My 25 Five Years In The Iron Game

Won best poser and Men’s overall

My dreams had finally come true! I was a National champion!

By: Sean Sullivan (a.k.a. Sulcop)
Magazine 10 #2

It’s hard to believe, but this year marks my twenty fifth year as a bodybuilder. I’m often asked how and why I’ve been involved with bodybuilding for so long. It’s simple. To me bodybuilding is not sport or art, but a discipline much like the martial arts. It’s been a journey of self discovery and is directly responsible for the success I’ve achieved both on and off stage. To fully understand this let me take you back to my beginnings in the sport, and how I discovered bodybuilding.


Sean Sullivan
For me bodybuilding is a discipline and a journey of self discovery

It was fall of 1978. I was living in Columbus, Ohio and had just become a teenager. My mother was a wonderful person, but had a disease, Alcoholism. I had little adult supervision and few friends. I was overweight, poor at sports, did poorly in school, and suffered from low self-esteem. One day I was suspended from school for skipping class and sneaking into my neighbor’s house to watch TV all day.

I was serving out my suspension, running the streets of Columbus when I passed a health food store and noticed a large crowd of people. Intrigued, I went inside and noticed several large muscular men in tank tops. One particularly large man was speaking to the group. He spoke in a strange accent and I was in awe, not just because of his muscles, but at his confidence and the ease with which he handled himself. I stuck around, watched his presentation, listened to the others and watched them do exercises that blew up their muscles before my eyes.

When it was over, I stuck around to ask the big Austrian giant a question. The crowd cleared and I meekly approached. He looked down at me and with a thick accent he asked how he could help me. I think he expected me to ask about his arms, or how much he could lift, but I simply asked, "How did you learn to like yourself?" He was quiet for a long time. "Come wit me" he said, and I followed. He brought me over to another gentleman, spoke quietly to him and returned to me. "My name iz Arnold, and z’iam promoting da Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Championship. Theze are two tickets to da Mr. Olympia. It iz Saturday night. Cum and zee and learn." I ran home, woke my mother and told her about this awesome experience. My mother saw how excited I was and that Saturday I sat at the 1978 Mr. Olympia contest and watched Frank Zane win his second title. From that time on I was a bodybuilder.

To say my life changed is an understatement. Over the next few years I transformed my whole demeanor. My grades improved from "D’s" to "A’s" as my confidence improved. I became outgoing and made a lot of friends. I set goals for myself. The lessons of bodybuilding permeated into other aspects of my life. During the ensuing 25 years I’ve become a decorated Marine, gone to OCS and become an officer in the Army, graduated Army flight school, attained two college degrees, started a family and become a police officer. I also managed to win more then a few bodybuilding contests along the way. All because I met a big Austrian bodybuilder who took a few minutes out of his day to talk to a shy kid.

I started my competitive career in 1982 at the teenage Mr. Cape Cod. My mother and I moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts and I built a gym in my basement. I managed to place fourth in my class... of four. I was undaunted, as I already considered myself a lifetime bodybuilder. I knew titles would come someday.

In 1983 I was stationed in California with the United States Marine Corps. I began to train at the famous Gold’s gym. It was there that I first found Beverly products. My mentors told me at the time that Beverly products were the best. I used them regularly through the 80's and early 90’s. Still, try as I might I was always the guy with potential, but no titles. Again I didn’t care, I was a bodybuilder and that’s not really about titles.

I ended up in the first Gulf war as a helicopter pilot. I still found time to train, but competition became a distant memory. After I returned to the states, I came off active duty and in 1994 found myself back in Massachusetts, training hard and working as a personal trainer and part time pilot in the National Guard. I met a police officer who was a local bodybuilding champion and became interested in law enforcement as a career. My wife, Debbie, was behind me no matter what and a year later I was on the job and haven’t looked back.

As for my training and contests, I had improved to the guy in second with potential, but still no overall victories. I did manage several class wins, but it was mostly because of weak competition. I didn’t feel like a champion. I had lost touch with Beverly supplements and couldn’t seem to find them anywhere. I used every other muscle building product known to man, as well as every workout, diet, cardio program etc. always looking for that "magic bullet." After four years I still had found none.

