Bodybuilding is a sport of patience and perseverance. Professional bodybuilders train for upwards of a full year for a few moments under the bright lights when they face the judges. Whether it’s the offseason or during contest prep, letting off the gas even briefly could result in sliding down the placings when the big day finally rolls around.
2019 Olympia 212 Champion Kamal Elgargni has been in the game for a while, and he knows his body pretty well by this point. Combining machines and free weights into his routine, Elgargni has a sound strategy when he enters a weight room.
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Elgargni currently trains out of the MI40 Gym in Tampa, Florida. Even though he is in his offseason, he still follows a healthy and clean nutrition plan. This means he doesn’t have to devote too much time to doing cardio to burn off an excessive caloric intake.
The 51-year-old bodybuilder trains five days in a row during the offseason. This is an exclusive look at the battle plan of one of the Olympia’s most tenured and mature competitors.
Elgargni starts with quads because he traditionally has a day off beforehand. This means he can commit more to the workout that is to come. After warming up with leg extensions, his first major exercise is the leg press.
“I may start with two plates (45 pounds, per side), then jump up to three, then five, eventually getting up to a maximum of ten plates. Then, I do my work sets.”
Those work sets are around 15 reps each. Now that he has two machines under his weight belt, he moves on to the safety bar squat. While squats are a power movement, he doesn’t go super heavy.
He then moves on to hack squats. At this point, Elgargni notes that the execution of each rep matters more than the weight he’s using.
“Now that I’m older, I do these sets slower because my muscles aren’t as fresh as these young guys. I always take it slowly.” Elgargni will work up to five or six plates per side, depending on how he feels. On his final set, he will remove some of the weight and shoot for 20-25 reps.
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He finishes up his first workout of the week by going back to the leg extensions. He goes 20-30% heavier this time, and he also adds walking lunges in as a superset. Whenever he goes to prepare for his next contest, he will add front squats into the rotation as well.
- Leg extensions: 4-5 x 25-30, as a warm up.
- Leg Press: 3 x 15
- Safety bar squat: 3 x 10-12
- Hack Squat: 3 x 12-15, then two drop sets with 12-15 and 20-25 reps.
- leg extension superset Walking lungs: 3 x 15-20 and 10 reps per leg.
Elgargni isn’t getting paid by the hour to train. So, he keeps his rest periods short for this and every other workout. If he has a partner, then that person goes as soon as Elgargni is finished, and vice-versa.
Next up is chest day. Elgargni trains for hypertrophy and physique development — that means he feels there is no need for him to train with super heavy weight for low reps.
“I never do anything for less than 12 reps,” he says. Among the exercises he does for the chest is the flat dumbbell press, which he works up to a top weight of 110 pounds in each hand. He will do all three working sets with this weight.
Note that Elgargni likes to do multiple warm-up sets on each exercise he performs.
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Elgargnioccasionally swaps wide-grip lat pulldowns with single-arm machine pulldowns at the beginning of his back workout. For this session, he starts with the former. His next movement is a seated row machine, and he works up to five plates per side by the time he’s ready to start his work sets.
He explained that his top weight is also used for all his working sets. Elgargni then moves on to the behind-the-neck lat pulldown.
“For me, if I go light, and not heavy, with good technique, then it works like going into a back double biceps pose,” Elgargni says. “So, I go down, squeeze, and then I let it go. I don’t go crazy heavy on it.”
He then moves on to the wide-grip seated row, which he uses to target the middle portion of the back. His back workout also includes close-grip pulldowns and a superset of hyperextensions with his bodyweight and low seated rows.
- Wide Grip Lat Pulldown: 3 x 12-15
- Single Arm Seated Row Machine: 3 x 12-15
- Behind the Neck Lat Pulldown: 3 x 12-15
- Wide Grip Seated Row: 3 x 12-15
- Close Grip Lat Pulldown: 3 x 12-15
- back extension superset Low Seated Row: 3 x 12-15 each.
The former Olympia 212 champion’s shoulder day starts with a machine lateral raise to focus on his side delts. He starts with both arms simultaneously, but as he progresses in weight, he may switch to doing one side at a time.
