Fine Tuning: Last Week Strategies for Competition
Written by Chris Aceto, edited by Jeff Pearce Friday, 01 April 2011
“He looked incredible the week before the show, but awful on stage.” That’s what happens to a lot of bodybuilders who poorly time their peak, only to look better a week before competition or a week after competition! Getting ready for a show, primarily, requires one to systematically strip away as much body fat as possible without shedding valuable muscle mass. When you’re lean, extremely lean, you can do a lot of things that final week and actually see changes. That is, you can manipulate your water and carb intake to produce a fuller or harder look.
As with dieting, where there is no one-size-fits-all method to getting into tremendous condition. There is no secret approach the final week before competition. To illustrate this point, I have prepped several people for several competitions taking a different approach each time .
For the 2001 Mr Olympia contest, Jay Cutler depleted extremely hard and loaded heavily. The results were arguably his best ever. Though, for his 2003 Ironman and Arnold wins, he didn’t deplete and load. For Victor Martinez’s 2003 Night of Champions win and 2004 GNC wins, he depleted hard and loaded mildly for both show. Troy Alves didn’t deplete or load at all for the 2005 Ironman where he was in great condition. I did not have him, nor Eduardo Correa, do much loading for the 2009 season where they were both in spectacular shape. The take home message is that every time you approach a show, things are a little different. The body is different and responds differently, you have to take those factors into consideration. A lot of knowing what to do or what not to do boils down to experience. I will outline the guidelines I use with bodybuilders. Do yourself a favour, learn from my experiences. I've succeeded and made mistakes. Take the lessons I have learned and apply them to your own body.
1) Fullness is a Factor
I worked with Chris Cook for just a couple shows. The first time out, he nailed it at the Nationals and won the overall. I went out to his house more than a week before the show to try to figure things out. When he posed, he looked soft and had no real hardcore cuts. However, he looked really big and when you touched his muscles, they felt like rocks. That rock hard feel and full-looking muscles has a tendency to respond incredibly well to hardcore depletion of carbohydrates. I had him cut his carbs to zero for four days. We went to the gym every one of those four days and did endless sets of light weight, higher rep, training for all the body parts. We had one goal in mind, to suck every last ounce of stored muscle glycogen from the muscles. After four days he looked tighter. When he added carbs back (and I believe he went up to 600 grams a day) in the final three days, his body changed every 12 hours and he became as hard as nails. When a bodybuilder looks full and his muscles feel hard to the touch, never be afraid to deplete the hell out of the body. I know Chris thought I was crazy; no carbs and an endless number of sets, but I knew it would work. I used the same method with Jay for the 2001 Mr Olympia. His muscles felt like cement a couple weeks out and I knew that his muscles could withstand severe depletion. When the muscles do not feel “ cement-like” often thebodybuilder flattens out (the muscles shrink) with depletion. That was the scenariowithTroy Alves the first time I worked with him for the 2005 Ironman. His muscles looked full and hard, but when you touched them, they didn’t have that super hard feeling. I knew if he depleted too hard, his muscles would flatten out and he’d only look worse from depleting, not better. Therefore, he only mildly restricted his carbs a week out and mildly loaded during the final two days.
2) Fatigue is a Factor
Warning: if you’re extremely tired from dieting and you enter that final week all “beaten” up from the long weeks of calorie deficit, fewer carbohydrates and lots of cardio, then you’re setting yourself up for failure if you choose to deplete and load. To put it simply, the final week is an exceedingly stressful event on the body. If you’re already extremely fatigued, then depleting will end up flattening the muscles down too far to the point where the depletion process will only make you look smaller. In addition, many times when you load a fatigued body up on carbs; the muscles do not readily load up so you end up looking flat. Alternatively, the result can be excessive water retention. From my experience, it seems the bodybuilder who carbs up in a severe state of fatigue simply ends up retaining water. This interferes with his condition and definition. That’s why I recommend the bodybuilder start his contest prep far enough out from the show so he can take the two weeks prior to the final week and rest more. During this time, one can stop or cut back on cardio, and decrease the intensity of his training. This, somewhat of a “rest phase”, makes a big difference in the way the body responds to the depletion and loading process. When the body is fresh and not suffering from excess fatigue, the depletion and loading process is far more effective.
3) Water Intake Is A Factor
I always have bodybuilders drink more water from 14 days out from the show to 3 days out. At around the 12-14 day mark, I’ll have them double up on their water intake only to sharply reduce it to as little as 6-8 cups a day during the final 3 days going into the show. The reason: a higher intake tricks the body to become rapidly dehydrated when there is a reduction in fluid intake. For example, if the bodybuilder was drinking one gallon of water a day and reduced that to 6 cups, his body would fall into a dehydration state. Switching from a full gallon to 6 cups is a pretty stiff drop-off. However, if the bodybuilder goes from 2 gallons to 6 cups, the dehydration process is not only quicker but greater in scope. Here is a secret to loading up on carbs: when you increase your carb consumption the final 2 or 3 days, you should reduce your water intake. This dehydration creates a tighter look. From a physiological point of view, many will disagree that the formation of muscle glycogen requires water. In the real world, restricting water causes a visual effect that results in greater definition. This, of course, is affirmed by the use and misuse of diuretics. Diuretics cause the body to lose water resulting in better definition. However, you can create an incredibly defined look simply by cutting back on water intake.
4) Carb Status Is A Factor
How many carbs should you eat during those final 2-3 days will vary from bodybuilder to bodybuilder. Eating 90 grams a day while dieting? Guess what, 700 will make you watery as a broken dam! Eating 400 while dieting? Loading on 400, 500, or 600 will leave you flat as a pancake. As a rule, the fewer carbs you eat while dieting, the fewer carbs you will need while loading. Likewise, if you eat a lot of carbs while dieting, you’ll need plenty to bring you back. I advise most bodybuilder to eat 3 to 4 times the amount of carbs they ate while dieting during the carbing up phase (the final 3 days). For example, if a bodybuilder dieted on 100 carbs, he can load on 300 to 400. If, for the most part he dieted on 300 carbs, then he would need up to 900 a day during the final three days. Keep in mind, you should not be training the final two or three days prior to a competition. Because of this, you do not need massive amounts of carbs to fill the muscles out with glycogen. By not training, the body will fill out and bounce back from having gone through a depletion phase.
5) It Does Not Stop There
Because the “final week” is so variable and often confusing, I’ll answer any questions you may have and care to post on the Rx Muscle forum thread concerning this article.
Similar Bodybuilding Threads: