Advanced Programs for Bodybuilding


Body Building Competition

At the advanced stage of bodybuilding, you should already possess a solid foundation of structural strength, a thorough understanding of the various major muscle groups and how they can be manipulated through different exercises, and a developed ability to listen to your body and measure its progress as your bodybuilding program continues.

You'll also need a complete understanding of why it's so important to continually cycle new exercises into your strength training routine, which will allow you to maintain total muscular symmetry while creating gains in muscular strength, definition, density and mass.

In fact, one of the main responsibilities of the advanced bodybuilder is to ensure that these four aforementioned factors progress at approximately the same rate.

For example, the bodybuilder who focuses exclusively on bulk and strength at the expense of definition, toning and sculpting will be sorely disappointed when the time comes for an actual bodybuilding competition. In order to achieve equal progress among these factors, you'll need to employ strategies that go well beyond the common bodybuilding advice of "work hard and eat plenty of protein."

As you can already tell, the primary purpose of the advanced bodybuilding program is to prepare you to compete in a bodybuilding contest. This is a highly complex process that will have you making some seemingly unintuitive decisions, particularly in the weeks immediately prior to the competition itself.

Keep in mind that all of the advice included in this article is based on the most recent scientific research regarding strength training, nutrition, and ultimately bodybuilding. However, also remember that your body is unique, and any given piece of bodybuilding advice will work better for some individuals than others.

The Major Muscle Groups of the Human Body


As an advanced bodybuilder, you should already possess a firm understanding of the various major muscle groups belonging to the human body. These muscle groups work in various combinations in order to produce all movements.

In the context of a strength training exercise, the muscle group responsible for doing the bulk of the work is known as the primary muscle group, while the muscle groups that support the movement involved in the exercise are known as the secondary muscle groups. In the decline barbell bench press exercise, for example, the pectoral muscles are considered the primary muscle group while the deltoids and triceps are considered the secondary muscle groups.

A description of each major muscle group of the human body is provided below:

    major muscle groups
  • Abdominals: The muscles that make up the front of your mid-section.

  • Biceps: The muscles located on the front of your arm between your shoulder and elbow.

  • Calves: The muscles that make up the lower portion of the back of your leg below your knee.

  • Deltoids: The muscles that make up a large portion of the curve of your shoulder.

  • Forearms: The muscles located on the lower arm between the elbow and wrist.

  • Gluteals: The muscles of your posterior.

  • Hamstrings: The muscles located on the back of your leg between your gluteals and knee.

  • Latissimus Dorsi: The muscles located on the sides of your upper back under the arm pit.

  • Pectorals: The muscles of your chest.

  • Obliques: The muscles on the sides of your mid-section.

  • Quadriceps: The muscles located on the front of your leg between your hip and knee.

  • Trapezius: The muscles located on the sides of your neck.

  • Triceps: The muscles located on the back of your arm between your shoulder and elbow.

Nutritional Requirements for Advanced Bodybuilding


As you progress from the intermediate to the advanced stages of bodybuilding, you'll need to consume even more calories than you did previously. This holds especially true on physical trainings days, when your body will require more calories to both fuel your workouts and recovery the energy lost after the workout.

By eating plenty of calories before your workout, you'll have the energy necessary to perform the exercises with intensity and thoroughly fatigue your muscle tissue. By consuming calories after your workout, you'll replenish your energy supplies and prevent your body from utilizing muscle tissue as a source of energy.

Some calories are much more valuable than others, however, and this is why bodybuilders (especially those at the advanced level) must pay careful attention to the ratios of protein, carbs and fat they consume. Doing so will maximize the effectiveness of your workouts, minimize your post-workout recovery times, and leave you feeling motivated to perform at the highest possible level of intensity.

Pre-Workout Bodybuilding Meal

Novice bodybuilders often make the mistake of assuming that they can eat anything immediately prior to a strength training workout. In reality, it's important to eat a snack or meal with a low glycemic index before a weight training session. Yogurt, peaches, apples, whole wheat pasta and other low-glycemic foods are ideal as a pre-workout meal because they convert to sugar (glucose) very slowly. This gives your body sustained energy, allowing you to perform your workout with intensity and realize the largest possible gains in muscular mass, strength and density, all while burning fat to increase muscular definition and toning.

