Written by Peter McGough
05 May 2015


Unconditionally Speaking!

The Takeaway From The Europa Supershow



In post-morteming the Europa Show of Champions in Orlando last weekend (May 1-2) its impossible to overlook Fouad Abiad’s eight year “I get knocked down I get up again journey” to a first pro win; or the second place pro debut of the enigmatic and uniquely muscled physique of Michael Lockett; of Alex Fedorov’s remarkable 11 months transformation after an eight year layoff to finish third; of how in several cases distended bellies stood out, literally, on certain competitors despite Head Judge Lee Thompson warning at the competitors meeting that they would be penalized for such distension; of the effervescent Michelle Blank’s fight back from injury to win the Fitness division; of a highly competitive Women’s Physique line-up where the compact look of Ayanna Caroll proved size isn’t everything and a host of newcomers made their mark. That’s as may be, but as men’s bodybuilding is my main focus I have to say that the lack of in depth contest conditioning among the 15 competitors was the biggest takeaway -- an apt word because takeaway is another word for subtraction, as in making something less than it was. Only Abiad and Lockett bucked the “off” trend with sixth placed Alfonso Del Rio earning an honorable mention.

 This failure of more competitors being off than on has been an ongoing anomaly for the last few years, and was on view at the Arnold Classic in Columbus and again in Orlando. This is an issue I have scribbled about several times. My thoughts are quite fixed as to why contest condition is so elusive. So at the risk of being accused of flogging a dead horse in this feature I’m going to – mindful that repetition is the bedrock of bodybuilding -- talk about the elephant in the room (horse, elephant? Suddenly I’ve morphed into David Attenborough) and repeat several points I’ve made in the past.  


Increasingly over the years condition has become bodybuilding’s number one commodity for success. It tends to be the case that even if a competitor has great overall development that is merely hard and separated someone with a physique that is maybe not so complete but is ripped will beat him: The talisman for “condition” being striated glutes. Often a competitor will walk out to hit his front poses and the assembled throng will wait for him to turn around to see if those minor bodyparts – in comparison to chest, back delts, arms, quads – hams and glutes are striated. And so dear reader there we all are waiting to give the thumbs up (unfortunate phrase in this instance) to see what a guy’s backside looks like -- talk about a bum decision.

 As stated earlier so few of the Europa Supershow entrants came to Orlando with that nailed on condition look. Why, given that condition is the number one prerequisite of modern bodybuilding do so many miss the mark? A personal view is that they don’t attain condition because they’re trying too hard to attain condition. Have you ever seen a comedian who’s not really funny trying to be funny? The more he tries to be funny the more unfunny he gets. There’s an almost irresistible temptation in the days before the contest to do more. Let me invoke the percentage analog. For example a competitor who his guru and he figure is 95% 48 hours out, does certain machinations to hit 100% at prejudging and instead screws up and comes in at 80%. The hardest part of being in shape is waiting. There's always the temptation to think, "I should be doing something to get even better." How many times have we seen guys look tremendous 48 hours out and then not so good when they go onstage? Patience, grasshopper. Less is more.

 The general feedback from in-the-trenches sources is that too much is going on outside the gym instead of training and diet being the driving forces. Of course drugs are part of the equation, but they have been for 50 years plus, but guys still got into shape. The mainstay of a pro card winning physique is still a combination of great genetics, balls to the wall training and adherence to proper diet. But too often it seems those priorities become blurred as competitors start their contest diet too heavy and so extra-curricular activities take on more and more importance, with, it often seems less and less effect. Sometimes you just have to stick to your game plan, get to the contest prep starting line at a desired bodyweight, and free yourself of having to resort to Hail Mary tactics. Instead of jumping here, there and everywhere with some exotic compound while the ticking clock getting ever louder, sometimes the best advice is, “Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!”


Mulling this over with long time friend and contest prep advisor Chris Aceto we came up with six of the reasons why many competitors minimize their chances of pulling it all together on contest day.

 1) They think off-season is an eating contest.

2) See #1: it’s worth repeating.

3) They eat a ton then don’t want to "overtrain", so they don’t train enough.

4) They train too heavy for the sake of training heavy, forgetting you have to WORK a muscle and have to THINK about how to train.

5) Due to 1 and 3 by the time the contest prep phase rolls around they look like the Michelin Man.

6) Thus during the contest prep phase they become marathon runners relying on cardio and other measures to burn fat. In this helter-skelter period they are burning off bodyweight but have no idea if it is muscle or fat.

 We agreed that the bulking up phase has gotten out of hand. Too many guys bulk up to 300 pounds thinking they’ll come down to 260 in shape. When they get to 260 it’s more like they need to be 240 and the fat burning and muscle wasting games begin. As Chris says, “Of course Dorian Yates fucked the sport up with this bulking up strategy. He did it, so everyone followed – everyone wanted to be 300. But Dorian could handle 300 and carry a lot of muscle at that weight and come in at 260 sliced. He knew what was under that 300. Same with Ronnie Coleman. For too many guys what was under their 300 was not 260 or 250 – it was more like 225.”

 In closing Aceto states, “Some guys ask me for advice and email me back their food intake which would support a village in a third world country and a drug protocol that would make Dan Duchaine blush.”

 Sermon overt, soapbox put away, so let’s see what transpires at this weekend’s (May 10) New York Pro.