T Nation

High Reps for Contest Prep?


I am 6 months out from my first figure competition, and I just purchased a contest prep plan from a well-known online trainer.

I received my plan on Wednesday night (he designed it without knowing my body fat%, measurements, or seeing pictures...he just had my height/weight) and was disappointed to say the least. I already posted in the Nutrition forum about my issues with the diet (along w/ more background info about him & his experience), so I'll just add a link.


Training-wise, I'm concerned because he prescribed 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio 7 days/week and a 3 day lifting split that consists of circuits using high-reps. In his website's forum, one of his clients pointed out that low reps/high weight better stimulate fast-twitch muscle fibers, and here's how he responded (I want to hear what you all think about his reasoning):

"Actually, what you have believed is very common culture. However, not true 100% of the time. Actually, not at all really. While you need to train heavy with lower reps (anything below 8) for part of the year, most of your size comes from really stimulating the hell out of those fibers. In order to get the growth adaptation you have to understand that nature makes bigger muscles for one purpose, to do more work. In this case, more work means more reps, more volume of training. But you still need to push the envelope of load too, so using the heaviest wt possible is important. In general, much of a bodybuilders year should be spent around the 12-15 rep range. This will provide the most stimulus and break down fibers more for growth. Remember, you just have to tell your body to adapt in the way you want it to. As long as your diet is right, you will grow, or get stronger or whatever you are stimulating it to do.

Side note; strength is not an adaptation that requires your body to make bigger muscles. So the misconception that you have to train heavy to get bigger is not really totally true. You do need to do some strength training in your year but it isn't a bodybuilder's focus."

I honestly don't know enough to know whether or not what he's saying is correct. Please give me your thoughts.

Another concern is the use of non-optimal exercises, including such gems as tricep kickbacks, abductor/adductor machines, and walking lunges.


If you have so many problems with the trainer, shouldn't you just get another one?
Doing research prior to paying him would have been nice.

As for reps, I think what he is saying is just a long, complicated way of saying that a BBer should train in all rep ranges. Which I agree with.


He seems to be saying that bodybuilders should always train in the 12-15 rep range, and that strength is not a bodybuilder's goal.

To me, that seems pretty odd, as the "money" range for most people seems to be 5-8, with certain exercises (usually legs) in the 8-12 range.

I'd check out the thread of videos by Evan Centropani. In one of them he makes a very good point about how it's odd that people change up their training style prior to a contest. He says that you should keep your training roughly the same (though at that point you're not going to be going for PRs), because whatever got you the muscle will help you keep it.

His argument against low rep training seems weak as well. All he says is that you need more volume, but still need to go heavy, while one could just as easily get that extra volume from keeping the reps low and doing more weight. 5 reps with 300lbs is the same volume as 15 reps with 100lbs, but I'd say that most people would go for the 5 reps with 300.

Non-money exercise note: I can't really talk about tricep kickbacks, though I can't see them being that important. Adduction and Abduction machines could be arguable, as when you're lean those muscles will be more visible. I know a lot of bodybuilders and the like use walking lunges, they seem to actually be a solid exercise.

"So the misconception that you have to train heavy to get bigger is not really totally true."
"However, not true 100% of the time. Actually, not at all really."
He's either second guessing himself in these quotes or is making them ambiguous enough that he can't be backed into a corner in an argument. Seems fishy to me.


How did you get that from "While you need to train heavy with lower reps (anything below 8) for part of the year, most of your size comes from really stimulating the hell out of those fibers."


From where he says in the OP
"In general, much of a bodybuilders year should be spent around the 12-15 rep range. This will provide the most stimulus and break down fibers more for growth."

So maybe not all, but he's arguing for a majority of the time in that rep range.


I disagree with every suggestion this guy has.

1-you don't need that much steady state cardio, especially from 15 weeks out, it's just ridiculous, and most likely excessively muscle wasting.

2-high reps will NOT maintain the highest degree of muscle during a caloric deficit. Heavy weights (lower reps) built the muscle, heavy weights will keep the muscle (the body has to have a reason to send nutrients their way and support them, and heavy training is the best signal I can think of!)



Got any pics of this guy?


Chela, I'm so massively confused with you. You complain that this guy didn't ask for BF, weight or whatever, but I don't believe that you gave us that information either.

