Where was your first competition, what organization, and how was the overall experience?
The competition we competed in was the 2013 NPC Excalibur Show in Culver City, CA. It was a huge show and a national qualifier. This was not a show we would have considered in the beginning of our prep. As our goal was to compete in a “Tested” federation and show for our first show. We were originally supposed to compete in early November at Layne Norton’s show but our bodies were not ready. We, including our coach didn’t anticipate our bodies to be that stubborn, so we had to push it back some. The only show left of the year that was close to where we live was the NPC Excalibur Show. So we decided to enter it with an open mind and gain experience and learn as much as we could from it as students and coaches of bodybuilding. The show itself was an overall great experience for us and we have no regrets. With that said, we felt the NPC organization was really unorganized, very political, and all about money. We were all pretty much treated like cattle and were rushed with everything due to the show having so many competitors in such little time. We were in the Novice Class and Middle weight class. We ended up finishing 5th and 6th place. Like we mentioned earlier we went into this show with an open mind with no expectations but to just become better students of the game and coaches. Looking back now, we can’t believe how calm and composed we were for it being such a big show and it being our first time on stage. We felt we came in the best shape we could and we felt we really nailed our posing and routine, the rest was out of our hands.
A good tip to those competing in their first show is to really do your research on the organization beforehand and don’t just do a show to do it. Do the research, get familiar with the organization, ask a lot of questions, and make a decision if it’s going to be a good fit for you.
What style of training did you follow throughout prep?
We followed an undulating hybrid training protocol that consisted of 2 heavier days with 3 hypertrophy body part split days. It included a mix off all rep ranges from heavy, moderate, to high, which brings us to our point below:
A very important tip for first time competitors is to not stray away from heavy lifting. You typically will see someone do nothing but hypertrophy style training or higher reps once they transition into prep. There are 3 mechanisms to hypertrophy and that’s mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress. You need to train in all rep ranges in order to induce these mechanisms as well as activate all muscle fibers from slow, medium, and to fast.
What was your cardio protocol like? How’d it start, progress, and finish?
Our cardio protocol started out with 2 high intensity interval days with 6 interval sprints. Over the course of the 26 week prep, intervals were added to the HIIT days to expedite fat loss. We went up to 13 intervals for 2 HIIT days and eventually needed to split it up into 3 HIIT days with 6 intervals since doing more than 13 intervals was simply just taxing and interfering with our leg workouts. At the end of prep, Eric ended up with 3 HIIT days and Chris ended up with 3 HIIT days and 1 LISS day for 30 minutes…It’s because he’s a minute older I had to do an extra cardio day 😉
A very important thing to think about as a first time competitor before picking a show date is to not be more than 15-20 pounds over your stage weight and to have a lot of caloric cushion to work with before starting your diet. This way you won’t have to rely on using so much cardio to expedite fat loss. This was a huge mistake that we made and our squat strength paid the price for it because of all the HIIT cardio interfered with the resistance training. Also, we felt we lost a lot of muscle on our legs due to all of the cardio. Just make sure you’re not abusing cardio, have it strategically programmed around your resistance training, and don’t be afraid to use upper modality forms such as rope slams/rower machine to give your legs a break.
What kind of nutrition program did you follow?
We followed a flexible dieting approach throughout prep which we were able to eat pretty much anything we wanted so long as we hit our macros, fiber, and micronutrient goals. When we first started prep, our caloric cushion was pretty high, our macros were very similar, but as we got deeper into the dark stages of prep our calories trickled down.
Let’s take Eric’s macros for example. Starting off my macros were at 260g pro/300g carbs/85g fat and my two refeed days were at 235g pro/550g carbs/80g fat.
Macros were great and I was in heaven. As two months went by, my metabolism became very adaptive. Meaning every time my coach made an adjustment, my body would adapt to the macronutrient profile and I wouldn’t make any progress. Two months out from the actual show we had to go another route and start carb cycling. This was the game changer as I started to shed more body fat and had to carb cycle all the way into my show. But at the end of the prep my macros were right around 240p/160c/50fat. Which goes to show even though I spent time building my metabolic capacity in the off season, it didn’t go the way I expected and genetic disposition plays a big role, but Imagine if I didn’t have a ton of caloric cushion to work with, wow I would have been miserable and starving towards the end of my prep.
It’s extremely important when you’re doing your first competitive show that you A) give yourself a sufficient amount of time to diet down. If you think you need 20 weeks, go for 24 weeks, nothing wrong with coming in ready early. B) Make sure you have plenty of caloric cushion to work with. Who do you think will have an easier time dropping body fat, the guy who’s maintaining weight at 3000 calories or 1500 calories? And C) Find a nutrition program that will be sustainable, realistic, and will allow your own personal taste preferences.
It’s been over a month now since stepping on stage. What’s your recovery been like as far as training and nutrition?
