by Victor R. Prisk, M.D.
Getting shredded is essential to becoming an NPC champion. Offseason bodybuilders put incredible stress on their bodies in order to put on as much muscle as possible. This often comes with some water retention and increased body fat. There are many “coaches” (trainers/nutritionists) out there who are then consulted to get in absolutely ripped condition within 8 to 16 weeks. The trim down brings on feelings of “depletion”, “shrinking”, or “flattening out”. The mirror and the scale become your worst enemy. The role of a good coach is to keep you positive and on the right track; to prevent your emotions from messing it all up.
Some athletes go searching for a coach to help them in their last few weeks of prep as they become afraid of making any changes that might cost them the title. They are afraid that they will not be in shape or perhaps be “holding water” at the time of their show. A well laid-out plan can be completely destroyed by making the wrong choices in those last few week. It is quite common to see athletes posting incredible pictures on Facebook a week out from a show and then come in looking like crap. “Wow, what happened to him?”
The main problem I see in these competitors is inconsistency and lack of a plan. These competitors listen to their more seasoned bodybuilding friends at the gym, local “experts”, and even their “supplement” suppliers and try to mix a “bro”-science into a plan that ultimately fails them. The key to success in contest prep is a consistent well-organized plan and honest feedback. In order to provide this, your coach needs to be there from day one.
A good coach is going to individualize your program. In order to do that they must be a seasoned competitor or have an excellent foundation based on human physiology. One should understand how proteins, fats, and carbohydrates affect your metabolism, how all calories are not created equal, how supplements affect your muscle and fat, and how training, overtraining, and stress affect your physiology. A good coach understands moderation, doesn’t recommend MORE supplements or dangerous regimens.
Some coaches will just look at your conditioning and give you advice on trimming down. Some may just have you send photos (hopefully with consistent lighting and poses) and adjust your program accordingly. Some will see you in person every few weeks and others will train with you in the gym. Ideally it would be great to have a trainer by your side telling you to stop eating that, to lift more weight, and to wake you up throw you on the treadmill in the morning. Well, until that robot is made, you’ll have to find someone that can provide you with the attention you need.
Which brings us to the other factor that is quite unique from person to person; their neediness level. Some coaches are so busy that they only give their undivided attention to their champions or contenders. Meanwhile, the beginning bodybuilder or the one with less genetic gifts will be left with the cookie-cutter routine. Some bodybuilders may do just fine with a fixed and simplified routine, while some may need tweaks to the program every week. Hopefully, the longer you work with any one coach, the less tweaks you will need to make.
Consistency is important for a few reasons. First, it makes prep a little more predictable and thus less stressful. Stress, whether from work, social situations or family can raise cortisol levels and will certainly affect the physiology of your prep. There is definite truth to the fact that stress in your life can ruin your physique. Second, when you are consistent with your diet and training program it is easy to know when something is going wrong or needs to be changed. For instance, if you are very consistent with your calories, it is easy to add a few more if you are losing weight too quickly or take a few away if not fast enough. Finally, consistency allows you to recreate the same conditioning or improve upon it in your next show prep. By keeping records of your past diets it is very easy to tweak your prep from show to show, year after year.
Don’t get me wrong, it is ok to go it alone if you know your body well and you have already seen success on the stage. I personally found that having a close eye on my physique and my diet through a brutally honest coach like Gary Udit was the difference between being a top 5 bodybuilder at the national level and being a national champion. If you are very serious about becoming a pro bodybuilder, turn the individual sport into a team sport by teaming up with a coach/trainer.
Victor Prisk, MD, is an Orthapedic Surgeon and an IFBB Professional bodybuilder. For more with Prisk, go to www.victorprisk.com