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Rob's 2017 Contest Prep Thread

1/1 - 153.6 lbs

Here we go for round 2! This prep log will detail my second year of competitive natural bodybuilding in the bantamweight class (150lbs and under), including updates to training, nutrition, food choices, timing, cardio methods and any other possible minutiae that competitors obsess about on the road to the stage. Last year was my first year competing, prepping for a total of 6 months, ending with a second place finish in the Open Bantamweights at the WNBF Hercules in Manhattan, NY. It was a brutal prep, lots of learning and leg work. I came in with the best package I could have and enjoyed every minute of it. Ultimately, mass and structure were strong points, and while conditioning was solid, I fell just short of true stage level shredded.

January 1 of 2016 to June 26, 2016

This year, I am in a much better starting place, in terms of mass, conditioning and weight. Last year I started prepping at 165, ending at a stage weight of 143. This year I’m starting at 153, and we’ll see where the stage weight winds up. Ultimately, we’re planning that better conditioning combined with added mass will bring a much fuller and tighter package.

I am fortunate to be working with one of the best in the business with my coach, @The_Mighty_Stu, (or “Dumbledore” as I like to call him), a successful multi federation Pro-Card winning natural bodybuilder, who has become my good friend during the process. We put our heads together to have an intense, productive off season from day one after my show in June, and we’re ready to hit the ground running.

For now, the plan is to ultimately aim for the WNBF Hercules again. It’s the oldest tested show in the U.S., with a very respected natural organization. It’s regarded as one of the toughest natural shows in the country, so placing well there would be quite an accomplishment. Along the way, we have at least one “warm up” show planned at the end of May, either in OCB or ANBF, and possibly one or two more before that, depending on my conditioning at the time.

I am fortunate this year to have transitioned into working from home full time. I am a composer of competitive marching band music, and work with bands nation wide, primarily competitive high schools, but also some other projects along the way, including music for podcasts, video intros, and writing the half time show for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens. I’ve been a public school music teacher for the past 10 years, so being at home full time now will be a huge advantage during prep time. Naps will be in full effect when needed, and just the ability to be at home, relaxed, not stressing about getting out the door or lugging my cooler around with me all day, all should make this prep more effective.

Please feel free to ask any questions, I’ll always do my best to respond ASAP. Thanks for reading, I am FIRED UP for 2017!

For anyone interested, here’s the link to last year’s prep log: Rob's Road to Hercules: Contest Prep.


You know I’m following along -lol


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My goal for the next 4 months is to shred down to your current ‘before’ figure!

You’re going to turn some heads this year man, I’m excited to be along for the ride again.


Your before pics this year look way better than the last.

That last pic in the series exemplifies what I have come to believe are signature “Stu Guns & Delts” . I don’t know the formal name of the pose, but mean that in the best possible way.

Seriously, great work all the way around.


He knows the tricks to make things pop!


I will, of course, be following along, Rob! Should be awesome!

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@littlesleeper thank you very much man! You sir are looking damn thick and are at a great starting point for the shred down contest, your quads and pipes are ridiculous. Can’t wait to see you turn some heads man!

@SkyzykS thank you bro! It feels good to be bigger, stronger and leaner starting off this prep, 12lbs under where I started last year. Off season was intense but well worth it. That last pose is the “side-tricep” pose, which I believe to be my weakest pose so I really appreciate those kind words brother. Shoulders and arms have been my top priority for the past 6 months, keeping up with arm training twice a week during the prep.

@IronAndMetal thanks man, very glad to have you on board! Also, you sent me a message a little while ago and I deleted my IG account. Feel free to send it again to my email, it’s my username @ verizon.net.

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out of curiosity, how do these shows test? Pee in a cup?

@Yogi1 good to see you on here bro! All competitors take a polygraph, either the day before the show at the host hotel or morning of at the show site. I always take it the day before, show day logistics are already stressful enough without adding a polygraph to the list. You have to sign an agreement stating you’ve read the banned substances list, have never taken banned substances (technically the federations are 7 years banned substance free). They ask baseline questions, then ones like “have you ever purposely cheated on an important test or exam” kind of stuff. Then they ask about banned substances. The whole test takes about 5 minutes once you get started. After the show, all class and overall winners have to pee in a cup before they leave the show site, otherwise they’re disqualified.

