T Nation

Rob's 2021 Contest Prep Log - Round 3

Here we go for ROUND 3! After a bit of a hiatus from posting on T-Nation, and a 3.5 year off season, I am SUPER excited to be prepping to step back on stage for the 2021 season. This prep log will detail my third year of competitive natural bodybuilding in the bantamweight class (150lbs and under), including updates to training, nutrition, food choices and food hacks, timing, cardio methods and any other possible minutiae that competitors obsess about on the road to the stage.

2016 was my first year competing, prepping for a total of 6 months, coached by T-Nation rock star and WNBF pro, @The_Mighty_Stu, who has become a great friend and mentor. The season started with a 4th place finish at the WNBF Northeast America Cup, and ended 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. Ultimately, mass and structure were strong points, conditioning was solid but not quite super shredded. I came in with the best package I could have and enjoyed every minute of it. Stage weight was 146 show day.

January 2016 - June 2016

After a very brief off season for a few months, we got right back to work utilizing the lessons we learned in 2016 to prep for 2017. I started in a much better place, trained on areas I wanted to bring up, specifically hamstrings, shoulders and arms, and took a higher carb, moderate protein and lower fat approach, which worked out much better. I competed in two shows that year, an ANBF show in Atlantic City, winning the overall and an ANBF pro card, and competed again at the WNBF Northeast America Cup, winning the overall, but unfortunately there were not enough competitors at the show to earn a pro card. Stage weight was 140lbs, so came in lighter but looked bigger and way tighter. Overall condition was lightyears better than previous year, not quite ultimately shredded but pretty close.

May 2017 Pics

After two straight years of prepping and 4 shows, it was time for a break. Since then I’ve been enjoying the bodybuilding lifestyle, training 5-6 days a week, keeping nutrition relatively tight and maintaining between 160-165lbs. We’ve moved from NJ to Austin, TX and are loving it here.

Little about me, I’m 36 years old, 5’4", living in Leander, TX with my incredibly supportive, super badass wife who has also competed. Her first show was my first show of 2017, and she won her class! I own two businesses, one is a music composition business, and the other is a residential real estate company which we started here in TX. Both are doing very well and keep me very busy, fortunately working from home (when not out doing real estate stuff) still allows flexibility and control of my schedule.

After 3.5 years off, I started getting the itch again earlier this year and really took a while to contemplate if I was prepared to dive back in. The sacrifices one must make during prep, and the suffering that must be endured, is no joke and the rest of life takes a back seat. After careful internal contemplation and talking with my wife, it is time to do it again! There’s no way I could do it without the support of my wife, she keeps me going literally and figuratively. She’s also an expert food prepper which is going to be amazingly helpful when my schedule is full.

I am extremely excited to be working with Cliff Wilson as my coach for 2021. After much emailing and conversation, working with him was a big factor to get back in it. The goal is to come in with the best package yet, more mass and incredible conditioning. Prep started yesterday, weighed in at 164lbs even, with a goal to slowly shave off 10lbs so he can get to know my body and how I respond to things, and we’re really going to dial in further after the new year.

Cliff is doing both my training and diet, and both are pretty different than anything I’ve done before. Nutrition wise we’re starting with a given set of macros which are slightly below what I’ve been eating up until this point, since I’ve been tracking as usual we have a pretty solid starting point. Training is a three phase plan, currently in phase one and WOW yesterday was awesome, and brutal. Loving both training and nutrition and I will for sure be elaborating on both as the log continues.

Please feel free to ask any questions, I’ll always do my best to respond ASAP. Thanks for reading, I am FIRED UP for 2021!

For anyone who’s interested, here are links to previous prep logs:

2017: Rob's 2017 Contest Prep Thread

2016: Rob's Road to Hercules: Contest Prep


In to read this one! Good luck!

To put your weight(s) into perspective, how tall are you again?

Certainly curious as to how the training looks, as I know before your recommendations have been for no-frills, no-nonsense sensible proven training so when you say that it’s different I’m interested to know what’s new and how you feel it’s been treating you.

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You did contest prep together? Brave.

On a serious note I’m in for this one.
Do you have any current photos? I’d love to see the transformation over time.

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Thanks for being along for the ride @Voxel!

Thanks for asking, I realize I didn’t write that in the initial post, I edited it. Height is 5’4".

For sure, happy to elaborate a little for now and more when I have more time, about to head to the gym. You are 100% correct that what has been my staple for myself and recommendations for others is a solid, tried and true bodybuilding template, like this one: https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/tried-and-true-bodybuilding-program-template

Increasing frequency as needed for certain muscle parts, changing exercises and their sequence, etc., and sticking to a template like this, in my experience, ya can’t go wrong.

