Size crept on all right, but it was fat. I had the perfect excuse. I made a career move that required relocation, lots of travel and increased job responsibilities. I now had the perfect excuse to over-indulge and eat fast food on the go.
My workouts dwindled from five days per week with occasional two-a-days down to two or three sessions per week. Bodybuilding was fading fast as a priority in my life. Then to top it off, I injured my shoulder, then suffered a grade-three ankle tear playing recreational football, and finally hurt my knee just getting out of my car.
The excuses were out of control. I decided "enough was enough". It was time for me to get back in the game. I began eliminating them one by one with the help of my wife, Jen.
My first step was to rehab my knee and shoulder. I began hitting the gym consistently and started my basic off-season supplementation program of UMP, Ultra Size, Ultra-4, and a ton of Joint Care (which did wonders for my knee and shoulder).
As I began to slowly get in shape, I found another excuse. There weren’t any natural shows being held in the area. Jen swiftly eliminated that concern by finding an IFPA natural pro qualifier in Michigan. So everything is going pretty good and all of a sudden Jen gets promoted to manager of the largest personal training program in our area. Now both of us were working 16 hour days with constant travel. Oh well, I thought I would just have to wait until things stabilized to compete again.
Yeah, right! Jen wouldn’t let me give up. She purchased a vacuum sealer and prepared all of my meals for the week on Sunday afternoon, labeling each one of them. She made a huge commitment---sacrificing herself, her sleep, and her personal goals-to personally assist me in my preparation.
I’d set a goal to attain my natural pro status by the age of 35, so this show was about six years premature. Nonetheless, I brought the briefcase where I store all of my supplements out of retirement and started serious preparation 18 weeks out. Eighteen weeks later, I won my IFPA pro card.
Preparation for the Northern KY
Jen immediately suggested that I do the 2008 NPC Northern Kentucky. This is one of the biggest bodybuilding shows in the U.S. I was Shark enough to admit that the thought of doing the Northern intimidated me. I was going to have to truly give it my all. I knew that I would need focus and accountability. Going through the Beverly contest preparation workshop provided both. Here was my plan.
I attended the first workshop on December 15 in pretty good shape. Since I was still fairly lean from the pro qualifier, I took full advantage of the festive holiday meals during the three weeks leading up to the next workshop. (Actually, I once again strayed too far into the murky waters of overindulgence.) This resulted in disappointing measurements between workshop one and two. I had been dreaming about doing the Northern for over three years and here I was screwing up already. Instead of being in relatively good shape at 11 weeks out, my stats were now bodyweight 192 lbs at 11.4% bodyfat. That meant I was carrying more than 20 lbs of bodyfat.
Now I could just fall back on my sea of excuses. But, what I really needed was a swift kick in the fin... And I got it – in the guise of a strict Beverly diet that I followed for 11 weeks – right up to the day of the show. I also had to add an extra day or two of cardio to my normal three days. Since my diet became stricter, I added some additional muscle retention supplements to make sure that muscle was spared as my calories were cut.
Protein Drink: 2 scoops Ultimate Muscle Protein, 1 scoop Muscle Provider, 1TBS healthy almond butter or 1 TBS heavy whipping cream
8 oz chicken or turkey breast (weighed prior to cooking)
2 cups vegetables
Meal #4 (same as meal #2)
8 oz lean meat (chicken, turkey, fish, 93% or leaner beef, etc.)
4 cups salad (lettuce, tomato, carrot, cucumber, green peppers, etc.)
2 tbsp cider vinegar and 1 tbsp olive oil (or other vegetable oil) for a dressing
4 oz chicken or turkey breast; 6 egg whites; 1 cup omelet vegetables
Monday and Thursday: In place of meal #6: 1.5 cups oatmeal (precooked) or cooked rice, 10 oz sweet potato, medium banana, 1 cup vegetables, 1 tbsp butter, almond butter or oil at the end of the day.
Follow the diet to a – do not deviate.
Keep your training progressive. If you are unable to add weight, increase reps or reduce rest intervals to increase the intensity of each workout.
Separate your cardio and weight workouts whenever possible. This may mean getting up earlier to do cardio and then hitting the weights at lunch or at night.
