The Art of the Four Week Prep

By Tucker Loken

I recently competed in the Milwaukee Muscle Madness bodybuilding show and walked away an overall win.  Leading up to the show I had been posting a lot about rapid changes that I made in the last few weeks leading up to the show.  I was excited and happy about my progress pictures, and mentioned plenty of times “this was after two weeks of training, this was a one week change….” and so on. I always felt a little pang of guilt writing those though, because I didn’t want the message I was trying to get out to be misunderstood.

What I wanted out of this was for people to see that it’s possible to get in great shape quickly if you follow a plan and are 100% focused. I didn’t train at 100% for the first couple weeks because I was still getting over being sick and I didn’t want to stress out my nervous system. I didn’t do any cardio and I ate a very standard bodybuilding type diet. I didn’t do anything drastic and I let Noel Fuller call the shots. I just did my work – train, feel the muscles in every workout, keep the diet perfect, and listen to my body.

For a quick overview, this is what the last year has consisted of for me – I got mono back in August, 2016 and was out for 3 months. I didn’t start training seriously until December, 2016 and that lasted until early February, 2017 when I started to feel the same symptoms of fatigue, off and on fevers and weakness coming back. I got it again, seriously, from February to the middle of March, and was still getting over it when I decided to start training for the show. All in all, out of 9 months I only felt decently healthy for about 3 of them.

I still had some serious lymph node swelling, but overall I felt good at the four week mark and decided to give lifting a try, and if I got worse then I wouldn’t compete, but if I steadily got better I would compete. The swelling slowly decreased over the next few weeks and I was more, or less lymph node swelling and body ache free by the one week out mark. I had to really listen to my body during this time to avoid getting sick again while I was recovering, so there were a couple weeks when I only lifted 4x that week, and a couple where I lifted 5x. In total, I probably had 18 legit workouts after going from no exercise at all in two months to hopping on stage.

So here I am, sounding like I’m humble bragging, talking about all that I went through and how quickly I was able to come back and win. But here’s the difference, and this is what I want everyone to know who has had major setbacks and all but given up hope – it’s possible, somehow. The body isn’t static… let me repeat….the body isn’t static. This is NOT a genetic thing. What I’m trying to say is that it’s not like I’ve got a track record of getting in shape crazy fast for a show. Previously, I’ve always used 16 week preps. They were grueling and torturous, going to extreme failure on each workout and doing extreme intervals on cardio. I was burnt out by the time I got to stage, and just wanted it to be over half way through. When I look at pictures of myself from five years ago, or 10 years ago, I don’t see a guy who could have gotten in shape in a month, I just see some dummy who was still figuring things out, who didn’t have any clue as to what he should be doing.

As time has gone on, I’ve learned more and surrounded myself with smart and supportive people. My body has changed, and it’s changed permanently. Just like how if you shoot free throws for 3 hours a day every day, you’ll get really good at shooting free throws, and even if you take years away, you’ll still be able to start shooting again and gain your ability back quickly.  Your body does this too. I’m not just talking about muscle memory, we all know if you’re been big and strong it’s easy to get big and strong again. I’m saying that you’re changing your body at the most base level. You’re teaching it to respond to stimulus more efficiently during every workout, whether or not you’re making PR’s, or pushing half as much weight as you used to. It only snowballs and gets better over time, because you’ve reinforced the nerve connections to your muscles.  It’s all familiar now and it’s not determined by genetics, it’s just about putting in the time and focus. This is why every workout, regardless if it’s a deload, a light workout coming back from taking time off, or whatever the circumstance deserves your full attention. You can get better every time you touch a weight, you just have to focus.

Notice that I didn’t once say hard work. “Hard work,” “putting in 110%,” “giving it your all” and the rest of the other one liners only serve to confuse people. If you’re intense, obsessive and crazy enough to do this in the first place, you probably work your ass off if someone tells you to. You probably have very little attention span, or patience and don’t track your own pictures, or progress as well as you should, or look at yourself objectively. These were all things I didn’t do well enough, but I came in and rocked those workouts, going to failure until the machine was shaking, until my eyes were bloodshot and my whole body was trembling from taking the intervals as hard as I could. And guess what, my body got fried, I got burnt out, I got injured, I got sick, and because I was focused on going 110% failure on my sets, I missed the subtle little things that I needed to be doing as well. I missed feeling the muscle, tracking my progress, asking questions and learning new diet and training styles.

Now I’ve finally found an approach that works, and it takes as much finesse as a paint brush stroke. There’s an art to it: The Art of the Four Week Prep. I won’t be doing all my preps this short, and I’ll always put effort into them, but it will be the appropriate amount of effort to the point that I’ll get the best returns possible, regardless of how much, or how little work needed to be put in. I’ll keep my head quiet and just watch day in, day out, week in, week out, and always have someone looking over me to help keep my anxieties at bay. Noel Fuller did an excellent job of keeping me calm and on track, and I can’t be more grateful.

Stranger things have happened than me doing a four week prep, but for everyone who reads this and thinks to themselves “well he can do that because of XYZ and I can’t because of ABC…” please remember that I would have said the exact same thing, and I would have never had faith that I could do this until it finally happened. I was lucky, but I also had to do so many things wrong in the past to find what was right. I finally took an intelligent approach and had the best prep of my life, coming from one of the worst circumstances possible.

Pick up a copy of the new softback copy of the 2nd Edition 10/20/Life today.

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Tucker Loken is a Bodybuilder turned Powerlifter turned Powerbuilder from Eugene, Oregon. He did his first bodybuilding show when he was still in high school, and has been training male and female competitors for shows since 2011. Several years ago he decided to take a step away from his normal routine and learn how to get strong. He worked with Brian for 9 months, added 200 pounds to his raw total and qualified as an Elite lifter in the 220 pound weight class. He returned back to bodybuilding much stronger and now incorporates the 10/20/Life philosophy into his training to keep himself healthy and making continual progress in the Big 3 as well as adding size and shaping his physique. Now part of Team PRS, he brings his unique expertise of nutritional knowledge and how to balance Bodybuilding with Powerlifting to help athletes achieve their best potential.
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