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.

The first phase will last about 10 weeks, which includes and “into” week, and at “deload/active recovery” at the in. The first phase is “somewhat” the same for everyone, depending on your division and experience.. We start with 3 or 4 main compound lifts based on your needs. Examples include, but are not limited to…squats, deadlifts, bench press, barbell overhead press, barbell hip thrust, etc. You will be performing each main lift twice a week.

Once you complete your first phase, we should have enough data to determine what needs to be improved on. This is where the customization starts. Main lifts will still be included, but we may change things like rep ranges, sets, intensity, density, etc. In addition, accessory work will be modified and more suited to address your individual strengths, weaknesses, goals and health. As you continue to progress, we will start to add more tools to your toolbelt. Those tools may include super sets, drop sets, FST7, Blood Flow Restriction, High Volume sets, etc. You could say that your workout program grows as you do.


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 competitors do way too much cardio instead of letting their nutrition and appropriately designed Workout Program do the work.  Most often than not, this is due to starting Contest Prep when they are not ready.

The ground work for a successful, efficient and effective prep starts 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.

What is Steady State Cardio (SSC)?

For years Steady State Cardio (SSC), be it low or moderate intensity, has been the bed rock of fat loss for physique athletes for years.  It’s just simply what you did if you were a bodybuilder.

Traditional methods include moving at normal or fast paced walking or cycling speeds.  Equipment typically used includes the treadmill, spin bike, stair stepper and elliptical. Time range from 20 to 60 minutes per session.  In more extreme cases, more than 60 minutes are used.

What are the 5 Heart Rate Zones of Cardio and what are they used for?

There are 5 Zones of Cardio and all focus on Max Heart Rate.  For bodybuilding purposes, Zone Two is far superior in terms of fat loss and preserving muscle mass.  Zone Two also has less of a negative impact on recovery and your metabolism.

The Five Zones of Cardio are:

The first zone is about 50 to 60 percent of your max heart rate. That’s the least intense zone of cardio and is relatively easy. If you’re new to exercise you should start your workouts in this zone. You’ll burn some calories and build up your cardiovascular system to prepare yourself for harder workouts.

Exercise at 60 to 70 percent of your max heart rate and you’re still in a relatively low-intensity zone. Some people will be in this zone when they jog slowly or maybe evn just a brisk walk. If you stay in this zone during your workout you won’t be exhausted after your workout. You might even feel refreshed afterwards.  For Bodybuilding purposes, Zone Two is sperior than the other four.

Between 70 and 80 percent of your max heart rate constitutes zone 3 — the perfect zone to train for ENDURANCE ATHLETES. When you run distances or participate in other events such as a triathlon, you’ll spend a lot of time in this heart rate zone. It’s low-intensity enough that you can maintain it for quite a while, as long as you’re trained.

Zone 4, or 80 to 90 percent of your heart rate max, is too intense to sustain for a long time. You reach this zone when going at a quick running speed, just below an all-out sprint. This is a heart rate you would hit during a circuit training workout or while doing interval training, where you work for a short 30- to 90-second burst and then rest.  Fat burning is increased, but so is the amount of recovery time so this should be USED SPARINGLY.

The final zone, which is 90 to 100 percent of your max, is the most intense. It’s incredibly hard to sustain your workout at this heart rate. Most likely this will be the heart rate zone that you hit at the end of an incredibly hard sprint. Your body will quickly hit a wall where you can’t push any hard and start to slow down.

What is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a highly effective method of training that can substantially induce fat loss in a short amount of time.  The demands on the body is so great that it requires a substantial recovery time, similar to a lower body workout.

it has been argued that 15 minutes of true HIIT is comparable (perhaps superior) to an hour of traditional Steady State Cardio (SSC).  The problem is, most people do not do HIIT correctly and never reach optimal benefits.  HIIT is very taxing on the body and requires the athlete to temporarily reach 90% of their max heart rate.

Below is an appropriate protocol using 4 intervals as an example.