Adhere to the BCAA (Muscle Mass) and Glutamine Select recommendations. Research clearly shows the effectiveness of BCAA’s when taken in the right dosages. I attribute a lot of my strength gains and muscle retention to this supplement. I used a coffee bean grinder to pulverize my 20 Muscle Mass tabs, mixed in the 3-4 scoops of Glutamine Select, added Crystal Light and sipped throughout my cardio and weight training workouts. This way I did not have to carry the pills around.
Begin to practice and perfect your posing whenever you can - between sets, before bed, upon waking, just be sure to fit it in.
Continue to ignore the meathead at the gym who says that you are losing too much size. Conditioning is paramount!
At the 3rd workshop, three weeks later, I was back on track! As the weeks passed, I got better and better. My basic diet remained the same, however, at four weeks out I was able to add some oatmeal to meal one and occasionally a sweet potato to meal three on select days depending on my energy levels, work schedule, and if I was training once or twice that day.
I increased my cardio to 40 minutes, five times per week and started taking 6 Energy Reserve (pure Beverly l-carnitine) before cardio. This not only preserves muscle and helps you burn more fat, but it also has a positive effect on natural testosterone levels.
I incorporated a super-set routine of opposing muscle groups (see training sidebar) which allowed me to drastically reduce my rest intervals between sets. At first, I was afraid that as a natural it might be too much volume and frequency for me, but the combination of supplements, cardio, and proper nutrition made sure that my body recovered between workouts. I couldn’t believe it! I never came close to this volume of training in all of the other contests that I had prepared for. I really missed out in the past as a result. Steven Wade spelled out how many times each muscle group would be trained before a show. Training on my normal split, it was once per week or 16 workouts per body part. With this split, each muscle group received 32 workouts before the show, double what I was doing before! As a matter of fact, Roger had me doing thirty chin-ups every day to bring up my width.
Here is my training program from 8 weeks out to show day
Three on – one off:
Day 1: Chest and Back
Day 2: Legs
Day 3: Shoulders/Traps and Arms
Day 4: Off; Repeat
Day #1 – Chest, Back, Abs
A. Incline Press 4-5 sets of 5-9 reps
B. Lat Pulldowns 4-5 sets of 8-10 reps
Superset # 2:
A. Hammer Strength Chest Press 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps
B. Hammer Strength Pulldowns 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps
A. DB Fly’s 3 sets of 10-12 reps
B. T-Bar or Cable Rows 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Finishing Exercise: Barbell Bent-arm Pullovers 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps
Abs: Three or four exercises, 3-4 sets each for 15-25 reps per exercise
Day #2 – Legs, Calves
A. Leg Extensions 3 sets of 8-10 reps
B. Dumbbell Walking Lunges 3 sets of 8-12 reps each leg
A. Squat 4 sets of 9-15 reps
B. Lying Leg Curls 4 sets of 10 reps
A. Leg Press 3 sets of 10-15 reps
B. Seated Leg Curl 3 sets of 6-10 reps
Standing Calf Raise 4 sets of 15-20 reps
Seated Calf Raise 3 sets of 10-15 reps
Donkey Calf or Calf Press 3 sets of 20-25 reps
Day #3 – Shoulders, Arms, Abs
Straight sets for shoulders:
1. Shoulder Press (dumbbell or military) 4 sets of 6-10 reps
2. Side Lateral Raise 3 sets of 8-10 reps
3. Side Cable Raise 3 sets of 8-12 reps
A. Straight Bar Curls 3 sets of 6-10 reps
B. Skull Crushers 3 sets of 10-12 reps
A. Seated Incline DB Curl 3 sets of 6-10 reps
B. Standing Cable Tricep Extension 3 sets of 8-10 reps
A. Barbell Preacher Curl 3 sets of 6-8 reps
B. Close Grip Bench Press 3 sets of 10-12 reps
A. Reverse Curl 3 sets of 8-12 reps
B. Wrist Curl 3 sets of 12-20 reps
C. Overhead Pulley Tricep Extension (or Triceps Kickback) 3 sets of 8-15 reps
Abs: Same as Day 1 (250-350 total reps)
Key Training Tips:
Add Density to your supplementation program at 4 weeks out. You’ll get harder, recover faster, maintain your strength, and retain muscle.
When I added Density I kept losing body fat yet my weight remained relatively constant.
