Training Strategy For The Competition


Training Reflections

For the last few months leading up to the competition I had to make a decision about my training. Should I use the HST approach that had so faithfully bought me this far with its slow but constant progression model, or opt for a program that uses similar training principles, but with a little more “intensity”.

I love HST, and as a training template, I think it’s the most effective thing I’ve used to employ the essential element to progress – progressive overload. Another thing I love about the program is that you’re not killing yourself ALL the time. Every 1st week of each rep-phase is basically a sub-maximal deload week which serves to ramp up to a 2nd week of more intense training. Every 6-8 weeks you take 10 days off training which “strategically deconditions” your muscles and sets the stage for more effective growth in the next training block. Haycock was one of the first to propose this. Guys like Greg Nuckols recently confirmed the importance of this strategy.

I was guilty this year of never using a deload, because mentally, I needed the distraction/meditation/daily-therapy which training provides me.

The second thing I also didn’t do previously worked so well was alternate HST training phases with strength/hypertrophy blocks like Wendler’s 5-3-1. This worked effectively for 2 reasons.

  •  It allowed me to transmute the strength gains from 5-3-1 into more effective hypertrophy gains in the HST phases.
  • Dedicating time to specifically bringing up the compound lifts REALLY helped with developing that coveted “thick” look that lower-rep, heavy training provides. I really think I lost some of that look this year concentrating solely on hypertrophy, higher rep training.
  • It’s a great mental break to switch back and forth between phases every 6 weeks. 5-3-1 for me is brilliant because I know what I have to do every session because my training log tells me. Seeing something written in black and white provides me with wonderful incentive each session to beat it. 5-3-1 is also fun as hell because it’s 4 days a week and you feel almost refreshed after each session which is how training should be. 

So if there was no show approaching in 10 weeks this is what I’d be doing for sure.

Arnold Bench

Heavy power training  was always a staple of the classic era physiques. 

However, as time draws nearer I have no time for deloads, easy weeks or strength specialisation plans. My goals from now till March 13th is gain/retain as much muscle as possible while losing body-fat. Specificity has to dictate the approach. 

After a relatively easier offseason, the classic guys from past eras used to really ramp up their training with twice a day sessions giving it balls to the wall effort for their respective shows. This was my big “A-HA” moment of 2015 after hearing/reading about the Arnold era guys. I was under the mistaken impression that they were killing it 365 days a year out of their love and passion for the gym. It seems this was far from reality where most guys did enough to maintain in the offseason or stopped training altogether giving their bodies extended periods of rest.

Arnold Zane

As some of these Golden Era shots show, “looking huge” year round wasn’t always a number one priority.

Even the bodybuilders with long-shelf lives do this today. Dexter Jackson, Flex Wheeler, Shawn Ray and Kevin Levrone are just a few names that spring to mind who took off long periods of time after a show and only really turned the intensity up coming into the competitive season. Dorian Yates was the antithesis to this mindset and broke himself very early on in the piece. Yates stomped the field in 92-93….but after those years, those other 4 Sandows were awarded accompanied with many question marks. 

Kevin would shrink to “normal proportions” in the offseason while Yates would train to repeated, career-ending breaking point.

But I digress. The training strategy for the last 3 weeks and the next 3-4 weeks:

Big Beyond Belief

BBB – HST on steroids

  • Use the Big Beyond Belief 6 days per week template training the whole body 3 times a week through a range of rep ranges.
  • Morning high-rep “feeder-workouts” five days per week focussing on incorporating high rep pump-style training to facilitate sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and recovery. Body parts trained this way are chest, lats and delts using bodyweight or light dumbbells only. Each circuit is followed by stomach vacuums. 
Screen Shot 2016-01-04 at 11.47.28 am

Practicing stomach vacuums on the daily. 

  • Twice a week morning emphasis on hamstrings using a Poliquin Hamstring Specialisation Routine. Very risky/experimental of me to do this, but my hamstrings, although strong, are a definite weak point and need to come up. I believe good hamstrings and backs really separate many competitors at the lower level shows because most guys lack them. Quads can be overdone. But one’s hammys and back can never be too big, detailed and thick. 
  • Minimal cardio except for daily walks around town and to-from the gym. This often amounts to 1-2 hours a day of walking.
  • Posing daily….so far it’s not happening and this needs to be remedied ASAP.
  • Start stretching!!! – my flexibility sucks and it’s drastically hampering my ability to hit the poses effectively.

3-4 weeks from comp day I will switch to Serge Nubret Pump Training. Short reason why is I’ve found this program gives me one of those “all day pumps” and creates roundness in my muscles like nothing else. Of course, it could all be in my head, but I’m sticking to it. 🙂


Time to wheel out the Serge routine again soon.

This is turning into a longer than expected blog, so I’ll continue over the next few days breaking things down further including some updated progress photos. 


  13 comments for “Training Strategy For The Competition

  1. January 4, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Very interesting. I also train HST-style, but with like 3x the volume Brian Haycock recommends – similar to what you describe BBB being. Subscribed to see how this works out for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 4, 2016 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Been using HST for a few years now and I’ve made a few posts about my results previously. How’s it worked for you? Great site btw.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 5, 2016 at 2:28 pm

        I looked up your old HST posts. Full body 2x a day, 6 days a week!! Haha, that’s awesome. I do full body 3x a week, split into 2 days. So upper body in the morning, legs in the evening, and then arms/delts the next day.

        It’s been working great for me, and your results speak for themselves! Haycock knows what he’s talking about. And thanks for the compliment.


