Bodybuilding Training: Pre-Contest Carbohydrate Depletion Training

Man's Muscular Legs
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The carb depletion bodybuilding pre-contest routine is designed to assist the carbohydrate depletion process that competitive bodybuilders undergo a week before a contest. Typically, if a bodybuilding contest is on Saturday, you might want to start depleting your body of carbohydrates seven days before a Saturday show (so that means that you start on the Friday that comes before the Friday prior to the event).

Keep in mind that this routine is individual and is meant to serve as an example. At this level, each bodybuilder should know how much their body can handle in terms of workout volume. However, there are some pointers that all bodybuilding depletion routines should have in common:

  • Thighs should be trained on the first day of the carb depletion process 8 days prior to the show, followed by hamstrings on the second day back on the third, and chest on the fourth. There are a couple of good reasons for this:
    • Large muscles hold water after they are trained the longest.
      Therefore, by training legs 8 days before a bodybuilding contest we ensure that there is no water retention on the leg muscles the day of the show due to recovery.
    • Training legs on the first day ensure maximum intensity.
      As you deplete, each day energy levels go down. Therefore, by setting up your training routine in a way that the largest and more challenging muscles get trained first, not only do you protect yourself against undue water retention caused by training on the day of the show, but you also you can take advantage of the fact that on the first few days of the carb depletion process energy levels are higher.
  • Repetition ranges should be kept at 10-12 reps on a few multi-jointed exercises in order to preserve mass but at 15-25 reps (and above if you wish) on most of the exercises. The key for this routine is not to build mass but instead to preserve it and deplete the muscle out of its carbohydrates stores. The better job you do at depleting, the more successful will your carbohydrate loading be as the muscles will really be looking forward to absorbing them.
  • Keep it at a fast pace resting no more than 1 minute in 10-12 rep range exercises and 30 seconds in 15-25+ rep exercises. Again, we are trying to deplete here, not build muscle mass.
  • Use a variety of exercises so that you hit your muscles from every angle. This is something that should be done through the whole contest preparation training and should be continued through the depletion pre-contest routine. Muscles have many heads and for a winning contest physique, we need to ensure that all angles are covered.
  • Set up your routine so that you concentrate on one major body part per day with perhaps a smaller muscle group in order to cover all of the angles that need to be covered with the little energy that you will have available. On arm day, which should be the last training day, you can pair both biceps and triceps as these are small muscle groups.

Friday: Thighs/Calves


  • Squats (medium stance -shoulder width) 3x10-12
  • Squats (Wide stance) 3x10-12
  • Leg Press (legs close together) 3x20-25
  • Hack Squats 3x20-25
  • Leg Extensions (Toes In) 3x20-25
  • Leg Extensions (Toes Out) 3x20-25

Inner/outer thighs

  • Abductor Machine 4x20-25
  • Adductor Machine 4x20-25

Saturday: Hamstrings/Glutes


  • Lunges 3x10-12
  • Stiff Legged Dead-lifts 3x10-12
  • Lying Leg Curls 3x20-25
  • Single Legged Leg Curls 3x20-25
  • Seated Leg Curls 3x20-25


  • Butt Blaster 3x20-25
  • Wide Stance Leg Press (press w/ heels) 3x20-25

Sunday: Back


  • Wide Grip Pull-up to Front 3x10-12
  • Close Grip Pull-up (Reverse Grip) 3x10-12
  • V-Bar Pulldowns 3x20-25
  • One Arm Cable Rows (High Pulley) 3x20-25
  • Low Pulley Rows 3x20-25
  • Stiff Arm Pulldowns w/ Rope 3x20-25
  • Hyperextensions 3x20-25

Monday: Chest/Calves


  • Incline DB Press 3x10-12
  • Chest Dips 3x10-12
  • Incline DB Flyes 3x20-25
  • Flat DB Press 3x20-25
  • DB Pullovers 3x20-25
  • Cable Crossovers (w/ low pulleys) 3x20-25


  • Seated Calf Raises 3x20-25
  • Calf Press (Toes In) 4x20-25
  • Calf Press (Toes Straight) 4x20-25
  • Calf Press (Toes Out) 4x20-25

Tuesday: Delts/Traps


  • Lateral Raises 3x10-12
  • Wide Grip Upright Rows 3x20-25
  • DB Shoulder Press 3x10-12
  • Rear Delt Machine 3x20-25
  • Bent Over Laterals 3x10-12
  • Rear Delt Rows (on T-bar Row Machine) 3x20-25
  • One Arm Cable Laterals 3x20-25
  • Front Raises 3x10-12


  • DB shoulder shrugs 4x20-25
  • Close Grip Upright Rows 3x20-25

Wednesday: Biceps/Triceps


  • E-Z Curls 3x10-12
  • Incline Curls 3x20-25
  • Concentration Curls 3x20-25
  • High Pulley Two Arm Curls 3x20-25
  • Hammer Curls 3x20-25


  • Straight Bar Pushdowns 3x10-12
  • Rope Pushdowns 3x20-25
  • Lying Triceps Extensions in superset with:
    • Close Grip Bench Press 3x20-25
    • Bench Dips 3x20-25

Training Notes

Abdominal training can be performed at a later time of the day, every day, along with cardiovascular exercise using any preferred combination of movements. The routine presented on the next page for abdominals is one that has always worked well for me. Again, this is my personal one so you can adjust it to suit your time available and recovery capabilities.

Abdominals Training Routine

  • Partial Sit-ups (go up until your torso is 30 degrees from the floor) 3xfailure
  • Knee-Ins 3xfailure
  • Twisting Crunches on Swiss Ball 3xfailure
  • Lying Leg Raises 3xfailure
  • Swiss Ball Crunches 3xfailure
  • Hanging Leg Raises 3xfailure
  • Modified V-Ups 3xfailure
  • Bicycle Crunches 3xfailure

Training Notes

Instead of concentrating on doing a ton of repetitions per exercise, concentrate on contracting the muscles hard and making each repetition count. Create a good mind over muscle connection to isolate the muscle, and feel the burn with each repetition.

Perform the routine on circuit training fashion going from one exercise to the next before resting 60 seconds on the last one. If you have been training your abdominals diligently throughout your pre-contest preparation then you may be able to perform non-stop.

Since this is a depletion routine, feel free to perform this abdominals workout every day.

Cardiovascular Exercise Recommendations

Depending on how you are looking at this stage, hopefully you can get away with one session of 45 minutes of cardio at a separate time from the weight training. You can perform it right after the abdominal training. If you still have some body fat to lose then you may need to do 45 minutes twice a day. The best way to accomplish this is to do one first thing in the morning right after abs, and another one later in the afternoon right after the weights. Keep in mind, that if bodybuilding competition is your goal, then we recommend that you team up with a good contest coach so that he/she can steer you in the right direction. While it is not impossible to do a bodybuilding competition on your own, having a coach (especially the first time around) eliminates all of the guesswork from such a complicated endeavor.