25 Feb Akash Vaghela’s Off Season Blog: The Road To Cali
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 been a while since I last updated my off season blog. Unlike dieting phases where you’ll see changes on a weekly basis, muscle building is a long slog. Especially when you’re past the beginner / early intermediate years. If you don’t approach the ‘off season’ with patience, consistency and a ‘long game’ approach, you’ll quickly become frustrated.
It’s important to embrace muscle building periods for what they really are: a time to get as strong as possible. This is the time you can make improvements to your physique and the best way we know how to do this is to focus all your attention on progressive overload.
One part of my life I never compromise on is my training. I love training and will get the four sessions done every week no matter what. Where I struggle more is paying attention to my ability to recover. I don’t sleep as much as I should do, I work too many hours and while my diet on the whole is pretty good, I often let things slip a little more than they probably should. In reality, this is just life.
It’s a sustainable approach for me to look half decent, make progress in my lifts and steadily get to where I want to be without burning out or compromising other areas of life – which I see far too many people go through. If you want to be training in 10, 20, 30 years time, you can’t be pedal to the metal year round.
Instead, short blasts where you step on the gas a little work well to kickstart progress and align your focus again.
Adam and I are going California in May for a few weeks, so while he’s running ‘Project Recomp‘, I’m going to up the ante on my own training and chase down some performance goals over the next 10 weeks.
Here’s what I’m aiming for:
RDL – 150×6 (current 142.5×6)
Hack Squat – 4px8 (current 3p+12.5×9)
DB Floor Press – 50×12 (current 50×9) – the dumbbells only go up to 50kg in my gym, so I may try find a different place for this day so I can set a target in the 6-8 rep range instead
I’m still on the same split as before, rotating between chest/back/delts and legs/arms on a four day split. Most exercises are done for two sets, with second set being 10-20% lighter than the first set. Mentally this is how I love to train – doing more than 2 sets for most exercises bores. I like to keep the intensity and focus high for each move. Here’s how it looks:
- Paused Dips 2×5-8, 3 mins rest
- Barbell Rows 2×6-10; 3 mins rest
- Seated DB Shoulder Press 2×6-10; 3 mins rest
- Wide Weighted Pull Up 3×5, 1xBW max; 90s rest
- BB Close Grip Floor Press 2×6-10; 2 mins rest
- Face Pulls 3×15-20 30s
- 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 (1st set paused, 2nd set continuous)
- Cybex Leg Press 2×10-15; 3 min rest (all reps paused)
- Adductor Machine 1xRP 25-35
- DB Floor Press 2×8-12; 3 mins rest
- Dips 2×8-12; 3 min rest
- Rack Chins 2×6-10 2 min rest
- Chest Supported Machine Row 2×6-10; 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 2×6-10; 3 min rest
- Hack Squat 2×8-12; 3 min rest
- Walking Lunges 2×8-12; 90s rest
- Wide Stance Leg Press 1xRP 20-30
- Adductor Machine 1xRP 25-35
- Triset: Seated Calf Raises, Seated Hammer Curl, Deadstop EZ Extensions 2 sets 10-15; 30s rest between each
The progressions I’ll be using are pretty simple. I’ll stay with a weight till I hit the top end of the rep range before progressing. Or with some exercises, I’ll add weight till I reach the bottom end of the rep range, before recycling the weights again back to the top. It depends on the move in question, but either way, one of these strategies will be used.
My diet is very similar day on a daily basis. While I do following general macro and calorie guidelines, I’m a little more intuitive in the off season, and it really depends on if I’m eating out or how I feel. To keep things in check, I’ll monitor my bodyweight daily (which is ranging between the 85-87kg mark) and use that to make adjustments on the fly.
Generally speaking, here’s how my diet looks:
M1: 3-4 whole eggs, 50g smoked salmon, 4 slices Sourdough toast
M2: 130-150g chicken, 60-100g rice, 1 tsp olive oil
IF TRAINING: 1 Rice Krispies Square, 1 scoop EAAs (if legs, 1 scoop HBCDs as well)
M3: 30-40g whey, 100g oats, 1 tsp peanut butter, 2-3 squares dark chocolate
M4: 130-150g chicken,, 60-100g rice, 1 tsp olive oil
M5: 130-150g chicken,, 60-100g rice, 1 tsp olive oil (maybe some additional fats here with eggs or butter)
In the past month or so I’ve dropped my steps down from the usual 8-10K a day to around 6-8K in order to facilitate leg recovery and strength gains. So far I think it’s working, but it’s still early days.
Outside of this, I’ll try do one 5 minute HIIT session at the end of one of the leg sessions, just to get the heart rate sky high once a week.
This should be a fun 10 weeks ahead as both Adam and I push ourselves to take it to the next level. Setting this challenge has also sparked the temptation to pursue ‘Project 200lbs’ again. Last time I hit 199lbs at the peak of my off season. As of writing this, I’m at 190lbs, so I’d still love to see 200lbs on the scale at least once, and be able to ‘consolidate’ it.
It’s one thing hitting a new bodyweight PR, and it’s another holding it for 6 months and letting your body know this is ‘normal’. By doing so, any new muscle mass you develop is more likely to stay on when it comes to dieting again.
A big mistake I see many guys make is push their bodyweight up, and then as soon as their body fat is a little higher than comfortable, they start cutting again. What’s the first thing that’ll go? All their new muscle!
I’ll see what my coach Derek says, but I’ll keep you all posted.