It’s all about the battle!

battle within yourself to keep pushing

By: Hondre McNeil
Magazine 21 #1


Fitness has always been a major part of my life. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve liked the way working out makes me feel. When I played Pop Warner Football I would wake up early every morning before school so I could do push-ups and sit-ups to get “strong and tough.” My mom and dad also helped me make exercise a lifelong habit. Growing up in Lake View SC, there wasn’t a fitness center nearby, so my mom worked out at home. I would copy her as she did her routines. Every Sunday my dad and I would play a couple of hours of basketball at our local basketball park.

In high school, I was a running back for the state champion, Lake View Wild Gators, and won all-state honors. After graduation, I accepted a 4 year football scholarship to Wofford College. At Wofford, I became interested in learning more about athletic conditioning and training. After college, I pursued a career as a fitness trainer and have been helping people reach their fitness goals ever since.

My personal workout focus had never been about developing my physique. It’s always been about improving my physical performance and putting my all into every workout. At my gym you’ll frequently hear one of us hollering, “Bout That Battle!” In other words, it’s all about the battle within yourself to keep pushing through a workout, pushing your limits when you want to quit.

Hondre McNeil on-stage jumbotron background

Photo by: Amir Marandi

My Introduction to Men’s Physique

So my journey of competing in Men’s Physique is different than most. It started when one of the trainers at my gym said he thought I would be a perfect fit for it. At first, I laughed it off. I told him I wasn’t really interested in getting on stage. He explained the rules to me and said that basically it was just about being in tip-top shape. That caught my interest, but I still wasn’t ready to say yes. It wasn’t until about a year later that I finally followed up with him.

At my gym we focus on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), core training, and strength work. The only mirror you’ll find is in the bathroom. However, to compete in Men’s Physique, I needed to round off some of my rough edges and learn how to pose. So, I contacted Matt Packer from Healthier U, another gym here in town. I had just 4 weeks to get ready for my first show, the Natural Ohio Bodybuilding Association contest in Newark OH. Matt put me on a strict diet, and worked with me on posing. I continued to do my workouts at SWET during the week and met with Matt on Saturdays to get the poses down. With his guidance, I took first place in my class and second overall! I loved the adrenaline rush when those stage lights hit me! I had definitely caught the contest bug!

Next, I added some sculpting days at Healthier U to my normal workouts at SWET. At SWET, I kept working on strength, Olympic lifts, core work, and pushing myself to my anaerobic limit in our HIIT sessions. At Healthier U, I did more traditional bodybuilding exercises and focused on muscle development. This proved to be a perfect combination for me. I was able to feed my competitive energy and football background as well as catch a great pump all during a week’s workouts.

3 Beverly Supplements and a 10-lb Gain

I was introduced to Beverly International products at this time. The first products I purchased were Ultra 40, Mass Amino Acids, and Multiple Enzyme Complex. Wow! I’d been weighing around 195lbs for 10 years, ever since college. I could never break 200lbs. By taking Beverly supplements the right way, I gained over 10lbs of muscle at 34 years of age and found myself weighing 212 lbs! Beverly definitely had my attention from that day forward!

My next competition was the NPC Natural Cincinnati presented by Rick Ruether and his team. I weighed in 6lbs heavier and leaner than at my NOBA competition. I took first place in my class and first overall! Then I went to Chicago for the NPC Jr. Nationals. Now here was a different breed! I recall telling my wife, “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” The results from this competition didn’t end close to where I’d hoped. I was in the 3rd call out! Even though I was in a huge class with extreme competition, I was not happy with myself about this finish. I’d have to go back to the drawing board before my next national contest.

For the IFBB North America, in Pittsburgh, I kept my off-season process of using Ultra 40, Mass Amino Acids, and Multiple Enzyme Complex. I also added Beverly UMP Protein. I have never had a better tasting protein in all my years of training. Another change I made for this show was to further tighten my diet. For the Pittsburgh show, I weighed 202 lbs! This was still a lot more weight than my first ever physique show. Now 202lbs is my “light weight”! I have to thank Sandy and the Beverly team for that! Also, I went back to my normal split of Olympic lifting, HIIT, and body building being evenly dispersed through the week. For the Chicago show I had thrown off this balance. I did a little too much bodybuilding and not enough conditioning. My results were better in Pittsburgh! I finished 6th in my class, just 4 slots away from getting an IFBB pro card!

