation. I should mention that you could change the exercises from the ones I list below when necessary, but make sure to stick to the rep range, rep tempos, rest periods and basic structure.
|SEATED CHEST MACHINE||3||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12, 1 X 7-9||3/0/1|
|SUPERSET: FLAT DB FLYE/DB PULLOVER||3||7-9/MAX REPS||3/1/1 AND 2/0/1|
|UNDERHAND GRIP SEATED CABLE ROW||3||4-6||3/2/1/1|
|WG BENT ROW||3||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12, 1 X 7-9||2/1/1|
|SUPERSET: CG PULLDOWN/STIFF ARM PULLDOWN||3||7-9/10-12||2/1/1/1 ON EACH|
|SUPERSET: CG BB UPRIGHT ROW/STANDING HIGH ROPE PULLS||3||10-12 EACH||2/1/1 AND 2/0/1/1|
|SEATED DB SIDE LATERAL||3||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12, 1 X 7-9||2/1/1/1|
|LYING LEG CURL||3||4-6||5/0/X/1|
|ADDUCTION MACHINE||3||1 X 16-20, 1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12||3/1/1/2|
|SUPERSET: SEATED LEG CURL/DB STIFF LEG DEADLIFT||3||7-9 EACH||3/0/1/1 AND 2/1/1|
|HACK OR MACHINE SQUATS||3||4-6||5/1/1|
|LEG PRESS||3||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12, 1 X 7-9||3/0/1|
|SUPERSET: LEG EXTENSIONS/ALTERNATING REAR DB LUNGE||3||7-9/7-9 PER LEG||3/0/1/1 AND 2/0/1|
|CALF PRESS||3||1 X 10-12, 1 X 7-9, 1 X 4-6||3/1/1|
|REST PAUSE: SEATED CALF||1||13-15, REST 10 SECS-MAX REPS, REST 20 SECS-MAX REPS||2/0/1/1|
|STRAIGHT BAR LOW CABLE CURL||2||4-6||5/1/1/1|
|REVERSE BB CURL||2||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12||3/0/1|
|SUPERSET: PREACHER CURL/ALTERNATING HAMMER CURL||2||7-9 EACH||2/1/1/1 ON EACH|
|WEIGTHED OR MACHINE DIPS||3||4-6||5/0/X|
|SUPERSET: BENT OVERHEAD CABLE ROPE EXT/LYING BB EXT||2||7-9 EACH||3/1/1/1 AND 3/0/1|
|SINGLE ARM REVERSE GRIP PUSHDOWN||2||1 X 13-15, 1 X 10-12||2/0/1/1|
The last little bit of wisdom I wish to impart upon you is to remember that this is your first show and that winning is not the most important part. First or last, it is the experience and the journey that should be most treasured. As long as you did your very best, remained dedicated and created your “best self,” then you are a victor!