So, training for a bikini comp is like no other training I have done before. Its hard. It takes dedication and a lot of mental strength (that I was unaware I had) to will yourself to just do one more set or one more rep. Your joints hurt, your muscles ache, your bones feel broken. But, its the sort of training I had always wanted to do, I just never had motivated myself to train that hard before. There is something to be said for having a goal. A real life date where you know you will be up on stage in a bikini, and that in itself will set a firework up your bum.
The difference between my normal training and bikini comp training, isnt that much. The same with nutrition. I kept it similar to the way I normally train. A lot of strength and a lot of conditioning. The difference being more sets and more reps. But I focused on compound moves a lot. Only really isolating muscles during phase 3 onward.
Preparing for prep was new to me. Yes I'm a PT, I write programmes, I know how to structure training, but Bikini prep planning had my knickers in a twist. I didn't really know where to start. Because there is so much conflicting info. Some people lift heavy and keep reps lowish (in the 8 to 10 numbers) most stick to high reps for some good ol conditioning. The way people split their days varies greatly. Some opting for back and biceps, legs and triceps, a whole day for core... some stick to lower days and upper days. Some train legs once a week, some 3. It all depends on your goals and also what you believe is the best training method for you. But I wasn't sure. I am indecisive and I find it so bloody hard to stick to something in fear that I should be doing something else.
So when I say, planning what I was going to do was mentally draining. It is not an understatement. Hours were spent on you tube, googling, asking my PT friends. I would dream about prep. What exercises to include, what to not bother with. Should I add more sets or less reps, should I spend a whole day on core or even bother at all? I lost a lot of sleep. And then one day I just bit the bullet and wrote out a plan.
My main objectives...
*keep my strength as much as poss
* make sure I have progressive overload
*don't get bored
I decided to do this is 4 week increments. Microcycles if you will. The body is good at adapting; getting used to something and finding a balance (ie not reacting to it anymore) The body is so clever. It can predict what you are going to do and decide that it is not enough overload on the muscle to do the job to its best ability that you want it to. This is why doing the same programme over and over is never a good idea. It will stop working.
Here were my phases
- I had pre-prep: Get used to consistency in programme, build size
- Phase 1 Concentrate on higher sets/gain strength and size
- Phase 2 Up the reps and concentrate on conditioning.
- Phase 3 Up the reps and keep the muscles guessing by using drop sets and pyramids on major compound moves.
- Phase 4 Up the intensity and condition muscles as much as poss/cutting fat
Each phase I would do something slightly different so that my body wouldn't get too used to exercises, by swapping out an exercise or two, and/or changing the order of my super sets.
In pre prep I was eating more calories. I was trying to eat at a slight surplus and trying to gain as much muscle as I could possibly have with the small window I had. I went from 1700 cals to 2200. This phase meant I was lifting heavy with low to mid reps for strength and hypertrophy (size) I wanted to be as strong as possible starting out as I knew I would lose strength (or could) during prep where I would be in a deficit for a while.
Pre prep went something like:
5 x 5 for a compound move for overall strength.
I would then super set assisting lifts doing 3 x 8 to 12 reps.
Here I was keeping things simple, doing 4 to 5 super sets with compound lifts. (8 to 10 assisting exercises)
Phase 1 Saw me start my slow cut. During this phase I wanted to get used to higher sets and reps. I begun doing 4 x 12-15 still sticking with my 5x5 on a compound move to start. On one out of two of my upper body days I would do a really heavy low rep day because I wanted to build size in my back if I could, despite being in a deficit. During this phase I started to add burnout finishers at the end of the session. So a workout would look like
5x5 compound lift
4 to 5 exercises
4 x 15-12 assisting lifts on legs and 1 upper day
6-7 x 8 on one upper body day
Then a burnout like
4 x 25 leg curls
Phase 2 saw me wanting to concentrate on conditioning. For upper body I concentrated on 4 x 15 reps and legs 4 x 20. I through in 1 or 2 dropsets and the end of my workout and also begun adding a specific day for glutes.
I decided at this point to cut out my 5 x 5 because of time constraints. But I would do a major compound move with 4 x 10 for some strength/size work so as not to just be conditioning the muscles.
