How to get lean like a bodybuilder

Dubai-based lifestyle coach Jakub Dvoracek talks us through his extraordinary training and eating regime.

October 23, 2016

The Dubai Muscle Show took place at the weekend, and to mere mortals it served as a reminder that all the HIIT training and circuit routines in the world won’t get you as cut as the pros.

While the muscular physique of a bodybuilder may not be the goal of every guy who hits the gym, the extremely low body fat percentage surely is. Which is why we’ve spoken to Jakub Dvoracek, a Dubai-based natural bodybuilder and fitness lifestyle coach who competed at the Dubai Muscle Show, to get the lowdown on how to get ripped to the bone.

After all, they say that abs are made in the kitchen and with the strict and meticulous nutrition plans bodybuilders are known for, there are few professionals better to ask.

Why did you become a bodybuilder?

I was always impressed as a kid by the physical dominance of action heroes like Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme or Dolp Lungren. It must have been the movie Over the Top that made me do biceps curls with my older brother’s dumbbell at the age of eight, in the hope I will become better at arm wrestling over night. 

Since I played tennis on a competitive level I was spending some time in the gym throughout my teens but started lifting seriously only at the age of 17 as I was a very skinny guy. 

What is a normal day of training?

My training in the off season would consist of four 60 minute weight training sessions, one active recovery day in the form of low intensity cardio (elliptical, treadmill incline walk or swimming) and one sprint day on the track or at Kite Beach. 

In contest prep mode I only gradually add more cardio. What makes my weight training unique is that I barely rest and perform the vast majority of exercises in super-set fashion, for example squat and overhead press, or bench press and bend over row. This way I get more work done in less time and keep my heart rate elevated.

Cardio is technically not needed unless you want to drop to single digit body fat levels; it is merely a tool to increase the caloric deficit. The same can be accomplished by reducing caloric intake. 

What is your standard nutrition plan?

Since April 2012 I follow intermittent fasting where I don't consume anything containing calories for at least 16 hours, only eating in the remaining time of the 24 hour cycle, from 4pm until midnight usually. So I don't eat breakfast or lunch, I train towards the end of my fasting window with only BCAA [branched chain amino acids] before and after working out and eat all my daily calories and macronutrients in two or three meals. I also follow flexible dieting, aka, IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros) which means I measure and log everything I eat.

I don't believe in magical properties of food. I don't split food into bad and good and I don't do cheat days, but I consume at least 80 per cent of my daily calories from wholesome nutritious food items. The rest of the calories is spent on things I enjoy – low fat ice cream, donuts – as long as I stay within my daily calories and macronutrient goals. 

You were on stage at Dubai Muscle Show in the men's physique category. What’s your prep in the lead up to a competition and what’s stepping onto the stage like?

My prep still follows the same training split outlined above with a gradual addition of cardio (duration as well as frequency) and a gradual decrease in calories. Based on my experience from previous "cuts" I can already pretty accurately estimate how long I will need to get into contest shape and make adjustments based on progress (or lack of). 

Even though I have competed six times before I still get nervous just before stepping on stage, but once I am up there it is like singing in the shower at home. I truly enjoy it and all the tension is gone. If you are nervous and shaking you do not radiate the confidence the judges are looking for. 

What is your view of the ever-increasing fitness trends that exist today?

My general opinion is that anything that gets the masses moving is great. I appreciate that CrossFit has brought the barbell to the masses, however I dislike the attitude of superiority of most crossfitters.

Triathlons are not my idea of fitness as they have a rather negative impact on the athletes, and obstacle runs are more entertainment and social events in my opinion. But again, anything is better than sitting on the couch. 

How important is sleep and recovery to a bodybuilder?

Very important as in the gym you merely break the muscle tissues down and they rebuild and grow when you sleep. At the same time I believe in quality over quantity and I do well on just six hours sleep. In the final weeks and days before a show however I can barely sleep as the excitement builds up and I wake up before the alarm goes off.  

What do people wrongly assume about bodybuilders, and what do they not appreciate about them?

They assume they are fit. A bodybuilder on stage is the opposite of fit and healthy. It's a dehydrated, starved, weak person most likely suffering from an eating disorder – restriction followed by binging. That is something the men's physique was suppose to address but as we can see by the development among the pros in the past four years, they are turning into smaller bodybuilders, both in the level of dryness as well as mass.

The number one thing that people do not appreciate is the dedication, drive and sacrifice necessary to get to the level of conditioning seen on stage. It’s one thing to be lean, it’s a completely other thing to be shredded to the bone. 

By the numbers...

How many press-ups can you do?
Never did more than 50, my triceps simply stop working.

Your one-rep-max bench press and deadlift?
152.5kg on the bench and only 180kg on the deadlift, which I consider to be my weakest lift.

How long can you hold a plank?
I do planks the way they should be done, short with a strong contraction. Finding a comfortable position and hanging in there for time defeats the purpose. 

Jakub Dvoracek is an IFPA certified and REPs UAE registered personal trainer, and INBA Men’s Physique competitor. He was Natural Mr. Olympia 2015 gold medalist.
He can be found at