Albert Shao
How I Plan and Prepare for Bodybuilding Contests


We talked with Albert Shao in February, 2020. Follow Albert on Instagram and YouTube
Country:
The United States
Age:
33 years
Weight:
81 kg
(178-182 lbs)
Height:
165 cm
(5'5)


Instagram, @shaofitness

Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

Hello, My name is Albert Shao. I am currently 33 years old. My parents are from China.

However, I was born in America and my sister and I are our family’s first-generation Americans. I was born in New York and raised in Brooklyn my whole childhood life. I am currently living in Staten Island, NY with my wife and our 6-month-old son.

During my undergraduate studies, I studied Early Childhood Education and Special Education with a concentration in Psychology. I later went back to school to study School Counseling for my graduate studies.

I currently work for the New York City Department of Education. I am currently a School Counselor and this is my 4th year as a school counselor along with 2 years of prior teaching in the classroom.

Some of my major accomplishments thus far have to be graduating college, getting married and becoming a father. It has been a great life journey so far.

Some of my PRs in the gym would have to be back in 2016 after my first contest prep, I sumo deadlifted 595 for max and squatted 415 for a max.

I first started weight training back in senior year of high school. My cousin was in the Marines. I can still remember this like it was yesterday as he drove me to the army base to workout with him. After that, I was hooked!

I remember signing up at a local gym by my house and high school. I was fortunate enough to have two friends that have lifted before in weight training class and they took me under their wing. After that, the rest was history. I remember wanting to keep working out and improve my physique.

Some of my hobbies besides my fitness lifestyle are watching movies, spending time with family and friends and just eating. I really enjoy sharing a nice meal and drink with my loved ones. I truly believe that having a support system is very important and will make the journey transition smoother.

One thing that I love most about natural bodybuilding is just the challenge of being able to improve each time. This is one of the few sports where we just get better as we age. Each time we diet down and reverse up, each time we prep for a show, our physiques just get more mature and dense, which is very fascinating.

Over the years, bodybuilding has allowed me to really meet many great people. I have been fortunate to have a great experience at all my shows and met many like-minded individuals.

It is very nice when you meet new people who become more than just a friend in your life and being around them inspires and motivates you to go harder.

Describe a typical day of training


The one thing that does stay consistent every week is my training intensity.

Over the years of training, I try to improve my way of training and mindset. I have gone through many different workout programs along the way.

One thing I am consistently trying to improve and I feel like it is something that can always improve is my technique/form and also my mind-muscle connection to feel the stimulus.

My mindset shifted from I have to find the best workout program that gives me the best gains to I have to find the best-balanced program that fits my needs. Some of the programs that I have used are Leg/push/pull, PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training), Max-Hype Training, which is similar to PHAT.

I have used the bro splits such as chest/arms, back/shoulders, and routines where I focused on one body part only.

Honestly, all of those programs above have all given me good results. When I was younger and had more time, the heavier sets on the power programs really gave me nice gains.

The goal was to have the strength transfer over onto the hypertrophy days and really get stronger on those volume days.

However, I am getting older now and I do not have much time to stay in the gym due to family and work, so I try my best to fit in both power and hypertrophy onto my training routine.

I am currently running an upper, lower, rest, upper, lower, and rest on the weekends. I find that the additional rest days gave me enough time to recover, especially my knees and lower back(after training legs and deadlifts).

Although the routine seems similar and stale, I try to alternate one or 2 movements for each day. I do create a workout A, workout B, and Workout C for those upper and lower days. This way, the volume, and workload such as repetition change.

The one thing that does stay consistent every week is my training intensity. Even with a lower workload, I try to really focus on the squeeze and contraction for every movement. This routine currently works best for my schedule and allows me to hit every body part multiple times as well as recover.

I used to enjoy training with a partner. However, like everything in life, there is a pro and con. Pro is that a partner can help and push you. The con is that sometimes, I can depend too much and if a partner does not go, I can sometimes give myself an excuse to not go.