Phase 2 felt like the hardest phase for me as It was smack bang in the middle. I felt most demotivated during this time and think after this phase I knew I needed to ramp up my intensity and also programme, so that I didn't give up.
A typical day in phase 2
4 x 10 BB row
4 x 15 on 4 to 5 super sets on assisting lifts
Dropset on the seated row as an example
Phase 3: Here I decided to make sure I added in drop sets and pyramids wherever I could. I wanted to cover all rep ranges. Going for strength and conditioning. I also needed the variation. I kept my major compound move at the beginning, I also made sure all reps were at least 20 no less (except for shoulders/biceps and triceps as I wanted to keep their size as I am very lean up top. Sometimes adding a super set and then threw in pyramids throughout and drop sets at the end of the session.
A typical phase 3 workout looked like this:
SS Hack squat and reverse hack 4 x 10
Pyramid (8 10 12 15 reps)dropping weight as I go, smith lunges SS with 4 x 20 smith squat
Pyramid leg press SS with 4 x 20 (es) curtsy lunge
Pyramid Bulgarians SS with 4 x 20 front squats
Pyramid Smith step up with 4 x 20 goblet squats
Dropset cable squat starting with heavy weight 5 reps working my weigh down in weight up in reps with no rest.
Phase 4: The homeward stretch. Ahh phase 4 was my fav and worst phase. You were so close to the end yet your intensity had to ramp up. In this phase I added active rest and also added in 100+ rep challenges for a lot of moves. I also made my super sets into trisets or giant sets
A typical phase 4 day looked like
10/10 20/10 20 30/failure Chest press
4 x 20 SS single arm row with 4 x 12 bb shoulder press and (active rest 30 secs burpees)
10/10 20/10 20 30/failure T bar row with 4 x 12 bicep cable curls and 4 x 12 tricep cable pulls
4 x 20 Triset; seated cable row with single arm lat pull down with wide seated row (active rest 30 secs weighted high knees)
10/10 20/10 20 30/failure standing rope pull with 4 x 20 lat push down
4 x 25 hyper extension
My splits: roughly stayed the same and the structure also throughout, depending on if I missed out something earlier in the week.
Monday: Posterior chain day
Tuesday: Plyo and abs
Wednesday: Upper body day 1 (lats and shoulders)
Thursday: Glutes and abds
Friday: Upper body day 2 (Lats and lower back)
Sat: Leg day quad focused and abs
Sun: Rest added spinning in the last 4 weeks
My cardio went from nothing in pre prep. Then went from 3 x 20 minutes a week to 6 x 40 mins a week.I mainly used the stair climber for my LIIS, with uphill incline walks on the treadmill at least once a week. Hiit consisted of 10 to 15 mins of 30 secs on 30 secs off sprints on the treadmill and plyo was mainly Kayla BBG 1 thrown in. My ab days would mainly consist of 20 min sessions focusing on isolation exercises and obliques. Such as hanging leg raises, rope crunches, side planks, russian twists and pikes or roll outs.
Cardio looked something like:
16 weeks out 3 x 20
15 3 x 25 mins
14 3 x 25 mins
13 3 x 30 mins
12 3 x 30 mins
10 4 x 30 mins plus 2 hiit
9 4 x 30 mins plus 2 hiit
8 4 x 35 mins plus 2 hiit 1 plyo
7 4 x 35 mins plus 2 hiit 1 plyo
6 4 x 40 mins plus 2 hiit 2 plyo
5 4 x 40 mins plus 2 hiit 2 plyo
4 5 x 40 mins plus 3 hiit 2 plyo
3 5 x 40 mins plus 3 hiit 2 plyo
2 6 x 40 mins plus 4 hiit 2 plyo
1 Not too much cardio. A few 40 minute sessions as well as a couple of hiits. I eased off towards the end of peak week.
So there you have it. I hope this info is somewhat helpful and sheds a light on the sort of training that prep involves. Most days I would be training anywhere between 1.5 and 3 hrs with posing thrown in too. Honestly, I'm a bit lost post prep when my sessions are done within an hour. I'm not sure who or where I am lol.
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Love, light and lifting (with a side of french fries)