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Shredding for the Arnold Classic

Team ALLMAX Prepares for the AC

Like its ever-evolving and super-successful Austrian namesake, the annual Arnold Classic fitness extravaganza continues to reinvent itself, year-after-year, bringing, regardless of location, a fresh and exciting level of intense sporting competition unrivalled anywhere else in the world. This year’s event will certainly be no exception. In fact, judging by its current field of events and inclusion of world-class athletes from every imaginable code, the 2020 Arnold could very well be the best version yet.

And like the man who conceptualized the event back in the late-80s, this year’s rendition will again feature front and center its marquee attractions, where world-class muscle and strength will be demonstrated to career-defining and jaw-dropping effect. Of these, the pro men’s bodybuilding showdown – the one event many most commonly associate with the Arnold – will once again take its rightful place as the main draw.

From its relatively humble beginnings as a two-event showdown (men’s and women’s bodybuilding), the Arnold Classic has morphed into an international sporting juggernaut replete with every conceivable form of athletic competition known to man, along with some of the biggest associated prize money (and additional prizes) on offer today (with the winner of the pro men’s bodybuilding event alone standing to receive a $130,000 check, a Hummer vehicle, and an Audemars Piguet watch).

Evolution of a Giant

The inaugural Arnold, held in in 1989, saw the perennially shredded Rich Gaspari win the men’s open bodybuilding division, while top-tier female contender Jackie Paisley trumped the women’s category – so, one show and two big winners. Now, thousands upon thousands of competitors in sports as diverse as strongman, boxing, MMA, dance, swimming, soccer, and table tennis travel from all parts of the world to vie for supremacy, and bragging rights, in their chosen pursuit.

Today, what is colloquially referred to as the ‘Arnold’, having by necessity been more broadly baptized the Arnold Sports Festival, holds individual festivals in the USA, Australia, South America and Europe. Each of these also features the biggest fitness expo to be found anywhere in the world.

Muscle and Strength: The Common Denominator

The common denominator in most, if not all, of its many forms of competition is weight training for the purpose of variously improving athleticism, physical appearance, and, indeed, one’s capacity to lift huge objects (evidenced by the 300-plus-pound titans that routinely contest the Strongman event).

Which brings us back to the Arnold’s bodybuilding and associated muscle-dominated events. Of particular interest this year, as it has been in previous years, will be the pro men’s bodybuilding (Arnold Classic) class along with the Bikini International Pro lineup, with both divisions presenting some of the toughest battles in all of muscle-centric competition today, regardless of event.

On March 7 and from March 20-22, at the US and Australian Arnolds respectively, the international fitness community will bear witness to some of the most intriguing line-ups in each of these hotly contested divisions. Featured among these increasingly-more competitive fields will be three notable Team ALLMAX athletes: top pro men’s contender Steve Kuclo (US and Australia Arnolds); bikini standout Jennifer Ronzitti (US Arnold); and emerging pro threat Josh Wade (Australia Arnold). As one would expect, each will be seeking to greatly elevate their pro standing by being crowned champion of their respective division.

Shredding for Success

A big part of physical presentation – whether it be for bodybuilding, bikini, fitness or figure – remains conditioning: namely, the level of muscular definition a competitor presents come showtime, a product of ultra-low bodyfat levels combined with paper-thin skin and extreme muscularity.

For this year’s exclusive ALLMAX Arnold feature I will detail the shredding strategies ALLMAX standouts’ Steve Kuclo, Jennifer Ronzitti and Josh Wade have used to get their respective bodyfat percentages into the low single-digits in order to highlight the impressive muscularity each has built over many years of dedicated effort.

What follows is a framework for international pro-level bodybuilding success. In it you’ll discover how our three top pros, all gunning for Arnold Classic glory, address a range of shredding factors (many of them frequently overlooked by otherwise well-intentioned athletes), to peel off the pounds to reveal some of the most impressive muscle ever to grace an IFBB pro stage.