  • 5 minute warmup at a normal walking pace
  • 4 high intensity intervals. A high intensity interval will consist of going ‘all out’ as hard as you can for 20 seconds.  “All out” means as hard as you possibly can for 20 seconds.  You will know if you didn’t go hard enough if you could have gone more than 20 seconds.
  • After each interval, you will rest for about 90 seconds then repeat
  • After your last interval, take 5 minute cooldown at a slow to normal walking pace.

The link below will take you to an example doing Deadmills, which is using a treadmill without the belt moving.  You have to use the strength in your legs to do this.  The machine Natalie is using doesnt have a motor, so it is the same as a deadmill.

What is better for fat loss, HIIT or SSC?

Until a few years ago, there was very little debate between HIIT and SSC.  According to research, HIIT was better hands down.  However, a couple of studies in the past couple of years seem to suggest one is not better than the other.  The argument is that SSC taps into existing fat stores quickly, while HIIT uses more glucose and glycogen initially before tapping into existing body fat.

However, digging deeper into the science, we find that while HIIT will use more glucose and glycogen, HIIT will still use more body fat for fuel than SSC when you compare the two minute per minute.  One of the reasons is that, all that glucose and glycogen that HIIT utilizes needs to be replenished and much of that comes from body fat well after the session is over.

In addition, HIIT (when done properly) increases the mitochondria in the body.  The more mitochondria you have, the more fat you utilize.

In the grand scheme of things, HIIT is still superior to SSC in terms of fat loss and time spent doing cardio.  In addition, you get resistance training benefits when performing HIIT that you do not get from SSC…It is excellent for lower body development.

That begs the question, is there still benefit to doing SSC?

Absolutely.  For one, the demands on the body and need for recovery from HIIT is much higher than SSC.  While you can do SSC everyday, it’s not practical to do HIIT everyday and should be avoided.  Whatever body part you are using to perform HIIT, you most likely need 48 hours to recover before you train that body part through resistance training.

In addition, just like it is optimal to train body parts across multiple rep ranges, it is beneficial to perform cardio across multiple intensity levels.


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 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 higher calories, but structured Macro Goals which take into account their weekly calorie goals.

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 benefit of a Refeed Day?

When dieting slowly based on what science tells us preserve as much muscle mass as possible while losing as much body fat as possible WHILE not speeding up Metabolic Adaptation (lowing your metabolism), another benefit is that we can include the benefit of refeed days.

The advantages are increased performance in the gym do to an increase in glycogen storage due to the carbohydrate increase the day of or the day after your refeed day.  You will also get a slight metabolic spike and may slow down the rate of Metabolic Adaptation.  Then there is a huge psychological benefit from not being in a calorie deficit.

When should I use my Refeed Day?

Refeed Days typically involving just raising carbohydrates to a set amount, thus increasing your glycogen stores and improving performance in the gym.  As a result, you should schedule your Refeed Day on the day of, or the day before your hardest workouts.  If you workout in the morning, take your Refeed Day the day before your hardest workout.  If you workout in the evening, take your Refeed Day on the day of your hardest workout.

What is a Diet Break?

A Diet Break is exactly what it name implies, a break from dieting.  It’s like an extended Refeed Day that usually last a week, but sometimes more based on individual circumstances.  During this time, calories are raised to your new maintenance levels.  The goal of a Diet Break is not not see weight loss, but keep your weight steady during the length of the break.

What is the benefit a Diet Break?

There are many benefits of a Diet Break.  It can give you a psychological break from dieting which in of itself has a host of benefits.  It will have a larger positive effect on your metabolism and hormone levels than a single refeed day and will improve performance in the gym for the length of time you are on the break.  Interestingly enough, recent studies suggest that diet breaks not only have no negative effect on total weight loss, but may have increase weight loss once you return to normal dieting.  This phenomenon is most likely a result of a slight spike in your metabolism due to the break, and a psychological effect of being out of a deficit for a while.

