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By Juan Rojas
From every single rep, to every single set, to every single week that a competitor is getting ready to do a show, doing their absolute best is always on their mind. Some people do shorter preparations and some people do up to 6 months or more. At the end of the day, I do not see it as a few weeks of preparation for a show, but instead as years of hard work culminating into one moment of greatness. On average, as a coach I would say most preparations take between 12-20 weeks for a specific show. If done correctly, during this time period, the person has laser like focus and becomes a robot in terms of being able to stay highly motivated, regimented and still train intensely day after day despite not having a high amount of calories or energy within them. A contest preparation requires a lot of sacrifice and effort, but to many it is 100% worth the end result. Being on stage showing off their hard work and seeing that what at one point they thought would never be possible actually came into fruition.
Many competitors do not realize that the hard work is not done until the night show is over. They figure that because the last few days before a show might not involve cardio or training, that it is much easier and it is time to relax. Many cease training and cardio a few days prior in order to allow their body to recover and look better. They think the uncomfortable part is over with and now they can just cruise to the stage. This is far from true. For those who are getting ready for their first physique show or have friends and family members who do them, this article is a great insight into seeing what the last 48 hours of a show may seem like.
There is a term used in the physique competition world called “peaking” or “peak week.” This just means that certain strategies are used in order to make the body look at its “peak” of perfection right at the time that the show comes. This is done by using different techniques the last few days prior to a show in order to manipulate the way you look. The goal is to have the muscles as full as possible while having as little subcutaneous water as possible in order to see the maximum amount of definition and vascularity. I want to preface this with the fact that EVERYBODY is different and follows a different strategy. Even within the same coach, no two athlete’s peaking protocol should be the exact same. The last 48-60 hours with my athletes many decisions are made on the fly depending on how their body is responding. Although there is a general outline, a good coach will make sure to communicate with you constantly these last few hours in order to make sure you come in at your best.
I have just had the privilege of competing at the very first 2018 Toronto Pro Show Qualifier on June 1st and 2nd of 2018. This was such an amazing show full of the highest level of competitors from around the world. Although I did not place in the top 5, I was extremely happy with how I was able to present my physique and how I was able to “peak” along with the help of my coach Skip Hill. Everything was timed perfectly for Friday at noon which was when prejudging occurred. Timing is everything when it comes to peaking. Many athlete’s “carb up” a few days prior to the show, many do a very small carb up the day of the show etc. Everybody has different methods as everybody’s body responds differently. I will give you guys a rundown of what the last 55 hours of my journey to prejudging looked like along with how I stayed tight for the finals.
-At this point my body was retaining some water. I am a sponge when it comes to water retention. I had a large carbohydrate refeed a few days prior to the show which had me retain a bit of water. At this point I had no training sessions left and was on my off day nutrition plan. Meals of just protein and only 3 of these meals had small amount of fats in them and no artificial sweeteners or protein powders were used as many individuals can retain water using them. The goal is to retain as little water under the skin as possible.
-On this day there was no cardio and no training. Just minor posing practice and meal prepping in order to get ready for the few days required in Toronto for the show.
- More posing practice was done this evening in 10 minute spurts. I am a big fan of short posing practices as you are not on stage longer than 10 minutes. I see it counterproductive when I see people posing for hours straight on end.
- I practiced posing again for a few rounds. This day meals were the same as the day before but no vegetables were used at all in order to lower the fiber intake. On stage the goal is to have your waist as small as possible to give the illusion of a very wide V Taper.
-Began my first coat of spray tan by Absolute Touch. Many do not know that several coats of tan are required in order to have the adequate color your skin needs on stage to look your best. It may seem like your family members and friends are very dark when you see them under regular lighting. Under stage lighting though, if you are not this dark you will be washed out by the bright lights and your muscle definition will not be as apparent.
-Due to having the tan, it is important not to sweat or risk getting caught in the rain (this day it rained in Toronto) so many of the athlete’s including myself just sat and waited for the registration at the Metro Toronto Convention Center. Getting your tan wet can be a nightmare for a competitor as you will look like a chocolate bar that is melting. Believe me, unfortunately I know this from personal experience. Due to the excitement and the early morning of travel into Toronto, many competitors lose sleep the last few weeks before a show. This was the perfect opportunity for them including myself to try and sneak a nap in, even if it was in public.