I finally learned the secret to competition was that being harder is better than being bigger. With that philosophy I started winning some local shows. I became a champion in the ANBC, AAU, NABBA and even won an NPC show. I still had a long way to go. I could get hard, but couldn’t manage to come in full, hard and big.


muscular pose Sean
Bodybuilding transformed me from an overweight, shy, underachiever to a confident, outgoing, go getter!
I had my trunks handed to me in my first foray into national competition. Finally, I decided this is it, top five or hang up the posing trunks. I picked the ANBC Nationals, trained all year, dieted harder then ever and landed sixth out of 22 in my class. That was it. I was still a bodybuilder, but I figured I didn’t have the potential to be a National Champion.

I Try Again – This Time With Beverly
I kept training hard, reading everything I could find and enjoyed just looking good. Then, just like my accidental meeting with Arnold, I had another life changing encounter. I was attempting to reach an internet site and accidentally typed in the wrong address. I was taken to the Beverly International site and decided to check it out. The first thing I saw was a feature on Tommie Robertson. Man, this guy was awesome! He was ripped, muscular and everything I aspired to be. His training resembled mine, but his diet and supplement schedule was quite different. He outlined an on and off season regime and I decided what the heck. I had eight months until the 2001 Nationals. I talked it over with my wife and little girl, who both urged me to go for it. I made a call to Beverly and ordered an eight month supply of every supplement on Tommy’s list. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. Once my packages came (five boxes if I remember) I started Tommie’s program.

I made excellent gains right off the bat. I was really impressed with the Mass Aminos and Ultra 40. I had used liver tabs and amino acids early in my career, but they had seemed to fall out of favor. Once I added them back in my recovery improved dramatically. Four months later I was at an all time high in muscular body weight and was leaner then my old competitive weight with 16 weeks left until my contest. I decided to do a few warm up shows.

I picked the Natural USA, ANBC Granite State and the ANBC Nationals. At the USA I found out a former ANBC National Champion was in my class. There were only seven, but I watched them pump up and thought, Man what am I doing here. Debbie kept me calm and told me I was ready. When the expediter called out, "5 minutes," I stripped down and did a few sets of push up-ups. Debbie was spraying me with Pam and whispered in my ear, "Turn around." When I did, I saw the six other guys in my class looking at me with their jaws dropped. One guy then looked at the others and said, "Well, second is still up for grabs." I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, Man, this Beverly thing is panning out. I won my class that night, and narrowly lost the overall to the tall class winner Mike Uzar. It was close and Mike was a WNBF pro and ANBC National Champion. The following week I won the Overall at the Granite State defeating another former ANBC Class winner and followed that up with a fourth at the ANBC Nationals.

Next, I decided to contact Beverly for a personal diet. I spoke to Rita and she provided me with my off season and pre contest plans. I followed them to the letter and made more improvements then ever before. I came into the ANBC Nationals in Pittsburgh that year six pounds heavier and better than ever. I knew one more year with Beverly and I would be the one standing in the first place slot.

I decided 2003 would be my year. My support team was intact, my wife Debbie, daughter Kayla and host of friends and supporters all stood by my side. Even the guys at work made sure I was covered to eat a meal. I started with the DC Muscle Mania on November 1st. I entered the Police and Open divisions and weighed in at 168, another all time high for me. I won both divisions. The following week I was back in Pittsburgh at the OCB Golden Triangle. Here I entered the Masters and Open divisions and again won my class, but lost a close overall. At the show I met a member of the Beverly discussion board, Frank and another Beverly Competitor, Valerie Kelly. It was nice meeting them in person, and watching Val win the woman’s overall.


