In this article, we are going to explain what you need to know before you jump into competition prep for your next bikini competition
By Alex Bush
If you’ve followed along on the Physique Development Podcast or my Instagram @alexbush__ (or Sue’s @suegainz) you may have heard me use the phrase “prep to prep” at some point. If you haven’t, allow us to explain what this means – because it’s beyond important if you’re ever considering competing in bikini or bodybuilding competitions, or even if you have before in the past.
What is the “Prep to Prep” for Bikini and/or Bodybuilding?
The “prep to prep” is essentially referring to a period of time where we get our clients into a position to go through a successful competition prep.
Often, individuals will turn the switch from improvement season directly into prep mode. This is often two completely different ways of living, training, and even eating.
When that happens, do we know that your health is in the best place possible to undergo the extremes of competition prep? Are you within the actual shooting range from a fat loss standpoint, meaning can you get into prep and succeed at losing body fat without having to do unbelievable amounts of cardio?
We want to get you in a position where you can take on this type of commitment BEFORE you even begin to prep. Not only from a physical and mental standpoint but a financial standpoint as well. Through and through, it is not a cheap hobby to have.
Beyond that, it is hard on your body, which is why you cannot be in competition prep for eternity. This is a short-term extreme that we’re trying to achieve and we want to keep this window of time as short as we can from a hormonal function, thyroid function, and metabolic function perspective.
From there, it also makes things more enjoyable. We can keep you healthier throughout, and we can sustain more muscle tissue and bring a better physique to the stage.
How Long does the Prep to Prep Last?
The duration will be different for everyone. In a perfect case scenario, we diet very hard for 4-6 weeks and peel off 10 pounds in that time frame. From there, we do a 4-6 week maintenance phase leading into the prep itself. This is followed by acquiring blood work tests to make sure everything is in a good place. Natural or enhanced, it gives us a baseline of where you’re at in terms of your sex hormones, thyroid function, cortisol, etc. If anything is out of whack, it tells us that you might not be ready to handle competition prep until we can get those things back in line.
You also want to target the training aspect and what type of training stimulus you perform best in. It’s a good time to trial where you’re at from a dietary perspective as well. If you saw a good response at a specific caloric intake, you can move and groove there and find the maintenance set point where you still see a response.
Sometimes during that aggressive 4-week period from improvement season to prep, we see a drop off in weight and higher inflammation response. Once you come out of that and into the maintenance phase, you’ll continue to see some fat loss and scale readings decrease as inflammation decreases. Then, at the tail end of the maintenance phase, we use a deload to resensitize you to all different stimuli in terms of training, and now we’re ready to hit the ground running for however long that prep is.
Improvement Season Adherence
In a perfect world, I like to get my athletes between 12-15 pounds away from stage weight by the time we get to the start of their actual competition prep. You’re going up there on stage to win, so we want to do everything in our power to make that your reality. And this is what needs to remain at the forefront of your mind as you go through your improvement season. “Improvement season” is the time you spend not in competition prep, which typically needs to be a WHILE.
The prep to prep is dependent on how well you treat your improvement season. I’ve had clients who had poor adherence following their shows, and we had to take 12-14 weeks of real dieting and 8-10 weeks of maintenance to get them in a place where they were potentially ready to compete.
That’s almost 6 months of corrections just to get them ready to prep. This is frustrating for both coach and client, and avoiding that starts with Day 1 following your previous show.
It sucks when you have to change your timeline, but it’s for the betterment of your overall prep and show day.
I think social media often exacerbates the improvement season getting out of control for some people. Sure, getting to that 400-gram carb marker in your off-season is cool, but if we have to peel 30-40 pounds off of you before prep even starts and makes the process that much harder, what’s the point of getting to 400 grams of carbs?
You’re throwing off your insulin sensitivity to simply say, “Hey, look at how much I’m eating!!!” Just ask Sue and she’ll tell you that eating that many carbs isn’t really that fun anyway, not to mention expensive. You can easily still gain muscle and improve, as the name implies, on fewer carbs that still fuel your gains!
The bottom line here is that your “prep to prep” AND your improvement season can severely impact how well your actual competition prep plays out. This is why at Physique Development, we strongly encourage our clients to work with us WELL before their prep starts. That’s how we get to know you and your body well enough to take you through the process and help you reach your potential – and beyond.
If you have questions about this topic, feel free to drop them in the comments here or send us a DM on Instagram.