My current training program with Cliff has two aspects, progressive overload sessions and blood volume sessions. Each muscle gets to go through both progressive overload, and blood volume sessions, over the course of a training cycle. The progressive overload is pretty standard, sets of 6-8, getting very close to failure or hitting failure on the last rep, with the goal of raising strength and mass over time. The blood volume sessions is what I haven’t really experimented with before. The goal is lots and lots of time under tension, getting lots of blood into the muscle, consisting of supersets of 14-20 reps each and very slow reps, 3 counts up and 3 counts down with a hard muscle squeeze at the top. So, when done properly, one superset can take 3-4 minutes! Yesterday’s training session was progressive overload for back and traps, and blood volume for delts. The pain was unbelievable in my shoulders as I was working through it. I used lighter weights than ever before and could barely hold them up by the end of the workout.

I’ve certainly been prescribed supersets before and have worked with higher rep ranges and slower reps, so the blood volume aspect isn’t totally unexplored, but specifically consistently doing the 3 count each way, all supersets and always 14-20 reps is new. Really excited to see the results this program will bring!


This is close to what I have been doing in my powerlifting training. I am off season, so the goal is to add muscle and drop a bit of fat. I do my main lifts for progressive overload, and the assistance with a slow negative and higher rep count. Seems to be working pretty well.

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Nice! Glad that approach is working for you.

Are you doing anything with your nutrition to address this aspect?

LOL we did, we often say that if we survived a prep together, we can conquer anything. For the most part it was totally awesome, we both have the same type of work either and going through the struggle together added a sense of support and understanding. Sure there were times when there was some tension, impossible to avoid at that point when you feel messed up 24/7, but overall it was an amazing experience to go through together.

Sure thing, here’s one I sent Cliff getting started, at 164. I’ve been up to this weight before but this is the leanest I’ve been at this weight, excited to see what the finished package will look like especially with this training program.


In for this!

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Yeah - stress testing your relationship in the best way possible. It must be great to have someone that appreciated both “what” and “why”.
I have to say my wife is as supportive of me as she can be. But she does not understand they why.

You look to me (in my VERY limited capacity) to be in good shape going in. Your arms and shoulders look like a strong point. As do your legs.

I’m really looking forward to watching this. I think its going to be great.

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@ChongLordUno thank you so much for reading, glad to have you on board!

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Welcome back! Great to see you back with another log, i wasn’t expecting it.

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Welcome back Rob. Good to hear from you. I expect this may be your toughest challenge yet, given the Texan reputation for food!

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I am a small changes that I can stick to type person. Cutting out the easy stuff first (drinking calories other than milk, French fries, high calorie dressings), then improving things slowly (adding a bit more lean protein per meal, adding more veg and fruit to meals). Admittedly my diet isn’t that of a good BBer, but I do try to get at least 150 g of protein a day, and shoot for 200 g.

I’ve see changes in body composition with these changes. I don’t know exact BF%, but I have faint ab definition, and I am vascular (I get vascular pretty easy though). My guess is I am 16-18% BF at 5’10" 210 lbs. What percent body fat approximately are you in the last picture you posted? That looks similar to where I am now for body fat.

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That can be tough man, sorry to hear that. What “why” are you talking about specifically? Your health and fitness stuff, or other passions?

THANK YOU so much, I really appreciate that and am grateful to have you reading along!

Sounds like you’ve got your system down, that’s awesome.

Man that’s tough to say, maybe 15-17%? I almost never measure my body fat, I did a few times towards the end of my last prep with calipers just because I was curious. Ultimately in the off season I go by my level of leanness and if I’m happy with it or not, in bodybuilding it’s just continually getting leaner until you have the right look, which is probably around 5%ish.

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Thank you @kd13, great to see you on here still and glad to have you on the thread!

Thank you @JamesBrawn007, good to see you on the forums again! LOL yes, food here is amazing, and of course there’s incredible BBQ everywhere. Eating out is off the table but I have figured out some awesome food hacks over time, and am also really enjoying grilling lately as we got a new one. Still, I’ll be looking forward to some post show BBQ!

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Why we (T nation members) do what we do and why each part of the process is there.

My wife is 100% behind me. But its tough when shes not clued up on the sport.

Example - she buys 60 eggs a week for the family. I’ll eat 50 of those. Every morning when she comes down stairs and finds my struggling with my 6 eggs on 2 toast she’ll say:
“I dont know why you dont have some honey O’s. The is protein in milk. You’ll be fine.”


In for this just for the heck of. Might steal some shoulder routines too!

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Cool cool! Let’s see some of that muscle maturity from the last couple of years!

You guys make the pilgrimage to Ronnie’s ol’ stompin’ grounds, Metroplex?


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