T Nation

Leaning Out/Contest Prep Thread


Some pro photos the week after my show.


For those who’ve liked and followed this thread, I guess it’s fitting to make an update. I’ve even had some lurkers that have contacted me on Instagram about it.

I have not been training consistently since the show, and have not lifted at all for the past three weeks due to the first serious injury I’ve acquired since being physically active (I mean physically active aside from the weight room also) for the past 20 years: two herniated discs and accompanying sciatica in my left leg.

After the show, I went for a month of physical therapy, which helped a bit, but did not do the trick entirely. So I went back to my orthopedist, got an MRI showing my herniations, and he gave me two epidural shots to deal with the inflammation a week later. That helped a bit too. I will now be going for six more weeks of physical therapy. I know it takes VERY long for herniated discs to either heal or not heal but remain with no symptoms. Of course the most important aim is to get rid of symptoms. I actually do not know what course of action to take as far as the weights go, but sedentary life is driving me absolutely nuts!

I am now brisk walking–which has actually become the most enjoyable form of cardio for me, so much that I’m going to buy a weighted vest, and which got me shredded in my prep–and foam rolling and stretching everyday.

Physical therapy starts again next Wednesday and I can’t wait to get the necessary instructions on what I should be doing in the gym on my own time and what I should be avoiding for the time being.

When I first started the prep, I simply wanted to try my hand at doing a show, as I’ve expressed all over the forums. I did not expect to get a pro card. But being I got a pro card, I was aiming to continue training as a bodybuilder and enter just one pro show to experience that as well. If I didn’t earn a pro card, I would just chalk it up to a single bucket-list experience and that would be where it ended.

Well, this injury popped up and it’s not something that will be dealt with in a few weeks. I know that herniated discs can take up to a six months to a year to heal or become asymptomatic. And truthfully, it has me pretty scared and apprehensive for training in an extreme manner again. Let’s just talk turkey, as people have been doing in CT’s thread on aging: training for bodybuilding competition, competitive sports, or any specialization in physical endeavors are not only unnecessary for health, but can be unhealthy, and all pose risk.

Not only that, but I likely will be having a major responsibility on my hands in the next year, a good one at that. You can take a guess what that will be, and I will likely state it somewhere here when the time is appropriate.

Like I said, my plan was to continue to train as if I was going to enter a show some time in the near future if the injury didn’t occur, but I also planned on putting an end to the idea of competing again, if ever, once this new responsibility popped up.

If I was single and in my twenties, I would aim to compete once per year, for sure! But I just cannot see how I can compete with a wife and kids. Plus in the next year, my wife and I plan on moving, and I have another life goal in mind.

So I plan on revamping my training drastically, both to let my herniated discs heal, and after the healing, free up my time considerably and allow flexibility in my training. I aim to from now on train solely for health, and that’s pretty much it. That will involve three weight training sessions (full body or upper-lower), cardio, and whatever other favorite activities that weather permits (paddleball, handball, etc.). For the time being, along with, and some time after PT, it will be mostly dumbbells, cables, machines, and bodyweight exercises. NO barbell squats, NO barbell rows, no barbell presses of any sorts, or anything that severely compresses the spine. Actually, I think I might stick with such an approach for a long time. I just can’t brutal, gut wrenching routines considering what else my life will have in the future (all goods things coming actually).

And don’t get me wrong, I will never push upper-lower or full body routines for competitive bodybuilding despite doing them in the future.

I am VERY glad I at least got this out of my system and would have deeply regretted not doing so. One of the reasons I tried so damn hard and pushed myself so hard (perhaps more than needed) was because I knew this might have been my only chance to be a bodybuilder… ever! This past summer was one of the most memorable summers ever and I loved the whole process, despite the unpleasant side effects of contest prep and extreme leanness. And the contest day was the most memorable, aside from my wedding!

Some people I am close with have stated that perhaps I don’t need to make the decision to never compete again at the moment and that perhaps I can still continue training and then perhaps when future kids are grown up a bit I can do a masters show in my late 30’s or 40’s. Well, if I were to do that, that would require gut-wrenching training in the meantime until then, considering I’d want to make improvements and not fall behind. I don’t see how this is workable for me for the aforementioned reasons.

I know there are quite a few people who state they can handle god knows how many things in their life without anything suffering. We’ve heard it all before, stuff like, “I compete, have time to lift, have time to meal prep, work 60+ hours per week and/or handle a 21-credit college-course load, etc. Oh, by the way… I don’t neglect my wife/husband and kids.”

I believe such people are full of it! I think they might indeed have children and are attending work or school, but I don’t think they are handling both at equal attentiveness or effort at the same time… if much at all!

I see there being absolutely no way for me to do what I need to do in the future while competing. It makes me kind of sad that I can’t do it but I have other priorities and likely will have further priorities and chores and obligations down the road.