Sean's muscle building supplements

"I used every "muscle building" product on the market looking for the magic bullet until I finally reconnected with Beverly"
On November 15th at the John Hancock auditorium in Boston I put it all together. I was ready. I had some stiff competition in my class, and the other class winners were going to be tough in the overall. If I didn’t lose my peak and spill over I had a shot. I have to thank my friend Dan Torcha, my wife, Mark Rodgers and his wife Cheryl and my good friend James Carron for there support that day. They kept me calm and relaxed. That night I went out with a bang! I was announced the best poser, won my class and the Men’s overall. My dreams had finally come true! I was a National champion! It was the best experience of my life. Memories of this day will last a lifetime. If it were not for Beverly I would never have achieved the competitive success I have.

My next goal was to try an NPC National Qualifier. This time I worked with Rachel at Beverly. All was going well ... then I was called back to active duty. Needless to say this put a real crimp in my training and diet. I was released in late October. I was in poor shape, had only six weeks until Mike Katz’ Northern USA, but for some unexplained reason I still wanted to give it a try.

I contacted Rachel, told her the situation and said I would do whatever she recommended. She provided me with some of the hardest diets ever, and a strong supplement stack. We conversed almost daily and she was by my side 100% of the way. One week before Thanksgiving I was at my all time best, a little lighter but super shredded at 157 pounds!

Contest day I had two choices, try to carb up and fill out so I did not look too stringy in the middle’s or go to weigh in empty and dry and shoot for the lightweights. I decided a big lightweight was better then a small middle and it worked. I won my class and got my NPC qualification for the Team Universe.

I decided not to waste a peak on just one show and dieted two more weeks – yes – through Thanksgiving. But enough about me, I know you want to get some useful information that you can use in your own bodybuilding program so here are my diets, cardio, and some general training information.

My Off Season Diet

I used this diet and supplement plan to increase my contest weight by 6 lbs per year. I found that neither the diet or supplement plan work in isolation. I need both for greatest gains.

My Contest Diet

As the contest approaches I begin my diet at 24 weeks out. I start by dropping any junk I may eat through the week. (In the off-season I usually allow myself a few cheat meals on Sundays and Wednesday...pizza day for Kayla and me.) At 20 weeks out I make a 10% calorie drop, excluding all carbs from my later meals. I then drop my calories by 10% every four weeks until I am at the following for the last four weeks:
strSupplements:
6 Ultra 40 with each meal
4 Mass Amino with each meal
2 TBS flax oil per day
1 scoop Glutamine Select upon waking, before workout, during workout, and after workout
2 Antioxidants after training
8 Muscle Synergy in am, before training and after training (8 weeks on 2 weeks off)
Meal #1:
8 egg whites, 2 yolks, 1 cup of oats, one grapefruit & 2 scoops Muscle Provider (MP with this meal works awesome to get my body back into a positive nitrogen balance for the day)
Meal #2: Ultra Size shake, 2 TBS peanut butter & a banana
Meal #3: Can of tuna or 8 oz lean meat, large sweet potato or one cup rice & a salad with flax oil
Meal #4:
Cottage cheese, Ultra Size & 2 TBS peanut butter mixed as a pudding
Meal #5:
10 oz chicken, fish or beef, lots of veggies & 2 scoops Muscle Provider (note MP with my meal for muscular weight gain)
Meal #6:
Cottage cheese & Ultra Size mixed as a pudding (a small container of flavored low carb yogurt and a couple of berries really makes this a treat)

Supplements with Meals
6 Ultra 40 with each meal
4 Muscularity with each meal
2 TBS flax oil per day
1 scoop Glutamine Select upon waking, 1 scoop pre workout, 1 scoop during workout and 1 scoop post workout
2 Antioxidants after training
8 Muscle Synergy in am, before training and after training
3 Lean Out before each meal and pre workout
3 Energy Reserve before each meal and pre workout
3 GH Factor before each meal and pre workout
3 MuscLean twice per day
Meal #1:
8 egg whites, 4 oz chicken & 1 TBS peanut butter
Meal #2: 8 oz chicken, large salad & 1 TBS flax oil
Meal #3: 6 oz lean beef & 2 cups green beans
Meal #4:
6 oz sword fish, tuna, salmon or cod & 2 cups green beans
Meal #5:
8 egg whites & 1 TBS peanut butter
Every third day I replace meal five with the following: 1 cup oats, banana, 8 oz sweet potato, 2 cups green beans & 1 TBS peanut butter.

