USA Physique
The Coaching Authority

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Physique Readiness Coaching and how is it different from other contest prep coaching?

Physique Readiness™ is a Quality Assurance, long term strategy by which a Physique Athlete and his/her Physique Readiness Coach™ prepare systematically for the competitor’s career specifically to enhance delivery of optimal improvements each time the competitor takes the stage. The process starts with the competitors Offseason Plan and continues through their Contest Prep Plan, Peak Week Plan, Contest Day Plan, Stage Strategy Plan and Reverse Diet Plan…ALWAYS with the ultimate goal in mind.

The Physique Readiness Coach™, drawing on their extensive experience and unique insight as an IFBB Professional Athlete and NPC Judge, will craft a multi-year competitor development strategy. By defining and managing a progression framework for early-in-career and seasoned competitors, the Physique Readiness Coach™ develops competitors into elite athletes, upholding Team USA Physique’s™ high standards.

Physique Readiness Coaching™ is a continuous improvement methodology that includes specific focus on linear incremental improvements over time to optimize the development of the competitor, based on the competitor’s Workout Programming and Nutrition Plan. The methodology is based on a modified version of the Continuous Process Improvement Model’s four-step Quality Assurance method, the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle:

The modified version is as follows with the competitors ultimate goal in mind:

Plan: Identify strengths and weaknesses and plan for change
Do: Implement change on a small, yet specific incremental scale
Check: Use gathered data to analyze results
Act: Adjust as necessary

The cycle repeats on a continual basis.

How is this different than what other contest prep coaches do for their athletes?

Typical Contest Prep Coaching is always about getting to that one show.  There is little thought put into whether or not it is strategically in a competitor’s best interest to compete in one show or the other.  Competitors tend to find that they are not progressing greatly from contest to contest and will coach hop trying to find the right fit.  Often times it is simply a lack of the “big picture” view that we have at USA Physique as IFBB Pros and NPC Judges.  We know what we would like to see from a competitor in order for them to move from one level to the next, so we do not waste time unnecessarily spinning our wheels.  Although it is more profitable for coaches to put competitors on the stage numerous times each season (coaching fees for each contest prep are typically higher than offseason rates), it is not in the best interests of a competitor who truly wants to go far in competitive bodybuilding.

How do I join your team?

If you already have all the information you need and you are ready to join our team, just go to our Competitor Application, fill it out and hit the submit button at the bottom of the page.  We will review your information, create a free trial so that you can test drive our system, and set up a free consultation call with you.

If you just stumbled upon our site and need more info, please review all of our coaching methods, learn about the USA Physique app you will be using, and begin tracking all of your food in My Fitness Pal.  Once you have decided that you would like to move forward, you can head to the Competitor Application and proceed as above.

What type of clients are taking on right now?

We are a competition team, and that is our main focus… taking physique competitors and making them champions.  We don’t just take anyone, it is on a case-by-case basis.  We are looking for individuals who are in the game to win at those top spots.  It doesn’t matter which federation you’re interested in or if it is for local competitions, National Qualifiers, Pro Qualifiers or Pro shows.  As long as you are willing to put the “detailed” work in and are “in it to win it”, then we want to talk to you.  Now, we do have a few folks we work with who are “bucket list” competitors as long as they are still diligent in their workouts and nutrition, but we reserve very few spots for non-competitors and the majority of our clients are the ones who want to be competitive and take the next step.

Are your workout plans customized or pre-written programs that are shared.

Every single training program we build is customized for the individual based on their strengths and weaknesses. In fact, the program will change as you progress.  However, most programs we build have a basic format typically focused on a few major compound movements, but that is where the similarity ends.  From there, we customize the rest based on what we see as NPC Judges that your physique needs to make you truly competitive.  We do some “daily” workouts that we may share if they fill a need, but that is on a case by case basis.

What is your view on cardio?

As far as the sport of Bodybuilding is concerned, we are “Cardio Minimalists”.  Cardio should be used as a tool when needed, and nothing more.  The reality is that too many coaches prescribe way too much cardio instead of letting the competitors’ nutrition and appropriately designed Workout Program do the work.  The ground work for this is set up in the offseason.  During the offseason, cardio should be lowered to a minimum (in some cases, none outside of normal daily activity) and calories raised as high as possible as long as the competitor stays at a reasonable weight.  The purpose is to make sure the competitor has plenty of calories to spare in order to have a good cushion to pull from when fat loss stalls (it always does), and plenty of cardio to add in when appropriate as well.  Simply put, the more cardio you do in the offseason, the less effective it will be in prep.  Doing the opposite of this is why so many competitors end up doing hours of cardio daily. And, to their detriment, more hours doing cardio than lifting. This often leads to a faster rate of muscle loss, slowing recovery and draining the competitors’ energy at a time when they need it the most.

Is there any benefit during fasted cardio?

Fasted cardio has not been shown to be superior to fed-state cardio for weight loss or fat loss when macronutrient intake throughout the day is matched. Though it may not be recommended, it is fine if you feel it works best for you from an energy perspective.

Why do you only have me taking in around 1 to 1.5g/lb protein?