Sometimes people need to experience something and then after having had it, actually can see just how serious it was. When I was in prep mode for nearly half a year (which is a damn long prep), it sort of didn’t seem like I was sacrificing much because I loved the changes in my body and the goal was so damn important to me. It was the most competitive I ever felt in my life and I’d love to experience it again. But it was only after I finished it, and even now, about ten weeks later, did I realize just how much I completely did without. My life was not spontaneous one bit, but it didn’t occur to me until after it was done. I believe that actually is a GOOD characteristic to have while prepping. Those who need a hundred distractions, endless entertainment, and are slaves to their own vices or penchants CAN’T compete. Me, I can do without. And the same goes for other competitors.

THAT is why we see so many gurus and experts telling others what to do but won’t get shredded or do what it takes to even look like a bodybuilder. They are either just “the big guy” or can’t hack it or don’t have the gumption to say, “Look, I don’t have the lifestyle that allows me to compete but I know a bit about training and diet.”

I will continue to be involved in bodybuilding though and be a diehard fan forever and attend shows and continue my podcast, which is actually something Stu and I want to move much more aggressively forward with, actually come out with a real brand of sorts.

I remember when Dave Tate wrote that one cannot move full force with business, competing/the gym, family, church, etc., all at once. I agree with this and experienced it.

OK, well I just wanted to check in here, and I really, REALLY appreciate all the attention people paid to this thread and process, as well as those on FB and IG.


Sad to hear you won’t be prepping and competing again in the short term. Your input is one of the reasons I check these forums.

Sorry to hear about the injury. I can relate as I ruptured two discs in my neck in April of 2015 as I was gearing up for my first power lifting meet. It took years for me to decide to enter one and feel really comfortable with the numbers I was putting up and to have that injury pop up a few months before a date I had circled on the calendar for so long was heartbreaking. It took 6 months of nothing but rehab for it to recover and I never did get in to compete.

The thing I learned is it does recover and you can still work on a great physique after the injury. Now 36 I am gearing up for my first run at a bodybuilding show.

Hopefully when life allows, you can continue to pursue your passion. Sounds like you are early 30s so there is always time, just hitting the prime now I like to think!

Best of luck in the recovery!!


Thanks for this big compliment.

Yup. As I said, I already went through a little more than a month of physical therapy as of a few weeks ago. Now I have a prescription for another six months. The therapy I am receiving now is far more aggressive and just from one session I have a bit of relief. I am going back into the gym for upper body using nearly all cables and machines for the time being. I will not be performing pressing with dumbbells for upper body because of the need to heave and kick dumbbells into position for dumbbell bench press variations and dumbbell shoulder presses. So I will be doing two lower body sessions with PT and two upper sessions per week for now.

Thanks! But as I said above, the competing is over, I believe. And as I said, there is going to be a new responsibility on my hands in the next year, along with moving. And that responsibility will not be one that just finishes. You probably know what I am hinting at, which I will reveal later on, for those who care to know. The ones on here who I am close to in real life know what it is.

Prepping done correctly, at least what I experienced to get shredded to the bone, simply takes up too much time, merciless discipline and rigidity, not to mention the effects on the mind and body. This will not be conducive to for what I will need to do in the near and long term future.

I am 37 years old now, and what I say here is partly why I really wish I competed in my 20s, long before I got married. Some men can compete indefinitely while married and raising kids and working full time. I am VERY thankful I got to do one show the way a show should be done, but doing others correctly will likely find me in a world of problems. I do not say this to deter married men from doing it; it simply incongruent for my life here and now and in the future. Aside from prepping, it takes much effort year long to improve as well! It’s VERY stressful. If I was in my 20’s, I’d compete once a year, for sure.


I also wanted to say sorry to hear about the injury and good luck with the rehab. I had two cervical vertebrae fused four years ago from a lifting injury. I also fully understand the lifting with a health focus. I flirted with a more bodybuilding focus for a short while, but found that I just didn’t enjoy upping my gym time and restructuring my diet. I respect the discipline the bodybuilding takes, but just don’t have the desire or energy to pursue it even as a hobby. I can’t imagine how much discipline a prep takes, but got a pretty good idea from this thread and it looked grueling. I personally prefer less frequent workouts with a focus on strength, mobility, and bodyweight exercises and just trying to eat healthier overall rather than counting calories.
I personally think you should be proud of your accomplishment. You climbed your own personal Everest and even though you don’t think you will ever compete again, you can still appreciate what you’ve accomplished. While there are plenty of competitive bodybuilders that balance work, family, and competing there is nothing wrong with refocusing your priorities to other areas of your life.
Best of luck with your recovery and God bless.


Thanks for the post!

Moving forward, I will be lifting ONLY for health and good body composition, three times per week, with other added activities (cardio and the summer games I like the most, handball and paddleball at the park, yoga, etc). Like I said, I want to use more bodyweight, dumbbell, and cable exercises, on a full body program or upper-lower split. I gave up all barbell pressing some time ago anyway, and for now, I am only doing very aggressive PT workouts, the sort in which you still are huffing and puffing and sweating but with no axial loading at all.

