Strength Strategies (Contest #4)

The best way to train for a strength contest is to use a cycle training schedule. This type of training schedule combines workouts and exercises that will increase both the amount of weight you can lift and the stamina required to perform a heavy lift in the 6-8 rep range, and as many sit-ups as possible in 1 minute.

You will train with a 12-week cycle in mind, designed for you to peak on the day of the strength testing. This competition will test you on the following exercises: squat, deadlift, chin-up or assisted chin-up, chest press, shoulder press, and sit-ups. If you have an injury that prevents you from doing one of the exercises, you may choose a substitute exercise as approved by Gina. You will be tested for maximum poundage lifted in the 6-8 rep range, and for as many sit-ups as you can complete in 1 minute.

The 12-week program that appears in the Newsletters will always allow for at least one day of rest in between strength workouts. You will work to the brink of momentary muscular failure no more than once every two weeks.

If your schedule allows, it is preferred to perform your cardio and your weight training in separate sessions. Assistance work (other lifts besides the six listed above) is allowable ONLY on scheduled workout days, and will only be helpful in certain circumstances. Gina will advise you on what assistance work you need, if any. Assistance work should be designed to build up your weak points on certain lifts. This contest is judged by adding the poundages from all six lifts to record your total pounds lifted; therefore, you don’t want to have one or two lifts that are significantly weaker than the others--You are only as strong as your weakest link. Rest will become a very critical factor after week 8, which is why you should be tapering off your assistance work by that point and focusing solely on your technique on the competitive lifts. In the last four weeks of the contest, rest and “light’ training days become vitally important are vitally important so that you don’t overtrain, peak too soon, and lose strength come testing time.

Unless you are already quite lean, you should gradually reduce your percentage of bodyfat to increase your odds of winning this contest. Gradually reducing bodyfat will allow you to lose bodyweight (the contest is based on weight lifted compared to your total body weight) without losing muscle, which would weaken you. DO NOT crash diet, as this will limit your strength and muscle gains, affect your technique, and increase your chance of injury. However, remove most if not all junk food from your diet and base your meals on lean protein and vegetables, including a modest amount of carbohydrates and fat. Choose simple carbs after working out and wholegrain carbs the rest of the day. Be sure to supplement your diet with a multivitamin, essential fatty acids, or other compounds if necessary, and get plenty of sleep. Make sure you stretch after workouts, as stretching reduces the chance of injury and increases strength and power.

Avoid performing excessive cardio during your contest preparation. Cardio converts muscle fibers into slow-twitch, which will detract from your strength. Cardio also can result in muscle being burned for fuel. However, cardio is important for heart health and for improving endurance during your weight training sessions and during your sets for the contest. Therefore, you should perform some light cardio workouts each week, but limit them to 20-30 minutes and low-moderate exertion (brisk walking, incline walking, easy cycling, or elliptical trainer on a low setting). If you need to lose excess bodyfat, shoot for a calorie deficit of 500 to 1000 during the first four weeks, 500-750 for the next four weeks, 250-500 for the next two weeks, and no deficit the final two weeks. This pattern will allow you to lose bodyfat without losing much, if any, muscle or strength.

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