Getting Shredded for the Arnold – How TEAM ALLMAX do it

Though very much an individual endeavor, the art of shredding for competition is also largely a process of trial and error from which has emerged a large number of tried and tested principles that have been shown to work for almost all who incorporate them.

Today’s newbie bodybuilders are blessed with the collective experienced of thousands of pro bodybuilding champions, each of whom has learned the hard way which shredding protocols are best and which are to be avoided.

Each of the three champions below have spent many years accumulating information on how best to achieve the freaky-shredded appearance that wins shows. Their insights have enabled them to reach the pinnacle of their divisions, to be among the very best in the world in what is arguably the toughest sport on the planet.

Whether eliminating water from beneath the skin, getting bodyfat to single digits without sacrificing muscle, supplementing for supreme conditioning, or incorporating cardio for faster and more effective fat removal, the answers to your shredding questions are likely to be found below. With the US Arnold just two weeks away (at the time of compiling this article), what better time to question some of this event’s more seasoned and (literally and figuratively) hungry pros about how to achieve world-class conditioning.

Q: Describe your training and nutrition game plans going into this year’s Arnold.
Steve Kuclo

Coming off the Olympia, placing top six, was the momentum I wanted going into this year’s Arnold. Not really having a lot of downtime between shows doesn’t necessarily allow a lot of time for big changes, so my game plan was to focus on staying in good condition between shows and going into this one focusing more on the conditioning side and really getting ahead of schedule. I believe we have been following this so far. Ultimately, I wanted to be ready two weeks out, which will be this Saturday (22.2.20). I feel we are really bringing a complete package and really pushing hard on the condition side.

Jennifer Ronzitti

Right now, I am training and doing cardio six days a week, with my rest days typically falling on a Saturday. I train legs two times a week, shoulders two times a week, back once a week, arms once a week, and abs daily. Cardio is a mix of HIIT and steady state cardio, ranging between 30-45 minutes per day. With cardio I normally do HIIT fasted and steady state post-workout. On the days I have more cardio, I split it into two sessions.

Josh Wade

I’m usually the most conditioned athlete onstage but this year I wanted to go for a freaky-crazy shredded physique and I’m way ahead of where I’ve been in the past at this point, so I know I’ll attain the look I’m going for.

Training is always super consistent, balls to the wall, as intense as possible, focusing on feeling the muscle contractions and controlling the eccentric portion of every exercise. There are never any reps left in the tank. I don’t leave the exercise until there’s nothing left, then do the same thing with the next exercise.

As far as nutrition goes, it’s the same as always: keeping carbs like CARBION+ around my workouts so my workouts are strong and powerful, but reducing carbs elsewhere to make sure I come in uber-shredded.

Q: At this stage of your career, you’ve shown you have adequate muscle to challenge for the top placements. So, what besides muscle mass do you think will give you a competitive edge come contest day?
Steve Kuclo

I would agree with you. I think my muscle mass can hang with any of the guys, including Big Ramy. I think what separates me is that structurally I am a very symmetrical bodybuilder; not having anything that overpowers anything else to where everything flows really well.

I think having the structure with the mass gives a dominant presence onstage, and I think that is what is going to separate me going in to this year’s Arnold. I think it’s going to be a bigger body show. Not just big names, but bigger physiques. Ramy, Josh, Akim and all the others. There will be many who are 270lbs plus, minus a few of the smaller guys. But it’s going to be a big boy’s show for sure.

Jennifer Ronzitti

At this stage of the game, all competitors hitting the Arnold stage are literally the best in the world. It all comes down to fine details like symmetry, posing, hair, suit, and overall stage presence. It’s making sure those details are of the utmost importance. Posing is huge for presenting your physique as best as possible onstage, so I practice posing daily.

Josh Wade

Condition is the one thing I can control and have been known for so I’m trying to take that a step further, to blow people away. Besides that, I’ve really worked on my midsection by doing daily vacuums. This has made my waist much tighter and has therefore changed my shape in a much more aesthetic way.

