How to Prepare Properly for the Rock Hard Challenge 'After' Shot
Click here to go straight to the RHC Week 9 workout plan

Congratulations! By now you should be experiencing some pretty incredible results in both your physique and in your lifts in the gym. Your body fat is probably at it’s all-time lowest, and your muscularity is through the roof. Feeling like you can win this whole RHC? All you have to do is have the most impressive before and after photos. But before you go and snap that winning “after” shot, use our advice on how to make your after photo the most impressive. And no, it does not involve Photoshop!

Follow these steps and you’ll be doing some physical photo-shopping right on your own body. These are the steps that many of our cover models use to get ready for their big photo shoots. These steps involve about 2 weeks of prep. Start these steps in the eighth and final week of the RHC. Then you can take a ninth week of final photo shoot prep to really hone in your physique.

Fourteen days from photos shoot (Week 8 of the RHC) – About 2 weeks from our planned photo shoot day you’ll actually want to start loading up on sodium (salt). How much water your body holds is tightly related to how much sodium your body holds. However, your body will only hold so much water, regardless of how much sodium you consume. This is due to homeostasis. When you first increase sodium levels, your body will hold more water. But after maintaining high sodium levels for several days, your body will adapt and end up holding about the same amount of water as when your sodium intake was low.

This step will help you shed more water when you finally cut your sodium intake in a few days. Increase sodium levels by choosing higher-sodium foods and of course, salt your food. While there’s no precise daily dose of sodium to hit, you should be shooting for at least 3000-4000 mg per day, if not more. Protein sources like cottage cheese, low-fat cheeses, lean deli meats, sardines, anchovies, canned tuna and chicken, are good sources of sodium. Other places you can get extra sodium from include canned and jarred vegetables, as well as soy sauce, pickles, and even pickle juice.

7-10 days from photo shoot – Now is the time to really drop carbs. Depending on how far you progressed on the RHC diet, you’re already eating a low-carb diet. However, at least one week before photo shoot day, it’s time to really cut carbs in an effort to deplete your body’s glycogen levels. Glycogen is the storage form of carbs in your body. Whether it’s the starch from bread and potatoes, or the sugars in fruits and candies, your body converts these carbs into the sugar, glucose. Glucose can be burned for immediate fuel, and it can be stored in muscles and the liver for later use. To store glucose, the body connects glucose molecules into a long chain, known as glycogen.


Click here to go straight to the RHC Week 9 workout plan

Dropping carbs to as few as possible serves two purposes. The more immediate effect is to ramp up fat burning. When you consume no carbs, your body is forced to turn to body fat as a major fuel source. This will help to burn off those last few pounds of body fat you have on your body to help you get that much leaner. The other effect dropping carbs to nil has on your body, is it depletes your body’s glycogen stores. Glycogen stored in muscle holds water. It literally pulls water into the muscle, filling it up much like a water balloon. The more glycogen you store in your muscles, the more water is pulled in and the bigger your muscles blow up. So why would you want to deplete glycogen then? It’s actually in an effort to store more glycogen when you carb load later in the week. Research has discovered that when you deplete muscle glycogen levels and then carb load, your muscles are able to store significantly more glycogen than normal. More on this below.

Depending on how much extra fat you want to drop, the further out you should be carb depleting. But at the very least, on days seven, six and five before the photo shoot date (week 9) only eat protein and small servings of vegetables (about 1 cup) for meals. The only time you will be allowed real carbs is immediately after workouts with your post-workout protein shake. Here you can have 20-30 grams of carbs, preferably fast-digesting, such as Vitargo, Wonka Pixy Stix, Wonka Sweet Tarts, gummy bears, sorbet, angel food cake, or plain sugar. On days four and three before the photo shoot day, you’ll need to even drop the post-workout carbs to really deplete glycogen levels. Be sure that you are working out, both with weights and cardio every day during days seven to three before the photo shoot day. Check out our RHC Week 9 workout plan at the end of this article.