Ahhh thought you’d never ask this question. As soon as the show was over we went out for some sushi, but didn’t binge. All kidding aside, as far as nutrition, we transitioned into a reverse diet to properly let our metabolism recover and allow our hormones to recover to optimal levels again. As far as training, we deloaded for 3 full weeks, got some Active Release Therapy Treatment from our local chiropractor, and treated ourselves to a full body massage. After the 3 week deload, Chris switched over to more of an advanced undulating hybrid where he is using some West Side Barbell dynamic effort, power style training, and hypertrophy training. As far as Eric, he ended up getting bicep tendonitis the last 4 weeks of prep, so he’s been hitting legs 3 times per week and rehabbing his bicep tendon.
It’s absolutely imperative that a first time competitor understands that they need to transition into a proper reverse diet and slowly and deliberately add calories back in so they induce metabolic rate and recover their hormones back to optimal levels.
Your body is a fat storage machine after a long prep and it’s so crucial to recover the proper way.
With training, we would recommend transitioning back into a hybrid style routine where you’re still doing heavy lifting as well as hypertrophy work so you can make proper strength gain adaptations as well as building lean muscle mass, and strengthening your connective tissues.
Any setbacks or frustrations during the 26 week prep?
We definitely had one major setback during our prep. The setback was when our coach told us we weren’t going to be ready for the show we planned on competing in. It was tough hearing it, but in reality it was the best choice we made. The last thing as a competitor you want to do is enter a show and not look like a bodybuilder and make a fool of yourself. As coaches, business owners, and bodybuilders we wanted to represent everything we stand for, so we swallowed our pride and continued to work even harder to get ready for the NPC Excalibur Show in Mid December 2013. Our setback was due to us having way to much body fat starting off, we just didn’t realize it when we started our prep and we wish we would have. Another part of that setback was that we came to a conclusion that our metabolisms are very adaptive. So our coach and we didn’t anticipate that towards the beginning of our prep because we were cruising right along the first couple of months. As coaches, that is one of the toughest things about prepping an athlete. You can do everything right, but you never know what the human body is going to do next, your body will always be smarter than you. It is really tough to predict what’s going to happen next, there will never be a black or white answer. Overall that was the major setback during our prep, but at the end of the day we take responsibility for it because we should have never put on all that body fat in the off season to begin with.
How can a first time competitor stay healthy throughout prep?
What kind of balance did you have in your life during the 26 week prep?
Lots and lots of breaking bad episodes! Jk. We really tried not to make a lot of changes during prep and our normal day to day lives. We still ran our training and nutrition consulting business; we still hung out with friends, did lots of dinner and movie nights with our girlfriends, and went to some social and entertainment events. We’d say if we were to do it all over again, we would have put one of our refeed days on a Saturday so we could go out to dinner and enjoy being at a nice restaurant and enjoy the social aspect of it. Other than that, we still did a lot of the normal things we do.
For the first time competitor it’s really important not to alienate yourself from family and friends. Don’t become the hermit that stays home and eats their tilapia and broccoli while watching Netflix. Be yourself and just adapt to the situations that are around you. Prep doesn’t have to be a miserable experience nor does the world stop just because you’re in prep. There is a better way to go about it than the all or nothing way. So find a balance, get into a routine, keep living your life, and keep killing it in prep!
We would have to say just constantly listening to your body throughout the course of your prep. No one is ever going to feel 100% throughout their prep, unless they have superhuman genetics or something. Think about an NFL player, do they play through 16 weeks feeling 100%? The body will start to break down at one point, tissue leverage starts thinning out, connective tissues get weaker, less recovery due to less calories, sleep disturbances increase, it all adds up.
For the first time competitor we would highly recommend to stay on top of their mobility drills, pre-hab drills, and manual therapy throughout the course of their prep. Overall, you just have to take it one day at a time and not try and do too much, all while being disciplined and listening to what your body is telling you. Also, please make sure to take advantage of those rest days, you will thank us later for this.
Any advice outside of what we’ve discussed for a first time competitor?
To wrap all of this up and sum it all up, here are some take away points to consider before hitting the stage for the first time:
- Give yourself a good amount of time to diet
- Diet slowly and not too aggressively
- Don’t abuse cardio and resistance training, it’ll come back to haunt you
- Incorporate heavy lifting and all rep ranges with your training protocol
- Make sure you have plenty of caloric cushion to work with
- Make sure you follow a nutrition protocol that you can sustain throughout prep
- Don’t seclude yourself from family and friends
- Stay on top of mobility and prehab exercises
- Make sure to transition into a proper reverse/recovery diet
- Listen to your body very closely
- Take it one day at a time
We’d like to give a special thanks to our coach, friend, and mentor Dr. Layne Norton for prepping us and being a part of our 26 week journey.
We’d also like to say thank you to Logan Sheehan for interviewing us and allowing us to share our 26 week experience with the Fit over Fat Readers.
Chris And Eric Martinez:
Chris and Eric Martinez, CISSN, CSCS, CPT, BA, also known as the “Dynamic Duo” operate a world class online training and nutrition consulting business “Dynamic Duo Training.” They’re also fitness and nutrition writers, Diet Doc permanent weight loss coaches, and exclusive Team K Peaking Directors that love helping people reach their goals. Their philosophy is “No excuses, only solutions.”