First Timer, First Bodybuilding Show (Timely Feedback)

Hey all, first timer here.

40 Y.O. midlife crisis type, trying to get healthy and create a new lifestyle heading into my 50s.

Lifted USPA Powerlifting for 3 years, 3 events, qualified for Nationals there at 220 lbs (Submaster), but body kinda gave out hips and lower back wise. So, made the transition to just become the best version of myself possible and moved to bodybuilding.

FYI - Going all Natty with INBF (Men’s Masters), just personal preference.

Started my offseason October 16th, 2023 at 36+% body fat, 233.5 lbs at 5’ 4". Started prep March 30th at 192.5, and spent the first 5 weeks in maintenance mode, carb cycling, about 23 - 24% body fat. It’s a 20 week prep, and my show is on August 17th.

We are in week 2 of cut and I came in this past Saturday at 20.3%, 188.5 lbs. This am was at 188.3.

Feeling really good. Cardio is increased quite a bit. We’ve lowered carbs first two weeks of cut and came down 2%. Realize I’m a bit behind curve, but we didn’t want to peak early and we are cranking now.

Just curious as to general feedback about where I am, potential, etc., for first show given the info above. Would like any info and tips from natty competitors or guys that have competed in tested feds. No offense on the untested side, I respect both. Just trying to get feedback that is more inline with what I’m doing.

Maybe I qualify, as I competed in two “lie detector” tested shows when I was 39 years old. I was just curious how I would do without AAS. The qualification was to not have used AAS during the preceding 365 days.

But most all of my experience was in untested shows, probably close to 80 shows. I used pretty much the same pre-contest training in all the shows I entered, considering my level of knowledge at the time of the contest.

Your first show will be the biggest psychological challenge. Getting into contest shape the first time will be a true accomplishment. But don’t fear, just commit to doing it and put in the hard work.

You have been “overweight” for much of your life, and you no longer have the elastic skin of a teenager, or even that of your 20’s. You might have some loose skin to deal with.

I would look at this as something that I would do every year of your 40’s. Try to get better every year than you were the last year. The second “cut” will come easier than the first “cut.” The third will come easier than the second was. In your case I would say it is important to never “bulk” back up. That is, whatever weight you enter the first show, don’t gain more than 20lbs of weight between shows.

If you can enter more than one show a year, do so. You need to feel comfortable on stage to keep your anxiety in check. That will make you look smoother/flatter than you actually are.

I will answer any questions you have based on my experience.


Yeah, I’m trying to stay consistent. My coach and I built a log to keep track of week to week changes (Google Sheets). We both jump in there to make sure we’re on the same page a couple to a few times a week.

I definitely get use this first prep as a baseline, and I plan to. Goal will be to build maybe 6 to 8 lbs of muscle before my next show. Probably won’t do two in my first year as this has been a very long experience given how far we’ve had to come from. But, I’ll definitely start doing two shows a year in 2025. At least through my mid 40’s. Unless I really just get good at it and start placing at some point.

Me vs. Me right now. Obviously just trying to be in the best shape of my life. Then, when we build the frame and foundation, I’ll start chipping away at other competition. To me, that just comes naturally as you better yourself and put yourself in a better position to win each time (from previous experience).

I’m definitely excited for it. I appreciate you chiming in to keep me accountable brother!

I am not entirely sure I would be running to the stage from your current state, as in, I would want to have more muscle before getting there…

But getting extremely lean as the predecessor to bulking - is definitely advisable, and this is a good motivation to help you get there.

I want to point out that since you said you are using this to help you move into a healthier lifestyle, you will need to focus on discipline at all times. Meaning, that once you’re done with your show - you don’t just fall off the wagon and go back to your old habits. You will need to find a happy medium where you can make the same healthy life choices, without the absurdly strict requirements of competitions.
This is where my end goal is too, once I get my body to the point I’m satisfied.


Couple of thoughts here.

  1. I would consider getting a new coach. Anyone who has you carb cycling at your current state seems either a. inexperienced and/or b. someone dogmatic. Carb cycling can absolutely be a great tool when progress stalls, but it should be reserved for when you’re already super lean, and you’re using it prematurely. There is no reason not to keep things as simple as possible at this stage. You can be making awesome progress just eating balanced macros and tracking your deficit.

  2. IMO, Aug. 17 will essentially be impossible to hit. I think Dec or later is more realistic. You CAN get stage lean by Aug. 17, but you can expect to be the most miserable you’ve ever been for at least the last month or so. I’m talking eating like 300+g of protein per day, zero carbs and next to zero fat. Seeing as this is you trying to make a gradual lifestyle change, I see no rush or reason to kill yourself right out of the gate. When you have a visible 6 pack every morning…that’s when you should start your prep.


Taking a mental note of this one.

Brother, I’m 100% following this thread. I can’t wait to see your progress. Get after it.

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FWIW, I know of a trainee who used carb cycling throughout most of his weight loss, and has gotten VERY lean as a result. He started off fatter than I was and is now leaner than I am, and he did so in less time (granted, he used anabolics to help him - ones that I won’t touch), but still.

