FOUAD ABIAD IS HIS OWN BIGGEST CRITIC. You’ll never catch him resting on his laurels or grumbling about how much better he looked than the competition. On the contrary, he picks apart his poses from every angle and dissects every weakness. Most people would consider placing second behind top Olympia contender Victor Martinez a pretty good showing. But second place at the 2013 Toronto Pro Supershow crushed his spirits so badly that he decided to wrap up his 2013 competition plans and instead devise a plan of attack for his off-season. “I’m pretty honest about how I look. I’m not a delusional bodybuilder. I’m hard on myself,” he admits.
His goal this off-season: to add quality muscle. “I normally compete at about 250 pounds, but to really make an impact I need to compete at 265. When I go back to the Olympia I’ll be in the Top 10,” he declares.
SCIENCE OR BRO-SCIENCE?
The Windsor, Ontario, native espouses the virtues of experience and self-awareness over the latest nutrition and training trends, with scientiﬁc bases that require evidence.
“As your bodybuilding career progresses, you have to employ some techniques based on science; but these guys who are just beginning are really overthinking things,” Abiad says. “My advice to people just starting out is to train heavy, eat every two to three hours, and see where your body goes in the ﬁrst six months. But they want a magic formula to get around hard work.”
One of his pet peeves is the buzz around the latest fashionable diet movement in bodybuilding, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), which is based on eating a set amount of calories per day regardless of the number of meals. “These guys are telling me it’s a myth that you need to eat every two to three hours because some study told them so,” Abiad says. “There have been days where I’m not hungry and have eaten only two to three meals. I can tell you that my workout the next day suffers.”
He recites several techniques bodybuilders use that have been adopted by mainstream dieters but aren’t yet proven scientiﬁc fact: eating smaller meals several times a day, such as doing cardio on an empty stomach ﬁrst thing in the morning, eating more protein for weight loss. “Science is based on trial and error,” he says, “which is exactly what bodybuilders have done as they reﬁne their diets and training.”
In the same vein, Abiad trains by instinct. It’s a skill well honed after 15 years of lifting and competing. If he’s feeling particularly energetic, he might do giant sets. If he’s tired, he’s cautious about not pushing himself and risking injury. He listens to his body.
However, he’s quick to point out that when starting a training plan, you sometimes have to push beyond your self-imposed limits. His average chest workout takes no more than an hour, or an hour and 15 minutes if he adds triceps that day. His workouts are fast but extremely intense, with little room for socializing. Even if he trains with a partner (often fellow Canadian pro Frank McGrath or up-and-coming national competitor Dorian Hamilton), both wear headphones and get right down to business after stretching out.
Abiad and his longtime training partner Paul Lauzon have an understanding that their workout needs constant focus. “Whomever I lift with knows what we’re doing that day—we don’t need to talk a lot,” he says. Listening to music allows him to focus on the muscle contraction. He contends that the mind-to-muscle connection is particularly important for chest, which can easily devolve into more of a shoulder workout if not done properly—something he points out several times as he describes how to execute the movements.
Abiad’s workout split changes throughout the year. If he notices a lagging body part, he trains it twice a week. However, he cautions against going all out on that lagging body part two times in a week because you’ll do more harm than good. Though he doesn’t think there’s such a thing as overtraining, that body part may not recover in time for the next workout, thus defeating the purpose of the split.
Instead, he advocates doing either one heavy day and one isolation day, or one free weight day and one cable day if you’re trying to bring up a weak point. Writing down your exact plan for the month is advisable, because that way you can balance the types of exercises you do for that split and assess whether or not it worked as planned.
In preparation for the 2014 New York Pro, Abiad currently trains chest and triceps on separate days once per week. He talked me through the proper technique for some of the exercises and explained why he chose them.
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