Training for bodybuilding competition
Every six out of 10 up-and-coming competitive bodybuilders are not very sure about how to exactly train for a championship. Some training wisdom verbally passed on from the earlier generations have either been misinterpreted or not conveyed properly.
A case in example is doing high repetitions with light weight, taking minimum rest between sets. Though an increase in repetitions can certainly help in training slow-twitch muscle fibres and enhancing the ‘quality look’ of the muscles, a drastic reduction in training poundage will lead to loss of muscle size. Some trainees may lose the hard, dense look of their muscles if they trade heavy weights for high-reps.
Always remember that the body has been growing (or maintaining itself) in size, density and strength only because you have been challenging it with heavy resistance. When the ‘demand for growth’ decreases, the body would feel that it would not encounter challenging weight workouts again, and therefore, need not maintain the size.
So, the base of competition training should be almost the same as off-season training.
Here is how a training routine can be put together while training for a show:
1. Train each muscle twice a week or once in 3 or 4 days, depending on an individual’s recovery rate.
2. Begin with a basic exercise for a large muscle group. Using Pyramid technique, do 4 sets of 16,12,10 and 8 reps.
3. As a second exercise, choose another basic movement. Perform a medium weight warm-up set for 10 to 15 reps. If need be, perform another such warm-up set. Increase the weight and then perform 3 heavy sets of 8 reps each. Take a rest of 1 to 3 minutes between such heavy sets, without cooling off too much.
4. As a third exercise, perform 3 sets of an isolation exercise with a medium weight for 15 reps. Keep rest periods between sets to a minimum.
5. As the last exercise, choose another isolation movement and perform 2 or 3 sets of 30 reps, aiming for a good burn. Rest periods should be kept to a minimum. This concludes your workout for a large muscle.
6. For a smaller muscle, follow steps 2 and 3 as mentioned. Then, follow either step 4 or 5. This is because too much direct work on a small muscle during a calorific reduction phase (contest dieting) may lead to muscle loss.
7. Perform abdominal training at least twice a week. Choose one exercise each for the upper abs, lower abs, obliques and intercostals and perform 3 sets of 15 reps on each one of them.
8. Avoid extreme intensity techniques such as Negatives or Forced Reps. Never push yourself beyond absolute failure. Train until you almost reach the point of failure and stop. To increase intensity, advanced trainees can perform Drop Sets, which will actually help to train very hard.
9. Avoid Cheating Technique altogether. Never swing the weights.
10. Cardio can be done either after workout or as the first thing in the morning. Depending on an individual’s recovery and fat loss, the duration and frequency of cardio can be decided. As a general rule, 3 to 4 sessions every week, each lasting 30 to 35 minutes, should be sufficient.
Dear friends, as one among you has pointed out, point 8 of this story needs more clarity.
Majority of trainees cannot OR SHOULD NOT push themselves beyond failure frequently, which may invite injury or be too harsh on the systemic recovery, especially while training for competition. However, once in a while when they really feel that they are growing stronger and feeling greater than ever before, they will WANT to train beyond ‘momentary failure.’ This point NEED NOT BE ‘absolute’ failure. There are SOME competitors over here, who perform drop sets once in a while during their contest prep, instead of trying Cheat reps or Rest Pause once they reach the point of momentary failure. That was what I wanted to convey. This again depends on an individual’s recovery and differs from person to person.
_ C. Lakshmi Kumar