”This sport does not care that you have a funeral to attend,“ answers Truman Ward to my question asking what it takes to be a champion. ”It does not give a d@mn that you have a bad lower back. It doesn’t care that you were up to midnight helping your twelve-year old with some really hard math homework. It is not concerned with the fact that you work sixteen hours out in the hot sun and then you still have got to go to the gym and nail out squats. All it cares is that you are prepared to put in no less than 100% in everything you are going to do concerning diet, concerning rest, concerning your workouts, concerning your prep, concerning your food intake and when you eat it. If you decide to give just 90% and you have people on stage to your left or right who gave 100%, then you best believe you will (at best) go home with a fifth or sixth placing. For some people that might be okay, but for a champion, that isn’t!“
For Truman, he obviously fits the definition of champion. I spoke to him a few days after he won the Men’s Physique class at the NPC Lenda Murray. This was the first in two recent (July 2018) contests. ”My goal was to compete in that show and place (or win) so that I could qualify and compete this Friday for my IFBB card,“ he says. ”I want to be able to earn my IFBB card naturally. Not saying that no one else is...but I for sure will be a natty competitor!“
”I never ever, ever underestimate the potential competition. I am afraid...that there is that one guy up there, who is doing 25-30 reps... He is going to failure... He is hitting that zone where you have an out-of-body experience. All he is thinking about is meeting someone like me. I don’t know if there is anyone like that out there, but I work harder than I think that guy is working.“
A few days after our interview, I was sent a message that Truman Ward can add the phrase IFBB Pro at the end of his title due to an impressive victory at the Master’s Nationals in Men’s Physique and earning his pro card in Classic Physique.
THE (SUPERHERO) LIFESTYLE
Part of his thinking may have come from his childhood. While visiting the grocery store with his mother, Truman’s eyes were drawn to Amazing Spider-man issue #21, in which a humble, yet heroic, young-in-his-twenties hero named Peter Parker takes the step forward to marry his girlfriend Mary Jane. Truman became hooked on comic books from that point on, driven by his two favorites, Spider-man and Wolverine before the guys on the muscle-mag covers joined his reading list. Wisely, his reading list still includes comic books, even after adding bodybuilding, nutrition and engineering studies to his page-stack.
His comic book fandom revealed itself as I interviewed him. His driven athletic mindset is similar to the replies that Spider-man, Captain America, Wolverine or Superman would share in their text-bubbles, placing strong integrity in the difficult situations and challenges we all have in life.
Truman serves the U.S. Army as a warrant officer and specializes in welding and machining and maintenance. Starting out as a private in 1993, with welding being a major part of his tasks, he wanted to elevate his role, so finished his degree in order to create a long-term career for our government.
”My first duty as an officer was to work in Anchorage, Alaska, which didn’t excite me,“ says Truman. ”It was cold and I didn’t want it. The Army didn’t care what I wanted, it was based on what it needed and it sent me to Alaska.“ While he had been serious about strength training before moving there, he joined a local gym that had a very serious group of prominent lifters including national-level and some IFBB and Natural pro bodybuilders...men and women. This drove him to take things to a higher, more serious level.
”One of my buddies dragged me out to this nightclub, called Chilkoot Charlie’s, something of a famous historical icon in Anchorage. While there, I saw the most beautiful female I have ever seen in my life, standing across the room...but she had a crowd of dudes around her, and I had too much self-respect to go over and say anything to her. Eventually, she tapped me on the shoulder and asked me if I was following her. We got married just a few months after!“
LaRita was obviously the Mary Jane to his Peter Parker or the Lois Lane to his Clark Kent. Her athletic background was as a basketball player and coach. She had well-developed muscular legs, but not a female fitness/gym background at that time.
”I got into my first NPC show (the Crystal Cup) and she helped me backstage,“ Truman says. ”She was looking at a lot of the female competitors and making comments that she felt confident that she already could have beaten some of them. It kind of offended me because some of those female competitors were my buddies and she didn’t realize that. So I said, ’How about you get into a competition if it’s that easy?’ The next month she did, and won first place overall!“
For Truman and LaRita, bodybuilding has become a central aspect of their family lifestyle, including their twelve-year old daughter, Ravenna. ”My daughter will be in the audience. Once we get off stage from pre-judging, we come back, and ask her what she thinks. She knows about first-callouts, about being moved out to the left or right or being moved to center stage. She understands the criteria for every category there is, whether it is men’s bodybuilding, men’s physique, sports model, women’s figure, women’s physique. She has even helped coach some of the females that my wife is coaching for their competition. She knows posing, how to walk, the diet. She understands peak week.“ The three of them are starting to make me think of a gym/comic book version of the Fantastic Four (but we might need to add a robot that can spot on incline press and squats to match the same number).