Protein intakes of greater than ~0.8-0.9g/lb of FFM (Fat Free Mass) in athletes who are not dieting have not been shown to result in greater strength or hypertrophy (muscle size/growth). When you are dieting, very lean, and training hard…slightly higher intakes up to ~1.2-1.5g/lb of FFM at the most may be needed to help prevent muscle loss. However, higher levels of protein do not hinder fat loss.  There are several studies on this topic and the ranges are pretty similar with only slight variations.

How do you decide when a competitor can start Contest Prep?

Ok, here we go. “When can I start my prep” is one of the most frequently asked questions we get. It seems like everyone wants to rush to the stage instead of focusing on where they need to be before prep starts to ensure an efficient and effective prep. So to answer this question…when your metabolism is high enough, because your metabolism is the driving force to peel the layers of fat off to get you stage lean. If your metabolism isn’t in a good place to start, you will not be successful…PERIOD.  We see this frequently as NPC Judges, competitors come to the stage without being able to get stage lean and this is primarily caused by beginning prep prior to upregulating their metabolism to a high enough level.  That’s why we created the Physique Readiness Coaching concept.

Why do you recommend a slower rate of weight loss during dieting?

Dieting at rates faster than 1% of bodyweight/wk has been shown to result in a greater reduction in muscle mass, strength, and hormones than diet at a 0.5-1% bodyweight/wk rate of weight loss. During contest prep, I will start you out (and maintain you at) at a fat loss to muscle preservation ratio that is optimal to your goals. You will have plenty of time to come in properly conditioned.

Can I gain significant muscle while losing fat during a cutting cycle?

While it is possible, contest prep results in declines in anabolic hormones, strength, and lean mass, even in high level successful natural bodybuilders. In general, muscle gain while losing fat is typically the result of Performance Enhancing Drug (PED) usage, and in some cases “newbie gains”.

Why do you try to always keep my food as high as possible while dieting?

Dieting results in a number of physiologic changes including metabolic adaptation. By keeping food as high as possible while still making appropriate progress, you can slow down the rate of metabolic adaptation which will allow us to reduce the number of time we have to decrease calories.  This will enable you to have more room to pull back food further, if needed, later on in your fat loss phase.  In short it allows for a more effective and efficient prep while keeping our competitors as comfortable as possible during contest preparation.

Why should I Reverse Diet after a fat loss cycle such as a cut or contest prep?

Caloric restriction for a significant period, as occurs during preps and long fat loss cycles, results in metabolic adaptation and the body decreases its ability to lose fat. By reverse dieting an athlete can minimize weight gain after fat loss cycles compared to just going back to what they were doing prior to the start of prep. During rebound after contest prep, the body’s fat storing process is high as it starts to fight to get back to homeostasis.

What is NEAT and what does it mean?

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and is described as “the amount of energy you spend doing little movements throughout the day that is not related to exercise” (your workouts).  Basically, anything that is done out side of your workouts.

What is BMR and what does it mean?

BMR stand for Basal Metabolic Rate.  It  is the rate at which your body uses energy when you are resting in order to keep vital functions going such as breathing. The rate at which your body uses energy to breathe and stay warm is an example of your basal metabolic rate.  On a simplified level, basically the amount of energy (calories) needed to keep the lights on.

Do you provide Meal Plans or do you only focus on Macro Counting?

We do not do meal plans, nor do we recommend them for our clients. Current scientific research tells us that Restrictive Dieting (meal plans) are not sustainable. The data also suggests they have a higher risk associated with eating disorders than Flexible Dieting. That is not to say that meal plans do not work, they do…and for many people. But the data shows us that that there is a high correlation between Restrictive Dieting and binge eating. Which can lead to self-regurgitation and other eating disorders. Any time food choices are limited, the risks increase.  HOWEVER, in the final few weeks of prep, we may provide one (created from foods the competitor has already been choosing on their own) to help take the stress off the competitor.  We also provide your Show Day Meal Plan (again based upon foods you have chosen throughout your prep) and meal timing.

Why should I use Flexible Dieting rather than following a meal plan?

Dieting flexibly has been shown to be associated with a lower BMI than a rigid dieting approach. In addition, a rigid dieting approach was found to be correlated with overeating. Rigid dieting has also been shown to lead to an increased prevalence of eating disorders. Additionally, having a strict set meal plan all week followed by a “cheat day” or “cheat meal” which is basically a binge is a disordered pattern of eating. However, you choose the food you eat under our guidance. If you want to “eat clean” you may do so. The important thing is to be sure you hit your macronutrient daily goals. The food you eat to meet that goal is your choice.

What is a refeed day?

A refeed day is a single day in which overall calories are higher than other days.  Usually calories are raised by increasing your carbohydrates.  The data tells us that out of carbs, proteins and fats, raising your carbohydrates has a greater positive effect on thyroid and leptin hormones.  When you schedule your refeed day in the week, you will need to reduce the other days to keep your total calories for the week the same.

What is the difference in a Refeed Day and a Cheat Day?

