“You need a disciplined and dedicated program that will help you transform your body so you have the muscle shape and tone that the judges may be looking for in a competition,” explains Shannon Dey, founder and CEO of Bombshell Fitness.
Dey designed our competition workout program in three phases, each with a different focus. The first one concentrates on building a foundation and creating overall muscle balance. You can stay in the phase for as little as one month or as long as you need until it’s time to shift into Phase 2. The second part raises the intensity level and emphasizes both muscle tone and fat loss; it takes you through 10 weeks of training. The final phase is only two weeks and will get you into peak shape for showtime.
Each of the phases includes a five-day split emphasizing different body parts, using a variety of equipment. Stick with the plan as closely as possible, substituting exercises for a given part only when you don’t have access to the equipment. Follow the cardio guidelines for each phase, as well. Pair these workouts with the The Ultimate Diet Plan for a competition body, and you’ll be set to step into the spotlight feeling confident.
Time frame: 4 Weeks (longer if you’re new to fitness)
Whether you’ve been a regular at the gym for years or are just starting your fitness journey, getting ready for a competition is a bit of a departure from a typical strength routine. This phase of the program is all about laying the groundwork so you’re set to take on the challenges ahead.
“The goal here is to help build up some of that foundation so your muscles develop a firm, round appearance without a lot of bulk,” says Dey. This is accomplished through both compound movements and supersetting moves, she adds, as well as following a prescribed sequence of exercises. Your overall goal here is to create a muscular balance throughout the body. When the repetitions descend in the set, your weights should become progressively heavier with each set as you move down the rep range, adds Dey.
Phase 1: 5-day split
DAY 1: Legs/butt
DAY 2: Shoulders
DAY 3: Back
DAY 4: Arms
DAY 5: Butt/chest
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How much cardio should I do?
There’s always some debate about how much cardio you should be doing as you get ready for a competition. Much of this depends upon your body type and where you’re starting out from, says Dey. Her prescribed cardio program includes a combination of some type of high-intensity interval training approximately three days a week for 20–45 minutes.
In addition, depending on your fat-loss goals, she recommends another two or three days of steady-state cardio for 30–60 minutes. Start with a plan of 3–5 days a week of cardio in Phase 1. If necessary, you can add either time or days as you progress to Phase 2. In Phase 3, you’ll need to either raise the time and intensity or lower it, depending on where your body-fat levels are at this time. Check with your coach or a trusted adviser to see what works best for you.
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Phase 1, Day 1
Pump leg extension: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6; superset with pump leg curl: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Start with a half rep or pulse, and then the full leg extension or curl.
Neutral-stance smith machine squat: 6 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4
Tip: Stand with feet shoulder-distance, toes pointed out about 30°.
Tip: Place a barbell over your hips (use a foam pad for comfort), keeping your shoulders on a bench and your feet flat on the floor, knees bent about 90°. Lift and lower your glutes, pushing the weight up; squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
For supersets, move directly from the first exercise to the second; rest 20–30 seconds after both sets are completed before moving on to the next round.
For all other exercises, rest 30 seconds before repeating the exercise.
For sets where the reps decline, add weight in the lower-rep set. In sets where the reps increase, reduce the weight in the higher rep sets, unless otherwise noted.
Go heavy for the upper-body work. The last couple of reps of each set should be very difficult to complete. “If you can easily finish all of your repetitions within a set, you need to increase the weight,” says Dey.
Warm up with light weights for two sets of 20 reps for each new body part or when starting your workout.
Tip: Pause briefly at the top of the movement, contracting your muscles.
Dumbbell lateral raise: 4 sets of 8
Tip: Press your shoulders down as you lift the weights to keep your traps (upper-back muscles) from activating.
Barbell upright row: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Keep the barbell close to your body as you lift and lower the weight.
Alternating arm dumbbell front raise:4 sets of 10, 10, 8, 6 per side
Tip: Take the arm slightly across the body and press your shoulders down as you lift the weight up.
Rear-delt high rope pull: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Keep your elbows high and wide as you pull the rope toward your head.
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Phase 1, Day 3
Pullup: 4 sets to failure
Tip: Either use an assisted pullup machine (keep the resistance light) or have a spotter help you.
Squat deadlift: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Think of this move as a regular deadlift, but keep your stance wide so you sit back as you lower the bar toward the floor.
Lat pulldown: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Focus on keeping your chest tall and your elbows pointed down.
One-arm Smith machine row: 4 sets of 8 per side
Tip: Stand sideways in the Smith machine holding the bar in outside hand. Bend at hips, keeping back flat and chest up; place opposite hand on thigh for support. Row the bar up, keeping elbow close to side.
T-bar row: 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: You can use a T-bar or a barbell with one end locked into a landmine or secured on the floor.
Good morning: 3 sets of 10
Tip: Maintain an arch in your lower back at all times; keep the load relatively light until you get the form down.
Cable pull-through: 4 sets of 15
Tip: Stand away from the cable stack set to a low position holding the ends of the rope attachment in both hands, knees wider than shoulders. Lean forward, bending knees while keeping back flat and abs tight. Stand up, pulling the rope through your legs, squeeze glutes. Return slowly to start.
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Phase 1, Day 4
E-Z bar curl: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Tip: Keep your abs tight and your body still throughout the exercise to put all of the focus on the biceps muscles
Biceps curl superset:
Perform the following exercises as one superset, taking as little rest as possible between each move.
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets of 10; full range of motion
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets of 8; half reps from the top
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets of 8; half reps from the bottom
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets of 8; eight second negatives, lowering the weight in eight counts
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets of 1; with 30-second midway hold
Biceps curl machine: 3 sets to failure drop set; reduce weight until you can’t eke out one more rep
Close-grip bench press: 5 sets of 15, 12, 10, 8, 6; superset with overhead triceps dumbbell press: 5 sets of 15