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Road to the NABBA Britain

March 2, 2024
Gary

Juggling prep with three jobs, three kids, three dogs and a training partner who throws up in the bin

By Gary Chappell

BLOGGING about myself as I prepare for the NABBA Britain, on a site I founded and edit fills me with dread. "Who on earth cares about you or your journey"? is one sentence that often rattles through my brain. That inner voice is right, in a sense. Who does?

Well, the point of a bodybuilding website is content about bodybuilding. And, as I am a competitive bodybuilder, I am no less relevant than the athletes who also feature on these pages. That is my justification, anyway.

So given this is one avenue of content I can rely on producing, I'm going to chart my progress to the NABBA Britain on June 1, having already qualified by winning the NABBA UK on November 9 last year.

As of today, Saturday, March 2, there are 13 weeks until the NABBA Britain, which will be held at St George's Hall in Bradford, a mere four-to-five-hour car journey from my home in Thurrock, Essex and one I generally despise after roughly two hours.

For the past 14 months, I have been coached by the brilliant mind of American Justin Harris, of Troponin Nutrition and 1st Detachment. I have only ever used one coach before, during my debut season in 2019 when I competed five times, winning my first two shows. After that, I coached myself for a further nine shows, before realising that, at 46, if I was to ever secure the titles I wanted, I needed further guidance.

At the tail end of the 2022 season, I had won the Masters Over 45 at the NABBA Mr England, but spectacularly failed to place in the top six at the NABBA Universe two weeks later. I finished that season finishing second at the NABBA UK, weighing roughly 187lbs at 5ft 9in.

Bigger but leaner for NABBA Britain

Fast-forward those 14 months and I sit here writing this at 13 weeks out and 235lbs, with prep not due to start until 12 weeks out because, according to Justin Harris himself, I am still very lean and that time is all we will need in order to be ready. This will be the first time I have competed at the NABBA Britain.

So food has been pushed this week in the form of a third high day. We use carb-cycling; three days of varying amounts of carbs, ranging from 300g on a low day, 600g on a medium day and 1100g on a high day. High days fall on leg days, back days and, for me, arm days. Arms are a weak point of mine, you see. Protein reduces by 10g per meal, over six meals, on those high days and there are no added fats whatsoever.

Interestingly, or not perhaps, we do not count calories as such, although we know what they are. Justin adjusts the macro-nutrients and uses pictures to judge progress. So whereas in the past I could tell you off the top of my head how many calories I was consuming each day, now I would have to stop and work it out, but would know the macros off by heart.

So three high days from 14 weeks out and those are likely to continue from 13 weeks out too. Then, at the 12-week mark, full contest prep gets underway. Not being a big eater, I find high days fairly difficult now. Even though 50 per cent of carbs at each meal can come from sugary sources. That amount of food just makes you feel sluggish. I will go into detail in further posts.

How prep is managed

Prep is balanced – juggled may be a more appropriate word – alongside my work as a journalist for three national newspapers, a second Saturday job on a Sunday newspaper and work to grow this website. I also have three children and three miniature cockapoos, although they like dozing on the sofa as much as I do.

My shift begins at 3pm, so that leaves mornings and early afternoons free to train. I do this at 12.45pm each day at S6 Gym in Tilbury, Essex.

How I train for the NABBA Britain

My current training for the NABBA Britain is a five-day split; Chest and shoulders, quads, arms, hamstrings and calves, back and rear delts.

I've always wondered about training, often worrying about whether I train hard enough. I usually train alone but, recently, I have had a few different training partners. And all of them have told me they have never trained this way. I'm not sure what they mean; I just see it as training.

I never subscribed to the mantra offered by Dorian Yates either, that he "knew" there was no one out there training harder than him because it "wasn't possible". There is simply no way he could have known that. I'd suggest also, that he may not have needed to have trained with such intensity. And had he tailored his training slightly differently as he grew older, he may have had more than six Mr Olympia titles by avoiding the injuries which blighted his career.

But anyway, I train as hard as I can. I use progressive overload, recording lifts and trying to better either the weight or the reps each week. On some exercises I use myofibrillar methods; prioritising strength with reps as low as five or six. But for the most part, my training is for sarcoplasmic growth, with reps anywhere from 12 to 20. Sometimes more. My training partner was sick in a bin on Friday after three sets of Dante rows for the lower back. Always a nice touch.

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