“You don’t want to start with free weights or dumbbells. The machine is easier to control,” says Elgargni.
His first press is on the Smith machine. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Elgargni isn’t a fan of the dumbbell shoulder press. He finds it awkward and cumbersome to get the weights into the correct position.
Elgargni uses a wider grip for his presses and goes through a full range of motion, lowering the barbell all the way below his chin.
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Once his shoulders are warmed-up and ready, he then moves to the dumbbells for more lateral raises. He will work his way up from 14 kilograms to a top weight of 20 kilograms. Once he reaches that weight, he starts his working sets. He then shifts to the rear delts by doing reverse pec-deck flyes.
His approach to front raises is different from the standard version of the exercise: “Let’s say I lift the weight in the right arm. When I go up to shoulder height, I also move it to the left slightly,” he said. “I do the same with the left arm, lifting up and to the right slightly.”
Elgargni will train hamstrings with quads during the early part of his offseason. When he goes into the phase that he calls “offseason prep,” he splits them up. Even though he only has three movements on the agenda, he makes the most out of each of them.
As with the other days, he starts hamstring training with a machine movement — lying leg curls. He also focuses on flexibility in between sets.
“I really like stretching my hamstrings between sets. I do a lot of stretching,” he states. He also increases the reps for lower body training. He explains that while he may be doing more reps, it isn’t exactly like he’s going light:
“The weight I use for that rep range is a heavy weight. I’m working hard to get the set done.”
After lying and standing leg curls, he loads up a barbell for stiff-legged deadlifts.
“The smaller plates help me lower the bar further. I can get a deeper stretch than with the 45s.”
These movements are some of Elgargni’s favorites, but he does work in other options as well.
“I may go with deadlifts instead of hyperextensions, or I may do partial deadlifts sometimes. Changing things up can be good. Every now and then, I will change up one or two exercises from each of these workouts.”
Arm day begins with biceps training. After warming up with a curling machine, he moves over to the dumbbell rack. He will warm up to a top weight of roughly 20-kilogram dumbbells and do three working sets.
Next, he moves on to the EZ-Bar for curling, which he likes better than a standard barbell.
“I don’t use a close grip on those curls,” says Elgargni. “It’s about in the middle range, or shoulder-width.” The top weight he works with is two 25-pound plates on each side.
He finishes biceps with four sets of concentration curls. Elgargni then transitions into triceps with two cable movements. He starts with a close-grip pushdown and then goes into a reverse-grip version with the cambered handle.
I like finishing with something that I can really squeeze the triceps with.
If he’s feeling good, Elgargni will do a tried-and-true superset of the skull crusher paired with a close-grip chest press. The last exercise will be either rope extensions or single-arm overhead extensions. He also likes single-arm cable kickbacks.
Abs & Calves
Elgargni doesn’t neglect his abs and calves, either. As a matter of fact, he alternates training them twice each during the week.
“One day I will train abs, the other calves, and I will repeat throughout the week. I also train them year-round.”
Among his favorite ab exercises are decline crunches and 45-degree leg raises for four sets of 25 reps each. He will also occasionally use cable crunches. The last movement is standing twists with a broomstick on his back, which he does for 100 total reps.
Calf movements may include seated calf raises, standing calf raises, and calf raises on the leg press.
Elgargni occasionally will use a pre-workout, but he described himself as someone who traditionally relies on coffee before he starts training. He’s also a big fan of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) and creatine.
“I use the Best BCAA from BPI, that’s my favorite. I can drink that every day. I even use it with meals instead of soft drinks. I like adding creatine during or after the workout too.”
Elgargni will seek to reclaim the Olympia 212 title when he competes in the 2022 Olympia in Las Vegas, NV on the weekend of Dec. 16-18, 2022. He will face current champion Derek Lunsford, 2020 winner Shaun Clarida, and a slew of other contenders.
Based on the vigor and volume of his off-season training, Elgargni should be in prime fighting shape when the big contest rolls around in Vegas at the end of the year.
Featured Image: @ifbb_pro_kamal_elgargni