If you were to eat a food with a high glycemic index instead, your blood sugar levels would temporarily spike, and you'd burn through the available energy long before your workout is complete. This will also prevent fat burning, reducing your workout's ability to enhance muscular tone and definition.

Post-Workout Bodybuilding Meal

Immediately after a strength training workout, the opposite holds true, and it's actually preferably to consume a snack or meal with a high glycemic index. This is because following an intense workout, your energy stores will be completely depleted. The solution, then, is to restore these energy reserves as quickly as possible, preventing your body from using muscle tissue as an energy source. Since high-glycemic foods convert to sugar very quickly, they restore your body's energy supplies very quickly as well. Examples of high-glycemic foods include bagels, macaroni and cheese, baked potatoes, white rice and pretzels.

It's also of crucial importance that you include plenty of protein in your post-workout meal. According to a 1995 study conducted by McMaster University, protein synthesis double in the immediate aftermath of a workout. As such, your body will literally "crave" protein when you finish an intense strength training workout, which creates tiny rips and tears in your muscle tissue. Your body requires protein in order to rebuild this muscle tissue stronger, denser and larger than it was before. In the absence of protein, your body will lack the building blocks necessary to complete this process.

Daily Protein Requirements

As an advanced bodybuilder, you should strive to consume between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of protein for each pound of body weight daily. Whether your requirements fall on the upper or lower end of this range will depend on your activity level, metabolism and current level of lean muscle mass. If you've truly reached the advanced stages of bodybuilding, you can expect your protein requirements to fall closer to 1.2 grams per pound of body weight. For example, a 200-pound advanced bodybuilder would need to consume close to 240 grams of protein per day, particularly on strength training days.

The Importance of Intensity and Effort in Advanced Bodybuilding


All advanced strength trainers should have a firm understanding of why maximum effort and intensity are so crucial to making continuous bodybuilding progress. If you're not yet aware of this, chances are good that you're not yet ready to graduate to the advanced bodybuilding program.

There are three primary factors that dictate the intensity of a strength training workout, as well as the level of effort that you'll need to put in in order to complete it:

    Body Building Workout Intensity
  1. The total number of sets that you perform for each primary muscle group

  2. The number of repetitions that you perform for each set

  3. The amount of weight that you use when performing each set

Other factors that influence the intensity of a strength training workout include:

Finally, the overall intensity of your workout will depend on the actual level of effort you put forth. If you perform the exercises lethargically or with the improper form, you won't realize the full extent of the benefits the routine is designed to provide. In other words, your muscles won't experience the desired gains in mass, density, strength and definition.

Exercising to Failure

One of the most often debated issues among advanced bodybuilders is whether it's necessary to exercise to failure in order to realize the largest possible gains in muscular mass, strength and density. Exercising to failure is defined as performing an exercise to the point at which it becomes physically impossible to perform another unassisted repetition of that exercise.

In a recent study by McMaster University (the same university that discovered post-workout protein synthesis doubling in 1995), researchers found that two methods of strength training - low rep/high weight and high rep/low weight - resulted in nearly identical gains in muscle mass, strength and density, given that all of the exercisers included in the study trained to failure. The researchers therefore asserted that the key to continual muscle growth is exercising to failure, regardless of how you arrive at this point.

Still, other bodybuilders remain convinced that exercising to failure is unnecessary. They cite examples of individuals in manual labor professions who achieve extensive amounts of muscular mass and strength despite never intentionally exercising to failure. It's easy to imagine the example of a strong, muscular carpenter who never swings his hammer until he's physically incapable of driving another nail.

In reality, the most likely scenario is that exercising to failure is a wise idea some of the time, but unnecessary to apply to 100% of the exercises you perform. For example, exercising a certain muscle group to failure would be a great idea if your immediate goal is to break through a strength plateau for that particular muscle group, such as if it's lagging behind your other muscle groups in size, strength or density. On the other hand, working the same muscle group to failure over and over with each strength training session could result in overtraining, severe fatigue or even an injury in the joints, ligaments or muscles themselves.