-Athlete registration and weigh in. This is a very important part of competing. The registration is where depending on which category, competitors are weighed and/or measured in order to be put in the appropriate weight class. Many competitors have to fast or even use saunas to sweat off extra water weight in order to make the weight class they want to make. Ideally you want to be at the top of your weight class in order to be at an advantageous position. This is also where we get the opportunity to chat with the judges briefly, hand in your posing music, and purchase photographic services so we can remember this amazing weekend.
-Back at the hotel room I did a check in with my coach and we were very pleased with how my body was drying out, now it was a waiting game until the next morning which was the day of the show. I slept about 4 hours and from 1 am on I was too excited and slightly nervous about looking my best that I was up since then assessing my conditioning and seeing how my body dried out even more. It is crucial not to dry out too much as it is important to have a balance of conditioning and still have your muscles full. Although, it is much easier to fill out your muscles through the use of extra carbs and a little bit of liquid as opposed to going overboard and being too full also known as “spilling over.” When you spill over too close to the show it is impossible to come back from it as your body does not get rid of this water in time.
- I went to Denny’s and got a white chocolate peanut butter cream pancake breakfast.
-2nd base of spray tan was put on and now my stage color was perfect tanks to the Absolute Touch Team.
-At this point I was filling out quite nicely and my muscles were getting fuller while my veins began popping. I still needed more carbs and a bit of sodium. I had a hamburger with sweet potato fries (prepackaged from the night before as where do you find a quality hamburger at that time in the morning!?) I had been craving a hamburger and fries for 3 months prior to this so I was very happy to have it, even if it was just microwaved from the day before.
-I decided to try out a new service the Absolute Touch team is providing which is make up for men. Maggie did my makeup and I could not have been happier! It really made an amazing difference in terms of looking great on stage but the biggest reason I chose to go with it is because it really prevents sweating while on stage. I sweat a lot when I get on stage and it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable getting sweat in your eyes. This did not happen with the make up being applied before and I recommend it to anybody who sweats or just plain wants to look their best the day of their show.
A few hours later
-At this point we were on our way to the show and before I step on stage I always have a breakfast sandwich from Tim Hortons.
-Backstage about 15 minutes prior to going out I began with some posing and pumping up. Many competitors pump up for hours on end backstage. This is a bad idea because there comes a point where your body begins losing its pump, especially since many people have cut their water many hours prior and are dehydrated. I always recommend to my athlete’s just a very brief 10 minute pump up before stepping on stage and mostly relying on posing to give you that pump. Pumping up fills your muscles with blood and will make your veins pop out even more giving a short term illusion for the amount of time you are on stage. At this point I also had some Reese’s peanut butter cups to get a little bit more sugar in my system to enhance that vascularity and pump
-My class got called to the stage and we all did our 30 second routines and get to square off against each other doing the 8 mandatory poses and 4 quarter turns required in bodybuilding. This is where we are judged on our symmetry, muscle size, level of conditioning and posing. There was about 20 guys in the light-heavyweight bodybuilding class and they all looked incredible. I got 3rd call out in this class full of amazing athlete’s. Although most of the judging is done at the prejudging it is important to look great the next day for the finals even if you did not get the first call out (which means you are top 5 most of the time). I still strategized to hold my condition for another 18 hours until the finals the next day.
I instantly went back to eating my normal prep meals for the remainder of the day.
-After another night of not much sleep I was I was getting my 3rd coat of tan in order to look sharp for the finals.
A few hours later
- I went to my trusted Tim Horton’s breakfast sandwich. This made me peak perfectly again for when I hit the stage.
-The whole class was called to the front to do a very fun and entertaining 30 second pose down and then the top 5 in the class got to do their routine prior to the placings being awarded. After this it was time to enjoy a little bit of pizza and cookies and then right back to working on being a better bodybuilder for the next show!
This was the rundown of my prep from Wednesday until Saturday of the 2018 Toronto Pro Show Qualifier. I had the time of my life and got so meet so many amazing athletes, old friends, and even Instagram friends. The judges and the entire CPA staff was so amazing and this event would not be nearly as successful without them. For those who have never done a show or who had no idea what the last few hours prior to a show looked like, I hope this gave you an insight into how precise everything is hour to hour in order to peak. Oftentimes we see somebody doing a show and we overlook the amount of effort and dedication it takes in order to look like that for those few minutes on stage. We also forget that although you only see one person on stage, that person being up there most of the time involves a team of coaches, friends, family members and spouses who keep our head on track and make our lives easier. I want to thank all my friends, family and especially my wife as this sport would be a lot harder without her. Keep chasing your dreams and give your goals 100% of your effort!
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.