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The Finishing Exercise Myth

Q: During the last four weeks before my last bodybuilding show, my trainer had me lift lighter weights for higher reps to get more cuts. Instead, I lost a lot of size and looked small onstage. What did I do wrong?

A: You listened to your trainer feeding you an age-old precontest myth—that’s what you did! It’s the craziest thing. You spend months pumping heavy iron to build size and shape, and then in the month before your contest you switch to “finishing” movements and whittle away your body to nothing. Don’t fall for this nonsense. There is no such thing as a finishing exercise. If you build your pecs with heavy benches, dumbbell presses and flyes, don’t think that light cable crossovers are going to give you striations. You need to stimulate the muscles to get them to grow, and you need to keep pushing them all the way to contest day.

Training weight is relative. If you are dieting and keeping your carbs low, you will naturally be weaker than if you are eating like a horse and training like a madman in the off-season. Even so, if you continue to train at max weight during the precontest period, that’s what will keep your size, even if the resistance is cut by 20 percent. Instead of 300-pound benches, you’ll be struggling to get the same reps with 260 or 275 when you’re four weeks out from a show, but don’t sweat it. Push your ass off, and keep training as heavy as possible. Remember the old saying, “You’ve got to dance with the one what brung ya”? It means to stick with the people—or in this case training principles—that got you this far—whether you are six months from a show or six days!


Editor’s note: Ben White won his first IFBB professional bodybuilding contest, the Tampa Pro, in 2010. He is also a champion powerlifter and frequently competes in the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder contest at the Olympia. His best competition bench press is 711 pounds. He is an MPH athlete,  IM


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