Yup. As a hobby, all it really takes is four to five sessions per week lifting and some cardio, but prepping is a whole other world, especially with work involved. The added cardio, the food prep, weighing and measuring everything, self-imposed restrictions on freedoms (which affect everyone close to oneself). A prep leaves room for very little in life but the prep. I am not saying it’s like that for everyone, but for me, it was, and I can’t see it done properly in any other way.

I’ve always been a stickler for stretching, foam rolling, and mobility, but as the prep progressed, I was doing so much activity that the first thing I cut down on was that sort of stuff.

Thanks! I just really don’t know how some people can balance work, family, and a prep. Hats off to them. I don’t see myself being able to do that.


I hear you 100%. I have been working toward my first show this year at 36. Balancing my relationship, my business and the training and dieting has been tough. There are days i don’t get home until after 8 pr 9pm and I am so drained I just pass out. The food prepping, eating, lifting, morning cardio sessions when I was stripping things down this summer to see what was actually there… I couldn’t imagine adding children to the mix LOL. And to think, that’s not even a prep! This is a very demanding hobby.


I dont really know if you can “balance” it… I mean if you stretch one side of a triangle the other 2 sides have the shrink. It is obviously possible to “do” it but I dont know if you can do it and be “balanced” … Something has to receive less attention if you are giving more attention to another area of your life.

Its unfortunate you are in this position, but on a grander scale I am glad we have responsible people in the world who understand that family, career, health and life come before hobby and leisure.


That’s a better way of putting it. There is no balance in prepping. I don’t even think there’s so much balance in an offseason either. I mean, even if one were to attempt to improve over an offseason, especially as a pro, in which the pressure would amped up significantly, that takes a lack of balance too.

This sounds negative, but it’s what I feel. Those that say they can balance with a full time job and young kids, when they say they are balanced, I simply don’t believe them. Either that, or I was too effected by a prep, a prep I see done properly. I just cannot see the constant uncomfortable conversations with a wife and kids.

“I made tacos for dinner tonight. Are you eating with us?” Re: “No.”

“Wanna go on a road trip with Jane and John?” Re: “No.”

“My parents are ________. They expect you to come.” Re: “Wait… what time? Where? When? I gotta bring my food. What are they serving?”

I just don’t wanna be in those damn fidgety situations while there is a kid in the mix, not to mention the NORMAL expectations from my own family and in-laws.

I also can’t imagine looking a kid who wants my attention in the face and just being totally zoned out and concerned about something else.

This is NOT to put down bodybuilding at all! I love it, and will continue to be involved ad be a fan! And I will do nothing but exhort someone to experience it… while taking reality into account!

If someone can swing it, he can do it! Me, not now, and not in the future.

I experienced it and loved and would do it again if I could. But I went through the balance sheet, and it simply can’t be done, or at least can’t be done without some serious problems.

We’ve all heard this shit before. The guy or gal who works two jobs, takes a 21 credit course load, has a woman or man and friends, and somehow makes time for it all! Yeah, sure. Though one can be involved in god knows how many things at once, at what level are they operating on for each one of them?!

OK, rant over. Sorry for the rambling. It sort of happens when I’m buzzed, as I am writing this. :slight_smile: (There goes the Spartan discipline already, lol).


I like buzzed Brick. What is the drink of choice of the bodybuilding pro? :beers:


Thanks! It’s red wine or fireball whiskey on most nights. ONE drink, that is. Hardly ever two. I don’t have much tolerance. :grinning:


Or pumpkin beer when we wander down to Main Street for burgers, and then every 15 minutes you’ll hear Brad express surprise at how hard one beer has hit him :wink:



Dude, you must be a cheap date! haha


I am! :slight_smile:


Awesome thread! And was awesome to read through it! Learned a lot and appreciate you being so consistent with this. Only been a member of this forum for 2 days and this was the first thread I read. Again I appreciate you being consistent with this and wish you luck in all of your future endeavors @BrickHead


Thank you very much.


Man I found a way to get you on stage sooner well just get you perpetually drunk. La la haha yeah m fers​:joy::joy::joy::muscle::muscle::muscle:


Likely never. :slightly_frowning_face:


I just wanted to discuss peak week as I’ve lately read a few posts around the sub-forums of this board. I’ve read some stuff in which manipulation of water and salt are discussed. My peak week was as simple as can be.
Here it was:

Sunday through Thursday: ketogenic diet with three depletion workouts for the upper body spread out through the week. No cardio.

Friday: Carb-up (with small amount of protein at every sitting) and supercompensation-pump workout for my lagging chest.

A LOT of water every day except show day.

Show day: small amount of protein and carbs in the morning. Then rest of day a shit ton of sugary carbs, some rice cakes, salt, and small amounts of water here and there. I went on stage SEVEN times in one day though. :slight_smile:

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and if you’re shredded already, I don’t think there’s much that can go wrong anyway.

Maple Syrup Strength (littlesleeper)

Aaaannnnd we never cut water or sodium :slight_smile: