A recent study which reviewed the somewhat limited data on body building contest preparation came across my desk somewhat unexpectedly, and It most certainly grabbed my attention, as I usually see this type of information in a health and fitness magazine.

No doubt there is still an audience for this type of information, who may find the following recommendations from Helms and colleagues in their recent study, pertinent.

The authors suggest natural body builders (or anyone really, looking to reach a peak in their physique) consider the following guidelines:

  • Muscle groups should be trained 2 times weekly or more, although high volume training may benefit from higher frequencies to keep volume at any one session from becoming excessive.
  • Low to high (~3-15) repetitions can be utilized but most repetitions should occur in the 6-12 range using 70-80% of 1 repetition maximum.
  • Roughly 40-70 reps per muscle group per session should be performed, however higher volume may be appropriate for advanced bodybuilders.
  • Traditional rest intervals of 1-3 minutes are adequate, but longer intervals can be used.
  • Tempo should allow muscular control of the load; 1-2 s concentric and 2-3 s eccentric tempos.
  • Training to failure should be limited when performing heavy loads on taxing exercises, and primarily relegated to single-joint exercises and higher repetitions.
  • A core of multi-joint exercises with some single-joint exercises to address specific muscle groups as needed should be used, emphasizing full range of motion and proper form.
  • Cardiovascular training can be used to enhance fat loss. Interference with strength training adaptations increases concomitantly with frequency and duration of cardiovascular training. Thus, the lowest frequency and duration possible while achieving sufficient fat loss should be used.
  • Full-body modalities or cycling may reduce interference. High intensities may as well; however, require more recovery.
  • Fasted cardiovascular training may not have benefits over fed-state and could be detrimental.

At the very least, this article could make for some interesting discussion, particularly the point made on fasted cardiovascular training, intermittent fasting diets appear to be very controversial at the moment.

NB: Following these guidelines do not guarantee you will obtain a physique like gentleman in this photo!


Helms, E., et al. (2014). “Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training.” The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness.

Luke Delvecchio

  • Accredited Sport Scientist
  • Accredited Exercise Physiologist
  • MSc. (Exercise Science)
  • Post Grad. Dip (Exercise Rehabilitation)
  • Post Grad. Cert (Diabetes Education & Management)
  • BSc. (Exercise Science & Nutrition)
  • Associate Nutritionist
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