A Lesson Learned

learned a ton from this experience. The main thing was to just be myself. For Chicago, I had gotten too uptight. I broke my own rules and starting paying attention to other Physique guys on the web. That’s not me. My motivation is internalized. When I stopped caring about what others were doing, my results were significantly better! I was much more relaxed and conditioned, and this reflected on stage at the North America. Let that be a lesson to you. Make a goal and go for it! However, whatever you do, don’t worry about what others are doing or thinking. Everyone has their own opinions. You can’t worry about that though. Take strategic steps to achieve your goals and never lose focus. Keep those around you that help motivate you and don’t pay attention to those who might discourage you.

Now, I’m beginning another year of competition. I’m 35 years old and feeling better than ever! I call this my sophomore year since it is only my 2nd year in the game. Whatever the results, I plan on being myself and having fun throughout. I am also making sure not to neglect my loved ones, my beautiful wife Jennifer, my son Gabe, and my daughter Grace. If my ambitions ever get in the way of my quality time with them, it’s time to hang it up. It’s up to me to be proactive and keep this balance. Also, I have to keep my eyes on the Man upstairs. God is the reason I’m here. With Him on my side, nothing or no one can be against me.

Year-Round Supplement Plan
Ultimate Muscle Protein – I usually work out in the morning as well, so I try to get a 2-scoop shake in within 2 hours after my workout to start the muscle rebuilding process. You can’t beat the taste!
Super Pak – I take a Super Pak with my UMP shake each day to get my daily vitamins and minerals.
Muscularity – 2 capsules with Meals 1, 3 and 5. This helps me keep my hard earned muscle and also lean out to my competition weight.
Joint Care – 3 capsules with Meals 3 & 5. This keeps my joints healthy while I’m pushing myself to my physical limits.
Beverly ZMA – 3 capsules at bedtime on an empty stomach as recommended on the label. This is for muscle recovery and rest. I definitely make sure to take this if I know I’m going to have a short night sleeping.
“Operation Shred” Meal Plan
This is my meal plan 4 weeks out from a show. I call it “Operation Shred”.
Meal 1
Protein Shake – 2 scoops UMP mixed with almond milk, 1 tbsp of flaxseeds
Meal 2
8 oz. lean meat (chicken, turkey, or fish), 6 egg whites, ½ grapefruit
Meal 3
8 oz. grilled chicken and a large salad
Meal 4
1 can tuna, 2 egg whites, 1 tomato
Meal 5
8 oz. lean meat (chicken, turkey, or fish), 2 cups steamed vegetables
Mondays and Thursdays – I add 1 and ½ cups of oatmeal, 1 tablespoon of butter, and a banana to meal 5 with the lean meat and vegetables.

Year-Round Training Template

Now I train using the same basic template whether it’s offseason or pre-contest. The key word describing what positively affects my body the best is “balance”.

Hondre McNeil clean and jerk

Monday: Olympic Lifting
The focus during these sessions is to improve technique and strength in a weight lifting movement such as the clean and jerk, snatch, squat, overhead squat, deadlift, etc. I usually specialize on one lift for 6-8 weeks and then choose another for the next 6-8 weeks. Here’s one I recently used to improve my Overhead Squat, but you can use this format of sets and reps to improve any of your lifts. You can find videos illustrating each of these exercises on YouTube.

Snatch Balance: 1x8, 1x6, 1x6, 1x3, 1x3, 1x3 (Increase weight each set, but only enough to where you can successfully complete each movement without a struggle. This is for technique.)

Overhead Squat: 1x8, 1x8, 1x5, 1x5, 1x3, 1x3, 1x1 (Sets 1-2 warmups; Sets 3-4, 75% of 1 Rep Max; Sets 5-6, 85% of 1 Rep Max; Set 7, 95% of 1 Rep Max)

Behind Neck Snatch Grip Presses: 4 x 5 at 55% of Overhead Squat 1 Rep Max

Dumbbell Overhead Squat: 1x12, 1x12, 1x8, 1x8, 1x8, 1x8 (Use light weight here.) The focus is flexibility. Use a weight that allows you to do a quality rep each time.