The Role of a Spotter in Advanced Bodybuilding


As an advanced bodybuilder, it's very likely that you've already utilized the assistance of a spotter at multiple points in your strength training career. A spotter is an individual who will assist you in performing exercises beyond the point of failure and prevent you from injuring yourself during all exercises. In fact, the latter goal is the spotter's primary responsibility because incurring an injury could spell a premature interruption or even end to your bodybuilding career.

In order to protect you from injury, your spotter will stand, sit, lean or otherwise position himself adjacent to you as you're performing a strength training exercise. In the event that you reach failure prematurely, or in case of an accident such as a dumbbell falling out of its expected range of motion, your spotter will be there to grab the weight and help you complete the exercise as intended.

The other primary job of a spotter is to help you in performing exercises beyond failure. In order to perform his or her job correctly, your spotter must provide only as much assistance as is needed - no more, and no less. If the spotter provides too much assistance, it will defeat the purpose of the extra reps. If the spotter provides too little assistance, you could drop the weight and injure yourself.

Performing Forced Reps with a Spotter's Assistance

Perhaps the most common post-failure strength training technique that requires the assistance of a spotter is the forced repetition, or forced rep. In order to preform a forced rep, you'll need to perform an exercise to the point of failure. At this point, your spotter will assist you in performing at least one additional repetition by helping you lift the weight. If the spotter is providing the correct level of assistance, you should be able to perform approximately 2 to 4 forced reps beyond the point of failure. This number may vary depending on the type of exercise and the amount of weight you're lifting.

Performing Negatives with a Spotter's Assistance

In a forced rep, the emphasis is on the positive portion of the exercise, or the portion in which you're lifting weight against gravity. In a negative, or negative rep, the emphasis is placed on the negative portion of the exercise, or the portion of the rep in which you're lowering the weight with gravity.

In order to perform a negative rep, you'll first need to reach the point of failure for the given exercise. Next, your spotter will assist you in lifting through the positive portion of the rep. However, your spotter will allow you to perform the negative portion of the rep by yourself. The negative portion of the rep should be performed slowly over the course of several seconds. Repeat this process until you perform approximately three negative reps.

As with forced reps, negatives work best in sets that include large amounts of weight and relatively few reps, such as less than 10 repetitions. This will ensure that the beyond-failure repetitions are difficult enough to stimulate growth in muscular size, strength and density.

Achieving Total Muscular Symmetry


Muscular Symmetry

As an advanced bodybuilder, one of your primary goals will be achieving bodily symmetry. There are four types of symmetry with which you should be concerned:

Lower and Upper Body Symmetry

The typical example of a bodybuilder with poor body symmetry is an individual with an over-developed upper body and and under-developed lower body.

In reality, this phenomena is more often due to the nature of how humans are naturally built as opposed to misallocated efforts on the part of the bodybuilder.

The lower body is naturally worked more frequently and more intensely than the upper body just through activities such as walking and standing. As such, it can take higher levels of exercise intensity in order to stimulate the muscles of the lower body to grow in size, strength and density.

The solution is to not only work the lower body muscles with progressively increasing levels of weight, but with a wide variety of exercises that target the lower body muscles in various ways and from multiple angles as well. Doing so will establish muscle confusion, requiring your body to rise to any challenge you may throw at it. The goal is to create a visual balance between the upper and lower portions of the body, a criteria taken into consideration in all judged bodybuilding competitions.

Left and Right Symmetry

As an advanced bodybuilder, you should have already achieved nearly perfect symmetry between the left and right sides of your body. This is a challenge most often faced by beginning strength trainers, whose dominant sides (i.e. the side of their body corresponding to their dominant hand) are often stronger than their non-dominant sides simply due to routine daily activities. Once the individual begins strength training in earnest, this lack of symmetry usually resolves itself.

If you suspect that one side of your body is lagging behind the other in terms of strength, mass and density progress, try performing dumbbell exercises such as single arm preacher curls and flat bench dumbbell presses. Unlike barbell exercises, dumbbell exercises require you to lift independent weights with each of your hands. This will force you to develop left-to-right symmetry, since both sides of your body will be required to perform an equal amount of work.