Posing should be a very large priority at this time (practice at least 20 minutes per day).
Break up your cardio into two 20 minute sessions one of which is after your resistance training.
Add Energy Reserve before cardio.
Do not stress about anything out of your control (other competitors, stress at work, etc...) You want to keep cortisol levels low.
Do not listen to people attempting to sell you into crazy techniques to “drop water” the final week. Trust me. I have done them all and then some. They only hinder how your physique will look. Trust me on this!My measurements at four weeks out were on point. At this phase, you just need to let the program continue to do its job. Nothing fancy, no gimmicks. I was simply amazed at how much strength and muscle I was holding this close to a show. In fact, I was very concerned about making the middleweight class.
A word on the Final Week
Although you’ll make some slight adjustments in your diet and water intake the final week, do nothing drastic or unhealthy. Increase your water early in the week, and then drop it slightly below normal levels the day of the show; all supplements stay the same. The diet only changes a little on Friday. The day of the show is always a day to look forward to as I snack on Beverly Goo (a mixture of peanut butter, honey, Ultra Size and chocolate chips) leading up to pre-judging.
Remember, your condition is not made the last week of the show. Your condition is made by making sound decisions dating all the way back to your off season. No tricks or crazy supplements are going to make your physique the final week; only continued hard work and strict adherence to your diet will accomplish that goal.
A Word on What Makes You a Champion
At the start of this article, I emphasized eliminating controllable excuses. There will always be uncontrollable variables that can’t be eliminated. These would be things like who else shows up, if they are "playing by the legal rules," people with better genetics, and the list goes on. These are uncontrollable, meaning there is nothing that we can do other than make the very best choices for ourselves. Here’s what champions do:
• Champions are the ones who made the best series of choices during their off season and contest preparation. • They chose to stay natural, not purchase cheap off- brand products in the off-season, and not gain 40 pounds of fat in the off season. • Champions choose to outwork their opponents, and not overindulge in foods that are counterproductive to reaching their objectives.
• Champions choose to be humble, learn from others, and enjoy the process of getting ready to compete, instead of complaining about the diet. • Most of all, they choose to do everything within their control to prepare for their contest, and not to worry about variables outside their control.
Win, lose, or draw, think of the pride that you will feel when you look back at the previous 16 weeks and can honestly say that there is not one thing that you would have changed! That is accomplishment in the purest sense. Forget about who shows up and have faith in the process of reaching your potential. I have no clue what other competitors will show up, but I do know that I did every possible thing in my control to stand with pride next to them.
As a competitor, the best advice I can give, is to make the decision to stay natural, do not gain too much fat in the of-season, and seek out Beverly’s materials. They have created and helped so many champion athletes achieve success because they have perfected the process of contest preparation. They choose to manufacture only the best supplements that meet or exceed label claims to help athletes obtain the best results. I have extensively researched every Beverly product that I take. Used as directed, they work, period.
How it All Turned Out
As it turned out two other Beverly natural pros finished ahead of me in the middleweights, Brad Steere and L.T. Faison. I knew I had achieved my all-time best condition and was very pleased with my 4th place showing out of 14 quality middleweights.
No excuses, I had done my best. And it paid off two weeks later! I won the middleweight class at the NPC Natural Ohio, and nearly the overall.
At a Glance: Jesse Dale
Off Season Weight: 205
Contest Weight: 176
Education/Occupation: After obtaining five national certifications from ISSA(2), NASM, ACE, WITTS in Nutrition and Health as well as a college degree in Exercise Science, my wife and I moved from Michigan to Indianapolis where I oversee seven health clubs in Dayton, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis as district manager for Bally Total Fitness.
Current Residence: Indianapolis, IN
Years training: 12
Favorite Cheat Food: Outback Steakhouse (cheese fries and Blooming Onion)
Most Inspiring Bodybuilder: Arnold Schwarzenegger
Most Inspiring Book: The Bible
How I Got Started Training: I have my brother Jason to thank for getting me into weight lifting and helping me build a base physique.
Hobby or interests outside bodybuilding: Helping others get ready for their shows. Jen, who is a tremendous posing coach, and I promote two natural bodybuilding shows per year-one in May and one in September. Visit www.sett2win.com for more info on our services go to.