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Olympia Game Day

How Neil Hill got Flex Lewis and William Bonac ready for the O stage.
Ian Spanier

Show day at the Olympia for Team Y3T is always very demanding. There are naturally a lot of expectations from around the world of bodybuilding for Flex Lewis to defend his 212 Olympia title and for William Bonac to climb farther up the Mr. Olympia ladder. As the coach, I’m going to give you a never-before-shared insight into what Olympia show day looks like for myself and Team Y3T athletes Flex Lewis and William Bonac.

EARLY-MORNING ASSESSMENTS

I’ll rise very early, usually between 5 and 6 a.m. to go and see Flex and William. Generally, we make a habit of staying in the same hotel to set up camp—this allows us the added convenience of being close enough to one another so I can keep an eye on things for the whole duration of our stay. The reason I get up so early is to see what their condition is looking like. There is always a plan of action we implement seven to 10 days out from show day as part of the “peak week” strategy. However, things don’t always go as you’d like them to. Seemingly minor details can make drastic alterations in the way their physique appears on that Olympia stage. Absolutely nothing is left to chance! 

In this early-morning assessment what I’m looking for are key markers I use to judge their condition for that time of day. For instance, I know that there are certain tie-ins around Flex’s glutes that indicate if he’s where he needs to be. When William hits a double-biceps rear shot I know the skin folds in his lower back need to be very tight to ensure he’s sharp enough this far out from stepping onstage.

CREATING THE DIET PLAN

Once I have assessed both athletes individually I will then immediately write out their diet plan for the day. Variables like carbohydrate intake and essential fatty acids are going to play a key role in how their final conditioning appears onstage. If we don’t consume enough, then they might look at, and if we push too hard they could spill over and retain subcutaneous fluid. Neither is desirable—we want hard, sharp, crisp conditioning with full muscle bellies from every angle. 

Other key considerations include meal timings and food sources. For instance, I know that there are certain foods that can upset Flex’s GI tract, potentially leaving him with bloating or even fluid retention. Usually my preference is to use easily digestible foods because the gut is naturally going to be under more stress than usual while the body is this lean because it’s fighting an unnatural state. On top of this, it’s fair to presume both athletes will feel stressed because of the occasion, which can mean cortisol levels go up, again affecting digestion. These are the kinds of details which really matter and could be the difference between first and second place. 

In regard to timing meals correctly, it isn’t enough to simply eat the net calories and macros I’ve set for the day. As the show nears, by the hour I might swap food sources as a means of helping retain fullness, or opt for a variety of food, which has a different sodium content in comparison with other alternatives.

ADDRESSING FLUID INTAKE

Depending on how the athlete has looked during the week, I will have done some form of water manipulation going into the show along with adjustments in sodium intake. The reason for this is to make the muscles more responsive going into the show, drawing more fluid and glycogen into the muscle cell from underneath the skin. As a result, conditioning becomes much sharper and overall muscle fullness also improves.

Again, the amount of fluid William or Flex will take in on show day is very dependant on where their overall appearance is during the morning assessment. I’ve never used extreme dehydration principles because I don’t feel it is productive or healthy. However, there will be a degree of manipulation taking place that will be dictated by their condition and fullness. Adding sodium on show day can play a very positive role in increasing fullness and an uptake in condition.

One key point I’d like to make in relation to sodium and water is that they are both relevant to carbohydrate intake. For instance, if I’m heavily carb loading Flex or William because I feel that’s what they need, then their water intake will need to reflect that. There’s little point going overkill with carbohydrates without enough water present to distribute the glycogen. There are many small parts to the bigger picture.

REASSESSING PROGRESS

The initial phases I’ve covered give an insight into what is required in order to come up with the action plan on show day. However, even once that’s in place there is still a need for constant reassessment. For instance, if I’ve asked Flex or William to carb load and increase their fluid, I need to check in every three to four hours to see that their body is changing as I want it to. This requires another in-person assessment as I do first thing in the morning; however, between these times I’m always in constant contact via my phone with both athletes to get the specific feedback that I need.

Based on the feedback I’m getting and the reassessment, I might even make changes to the plan I made earlier that morning. This close to going on the Olympia stage, every minor detail counts and I’m never afraid to make changes. One thing I’ve always been able to do is remain calm and avoid making bad decisions out of panic. It’s essential that I remain completely relaxed and methodical rather than getting caught up in the moment. Yes, there is pressure on me to deliver as the coach, but ultimately I’m experienced enough to know when things are going right or wrong and will act accordingly.

LAST-MINUTE PREPARATIONS

Obviously, before William and Flex go backstage to prepare themselves I’ve given both athletes a game plan. This includes getting their “pump up” routine correct in relation to their nutrient/fluid intake and helping them get their posing correct. It’s incredible how hitting the right pose for an athlete can help with their overall placing, or have a negative effect if they get this wrong. As a result, every fine detail is covered so by the time they’re backstage the work has been done and it’s simply a case of both athletes showcasing all of the sacrifice and dedication they’ve made. 

SUMMARY

The main point I want to get across is that there’s no set way that I follow blindly. The body is an amazing system full of microorganisms that respond in different ways because of the many variables that are out of our control. I constantly must assess and adjust. 

 FLEX  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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