Bodybuilding Competition Prep

By Aaron Hallett, MuscleTalk Contributing Writer and UKBFF Heavyweight Competitor
November 2012

One by one, the pitter-patter of cramping feet and legs and can be heard shuffling off stage as the crowd applauds the end of a class. Some are holding trophies with smiles that could rival any Colgate advert, whilst some competitors are holding onto frowns that could win a county fair's gurning competition!

This is an article for the competing bodybuilder by a competing bodybuilder.

Rewind to the start of the competition 'prep', the most commonly used term to describe the preparation for a show. If someone was to really think about a term or phrase more they should of used 'self inflicted torture time' but there wasn't a ring to it. It is self inflicted, as nobody holds a gun to your head whilst clutching a pair of posing trunks and deck-stain like tanning compound in the other hand edging you towards the stage.

During prep most of us love to moan and grumble, 'don't you know we are preparing for a show?' almost edging out of the lips on a daily basis, but restraint shown to the member of checkout staff who is irritating you in Tesco's as you know deep down he/she actually doesn't give a flying ****!

Truth be known, not many people actually would know if you were preparing for a show on first or second glance. Bodybuilding is a niche 'sport' so the following is small as it is, so the general public wouldn't understand the necessity to keep a distance from us at times. Maybe if they knew the toxic fumes kicked out after the fourth serving of chicken and broccoli they would?

At 10-12 weeks out, the would-be competitor is crossing off cardio sessions in their mind as the show date gets closer. I know I do this; it's almost like how a 10 year old counts down the days to Christmas except the bodybuilder would love a chocolate behind every door advent calendar style, but instead find just more cardio.

If you can honestly say that during the show prep you stuck to every allotted meal, never missed or scrimped on a cardio session and gave it your all in the gym right up until the show, you can honestly look back and say you gave it your all; you could have done no more. There is a degree of victory in that alone; something I feel some over look. The dieting is not easy when the body does its best to make us dream of ram raiding the fridge, inhaling the wife's cheesecake and have you wake up in a blind panic searching for crumbs in case it was a reality!

The cardio sessions can be long and arduous or short and intense, depending on how you prep; either way, you know by the end of them you are hanging out of your hoop and the temptation is always there to hit the 'cool down' button on the treadmill at 55 minutes out instead of doing the full 60 minutes.

"If I sack it off now, I can make up for this by just dropping some carbs out of the meal later!"

When dieting you get to midweek and you end up hanging on to your will power to pull yourself through then end up in a mental bartering position that almost feels like a battle between the diet angel on one shoulder and the Dominoes Pizza sponsored Devil on the other!

"If I eat this maybe I can make up for this by just doing 10 minutes extra on the treadmill!"

You can see how these two barters will often fight against each other and if you are unlucky to give in to both and end up doing more cardio with less carbs later you do feel pretty shafted for having that donut and/or sacking the cardio off!

When weight training, your energy can sometimes fall off down the road like a rusty exhaust long before you park up and get out outside the gym. It's pulling yourself through these workouts that helps you retain the muscle you worked so long to create in the off-season.

Now this is just taking into account the basics of prep; what you will also have is social events dotted throughout the dieting phase. Social events, you do remember what these are, right? Or have you sought refuge in a onesie or a big baggy hoodie and living the life of a solitary hermit glued to the sofa except for anything that involves making some sort of extra 'uncalculated into the diet/cardio/training plan' event? It's almost as if someone purposefully dares to plan a BBQ in August when your show is in September!

Yes, there will come times where you have to venture outside and mingle with the friends and family trying to answer the multiple questions on how you are dieting and not ill with a large tape worm infection. The common question as to why you seem to have lost 2 stone in a short period of time. "Didn't you know Auntie Louise lost 10lbs in a week on the Cabbage Soup diet? Yes, you've been doing it all wrong you silly sausage. Don't get too big either."

Ahhh, prep is fun; it makes us all sound like right miserable, moody bastards and bitches, but the truth is we do it because the end result is what makes it all worth while: those twenty minutes on stage under the limelights. Pre-show we think of all the good food we are going to have; we will take a pleasure stroll around the supermarket aisles selecting what food you will eat after the event, the foods we have missed sorely. One thing I have found, is that most of it stays in the cupboard post-show as either my cravings have changed or I am just not feeling like inhaling that 1kg bar of chocolate as much as I thought I would have a few weeks prior!

Typically, 12 weeks of dieting undone in 5-6 weeks is the norm; bitter sweet promises to try and keep it cleaner in the off-season next time to reduce the time spent in prep, but instead seeing the need for the same amount again after that Dominoes sponsored Devil became undefeated decision making champion in the bulking months!

At the end of it all, we love what we do otherwise why would we do it? It's just keeping focused on that end goal and what we hope to achieve each time we step on stage.