The off-season is a time to grow some new muscle, get stronger, and, for me, the only time to actually improve. You look better when prepping - in that you can get very lean and your muscles look bigger - but you’re not growing new muscle.
First of all, I would like to talk about training in the off-season. For me, I have a little extra padding around my body (body fat) in the off-season and I feel much safer going heavy. With this in mind I focus on getting stronger, with good form and on the big multi joint lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift). The multi joint lifts really add a good thickness to the body. With this muscle built in the off-season through getting stronger, you will hold onto this muscle the next time you diet for a contest. As a side note you should still aim to stay strong and do the multi-joint lifts to maintain your hard built muscle when dieting. That’s all I really focus on with training: keeping strong, being consistent, and not getting injured. A good way of keeping your training interesting is to implement Globe Gripz. These will help build chunky forearms and help your grip, which will add to your deadlifting numbers.
Now, let’s focus on the main focus of the off-season: food.
The old-school approach is to eat as much as you can, getting as big as you can, to try and force your body to gain muscle. In reality, that’s not really going to make you add any more muscle than eating 500 calories over your maintenance calorie level and it’s not great for your health.
My advice in the off-season would be to eat above your maintenance calories and eat good quality proteins, carbs and healthy fats. That way you will look better, feel better, and your shopping bill will be less! I generally have a couple of meals a week where I just eat whatever I like. Usually it’s a homemade roast with a dessert or maybe a meal out. Personally, I have an issue with sugar - once I start eating it, I can’t stop, so, by not indulging in the week, this keeps the sugar monster away.
If you find that you’re not adding muscle or your gains are stalling add in another 500 calories and monitor from there. Most importantly stay healthy - this is not the get fat season.
A subject that every bodybuilder loves is supplements. For the past few years I have worked in the supplement industry and had the opportunity to try anything I wanted really, providing it wasn’t on the WADA banned list. Through trial and error I have come to the conclusion that the basics work really well and the new fancy stuff is just not good value for your money.
Off-season, I stick to the basics: Whey, creatine, bcaa (during my workout) and glucosamine. Whey can be handy when you’re out and about or at work when you can’t get a break to eat. You can also add oats or fats to your whey to bump the calories up. Creatine is the most researched sports supplement ever; I use the Creapure version and find I get a good strength gains on this. BCAA’s I like due to the recovery benefits. I really notice improved recovery when taking BCAA during my workout. I do take other general health vitamins, like a multi-vit and vitamin c but I would take these if I trained or not. I get most of my supplements from Bulkpowders.co.uk
That’s my approach to the off-season. Put the hard work in the gym, eat well, supplement to your needs, and BE CONSISTENT. That way, the next time you prep for a competition, your diet will be not quite as demanding, as you’re not fat, you will have made some noticeable gains and you might even come home with a nice bronze statue.
Gym Professor Note
This is a guest article kindly provided by natural bodybuilder and fitness blogger Scott Galton. It is accompanied by an image from another top-natural bodbuilder, Scott Fruin.
The most important points I take from this article are:
- Training-wise, remember, we're looking for muscle gains, not an unnecessary increase in fat!
- Increasing calories within reason - none of this "dirty bulking" nonsense - to increase energy and potential strength and muscle gains.
- Supplement-wise, stick to the basics: Use them for convenience and to fulfill your nutritional requirements.