The Transition to Off season

In bodybuilding, everyone is focused on the finished product.  The pictures in the magazines and those contest physiques are typically all the public sees.   As a competitor undergoing prep, your goal is to reach your most shredded physique.  For natural competitors that’s usually somewhere between 4-7% body fat (if they can get that low) and the result is astounding.  Striations, abs, and muscles we didn’t even know we had aside from when we woke up after a leg day….begin to show up.  However, this is only half the battle of the bodybuilder and it may be even less in some cases.  A bodybuilder, especially those still working to their full genetic potential, can sometimes spend up to 75% of their bodybuilder career in “offseason”.

What does this mean?  For those middle of the pack bodybuilders, it means we look like a jacked average Joe. It means you aren’t approached as much in the gym by strangers asking nutrition questions or workout routine samples.  It means potentially less adoration (physically) from our significant others.  In general we’re receiving less attention.  Even in our own eyes we are a little disappointed with what we see in the mirror each morning.

Overall, you might be finding it hard to let go of your contest prep.  You feel the urge to do a little extra cardio as you’re reverse dieting.  The scale going up in weight definitely isn’t as exciting as it was going down.  In the offseason it’s important to adjust mentally for the changes you’re going to experience after an extended contest prep which is what this article is about today. Here are my tips for a successful off season and to keep your mind occupied.

Set Goals

Don’t think that you’re immediately going to be back at your initial strength straight after your cheese cake factory binge (Pointing the finger at myself here).  It’s going to take some time to get back up there and excel higher than Offseason Goalsbefore.  In addition, I wouldn’t set your off season goals within the first week of contest prep.  REFLECT on your success, reflect on your accomplishments and the thrill of the stage.  It wasn’t easy getting that lean or having the guts to step on stage…. so take it all in.  Cherish how your physique looks and get some great shots that way you have memories and a way to compare yourself in the future.

After about two weeks, regardless of if you have a coach, take out a sheet of paper that looks official and let’s begin writing goals.  Here are some guidelines:

  • What body parts do you want to focus on the most this offseason.
  • Physique wise, what do you hope to attain this offseason.  Is it more mass or maybe thickness in a particular area?
  • What is your goal weight for the offseason?  Are you comfortable with a lot of body fat or do you want to stay closer to your contest weight.
  • Write down finite weights for your bench/deadlift/and squat.  Obviously you can elaborate on this, but make sure that you have some goals for your core lift 1 rep max and 5 rep max.
  • While you’re at it, make sure to incorporate lifestyle or goals OUTSIDE of bodybuilding.  We all know how time consuming contest prep can be.  With this new found free time giving your mind something else to work towards is always beneficial.

As usual, make sure goals are attainable.  Have your coach look them over if you have the luxury.


One of the best parts about off season is the ability to build strength.  As mentioned above, THIS ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN INSTANTLY.  In fact, it’s going to take months just to get back to where you were before your contest prep.  Don’t think that if you had a 500lb deadlift before your competition that even 475lb will be attainable the second you put on a pound.

Although your strength may not go up instantly, the extra food intake and declining cardio does allow for some much needed adjustments in our training routine.  I’m not condoning a smolov squat program right away, but down the road if your squat is a primary goal, then you’ll soon have the energy you need to complete such a grueling program.

What I do recommend is going ahead and switching up your routine.  Maybe change the progression format, the supplement exercises, days of the week, and rep counts/sets.  Don’t add too much volume, but you can add a few more sets and exercises.

Offseason Programming

Some ideas:

  • If you were doing a Upper/Lower split try changing it to a Push/Pull/Lower.
  • Add an extra supplemental exercise into your workouts and maybe change up a few of the others.  I personally took out DB curls and exchanged them for BB.  Added in some hammer curls on top as well for example (Building up my arms is a big off season goal for me).
  • Change the days that you go to the gym.  Build a new schedule for yourself.  Having new days open on Thursday, Fridays, and Saturdays allow for some different activities during the day and at nights if you work a 9-5.
  • Change your gym.  Pretty drastic, and often times not possible, but in my case my gym pass allows me to go to any in the area and the change of scenery is awesome.
  • Start writing down your routines again.  Pull out old workout logs and see what you were hitting during the off season.  I personally got a little slack when I was dieting as I was depressed with my decreases in strength and a little too focused on the leanness.

Enjoy Life

Offseason Lee Priest

Chances are if you’re a bodybuilder 21+ in contest prep you haven’t had a drink in a while.  You’ve been extremely strict with your meal plan or weighting your food or however your diet.  My only advice in this section is LET LOOSE (A little).  If you’re going to have an extended off season having a drink or two, going out to dinner, turning off the scale, IS NOT GOING TO KILL YOUR PROGRESS.  Listen, your friends or significant other miss your company.  How about you reward them and yourself with some much needed DE-STRUCTURING.  Get your social life back. Don’t go completely out of control unless you’ve given up on the whole bodybuilding thing, but we are often extremely selfish during prep.  While you may look awesome, you’re going to end up pretty damn depressed if you lose every one close to you as a result of your bodybuilding. I know I can’t convince everyone, but let me just say I bet you drank and/or ate out before your contest prep….and look at you now. Turn off myfitnesspal and enjoy yourself for a weekend (or more), bodybuilding free.

Wanted to add that my coach, Jeff Alberts, takes full months off from dieting and weightlifting for his family.  He still maintains his physique as one of the best in the world.

Hopefully this helped! I’m sure I’ll find more to add to this later.