"There's no such thing as perfect or complete, only continuous improvement." – Genise M. Patterson
Let's start with the basics.
1) Take a good, long, critical look at your physique.Look at your pictures, especially if you had professional ones taken from the stage; analyze them thoroughly in terms of your what your strengths and weaknesses are. Consider investing in a DVD of the show, which will come with judges' feedback. When you look at the pictures, remember the criteria you're looking for: posing, symmetry, proportion, conditioning, and sheer muscle mass. For the best ways to tone your body, you must develop a game plan for exploiting your weaknesses while maintaining your strengths based on what you see in pictures, DVDs, and professional advice/feedback. Evaluate your own physique as you would someone else's; otherwise, you'll have no way to improve, and that's the goal of every show: be better than you were before.
2) Reverse diet slowly and methodically.There are two ways you can go about coming off a contest prep diet: "see-food" and rebound hard, or reverse diet properly. Gone are the days when people spent six months of the year gaining as much weight as possible and then the other six months losing it. The new strategy people are using is what's known as "reverse dieting": staying on very similar calories to your peak week, and then methodically increasing them by maybe 10 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat (as an example) every week until your metabolism gets healthier and faster. This should prevent an immediate post-competition weight gain. While you have to be a little more meticulous with this approach, and still count calories, there's some room for flexibility. I'd advise using the 80/20 rule or even 90/10 coming off show; be strict and thorough with your macros 80 to 90 percent of the time, then cut yourself some slack the other 10 to 20 percent. It'll allow you to relax psychologically after your show without ruining all the hard work you've put in to the best ways to tone your body.
3) Train hard and heavy.You're lean, you're mean, and your body is primed for anabolism. The leaner you are, the hungrier and more able your body is to utilize calories for muscle building. The second you start to eat more, start to go back to focusing on getting your strength back in the gym-not one-rep max testing or anything like that, but definitely think in terms of working in the lower rep ranges when you start to feel less depleted coming out of the diet. Push yourself as hard as you can (within reason) when it comes to lifting. Off-season is where improvements are made; the on-season is where you just strip off the layers to see what you built! There's no rocket science, and no magic pill here. I probably didn't even tell you anything you haven't heard before about the best ways to tone your body. What got you lean in the first place will keep you lean; you just need to be sensible, reasonable, and practical about your "off-season." Spend time focusing on, and enjoying, the process!
This post has been brought to us by Jaime Filer, Online Editor-In-Chief of Muscle Insider, Canada's #1 Muscle Magazine. Jaime has lent her vibrant, energetic, and most importantly real voice to discussing everything from the Phoenix theory to setting S.M.A.R.T. goals to her own fitness transformation. Jaime rocks the Expedition 300 backpack - find your perfect gym backpack, gym tote, or meal management system today.