When should I take a Diet Break?

Taking Diet Breaks depend on a number of factors such as the length of your prep, performance in the gym, the number of calories you are consuming, your weekly ROL (Rate of Loss), mental capacity, etc.  So there is “one size fits all” here.  But, if you allow enough time in your Contest Prep, it would be advantageous to take diet breaks periodically during prep.  Doing so can improve motivation and adherence to your Nutrition Plan.

That said, it’s best that you do not take Diet Breaks when you are already stage lean, or close to it. Because once you hit stage lean, you should be in the “Metabolic Building” Phase of prep, and already slowing increasing calories while staying stage lean. Though there may be circumstance in which it is appropriate at the stage of prep.  But again, that would be on a case-by-case situation.

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.

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.

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.

Why is Fiber so important?

Pay attention to your fiber.  When we conduct our consultations, it still amazes me that so many competitors have no idea how much fiber they are getting.  Fiber plays an important role in your nutrition.  Fiber’s effects on digestion and cholesterol are big, but fiber is also a decent thermogenic and helps with Satiety, which is defined as “the absence of hunger”…or feeling full.

In addition, when athletes start to experience gastrointestinal (GI) distress, especially in the later stages of prep when calories are low and our metabolism is low, in many cases an adjustment to fiber (and keeping it consistent) can remedy some of the problems. 

So how much fiber should you consume?  Well, the Institute of Medicine recommends that healthy adults consume around 14g of fiber for every 1000 calories.  However, when calories get low in prep, if you can get at least 10g in for every 1000 calories you should be good to go.

What about Soluble and Insoluble fiber?

They both have their benefits.  Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is believed to help with cholesterol and glucose control.  Insoluble fibers don’t dissolve in water but it does help bring water in to the digestive track and helps make your poop softer.  It’s also good for insulin sensitivity.

Booth are good to help combat diabetes, and both are found in most plant based foods.

So, if you are getting a lot of food variety, you should be fine.  Shameless Plug:  This is another reason I believe macro counting is superior to meal plans.  Meal plans (not the same as prepping food based on macros) are very restrictive which takes away a lot of food variety, and food variety is essential for got health…especially in a deficit.

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.

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.

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 detox and cleanses effective?

“Detox diets” are the ultimate manifestation of the “clean eating” obsession. Such diets commonly limit foods to plant-based juices, sometimes seasoned with a supplement. After a few days of that regimen, you’re supposed to be cleansed of … Well, detox-diet companies don’t really know. A 2009 investigation of ten companies found they couldn’t name a single “toxin” eliminated by any of their fifteen products — let alone prove that their products worked.

By reducing your intake of the nutrients they need to perform these functions, a detox diet can hinder your body’s natural detoxification process! If you wish to promote this process, your best bet is to load up with various foods that can help these organs work optimally,[89] such as cruciferous and other fibrous veggies.[89][90] Detox diets are not necessarily safe, either. Every now and then a case report emerges about potential risks, such as kidney damage from green smoothies[91] or liver failure from detox teas.[92] But if detox diets are more likely to harm than help, what explains their current popularity? One answer is: quick weight loss. Deprive your body from carbs and you can exhaust its glycogen stores in as little as 24 hours. The resulting loss of several pounds can convince you that the diet had a positive effect.[93] When the diet ends and you resume your regular eating habits, however, the glycogen and associated water come rushing back in, and with them the pounds you’d shed.

Is sodium bad for me?

Some myths contain a grain of truth. Studies have associated excess salt with hypertension (high blood pressure),[53] kidney damage,[54] and an increased risk of cognitive decline.[55][56] But salt (sodium) is an essential mineral; its consumption is critical to your health. The problem is when you consume too much sodium and too little potassium. Another issue is the source of all that salt. The average North American eats an incredible amount of salty processed foods[57] — which means that people who consume a lot of salt tend to consume a lot of foods that are generally unhealthy. That makes it hard to tease apart sodium’s effects from overall dietary effects. Except for individuals with salt-sensitive hypertension,[58] the evidence in support of low sodium intakes is less conclusive than most people would imagine.[59][60] As it stands, both very high and very low intakes are associated with cardiovascular disease.[61]

NOTE:  This answer came from  It is an EXCELLENT write up, using many studies as its base.