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No doubt! One adjustment Stu made, rather than doing two direct arm sessions, was to split up one of the sessions. So I do back/biceps, shoulders/triceps, and a direct arm day throughout the week.

There are a few other things I attribute to some solid off season growth of shoulders and arms aside from a well programmed training split:

-Higher frequency (trained shoulders twice a week for 4 months, arms twice a week for 6 months and will continue doing so throughout the prep.)
-Varying exercises and finding what really works well for me. I’m very happy with my current shoulder routine, which I got from Roelly Winklaar in a shoulder article from MD. For arms, I vary my exercises for each workout, so the biceps exercises and set/rep scheme on back day is different than on arm day.
-I approach shoulder and arm training with more intensity. It occurred to me as I was starting to train arms more frequently, that in comparison to my legs, back, chest and shoulders, my arms are not as strong. I realized it was because I always steered towards higher rep ranges for arms to chase a pump, but never really focused on improving strength in the arms. After adjusting exercises, set/rep schemes to focus on strength and intensity, I started seeing more noticeable growth.

As the prep continues, we’re hoping training arms twice a week will allow us to keep seeing some improvement there.


150.8 today, down a little over 2lbs this week so far after a couple of medium days. With my current plan, typically we see more movement in the first half of the week as we “empty the tank”, and then Friday-Sunday is more focused on “refilling” it and recovery. Feeling good and strength is still improving, gym performance is top priority. Carbs on my medium days are reasonable, all consumed in the first 3 meals of the day leading up to my training to ensure I have a lot of good fuel for the gym. The only carbs after training is one small serving of fruit with my pre-bed meal.

Typically we aim for 1-2 pounds a week of weight loss. While the scale movement is surprisingly fast right now, I feel good in and out of the gym and strength is on point, so that tells us we can keep going at our current pace while we’re in the early stages, which will hopefully allow us to ease in to the shows, and possibly even add cals/carbs as they get closer. What a welcome change that would be from last year!

I can relate to this. What’s a typical arm day look like?

How did you up your intensity for shoulders, exactly? I was always shoulder dominant throughout high school and college, so I didn’t really pay much attention to them for a long time. 2017 is going to be the return of shoulder intensity…so…I’d love to know what you did.

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of course I’m here! Haha. Wouldn’t miss this shit for the world.

Man, polygraphs must be scary. What if they throw in something like “did you ever have gay feelings for that blonde kid you went to swimming camp with?”

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LOL! They are a little bit nerve racking. Even though there’s nothing to worry about, once they start hooking you up to all the wires and such, can’t help but feel a little anxious.

Pretty standard really, as I wrote earlier I’ve adjusted my training and mind set for arms to be more similar to how I train other muscle groups, rather than always chasing a high rep pump, and rotate exercises and sets/reps a bit. Here’s the breakdown of arms throughout the week:

Back/Biceps day - Tuesday - I hit back hard, 6 exercises and a total of 20 working sets. So, by the time I get to biceps they’ve already been thoroughly warmed up and worked a bit, so on this day I make sure intensity is high and I get a good pump, but won’t do anything too heavy. Again this starts after I finish the back workout.
1. Straight barbell curls - 3 sets of 8+8. Got this also from Roelly Winklaar, I’ll do 8 standard reps, coming down to almost fully stretched but not quite, to keep tension in the biceps, while leaving the elbows in place. Then, I’ll go right into another 8 (or as many as I can) coming down slightly lower than half way, then back up, raising elbows slightly this time to get maximum peak contraction. By the last set I typically can’t get the last 8, usually 5-6 and I’ll do some partials.
2. Plate loaded Hammerstrength Preacher Curl - 3 sets of 8-10. I typically avoided preacher curls because they’re a weak movement for me, but after sucking it up and just focusing on getting stronger on that movement, it’s been getting a lot better. I make sure to fully stretch 100% before coming back up. Sometimes I’ll also use cable machine preacher curl or barbell.
3. Dumbbell cross body curls - 3 sets of 10-12, recently starting using straps for these and it really helps keep all the tension in the brachialis.