Q: What improvements can we expect to see from you since your last competition outing?
Steve Kuclo

The things I really tried to improve most on was chest and back detail; really focusing on my upper chest and lats, by incorporating some new movements [check out Steve’s Instagram account to see him perform several his unique movement variations]. I feel I have brought in more detail and made some stuff pop.

Jennifer Ronzitti

Since the 2019 Olympia, I have worked on building more density in my glutes, as well as bringing up my shoulders and lats to balance out the bottom half and give my waist a smaller appearance.

Josh Wade

I’ve brought in my waist so my V-taper is much better and my physique flows much better.

Q: What have you found to be the most effective way to achieve the extreme definition needed to highlight the muscle mass you’ve spent many years building?
Steve Kuclo

I’m gonna say nutrition is really number one; learning what works best for my body, as far as how much protein and carbs I need to really peel off the body fat. As well as the amount of fat I need. I’ve always been a fairly low-fat dieter, even in the off season. This year I’ve incorporated more dietary fats and have been really happy how my body has responded.

I think you always have to listen to your body, to how it’s doing and changing, especially when you have more muscle. Here, your metabolism is always adjusting so you have to really observe how certain foods affect you. Training has also been a big part of that. Really switching things up every few weeks to keep your body guessing. The combo of those two has changed my physique for the better.

Jennifer Ronzitti

When it comes to highlighting your conditioning onstage, I believe what you put into your body has a huge impact. You want to be sure you are consuming whole nutritious foods as well as making sure you can trust the supplements you are taking.

That’s why I love ALLMAX. Their ingredient labels are always 100% transparent and third party tested. I have been using ALLMAX products for over seven years now and have had nothing but amazing results with everything I’ve used – both on and off season.

Josh Wade

Like most others I do fasted cardio to take advantage of my blood glucose levels being at their lowest, at this stage of the day. This really shrinks my fat cells the fastest.

Q: We all know about the undisputed importance of quality supplementation. What has been your supplement stack leading into this year’s Arnold?
Steve Kuclo
  • I keep it fairly simple, as I am always busy running businesses and traveling and so on.
  • My number one go-to supplement is ISOFLEX. I take two scoops after every workout.
  • I’m also a huge fan of CASEIN FX. I use this every night, just before bed. And if I pass out and wake again at 2.00am I’ll hammer one of those.
  • Pre-Workout: I’m not too much of a stimulant guy, but lately, as the diet has been getting a bit rougher, I’ve incorporated a little more stim this year. I’m a huge fan of the IMPACT PUMP, but this year I’ve also added a half scoop of IMPACT IGNITER to give me 150-200mgs of caffeine, just enough to push me through those hard workouts as we near the end of prep.
  • Basics: I’ll also use VITASTACK and L-CARNITINE (in the morning)
Jennifer Ronzitti
  • With Breakfast: VitaForm (For Her) and ALLFLEX joint support
  • With Every Meal: ALLMAX Digestive Enzymes and R-ALA
  • With Fasted Cardio: AMINOCORE (Sweet Tea) and Liquid L-Carnitine
  • Pre-Workout: IMPACT IGNITER and IMPACT PUMP, Glutamine, and L-Leucine
  • Intra-Workout: AMINOCORE Naturals (Cran-Apple)
  • Post-Workout: ISOFLEX (Birthday Cake or Peanut Butter Choc)
  • Before Bed: ZMX and Omega 3
Josh Wade

My supplement stack rarely changes, except for the addition of RAPIDCUTS SHREDDED eight weeks out from competition.

