I never thought that I would be the one sitting here writing an article for my favorite supplement company, Beverly International, following my first ever bodybuilding competition. Until recently, I was unsure that I would ever gain the confidence to "take the plunge" from a recreational weight training enthusiast to the next level. I’m hoping that I may be a lot like some of you who read this article.
I was the guy that read all of the bodybuilding magazines, had grown up idolizing the Arnold, Stallone, and Van Damme 80’s flicks (including no less than 100 viewings of Rocky IV and Bloodsport apiece on cable TV), and had wanted to emulate those physiques myself at a competitive level.
Unfortunately, my lack of confidence in stepping on the bodybuilding stage was conveniently replaced with excuses for many years. I had many false justifications that I would feed myself throughout my 20’s " "I’m too busy with my 9-10 hour workdays", "I don’t have enough size yet", or the "my symmetry is not good enough", and oh wait, wait, let’s not forget my personal favorite, "all of these bodybuilders are personal trainers in their day jobs, somebody with a sedentary desk job like me could never compete."
Excuses, excuses, excuses. I even started to believe my own words after a while. The pattern persisted from my sophomore year of college at Penn State ("an engineering curriculum is too demanding!"), through grad school at Purdue ("I could never write a thesis and train for a show!"), all the way up to my job at the Applied Physics Laboratory.
I was on a fast-track to creating a lifetime of excuses until I started dating my girlfriend Sandy. Sandy was the anti-me. Sandy caught the weight training bug from me, and in October of 2011 she got her own itch to compete. She learned of an OCB contest being held in April of 2012, and promptly signed her name on the dotted registration line for the bikini division. A few days later she had begun her contest preparation. "What?" my inner-self said. "How could she??? She hasn’t even been training close to as long as me!" This jealous internal rambling gradually changed to the self-realization that Sandy possessed all of the confidence that I didn’t, and that it was time to find inspiration in her choice rather than jealousy. My competitive spirits that were previously buried six feet under for the past decade were finally unearthed to the point that I was ready to get off my excuse-happy high horse. I would prep right alongside Sandy for my first ever bodybuilding experience! Hindsight, it’s really amazing how we fed off of each other and pushed each other to make this journey.
OK, Great! I’ve decided to compete, now what? As a lifetime bodybuilding fan, I knew that a rock solid diet plan was essential, and I needed to come up with one in a hurry. It was late November, and at 218 lbs with a stage goal of roughly 190 lbs, I needed to diet for 15 weeks to be ready for the show. After analyzing my past attempts to "lean out" I decided that to successfully compete, my best bet would be to consult with a coach. Enter David Johnston. David was an amazing prep coach and immediately set me on a dietary path that yielded the results I desired.
If you’ve ever read the NNN, you’ll find his first suggestion was obvious – I would rigorously weigh all food, log all macronutrients, and would not skip any meals! Although I thought I knew a thing or two about nutrition, I learned from David that part of the key to dieting is ((1) conditioning the body to a known nutrient profile, (2) patiently tracking the changes, and (3) then introducing small reductions as needed to continue the gradual weight loss.
The hardest part for me as a first-timer was establishing a good baseline diet. It took about 4 weeks to get the food intake precisely "locked in" for optimal fat loss, so if you too are a first timer, whatever you plan for your prep timeframe, give yourself a few extra weeks of buffer time to account for errors like this! David recommended a carb-cycle diet. The carb days were strategically bracketed around my weight training routine (see the Training section) to give me enough energy to make it through the heavy power days and the high volume hypertrophy days. Another important note about my diet was that I customized it to my 8:30-6:00 work schedule. I consumed meals 2-4 at work. Meals 2 and 4 worked well as quick pre or post-lunch snacks, and meal 3 fit in nicely with lunch so that I could still eat with my friends like a normal person.
Here is a sample of my contest prep diet at roughly 6 weeks out. At this point, my body was responding really well and dropping 1-2 lbs/week, so I stayed very close to this plan all the way up until contest day. Note: I began each day with fasted cardio and then started with meal 1. I trained with weights between meals 4 and 5. I was at home for meals 1, 5, and 6, and at work for meals 2-4. For fluids, I consumed 1.5-2 gallons of water over the course of every day.
