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Thoughts on Pre-Contest Cardio

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I've been chatting online with Chris Aceto who worked with Troy Alves recently and helped Troy win the IFBB Europa Super Show.....Chris is also considered one of the best in the world at pre-contest preparation coaching.


Chris was reminding me that Arnold, Franco and others did no cardio at all and that a lot of cardio isn't necessary during pre-contest or any time. Not saying that you never have to do cardio, but saying that you don't need to over-do it.


In fact, he said doing cardio so much leading up to a competition leads to flat muscles (which I had in AZ) and the only thing worse than flat muscles are fat muscles. He said there is no need to do cardio in the final week before a show. That was contrary to everything I had heard, so I did tons of cardio leading up to the show in AZ 2-3 hours a day and encouraged my buddies to do the same.


Of course, my posing coach Andre Scott, one of the best around, says to do 2 hours of cardio a day leading up to the show, so of course I have mixed messages.


I'm curious about your thoughts on cardio pre-contest?


I feel like a lot of Chris' messages relate to me and seem to make sense. When I hurt my back and couldn't train for 8 days leading up to the show in OR, I looked better, more full, than when I competed in AZ after doing cardio 2-3 hours and looked noticeably flat, small and out of shape to some degree. Somehow I managed 5th place but looking at photos, I could have been as low as 7th.


Anyway, thoughts on Pre-contest cardio?


How did you come to your conclusions?


I have great coaches giving me different advices so I need to practice them for myself and see what works well.

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I think it depends on your body. Some people need the cardio. I burned off everything I gained by doing more cardio. I didn't have a lot built up and really couldn't afford to loose it. I was going to go in skinny as it was. But, I have a really high metabolism and when I work out regularly my body goes into overdrive and I have been known to start loosing weight daily, and it will muscle, fat, anything it can burn, it will burn.I am going to try shorter cardio sessions and some stretching workouts like yoga or pilates, next time.

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Well, you've heard my take on cardio before and I'm definitely in the Chris Aceto camp. Robert's posing coach is a former trainee of my trainer/coach but he's developed his own ideas since his competition days.


My trainer and I have talked about this many times and he believes that you need to find what works for you (which takes a huge TIME commitment) and go with it. He's a big believer in a slow fat loss and after sitting with him at some judging tables I think it's obvious (especially amongst the older women) who tried to lose too much, too quickly. Flatness can also come from being carb depleted and/or overly dehydrated.


I've noticed that there is no contest between those with smaller muscles and those with larger muscles, all other things being equal. Judges are looking for symmetry and muscularity (which I believe is size and shape as well as striation). While body fat % matters a lot, if there isn't a big enough base underneath the fat then there is no room for the muscle loss that inevitably comes with cutting. The guys I used to train with were about 6' to 6'1" and competed at around 220+ lbs (natural). My trainer believes that a male who is 5'10" (that's my height so we use that as a benchmark sometimes) needs to be 180-185 lbs contest weight to begin being considered seriously. Height is a HUGE liability in bodybuilding since the majority of competitors are relatively short - unless you are tall and big, which is especially impressive. Tall male BBs have it rougher than the women since there is so much competition out there in size.


So, basically my thoughts on pre-contest cardio are this - if you are relying on cardio for any considerable amount of fat loss then you need to have muscle to spare because you are going to lose some. If you have enough size then a bit of flatness may not matter much depending on the competition.

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Let me start by, both are good trainers and if you are following any trainers plan, stick to it and always express your concerns to your trainer first.


Not the case in this instance since it was during conversation.


As a Personal Trainer and a Competitor IMO:

You will lose some muscle during contest prep so tread lightly.


It depends: For a person carrying A LOT of muscle, no I would not have them do cardio.... they are a freaking machine and generally are in taking a lot of calories just to feed "the machine"..... In fact I usually have to ride someone like this to eat eat eat! So simply cutting calories brings this body type in nicely.


Norm amount for a show (like natty shows): in between. They would go from 20 min steady fast walk 1x per day to 20 min steady fast walk 2x's per day the last week and possibly two weeks prior to show depending on the amount they need to drop.


Someone new or not carrying much muscle ... generally harder to bring in, so they would get 40min to 1 hr session 2x's per day.


In the end however, adjustments to the individual can be necessary depending on the way their body reacts. In your particular case (Robert), I would not have had you on the third option.

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It sounds like cardio can be helpful to get some fat off of your body, but in the few weeks or so leading up to competition, it might be a good idea to drop it out so your muscles can load back up again. I am not speaking from experience, though, so...

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