Recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: resistance and cardiovascular training

J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2015 Mar;55(3):164-78. Epub 2014 Jul 7.


The anabolic effect of resistance training can mitigate muscle loss during contest preparation. In reviewing relevant literature, we recommend a periodized approach be utilized. Block and undulating models show promise. 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.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Athletes*
  • Caloric Restriction
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Weight Lifting*