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Bigger and Badder

Ron Partlow
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How I Train for Competition

Let me tell you this: If you want to get ripped and compete, one thing you should never forget is that nothing is more metabolic than keeping all your muscle. For all intents and purposes, muscle is your metabolism. Anything you do that results in the loss of muscle will catch up with you in the form of a slower metabolism and a harder time getting lean.

I cut my teeth on Dorian Yates’ training style. For over a decade, I trained with high intensity and low volume, just as Dorian prescribed. I added a lot of size and thickness during that time, and I mastered the “skill” of training with max intensity, turning it on like a light switch when it was needed for that one, main working set. It was the quest to bring up weak points and experiment with more volume that led me to other training styles. After looking back over everything I did in my journey to turn pro, I can honestly say that a big mistake people make is that they train too often and with too much volume in hopes of getting in shape faster. This doesn’t always work.

I’m a big believer in keeping my training the same from off-season to pre-contest. Whatever put the muscle there will keep it there. I’ve made mistakes with volume and frequency that cost me upwards of 10 pounds of muscle onstage without realizing it until it was too late. In the past, I’ve been guilty of getting caught up in the trend of using huge training volumes, with few days off. We get hooked. We get obsessed with being better. We get that warrior mentality where we just throw hard work at a problem and make it go away. I wish that were the case; then all the hardest workers would always win. However, we know this isn’t true.

All my best showings and victories were in the years when I had at least two days off training per week. These were also the shows where I held my strength the best. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. I certainly don’t want to see strength dive during a prep. If you keep your strength, you should also keep your size and fullness. Losing strength can happen throughout your whole body, or just one specific body part. For example, I often see a drop in pressing strength at the start of the prep. This is due to losing water from my shoulder joints and actually gaining some range of motion. Once I diet for a few weeks, there is less of that “spring-loaded feel” on my incline press, and it suddenly gets way heavier out of the bottom. Now, the reason I don’t let this bother me is that during this same time period, I don’t drop strength in my leg or back workouts.

Sometimes I even gain strength on legs or deadlifts. If your deadlift goes up, and you’re using the same weights for most other things, then even if your presses all go down, don’t panic; it’s probably just how your body works. However, if my presses dropped, and all my other lifts were down too, then I would know there was a problem.
Keep a training log so you can compare all your workouts as you go, and you’ll see if you’re staying on track. If you’re holding strength, getting good pumps, feeling strong, and looking better, then you’re on the right track!

For more of Ron's emotional and psychlogical take on the sport, check out his article about FOCUS, here!