Contest Prep 101, Part 2

How to keep progressing toward your ultimate goal of stepping onstage in the best shape of your life.
By Eric "Merlin" Broser
Per Bernal

If you are reading this now, I hope you have already read Part 1 of this series and successfully absorbed/processed all the information presented. In Part 2 we will simply be building on the foundation program (Weeks 12 to 9) so that progress is continuous and progressive. The goal of any contest-preparation regimen should be to manifest an improved physique every week by making small, painless, and highly strategic tweaks to your diet, training, and supplements so that your peak is timed perfectly for contest day.

STAY MENTALLY STRONG

Often the first four weeks of contest prep are the most difficult from a mental standpoint. Why, you ask? Well, that’s because after four weeks your body fat will be down, but it might not really show just yet on your physique. Because your skin has been stretched due to off-season weight gain (and, as I mentioned in Part 1, hopefully not too much weight gain), it is likely that it needs more time to adhere and “shrink-wrap” around your muscles. This can make you feel smaller and flatter (rather than more ripped) and leave you wondering, “What the heck is going on?” But I assure you, my friends, this is all a normal part of the process—and that if you stay on point, you will soon be rewarded greatly for your efforts! 

DIET

Below you will find the slightly updated list of high-quality foods that can be included in your diet for Weeks 8 to 5 of prep, as well as a sample meal plan so you can see how to properly put things together. As we move along, more and more foods will be removed, and the macronutrient profile will be adjusted. This is to allow for continuous progress to take place every week right up till the show. 

  • PROTEINS
    • 96% lean beef, 99% lean chopped turkey meat, turkey breast, chicken breast, steak, egg whites, game meats, white fish, salmon, nonfat cottage cheese, protein powders (can be used for up to three meals per day)
  • CARBOHYDRATES
    • Brown rice, white rice, sweet potato, white potato, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, cream of wheat, quinoa, rice cakes, pasta, carb powder
  • VEGETABLES
    • All green and colored types
  • FATS
    • Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, avocado, olive oil, fish oil, flax oil, coconut oil, nut butters 

DIET ADJUSTMENTS

For these four weeks of the program, 93% lean beef was replaced with 96% lean beef, 93% lean turkey was replaced with 99% lean turkey, fruits were removed from the carbohydrates list, and cheddar cheese was removed from the fats list.

At this point in the prep, it is time to lower overall fat intake, as well as remove fruit sugar (fructose). While fruit is very healthy, I have found that fructose is not an optimal carbohydrate when fat loss is the major goal. Additionally, cheddar cheese was removed so that greater focus is put on essential fatty acids.

 

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Per Bernal

SAMPLE MEAL PLAN

  • MEAL 1
    • P | Whey/casein protein powder mix (approximately 2 scoops) 
    • | Oatmeal (2.3 oz uncooked)
    • F | No added fats 
  • MEAL 2
    • P | Chicken breast (6.4 oz cooked) 
    • C | Brown rice (5 oz cooked)
    • F | No added fats
  • MEAL 3 (PRE-WORKOUT) 
    • P | Tilapia (7.5 oz cooked) 
    • C | Large mixed salad
    • F | Olive oil (1 tbsp) 
  • MEAL 4 (POST-WORKOUT)
    • P | Whey protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
    • C | White potato (10 oz cooked) 
    • F | No added fats 
  • MEAL 5
    • P | Top-round steak (6.4 oz cooked)
    • C | Sweet potato (4.1 oz cooked) 
    • F | No added fats 
  • MEAL 6
    • P | Casein protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
    • C | None
    • F | Natural peanut butter (2 tbsp)
  • TOTAL = PROTEIN: 285g | CARBS: 165g | ESSENTIAL FATS: 28g 

SUPPLEMENTS

Here is a list of very basic supplements proven effective (both scientifically and in the trenches) at promoting greater muscle retention, increasing strength and power, enhancing muscular endurance, and improving general health (worth considering when under the increased stress of competition prep).

  • CREATINE
  • BETA-ALANINE
  • BCAA
  • MULTIVITAMIN/MINERAL
  • FISH OIL
  • L-LEUCINE

In the next phase of prep, I will add two more supplements to aid in revving up the metabolism to further ignite the fat-burning process, while also increasing energy, focus, and vasodilation (the “pump”) during workouts. These will include:

  • PRE-WORKOUT
  • THERMOGENIC FAT BURNER 

SUPPLEMENT ADJUSTMENTS

Personally, I do not favor pre-workout products that amp me up and overstimulate me, especially when I am also utilizing a fat burner. I prefer pre-workout products that contain ingredients that increase blood flow to the working muscles and provide a maximized pump. When blood flow is enhanced, there will be a greater delivery of nutrients, hormones, and oxygen directed toward the target muscles.

Some effective ingredients to look for when the goal is to maximize the “pump” are citrulline malate, beetroot extract, agmatine sulfate, red wine extract, and glycerol.

When it comes to fat burners, you must first make sure that your heart is healthy and that you can tolerate the stimulants often associated with these products. The goal is increased metabolism, fat burning, energy, and focus, without side effects such as jitters, racing heart, anxiety, or overheating. Research these supplements carefully and never use more than the label directs. If negative side effects occur and persist, please stop using that particular product. You cannot get onstage from a hospital bed! 