High Carb Day: Mon/Wed/Fri
Meal 1: ¾ cup oats, 4 oz. chicken, 1 cup egg whites
Meal 2: 2 scoops of Muscle Provider (A quick and easy snack type meal at work.)
Meal 3: 8 oz. of chicken or tilapia, half cup oats
Meal 4: 2 scoops of Muscle Provider, half cup oats (Easy to prepare at work like meal 2.)
Meal 5: 8 oz. of chicken or tilapia, 6 oz. sweet potato
Meal 6: 2 cup egg whites (at home)
Low Carb Day: Sat/Sun/Tues/Thurs
Meal 1: 2 whole eggs, 1c egg whites
Meal 2: 2 scoops of Muscle Provider, 1 tbsp natural peanut butter (mixed with barely enough water in a bowl to create the tastiest pudding in the world)
Meal 3: 8 oz. chicken or tilapia, two-thirds oz. raw almonds
Meal 4: Same as Meal 2
Meal 5: Same as Meal 3
Meal 6: 8 oz. eye of round steak
Having taken Beverly International’s
products since 2007 with great results, I knew I wanted to take my pre-contest
supplementation seriously. I went to a href="https://bodybuildingworld.com/productpdfs/supplement_chart_revised.pdf">supplementre commendation chart [pdf]. Included, among other programs, was a full listing of supplements for the male
pre-contest bodybuilder. The only other question was supplement timing. For this, I took advantage of the useful
information from successful Beverly bodybuilders of the past who had posted their winning formulas in previous No Nonsense Newsletters. From there, I devised the following routine:
Super Pak: One every morning upon completion of fasted AM cardio:
Density: Three with each meal
Ultra 40: Four with each meal
Lean Out: Two with each meal
7 Keto Musclean: Three upon waking before cardio
Sometimes I would take three before weight training if I felt like I needed the energy boost, but not always. Quadracarn: Three with meals 1, 3, and 5 Glutamine Select + BCAA’s: 2 scoops following fasted AM cardio and 2 scoops following any weight workout.
Muscularity: Began taking at the 4 week out mark. Four caps following each meal. Bev ZMA: Three at night before bed.
As a lifetime natural bodybuilder that had tried many different weight training programs, I took some time to reflect on what I felt had worked for me in the past. While everyone may be different, I came to the conclusion that for me, heavy compound powerlifting type exercises were my bread-and-butter movements for obtaining mass, while mid/high repetition hypertrophy exercises worked well to supplement the power movements. Interestingly enough, I found that IFPA professional bodybuilder Dr. Layne Norton had implemented both of these features into his training regimen known as Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training (PHAT). PHAT involves two days of essentially powerlifting of the entire upper and lower body, followed by three days of higher-repetition hypertrophy training of the entire body.
Essentially you train your entire body twice per week, incorporating BOTH the "power-building" style and traditional bodybuilding. I believe that the low-rep, heavy compound weight that I moved during the Sunday and Monday power days helped me maximize my muscle preservation over the 14 week haul. In fact, I was even setting a few personal records until about week 10, where my strength actually held even for the most part. My weight training schedule was as follows:
Sunday: Lower Body Power Monday: Upper Body Power Tuesday: Off Wednesday: Chest and Arms Hypertrophy Thursday: Lower Body Hypertrophy Friday: Back and Shoulders Hypertrophy Saturday: Off
Sticking to a grueling weight training schedule while working 9-10 hours a day at a brain-exhausting job was mentally and physically draining. Sometimes I felt like my body was running on fumes, but I thankfully had a lot of support from my friends, family, and my girlfriend Sandy when things were tough.