Delt/Tricep day - Wednesday - Hit delts hard, then move on to triceps.
1. Weighted tricep dips - 4-5 sets of 5-6, really trying to bring up triceps so starting with heavier movements for strength. I don’t feel a huge pump here, but make sure to stay upright and keep tension all in the triceps. Past couple sessions I’ve had 90lbs on the dip belt.
2. Swivel Bar Pushdown “Knuckles Down” - 3 sets 8-10. Got this from a Paul Carter article. Basically standard push downs, but at the bottom, you try to turn your knuckles down towards the ground and squeeze the tricep as hard as possible. Thinking about the knuckles takes the tricep contraction to the next level!
3. Single Arm Reverse Grip Cable Pulldowns - 3 sets 10-12. Supinated grip, one arm at a time, making sure to contract the tricep as hard as possible at the bottom and a slow stretch on the negative.

ARM DAY - Saturday - Just arms, no cardio.
1. Barbell Curls - 4-5 sets of 5-8 - Hard and heavy, explosive as possible with a slow negative. These are not cheat curls, no upper body momentum.
2. Alternating Dumbbell Concentration Curls - 3 sets 8-10. Nothing special, focus on the squeeze and wrist rotation at the top for maximum contraction.
3. EZ Bar Curls - Narrow Grip - 3 sets 8-10 - I view this as a “bridge” exercises between standard curls and hammer curls. Using the narrow grip of the EZ bar curls works the outer part of the long head of the bicep, I feel like it gets the area between the peak and the brachi, helping to round out the arm from all angles.
4. Hammer Curl Bar - 3 sets 10-12 - Slow with a brief pause at the top, arms come up to slightly higher than parallel with the floor.
1. Close Grip Bench - 4-5 sets 5-8 Again focusing on strength here, make sure to find the range of motion that allows you to keep it all in the triceps.
2. Rope Pull Downs - 4 sets 8-10 - I think about the same “knuckles down” tip as with the swivel bar for maximum contraction.
3. Decline Bench Dumbbell Tricep Extension - 3 sets 10-12 (to fail) - A fantastic tricep finisher on the decline bench, focus on the negative with a slow stretch, and peak contraction at the top.

Similar to arms, I had to change my mindset, and incorporate lower reps. As delts are smaller muscles, I always chased the pump thinking that’s what I needed, and also to try to avoid injury. But, when I really wanted to prioritize shoulders and arms, I realized I needed to be stronger and raise intensity. If you can get the strength up, then you can lift heavier weights for higher reps, and spur new growth. I started by doing 5x5 seated Dumbbell presses to start off every workout, that alone was extremely helpful in building strength. I also added in alternating front raises after DB presses, as heavy as possible while keeping tension in the shoulder, sets of 8-10. When I started DB presses 5x5 that was a few months ago, I was doing 55’s and 60’s for 5. Yesterday I was able to do 70’s for three sets of 8, and got two sets of 5 with 75’s. For front raises, I started with 20lb dumbbells, yesterday I was able to do 2 sets of 12 with 37.5’s, and 2 sets of 10 with 40’s.

I feel the mindset was the most significant thing that changed in my shoulder and arm training, really trying to improve strength and intensity I’m those muscle groups as I do with chest, back, and legs. Definitely have to be careful to avoid injury and not abuse the joints. Since I always typically did sets of at least 10 for shoulders and arms, moving to lower reps was very beneficial not just for strength and growth, but because it was a big change from what I was doing. If someone had stubborn arms and always did lower reps, I would imagine doing a few weeks of higher rep pump work would be a good stimulus for growth.


Thank you for taking the time to be so thorough, man. Your detail, at least to me, is always very much appreciated. I took the last week of 2016 off (I was in nowheresville Kansas with the lady’s family…no gyms), and decided to change my split and alter my muscle emphasis.

