9 Days Out From Competition… Leg Day Training With Richie Smyth… The “Voice Of Reason” Speaks


Thursday, October 6th, 2005. I took the drive up to Body Quest Gym in Blauvelt, NY today so Richie could take a look at me go through the mandatory poses and to do a leg workout. As is usually the case at this phase in the contest prep period, he was the “voice of reason” and gave me some advice, which basically amounted to: “Eat more!”… and… “Stop overdieting and overtraining yourself to death, dumbass!” (not in those words exactly; I added the expletive at the end)… More food? I get more Carbs??? (Forgive me, I’m drooling)… Believe me, I had NO problem with that advice…


A1 Leg Extension
3 sets X 10-15 reps
A2 horizontal Leg Press Machine
Set 1: 350 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 385 lbs X 12 reps
Set 3: 350, 385, 400 lbs X 7, 6, 6 reps (ascending set)
Set 4: 400 lbs X 8 reps, 335 lbs X 8 more reps (drop set)


A1 Lying Leg Curl
3 sets X 10-15 reps
B1 Seated Leg Curl
3 sets X 10-15 reps, last set drop set.


A1 45 degree hack calf machine
4 sets X 15-20 reps

Workout Commentary

I weighed 179 today, the lightest I’ve been yet this year (the middleweight division cut off is 176.25 lbs). In fact, it’s the lightest I’ve been since 2001. Gosh, I hope it isn’t windy outside today… I might get blown away in a stiff breeze! (Yeah, I thought I would crack a joke about my skinny ass before someone else does… ha ha!)

Seriously though, it is kind of “weird” being this light (although I will look much heavier onstage contest day). Standing by myself onstage you might think I weighed 190 or 200 lbs – that’s just what being ripped and symmetrical does – it’s very much an optical illusion. Covered up completely in street clothes, up close and in person, however, a contest-ready middleweight bodybuilder could easily pass by unnoticed as a “normal person” (except of course, for the phony paint-on fake tan that makes us look like “orange-colored freaks” that gives us away every time, heh heh… at least it looks good under the stage lights, eh?)

Just prior to competition, your (low) body weight is very much a temporary condition, reflecting an extreme of low body fat (NOT normal), as well as a water weight loss of easily 6-10 pounds (also NOT normal), which will come right back on within a week or two of “normal” balanced eating. That means I can be 176 lbs on stage show day and be as high as 186 a week or 10 days afterwards… while
still being super lean. The weight increase simply reflects putting back all the body’s normal stores of glycogen and water and a small amount of body fat. Remember, your body is mostly water and every gram of glycogen holds almost 3 grams of water.

Anyway, today was day two on a three day low carb cycle and I was definitely feeling it (tired, depleted and basically like crap). I looked very lean – to the point where you can now see the cross striations in my quads – but I was also very flat.

Being “flat” is when nearly all the glycogen is depleted from your muscles. It’s as if your muscles are balloons, but if you let most of the air out of them, it makes them smaller and softer at the same time. Yeah, that sucks. After each high carb day, your muscles fill out somewhat, like a balloon getting filled up with air, so that the skin stretches and thins out and the “balloon” gets bigger and harder.

When I arrived at the gym, we went straight into the aerobics room where there were full length mirrors, and the first thing Richie said when I started posing… “You’re flat.”

I said, “Yeah, I know I’m flat, but I could still stand to get more shredded, so I’ve been alternating 3 days low carb and 2500 calories, with 1 day of high carbs. I’m on low carbs today and was yesterday too.”

Next question: “How do you feel?”

I replied, “I feel like crap today”

Then came one of his great one liners…”You know… The way you feel is the way you look.”

“Gee, thanks”

Then Richie asked me what my plan was for this weekend. I said, “Low calories and low carbs again tomorrow – 150 grams or so, then 1 day high carbs 350 grams, then we’re into the final week, and that will be 3 days of depletion with low carbs again and 3 days to carb up before the show.”

“Eat more!” Richie commanded.

“Eat more?”

“Yes, eat more.” Up your calories with two days on high carbs. Eat more carbs tomorrow AND Saturday. Then when you start depletion on Sunday, you’re going to eat more fat when you drop your carbs back down.”