Cardio LISS HIIT
Cardio was an integral piece to achieving my desired fat loss. I realize that low intensity, steady-state (LISS) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) cardio for contest prep are hotly debated subjects. I don’t plan to solve that debate for anyone here, but merely to report what I did and why I felt it worked for me – I stuck with LISS and here’s why: I knew that I wanted to use ALL of the energy that I possibly had to focus on pushing through the PHAT weight training program yet still burn enough calories from cardio. In my mind the best way to do this was to keep the cardio low-intensity and save the rest for the weights. I did LISS cardio every day, starting at about 30 minutes of treadmill at 3.0 mph, and 15 degrees of incline (no holding on to the rails). By week 10, I had ramped it up to 50 minutes per day. On the weekends, IŠd swap out treadmill and use the stepmill at about level 5 or 6. I knew that my legs were my weak point upon entering contest prep, and the stepmill helped me squeeze out a little bit of extra resistance training in that area. In both instances, my heart rate was usually in the 140’s – just barely low enough to read some books to keep my mind occupied. Before I knew it, I had plowed through something like 8 books over the course of the prep. Who knew that bodybuilding could inspire so much education!
Presentation and day of the show
At the start of my prep, I participated in hour long weekly posing sessions with my coach, David. At the 10 week out mark, I was also posing on my own 3-4 days a week for about 20 minutes after work and documenting with pictures. Do not underestimate the importance of this practice! Trust me, you will look at your pictures from week-to-week and be amazed at the presentation improvements that you’ll continue to make. As the days drew closer and closer to the show, I felt that the most important strategy was to keep everything simple and stick to the plan. I didn't panic or make any drastic last minute changes, but I kept the training intense until the last week before the show. During this final "peak week", however, I did throttle back the training and circuit trained for 40-60 minutes on Monday-Wednesday, stopping each set 3-4 reps short of failure. Cardio was also cut to 20 minute sessions. On Thursday and Friday I stopped training altogether, aside from posing practice and visualization.
The day of the contest was like a celebration of all of my hard work rather than a stressful event. The hardest days were behind me. I was well prepared and competing "for the love of the game" rather than to beat other competitors. In the end, I was fortunate to walk away with four total trophies at the OCB Eastern Regional in Baltimore, MD, taking first place in Debut Heavyweight class, first place in Novice Heavyweight class, first place in the Novice Overall, and third place in the Open Middleweight class. Sandy also had a great first time showing and finished fifth place in the Open Bikini division. The highlights of the day were definitely sharing the experience with Sandy, the posedown that I had to do for the Novice Overall, and getting shouts of "Crab Most Muscular" from my friends in the audience! Standing there on the stage at your physical peak, surrounded by many of the people you care about in life, you realize that every minute of the preparation is truly worth it.
Today, I remain an interesting anomaly in my every day work place. My day job involves planning and designing robotic spacecraft missions to asteroids and planets like Mercury and Pluto. That said, it probably comes as no surprise when I tell you that most people in my field do not spend their time moving 500 pounds on deadlifts, or dieting on grilled chicken, oatmeal, and protein shakes for weeks on end. Nowadays, my novice overall trophy (a smily golden muscle-man flexing his biceps) that sits on my desk is an eyebrow raising, conversation piece when a co-worker walks into my office and asks me a question about orbital mechanics. Sandy remains committed to improving her physique to compete in figure competitions, and I hope to beef up my legs and compete for some open overall titles in the future. I hope you find some small pieces of useful information in my story that you may take with you in your own fitness journey someday because I’m sure I will continue to be inspired, amazed, and educated by the stories of others in the NNN in the future.
Marty Ozimek at a Glance
Occupation or Education: B.S., M.S., Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering, currently a Spacecraft Mission Design Engineer at the Applied Physics Laboratory
What would you recommend to someone who has never used Beverly supplements before? 1) Try Ultimate Muscle Protein Chocolate. If you’re not sold after 1), then proceed to step 2) Try any other protein powder in existence. You will quickly return to 1). In all seriousness, in 15 years of trying every protein powder under the sun, UMP ended up naturally finding its way as my personal favorite. It also cooks into many great recipes, such as vanilla/pumpkin UMP bread or pancakes.
In your CD player: Radiohead, Sigur Ros, Armin Van Buuren, The Arcade Fire, Daft Punk
Most Inspiring Book: The Fountainhead Hobby or interests: Working on a pilot’s license, getting an MBA, scuba diving, and improving my golf game.
Words to live by: "I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfillment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious." Vince Lombardi