Over the years, I have mostly trained with my wife and myself. Recently, I have started training with my friend again, the one that took me under his wing when we first started.

Occasionally I do like to have mash-ups and train hard with friends and other athletes and grab a post-workout meal afterward.

I do travel with a gym bag during each workout. In my bag, depending on the training day, I have my squat shoes, flat shoes to deadlift, belt, versa grips, and other straps for my wrist. I also have a notebook for me to keep track of my logs. I use the notebook to give myself a baseline on what weight to work with to help ensure that over time, I am progressively overloading.

I also enjoy taking lots of caffeine throughout the day such as drinking Monster’s energy drinks and lots of coffee.

At night when I train, I take a scoop or 2 scoops of pre-workout. I am currently using Pulse by Legion and I love it.

I also take creatine monohydrate year-round and I make sure I take my vitamins and fish oil. Post-workout, I do take a pre-workout shake to make sure I hit my protein intake!


Instagram, @shaofitness

How do you keep going and push harder?

One way that I keep on going is that I always keep in mind the endgame (which is the next season and improving overall physique).

I always tell myself that this journey is a process. It will come with ups and downs. There will be weeks where training is super great and then there will be tiredness, exhaustion, and injuries. I say this to myself and to my clients a lot. There is no right or wrong answer to this.

I have a plan and I follow it. As long as I am sticking to my plan, I know that I am heading in the right direction.

There are days where my strength and training is feeling great, then on those sessions, I will push harder. On the days I do not feel great, I will stick to the plan and train more reserved.

However, I always make sure I progressively overload during my workouts. That may come from heavier weights, more sets, or just more reps.

How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?

One way I avoid setbacks and injuries is to always warm up and acclimate my working sets for the compound movements such as deadlift and squats.

I am getting older and so, I take my time with warming up. However, injuries and setbacks do happen and I have had my fair share.

One thing I do is to really give it time to heal. If I have to skip those movements for 4 weeks, I do just that. However, I would try to find a different movement to target the muscles without aggravating it.

Often, my back gets really tight so I tend to have one of those massage mats from Kohl’s or Target. I also use a lacrosse ball and a rumble foam roller.

Recently I purchased a massage gun from jigsaw message on IG. That works pretty well. The thing is for my back; I would need my wife to use the gun on me.


Instagram, @shaofitness

How is your diet and what supplements do you use?


Before any competition, I tend to plan ahead to map out when I want to compete.

Let’s dive deeper into my off-season and competition season diet. I am a flexible dieter and that really helped me during contest prep. I am a person that hates boring foods. I like varieties and flexible dieting allows just that.

Food choices, I tend to have staple meals, like rice, chicken, salmon patties, beef, veggies, and whey. Then, I would have snacks to help fill in the little macros that I am missing for the day. I pretty much eat similar foods when I cut and bulk, just bigger or smaller portions, depending on which phase I am in.

The cravings are much easier to satisfy when I am in the off-season. I tend to just have a day or 2 of non-tracking days and just eat mindfully.

However, if I were in prep, I would have to find macro friendly snacks. Contest prep takes a toll on me and physically.

I feel like I enjoy the contest prep process more when I allow giving myself an extended off-season. It is almost as if my body is sick of eating the surplus of food and is ready to go into a deficit.

One tool that really helped me a lot of tracking is a food scale and Myfitnesspal App. It really helps make tracking easier.

Some of my tips and preference during my transition to an off-season bulking plan is to reverse quickly and to raise my maintenance calories as quickly as possible while maintaining decent body comp and having good training/recovery.

Once I do that for a while, I tend to coast around the calories, which allows me to really enjoy my off-season. This way, I can track my macros Monday-Friday and still have space to enjoy food with my friends and family on the weekends.

One thing about me as I mentioned is that I really enjoy hanging and spending time with my friends and family. This way, I can really enjoy my off-season without getting too out of shape.