“You’re flat and depleted today and if you keep your carbs and calories this low you’re going to start chewing up your own muscle. Think about it: You hardly have any body fat left on you. You’re still doing two cardios a day and I KNOW YOU – I bet you’re still training with crazy intensity at every workout. I bet you’re doing the type of training that’s not just pump or
stimulation training, you’re doing “insane training” that breaks down muscle tissue and leaves you sore for a few days, aren’t you? Tell me I’m wrong – I know you too well Venuto…”

I stood there with a sheepish “Yeah I’m guilty” grin on my face, while he continued with his lecture…

“This close to a show, that’s overtraining. That type of intensity is great when you’re fed and a little fatter, so you can recover,” but if you keep your food intake in such a severe deficit and your carbs so low at this point to try to burn that last TINY bit of body fat remaining so you can be Mr. Onion Skin, what’s your body going to burn for energy? MUSCLE! – There’s nothing else left to burn. Do you want to be a 160-pound men’s fitness model or a bodybuilder?”

“Your muscle is depending on your food intake at this point to sustain itself or it has to burn muscle along with the fat. Remember, you’ve been dieting 15 weeks, and dieting super strict for at least 8 weeks. You’re essentially starving right now. Your body doesn’t want to give up any more body fat – your body doesn’t give a rat’s turd about what you want – it just wants to survive, so it will burn off muscle every bit as easily as body fat, if not more so. Plus, you can’t recover from
workouts with that kind of intensity with your nutritional intake at your current level… you’re breaking down tissue with those insane workouts and your body isn’t receiving the raw material to build it back up….”

There was a lot more, but that was the gist of it. Thus spake “the guru”… All things I already know, but need to be reminded of and hear from someone else nonetheless, at embarrasingly frequent intervals.

At times like these, I call Richie the “voice of reason.” Your self image can get really screwy in the final stages of contest dieting and I consider it an absolute must to have an objective and impartial set of eyes looking at you. You have to do this by yourself, but you can’t do it alone (go think about that one for a while)

So, after I got “scolded” for overtraining and overdieting, Richie took me through a leg workout, which basically amounted to “stimulation” rather than “annihilation”: 7 sets for quads, 7 sets for hams, 4 sets for calves. Nothing past failure except a couple of drop sets, but even those were more like pump sets and not aimed at breaking down tissue. I didn’t post the weights on most exercises
because I wasn’t writing it down or even paying attention, except on the leg press which I happen to have noticed.

The diet plan for Friday and Saturday is high carbs – I’m gonna do about 400 grams each day to reefed, restore glycogen and reboost the metabolism again, then it’s on to the FINAL WEEK. I’ll log in another entry on Sunday and then every day up to the show with my final week prep details.

P.S. By the way, after busting Richie’s chops for months for not having a website, he finally put up a site and you can visit him online now at: www.RichieSmyth.com. Not everyone is lucky enough to live in Northern New Jersey to get in person training from Richie, but I know that Richie is now offering long distance coaching programs in addition to in person training. Richie is one of the best and I can’t recommend him highly enough:


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Comments on 9 Days Out From Competition… Leg Day Training With Richie Smyth… The “Voice Of Reason” Speaks Leave a Comment

October 13, 2005

Evan @ 1:32 am #

wish i was in Jersey for the show Tom but im on the other side of the world mate!;o(
ive followed ur blog since the start TV and i get this feeling of excitement of what your achieving man what a human can do when we commit and dedicate ourselves!
All the best on show day Tom
Grace be with you

Marc @ 5:09 pm #

First, that has to be the easiest leg workout you’ve posted to date! But after reading further…
Second, I understand why. Richie really gave a good understanding of low body fat and your body’s survival mode kicking in.
Lucky for me, I’ve not once done a workout on a carb depleated mode. Which explains why I’m able to recover and keep on hitting these things out.
Nice perspective on competitive bodybuilding and how super strict and diet can become and the other side of the coin when it comes to dropping those last few pounds of fat that your body wants to keep.
I would agree with Richie. Your workouts, especially leg days, are freaking insane. 🙂
Here’s to good weather in NJ and no wind storms blowing you away before you blow everybody away when you step on stage.

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