Muscle Group Symmetry

Once you've established basic upper-to-lower and left-to-right symmetry, it's time to focus on achieving symmetry among all the major muscle groups. This means that your latissimus dorsi muscles should develop at approximately the same rate as your deltoids muscles, for example.

The best way to ensure symmetry among all the major muscle groups is to work all of the muscle groups in a cycle before exercising any of the muscle groups again. For example, a bodybuilder with a five-day cycle would exercise every single one of the major muscle groups within a five-day period before beginning the cycle again.

Even with a cyclical bodybuilding routine, it's possible that some of your muscle groups will lag behind the others. In this case, you can target the under-developed muscle groups using strength training techniques designed to bust through strength plateaus, such as pull/pull routines, push/push routines, pyramiding routines and supersetting routines.

Individual Muscle Symmetry

Breaking things down even further, we can see that the finest level of bodybuilding symmetry can be achieved by developing symmetry among the individual muscles of each muscle group. For example, the deltoids muscle group contains three individual muscles: the lateral, posterior and anterior deltoids. Specific exercises have been designed to strategically target each of these three muscles. By working these exercises into your routine in equal measure, you'll ensure that all three of these muscles make equal gains in size, strength and density.

Understanding Your Body's Specific Requirements for Bodybuilding


Despite the glut of generalized advice applying to bodybuilding that you can find both online and in print, the reality is that this advice is only that - generalized. As an advanced bodybuilder, you must understand that you body is unique, and influenced by factors such as genetics, bone structure, past injuries and metabolism - in other words, things over which you have very little control.

As such, it's important to think of bodybuilding as a journey you'll continually modify based on the feedback given to you by your body, including both how it appears and how it feels.

Listening to Your Body to Prevent Injury

Preventing an injury is of crucial importance at all stages of a bodybuilding career, given that an injury can cause anything from a temporary interruption in progress to the end of the bodybuilding career itself.

In order to prevent injury, you must learn to listen to your body while differentiating between "good" and "bad" pain. Good pain is typically defined as aching soreness that occurs in the muscles after a strength training session, and represents the tiny tears and rips in muscle fibers that must be repaired by the body (using protein) in order to create gains in muscular size, strength and density. Bad pain, alternatively, is usually experienced as sharp, acute pain in the joints and bones. It typically occurs during a strength training session as opposed to only after it.

If you're experiencing what you believe to be "bad" pain, it's important to confirm that you're performing the exercise with the proper form. Using the improper form can take some of the work of the exercise away from the muscles (where you want it) and place it on the joints and bones (where you don't want it).

The Role of Cardiovascular Exercise in Bodybuilding

Beginning bodybuilders often ignore the importance of cardiovascular exercise, insisting that any time spent on physical activity is best spent in the weight room and the weight room alone. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth. Cardio is a crucial component of any stage of a bodybuilding program, and this holds even more true at the advanced level.

Cardio is typically thought of as something that strengthens the heart and lungs while reducing body fat, and these are the reasons why it's applied to bodybuilding as well. As a bodybuilder, your efforts to make gains in muscular mass, strength and density can also lead to gains in non-lean body mass. The purpose of cardio is to reduce your level of non-lean body mass while maintaining your levels of lean body mass.

In other words, cardio allows you to "cut through the fat" and more visibly reveal the strong, dense, massive, defined muscles you've worked so hard to achieve. In modern bodybuilding, it's not enough to just be bulky and massive - in addition, you must be cut, toned and sculpted, with muscles that can easily be described as hard and sharp in addition to just large and strong.

Popular forms of cardio for bodybuilding include the following:

  • Elliptical machine

  • Jogging

  • Running

  • Stairclimber machine

  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT, or alternating between high-intensity and low-intensity exercise within a single workout)

  • Rowing

  • Cycling

Additional information about how cardiovascular exercise is specifically applied to the various stages of an advanced bodybuilding program can be found later in this article under the sections entitled "Off-Season Bodybuilding Strategies" and "Preparing for a Bodybuilding Competition."

