I added eight pounds of LBM (drug-free) kept my body fat levels low all year long, probably in the 7-8 % range, before dropping to around 5% for the contest. I’ve always been a hard/slow gainer, so for me this was very good progress.
Teaching an old dog a few new tricks – The Beverly family of staff and customers helped me put the right strategy together this past year after 25 years of lifting.
I finally got it right! What I mean by that is: I finally put together a bodybuilding strategy that really works for me, one with very good results in each of the key areas: Training, Nutrition and the right Mental Approach. This strategy culminated when I brought home a 4th place trophy in the Masters Division of the NPC VA/DC State show, a non-tested event. As a 44-year-old natural competitor I felt pretty good about this prestigious show.
I’ve have been lifting since college 25 years ago. I competed for a few years back in the 80’s, and was also an NPC judge at the state level. I then took a long hiatus from competition focusing on family and career, not getting back into competitive bodybuilding until I was old enough to qualify for the Masters Class. After a couple of less than successful attempts, everything finally seemed to fall into place this year. I found the solution to my personal competition equation.
My problem, if you want to call it that, was one that many others experience. "How do you sift through the huge amount of information and advice out there and make it all come together for YOU?" My interest in bodybuilding spans decades. During that time I’ve read a lot of articles, bought more than a few books, and listened as others have talked about what works and what doesn’t. I trained hard and followed a sound nutritional plan. My past results, however, were only satisfactory. My goal was to upgrade from just satisfactory results to VERY GOOD.
This past year I was able to take that next step forward and I’m just tickled pink about it as I never thought that my 44th year in this world would be my best year for bodybuilding. I made significant improvement to my previous best ever condition and now I’d like to share with you the things that made it possible for me. I hope that some of you reading this article can also use this approach to "put it all together for YOU". It can be done, and I’m proof that age does not have to hold you back.
There are several components to my "next level" program, but the most important one, the one that you have to have right, is the nutrition piece. Even if you recognize the supreme importance of nutrition, it is still not that easy to get it right. We are deluged with advertising and information regarding nutrition. Which foods are the best? Which supplements will work for me? What is the best order and timing for what you consume?
Sorting through all of this information and finding a nutritional plan that will work best for you is like living an experiment. In fact, to me success in Bodybuilding is measured by your ability to continually try different combinations to see what works and what doesn’t. What is the right formula for YOU? Mix the right amount of training, nutrition and mental approach and you will see success.
After 20 plus years of lifting I’d learned a few things about how my body reacts to training and nutrition, but as I stated earlier, I felt like there was still something missing.
As I searched for the missing component I came up with the following attributes:
I needed to break out of the mold that I had been in and try something new.
I wanted to base my plan on someone’s real life experience and success.
I would have to adapt this new plan to meet my needs.
I knew from past experience that I could not simply take someone else’s plan and follow it to the "T" expecting to get their exact results. My body just does not fall into line like that. We are all unique individuals and we must acknowledge that and listen and learn from our own bodies. Now, starting with a sound plan makes perfect sense, and reinventing the wheel is unnecessary – so what I’m suggesting is to take a proven plan/strategy and adapt it to your needs. This way you get the best of both worlds - proven success applied to your situation!
Beverly’s always been a great source for these real life success stories. The one I sought, however, had to be a little different than the traditional training and nutritional plans that I’d been following. I found my answer in the training and nutritional strategy that Mark Ritter had followed leading up to his competitive successes in 2002. What struck me about his plan and results were that he too had been seeing good results but wanted to go to the next level. So right after finishing my competition prep in the fall of 2002 I put together my version of the Ritter plan. I was excited about trying something new and buoyed by Mark’s comment to me that "The best time to start a program like this is right after you’ve competed," so the timing seemed to be just right.
Mark’s plan, for those of you who are not familiar with it, was a gaining/hardening program where you cycle two diet plans intended to help you gain LBM but also stay at a fairly low body fat level. The training volume he recommends is significant, and many of the set/rep/weight schemes are very challenging. So to get started I laid out his plan and immediately saw a few things that would not work for me. For example - some of us have a weakness or limitation that we have to work around when we select exercises. For me, I have to avoid putting any heavy weight on my shoulders due to a lower back vertebra imbalance. Mark’s heavy high volume squat routine was out for me. But that was OK – don’t fret it when plan "x" is not perfect for you. I just substituted leg presses. Same thing for the heavy barbell rows – I can’t do them without risking injury – but I can do heavy one–arm dumbbell rows supporting myself with my other arm. Fifteen years ago I tore a rotator cuff. Ever since then I can’t push myself on regular bench presses. Mark was doing 30 reps with 225 – ouch, my shoulder hurt just thinking about it! But I seem to have no problem with doing heavy wide grip machine presses so I substituted those.
I followed this gaining/hardening cycle for about 10 months before switching to my pre–contest diet plan. Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, "Ten months! No way I could do that!" But I can tell you that it really was not a big deal. If you set out a strategy like this and decide that you are going to stick with it over a longer period of time you can also afford to cheat a little. I found that a free or cheat meal, or even a free or cheat day once a week is not a problem and did not negatively impact my results. In fact it keeps me sane and helps me stay on track over the long haul, which is the secret to success.
I realized my all time best ever results from this training and nutritional strategy. I added eight pounds of LBM (drug–free) kept my body fat levels low all year long, probably in the 7–8 % range, before dropping to around 5% for the contest. I have always been a hard/slow gainer, so for me this was very good progress.
The beauty of this strategy is that you not only get bigger, but you’ll stay within reasonable striking distance of your contest condition all year long. I didn’t start my actual pre–contest diet until nine weeks out. Even then I dropped calories very slowly. This allowed me to hang on to my newly gained LBM and to stay strong during my workouts as the contest approached. It was only the final week of workouts where any of my weights or reps dropped below what my off–season poundages had been, so that was another thing I was happy about.
As I mentioned earlier, I look at Beverly’s staff and customers as part of my family. I have now embarked on a slightly different plan. After reading Greg Daniel’s plateau buster strategy and exchanging several emails with him I have come up with a plan that is based on what worked for him, but – can you guess? – modified it to what I think will work best for me. Greg gained ten pounds of LBM in six weeks. I would be thrilled with that result, but my plan is laid out in a way that I think it might take a little longer than six weeks for me to see the gains. If it works for me as I hope it will, perhaps Sandy will invite me back to write another article so that I can share it with you.
In closing I want to say that my body building accomplishments this past year meant an awful lot more to me than they might have in any other year. In other areas my world seemed to be spinning in an uncontrolled fashion after I had the bad fortune of falling victim to a corporate downsizing and finding myself looking for a new career. There were many weeks where bodybuilding seemed to be the only thing I could control. It was also a huge stress reliever for me. While hopefully none of you will be in this same situation, I do think that many of you can relate to the value and benefits of being dedicated to the bodybuilding lifestyle and the personal satisfaction of realizing goals. It can be a stabilizing factor in your life.
Don’t be afraid to raise your goals to the next level. Mark and Greg did so with great success while in their 20’s. There are others like me who have done it later in life. I’m hoping that my results for next year will be even better! Give it a shot and share YOUR success stories with the other members of the Beverly family. (I am happy to provide more details or to answer questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org)