A Cheat Day (or cheat meal) is typically a time when a competitor thinks it is okay to eat whatever they want without restriction.  The problem with this method is that ALL CALORIES COUNT and your weight decreases or increases based on the number or calories you consume.  Since Cheat Days have no restrictions, you can easily go overboard and stall your fat loss, or even cause some gain with this philosophy.  We do not subscribe to this.  Rather, we give competitors routine Refeed Days that have structured Macro Goals which take into account their weekly calorie goals.

Can have have Diet Sodas? Will it interfere with my progress?

Current research tells us that Diet soda does not interfere with fat loss, nor does it spike insulin levels.  As far as long-term health, there is not enough conclusive evidence to suggest either way.  But in terms of offseason or contest prep, if you want something like a Diet Coke or Pepsi…have at it without fear of having a negative effect on your competition goals.

Currently available research into diet soda and long-term health risks is insufficient, although there are specific areas where risks are unlikely. Contrary to popular belief, diet soda (defined as calorie free carbonated beverages sweetened with aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium, or other non-caloric or minimally caloric sweeteners) doesn’t inhibit fat loss, or spike insulin levels.”

You can read more about this topic here.

Should sugar be limited during Contest Prep or Offseason?

You should not fear sugar during offseason or contest prep, it will not interfere with your progress as long as all macronutrient goals are met.  “Diets high in fructose have not been shown to affect weight loss compared to low-fructose diets.  Similarly, diets high in dairy (lactose) have not been shown to inhibit fat loss.  The problem that may arise is that calories from added sugar can increase hunger due to the lower volume of the food. 

Are "Superfoods" real?

The term “Superfood” has been blown out of proportion.  We can blame this on marketing.  Most of the foods that are termed “superfoods” are not backed by scientific evidence.  Instead, you will find many companies paying for so called “research” to give them the results they want.  HOWEVER, there are a few Superfoods which are backed by science such as Garlic, Dark Berries, Spirulina and Leafy Greens.

Always be leary of the word “proven”, as this term gets thrown around a lot.  If the study has not gone through Peer Review, use caution relying on the data.

Is it necessary to train to failure for muscle growth?

Training to failure is not necessary to recruit new muscle fiber.  That does not mean that training to failure doesn’t increase muscle recruitment, because it does just like numerous other training methods. However, training to failure increases your risk of injury and slows recovery time. New studies show that training to just below failure may be more beneficial for muscle growth.

“CONCLUSION:…it appears that similar increases in muscular strength can be achieved with failure and non-failure training. Furthermore, it seems unnecessary to perform failure training to maximize muscular strength; however, if incorporated into a programming, training to failure should be performed sparingly to limit the risks of injuries and overtraining.”

If you chose to use “failure” in your workouts, it might be best to save it for the last set of the last exercise of a muscle group so it doesn’t have a negative impact on the rest of your training for that muscle group.

What is DUP?

DUP stands for “Daily Undulating Periodization” where training variables such as volume, intensity, density and frequency are utilized.  DUP is a theory, concept, methodology, or system of training based upon the last 25 years of scientific research.  It’s not something you can just download from the internet and plug in your numbers.  A properly written DUP program MUST BE customized, or modified, based on the athletes goals as there are an infinite number of ways to utilize it.

The basic premise of DUP is that the lifter will take a specific exercise and perform the exercise more than one time per week (or every 10 to 14 days…don’t get fixated on the time frame) but hit a different rep range (i.e., strength rep range, hypertrophy rep range) each time they perform the exercise.

The majority of our programs are based on DUP.

DUP is the most science backed style of training known today.  Dr. Mike Zourdos is the leading researcher in DUP.  Dr. Zourdos earned his Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from The Florida State University (FSU) in 2012.

What is Progressive Overload?

Progressive overload is the gradual increase of stress placed upon the body during exercise training.  Simply put, the ability to increase the load you move over time.  There are three main variables that you should focus on, all of which we use when customizing our workout programs for you.  Intensity, Volume and Density.

What does the Density of a workout mean?

Density actually relates to volume.  In simple terms it is the amount of volume you move over time.  So if you want to increase the Density of your workout, decrease the amount of time it takes you to do it.  For example, if you are doing squats and it takes you 20 minutes to complete your sets/reps and you move 4500lbs of volume, you can increase the density by moving the same volume in 18 minutes.  So, 4500/20 = 225lbs per minute which is the density of that workout, compared to 4500/18 = 250lbs per minute which is the density of that workout.  As you can see, the same volume moved in 18 minutes compared to 20 minutes is more dense.

What does the Volume of a workout mean?

The Volume of a workout the number of sets x’s the number of reps x’s the amount of weight moved.  If you perform 3 sets of 10 reps of 150lbs, your volume for that exercise is 4500lbs.

What does the Intensity of a workout mean?

Intensity is the percentage of your one Rep Max (1RM) that you are using on an exercise.  If your 1RM of an exercise is 200lbs and you are using 140lbs, the intensity is 70%.  If you are using 180lbs, the intensity is 90%.  Therefore, the heavier load (180lb at 90% of 1RM) is more intense than the lighter load (140lbs at 70% of 1RM).