I have recently started working with a female client that wants to compete in an amateur fitness competition/body building contest. She is already in great shape with little fat mass. She is looking to change her routine and get into competition shape. What type of strength training do you recommend? I was thinking about starting her in SET phase of OPT model and then progressing to MDT. Her competition is three months away. Would interval cardio training be a good thing?
It may be wise to first inform your client of the dangers to female bodybuilders with the condition known as amenorrhea. Essentially, amenorrhea is the loss of the menstruation cycle due to a combination of many factors most influential of which is excessive decrease in body fat. Research has shown that the body is supposed to have a certain amount of fat on it for countless reasons, which all equate, from an evolutionary standpoint, to survival. Look at it this way - the body's primary function is to reproduce, and without enough fat, this cannot occur. If a female places herself under so much stress (lack of sleep, dehydration, excessive dieting/malnourishment) and she loses her ability to reproduce, nature is basically telling her, "Without fat, there's no future. Why waste the eggs?" This may sound extreme, yet it is very real, and it should be a concern of your client with respect to her goal.
As far as training specifics, conservation of muscle mass should be the number one priority. Due to all of the triggered hormonal, emotional and digestive stress (to name a few) she'll be under, she should literally be training as little as possible, enough to just maintain. There likely will be no "building" of any muscle mass during the times of malnourishment (dieting). Her current level of exercise tolerance will be the best way to dictate where to progress her. Using the NASM's OPT model, when done so proficiently, is a great place to begin.
As far as cardiovascular exercise is concerned, keep it to a minimum as research has shown cardio is not the best tool for burning fat. Excess cardio will reduce muscle mass (particularly at the legs, which are usually performing the brunt of the cardiovascular exercise), thereby slowing the metabolism and ultimately the rate at which fat can be burned. Your cardio should merely compliment your nutritional and strength training components. Good luck!