Nutritional Requirements

In addition to considerations such as what to eat before and after a strength training workout, and how much protein, carbohydrates and fat to include in those meals, bodybuilders must pay careful attention to the overal quality of their nutritional diets. In general, this means avoiding processed and pre-packaged foods in favor of whole, natural foods derived from the earth. Examples of high quality foods for bodybuilding include lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

However, it also means avoiding foods that may interrupt your bodybuilding progress, such as ones that you're allergic to or that interfere with your digestion. In this regard, it's important to listen to your body and monitor your energy, motivation and exercise intensity levels based on the foods you eat. Do you personally find that you strength train with more intensity after eating beans for protein as opposed to red meat? This is the type of question you'll need to ask yourself in order to shape a bodybuilding diet that works optimally for you.

For an extensively detailed examination of nutritional requirements for bodybuilders, please visit our Nutritional Requirements section.

Supplement Requirements

As an advanced bodybuilder, you'll need to possess a detailed and thorough understanding of the various nutritional supplements used in bodybuilding, such as HMB, whey protein, creatine, glutamine, nitric oxide, natural testosterone boosters and multivitamin and mineral supplements. A few of the specific aspects of nutritional supplementation that you must understand include:

  • The specific supplements that can be used to expedite and enhance gains in lean muscle mass, density and strength.

  • How certain supplements can be combined to facilitate specific bodybuilding results.

  • The pros and cons of the various bodybuilding supplements.

  • The importance of choosing supplements produced by safe, reputable manufacturers.

  • The ideal time to take certain supplements in relation to eating, resting and strength training.

  • The appropriate time to discontinue one supplement and begin taking another.

  • The ideal delivery methods of particular supplements, such as pills, powders, puddings, energy bars and more.

  • The potential side effects of certain supplements.

  • When to supplement for a particular nutrient and when to receive it through dietary sources.

All of these considerations and more are explained in detail in our Supplement Requirements and Nutritional Supplements sections.

Continually Challenging the Muscles to Grow

If you're an advanced bodybuilder, you've probably already noticed that some of the exercises that used to provide your body with a significant challenge are no longer very challenging. This is due to the fact that the body is naturally capable of rising to virtually any challenge you throw at it. However, once it rises to the task, it won't improve again until you present it with another new challenge.

This is the reason why successful bodybuilders continually vary their strength training routines as their careers continue. This is about much more than just adding more weight to the exercises you've traditionally performed, which will indeed yield gains in muscular mass, strength and density up to a certain point. The problem with only adding more weight is that you'll still be performing the same exercises and working the same muscles in the exact same ways.

However, by continually rotating new exercises in and out of your routine, you'll keep your body guessing as to what's coming next, forcing it to gain in mass, density and strength in order to compensate. This should be done every three to eight weeks, depending on the monitoring of your progress.

When you add a new exercise to your routine, you may still be targeting the same primary muscle group while targeting a different set of secondary muscle groups, or the muscle groups that support the primary muscle group in performing a given exercise. You might also work different muscles within the same muscle group, or work them from different angles so that they grow in different ways (such as bicep peak and bicep width).

Another reason for varying your routine is that bodybuilding progress relies on gains in muscular definition and toning, not just gains in strength, mass and density. Explosive exercises utilize larger amounts of weight and smaller amounts of repetitions in order to create gains in the latter, while rhythmic exercises utilize smaller amounts of weight and larger amounts of repetitions (along with tighter form) in order to create gains in the former. By working both rhythmic and explosive exercises into your strength training routine, you'll create equal gains in muscular mass, size, density and definition.

Pyramiding

Pyramiding is an exercise technique commonly used to add variety and extra challenge to a strength training routine. In order to perform a pyramid set, you'll need to decrease the number of reps and increase the amount of weight lifted with each subsequent set in a given exercise. This is a great way to target a particular muscle group that's lagging behind in progress and force it break through a strength plateau. Pyramid sets are only recommended for intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.

Supersetting

Supersetting is another strength training technique commonly used to add variety and challenge to a bodybuilding routine. You can create a "super set" by selecting at least two different exercises and performing sets of each in an alternating fashion until all of the sets are complete. The exercises you choose could focus on the same muscle group or multiple muscle groups. Since super sets have the potential to create long, intense sets, and since they're designed to be performed with minimal rest in between sets, they're also intended exclusively for advanced and intermediate bodybuilders.