Should I cut sodium during Peak Week or Show day?

What are the effects of Sodium and Water Manipulation?


What are the Five Stages of Contest Prep?

The five stages of contest prep are the Transition Phase, Core Phase, Set-Point Phase, Metabolic Building Phase and Fine Tuning Phase.

What is the Transition Phase?

The Transition Phase of prep is when you shift from Offseason to Contest Prep and usually last for 2 to 3 weeks.  This is the time you start your prep with calories and body fat at their highest point before your initial deficit.  Once you start with your initial deficit, body fat will start to come off, but glycogen and water will result in the biggest drop the first week or so.  Eventually, the ROL (Rate of Loss) will start to slow down, but that doesnt mean body fat loss slows down as well.  It just means that you have lost the excess glycogen stores and the water that comes with it.

That said, some people may not experience that big initial drop right way.  It may take a couple of weeks to get to the point since there are so many other physiological things that can contribute to a faster, or slower, ROL in the beginning.

It is important to give some time for your body to work through this rather than increasing cardio or dropping more calories too much or too fast.  Both can have an unnecessary, yet negative effect on your metabolism.  Instead, give your body a little more time to work through all the physiological changes going on.  If a couple of weeks have gone by and weight is not coming down, then make few subtle adjustments until you reach your desired ROL.

What is the Core Phase?

The Core Phase of Contest Prep is where you will spend the most time.  Once your body settles in during the Transition Phase, and you are at an appropriate ROL, you will shift in this phase.

During the Core Phase, your ROL should be pretty consistent.  As fat loss stall, and it will often, you will need to make subtle calorie and/or cardio adjustments, and your metabolism will down regulate as a normal part of Metabolic Adaptation.  You may go a few weeks without needing any adjustments, and their may be times where you need an adjustment a couple of times per week.  This is a normal part of the process.

Eventually, you will notice that fat loss will start to slow down and become harder to to achieve as you get close to the next phase, the Set-Point Phase.

What is the Set-Point Phase?

The Set-Point Phase is when your body starts to resist fat loss. You probably have been in Contest Prep for several months at this stage, but a lot of that depends on how lean you were, or were not, when you started prep.  This is where you body starts to fight back because you are wanting to take it out of homeostasis, the weight range that your body likes to be in.

You weigh less, probably much less than you have ever been (unless you have gone through prep a few times) and your body is much more efficient as it has gotten use to less calories, so it burns them at a slower rate.

For some, this can be the hardest mental part of prep.

First instinct is to drop calories lower, or add in more cardio.  However, I caution you on this approach because more often that not, doing so is the not the best option as it will PUSH your metabolism down even further and at a faster rate…the opposite of what we want to do during Contest Prep.

Instead, a more practical and beneficial approach would be to adjust to the slower ROL.  If you think about it, you will see a bigger visual difference of 1lb of loss than you did in the beginning.  You will also start to see a more “hardening” look to your physique.  But if you give it some time, do it right, your body will likely start to resist less, and in some cases, less calorie reduction will be needed to keep fat loss going as you approach Stage Lean and go into the Metabolic Building Phase.

What is the Metabolic Building Phase?

The Metabolic Building Phase of Contest Prep starts when you have reached your goal of being stage lean.  Unfortunately, may competitors never even make it to this stage, or make it at the very last minute due to poor planning and not allowing enough time for the length of their prep.

Once you have made it to being stage lean, it is now time to start slowly increasing calories, while keeping you at your stage lean goal.   Notice I did not say “weight goal”.  At this point, it’s all about the look and not the scale.   