  2. January 5, 2016 at 1:30 am

    Amazing. Your plan seems very effective to me. Good job mate. 💪
    How do you fit this training program to your abcde-whatever diet?
    Omg you just remembered to me feeder workouts, that my beloved rich Piana preach so much. Good idea. On my feeders I just hit 100reps. It’s hell. How to you do?
    Ps: today was my first 1500kcal day, followed by gbc training. Not too much difficult, maybe I need to cut more. I don’t really like the gbc training.. Gotta find something different. Ideas? ☺
    Tks man

    Liked by 1 person

  3. January 5, 2016 at 11:48 am

    What kind of program do you normally do? More importantly, what kind of program do you really enjoy that motivates you to go hard and consistent? If I didn’t have the show coming up I’d just run the ABCDE diet as normal and alternate 6 week blocks of HST with Wendler’s 531. It’s perfect for me, but you might like something different….it all comes down to the individual.


    • January 5, 2016 at 12:56 pm

      Hi my friend! I was using a VERY intense 5 days split. I mean i was killing it EVERYDAY. Something like 20 up to 30 sets per muscle. At the same time i started some “permabulk” that gave me back 5kg of honest fat. Now i really want to give a try to the ABCDE diet, and i’m on it. Today is day 2.
      I decided to extend each phase to 7 days. Just to make training, family and work (I’m personal trainer in a couple of gyms) match together. Gotta face the fact that between training and work i spent something like 8-9 hours a day at the gym. Training on sunday could turn my girlfriend into a killing machine. =D

      I like HST. But i don’t know if it works properly with the diet. How do you use HST in each phase? Maybe you just use a different protocol on the bulk phase..

      HST is a nice totalbody-low volume protocol but definitely not hi reps. You just use the training model and go hi reps?
      Please help me with the two training routines.

      Sorry for the questions but i really like your results and honestly you are giving me new inspirations, and i gotta thank you for this fresh amazing feeling.

      PS: I know that this is probably part of your work, as mine therefore, so if you wanna charge me for your help it’s ok. I understand the value of your help =)


      • January 7, 2016 at 12:17 pm

        If you will do 7 phases of ABCDE you could do the lighter week of HST on your dieting week and then the heavier phases on your surplus week. That would work great in my opinion.

        Check out my articles on HST from last year and I have an example set up of my program. Maybe you could run something similar? Have you tried Serge Nubret Pump Training – I think you might also like the challenge of that program on the diet. Best to keep things simple. Workouts by themselves aren’t magical. It’s just about applying consistent effort and aiming for incremental progress over time while avoiding injury and maximising the factors that support your growth (food, supplements, rest, decreased stress etc)

        Definitely have Sundays off! Even God rested on the seventh day. 🙂

        No need for money my friend. I’m glad to help; it’s why I share my experience with others. It’s all about giving back and assisting others. Any questions I’m happy to answer.


      • January 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

        Hi my friend! Tks for your precious help! So you just match the lighter days of training of each phase with cutting and the heavier days of the cycle with the bulk phase. This could work even in the ‘5reps’ part of the cycle program. Next cycle I’ll figure out what training to do.. 🙂 let’s keep it simple as you told me! 😁 I’ll search for your article.. I’ll find it in this section? Tks man


  4. February 14, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Hi my friend! I just ended my 6th week of training. Question: weeks 7 and 8 should be on 5reps range like the ones i just ended? Another question could be: how many days do you rest in the ‘decondictioning’ period and what do you do in this last phase? Tks mate 💪


    • February 17, 2016 at 11:31 am

      After the first 2 week block of 5 reps, you can repeat another 2 week block if you feel good still, or do a week deload and start again with the 15s. I don’t like to do a second block of 5s because my body responds better to higher reps.

      I’m guilty of not taking time of to decondition, but I will back off the intensity and keep it very light. Next time around I will have a week off or light week and then alternate with 5/3/1 training as I think the two programs fit perfectly together.


      • February 17, 2016 at 12:23 pm

        Hi buddy! How’s going your prep?! =)
        I decided to repeat again the 5s (trying to ramp up to 4-3s maybe) and I’m still getting some very nice DOMS. Basically I’m in a condition of NON STOP DOMS since i started the HST. This actually seems to work because I’m stronger than when I recorded my 5RM 7 weeks ago.
        Gotta tell you man: I have never experienced so much progresses in the last 3 years of work. I’m impressed. Gotta thank you A LOT.

        Maybe I’ll ramp till possible and then start my decondictioning period. 1 week off (doing 5 days of cardio, since I’ll be in my bulk ABCDE phase) and the next week spent to set my new routine and finding out my “new” RMs.

        I was thinking to go to the BBB program and then back again to HST. Or you’ll stick with HST (with different exercises and angles)?

        Going to the ABCDE diet I’m getting nice results, but i think that I’m still missing something.. Doing my math and using the “slow metabolism” multiplier I got a cut phase of 1500kcal and a bulk phase of 2750kcal. I think that are both way too high. I’m not hungry at all on my 1500kcal days and I feel terrible on the bulk phase.. I barely can train: i’m lethargic and I feel like I’m moving in a slow motion way.. terrible.. Just think that i cant stop yawn while training.

        can you help me with some advices? i know that i asked a lot of things but, please =)
        tks mate


      • February 22, 2016 at 10:48 am

        I’ll get back to you on more detail on this one mate. I have a few suggestions. Cheers.

        Liked by 1 person

      • February 22, 2016 at 11:17 am

        Tks man, really appreciate 💪😬


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