Supplements timed with meals

Same as Contest Diet
Meal #1:
3 scoops Vanilla Muscle Provider
Meal #2: 8 oz cod and a small salad
Meal #3:
2 scoops Vanilla Muscle Provider
Meal #4:
8 oz cod and 2 cups green beans
Meal #5: 6 egg whites, one scoop Muscle Provider I added another scoop of Glutamine Select between meals, before bed and another at night when I woke up to go to the bathroom. This seemed to prevent muscle loss with the addition of the extra BCAA's and glutamine.

"Adding Ultra 40 Liver Tabs and Mass Aminos back into my diet improved my recovery drastically and helped me reach an all time high in lean mass and an all time low in bodyfat."

Cardio

In the off-season I do two 15-minute High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions (see the article at: https://bodybuildingworld.com/ vol6_3/cardio.htm to read more about this type of cardio) and one 20-minute session at 75% per week. I do my HIIT sessions in what I call escalating intensity fashion. I add one level of intensity per minute. For example, if I am on the bike, I start at level one for one minute, level two for one minute, level three for one minute... By the 10 minute mark I am going all out. For my 75% day I just hit 75% max vo2 and hold it there.

I add to my cardio sessions every two weeks starting at 16 weeks out. I add two minutes to the HIIT sessions and five minutes to the 75%, building up to a total of 40-60 minutes, six days per week. I break them into 20-minute sessions throughout the day. I practice posing hard for 20 seconds after each training exercise. I’ve found that this helps bring out maximum separation. At two weeks out I decide weather I need to add more cardio or begin to reduce intensity. At 10 days out I begin to cycle down on cardio. By five days out I do no cardio and add more posing in it’s place.

Training

My training is always changing. The overall structure of my workout plan is to divide my training into what I call themes and ‘blocks’.
Here is a sample of how I might increase intensity in one training block over a four week time frame:
Week 1: moderate intensity
Week 2: increase in sets, reps and add intensity techniques like forced reps
Week 3: I go all out, every set to failure with forced reps
Week 4: I back off and stop short of failer
Note that I build my intensity through the training block so only one of the weeks is 100% all out with forced reps and beyond failure. This allows for my gains not to be compromised by the inability of my nervous system and endocrine system to recover. I normally train three to four times a week and go up to six days a week as the show approaches.

Next four weeks – same workout theme, e.g. hypertrophy, strength, power, or training for fat loss, same type of intensity progression, but new exercises and set protocols. I’ll usually stay with the same workout theme for a 12 week period, then I switch to a different theme.

Step Bombs

My favorite workout is step bombs. It’s an old Don Ross technique and it’s kind of like drop sets. You take an exercise and pick a weight that you can only get 4-5 reps and do a set. Put the weight down and rest 5-10 seconds dropping the weight by 5- 10%. Then, bang out another 4-5 reps. Keep going for 5 sets.

This allows you to get 20 reps, all at max threshold in about 3 minutes. After resting 45-90 seconds go to the next exercise. I do 3 exercises for bis, tris, calves and delts and 4-5 for chest, back, quads, hams. I train this way on a 3 days on 1 day off split. This type of workout can only be followed for 2-3 weeks before you over train so you will need a back off week after.

For pre-contest, I love what I call eclectic supersets. I train by the clock and just do whatever for however many reps, sets I need. For example, I go 20 minutes on chest. I set the egg timer and just go nonstop for the entire 20 minutes. Some sets are at 3-5 reps, others 12-15 and others up to 20. I do 1 ¼’s, negatives, drops and forced reps. I may even do a few sets of rest – pause reps. This allows me to hit the muscle from every angle, vary the sets and really slam it. It’s also great for glycogen depletion and keeps the workout interesting. The only plan is the time of each block and what muscles get hit. There is absolutely no boredom factor here.



 


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