Ask Joe The Pro Vol. 8 – An Accurate Perception

Shredded or Flat?I look shredded. No wait, I’m flat. Uh oh, I see a little loose skin on my lower abs. It’s this kind of roller coaster perception bodybuilders can get out of their physique when assessing themselves in various mirrors under various lighting. I am no stranger to this myself! Under the gym lighting (most gyms) your muscles should look like a bundle of shredded rocks with skin over them. This has to do with the height of the lights in the gym, the design of the mirror, and if you’re near a mirror with sunlight shining through FORGET IT! You will look like a Marvel cartoon character! Sunlight will ALWAYS make you look harder and grainier.

Your contours, shape and detail are always a little exaggerated with sunlight. Usually when you’re in a bathroom in your home, if the lights are bright enough you will get a fairly accurate reading of how you look. The brighter lights will show the imperfections, but on the same hand may make you look a tad worse due to the florescent light bulbs washing you out to some degree. We all have our favorite mirror and favorite lighting to check out physiques out, but being conscious of how some may make you look harder, and some softer, you can then make accurate decisions on how to alter your pre-contest plan accordingly.

Let me make something perfectly clear…unless you are photographed by a professional who has experience with taking pictures of bodybuilders, you will always look softer and less sharp in pictures then you do in person. The flash will take away detail that is usually there, wash out your tan, and overall make you look 20-30% worse. Make no mistake about it though, you will want to look amazing in pictures and unreal in your bathroom mirror before you don the trunks and jump onstage.

The stage lights are oh so unforgiving and every strength and weakness in your physique will be on display! So leading to the contest, you now know you won’t look the same in every mirror and especially in pictures. And always consider when you’re onstage your tan will look about 30% less dark, and although many bodybuilders appear larger on stage then backstage, you will always lose about 10-20% definition due to the harsh lights. So backstage you better look like an anatomy chart so that you will look impressive onstage!

Ask Joe The Pro!

Have you ever heard of something called kratom? What is it? – B Cambell

Yes I actually have. The short version is kratom is a leaf that is typically harvested in Southeast Asia, and was chewed by migrant workers because of its stimulating effects similar to caffeine. Kratom shares a similar chemical breakdown to yohimbine which makes it a powerful metabolism stimulator. Kratom also contains alkaloids found in una de gato which are thought to play a beneficial role on the immune system and lower blood pressure, as well epicatechin, a powerful antioxidant also found in dark chocolate and closely related to the EGCG that gives green tea its beneficial effects. What does all this mean to a pre-contest bodybuilder? Read on and see!

Ask Joe the Pro

My personal use of kratom has proven very successful in terms of focus, energy, appetite suppression, and stamina. I only purchase kratom powder, and from, because I believe they have the best quality kratom on the market for a very reasonable price. I believe that it’s crucial to ONLY use kratom in small doses, because like caffeine, it can be addictive. I usually use approximately one to two teaspoons of kratom thrown right under the tongue and washed down with water.

There are Kratom “experts” out there who claim kratom’s true effectiveness can only be truly appreciated when it’s made into a tea. The logic behind this is that hot water brings out the alkaloids and allows the leaf’s full potency to be released. The problem with that is kratom tastes fairly nasty, lol, but it’s nothing some Splenda, honey or lime won’t cure. But I personally feel a teaspoon under the tongue, washed down with a swig of water is the way to go.

There are many types of kratom on the market. My experience has shown that the Maeng Da, aka “pimp grade” kratom has the most stimulating effects and can really aid a bodybuilder pre-workout while dieting for a competition. Kratom can also act as a mild diuretic so be sure to keep water intake high. The bottom line is if you use kratom responsibly, it can be a great pre-contest aid in terms of suppressing your appetite, enhancing your workout focus, and giving you great pre-workout energy.

Joe, I know your very close to a contest right now. Have you lost some strength yet? Good luck at your show man! – Mike Smith. Ronkonoma, NY

Thanks buddy I appreciate that! I have lost 40 pounds so far in my prep, so yes, I have lost a little strength, lol. It is almost impossible being 4 weeks out from a contest and having lost as much weight as I did to not lose power. My primary focus at this point is to retain as much muscle as possible. I try and do some lower rep work for certain body parts and fail in the 5-7 range, and usually follow that up with some rest pause or a drop set. I have to be very careful to not injure myself being I am about 4% body fat at this point.

So I make sure my form is perfect, and I typically won’t try anything super heavy on a movement like squats. But rather do multiple sets at a rep range of 10-15 reps. I believe legs (especially quads) respond better to higher reps anyway so there is no need to drop the reps so low if you’re not training for power. I think it is important to stay with a good amount of free weights when a contest draws near to hold onto density and thickness. Like I said, If I do happen to fail at a lower rep range of 5-7 I will rest pause and keep going until I get 10-12 reps. I am looking forward when my contest season is over throwing up some heavy iron again!

How much do you think a natural bodybuilder should gain after a contest when going into an off-season? – Ken Seamore. Bay Shore, NY

I think this varies from person to person Ken. I know for myself I gained way too much weight this past off-season going over 40 pounds above contest weight! I think we as bodybuilders who are deep into our off-season love the feeling of training heavy and eating big! But when your goal is to be lean every Summer or contest season, I think 20-25 pounds over your shredded weight is the MAX for most body types. I am almost a pure mesomorph with a little ecto thrown in, so I won’t be going much above 20 pounds over contest weight.

Someone who is a pure endomorph (gains easy) probably shouldn’t go above 15 pounds contest weight, and someone who is an ectomorph (loses easily) could probably get away with going as high as 30. When you have to drop a lot of bodyfat before a contest you have to diet longer and harder, do more cardio and stay in a catabolic state for longer periods. On the other hand you don’t want to try and stay shredded and only gain 5 pounds after a contest either. That serves you no purpose in your pursuit of strength and mass in the off-season and is downright dangerous! So my advice:

  1. Mesomorph – 20-25 pounds above.
  2. Endomorph – 15 pounds above.
  3. Ectomorph – 25-30 pounds above.

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