I don't know why you're getting a trainer 6 months before your show. Now will be a good time to train in all rep ranges, implementing all types of muscle growth imaginable, and then get a trainer who has you train heavy when you have to diet down for the show.


This has lulz potential...


That's what I thought! I know that he likes his competitors to "come in fast and maintain throughout the rest of prep," so I assume this is why all the cardio. It really bothers me, though. I have my first phone conference with him next Thursday, so I'm going to ask him to explain this.


I just paid a few hundred dollars - unrefundable - so it's not quite that easy. I'm trying to figure this out before I throw away that money, then hire someone else who may be terrible.

Also, I did as much research on him as I could. Based on what I found, he believes in different training/diet methodologies for different people at different times.


Nikki - I see no need in giving my stats in this post. I'm not asking for training or dieting advice from you all. I'm asking what you all think about my coaches reasoning for high reps. And I'm starting my prep so far out because I feel like I need that much to time prep gradually and completely.

Regarding his picture, I don't want to post out of respect for him, though I will PM it to you if you'd like. But he's a natural, national-level bodybuilder and has been for, like, 17 years.

I just finished my first workout of his, and I think I may have answered my question (though I'm still not convinced this is the best way to build muscle). I worked shoulders, bis and tris. There are 3 "sequences" in which you superset 3 exercises, 1 for each body part. You do each sequence 4 times. It was surprisingly difficult, perhaps because I've been lifting reasonably heavy for the last year and my muscles apparently have zero endurance, as I found out tonight.

I'm still pretty skeptical about 7 hours of fasted cardio a week. Good thing we're doing weekly phone calls where he'll be reviewing my progress. I suppose if my body starts responding unfavorably, he'll change it up.


I asked about stats b/c I recall you being concerned about costs at Figure Athlete. Unless you're 40% BF, I was just thinking about costs for hiring him 6 months out. If you're in the 20s BF range, I think that you'll be able to get to the average off-season competitor's BF 3-4 months out.

Those high reps aren't going to build muscle, I'm sure he knows that, but I feel like they add a cardio factor and I don't think I sweat so much in all my workouts than when I do my high rep workouts.


When I asked that question about costs, I was planning on using my last coach for prep. I would definitely NOT be able to afford him. It does seem like a long time out, but I feel like I really need the accountability and peace of mind now. I starting to freak-out and get analysis paralysis about the whole thing, and the holiday eating thing is such a struggle. I just felt like I should go ahead and start. If I get to my contest condition early, great...I'll just maintain.


He has a web site, and I highly doubt he's natural (IFBB pro, pretty sizable IMO), but no one's going to admit that online -lol. You can see pics of him there, and get some testimonials too. I hope your research was a bit more than just reading what he put up on his own web page though.

-Every prep coach has a different plan for each competitor (to some degree)
-Every prep coach tries to have their athlete come in 'early' and then tweak, or raise #'s slightly at the end to harden up
-Dr. Joe and Dr. Layne Norton (two guys who work with a LOT of the top natural pros), who are not only pros themselves, but have the academic creds to scientifically back their approaches, have both written about the incorrect notion of employing high reps during contest phase training..... but any GOOD competitor, even without the PHDs can tell you that.

I wish you luck, truly I do, but you probably would have been better off with someone who is more of a known entity,.. who you could inquire in a forum about, and get feedback from others who have been very happy with his work, not just take the guy's own words for how good he is.



Oh yes...I did as much outside research as I could. I mostly read interviews, postings on other forums, and the few articles he had published on Figure Athlete to get an idea of his methods. I also asked him questions before signing-up with him.

I think I'll just ask him when we talk next week what the reasoning his behind my program, and what his overall strategy is with me. If I'm not pleased with the answer, I'll finish out the month (I paid for it, after all), and either get another coach entirely if I can afford it, or just do my own training and have him continue doing my diet.

This is beyond frustrating.


Sounds like your trainer is a better salesman than coach.


Who is your coach? Damnit, why are you being so secretive ...I'm pretty sure someone who has been on stage for 17 years is really going to get upset about you posting a picture on a bodybuilding website.



It's not that. I just don't want him to read this and think I'm bashing his programs before I've even had my first phone conference with him.

I'm PMing you.


Ding Ding.

If there is no change in the program to account for current condition, one size fits all, if there are not frequent modifications according to progress, if there are blanket training statements, I am afraid the OP got taken for an internet ride.