 

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MONDAY: WEEKS 8, 7, 6, & 5

  • CHEST
    • 60-Degree Incline Dumbbell Press | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2-3 min.
    • Smith Bench Press (to upper chest) | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2-3 min. 
    • Weighted or Machine Dips | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2-3 min.
    • Cable Crossover or Pec-Deck Flye | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2 min. 
  • BICEPS
    • 90-Degree Side Barbell Preacher Curl or Prone Incline Barbell Curl | SETS: 3 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Seated Incline Alternating Dumbbell Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/1/2 | REST: 2 min. 
    • Front Biceps Pose Upper Cable Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2 min. 
  • FOREARMS
    • Reverse Barbell Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2 min.
    • Single-Arm Dumbbell Wrist Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 13-15 (per side) | TEMPO: 1/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.
  • ABS
    • Cable Crunch | SETS: 1 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Lying Bent-Leg Hip Raise | SETS: 2 | REPS: 21-25 or max | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Lying Side Crunch | SETS: 1 | REPS: 26-30 (per side) | TEMPO: 1/0/1 | REST: 2 min. or max 

TUESDAY: WEEKS 8, 7, 6, & 5 

  • QUADS
    • Leg Extension | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2-3 min.
    • Barbell Squat | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 3 min.
    • Single-Leg Press | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 (per leg) | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 3 min.
    • Single-Leg Extension | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 (per leg) | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2-3 min.
  • HAMSTRINGS
    • Lying Leg Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Seated Leg Curl | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/2/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Straight-Leg Barbell Good Morning | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2-3 min.
    • Adduction Machine | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.
  • CALVES
    • Machine or Smith Standing Calf Raise | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 7-9, 1x 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/1/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Seated Calf Raise | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 13-15, 1x 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min. 

THURSDAY: WEEKS 8, 7, 6, & 5 

  • LATS
    • Close-Grip T-bar Row | SETS: 3 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 3 min.
    • Incline Two-Arm Dumbbell Row (palms inward) | SETS: 3 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 3 min.
    • Seated Cable Row (underhand grip) | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 3 min.
    • Wide-Grip Pulldown or Assisted Pullup Machine | SETS: 13-15 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2-3 min.
    • Stiff-Arm Pulldown or Pullover Machine | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/1/2 | REST: 2 min.
  • LOWER BACK
    • Partial Rack Deadlift from Knee Height | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 7-9, 1x 10-12 | TEMPO: 1/1/1 | REST: 3 min.
    • Weighted Hyperextension | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2-3 min.
  • ABS
    • Weighted Incline Situp | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2 min.
    • Hanging or Supported Straight-Leg Raise | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2 min.
    • Cable Side Crunch | SETS: 1-2 | REPS: 21-25 (per side) | TEMPO: 1/0/1 | REST: 2 min. 

FRIDAY: WEEKS 8, 7, 6, & 5 

SHOULDERS

Seated Dumbbell or Machine Press (palms facing inward) | SETS: 2 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 3 min.

Prone Incline Front Barbell Raise (shoulder-width grip) | SETS: 3 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.

Standing Dumbbell Side Lateral | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2 min.

Single-Arm Bentover Rear Lateral | SETS: 2 | REPS: 16-20 | TEMPO: 1/0/1 | REST: 2 min.

TRAPS

Close-Grip Barbell Upright Row | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 7-9, 1x 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2-3 min.

Dumbbell Shrug | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 10-12, 1x 13-15 | TEMPO: 1/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.

TRICEPS

Incline Two-arm Overhead Barbell or EZ-Bar Extension | SETS: 3 | REPS: 7-9 | TEMPO: 2/1/2 | REST: 2 min.

Straight-Bar Pushdown | SETS: 2 | REPS: 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.

Lying Single-Arm Dumbbell Extension | SETS: 2 | REPS: 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/2 | REST: 2 min.

CALVES

Calf Press | SETS: 2 | REPS: 1x 7-9, 1x 10-12 | TEMPO: 2/0/1/1 | REST: 2 min.

Single-Leg Seated Calf Raise | SETS: 2 (per leg) | REPS: 1x 13-15 | TEMPO: 2/0/1 | REST: 2 min. 

REP-RANGE TRAINING

In the first installment of this series, I explained how it is vital to keep training with 100% intensity and drive during the entire contest- prep period, but also to vary your method of attack so that all your anabolic pathways are triggered in a cyclical fashion (every four weeks). We began by utilizing the “power” portion of my P/RR/S training protocol, which requires the use of heavy weight for lower reps, with slow eccentric contractions and explosive positives. Now that your body fat is down, cardio has increased, and calories have dropped, it becomes increasingly dangerous to force your joints to handle very heavy weights. So at this point we will switch to “rep range,” which will stimulate a different population of muscle fibers and ignite anabolism via varied mechanisms. 

SPEEDING UP FAT LOSS

As with everything in a well-planned contest-prep regimen, cardio should be increased in small increments weekly to allow for a steady loss of body fat while retaining a maximum amount of lean muscle mass. With cardio sessions of 40-plus minutes, you have the option of splitting it into two halves. This would mean performing half the amount of required cardio in the morning before meal 1, and the other half in the evening, perhaps in between meals 5 and 6. Here is the cardio plan for Weeks 8 to 5. 

  • 8 WEEKS OUT
    • 40 minutes on non-workout days and 20 minutes on workout days
  • 7 WEEKS OUT
    • 40 minutes on non-workout days and 25 minutes on workout days
  • 6 WEEKS OUT
    • 45 minutes on non-workout days and 25 minutes on workout days
  • 5 WEEKS OUT
    • 50 minutes on non-workout days and 25 minutes on workout days 

 FLEX 

>> Click HERE for PART 1 <<

PART 3, Coming Soon!