”I love (and always will love) working out, and sculpting my physique the way I want it to look,“ says Truman. ”It is lucky that the way I want it to look is currently the same thing that the judges are looking for. Everything I was doing in the gym is validated when I am handed the first-place trophy or pro card by seven judges who all apparently think in the same terms that I thought. Now if they didn’t think that that was how my physique was supposed to be and I placed lower, I wouldn’t so much care, because there is no trophy on the planet that compares to how I think first. The trophy is just a bonus.“
SUPER(-VILLIAN FIGHTING) NUTRITION
During the off-season, because of his super-hero-like metabolism, Truman has to consume around 5,500 calories daily, packing in a great deal of food (mostly clean). This allows him to compete looking hard, big and dry. Every two days, he will have a cheat meal. ”This may consist of a four-patty burger with fries or a fully-loaded burrito with a little bit of cheese and sour cream...“ says Truman. ”Just something to spike the glycogen and keep being able to build muscle.“
”The reason a number of lifters are not successful on stage is because of one of two reasons,“ says Truman, ”They are in such a deficit the whole year-round that they cannot actually build any real muscle. I think that women sometimes fall into this category. And then when they prep, they lose much of the muscle that they already had.“
”Then,“ Truman says, ”you have the opposite, a group that feels that they need to bulk-up during the off-season. For example, imagine a bodybuilder at 5′10″ that weighed 265. He believes he had to just drop down to 240 to be shredded. He diets to 240 and there’s still not even one ab muscle. Then he drops to 220, but still doesn’t have any abs, so he has to drop to 210. He finally realizes that he built a lot more fat than muscle. The faster you are dropping fat, the faster you are dropping muscle, so it is best to keep weight gains moderate in the offseason.“
Truman’s pre-contest period starts at roughly three-months out. He doesn’t lower calories for any longer than that since he does not want to risk losing muscle. While he may be as high as 240 in his off-season, he needs to be around 205 (207 tops) on stage. ”If I were to drop from 240 to 220-pounds but I still have three or four months left...I would be the guy getting last call-outs, at 180 pounds. But at 210, I’d be the guy getting my hand raised for first-place.“
His post-contest re-feed is a slow-paced, moderate strategy. ”I don’t have a psychological fixation that I need to have cheeseburgers and pizza. When I am done with a show, I will go and have one nice cheat meal, maybe loaded nachos. If I don’t have another contest planned for a number of months, I will still go back to prepping seven meals a day, eating healthy. But I may add some cheese to things or some wheat-honey bread and have a few tablespoons of ice cream a few times a week. I may have some pizza every once in a blue moon. But mostly it is fairly strict regardless of having chosen a contest yet.“
As you can see on Truman’s Typical Pre Contest Meal Plan accompanying this article, supplements are a regular part of his nutrition intake. His wife LaRita discovered Beverly International online. ”We were researching different creatine and protein powders and came across Beverly International. We tried them and they have been getting us first places on-stage ever since.“ Some of his favorite supplements include Mass Amino Acids, Joint Care, Glutamine Select and Muscle Synergy. ”Synergy helps muscle recovery, fullness, hydration of the muscle, and the healing process, because you are not actually growing muscle in the gym, but breaking them down. Amino acids help you restore all the muscle you have broken down in the gym,“ says Truman. His Marvel Comics upbringing again reveals itself as he mentions that Beverly International nutrient intake will help provide ”that cartoonish physique you want...thick pecs, boulder shoulders, that lean tone look. For natural bodybuilding, they are easily the top company for supplements and nutrition.“
[LEGAL MESSAGE: Beverly International products do not contain even low-levels of gamma radiation that helped build Bruce Banner’s Hulk-like physique or the experimental serum that was tested upon Steve ”Captain America“ Reeves to boost his athletic abilities, as those have not been passed by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, neither of those components is accepted in natural bodybuilding contests.]
Truman’s training philosophy is very similar to the Bruce Wayne method to maximal physical condition. A great example is that in each year, he takes a single week off (such as Christmas week or when doing some travel for work). His main focus is on large body parts, such as his back and legs. Chest (a naturally strong part for Tru) and shoulders are hit once a week. With arms, he may go two months without directly training them due to their genetic growth. ”I just have to walk past weights and my arms get huge,“ says Truman, revealing yet another super-power.
