These were the words from a national champion to me after a show where I placed second.
"Will you be back next year?" another competitor asked. "Sure", I said. Little did I know that I had a cancer growing inside me. A doctor’s visit shortly after the competition raised concerns. Tests confirmed I had prostate cancer. My doctor asked me to come back in and discuss options. I was devastated to say the least. But with a wife/ training partner like I have, you can’t stay down for long. We developed an action plan and I underwent surgery at Vanderbilt under the care of some awesome doctors.
Now, I had to revisit the question of whether I would be able to compete again. Before my diagnosis, I had planned to go to the NPC Masters Nationals as a lightweight. After successful surgery and stern warnings to take it slowly from my doctor, I was given the go ahead to resume training two months after my surgery.
But, one more obstacle lay ahead. I had to win the NPC Northern Kentucky first! Seven months to-the-day after surgery, I was back on stage for the 2012 Northern. I placed third in a tough over-50 Masters Division. I was happy to be back on stage, but my plan was contingent on winning my class at the Northern first. Only then would I feel I was ready for Masters Nationals.
That was my fourth attempt at the Northern; I vowed that number five was going to be different! Here is how I did it:
Having been raised on a dairy farm, hard work was nothing new. Also, I have an incredible wife who breathes the fitness lifestyle 24/7. Ursula is a certified personal/group exercise instructor, as well as the minister of recreation at our church.
Our typical day starts with the alarm sounding at 4:00a.m.. Our “home” gym is actually in a storage closet in the church. We refer to it as, "the cave". We have accumulated quite a bit of equipment over the years. The cave is cramped, but well equipped. We normally train 3 consecutive days, rest 1 day, and then start over. For contest prep, the rest day actually becomes a cardio day.
We use basic "old school" training techniques. I like to change routines and vary rep ranges about every sixth workout. This way my body never adapts to a particular way of training. I also frequently incorporate heavy negatives (where I focus on slowly lowering the weight).
Our nutrition plan is the foundation we literally "build" on. Supplements are an integral part of our "building blocks" and I think they become even more important as we age. We had tried others in the past, but discovered Beverly International about 7 years ago, and have not used another product since.
One week after the 2012 Northern, I put my plan in place. For my fifth attempt at the Northern (March 2013), I vowed to give it 110%. I knew I would be one of the smaller competitors, but so what? From many years in the sport I also knew that conditioning is everything, and it is something under my control. My goal was to be symmetrical and rock hard.
One of the keys for the over 50 bodybuilder (or in fact, those of all ages) is to watch your diet and stay in shape all year. That way you preserve a lot more lean muscle than if you try to lose almost all your body fat during the typical pre contest time frame of 2-3 months. Losing fat too fast almost always results in a corresponding loss of muscle. I wanted to avoid this so I paid attention to my diet all year.
At my age, 54, I eventually had to do cardio twice a day to achieve the level of conditioning I was after. Mixing up my cardio has allowed me to enjoy it, rather than dread it. I use the treadmill, elliptical, and mixed martial arts training to keep variety and my metabolism revved up.
But still, the foundation of it all is nutrition. I used a 20-week prep rather than the normal 12 weeks. For the first four weeks, I slowly tightened up my diet and training. Easing cardio in little by little allowed me to stay strong all the way to the end. At week 16, I again tightened up my meal plan and added minutes to my cardio. At week 12, it was "game on". I tweaked my nutrition even more and made small changes every two weeks, raising protein and cutting back carbs, bit by bit. Now, I started to see things "kicking-in".
From week six, all the way to the show, I was determined to stay focused on my plan. I used the internet for motivation. I’d pull up other bodybuilding competitors’ to see how they trained and even checked out their nutrition plans. One of them said, "If you are feeling really good at this point, you ain’t doin’ it right".. We got a kick out of that. Based on how I felt, I knew I definitely must be on track! I know I was driving Ursula crazy at this point, but she stood by like a rock, working with me every step of the way with her encouragement and support.
At two weeks out, I stopped getting on the scale as I knew my conditioning was on track. I was at a place in my conditioning where I had never been before. Still, my mind games were awful at this point. Carb cycling probably had something to do with that.
Finally, SHOW DAY! Because of my improved conditioning, I decided to enter the open lightweight division in addition to the Masters over 50. I was definitely old enough to be these guys’ father, but it was fun being around all that young energy. Everyone was very nice, I might add. Roger and Sandy always run a top-notch show!!!
I placed first in both the masters and open divisions. It was incredible being in the open overall posedown. After all, it only took me five years to accomplish this.
But, none of this would have been possible without my faith in God, my loving and supportive wife and two wonderful sons. "Keep trying!" I did and it worked!
Start slow and add minutes weekly. By the end, I had reached 2 hours per day, split 60 minutes in the morning and 60 minutes in the evening. We have lots of varied cardio routines and would be glad to share some ideas with any of the Beverly readers. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a sample Leg workout: We split Quads and Hams morning and evening. And I, personally, never did cardio on leg day.
HAMSTRINGS (Morning workout)
8x8 DB Straight-Leg Deadlift
8 x 8 Squats
4 x 8 One-Legged Leg Presses (one leg at a time, instead of both feet on the platform)
4 x 8 Hamstring Curls
QUADS: (Evening workout)
8 x 8 Russian Lunges (one legged squats)
8 x 8 Hack Squats
4 x 8 Leg Extensions
Each Meal: 4 Ultra 40, 3 Quadracarn, 4 Muscle Mass, 5 Density
2x Daily: 3 EFA Gold, 3 Joint Care
Glutamine Select, Muscle Synergy, and Up-Lift during workouts and cardio.
12 week diet to 4 weeks out
Meal 1: 10 egg whites; ½ cup oatmeal or 2 rice cakes; 10-12 almonds
Meal 2: 6 oz. chicken breast; ½ cup brown rice
Meal 3: 2 beef patties (we prefer bison); ½ cup brown rice; 1 cup veggies
Meal 4: Beverly UMP shake (2 scoops with water)
Meal 5: 6 oz. chicken breast; large salad, lots of greens, tomatoes and diced cucumbers
Meal 6: Beverly UMP Chocolate Pudding (3 scoops with water, mix to consistency of pudding)
› Joe Corbett Going Strong at Age 50, NPC Continental USA overall Masters champ