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Muscle Growth, Bodybuilding, Mind Pump Media

Are You Ready For Your Bodybuilding Competition?

By Joe Talarico on Dec 27, 2017 5:13:00 AM
7 Minutes Reading Time

Are you actually ready to compete or did you just sign up because you think you’re the biggest guy in your gym (hint: you’re not).

Competing has become super trendy over the last 5 years. People see others Instagramming, growing huge followings and so they think “A-ha! The key to success is competing.” It’s not that simple.

Training- Be ready to map out your year. You can’t wing it, or just hop into a show on a random weekend. There’s a lot of variables. While I don’t necessarily like the ideas of “bulking” and “cutting” phases, you HAVE to be making sure your training reflects what you need.

Offseason - you can try newer workouts, maxing out on lifts, capitalizing on overall growth while hitting your lagging body parts. This is the best time to experiment and see what methods work best for you as an individual.

Contest Prep - competitors usually give themselves minimum 12 weeks to prep. Now, some may need more, some less, again this is where you (or your coach) has to honestly assess where you are. Be strategic!

Take cardio for example- it’s a tool. Don’t just throw in 6 days of cardio the first week of prep, when you can achieve the same weight loss just by slightly lowering calories or adding a single short interval session. You’re going to plateau regardless, so why not make the smallest changes possible? Only adjust when necessary.

Strength isn’t the focus during your diet prep. You’re shaping and maintaining as best as you can. Judges don’t care you hit a 500lb squat, they want to see symmetry. Hit lagging body parts and train with relatively the same intensity as in your offseason (as you get deeper into the prep, it won’t be as intense). There’s no “special” rep range. The method that got you that physique is going to be the method that holds that physique. Muscle is calorically expensive to keep around, so if you are not stimulating it with enough intensity your body will not hold onto it.

This isn’t the time to try new workout programs and pack on muscle. One week out, you shouldn’t even be training hard, just enough to get a pump. All the work has been done by that point.

Diet - Guess What, You’re still Not Lean Enough

Understand your body type. Ectomorphs, can handle more calories overall while still losing weight. Endomorphs tend to have to cut more calories to get leaner.

Offseason - Tune into your body. Understand how different foods make you feel and look. Some leave you gassy and bloated, others rejuvenate you. Find out if your body feels more energized off fats or carbs. Reality check. If you are a natural lifter, you only need about .82g/lb of protein. Enhanced competitors promote higher intakes because they’re bodies are being tweaked to absorb it. Yours isn’t.

Get rid of the idea that you need to EAT EVERYTHING offseason. This isn't the time to get fat. A competitor shouldn’t exceed 15% body fat in the offseason. Just got slightly above maintenance.

Contest Prep - Being past 15%, means you have THAT much more fat to lose. You’re contest prep has to be THAT much longer. You’re going to plateau more often, which means lowering calories over a longer time period. Your body is built for survival. It's calorically expensive to hold onto muscle. The longer you are in a deficit, the more hard earned muscle is lost.

Conclusion? Longer diet, more muscle lost. If you stayed 15% or less = shorter diet, more muscle kept.

Your diet, like training, are all tools! If you are trying to lose .5-1.5lbs a week to not risk losing muscle, then find the small changes. If you keep losing one pound each week you don’t need to lower anything then! If you stall, try lowering only 250 calories and see what happens. It’s a process. Work smarter.

One week out is a whole beast in itself. Again it could take up its own article because it is THAT important. Physiques built all year are enhanced or deflated from just this one week. Making sure you load up then cut water at the appropriate time so your body dispels as much out giving you a dry look. The methods are individual. Decide if you are going to start carbing up the night before or the morning of. Figure out which foods fill out your muscles quicker and better vs keeping you flat. The amount is important. Eat too many carbs and you’re soft, eat too little and you’re flat. Have bands and weights backstage to help pump up your muscles. Make sure your tan is dark enough that it shows because the lights on stage are very bright. You can always be darker.


The top performers you see in bodybuilding or any sport are exactly that. Their body is built FOR that sport.

But even with all those great genetics these guys are stacking some serious stuff. I’m talking 4 different steroids, on top of GH and insulin. If your goal is to truly get to and maintain being at the pro level, chances are, you’re going to have to go on. And that is added costs both in the bank and on longevity of your life. Are you really willing and ready to make that choice and sacrifice?

That’s All Folks!

All in all, the idea isn’t to scare you away in regards to competition. My goal is to give you a clearer picture of what expectations you should have before committing, and helping you make the choice that best suits you as a person. Feel free to reach out to me or comment on any other questions you may have or want to hear more about on the process.

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Joe Talarico

Joe is a certified Precision Nutrition and strength & conditioning coach. He assisted the UCLA Women’s Tennis team in winning their 2014 NCAA Championship Title, as well as study under the great strength coaches at Pepperdine University. He was a collegiate rower at the University of Rhode Island (where he got his Kinesiology degree) as well as an amateur physique competitor. He is currently the master trainer at Upgrade Labs in Santa Monica where he is combining his years of training clients in the gym with newer technology to optimize their performance and recovery. He also cohosts The RelationSH*T Show Podcast with his fiancée where they discuss all relationship topics unfiltered from who pays on dates, to open relationships.

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