I can’t believe that it’s been a full year since I started writing for IRON MAN. This column marks the first of my second year as a monthly contributor, and I must say that I’m really enjoying it. What I like most is getting e-mail from readers with their questions, comments and sometimes just brief notes thanking me for doing what I’m doing. I also love getting to work in the IRON MAN booth at the IFBB IRON MAN Pro and at the Olympia and meeting our readers face to face. It’s been great, and I sincerely appreciate all the support that y’all have given me.
This month I’m going to revisit a few topics that I’ve written about over the past year. I’ve been getting some of the same questions repeatedly, so I feel I should go over a few things again.
Reader 1: I hear that the new thing for young men to do in New York City is to slather themselves in Preparation H before they go to a nightclub. They say it gets them ripped, which the women like. If that works, could we use it for a bodybuilding show?
Dave: I’ll answer that one just as I did the first time: Covering yourself in Preparation H is just going to make you smell like ass. It’s probably what those morons are drinking, smoking or snorting that makes them think that they’re getting “ripped” from Preparation H. Being ripped has to do with having very low bodyfat and adequate amounts of muscle so that the separation between muscles shows up and the striations within a single muscle belly are visible. Being ripped takes a lot of hard weight training, dieting and, usually, cardiovascular exercise. Occasionally, people are ripped due to superior genetics, but that’s rare. And if you’re not already ripped, Preparation H isn’t going to get you there.
Reader 2: I’m thinking about competing in a bodybuilding contest. I’m already lean, but I’m holding about 10 pounds of water. What can I do to get rid of it?
Dave: Is it there all the time?
Reader 2: Yes.
Dave: It’s not water. It’s bodyfat.
Reader 2: I was told that if I cut my water for three days and took an herbal diuretic, I’d get rid of it.
Dave: Muscle is about 75 percent water. Blood is about 88 percent water. As a drug-free bodybuilder you’ll lose muscle cell volume and blood volume if you dehydrate yourself. You’ll be smaller and less vascular and have difficulty getting a pump. You’ll appear softer because your skin won’t be stretched as tightly; your muscle circumference will be less. You might also experience severe cramping and/or dizziness and fainting.
You’re still carrying a relatively thin layer of bodyfat. You need to reduce that by a combination of diet and exercise in order to be ripped for competition.
Reader 2: What if I just cut back on my water the day before the show?
Dave: Don’t cut your water. I usually end up drinking 1.5 to two gallons of distilled water the day before a show. On the day of the show I do not restrict my water. I drink whenever I’m thirsty. Cutting back on water will make you smaller and less vascular. Also keep in mind that water isn’t your problem. It’s bodyfat.
Check out my photos from the ’07 NPC Team Universe at IronManMagazine.com. I drank more than two gallons of water in the 24 hours preceding the show.
Reader 2: What about using herbal diuretics?
Dave: You don’t want to do anything to dehydrate yourself.
Reader 2: What about coffee? Can I drink coffee the day of the contest?
Dave: If you’re accustomed to drinking a cup of coffee every morning, by all means have a cup the morning of the show. A buddy of mine drinks an enormous amount of coffee every day. The first time I helped him prepare for a show, I had him cut way back on the coffee that he drank before the prejudging. That was a mistake. By about noon he was experiencing withdrawal symptoms, and I had to go to Starbucks to get him a cup.
I’ll admit I’m hooked. I have a grande or venti Black-Eye every morning on my way to work.
Reader 2: So you’re saying that I have some bodyfat to lose and that if I get that off, I don’t have to worry about cutting my water or taking diuretics?
Reader 3: Dave, I’m 44 years old, and I’ve been training for about eight months. I want to have washboard abs like yours. I’ve been doing a good 30 minutes of abdominal training and core work four days per week. I’m working extremely hard, but I still can’t see my abs. What’s your secret?
Dave: There are no secrets. You can’t spot reduce. You can do all of the abdominal training you want to do, but until you get your bodyfat low enough, your abs aren’t going to show up. To be very honest, I work my abs only once a week for about 10 to 15 minutes when I’m preparing for a show. I normally don’t do any specific ab work in the off-season. When I do train abs, however, my philosophy is to try to contract them as hard as I can on each repetition. I usually do about four sets of a leg-raise exercise, usually hanging leg raises, and then four sets of crunches—either on the floor or on a therapy ball. I go to failure on each set.
As I mentioned, the biggest factor in having great abs is getting your bodyfat extremely low. I rarely let my bodyfat get above 8 percent in the off-season, and I usually get under 3 percent in contest condition. A lot of people have great abdominal muscles, but we never see the six-pack because they never get their bodyfat low enough. Dropping bodyfat to extremely low levels takes discipline in training and diet, and it also takes consistency. I usually take 12 to 14 weeks to drop from 8 percent to below 3 percent.
Reader 3: So, if I do more sets of the leg raises, will that get the fat off my lower abs? I seem to hold more there.
Dave: Again, you can’t spot reduce. With a combination of diet and exercise you’ll lose bodyfat from all over your body, and the fat on your abdomen will gradually get thinner and thinner.
Reader 3: Okay, but what should I do about my love handles? They’re pretty bad too.
Dave: Diet and exercise. You have to burn more calories than you take in. You’ll lose fat all over your body. You can’t spot reduce bodyfat. As you lower your bodyfat, your love handles will disappear.
Now, about the obliques. Those are the muscles in the love-handle area. The obliques work as assistance muscles when you’re doing crunches and leg raises. They also contract very hard when you’re doing squats or deadlifts. Since the obliques are involved in supporting your trunk, they’re contracting any time you’re standing, walking or jogging. I don’t do any direct oblique training other than some light twisting with a broomstick. I caution physique athletes about doing direct oblique work or excessive core work because it will thicken your waist, and the V-taper is extremely important in physique competition. If you participate in a sport or activity in which twisting is at a premium, you should do some strength training for the obliques.
Thank you all for your support over the past year. Please continue to e-mail me your questions and comments. Don’t worry that your question might be stupid or too basic or that I may have already covered it. There are many, many things that I don’t know and for which I need to go to experts to get good, honest information. There are also things that I can’t get through my thick skull right away too. I’m sure some of my friends and family are sick of my asking the same stupid computer questions over and over. The bottom line is, don’t be afraid to ask. My column is here to answer your questions. If you don’t send them, I won’t know what to write about.
Train hard and eat clean.
Editor’s note: See Dave Goodin’s new blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on the blog selection in the top menu bar. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to TXShredder@aol.com. IM