Rest Requirements for Advanced Bodybuilding

According to studies, the vast majority (95%) of gains in muscle mass, density and strength occur while you sleep. When your body isn't at rest, it's more concerned with other bodily functions, but when it's asleep, it has the resources necessary to rebuild the tiny tears and rips that occur in muscle tissue during strength training. For this reason, it's advisable that all advanced bodybuilders get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. It's important to resist the temptation to sacrifice sleep just to put in more time in the weight room, since doing so would defeat the purpose of weight training in the first place. In short, muscle growth is nearly impossible without ample sleep.

In addition to sleep requirements, bodybuilders must pay attention to the overall amount of time that passes in between strength training sessions. As a general rule, you should avoid working a muscle group if you're still feeling soreness in it from a previous strength training session. This type of "good" pain is a strong indication that your muscles are still working to repair themselves, and training the same muscle group again will be ineffective, not to mention potentially injurious.

In general, bodybuilders should try to allow approximately 24 to 48 hours of rest before working the same muscle group again. Advanced bodybuilders should fall closer to the bottom end of this range, meaning that you could theoretically work the same muscle group on a daily basis. You can expect your rest requirements to decrease to a certain point as your bodybuilding career continues. It's always important to listen to your body, however, to determine when it's appropriate to work the same muscle group again.

Off-Season Bodybuilding Strategies


The bodybuilding off-season is defined as the time of year when bodybuilding competitions are not actively occurring. During this time of year (which indeed makes up a large portion of the year), your goal is to bulk up. However, it would be unwise to seek just any kind of bulk, since training and eating without a proper strategy will yield large gains in fat in addition to the muscle tissue you're seeking to improve in strength, size and density.

Ideal Ratios for Fat, Carbs and Protein

During the bodybuilding off-season, one of your primary goals will be making the largest possible gains in muscular mass, strength and density. In order to facilitate this goal, you'll need to consume certain ratios of protein, carbs and healthy fats. These ratios are listed below:

  • Protein: 30% to 40%
  • Carbohydrates: 40% to 50%
  • Fat: 20% to 30%

As you bulk up in the off-season, your overall body weight will likely exceed the weight you intend to target for a bodybuilding competition. Traditionally, some bodybuilders bulk up to the point of exceeding their competition weight by as much as 60 pounds during the off-season. However, doing so will make it extremely difficult to shed the excess non-lean body mass without losing too much lean muscle mass as competition day approaches. For this reason, it's wise to keep your off-season weight within approximately 10 to 15 pounds of your targeted competition weight.

Strength Training Techniques for the Bodybuilding Off-Season

In the bodybuilding off-season, you'll primarily want to focus on explosive exercises, defined as exercises involving a large amount of weight and a relatively small amount of repetitions. Explosive exercises such as barbell squats and the flat barbell bench press are specifically designed to yield the biggest increasing in muscular mass, strength and density.

As the name implies, explosive exercises are designed to be performed explosively, with the bodybuilder moving the weight quickly through brute force as opposed to finesse. As such, maintaining the perfect form for a given exercise is less important when that exercise is defined as an explosive one as opposed to rhythmic one. Of course, straying too far from the proper form will have you working a different muscle group from the intended one, or even injuring yourself as a result of placing too much stress on the joints and bones instead of the muscles.

The Role of Cardio in the Bodybuilding Off-Season

Cardio is important to the bodybuilding off-season because without it, you'd gain too much non-lean body mass in addition to the gains you realize in muscle density, mass and strength. By working regular cardio into your bodybuilding routine, you'll minimize fat gains while keeping your muscles toned and firm. Depending on your individual characteristics, you should attempt to perform between 30 and 60 minutes of cardio per day during the bodybuilding off-season. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), in which you alternate between exercising intensely and exercising moderately every one to two minutes, is widely considered an ideal form of cardio for bodybuilding.

