Bodybuilding Precontest Workout Tips
by Justin Leonard

Question: How should you workout during the weeks leading up to competition day?

Answer: Consider working out with very little stomach. Try to go about 1.5 to 2 hours without food before you workout. This is to preserve energy. The body uses a lot of energy to digest food, which can make you weak. By letting the food digest 1.5 to 2 hours, you allow the food to break down into ready-to-use energy.

There are several different opinions when it comes to competition training. For example, some say repetitions should be increased while using a lighter weight. Others recommend lifting heavy up until the day before the show.

Obviously, both of these methods work. Some benefit from using light weight and high reps, while others win shows using extremely heavy weights leading up until competition day. If you're uncertain of what to do, try using a combination of both methods or just stick to your normal routine. You can't go wrong there! In my opinion, a combination of heavy weight, low reps and light weight, high reps are needed for maximum results.

There are several ways you can go about executing this type of training. After a thorough warm up session, try using heavy weights at the beginning of each workout. Toward the end of the workout, try going for the burn using a light weight. The only time I would spend and entire workout using light weights is probably 1 or 2 weeks before a competition. Why? When bodybuilders get this close to a show, high reps cause the muscles to respond quickly.

The quick response I'm referring to is known as the pump. In other words, it's really the high reps that give you the better and quicker pump. Below is a sample precontest workout:

Monday: Legs

Leg Extensions | 4 Sets | 15 - 20 Reps

Leg Curls | 4 Sets | 15 - 20 Reps

Leg Press | 3 Sets | 10 Reps

Hack Squats | 3 Sets | 10 Reps

Squats | 3 Sets | 10 Reps

Stiff-legged Deadlifts | 3 Sets | 20 Reps

Leg Extensions | 3 Sets | Failure

Leg Curls | 3 Sets | Failure

Tuesday: Chest/Abs

Flat Bench Press | 4 Sets | 12 Reps

Incline Bench Press | 4 Sets | 12 Reps

Decline Bench Press | 4 Sets | 12 Reps

Incline Dumbbell Press | 3 Sets | 15 Reps

Flat Bench Dumbbell Press | 3 Sets | 15 Reps

Cable Crossovers | 4 Sets | 20 Reps

Hanging Knee-ins | 3 Sets | Failure

Crunches | 3 Sets | Failure

Dumbbell Side Bends | 3 Sets| Failure

Lying Leg Lifts | 3 Sets | Failure

Wednesday: Back

Lat Pulldowns | 4 Sets | 12 - 15 Reps

Bent Rows | 3 Sets | 12 Reps

Dumbbell Rows | 4 Sets | 12 Reps

Seated Cable Rows | 3 Sets | 20 Reps

Thursday: Triceps

Pressdowns (various grips) | 5 Sets | 15 Reps

Dumbbell Triceps Press | 5 Sets | 15 Reps

Dips | 3 Sets | Failure

Friday: Shoulders

Side Laterals | 4 Sets | 12- 15 Reps

Bent Laterals | 4 Sets | 12 - 15 Reps

Dumbbell Press | 3 Sets | 10 Reps

Cable Lateral Raise | 3 Sets | Failure

Saturday: Abs

Crunches | 6 Sets | Failure

Side Crunches | 4 Sets | Failure

Sunday: Biceps

Cable Curls | 4 Sets | 15 Reps

EZ Bar Curls | 4 Sets | 15 Reps

Alternating Dumbbell Curls | 3 Sets | 20 (10 each arm)

Reverse Grip Curls | 3 Sets | 15 Reps

Concentration Curls | 2 Sets | Failure

Question: Are there any off days for recuperation during competition training?

Answer: Off days can either be taken as needed or scheduled on certain days.

If you decide to go with a routine similar to the one above but using fewer days per week, modify it so that a primary muscle group and a secondary muscle group are worked together. For example, train chest and triceps or back and biceps. For some this may be a more beneficial option.

I personally think each muscle group should have its own day because this allows you to put more focus on each. Experiment with both methods and see what works the best for your body!

Question: What about cardio? How much should you do?

Answer: It varies depending on individual body type.

Some people have extremely high metabolisms and may only require cardiovascular exercise 1 day per week or once every 2 weeks. Others may not be as genetically gifted and require a cardio session everyday during competition training.

The important thing to note is that the body must constantly be monitored. For example, you may be performing cardio 3 days a week starting off. Over time, you might notice that you're losing too much muscle mass. In this case, you'll probably want to ease back on the cardio sessions by a day or two until the body meets your expectations.

Question: What type of workout should you do the last week of the show?

Answer: The answer to this question is widely debated and opinionated. Truthfully, no answer is right or wrong.

Listed are some common methods for optimizing the physique during the week of the show:

- Replace workouts with posing the entire week.

- Workout using only light weights the entire week.

- Don't change your current training regiment.

- Lift moderately heavy leading up to the contest date.

All of these techniques work for someone, somewhere. The two most popular techniques are (1) workout light the whole week and (2) not to change your current workout regiment. Training light for the entire week of the show with additional posing seems to work best for most bodybuilders.

Many bodybuilders make their last day of training on Thursday. Friday is used for posing to enhance muscle definition. Whichever training method you decide to use, I personally don't recommend training after Thursday (the week of the show), assuming the show is on a Saturday. Here's my rule of thumb:

If you look phenomenal the week of the show, don't do anything that could cause you to lose peak condition! Don't change anything, and end all workouts one or two days before the show.

Stay with your normal diet, workout, and daily schedule the entire week. Many successful bodybuilders don't change a single part of their diet or training style during the last week of the show. Again, the best way to make wise decisions is through constant body monitoring.

Always ensure you are constantly in tune with your body. For example, some may notice a hard, but not defined look after eating chicken as their primary source of protein. They then switch protein sources from chicken to fish in the form of strained tuna and notice a big difference in muscle definition. The only way you can spot changes like this is through constant body monitoring.



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