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How soon to start a contest prep?

I just got back from the 2010 NPC Orange County Muscle Classic in Anaheim this weekend, and I am always amazed at some of the competitors and the poor condition they show up to a contest in. While sometimes it is obvious that they just didn’t realize that many of the other competitors take competition very seriously, I am not sure if this is the case in some of the others. I have to assume that the out of shape athlete simply didn’t know the level of conditioning it takes to do well at a bodybuilding, figure or bikini contest. Then there are those few, and if you have been to a few contests then you know what I am talking about, that show up simply way out of shape for a contest. These individuals really shouldn’t be on stage at all, I often think some of these guys and gals get up on stage because of a dare or bet they lost the night before.

While it is within everyone’s right to show up and compete in any condition they want, my guess is that they would have a deeper sense of accomplishment, not to mention, they would avoid some of the embarrassing ridicule, if they just understood some kind of standard for preparation for a contest. My guess is that in many cases, many lack the understanding on how to properly prepare for a show. After all, it is a very difficult process and it is wise for anyone to hire a coach to help them with their contest prep and guide them through this process, especially if they have never done this kind of competition before.

Having said all this, I thought I would give you a few general guidelines that most people can follow for determining how long a contest diet might take you. We will focus on bodybuilding and figure since the standards for these rely more on conditioning and thus a little easier to predict how long you should start your contest prep. For figure, most ladies really need fall in between 8.5% and 9.5% body fat in order to look well conditioned, firm, toned and tight. Much of this is individualized because each woman will hold her fat disproportionately in different areas on her body. So in the end you should rely on what the judges will see and not on body comp %. You can assume that for most women it will take one week of prep for every 1 lbs of scale weight that you have to loose. Now there are many assumptions built into this, and this is just a gauge. But this is generally accurate. You may lose more weight the first few weeks but once your body stabilizes the weight will come off slower. In the end, the average will be about one pound per week most likely.

As for men’s bodybuilding, men have the capacity in most cases to lose overall body weight at a much faster rate. So in general, you can assume 2 lbs of scale weight per week of contest prep. In most cases, men bodybuilders should come to a contest testing anywhere from 4.5% to 3.5% body fat. But again, at the end of the day you want the judges to see lean, hard, full muscles. Use your eyeballs to judge not a body comp test.

Now this stuff is just general advice and I have to qualify this post and say that everyone’s body can move at very different rates and with very different results. The best course of action that would have helped anyone who I saw out of shape at any contest would have been to start early, hire a professional to help develop a contest strategy, and stay positive because it should get hard. Remember, the worse you feel on a contest diet, the better you probably look!

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