7 days from photo shoot (RHC week 9) – One week before the photo shoot day it’s time to cut out as much sodium as humanly possibly. Now that your body water levels have adjusted to a higher sodium intake of several grams per day, dropping sodium levels to just hundreds of milligrams will purge all the excess water from your body. On day seven before the photo shoot date keep sodium under 2000 mg. On day six before the photo shoot date, keep sodium under 1000 mg. On days five, four and three before the photo shoot date keep sodium under 600 mg. And on days two and one before the photo shoot date, as well as the day of the photo shoot, try to keep sodium as far under 500 mg as possible.

Read labels on EVERYTHING you eat or drink. Meats, such as chicken breast, beef, and fish, provide about 60-80 mg of sodium per 3 ounces. This should be one of the only places where you are getting in sodium. However, you should even read the labels on the meats you are purchasing to make sure that sodium or saline is not being added to them. A lot of chicken is injected with sodium solutions. Only buy chicken, meat or fish that lists sodium content on the label. Do not use any sauces or marinades, as these will almost always include sodium. Even read the ingredients of any spices you use to ensure that salt is not included.

Eggs and protein powders are two unexpected sources of sodium. One whole egg only provides about 5 grams of protein, yet it contains 65 mg of sodium. That’s the same amount of sodium in 3 oz of chicken or beef, which provide about 20 + grams of protein. The protein to sodium ratio of eggs does not make them the best choice during this final week. So skip eggs, at least the last three days before the photo shoot. Many protein powders, especially whey protein powders provide almost 200 mg of sodium per scoop (about 20 grams of protein). You can find some lower sodium protein powders, that have less than 70 mg per scoop. Stick with protein powders that are under 100 mg of sodium per scoop. Only use fresh vegetables to keep sodium levels down. Do NOT eat any cooked food out at restaurants. There is no way to tell how the food was stored or cooked, which likely included something with sodium. The only food that’s safe to eat at a restaurant is sashimi.


Click here to go straight to the RHC Week 9 workout plan

7 Days from photo shoot (RHC week 9) – One week from the peak day it’s also time to drink a LOT of water. This will flush out any remaining sodium in your body, which will make all that water you’re drinking work to rid your body of excess water. It sounds counter intuitive, but it works! You should shoot for 1.5 – 2 gallons of water per day. Instead of counting every glass of water you drink, an easy method to make sure that you are hitting your 1.5-2 gallon mark is to buy gallon jugs of water. When the two gallons are empty, you have hit your mark. I find that drinking water from larger containers like this also makes it much easier to consume so much water. It just seems less daunting to drink two one-gallon containers than 30 eight-ounce glasses.

2 Days from photo shoot – The last two days before the photo shoot day you’ll need to limit your fluid intake. As I mentioned, the amount of water your body holds is tightly related to the amount of sodium your body holds. Since you are now limiting sodium and guzzling water like a fish, you only have a few days before your body adjusts to the low sodium levels and starts to hold more water despite the low sodium intake. To avoid this you will need to cut back on water the last two days before the photo shoot day. On day two before the photo shoot date, keep water intake to under 0.5 gallons. On day one before the photo shoot date try to limit water intake to under 0.25 gallons. On the photo shoot date you can drink water, but do so slowly. Watch how your body responds to small sips throughout the day. If there is any sign of your hardness starting to get blurred from water intake, stop drinking.

*Caution: Dehydrating your body can be very dangerous. If you experience severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, severe muscle cramps, or your urine color turns a brown or greenish brown, start drinking more water immediately.

2 Days before photo shoot – Two days before the peak date it’s time to restock, er overstock your muscle glycogen levels. You not only want to look as shredded as possible on the peak day, but you also want to look as big and as muscular as possible. As I explained earlier under Step two, going for several days on little to no carbs, depletes muscle glycogen levels. And that allows your muscles to store significantly more glycogen than they normally could. Since glycogen pulls water into the muscles, this essentially works to full up your muscles like a water balloon. This not only helps you to look bigger, but also can help you get more shredded. That’s because as you fill your muscles with glycogen they pull water into the muscle. A good deal of that water will come from under the skin. So by carb loading in these last few days you are not only helping your body to look bigger and fuller, but you’re also helping your body get that ultra-shredded look. The first 24 hours is the most critical time window for carb loading. So be sure to pound as many carbs as possible. Shoot for 3-4 grams of carbs per pound of body weight.

