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General Bodybuilding

 

I used to think that training at the gym was simply just about turning up. For ages I went to the gym without having any real plan.  Most of my exercises were either the latest fad stolen from the internet, or exercises that I would see other gym goers executing.

 

Several things then happened. I began to get really frustrated with the shape of my body not changing in the way I wanted it to. Then back in early 2022 my current training partner offered to helped me gain focus with more structured workouts. Then in the summer of 2022 I attended my first bodybuilding show and it was this visit that inspired me to take my training to the next level – and aim for competition.

The first thing – getting a good coach and a good training partner

 

When I first took up bodybuilding seriously, I thought I had a good understanding of training, rest and nutrition, but that wasn't really the case. I had to research and study, I discussed techniques, food, sleep patterns and so-forth with lots of people, and I got myself an experienced coach. Only by pulling together this level of support and knowledge was I able to make real progress.

As well as a coach, I also have a training partner, Coco. He lives on the Isle of Wight too, so he can keep me disciplined on my daily training. He's also my 'primary motivator' on all those tough days in the gym. He helps me follow top-level guidance from my coach and because he is also very experienced, he fills-in with all the extra detail that I really need in order to get competition ready.

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Having a clear split between general training and pre-comp training

So we now split my training into two major sections; the general bodybuilding phase that I am describing here, and the Pre-Comp Phase. If you don't make this definite split, I would say that it could impact on your chances of winning competitions (if that is what you want to do). And of course I also have a definite split in my nutrition plan as well – so overall there are two very distinct and different modes to my whole existence really, and I think it's this level of dedication that is required for competition success.

A word of caution though. I strongly suggest three important things for anyone going to this level; make sure your team monitor your training, monitor your nutrition and monitor your wellbeing. When we're really going for it, in the bodybuilding phase, or a little fuzzy headed in the prep phase, it's easy to miss the bigger picture.

The gym work 

The Bodybuilding Phase is where my training focuses on strength using larger weights and compound movements on the areas of my physique that need improvement. For me, as I am quite petit, I aim for a balanced physique that suits my body type. I am pushing the boundaries of strength without any loss of execution, intensity or muscle connection. I train for four or five days a week. The remaining two days I will concentrate on rest.

 

I usually do 8 to 10 exercises per workout, and after my warm-up sets there will only be two or three main sets before finishing on a back-off set. The workout will split my muscles into three or four groups, with some being compound and some basic strength exercises, such as:

 

  • Lower 1 – quads

  • Lower 2 – glutes and hams

  • Upper 1 – pull

  • Upper 2 – push

 

Reps range between eight to fifteen. I do a lower number with more weight for the main working sets and a higher number with less weight for my feeder sets and back-off sets.

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Finally – keep a logbook

One important aspect of my overall training is my logbook. I strongly advise using a logbook so that every day that you go to the gym, your training is both pre-planned and accurately tracked. You follow the plan and record everything you do and this allows you to show progression of either your weights or reps. Once you get into this, it's such a powerful tool to both remind you of what you need to get done and motivate you to keep your eye on the prize. Indeed, as I became more serious about competing I could see that my logbook represented the commitment to winning and the discipline to make sure nothing was left to chance.

And of course, I can use the information in the logbook to brief my coach on progress – she can even have a look if she likes – it keeps me honest. And then sometimes my coach will make a change to my training and I can make notes so that I know exactly what the changes are for when I'm in the gym again the next day.

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