You will start to look harder, and tighter as you move along in the phase.  You may even notice that you look much better with your “stage lean” appearance NOW than you did with your “stage lean” appearance at the beginning of this phase, even if you weigh a little bit more. 

The reason?  As carbs go up, the extra glycogen from the extra carbs will start to fill your muscles out more resulting in a harder and tighter physique.  After all, the glycogen in your muscles doing all this adds weight to your physique.  Remember, glycogen is about 66% water, and that water is right where we want it…in your muscles.

What is the Fine Tuning Phase?

If you focus on building a properly conditioned physique (not just treating it as dieting for fat-loss) through the Core Phase and Set-Point Phase, and make it through the Metabolic Building Phase, you will arrive to the Fine Tuning Phase that less than 10% ever make it to.  That is a HUGE advantage.

At this point, fat loss is the furthest thing from your mind.  As you are getting ready for peak week, you should be confident that calories and carbs are right where the need to be in terms of hardness and fullness for an optimal physique.  You will know how many carbs it takes to keep you full and tight, your limit to avoid spill over (which you should be less sensitive too if you had enough time in the metabolic building phase), and how many carbs you will need to avoid looking flat.  

Confidence should be high as this phase carries you through Peak Week, stress should be low and you will know what to expect during those final days leading up to the show while others are still stressing out, riddled with uncertainty and trying to find “hope” for the best outcome rather than enjoying that final week.

What is the Multiplier Factor (MF)?

The Multiplier Factor (MF) is a simple way to determine where your metabolism with regard to starting Contest Prep.  It is your current Caloric Maintenance (the calories you are consuming to MAINTAIN your weight) divided by your weight.

For example.  An athlete that is consuming 1800 calories while maintaining a weight of 130lbs will have a MF of 13.8.  However, if the same athlete where consuming 2200 calories while maintaining a weight of 130lbs will have a MF of 16.9.

When considering Contest Prep, the higher the MF the more efficient and effective your prep will be and the greater your chances of truly reaching stage lean.  The higher your MF, the more calories you are consuming which means the higher your calories will be at the start of prep.

This is a huge benefit because it will give you more of a calorie cushion when fat loss stalls, and can greatly reduce the need for higher levels of cardio which can be counter productive to prep since a higher amount of cardio can lead to an increase rate of muscle loss while in a deficit.

Typically, athletes who wait to start their Contest Prep with at least a MF of 15 have a less difficult prep and face a less difficult rebound period once their Contest Prep ends.

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.

What EXACTLY is my Metabolism?

In simple terms, metabolism is the internal process by which your body expends energy and burns calories. It runs 24/7 to keep your body moving, even when you’re resting or sleeping, by converting the food and nutrients you consume into the energy your body needs in order to breathe, circulate blood, grow and repair cells, and everything else it does to survive.

What EFFECTS my Metabolism?

First off, your metabolism is largely determined by your genetics.  Some people have a naturally fast metabolism, some people have a naturally slow metabolism.  Age can often have an effect of our metabolism too.

However, those things are just some of the things that have an affect on our metabolism.  Actually, the only things we can not control.  Other things that we can control, also have the greatest impact.  Exercise and increasing food intake are big factors.  The more food you eat, consistently overtime, the more your metabolism will go up…so long as you don’t over do it.  SLowly increasing food intake  100-200 calories over maintenance (the amount of calories to maintain your weight) can increase your metabolism overtime, with little to know weight gain.  This means, as your metabolism goes up…so should your food intake to make sure you are increasing your metabolism.

Will eating more often increase my Metabolism?

Digestion does raise your metabolism a little, so many people believe that eating less food more often keeps your metabolism elevated. However, the size of the meal matters, too: fewer but larger meals means fewer but larger spikes in metabolism. Moreover, some studies suggest that having smaller meals more often makes it harder to feel full, potentially leading to increased food intake.  More to the point, the evidence shows that, given an equal amount of daily calories, the number of meals makes no difference in fat loss.

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”.


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).