Preparing for a Bodybuilding Competition


As a bodybuilding competition approaches, the focus of your bodybuilding program will shift. While your goal in the off-season was to bulk up, your new goal is to realize gains in muscular definition. As part of this process, you'll need to reduce your level of body fat, which will allow the judges to more easily see the large, strong, dense muscles you've worked so hard to create during the off-season.

Ideal Ratios for Fat, Carbs and Protein

As a bodybuilding competition approaches, your primary goals will include increasing muscle definition, toning and sculpting. In order to accomplish this, you'll need to reduce the amount of fat in your diet while continuing to supply your body with plenty of protein and complex carbohydrates. This will help you to cut down on non-lean body mass while preserving your muscular size, density and strength. The appropriate ratios for fat, carbs and protein that you should consume in the weeks leading up to a bodybuilding competition are as follows:

  • Protein: 25% to 35%
  • Carbohydrates: 50% to 60%
  • Fat: 15% to 20%

In order to prepare for a bodybuilding competition, you'll also want to reduce your daily caloric consumption. Creating gains in muscle definition and toning requires fewer calories than creating gains in muscle mass and density.

Strength Training Techniques for Competition Preparation

Body Building Competition

As a bodybuilding competition approaches, you'll want to incorporate additional rhythmic exercises into your strength training routine while continuing to perform explosive exercises.

Contrary to explosive exercises, rhythmic exercises involve a high number of reps and a relatively small amount of weight. Rhythmic exercises such as concentration curls and preacher curls are specifically designed to create gains in muscular definition and toning.

In accordance with their name, rhythmic exercises are designed to be performed rhythmically. You'll be moving the weight with finesse as opposed to just brute force, especially toward the beginning of each set. When performing rhythmic exercises, it's important to focus heavily on ensuring the proper form.

This is due to the fact that rhythmic exercises produce smaller, more carefully-calculated changes in the muscles in the form of enhanced definition, sculpting and toning. If you perform rhythmic exercises in an explosive manner, you'll be more likely to create additional gains in muscular bulk, density and strength as opposed to definition. If you perform them with poor form, you may end up working entirely different muscles than the ones you're attempting to target.

In the days and weeks leading up to a competition, it would be unwise to focus on rhythmic exercises exclusively. Instead, you should employ a mix of rhythmic and explosive exercises. This will allow you to create definition and striations in your muscles without making sacrifices in muscular strength, density and mass.

The Role of Cardio When Preparing for a Competition

In the weeks prior to a bodybuilding competition, cardio becomes far more important than it was during the off-season. Your primary goal at this point is to cut into your body fat percentage, which will help to reveal the definition of your muscles to the judges. During this time, it's usually wise to perform between 60 and 120 minutes of cardio per day. Exactly where you fall in this range will depend on the amount of non-lean body mass you accumulated during the bodybuilding off-season. If you maintained an off-season weight that's close to your targeted competition weight, your daily cardio requirements may be somewhat lower.

Peaking for Competition Day


In a bodybuilding competition, your goal is to look as built, buff and cut as possible. In order to reach your "peak" on competition day, you can follow seven simple steps in chronological order. These steps are outlined below.

Step 1: Increase your sodium intake.

Approximately two weeks before competition day, you should increase your sodium intake. This will actually cause your retained water levels to rise temporarily until they adapt after several days of increased salt intake. At this point, your body will be holding the same amount of water as before you increased the amount of sodium you consume. This will make it easier to deplete your water levels later on, when you reduce your sodium intake. As a rule of thumb, aim for between 3,000 and 4,000 mg of sodium per day during this period.

Step 2: Significantly lower your carbohydrate intake.

In the weeks leading up to a competition, you should have already limited your carb intake to approximately 0.5 grams per pound of body weight. However, you'll want to reduce your carb intake even further starting one week before the day you intend to peak. This will immediately increase your body's fat-burning potential since in the absence of carbs, your body will turn to stored fat reserves as a source of fuel.

The other purpose of dropping your carb intake at this point is that you will deplete the stores of glycogen and water in your muscles. When you load up on carbs later in your peaking plan, your muscles will be able to store more glycogen than they did before.

Step 3: Consume creatine hydrochloride.

