I’ve been a competitive bodybuilder for a long time now. The first show I competed in I was a middleweight. I was proud of how I looked and what I accomplished but at 5’9 needed to put on a lot more weight to be competitive. So I took a year and a half to pack on as much muscle as I could. I was pretty successful in that offseason and managed to increase my stage weight from 176lbs to 197. Lets call these “noobie gains”. Though I wasn’t new to working out, I was still fairly fresh when it came to really making bodybuilding a focus.
1st Competition (176lbs) vs. 2nd Competition (197lbs)
(both about 4 weeks out)
The approach used in that offseason was simple. Eat big, train hard, get big. I got up to an offseason peak somewhere around 225lbs. I’ve followed that pattern of getting heavy in the offseason, trying to grow as much as possible, then cutting down for each show. Body fat was less of priority and I essentially was chasing the scale. I’ve eaten crazy amounts of food…daily caloric intake has exceeded 7,500! At my heaviest my weight has exceeded 275lbs. To say I was uncomfortable at that weight and that amount of food is putting it lightly! The simplest of things were difficult…from dressing myself, to climbing the stairs, to putting my seatbelt on in the car. It was not easy to move around! And I was so full all the time that I was on the verge of puking (and I did quite a few times). My weight would get a little heavier each offseason, and my stage weight would follow suit…until the last few years.
Now don’t get me wrong, this method can and does work! I was able to put on a lot of muscle in those years. I still think that this is the most effective method for those looking to really pack on mass. But after really struggling to get the offseason weight off in 2014 I realized that getting that heavy was not the best route to take anymore.
I’ve put a bigger emphasis on maintaining a lower body fat percentage since that time, but my weight still seemed to climb if I wasn’t careful. Just this year I exceeded 266lbs and then sucked down to a stage weight of 213lbs. Half way through that prep I decided that the days of the big heavy offseasons are behind me, for good.
It’s September 29th and I last competed on June 18th, 15 weeks ago. I have really tried to treat this off-season differently. No more chasing the scale, no more huge increases in calories. My weight this morning was 236 pounds, which puts me roughly 20 pounds over my stage weight. 2 Weeks after my show I was 225lbs and it has slowly crept up since then. This is about has high as I’ll let my body fat get. I’m lucky to be working with a coach that supports this approach.
I just started a mini cut right now for about 6 weeks to sharpen things up a bit and increase insulin sensitivity. This will likely happen once more before I buckle down for a show next year. All subject to change, but that’s the plan.
This approach should allow me to keep any added muscle I’m able to gain this offseason, achieve some extreme conditioning, and do so with much less effort – which has a lot to do with the first part being possible. Time will tell if it all plays out the way I expect.