However, when I do feel out of shape or if I feel that I have bulked for a long time, I would go through a mini-cut (6-10 Weeks) to help me clean up my body comp and get hungry again. This allows me to see what improvements I have made. It also improves my insulin level to help adapt and take in more calories when I transition back into a growth phase.

Before any competition, I tend to plan ahead to map out when I want to compete. Then I allow myself some time to help me recomp (get leaner) and reverse for a little while. This way, it allows me to clean up a lot of the fluff on my body and also puts me in a better position to start contest prep.

The main goal is to also have higher caloric maintenance. I notice that my body handles carbs very well. So this is something that works for me.

Currently, my off-season macros are 90-100 grams of fats/550-600 carbs/ and 260 grams of protein.

What has inspired and motivated you?

Honestly, one thing that inspires me a lot recently is fathers that compete in high level and still finding balance with family, friends, and prep.

I really admire those men. Some of these people are Brian Whitacre, Ben Howard, Jeff Alberts, Clement Yearwood, Samuel Okunola, and Brett Freeman. These guys compete at a very high level in the sport of natural bodybuilding and still models that it is possible to still spend time with family.

That is something beautiful as I am always practicing living with bodybuilding and not having it consume me.


Instagram, @shaofitness

Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?


Enjoy the process because life itself passes by so fast. Enjoy it and learn from it.

My one advice for anyone starting is to really take the time to learn the movements and have patience. Patience and consistency is the real magic key to any process in life. If you are trying to lose weight, take the time to slowly lose.

The same thing with building muscles, take your time. There really is no magic pill to make fast gains. No supplements or workouts will give you that. Only time and hard work will.

Enjoy the process because life itself passes by so fast. Enjoy it and learn from it. I see many new people at the gym trying the newest fads.

Whenever someone tells me how a detox shake helped them lose 10 lbs in 3 days, I know that it’s just water weight and its not really true fat loss.

I have seen people do some whacky exercises too. I am a true believer in keeping things simple and perfecting it. I stick to some basic exercises and just try to improve on the form each time.

One hack that I have for people when it comes to dieting is allowing yourself to have more time. Given more time creates less stress on the mind and body.

Prepare staple meals, which covers 75% of your macros. Therefore you can fit in the other 25% from snacks and small meals with friends.

Are you taking on clients right now?

I am currently offering online coaching. I do work with the general population such as anyone wanting to learn how to lose weight or gain muscles. I also help with contest prep as well.

I typically try to face chat with the person to get a feel of the person to see what their goals are. During the chat, we talk about a timeline and what the process would be. Usually and thankfully, the people that I have worked with trust the process of the journey.

I typically want my clients to enjoy and appreciate every step of the journey. Sometimes, we have to really zoom in on the setbacks to help us really appreciate reaching our goals.

Some of the most common things that I have heard are people that claim that they are willing to do everything it takes and then when the time comes for them to prove it, they drop the ball. Those are the people that have difficulty trusting the process.

Typically people that miss hitting their macros or cardio sessions will ask for a change (lowering macros or increasing cardio). This is where I have to tell them that even if I have them go super low on paper if you do not follow the plan, everything is just on paper.

I explain that the human body is very smart and is very adaptive. It requires consistency to help adapt and without that, no fad or quick fix will work.


Instagram, @shaofitness

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

My daily life has been very busy recently. Having a baby, I am trying my best to balance my family, career, bodybuilding, and clients.

I am currently working a lot during the day and I am currently on a mini-cut. I am still training as hard as I could to progress for my return to the stage. I am enjoying parenthood with my wife. I am also planning on going back to school to study leadership and administration.

Hopefully, within the next few years, I will make my return back to the stage. Until then, I will live through my client’s contest prep and live life to the fullest one day at a time.

Where can we learn more about you?

My instagram profile is @shaofitness and my youtube channel is also Shaofitness.

I share a lot about my life on both platforms. I mostly share my family and friends. I also share a workout journey and tips!

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