Carbs can come from fast-digesting sources, such as fat-free candy and white potatoes, or slower-digesting sources such as sweet potatoes or yams. If you think oatmeal, rice or pasta are good carb sources, think again. Remember, you are limiting water intake onthese last two days and these carb sources are made with water, which these carbs absorb. You need carb sources that are as dry as possible. You also need carb sources that provide zero milligrams of sodium. You will be getting sodium form your protein sources, so be sure that your carb sources are not a source of unwanted sodium. Be sure to read all labels carefully. Besides potatoes (be sure to bake them and not boil them), good dry and sodium-free carbs include Wonka Pixy Stix, Wonka Sweet Tarts, certain flavors of Bear Naked Granola, and air popped popcorn that you pop yourself. You can also eat some fruit during the first day of carbing up. But it needs to be freeze-dried and sodium free.

During the second day of carb loading I would suggest forgoing any type of fruit. The reason is that fruit contains fructose. One problem with fructose is that the body does not use it well. The majority of fructose you eat gets converted to glucose by the liver. However, if the liver is stocked with glycogen, it will convert fructose into fat instead. That’s the last thing you want. During the first day of carb loading, your liver and muscles are not stocked up with glycogen, so any fructose you consume will be converted to glucose. But on the second day of carb loading, there’s a bigger risk of converting fructose into fat since the liver becomes stocked with glycogen. This is another reason why I recommend that you stick with Wonka Pixy Stix and Wonka Sweet Tarts. Most candy companies use sugar (which is half glucose and half fructose), or high fructose corn syrup, which has even more fructose. Yet Wonka Pixy Stix are pure dextrose (glucose) and Sweet Tarts are made with just dextrose and maltodextrin (which is simply a chain of glucose molecules attached together. These are one of the few candies that you can buy that do not contain any fructose.


Follow this workout plan in Week 9 training Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday you should take off and use these days as your carb-loading days. Plan to take your “after” photo on the Monday that follows this weekend. Taking the weekend off from training will allow you to carb load better (training depletes muscle glycogen) and it will prevent you from any edema that can happen due to swelling from muscle damage.


Monday and Wednesday Workout: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps


Cardio: *Do 60 seconds of cardioacceleration between all sets


Exercise Sets Reps Muscle Group
Bench Press 3 12-15, Rest 1min Chest
Incline Dumbbell Press 3 12-15, Rest 1min Chest
Barbell Bent-Over Row  3 12-15, Rest 1min Chest
Pulldown 3 12-15, Rest 1min Chest
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 12-15, Rest 1min Shoulders
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 3 12-15, Rest 1min Shoulders
Barbell Curl 3 12-15, Rest 1min Triceps
Incline Dumbbell Curl   2 12-15, Rest 1min Triceps
Lying Triceps Extension 3 12-15, Rest 1min Triceps
Triceps Pressdown   2 12-15, Rest 1min Triceps

Tuesday and Thursday Workout: Legs, Calves, Abs


Exercise Sets Reps Muscle Group
Squat 3 12-15, Rest 1min Legs
Leg Press        3 12-15, Rest 1min Legs
Leg Extension  3 12-15, Rest 1min Legs
Romanian Deadlift 3 12-15, Rest 1min Legs
Leg Curl 3 12-15, Rest 1min Legs
Standing Calf Raise   3 12-15, Rest 1min Calves
Seated Calf Raise 3 12-15, Rest 1min Calves
Hanging Leg Raise 3 To failure, Rest 1min Abs
Crunch   3 To failure, Rest 1min Abs


Friday Workout: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Biceps, Triceps, Legs, Calves, Abs


Exercise Sets Reps Muscle Group
Bench Press   3 20, Rest  1min Chest
Seated Cable Row   3 20, Rest 1min Back
Dumbbell Shoulder Press 3 20, Rest 1min Shoulders
Squat   3 20, Rest 1min Legs
Dumbbell Overhead Triceps Extension 3 20, Rest 1min Triceps
Barbell Curl 3 20, Rest 1min Biceps
Barbell Wrist Curl   3 20, Rest 1min Forearms
Standing Calf Raise 3 20, Rest 1min Calves
Crunch       3 To Failure Abs



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