Fitness Contest: Strength

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 meet your basic needs: limit strength and speed strength.

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 lifts: squat, deadlift, bent-over row, and dumbbell chest press. If you have an injury that prevents you from doing one of the lifts, you may choose a different lift as approved by Gina. The rep range tested will be 6-8.

The 12-week cycle will allow for approximately five days of recovery between squat, chest press, and row workouts, and either four or six days between back workouts: four following light squat workouts, or six following heavy squat workouts.

If possible, it's best to schedule two short workouts per training day as opposed to one long one. Assistance work (other lifts besides the four listed above) is allowable ONLY on scheduled workout days after the 4th week of training. Gina will advise you on what it should consist of. Virtually ALL of your assistance exercises for the first 4 weeks of your training MUST be geared toward eliminating your perceived weaknesses. The contest will involve adding poundages from all four lifts to record your total pounds lifted, therefore, you don’t want to have one lift that is significantly weaker than the others. You are only as strong as your weakest link. Rest becomes a critical factor after week 4, which is why you should start tapering off your assistance work and focus more on the competitive lifts at that point. Following the 8th week, very relaxed and laid back off-days are vitally important so that you don’t overtrain, peak too soon, and lose strength

Unless you are already lean, you should reduce your percentage of bodyfat. This allows you to lose bodyweight (the contest is based on weight lifted compared to total body weight) without losing muscle. 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 starches and fat. Be sure to supplement 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.

Cardio develops slow-twitch muscles, which will take away from strength. It also can be catabolic for muscle (break muscle down and burn it for fuel). You always sacrifice some strength when you do cardio. However, cardio is important for heart health and having no cardio base at all means you might lack endurance during your weight training sessions and during your sets for the contest. Therefore, you should perform three light cardio workouts per week, but limit them to 20-30 minutes and low-moderate exertion (brisk walking, incline walking, easy cycling, or elliptical trainer on 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. Losing weight without losing muscle will improve your strength-to-weight ratio, which is what this contest is judged on. Keep a moderate-carb diet, or have carb “refeeds” to refill glycogen stores periodically.

Click here to learn more about registering for the strength contest.

Click here for advice for the photo contest or bodyfat contest
Click here for advice on the cardio endurance contest

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