I do agree that OP likely doesn’t need to use carb cycling at this time, but it seems to have garnered better results than what I’ve been able to do with steady state deficits. I’ve also heard both Todd Lee and Justin Harris speaking highly of this in regards to the prevention of adaptive thermogenesis.

Also agree that if OP has only spoken to one coach, he should consider speaking to others as well. I spoke to a few before I landed on who I am using now (I strongly considered speaking to you about this as well, tbh, but I needed someone highly knowledgeable about gear and I haven’t seen you much in the steroid sub).

*Just offering a different perspective. You’ve far more experience than I do.

I second this.

Does your opinion on this change based on muscle mass of the individual?


A agree about 8/2024. I think you could get there but i don’t think you would like what you saw. You would need to diet hard and i believe you would lose muscle. The fact that you are natural will make a hard cut very catabolic.
IMO take some time at maintenance(or just above) to put on some quality tissue and then plan for a show late next year.

Get this piece going fist. Create good, healthy habits and go from there. Don’t try to force it.

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Firstly, want to say I sincerely appreciate all the feedback everyone. I came for constructive criticism and I have already learned a lot just from reading what you all have posted over the last 24 hours. Albeit, maybe I don’t understand every single bit, but plenty of it is applicable and applied in the months and years moving ahead.

I did not want to write a novel / WoT cause’ I know people won’t read it, so I left the rest of the background out. And I feel had you all known, there would have been a better understanding.

One, my coach is a buddy of mine I used to powerlift with in USPA, and he did a few shows in NPC himself at a younger age. One tested, a couple untested. Never won a show, but placed pretty well. I chose him moreso because he helped me grow and qualify for Nationals in powerlifting, and because I saw pictures of what he was able to do, and wanted to give it a go. This began as friends leveling up friends, doing thieir respective side of things for the first time each. Nothing more.

He has gotten me very far in the 7 months we have worked together. And that’s considering my three to four cheat days, my initial mental struggles, and us taking our time to lay a foundation. I trust in him. We didn’t come at this from a one shot approach, we came at it knowing we will get better show to show. My focus next offseason will be to add some mature muscle for sure, and we will pick a show we are better suited for.

THAT being said. I’m huge on driving my intensity and focus off of doubt. Not that you all are doubting, and I do trust in your judgement. I honestly do think I have the ability to do what is necessary to look “good” out there, and be “proud” of what I bring, considering I feel I’ve already won with the body of work put in.

I know bodybuilding is a different animal. I know I haven’t been in the throws yet. I know I don’t have the education or experience levels, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll have the size to impress out there considering how hard we’ll need to fight the last 12.5 weeks. But, I will work harder than I ever have and put together something I can be happy with for my first go. That much I KNOW I will accomplish, because I refuse to settle for less.

Going to give it hell. And will certainly keep folks updated and take EVERYTHING posted here thus far into consideration moving ahead. We will get better. We won’t quit. And we will learn from this first go.

Thank you so much for all the feedback, and I hope to receive more along the way.

I will share an update this Saturday post scan, where we hope to land around 18.3 - 18.5 %.

Appreciate you all!


What was your total? The picture doesn’t give me much idea of how much muscle you have, I figure a total will give me an idea, or you could post additional pictures?

I think you may be fine with the August date for the show, but you will likely be quite depleted and smaller than you’d like. I am just saying, I think you can get to a point of not embarrassing yourself, and having a lean enough physique. Local show, so who cares anyways if don’t have the size you’d like.

That being said, you will have to be on point for nearly the full next 3 months to get that lean.


1300 lbs exact at 220 lbs.

We were gonna attempt last year, and got to a point where we were ready to fire off the prep, but I went way too hard and way too fast and burnt out after losing 50 lbs. So we swapped focus to building muscle for some time (6 plus months), then hopped back in.

I could never embarrass myself at a scale this small tbh. It’s at a local high school for INBF (Amateur division of WNBF) and it’s Master’s. I don’t think 15 - 20 guys will show. I think it’s going to be more like 3 to 5. And it will give us a good idea of where we are at. Not shown here is my leg size. And while not conditioned, the mass is definitely there. Short, stalky, low to ground. May not work in my favor at 5’ 4" as I don’t know what they look for in short guys like myself with my frame. But, I do feel I have the muscle and density to not look skinny fat on stage personally.

Again though, I don’t know a damn thing in this sport outside of casual knowledge, following Grimes (my fav), Samson, and Lunsford. Watch Cutler Cast too. Sadik Hadzovic is pretty legit imho. Outside of that just 10 years gym time off and on, and my coach/buddy’s perspective.

Legs 2 weeks back. Obviously no tear drop and might be hard to pull off before event, but we just changed up the way I’m working on quads per coach’s advice in trying to put the focus more on front.

FYI generally not a fan of abusing filters, but had to add some in this pic as lighting sucked and I couldn’t bring out the Quad separation in this room without it.


My Powerlifting info is below:

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I think on your timeline being short will be a benefit. It will be easier to be lean and stocky with a short frame. If you were taller, you’d end up with a physique that looked like Brad Pitt from fight club, which is a good physique don’t get me wrong, just a bit small for a bodybuilding stage.