Upon rising (pre-cardio):

  • 1 scoop A-CUTS (Pina Colada)
  • 1 scoop Cytogreens (Açaí Berry)
  • 10g glutamine
  • 3.2g beta-alanine

With meal 1:

  • 1 VITASTACK pack
  • 2g Omega 3
  • 2 ALLFLEX capsules
  • 1 serving of yohimbine
  • 1 serving of RAPIDCUTS SHREDDED

Pre-Workout:

  • 1/2 scoop (25g carbs) of CARBION+
  • 1 scoop of IMPACT IGNITER (Pineapple-Mango)

Intra-Workout:

  • 2 scoops (100g carbs) CARBION+
  • 2 scoops AMINOCORE (Pineapple-Mango)
  • 1 scoop IMPACT PUMP (Pineapple-Mango)
  • 10g Glutamine
  • 5g Creatine

Post-Workout:

  • 10g Glutamine
  • 1 scoop of ISOFLEX (PB-Choc)
  • 1 scoop of ISOFLEX (Cookies and Cream)

Bedtime Shake:

  • 1 scoop HEXAPRO (Cookies and Cream)
  • 1 scoop ISOFLEX (PB-Choc)

With Every Meal

  • 2 ALLMAX Digestive Enzymes
Q: What have you found to be the best fat loss supplement? What specific benefits has it given you?
Steve Kuclo

That’s a great question. I don’t like using a lot of stims, as I think these will affect my sleep, and I’m real sensitive to them. It’s a double-edged sword. In saying this I do think that IMPACT IGNITER is a great pre-workout and fat loss supplement because it really increases thermogenesis in the body, you sweat a lot more and have more energy to push through your workout. I’m also a big fan of L-CARNITINE. I think if you take 2-3g before cardio, it really heats you up and gets you sweating.

Jennifer Ronzitti

RAPIDCUTS SHREDDED has been my go-to for over three years. It’s such a clean-burning fat burner. It gives me enough energy throughout the day without any crashing or jitters. I usually start taking it eight weeks out from a competition.

Josh Wade

RAPIDCUTS SHREDDED is loaded with everything you need for fat loss, especially the capsaicin, which I feel is vital, as well as yohimbine, which increases heat production and keeps me full of energy even when reducing carbs and calories.

Q: What specific cardio approach works best for you to ensure you retain the maximum amount of muscle while gradually getting bodyfat into the low single digits?
Steve Kuclo

This has been something that has been a changing and evolving monster through my years of training and dieting prep. In my early days I’ve done as much as two hours of cardio a day. I’ve recently backed that down and done more quality over quantity, meaning more high intensity cardio, where I will push myself for a good 25-30 minutes in the morning, fasted. Then, deeper into my prep, I’ll do 15-20 minutes post-workout. I feel the combo of those two really keeps the metabolism cranking throughout the day for maximum bodyfat loss. As far as type, I love the stairs and, more recently, have been doing the spin bike. It’s a lot easier on my joints. So, I do high intensity intervals on the spin bike and it really helps get that bodyfat down.

Jennifer Ronzitti

I love HIIT. It allows me to maximize my time when performing cardio, while also sparing muscle. I am also able to burn substantially more calories versus doing just steady state. It’s how I’ve been able to keep my cardio low throughout each of my preps.

Josh Wade

I like to do fasted steady-state medium-intensity cardio, five days a week, for 45-50 minutes, keeping my Heart Rate at 140+ BPM [Beats Per Minute]. I also take a scoop of A-CUTS before cardio to preserve muscle tissue as it has all the essential amino acids to make sure I don’t go catabolic at this time.

Q: How will you address water retention during the final week before this year’s Arnold?
Steve Kuclo

I’m not one to retain a lot of water, so the biggest thing for me is to keep stress levels low while allowing my body to heal and rest going into the last week. Here I start pulling back a little on the training so I’m not pushing too hard and creating too much inflammation and muscle damage. My last training sessions will be the Tuesday or Wednesday before the show. In the last couple of days, I’ll just really rest and pose.

There is also water manipulation that happens at the end; just tapering water down. And food. Food plays a big role for me in that if I have enough muscle glycogen it creates a tighter effect in my skin, which creates a hard, denser look with less water retention subcutaneously.

Jennifer Ronzitti

Making sure you take the correct diuretic definitely is key to keeping water retention to a minimum. You want to make sure you don’t have water creating a film over your muscles. The last 14 days leading into the Arnold, I always take ALLMAX HydraDry.

