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What To Expect When You Start Your Bodybuilding Contest Prep

What you are getting yourself in for -

Reading Time - 10 Minutes

Word Count - 1200 Words

Topic - Bodybuilding Contest Prep


A lot of people will be starting a Bodybuilding Contest Prep in the New Year, and it’s daunting!!

People can definitely get overwhelmed by the idea, or even put off by the ‘side effects’ of contest prep, however what most fail to realise is that these negative effects only take place at certain stages, and being aware of this is super important. I’ve competed in 7 Shows in my short career so far, 2014 & 2015 being competitive years, with 2017 being my next.

I hope this blog post can help other competitors that may be entering their first year of competing - to give them more of an idea of what they can expect! ~ 1 - Are you READY?

A lot of people will start a contest prep in a poor situation.

I really do believe that the most successful bodybuilding prep’s happen when everything is in the right place, and you have control over your situation.

What you need to consider before starting -

  • Relationships - Are you in a relationship? Is there a good support network? Is your partner happy with you competing? Do they understand what you are going to put yourself through? Are you happy with your current partner? Is there a lot of stress? Do they understand your training NOW?

  • The Gym - Do you love your training? Are you consistent with all your sessions? Have you been consistent for a while? Have you had experience with programming your training? - If you don’t love the gym now, contest prep won’t make you fall in love with it and you need to have the existing passion before starting.

  • Your Work Life - Are you currently in a secure job? Do you like it? Are you financially stable? Is there a lot of work stress? Do you think you will have a very busy year ahead? Have you got plans to move job? - Your job will have a massive impact on your day to day life and you need to be sure that this is not going to cause any excess stress.

  • Your Reasoning Behind Competing - What is the true reason you want to compete? - If it is for Instagram likes, PT clients or for a bit of fun, I’d probably leave it, competing is a serious thing and I’d make sure that you are fully aware of this before starting, otherwise you may well give up.

  • Your Social & Home Life - Is everything stable at home? Is your social life revolving around drinking and partying? Are any of these going to take a hit by contest prepping? - These are all things you need to consider before deciding to compete.

Consider all of the above - make sure you are either acceptant of the issues, or wait until you are in a good situation with everything prior to beginning your first contest prep to avoid disappointment.

2 - You aren’t getting SMALLER you are getting FLATTER.

When you start dieting, you have to dip into a calorie deficit, this will mean usually a reduction in the amount of carbohydrates that you eat per day.

Carbohydrates play a HUGE role in keeping the muscle full, as soon as carbohydrates are dropped, intra-cellular water is lost from the drop of glycogen and therefore the muscles will feel AND look flatter, smaller and potentially softer.

This is what I like to call - The Skinny-Fat Stage. You aren’t shredded.

And you aren’t FULL to the brim like you were when you were in Off Season mode. This, psychologically can SCREW people up, they think they are immediately getting smaller and all their muscle is slowly withering away. ^^ This is not true - you just have to be patient until you break through this stage.

3 - Weaker!! Last year one of my contest prep clients was one week into their diet.

They messaged me - “ Aj I’m losing all my strength already…” I responded saying that it is psychological and that they need to crack on, keep their head down and try to make as much progress as possible. This individual ended up gaining significant strength by their first show. INCREDIBLE… right?

Well, not really! With sensible programming and adequate rest, there is no reason why you cannot progress throughout a contest prep diet, there really isn’t. So when you start your contest prep - do NOT think that you will automatically lose strength.

My Advice -

  • Do not drastically change your training approach in terms of frequency, volume or intensity.

  • As time goes on, you may need to reduce intensity and thus increase volume in order to manage fatigue from high intensity work.

  • Keep log booking your sessions and simply DO NOT allow your lifts to regress.

  • Stay on top of the variables that you can control - sleep, nutrient timing and hydration.

4 - HUNGRY!? Hunger is one of the biggest assumptions of a contest prep diet, and you’d be right, you DO get hungry.

However, hunger is not something that happens straight away, much like strength loss, hunger takes a while to really set in and there are ways to combat it. A calorie deficit fit for a contest prep should be set up in a manner where SMALL reductions are made - you may feel an initial hit of hunger when you transfer into a deficit from eating #AllTheFood, but you will soon adapt and things will settle down. After this - my recommendations would be -

  • It’s YOUR choice to diet, hunger is not the end of the world. (Man Up)

  • Eat higher volume foods, substitute your dense carbohydrates for vegetables and more nutrient dense food items.

  • STOP eating junk - flexible dieters take note - if you are hungry but eating two double deckers a day to hit your macros then STOP doing so and eat properly.

  • Eat at regular intervals and set out a meal plan - a structure can be super useful when it comes to managing hunger as you’ll be able to dictate your hungriest times and work through them, no single day will be a shock to your system.

5 - Posing and my routine doesn’t matter, right?


If you work your ASS off, and don’t practice your posing or put together a good routine, you are MAD!

Presentation is key in Bodybuilding and it all comes down to the minor details, you need to work out which poses look best for you and how to hit them perfectly without the use of a mirror, there are no mirrors on stage!

A lot of people mistake posing as something that is not important, and neglect practicing it because they are tired and run down - it DOES get hard towards the end, but powering through the fatigue is essential for you to look your best on stage.

My Recommendations -

  • Set a time to practice each day.

  • Start practicing from the beginning of your contest prep.

  • Increase the frequency of your practice as the prep goes on.

  • Make sure you are practicing for long periods of time, you are not on stage for ONE ROUND of posing, you need to make sure you have the stamina for several posing rounds.

  • Practice with and without mirrors, therefore you can get a gauge of how you look in both.

  • Record yourself practicing and watch it back to correct things, whilst using a second eye for guidance (coach or knowledgeable friend).

Thank you for reading this post and I look forward to speaking with you guys again in the next one! Aj

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