FWIW, I have a powerlifting buddy that is 5’2", and at 150 lbs he looks huge and lean. While cutting down from 175 lbs, he never looked small, or like he didn’t have a ton of muscle on him.

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Back a couple weeks back (gives an idea of size, density) -

Appreciate all the info and anecdotes you toss in here bud. Just trying to add whatever you guys need to continue providing any and all guidance relevant to my journey. It really does help seeing it here and having stuff like this to fall back on.

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This might be a surprise that will most please you as you drop fat. Your legs might become your best body part. You have plenty of muscle to carve into some deep muscle separation.

I don’t have much faith in targeting leg muscle shaping. I would say just train them heavy, and with reps of at least 10 reps. Flex them often, especially on days that you don’t train legs. Flex for front poses. Flex for side poses. And flex for rear poses. Almost all poses in a contest start with you first flexing your legs, and being able to hold that flex until the pose is completed. Any time you are standing on stage where the judges can see you, you must maintain a semi-flex of your legs. In other words, it needs to be second nature for you to flex your legs.

Flexing your legs is a crucial aspect of contest prep. You might as well start doing it now. IMO, flexing your thighs actually improves your ability to show muscle separation. There are a number of different thigh flexes that show different muscles in your thigh.


I’m hoping so brother. We put renewed focus on them these last couple of weeks hoping to start getting them cut up. For example, on Leg Extensions, instead of kicking out (bad habits), we’ve gone more squeeze all the way up (to drive the weight) and hold .5 to 1 up top, bring down to lowest tension point possible, hold .5 to 1 there, etc.

Usually for legs I hit 5 x 20 (up to) on Extensions, but with this new variation, heavy it’s hard to get but 12 to 14. We’re gunning for every rep possible though. Hammies usually hit for 4 sets about 12 to 15. We do one drop on each exercise after top set for AMRAP.

Been living on Hack Squat front and back to try and work everything, including Glutes. And we added Abductors in on supplemental day (good girls) this week.

We’re making a lot of alterations now midway through and keeping that log freshly up to date.

Nutrition right now I’m sitting on 270 P, 100 C (95 next week), and 35 F. Not too bad honestly. Averaging about 1825 - 1840 calories a day on the cut down 2nd week. Feel plenty full and doesn’t really feel like a cut as I’m eating 4 times a day, carbs early obviously so we use them for the gym and try and hit keto or as close as possible before night fast.

Just some items I thought I’d share.

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IMO, ultra-wide leg presses (toes pointed 180 degrees apart) is by far the best abductor exercise, and it is a compound exercise. If you decide to try them you better start light. I got that exercise from Jeff King. It was a significant benefit in my leg development. I was able to get my sartorius muscle to pop. I give much credit to that from the ultra-wide leg press.

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Gonna discuss with my coach. Thanks bro.

I am a big fan of ISO Leg Press as an additional movement. But, otherwise prefer hack. But, I always love alterations like this. One of my other favs is Cannonball. Helped in developing my hammies a lot when I quit powerlifting and gave up Deads and other power-based compound supplementals.

Are you natural or enhanced/TRT?
Have you been practicing your posing? If not, you may want to start doing your pictures in proper poses.

*The pictures you have been posting, while marginally helpful, are missing a lot of information that will be needed to go on stage. We don’t even know what muscles are underdeveloped as it stands now.

As an example, here is the latest set of pictures that my coach requested of me (non-flexed front, non-flexed back, front double-bicep, back double-bicep, men’s physique back, (will add side chest next update))

The point is that you can see where my muscles are lagging, and you can see how shitty my posing is, so I have 2 different measurements to improve on.

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This is exactly what I do with one difference. My rep cycle looks more like, 1-2 seconds up while squeezing, hold 1, down 4, rest 1, and repeat.

I also super set body weight sissy squats right after and then I hold a flex for 10-20 seconds to push blood into my muscles. It’s brutal but I’ve ben ale to tell a difference in my legs and I’m siting around 20-25%bf and have ok separation.

For context: I’m 6’5 and around 260.

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I haven’t read through the complete thread yet but I tend to be the voice of reason, or the asshole. I think your goal is noble, and you seem accomplished, so I hope I do not come off as the asshole.

I tend to have a gift for putting things in perspective so I will walk you through the gift.

First, most Nattys compete close to a 25 FFMI. Let’s assume you would need to be at 10% BF to be any where close to contest lean. For you, at 5’4", that means 165lbs with 149lbs of LBM and about 16lbs of fat.

You are currently at 188 and 20% BF, so 152lbs of LBM and 37lbs of fat/other.

You are currently at a 26 FFMI (hard to achieve natty).

In order to compete successfully, you would need to add 14 pounds of LBM and lose 21 pounds of fat - hard to do by August without a load of gear.

So let’s look at your current FFMI and your pictures. According to your calculations, you are 188 at 20% which puts you at 26 FFMI - most likely not as an FFMI in excess of 25 is usually only achievable on gear.

So, you are either on gear, or not 20%.

I suggest neither, just an observation based on my own research.

I laud your efforts and support them. I am just sharing what I have learned from years of being on this site.

How did you come to the conclusion your BF was 20%?

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