Many call Bodybuilding a science, but it’s really of combination of science and art. It’s hard enough to pack on pounds of muscle, but then to strip body fat while keeping all that lean muscle is truly an amazing feat. Regardless of genetics, chemicals and diet, looking shredded on stage requires more than your basic fundamentals. Here are some tips for those of you who need to bring the shredded wheat! I’ll bring the milk…
1.) TAN. That’s right: tan, tan and then tan some more! Notice how even Caucasian bodybuilders almost look black on stage? That’s because the oils and lights on their bodies will show definition much better the darker they are. There are a number of fake tanners on the market that deliver a nice orange glow. But to look really legitimate, you should tan in the sun or in a bed. Besides steroids, this is perhaps one of the unhealthiest aspects of bodybuilding. Although your body needs sunlight to synthesize Vitamin D, tanning is dangerous and can lead to skin cancer, premature aging, and the leather-skinned 80’s rocker look. Please be sure to use plenty of moisturizers, take plenty of the antioxidants listed on this site, and remember to not leave any part of your body white. Nothing is worse than a pair of ghostly white legs on stage.
2.) DROP WATER. Jay Cutler was criticized during the 2007 Mr. Olympia because many thought he was carrying a layer of water under his skin. Water retention and creatine-loading is good during the off-season, but on stage it is a bodybuilder’s worst nightmare. Water washes out the definition that you have gained by dieting and doing nonstop cardio those past couple months. Be sure to take a water neutralizer like dandelion root, green tea or apple cider vinegar a couple times a day throughout your contest prep. MHP makes a great product called Xpel, which allows you to flush out undesired water. I have tried this product and it works. Make sure to drink enough water and stay hydrated though– no one like headaches.
3.) DON’T EASE UP ON TRAINING Just because you want to keep as much muscle as possible doesn’t mean you should be afraid to break a little down before competition. The champion bodybuilders know that you need to train hard right up until the competition. Arnold’s famous pre-contest routine is legendary for its difficulty. Remember, recovery is everything. Protein, BCAA’s, Glutamine and a Night Time formula will help.
High Volume vs. Heavy Training
Regarding the type of training, it is important to understand how your body responds to different types of training. Some Pros will lift very heavy pre-contest. Others, including myself, will opt for a routine of about 16 sets per muscle group at 15-20 reps. This is especially important for those looking to refine their body and chisel in the definition. Light weights won’t get you big, but they can help make you look shredded.
4.) CARDIO. This is a tricky subject to talk about for many experts. Most bodybuilders will bump up cardio sessions to an hour a day, or even two hours a day leading up to a contest. However, some refuse to do any based on the fact that their body can become catabolic. We recommend doing cardio in the morning, after waking up and taking at least 5-10 grams of BCAA’s and glutamine. This will help prevent the breakdown of muscle, while the aerobic exercise will strip body fat due to the low levels of glycogen in the morning. If you’re not a morning person, hit cardio after weights. I would recommend a moderate to intense pace throughout the duration. Normally, I recommend HIIT training to strip body fat, but for the purposes of bodybuilding, cycling on a stationary bike or walking uphill on a treadmill should be sufficient.
5.) CARB INTAKE. Without a doubt, every bodybuilder knows that to burn fat, you must deplete your glycogen stores. You can’t do this by eating sugar and flour! Your body will not burn fat if it doesn’t have a reason to. An easy way to glycogen deplete is by cycling the amount of carbohydrates consumed on different days. For example, as I write this article, I’ve consumed only 100 grams of carbs today, and will continue the same for the next 3 days. This will ensure my glycogen stores are depleted and my body will trigger itself to oxidize fat. On the fourth day, I will bump up my carbs to around 400 grams to allow my body the fuel it needs. This should not be done year round, but it is an extremely effective way to diet down, especially before a contest. Follow these guidelines and you’ll be on your way to looking totally shredded on stage!
-Sean Covell CPT
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