Off Season: The Do’s, Don’ts, and What Too Expect

Off season is my favorite time of the year! Competition season may be coming to a halt, but if you’re looking for a better package next year the work is just beginning!
Now, off season is one of the confusing times for a competitor. Do I build? How much? Where should I build? Or “How much cake CAN I have?”
In my experience, off season training is the most important part of being a competitive athlete. Titles and trophies aren’t earned during your prep, they’re earned in the off season package you build.
So I’ve broken down some do’s and don’ts that every competitor should think about during off season:


Do seek out outside help. It’s very hard to critique yourself; you’ll always be more critical. Look for a fresh perspective to form your off season plan. If you have a coach, discuss what you need to work on this off season and form a program to match. A huge priority I make in my off season, is speaking to the judges that I worked with that previous year. They always have great insight to what areas of your package you should work on.
Do take a break. Wait; I know I said off season is the time to work, but off season is about working smarter; not always harder. Taking a break from your normal routine is a great way to find new strengths. Try new techniques, new nutrition, new training styles; off season is a time to experiment before prep begins again. I, personally, like to focus on muscle building with functional strength training and working on my Olympic lifting in the off season.
Do work out the kinks. Competition prep can be extremely hard on any athlete’s body; off season is a time for gains, but not without some repair work. Mobility and flexibility work should be number one on your list. There are many ways to work on this. My favorite is getting yoga back into my routine, working with my physical therapist, and getting adequate rest days. You can’t build if you’re not recovering your body first.
Do remember the basics. Something about mass building makes competitors think that the general rules of nutrition go out the window.  These are the core nutrition basics that always remain in my training:
  • Use carbohydrates wisely. I stick to the ratio of 15% of my daily crabs in my pre-workout and 30% in my post workout.
  • Protein is crucial; excess is not.  Yes, protein is a huge component of the building process for the body but slamming protein shakes all day isn't the way.  The body can only digest and use so much protein at a time, so be mindful. I stick to 1-1.5 grams per body weight of protein in my diet; whether I'm cutting or building.  I love my favorite protein, Clutch Whey Protein by Axis Labs.  It's one of the cleanest whey proteins on the market and the taste is great for shakes and cooking recipes.


Don’t get dirty; dirty bulking that is. I’ve seen too many times competitors looking to put mass on in the off season focus on quantity vs. quality when it comes to the nutrition department. Yes, off season is great to have those small indulgences you couldn’t enjoy during peak week, but gaining mass is more than just overhauling food. Reverse dieting out of your show is crucial to setting up a successful off season. This process is slow; but worth it. Begin by slowly adding fats and carbohydrates into your diet week by week, gram by gram. A typical reverse of mine looks like adding around 10 g’s of carbohydrates and 5 g’s of fat a week until I reach sufficient building macro numbers, while sustaining a gradual weight increase until I reach around 10 pounds off my stage weight. (Every competitor is different on there off season weight)untitled
Also, be aware that although you’re adding macros back to your diet, be careful of what variety of foods you’re letting in. For example: if you’ve only eaten chicken and broccoli for 10 weeks, adding heavy starches or new fats to your program to fill your macros isn’t a good idea. Slowly reintroduce your body’s enzymes to food variety.
Don’t train blind. Any time I step into a gym or design a program for a client, there is never one day or one exercise given that doesn’t serve a purpose. My point here is that if your goal is to build a certain area of your physique, you need to look at the total picture, not just one area. If you need work on the glutes, you gotta build the hamstrings and quads too. No one wants to be the guy that looks like “every day is chest day”.
Another mistake I see competitors in the offseason when it comes to training is sticking to the familiar in the gym. If you can crush legs, don’t train 3 times a week; leave some room for the areas that need improvement.
Don’t rush into your next show. It’s very easy to get used to off season life and competition prep can come up soon; too soon for many competitors. Remember the weeks it took you to add that muscle, also accounted for extra body fat that accompanies your build.
When preparing for my second show, I allowed myself 10 weeks prep time (my first show’s prep time) Although I was extremely happy with my new muscles that were showing, I wasn’t very happy with a slower fat burning process I experienced during that prep.
I was prepping a new physique with the same mindset of my old one; I just needed more time coming off a build season and was a lesson well learned. I suggest having a “practice prep” after a building season; a 6 week test prep too see how your body is responding to leaner nutrition and higher cardio. This will give you a better perspective off how long your prep should be coming into your next show.
Every competitor is different. Every season is different.
Keep in mind that what works for others or what has worked in the past might be an adjustment when you’re working with an off season physique. So be patient and trust the process; no matter what season you’re in.
  RENE PIROLT EDIT 2Article contributed by:
Alysha White
Axis Labs Sponsored Athlete and Master Trainer