It’s perfect to take before a competition as it has a three-phase water depletion system that helps eliminate excess water from beneath the skin. HydraDry isn’t harsh on the system or the body, which is a huge plus for me.

Josh Wade

I have a dry body type so I don’t really hold water. My theory is to keep water intake consistent at six liters daily until the day before a show. Then I usually only reduce my water by one liter, down to five liters, and that’s enough for me to finish out the drying out process.

Q: What additional factors do you consider to have been important for consistent fat loss/improved definition in the lead up to this year’s Arnold?
Steve Kuclo

For me, I like to stay busy and active, and that means keeping my mind off stressing about dieting and prep. Just doing what I have to do; making sure I get my trainings in and that my diet is consistent. So, keeping stress down and sleep. Sleep is a big factor. I’ve gotten into a really good sleep pattern after many years of being in the fire department, where I would often not sleep for 24 hours at a time. This obviously has a negative impact on cortisol levels. My sleep is great and this has been good as I feel a little more human through my prep.

I’m not one to retain a lot of water, so the biggest thing for me is to keep stress levels low while allowing my body to heal and rest going into the last week. Here I start pulling back a little on the training so I’m not pushing too hard and creating too much inflammation and muscle damage. My last training sessions will be the Tuesday or Wednesday before the show. In the last couple of days, I’ll just really rest and pose.

There is also water manipulation that happens at the end; just tapering water down. And food. Food plays a big role for me in that if I have enough muscle glycogen it creates a tighter effect in my skin, which creates a hard, denser look with less water retention subcutaneously.

Jennifer Ronzitti

Mindset is huge. You can do all the right things when it comes to diet and training/cardio, but if your mindset isn’t right, the body will fight what you are trying to achieve. Stress and cortisol levels can definitely affect how your body leans out. Keeping both to a minimum is always the goal.

I also try to stay in a positive mindset and focus on me and my prep alone. I find it important not to worry about the other competitors and their progress. Prep is such an individual process and everyone leans out and peaks differently. It’s being super-intentional about what you choose to look at, especially when you’re scrolling through social media.

Lastly, having a great support system is super-helpful. I’m very fortunate that everyone in my life understands my passion for bodybuilding and is nothing short of amazing when I’m in prep. My parents try to come to as many of my shows as they can. It’s such a great feeling when you can hear your mom screaming your name over everyone in the crowd.

Josh Wade

Staying in good off-season shape has been the biggest difference in getting my waist down, which, like I said, has completely changed my shape.

Q: How do you plan to peak for your 2020 Arnold outing and, if necessary, when competing in closely spaced events? Do you have any specific peaking methods that allow you to show up in great condition for multiple events within a short space of time?
Steve Kuclo

How I typically do it [peak] is to have at least two weeks between shows. After the first show you really have to ease back on your diet for a week to let your body reregulate its water and glycogen levels.

Then you can go back into the next prep, with two weeks in between [assuming the shows are three weeks apart]. I allow myself the night of the show and the day after to kind of relax a bit, not worry about training, have a meal or two to enjoy.

Then, get back on my diet and training the Monday following the show. This helps with the continuation of the shredding process within a short amount of time. I’ve done this these past two-years, with the [US] Arnold going into the Indy Pro, which are three weeks apart.

That really paid in my favor, with the conditioning and getting right back to the training, and by maintaining good energy and focus.

Jennifer Ronzitti

Nothing much changes for me during peak week. We go off how I look day the day leading into the show and may adjust carbs as needed to keep my muscles looking full and tight.

We don’t ever cut water off. We stop all cardio/training by Thursday to allow inflammation to come down. Lastly, keeping stress low is key to letting the body do its thing and show up in the best way possible.

Josh Wade

The key for me is to get all the fat off, then slowly fill up to achieve my best look without trying to pull any rabbits out of the hat, which is a hit or miss concept that most people mess up on. So, I’d rather be ready. That way, no “tricks” are required!

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