Just giving my .02 as a natural competitor as well.
You certainly look good on stage, no doubt. But, along the lines of what @EyeDentist wrote, you are definitely not below 5% in that picture. The skin around your belly button is fat. Not a lot of it, but at sub 5%, everywhere is tight and you should looked more carved than a thanksgiving turkey.
While hard dieting and cardio certainly take a toll, if the muscle tissue is there, it will most definitely fill up with the much needed glycogen. How did you handle your peak week? The more details the better.
As far as having symmetrical abs, that’s all genetics. From your pics, it looks like your chest and abs are just lacking the muscle tissue needed to look full.
This comes from two things:
-You’re not as lean as you think you are. If you were, you’d have a clear and visible 6 pack 24/7, without flexing, in any light.
-You need more muscle and thickness
-Again, to echo @EyeDentist, while it may have felt to you like you couldn’t have gotten any leaner, you are still holding fat (not water) and had more room to go. Not dry as f@ck.
This is a very contradictory sentence.
-A good bodybuilding split definitely has compound movements in it, like squats, dead lifts or rack pulls, benching, etc.
-Bodybuilders train for hypertrophy, so if you’ve been training like a bodybuilder, this should not be an issue.
-If you’ve been training for that long and have a seriously weak squat, then you’re either not training hard enough, haven’t structured your training plan as well as you think you have, and haven’t been eating to support your training. Probably combination of all of those.
-I’ve been training like a bodybuilder for years and can squat 315x10 at the end of a prep at 140lbs. Not tooting my horn here, just giving a comparison. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have a good squat after years of training.
Again, just giving an honest opinion here, your shoulders and arms have some good structure to them, but you do not have the look of someone who’s been training like a bodybuilder for many years.
Also I posted a question earlier I don’t think you answered, how have you been training your abs?
As a natural competitor myself I understand the dieting and cardio can bring you to the brink of death and you may feel like you can’t get any leaner. But, I think your issue is not having enough muscle, which seems to be a result of lack of intensity in your training program. If you’re been training like a bodybuilder for years, you should have more size, thickness, fullness, muscle maturity than displayed in those photos.