Setting goals is a critical step when it comes down to structuring your training – before or after a contest. Without well-established goals, you can go back and forth between fitness programs and exercises all you want but there won’t be any results. After a competition, a lot of the competitors go on a binge for days. Although treating yourself after a long and tiring contest prep is normal and it’s something that I encourage people to do, gorging on unhealthy food weeks after the competition is not the way to go.
The next thing that comes in mind is what kind of goals you should set after the contest – appearance based or performance based. This is a subject of some debate in the fitness industry, but when it comes to structuring a training program, appearance-based goals are way more effective.
Some fitness professionals argue that you should learn to appreciate your body and ditch the focus you are putting in on your physical appearance. While there is some truth in that, too many people tie their self-worth to their appearance and that leads to unhealthy obsessions. But I am not here to tell you how should you feel and what you should want.
I’m here to get you the result you want!
There is nothing wrong with wanting to look better, as long as that desire doesn’t stress you out and becomes more of a burden than something positive. In my opinion, performance-based goals are better than appearance-based goals. They may have a lot of similarities. For a lot of people, improving appearance means increasing muscle and decreasing body fat. Improving performance often means increased strength and aerobic capacity. But performance-based goals are better in my opinion simply because what gets measured gets managed. It’s way easier to track your progress and find out where more work needs to be done!
In this article, I’ll explain the 4 steps you should follow to set performance-based goals for your offseason, so you stay on top of your game and come back better and stronger for your next competition!
Step 1 – Getting Judges’ Feedback
The first step in building a productive off-season routine starts before your show day ends. It begins with getting tangible feedback from the judges. I know how it goes – you probably won’t want to stick around after the show ends. Everyone is extremely exhausted on the day of the competition and you have wait after all the awards are given just to spend 5 minutes to talk to a judge.
But it’s all worth it. I sometimes wait too long to receive feedback and sometimes I don’t even get any and I can tell you that all the feedback I’ve ever received helped me grow and develop towards becoming a better competitor for the next time. The key is to talk to as many judges as you can after the show and ask them what you can improve upon. Hear their feedback and you will get a better understanding of what your strengths and weaknesses are – from an actual judge!
And don’t let ego get in your way – sometimes you might hear things you won’t like and that’s completely okay.
Step 2 – Setting Performance Goals
The first thing you need to do is to be realistic about your goals. Think what you are capable of achieving in the given amount of time. Focus on goals that target skill achievement and make them specific and measurable. One of my first performance goals was to be able to do an unbroken set of 15 pull-ups without any assistance (and good form). That might seem easy for some of you, but I can tell you that It’s not something I achieved overnight.
I started off with very few repetitions and worked my way up to reach my first set of 15. After a few months of hard work – pounding, drenched in sweat, keeping the good form, I obliterated my goal.
Use the feedback from the judges and know which muscles you want to target and find out which exercises work best to activate and grow those muscles so you continue to build strength and look amazing!
Don’t get too dramatic when you hit a plateau. Just take a moment to re-evaluate. Is this goal optimal and achievable for you? You can always revise. Your goals don’t have to be like mine – to be tied to specific sets and reps. Maybe your focus should be on a better form or heavier resistance.
Anything achievement-based works.
Once you’ve done the things above, make a timeline and set mini-goals for yourself. Plan out your year in advance so you can develop a strategy that supports your goals. If you have a 6-month off-season, you can divide your training into 6-8 week periods. Review and reassess at the end of each period, so you can make the necessary changes and adjustments to your plan.
Think: What Are Your Goals?
- Lose Fat
- Build Muscle
- Improve Energy
- Or something else…
My last off-season, for instance, my focus was on improving my back and more specifically – the taper look. I prioritized back by training it on day one, adding some new and more effective exercises, changed my reps slightly, and added an extra workout later in the week. After 6 weeks, I reviewed my training and progress and made the necessary changes to keep improving.
Tracking your total volume is absolutely critical when it comes down to your program’s effectiveness. Keep tabs on the total number of sets you do for each body part. For smaller body parts, the volume shouldn’t be anything more than 8-10 sets per week. Normal volume for the larger body parts should be between 12 and 15 sets, while a higher volume would be 18-22 sets.
Which brings us to step 4…
Step 4 – Track Everything
It may seem annoying and time-consuming but if you want to get the best out of your training, you have to put it the extra time to maximize it. Journaling is one of the best ways to track your progress. There are a ton of apps you can use to journal and track every single workout. Also, there are a lot of options for tracking your food and nutrition.
It’s something that takes me about 15 minutes each morning to plan out my meals, supplements and schedule them around my training and daily activities. These journals become invaluable down the road. Looking back on them, you have the opportunity to see where you can improve and adjust so you keep progressing.
It may seem like a lot of work to develop a plan for what is supposed to be your off-season (“your downtime”).
I will be honest with you – it’s quite the work.
But just like the contest prep itself, there are very few who can sustain and endure the rigors of an extreme diet and demanding training to step on a stage in near-perfect condition. If you want to stand out the next time you’re in a line-up with 30+ fit and beautiful women, you have to take the extra time to create your off-season plan to maximize your results. Start your preparation now, no matter how much there is to the show day.
In every highly competitive sport, but especially in this one, the attention to detail set apart the amateurs from the professionals. With competitive bodybuilding and fitness, it’s all about what you do when you are at home and in the gym that determines how you will look like on the stage. Put in the time to create and maximize your prep now and remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.
- Setting Goals is the first step in creating your off-season plan.
- Performance-based goals are better than appearance-based because they are trackable and measurable.
- The last day of the competition is where you off-season start.
- What gets measured gets managed.
- If you want to look like a pro you have to prepare like a pro – put in the time for your preparation and you will look better than you ever did on the stage.