09 Dec Akash Vaghela’s Off Season Blog: November Update
If you haven’t read the off season blog for October, you can read it here.
If you haven’t read the blog where I outline the entire 8 week ‘reverse diet’ coming out of my show this year, you can read it here.
If you’d like to read the step-by-step 21 week diary of my bodybuilding prep, where I outline every single change made, you can read the blog here.
It’s now been 19 weeks since competing, and I’m up a total of 21lbs. While it may not have been in line with what I said in my previous post about the weight I wanted to maintain, I feel like this is about right. While it was great staying at 75-78kg, I found myself still being a little too food focused with my strength gains not really taking off either.
Since being in the 80-82kg range, my strength is sky rocketing, my joints feel pretty good and my overall mood/energy is higher. After noticing this, I looked at my prep log to see where my strength was at its peak, and it was in this exact range. It’s a nice balance between being pretty lean, full and most importantly for this stage, strong!
Since the last blog update five weeks ago, I’ve been away twice. Once to teach in Amsterdam, and once for leisure in Copenhagen. I always like exploring new cities and cultures, and this year I’ve now traveled to 8 different countries, which is the most I’ve ever done in a 12 month period – and it’s been fun!
That said, it was these recent trips where my body composition has fallen a little wayward. Too much dessert, red wine and overall lack of any real structure has led to a few extra pounds gained each time.
What I’ve noticed in myself more and more is that I’m someone who goes ‘all in’ on one thing for a long stretch, and in that time I’ll put other areas on balance. For the past 6 months since my show, it’s been 100% focus on growing the business, with bodybuilding being used to provide an ‘anchor’ and structure in my life to work around.
Since the last update, the structure of the diet hasn’t changed, although I have added a few extra calories onto it. When I’ve been home, my macros have been 220P / 85F (+5G) / 425C (+10g). On days I train, I’m also eating one packet of Rice Krispies Squares en route to the gym for some extra carbs, which adds about 20-25g carbs.
To stay active, I aim to average 10,000 steps a day, but besides this, I’m not really doing any ‘cardio’ sessions. I still do my morning walks for 10-20 minutes just to get some fresh air before I start work and to get the body moving, but this isn’t anywhere the pace I’d previously do.
One thing I am doing once or twice a week at the end of my leg sessions is 5 minutes of HIIT. The protocol is 10 seconds sprint, 50 seconds moderate, and I’m doing it on either an Airdyne (which is KILLER) or a spin bike. These five minutes are brutal and send my heart rate through the roof.
Still the usual daily staples – 30g whey, 2K IU D3, 5g creatine and when I train, 1 scoop of aminotaur.
I’ve been doing the 3-4 day spurts of mega dosing vitamin D3 at 10-20,000 IU here and there, and think I’m now going to shift to taking 10,000 IU a day through this winter. I’ve found I just feel much better at this level.
I continued to use the greens powder ‘Grazed’ when away on my trips, and will continue to do so when away in 2018.
One new addition for the last week or so has been a strong probiotic called VSL3. With all the travel and feeling like my immune system hasn’t been the best it could be, I thought a short blast of strong probiotics would be useful.
It’s a little too early to notice any benefits, but will keep you posted. Gut health is super important, and to read more about it, check out the article here.
The past five weeks of training have been the best all year. My strength is increasing each week, and on the whole, my body and joints feel pretty good.
I know I’ve been changing things a fair bit with my training since the show, but I’ve done it to 1) run a few experiments and 2) see what my body feels and works best on. The conclusion has reinforced what I knew already. For me, any more than 4 days a week of hard weight training only slows down my strength gains and recovery. It may work for some, but I find myself always coming back to 4 days. It’s the perfect balance for me between stimulus and recovery. If all my focus was on bodybuilding, then I could perhaps do 5 or 6 days (like I did during prep). But with the demands of growing a business coupled with life, I can’t bring my 100% to any more than 4 sessions a week.
So instead of being on a 2 on, 1 off split, I kept the same upper/lower structure and now use the following approach: 1 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off. This works 10x better for me and that extra day of recovery makes all the difference. Remember, if your goal is muscle gain, if you’re not recovering, you won’t be growing!
I also realised that mentally I prefer having the same training day each week. On the previous cycle, training days changed each week, and so I lacked the usual structure I was used to. As a creature of habit, I like to know when I’m training and what I’ll be training on each day. So I cut one variation of the upper and lower workouts out, and now follow this:
- Paused Dips 1×4-6, 1×6-8; 3 mins rest
- Barbell Rows 1×5-7, 1×8-10; 3 mins rest
- Seated DB Shoulder Press 1×5-7, 1×8-10; 3 mins rest
- Wide Weighted Pull Up 5×5; 90s rest
- BB Close Grip Floor Press 1×5-7, 1×8-10; 2 mins rest
- Chest Supported DB Rows 2×8-10; 2 mins rest
- Face Pulls 3×15-20 30s
Legs/Arms 1: (This workout is done at Xplosive Ape Gym in Watford. They’ve got great leg equipment there and so now I can take advantage of it by going there every Saturday – I’m excited to see the impact of this in a year’s time!)
- Triset: Incline DB Curls, PJR Pullover, Standing Calf Raises 2 sets 8-12; 30s rest between each
- Single Leg Leg Curl 2×6-10; 2 min rest (2nd set is lighter)
- RDL 2×6-8; 3 min rest (2nd set is lighter and paused)
- V Squat Machine 1×6-8, 1×8-12; 3 min rest
- Cybex Leg Press 2×10-15; 3 min rest
- Adductor Machine 1xRP 25-35
- DB Floor Press 1×5-7, 1×8-10; 3 mins rest
- Dips 2×8-10; 3 min rest (2nd set is lighter)
- Rack Chins 3×6-8; 2 min rest
- Chest Supported Machine Row 1×5-7, 1×8-10; 2 min rest
- Triset: Cable Fly, Lean Forward Lateral Raise, Rear Lateral Raise 3 sets 10-15; 10-20s rest between each
- Decline DB Lying Leg Curl 1×6-8, 1×8-10; 3 min rest
- Hack Squat 1×8-10, 1×10-15; 3 min rest
- Walking Lunges 2×8-12; 90s rest
- Wide Stance Paused Leg Press 1xRP 20-30
- Adductor Machine 1xRP 25-35
- Triset: Seated Calf Raises, Seated Hammer Curl, Deadstop EZ Extensions 2 sets 10-15; 10-20s rest between each
There’s a few new things here:
- Four days a week only
- 3 min rest periods. On my main indicator lifts, I’ve added an extra minute rest to foster more strength gains
- Arms on leg days. This was so I can train them fresh instead of in a fatigued state after upper body. Can’t get big enough arms, right?
I’m still keeping each set clean with minimal intra-set pauses. On my two higher rep sets of V squats and hack squats, I’m allowing one pause to try eek out a few more reps. But besides this, all sets are done in constant fashion.
I’ve run this so far for 3 weeks, with each week being a little more intense so I can set myself up for a ‘peak’ just before the New Year.
I really like this ‘build, build, test’ method of ‘periodisation’ as it allows you to cycle your intensity and prevent burnout. The idea is you ramp up over the course of 6-8 weeks, hit your bests, then deload and recycle loads before repeating the cycle. Very similar to the ‘blast & cruise’ approach that was popularised in D.C Training.
Bodyweight is up 21lbs from stage weight. For the rest of December, if I can hold this condition I’ll be happy – I don’t want to let it slip any further now or I’d risk losing some insulin sensitivity.
This was from the 8th December: