When it comes to preparing for a physique show there is more than one approach to getting the results that you desire. Taking the stage looking and feeling your very best is directly related to what you do in the weeks, months, and sometimes even years prior to that moment. Equally important to understand is that what happens to your body once the show is over can also be directly related to your pre-show practices. Many people have experienced post-show problems to such a degree that they’ve regretted ever competing in the first place. For some, their system can become so compromised that no amount of dieting and training will give them the results they desire for quite a while. There are definitely things you can do to make sure that taking the journey to look your best won’t be something you regret once the stage lights go off. Here are some common mistakes that you can easily avoid to keep you from having any post-show issues.
Not Taking Enough Time: One common mistake people make is not give themselves the proper amount of time to prepare for a show. This often happens with people who are new to sport. They may have heard that a typical contest prep period is 12-14 weeks. They may not understand that the true time frame is directly related to the athlete’s starting point. That 12-14 week time frame won’t apply if their body is 20 weeks or more away from being able to achieve the desired look. Truly assessing where you are versus where you need to be, then allotting the proper amount of time can help you be a lot more successful.
Starting Too Aggressively: Another critical mistake that competitors make is starting off too aggressively at the beginning of their prep. The initial program gets implemented with the calories too low and/or the cardio amount too high relative to what they were previously doing. The body can only lose body fat so fast. Trying to push beyond that may cause a drop on the scale, but too great of an initial drop can cost you precious muscle and can easily effect your rate of progress throughout the rest of the prep in a negative way. Having less muscle means lowered metabolic activity, which can greatly increase the likelihood of needing to do higher and higher cardio amounts on lower and lower calories beyond what would have been needed if a less aggressive approach had been taken. By setting your initial program at a point where your body just starts to move in the right direction, not at the most extreme point possible, you will leave yourself a lot more room to make further needed changes.
Changing Too Aggressively: After the initial training and diet programs are implemented, it will still be necessary to make ongoing adjustments to keep progressing towards your final look. It’s important to remember to only make the changes required to keep improving at an ideal rate. You don’t need to double the cardio amount, or reduce calories to a bare minimum at the first sign of a stall. Add just enough additional training and/or remove the needed amount of calories to start or keep the body progressing. Over time this gets easier to gauge accurately and often you’ll find that adjusting only one variable at a time (diet or training) will give you better feedback to understand and predict the needed changes for the future. But the main thing to understand is that you’re just trying to keep the body moving at an ideal pace and you don’t ever want to crash your system by being overly aggressive and cause the body to push back.
Overemphasizing Leanness: The WPC is an organization that will adhere to a very balance judging criteria. Physique, Presentation, Symmetry, Aesthetics, and Marketability are all given equal weight when it comes to determining an athlete’s final score. Often the industry has rewarded a look that is overly hard and muscular to a disproportionate degree as it is an easy thing to recognize onstage from a judging standpoint. When other physique aspects like symmetry, proportion and overall body shape are sacrificed in the quest for extreme leanness, it can lead to a less than ideal look. With the WPC judging criteria, it is not necessary to go to such an extreme. You don’t want to lose points in the symmetry or marketability category by pushing your body fat levels to an unnecessary low. Even overall aesthetics can be effected if the face becomes too drawn, or the natural curves and shape is sacrificed. Along with this, pursuing a look that is excessively lean can be a big factor in leading to training and dieting protocols that can have a negative effect on the body post-show.
Not Taking A Break: The body can’t remain in a caloric deficit forever. Fitness should be about balance and part of that balance is giving yourself periodic breaks from the rigors of hard training and dieting. That doesn’t mean completely falling off the wagon, but it you pursue fitness and competitions with a lifestyle oriented approach, there will be no need to sacrifice health and competitive longevity to achieve your best look. A big plus is that “the look” which the WPC will be seeking and promoting is not only attainable, but sustainable and perfectly in line with the types of fitness practices that transfer to mainstream fitness enthusiast. This will give athletes the ability to not only visually inspire others, but also to lead by example and even be relatable to those who have no aspirations to reach the stage.
The fitness lifestyle is an amazingly positive endeavor when done correctly. This does not need to be sacrificed in order to purse competition. Although many people have experienced a self-induced condition I refer to as metabolic burnout in direct response to pushing themselves too far while attempting to achieve extreme leanness, with the WPC’s judging criteria this is not necessary and can actually be detrimental to the athletes success. With the right approach, physique athletes can look and feel good both onstage and off, and open the door to even greater opportunities.