When it comes to contest preparation, too many competitive bodybuilders are often confused and frustrated because of their misguided beliefs. I’ve come to this realization after dealing with literally hundreds of bodybuilders around the world. Let’s face the facts. After a person has been dieting for weeks, when they fail to do as well in their show as they wanted, the entire process can be quite devastating. Man! I know this from some of my own personal, less-than-satisfactory contest preparation experiences! After an ill-fated contest experience, your brain desperately searches for reasons why things went so wrong. But, if you misdiagnosis the causes of your disappointment, you’ll only become more confused and frustrated.
“This does not always equal that” is warning I often preach to struggling competitors. In a confused state of mind, you will only begin to manifest more disappointment in your future contests. That is, of course, if you even develop enough courage to enter another one.
I’ve seen many bodybuilders quit competing because they remember their last contest as such a disappointing and painful experience. I want to prevent you from that pain and disappointment. The only way to get better, however, is to be completely honest with yourself. You must discover the true reasons why you didn’t look like you had planned—regardless of the pain you may experience. The only way you can do so is by admitting your failures and shortcomings. The pain when being honest with yourself, I assure you, will be well worth going through if it causes you to deal with reality, dump the excuses, step up to the challenge, and do what you must to truly become the best you can be.
Two of the most common “stories”, misguided beliefs, or flat-out lies we often tell ourselves as disappointed competitive bodybuilders are:
1. “I lost too much muscle preparing for this contest.”
2. “I was holding water when I stepped on stage.”
Losing too much muscle is a belief that is not based on any concrete facts or comparisons. When contest time arrives, you will undoubtedly be much lighter than you were during your off-season. I don’t care how lean you stay in the off-season, the truth is that you’ll probably enter a show weighing less than you thought you would. The drastic difference between off-season weight and competition weight is often frustrating for some competitive bodybuilders. Many feel they may have over dieted or did too much cardiovascular training and, thus, lost too much quality muscle and size by the time their show came around.
Even under the best conditions, it’s tough to know exactly how much muscle you are really losing. Yes, you are considerably smaller than you were in the off-season. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you lost muscle. If you try to hang on to this “size” too tightly, you face the possibility of being out-of-shape on stage when it’s contest time.
From the many shows I’ve watched, the most prominent problem is not that competitors lose too much muscle. What separates the winners from the losers oftentimes comes down to conditioning. Plain and simply, the most common problem among competitive bodybuilders is that they are carrying too much body fat on stage. The best-conditioned bodybuilder will usually beat the more muscular but less conditioned competitor every time.
Losing muscle while you are dieting for a contest is a very possible danger. It could very well happen. The biggest reason why many bodybuilders lose too much muscle is because they simple give it away. They train much too lightly in the gym when they are dieting for a contest. Even though you are calorie-deprived, you must continue to train heavily.
You must also consume adequate amounts of high-quality protein to preserve that hard-earned muscle. If you just do those two things alone while making getting as lean as possible a top priority, the body weight you are at when the show arrives will be the “right” weight. Getting shredded for a show is an extremely difficult process. Besides the fact that you must go hungry for weeks and weeks, you also must mentally and physically be able to find that delicate balance between preserving muscle and getting too lean. It is a complicated process that should be done slowly and gradually over time. If you come up just a little short, all of your hard work could be done in vain.
Remember what I stated previously, the best-conditioned bodybuilder will usually beat the more muscular but less conditioned competitor every time.
Another common misguided assumption a competitor who places poorly in show makes is that they were “holding too much water.” They make this inaccurate assessment and oftentimes blame the lack of conditioning, or being too fat, on holding water. I firmly believe that if you get in good enough condition, it is very difficult to hold so much water that your aesthetic looks or conditioning are thrown off that much. If you’ve truly worked hard enough to get shredded, you will become what I call “bullet proof”. By bullet proof, I mean slight variations in your food intake, travel schedules, and/or a little stress will not do much damage, if any, to your physique whatsoever.
So, let’s all get to work, be completely honest with ourselves, learn from our mistakes and disappointments, and strive to be the best we can be next time around!
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