This week is doing generic workouts to get my mind right and get my body re-accustomed to the grind, and next week I hit the ground running with a new split.

I was doing:
1 - Hams, Biceps
2 - Chest, Triceps
3 - Back, Calves
4 - Quads
5 - Delts, Arms
6 - off (or cardio)
7 - off (or cardio, if none on Saturday)

And I’m switching to:
1 - Hams, Calves
2 - Chest, Triceps
3 - Back, Biceps
4 - Delts
5 - Quads, Calves
6 - Arms
7 - Off

So…because I had decided to isolate my arms and shoulders (after they’ve taken a back-seat to torso and legs), I am glad for your insights and tips.

Thankfully, I used to own a home gym when I had a townhouse (when I was “rich” and single haha), and bought the hammer curl bar and EZ curl bar for it. So, I’ll start using my hammer curl bar again, rather than only using dumbbells for hammer curls.

Thanks again for your response, and I can’t wait to see what your body does as it goes through prep. I’m also interested in your wife’s progress if you ever decide or care to share that. Although, I’m a big fan of keeping my relationship off the net, so I understand if y’all do that privately!


Very glad to help bro! Your new split looks solid, splitting up legs still is also a great idea. Let me know how you like it once you get into the groove of things!

All good, I know she’s not keeping a log anywhere or posting pics or anything, but her progress is going well, really starting to look like she’s got a show coming up. She’s almost half way done with her 20 week prep, we’re 10 weeks in this coming weekend. In the right lighting we can see a defined 6 pack on her, I think within a week or two it’ll be there all the time, shoulders and arms are getting pretty cut up! Fortunately, watching me go through my prep last year, she knew exactly what to expect and is pushing with everything she’s got. If it’s cool with her I’ll post some pics from her shows!

First low day today, finishing up some music then heading to the gym for HIIT. I have two low days each week, but today is the only HIIT session (so far!). There’s a 150 cal difference between my medium days and low days, going to dig in today and earn my high day tomorrow.

While this is the first “official” prep week, I’ve been on this plan for the past 4 weeks and have been cutting since October. Last week I took it easy, backed off of cardio, and didn’t do HIIT or legs. This morning during posing practice, my legs looked bigger and tighter than they did at my first show last year in April. This is another good indicator to me that my legs respond well to rest, and tapering cardio/HIIT/leg training going into the shows this year will be an important factor in making sure my legs are conditioned and ready. I could also feel this morning that I could really flex/contract my quads hard, another sign that they’re feeling fresh.


FRIDAY HIGH DAY! This morning’s breakfast was a locally made whole wheat everything bagel, toasted, topped with with fat free cream cheese and jelly, along with a cup of egg whites with sautéed peppers and onions. Later today I’ll be enjoying a Lenny and Larry’s Cookie with some chocolate sprouted granola and a Metabolic Drive shake pre workout, training legs today. I love Fridays :slight_smile:

Yesterday’s HIIT day felt as good as a HIIT day can feel. I was thoroughly trashed afterwards and sat in the sauna for about 15 minutes, good way to calm down and relax, and the heat is great for recovery and blood flow. Nutritionally the only difference between low and medium days are half a Finibar, still lower cals overall though at 1700. The HIIT session I did on the elliptical, absolutely brutal. Most people are surprised when I tell them I do HIIT on the elliptical, but when you get the hang of it, I think it’s an optimal choice. Zero impact, full body resistance, good stuff. I followed it up with LISS, still on the elliptical, passing the time watching some movies on the phone. I always listen to music during HIIT, but for LISS, having something to watch makes it more manageable and enjoyable. Woke up today flat but looking tighter. With my current schedule, I deplete throughout the week so by Friday morning I’m looking pretty flat, then after my high day today, and no cardio medium day tomorrow, by Saturday night/Sunday I’m about as tight and full as I’m gonna get throughout the week, and gives us good insight on our progress.

I’m sure there are some good podcasts to help the time pass as well,… possibly some with amazingly well crafted opening theme music -lol


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