”I generally do 4-6 sets per exercise with at least one drop set or a burnout set to failure. Some will argue that this can cause adrenal fatigue or is taxing on the nervous system, but my body is used to the intensity, I love it. My goal for every workout: to have an ”out of body experience“ pain level.“
”I don’t do cardio till the month before a show, usually 45 minutes steady state x 4 sessions a week (bike or incline walk).“
- Monday: Back/Calves
- Calves: 150-200 reps total (in sets of 25, usually standing)
- Lat Pulldowns: 5x15
- Single-arm Rows: 4x12
- Close-grip Cable Row: 4x12
- Wide Single-grip Pulldowns: on separate cables 3x8
- DB Pullovers: 3x12
- Tuesday: Chest/Calves
- Calves: 150-200 reps (Sets of 25, usually standing)
- Hammer Strength Incline Press: 5x10
- Incline Smith Machine Press: 5x12
- Single-arm DB Press: 4x8
- Cable Flyes: 4x12-15
- Wednesday: Legs
- Leg Extension: 4x30
- Leg Press 8x10:, 1x25
- Squats: 5x10-12
- Leg Curl: 4x10
- Adductor Machine: 4x25
- Thursday: Shoulders/Traps
- Shrugs: 100 reps total
- Smith Shoulder: Press 5x10-12
- Single-arm Shoulder: Press 3x8
- (Superset =>) DB Lateral Raises: 4x15 + Front Raises 4x15
- Bent-over Lateral Raises: 6x12
- Friday: Back/Calves
- Calves: 150-200 reps (Sets of 25, usually standing)
- Pullups: 5x10
- Reverse-grip Row: 4x12-15
- Machine Row: 4x15
- Hammer Strength Row, alternating singles: 4x30
Saturday: Day Off
- Sunday: Arms
- Standing Cable Curls: 6x10
- Single-arm Machine Curls: 5x12
- DB Hammer Curl, alternating: 4x20
- Tricep Dips: 4x15
- Single Cable Pushdowns: 4x12
- Rope Extension: 4x15
A gym role-model for Truman is Mike ”The Titan“ O’Hearn, American Gladiators TV celebrity, super-hero-like actor and natural bodybuilding and powerlifting champion. The two have met on three different occasions. ”Not only do I try to emulate his theories regarding training, but also his mindset,“ says Truman. ”He has the thickest, aesthetic, symmetrically-pleasing physique. When I talk about super-heroes, that dude somehow seems to have gotten ahold of the secret soldier serum (from Captain America’s origin) and he actually gets better with age. I certainly attempt to follow in his footsteps.“
In his future, forty-four year old champion Truman Ward plans to continue as a competitor, eventually entering masters-level contests. ”At some point, I am going to be 50, and at some point I’m going to be 55.“ He will be training as long as he physically can, but at a certain point it is going to be more important for him to focus just on his health. ”My physique will always be important to me, but will it be good for a judge?“
Don’t worry, Truman. Superman and Batman have been around for eighty years and Spider-man has been around for fifty years, and they still look like they are in their twenties or thirties…it is all about letting your super-heroic abilities continue!
- Tru Ward’s Typical Pre Contest Meal Plan:
- Meal 1: 3 whole eggs, one cup of egg whites, 1 cup oats
- Meal 2: 8 oz. chicken, 10 oz. sweet potatoes
- Meal 3: 8oz chicken breast, 10 oz. rice, greens
- Meal 4: 8 oz. tilapia, 10 oz. rice, veggies, 24 almonds
- Meal 5: 8 oz. tilapia, 10 oz. sweet potatoes, spinach
- Meal 6: 2 scoops UMP, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, one cup oats (post workout)
- Meal 7: 8 oz. ground turkey patty, Ezekiel toast, and Dijon
I generally like eating 30 minutes before my workout and again 10 to 15 minutes after I work out. With my metabolism, I lose weight extremely fast so it’s essential I get in calories right after I train to keep from going into a catabolic state.
- FitTabs 4 tablets in the morning
- EFA Gold 3 gel caps each morning
- Joint Care 4 capsules each morning (I think this has really helped on heavy squat days)
- Mass Amino Acids 4 tablets before and 4 after each workout
- Creatine Select 1 scoop before training
- Muscle Synergy 8 tablets in the morning and 8 before training