The 2012 ABA Natural Illinois Championships!

/ Posted 04.17.2012

I began promoting Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness competitions in 2007. My first show, the 2007 ABA Natural North America, was such a big success that I decided to add a second show and promote two competitions per year instead of just one. So, in March of 2008, I promoted the ABA Natural Illinois competition. I made the mistake of picking Easter weekend for the contest debut of the Natural Illinois in 2008 so the contest only attracted about 25 competitors but I stuck with it because I knew the demand was there for more quality competitions in the Illinois area.

This year, the ABA Natural Illinois was the biggest show I have ever promoted in my seven years of contest promotion. A record number (for me) 91 competitors showed up in outstanding condition to showcase the best Natural Bodybuilders, Figure and Bikini athletes in the area!

The 2012 ABA Natural Illinois Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure and Bikini Championships was held on Saturday, April 7th, 2012 at Bolingbrook High School in Bolingbrook, Illinois. The ABA Natural Illinois is sanctioned through the ABA/INBA organization and this contest offered pro cards to the winners of the Men’s Open Bodybuilding, Women’s Open Bodybuilding, Figure Open, Bikini Open and the Masters divisions as well. The competition was particularly competitive in the Figure and Bikini divisions. It’s amazing how many women are now training hard and competing, no matter what their age. It’s very inspiring to see!

This year is very exciting for Natural Bodybuilding in the midwest because the INBA Natural Universe competition is going to be held in the Chicago, Illinois area for the first time ever. The event will take place at Bolingbrook High School in Bolingbrook, Illinois on Saturday, September 1st and it should be a very big event!

The Teenage Men’s Bodybuilding division was bigger than ever this year with five young bodybuilders vying for the state title. William Thompson from nearby Woodridge, Illinois was the tallest and widest bodybuilder in the division. William could have been a little more ripped but the potential is there for future greatness with his big frame and size.

Matt Maher received the first Standing Ovation of the night when he won the Physically Challenged – Standing Division trophy. Matt captured the hearts of the audience as he bravely posed onstage in his very first competition. He was so overjoyed after the contest that he plans on continuing competing with both the Natural North America and the Natural Universe later this year.

For the Masters Men Bodybuilding overall title, Masters winner Larry Montgomery posed off with 62 year old Ron Mango, winner of the Grand Masters title. Larry’s superior upper body mass and hardness gave him the easy victory.

In the Novice Men’s Bodybuilding, three outstanding class winners posed down for the overall title and the Victory Sword. Anthony Prignano had great hardness and conditioning to win the Short Class and the Best Abs award. Larry Montgomery, fresh off his win in the Masters Men division, won the medium height class with his great shape and size. Larry also won the Best Back award at the contest. Tall class winner Mark Smith showed great progress in his physique and will be an overall winner soon. In the end, Larry Montgomery finally won his first overall title after years of placing near the top.

We added a new division to the Natural Illinois Championships this year because of the increased demand. The Bikini Diva Masters division was very competitive in it’s debut year. A total of nine competitors went after the title and Pamela Tommasone won the division with a perfect score from the judges. Michelle Dooley from Chicago, the Model Search winner, was in second and Holly Kennedy got third place. Jacinta Taylor from Chicago was in fourth place and Donna Hall from Downers Grove, Illinois rounded out the top five.

The Bikini Diva division has grown so much over the last few years. Twenty three women competed in three divisions for the 2012 Natural Illinois. In the short class, Caryn Paolini defeated Bikini Masters winner Pamel Tommasone by one point. In the medium class, the beautiful Camilla Papaioannou was the easy winner. The tall class winner was Bridgette Wrobel. In the overall Bikini Diva decision, mother and housewife Camilla Papaioannou won the overall Victory Sword!

The Figure Masters division was up next. Christina Clausen from Lemont, Illinois brought her cheering section of friends and family and it paid off with a decisive first place victory. In the Figure Masters tall class, the beautiful Julia Keirse scored all first place votes from the judges to win this class. Julia has been doing very well in figure competitions in the area and this was her first ABA contest.

For the overall decision, the judges took their time comparing Christina Clausen and Julia Keirse but Christina pulled off the victory and was crowned the Overall Figure Masters champion. She was a very happy and deserving winner.

In the Figure Open short class, the incredible physique of Colleen McMahon won first place votes from every judge. Colleen had the perfect combination of muscle, curves and definition for the Figure division. Her abs were outstanding! The Figure Open medium class was again dominated by Figure Masters champ Julia Keirse in first place. Sexy Jessica Richmond showed great improvement over last year. The Figure Open tall class was won by returning champ Ashley Lopez. Ashley scored five first place votes from the judges to win this class decisively.

The Figure Open Overall was between Colleen McMahon, Julia Keirse and Ashley Lopez. The judges interchanged each competitor several times to come up with the best decision. In the end, Colleen McMahon won the hotly contested division of the Figure Open at the 2012 ABA Natural Illinois Championships!

Another new addition to this year’s competition was the Team Trophy. Because many of the competitors now belong to gyms or fitness clubs or even specific clubs to help them prepare for competitions, I decided to institute a Team Trophy. We awarded points for each competitor – 5 points for an Overall Title, 4 points for 1st place in your class, 3 points for 2nd place, 2 points for 3rd place and 1 point for 4th place. At the end of the night, the team or gym with the most points would go home with the coveted 4 foot Team Trophy.