Tuesday: Conditioning
Here I usually use a CrossFit type workout or High Intensity Interval Training to push my anaerobic limit. This workout varies each week, but the concept is the same – after a good warmup choose 3 exercises and perform 6 rounds for time. Always try to beat your previous time. Here is an example:

Warmup:
Jog 800 meters
Military Press: 2X10 (Set 1 with just 45lb bar, Set 2 at 95lbs)

Conditioning:

  • 24 Double Unders
  • 12 Bar Facing Burpees
  • 6 Push Presses at 135 lbs (use whatever weight you can do to complete the prescribed reps)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Bodybuilding Sculpting Day 1, aka “Catch that pump!”
  • This is my first bodybuilding day. I usually focus on chest and calves
  • Dumbbell Chest Press: Ladder Format – 10 sets of 10 going up and 10 sets of 10 going down.
  • Dumbbell Incline Flies: Ladder Format – 4 sets of 10 going up and 4 sets going down
  • Push-ups: Burnout as many as you can do. Once you can't do a full range push-up, do 8-10 partials
  • Seated Calf Raises: Ladder Format – 10 sets of 10 going up and 10 sets of 10 going down.
  • Single Leg Calf Raises: Burnout as many as you can do. Once you can't do a full range movement, do 10-12 partials.
Try to keep rest time between 30 and 45 seconds during the ladders.
Friday: TRX HIIT
If a TRX Suspension Trainer is not available, follow any type of CrossFit or HIIT workout using weights or bodyweight exercises.
Warmup:
  • Jog 800 meters
  • Pushups 1X15
  • Negative Situps 1X15
Conditioning: do as many rounds as possible in 15 minutes
  • 5 TRX Burpees/Leg
  • 10 TRX Squat Jumps
  • 15 Kettlebell Swings
  • 20 Situps
Saturday: Bodybuilding Sculpting Day 2 – Biceps and Triceps
EZ Bar Curls: Ladder Format – 5 sets of 10 going up and 5 sets of 10 going down.
Seated Dumbbell Single Arm Curls: Ladder Format – 3 sets of 10 going up and 3 sets of 10 going down.
TRX or Machine Curl Burnout: Burnout as many as you can do. Once you can't do a full range curl, do 8-10 partials.
EZ Bar Tricep Extensions: Ladder Format – 5 sets of 10 going up and 5 sets of 10 going down.
Seated Dumbbell Single Arm Tricep Behind Head Extensions: Ladder Format – 3 sets of 10 going up and 3 sets of 10 going down.
TRX (or Machine) Tricep Extension Burnout: Burnout as many as you can do. Once you can't do a full range triceps extension, do 8-10 partials.

Sunday: Rest and Church

Hondre McNeil back development
Hondre McNeil at a Glance
Age: 35
Occupation: HRIS Coordinator at Fairfield Medical Center, Gym Founder and Owner of SWET Fitness LLC
Education: Wofford College, Spartanburg SC (BA in Computer Science and Mathematics), ACE-CPT Personal Training Certification, TRX Level 1, CrossFit Level 1
Current Residence: Lancaster, OH
Years Training: 2
Height: 6′1″
Weight: 212lb (Off-Season), 197-202lb (Contest)
Favorite Fitness Meal:
1½ cup oatmealmixed with 1 tablespoon butter and 1 whole banana.
Favorite supplements:
I could say all the Beverly products I use, but I guess I have to choose. Here are my top four favorites. UMP Protein. It tastes great and it’s quality protein!
Ultra 40, Mass Amino Acids, and Multiple Enzyme Complex. Bulk Season!
This combination put 10 pounds of lean muscle on me. I use it in the off-season to take my muscle size to the next level.
For someone who has never used Beverly before: My one word to describe Beverly is “quality”. They mean what they say and say what they mean in this company. All the products I’ve used have done just what it says they will do on the label. With other supplement companies, you may not be positive that you’re getting what it says on the label. With Beverly, there is never that fear.
Music: In the gym, I need some “crunkness”. I usually go with Lil Jon, Lil Wayne, Meek Mill, or MGK!
Hobbies: Reading fitness magazines of course!
Words to live by: Success is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the ride!
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