Since you'll be consuming very few carbs in the week leading up to a competition, you'll need to utilize a different energy source such as creatine. Loading up on creatine allows your muscles to quickly generate ATP, the best source of energy for muscles actively working through a strength training routine.

However, certain forms of creatine (such as creatine monohydrate) are known to cause bloating and reduce the appearance of muscle definition. This is because they cause water to be retained directly under the skin. Fortunately, a form of creatine known as creatine hydrochloride is known to absorb more thoroughly into the muscles. As a result, more water is pulled into the muscles rather than residing just under the skin.

For the average bodybuilder, it's best to take approximately 1 to 2 scoops of creatine hydrochloride before and after each workout (cardio or strength training) in the week prior to a bodybuilding competition.

Step 4: Reduce your sodium intake.

During the final week before the day you desire to peak, it's important to cut as much sodium from your diet as possible. Since you've been consuming high levels of sodium for the past week (in accordance with Step 1), cutting out sodium now will allow you to drain excess water content from your body.

Try to reduce your sodium levels a little more with each passing day. For example, you might limit your sodium intake to 2,000 mg on the 7th day from your bodybuilding competition, and 1,000 mg on the 6th day leading up to it. Limit sodium to 600 mg per day for the next three days, and 500 mg on the two days immediately before the competition.

Step 5: Load up on water.

On the same day you start to reduce your sodium levels, it's important to drink plenty of water. Although it seems contrary to your goal of purging excess water weight, drinking between 1.5 and 2 gallons of water per day will remove all traces of sodium from your body, which in turn will purge your body of excess water. Even though you'll be drinking incredible amounts of water, your body will pass all of it easily since your body's sodium levels are so low.

Step 6: Reduce your water intake.

In the final two days prior to your competition, you must limit your daily water intake. This is necessary because your body will soon adjust to its extreme lack of sodium, and will begin retaining water once again.

On the second day before the competition, reduce your water intake to less than 64 ounces. The day before the competition, reduce your water intake further to less than 20 ounces. During the day of your competition, it's acceptable to drink some water, so long as you ingest small amounts slowly. Guzzling water or simply drinking too much water over the course of your competition day will reduce the apparent definition of your muscles.

Step 7: Load up on carbs.

Starting two days before your competition, you'll want to load up on carbs in order to restore the glycogen levels in your muscles. This will ensure that you look muscular and massive during your competition, while the majority of these steps have been aimed at increasing the visible definition and striations of your muscles.

Since you've been consuming very few carbs for the past five days, your muscle glycogen levels will be very low. This allows them to store more glycogen than they'd normally be able to when you finally restore your body with carbs. After you increase your muscle glycogen levels, your muscles will pull water in, inflating their size and reducing the amount of water present between the muscles and skin. This will increase your apparent muscle mass and your apparent muscle definition simultaneously.

During the two days before your competition, you should aim to consume 3 or 4 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. Try to consume carbohydrate sources that are low in sodium and water content, and don't bother with traditional carbs such as pasta, rice and oatmeal. Instead, look for carbs that absorb little water, such as white baked potatoes, fat-free candy, sweet potatoes and air-popped popcorn.

As you can see, advanced bodybuilding is a complex endeavor that requires equal measures of mental strategizing and physical activity. Simply performing exercises at random and eating when you're hungry will never produce the bodybuilding results you're seeking. Instead, you must take a focused, calculated approach to bodybuilding, remembering that the more you understand about the fundamentals, the easier progress will come.

Some of the most important fundamentals to keep in mind as an advanced bodybuilder include the following:

  • Developing muscular symmetry

  • Female Body Building Competition
  • Listening to your body

  • Monitoring your body's progress

  • Ensuring you receive ample rest

  • Ensuring you receive proper nutrition

  • Working out with intensity

  • Ensuring an appropriate balance between cardiovascular and strength training workouts

  • Using the proper strategies to prepare for a bodybuilding competition

Becoming an advanced bodybuilder will likely rank among the most difficult challenges you'll ever face. However, with the appropriate levels of dedication, motivation, intensity, strategy and hard work, you can make your dream of winning a bodybuilding competition a reality.

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