Staci Boyer, 2010 Natural Illinois Bikini Diva Champion and Sandy Rowe Wiedmeyer created Team FAB a couple years ago and their ladies dominated the contest tonight. Congratulations to Staci and Sandy and all their champions on their Big Win tonight!!

The 2012 Natural Illinois concluded with the Men’s Open Championships. The short class was won by Anthony Prignano, who won the same division in the Novice Men. Anthony was too hard and too ripped to be denied first place. In the medium class, a three way battle for first emerged with Joe Perez, Jr. Masters Men winner, Larry Montgomery, Novice Men overall winner and Habideen Olaniran. Habideen showcased a physique that featured a tiny waist with full, massive arms and chest and thick, separated quadriceps. He received the majority of the first place votes from the judges as well as the awards for Best Chest and Most Muscular. In the Men’s Open tall class, Joe Myers was perfectly peaked, showing hardness and vascularity to win the class.

For the Men’s Bodybuilding overall, Habideen Olaniran dominated the posedown with his genetically superior physique. Although both Anthony Prignano and Joe Myers were ripped and ready, the size, shape and fullness of Olaniran was tough to beat. Congratulations to Habideen Olaniran on his great overall victory tonight and to a promising future!


Thanks to Don Bersano for the excellent pictures. To contact Don, email him at

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Awesome Power Leg Workout Today!!

/ Posted 04.12.2012

Wow, I had one of the BEST leg workouts I’ve had in a long time tonight. I am so psyched this year to show my best onstage at the Natural Universe contest September 1st in Chicago. My legs have always been my most challenging bodypart so I give this workout my top priority every week.

I missed my leg workout last week because I was so busy preparing for my contest promotion in Chicago. I planned on working out when I got into town but then I got sick and I missed working out all week. Since we are on a schedule for the Power Cycle I am following, I decided to just stick to the schedule again (like I did yesterday with my chest and triceps workout) and do what I am supposed to do in Week 3 of the cycle.

After warming up with abs (Hanging Knee Raises supersetted with Kneeling Cable Crunches for two sets each), I started legs with Leg Extensions. This is obviously not a mass-builder, just an exercise to warm up the quads and the knees for the heavy work to come. I did three sets on Leg Extensions, 130×25, 170×15, 210×10, and then I was ready for Squats.

I do a variation of Barbell Squats called Pause Squats. I slowly descend to the bottom position and hold that position for a 2 count before rising back to the top. By pausing at the bottom, I put more tension on the quadriceps and less on my lower back. With my compressed discs in my lower back, I have to be very careful about going too heavy on Squats. I’m grateful that I can still do this mass-building exercise with the present state of my lower back so I have to approach it with caution.

Today my Power Cycle called for Pause Squats with 365 pounds for 3 sets of 3 reps. I can’t tell you the last time I went this heavy on Squats. It was literally probably 2-3 years since I did Squats with 365. It’s funny when you have a Huge Goal in front of you. Previous obstacles fall away and you believe you can do anything. I was psyched and ready to handle this weight today no matter what. Even though it was only for a limited number of reps, 365 is a substantial weight for Pause Squats but I was NOT going to be intimidated. Not with the Natural Universe only 20 weeks away!

I warmed up with several sets before doing my three working sets on Pause Squats. I did 135×12, 225×8, 275×6 and 315×5 as a warm-up before my real sets began. Because I haven’t trained legs in two weeks, I decided to do 355 for my first set to see how it went. After doing a very easy 3 reps pause-style, I knew it was time to go up to 365 for my last two sets. To my surprise, those sets also went very, very easy. My partner didn’t even have to touch me during each rep, they went up so easily. Wow, AWESOME Squat workout today!!!

After the Pause Squats, my training partner Maks and I went over to the Hack Squat machine. As with Squats, I don’t do Hacks in the standard method. I do 1 1/2 reps to make the exercise harder. I go all the way down, only half way up, back down and then do a full rep. This is considered one rep with 1 1/2 reps. I warmed up with 2 forty five pound plates on each side of the machine for 6 1 1/2 reps before doing my working sets. I put on 305 pounds on the machine for 3 sets of 4 reps – 1 1/2 reps style. This was also very easy as I blasted through each set. Nothing was going to stop me today baby!!

After quads, Maks and I finished our workout with hamstrings. We did Dumbbell Leg Curls on a slight decline bench. I picked the 85 pound dumbbell for three sets of 4 reps. This exercise gives the calves a good workout just from holding the dumbbell between the feet. I’m pretty strong on this exercise and I was able to hold the dumbbell in place for an easy 4 reps for all three sets.

Finally, we finished the leg workout off with Dumbbell Stiff-leg Deadlifts. I did one warm-up set with the 110 pound dumbbells for 8 reps before doing my working sets with the 130 pound dumbbells. I got an easy 5 reps for both sets to finish off the workout.

Wow, what an awesome leg workout today! This was one of the best leg workouts of the year and I am so psyched and ready for this year. It feels fantastic to have such drive and motivation at 49 years old. I have been training since the age of 14 so this is my 35 year of training and this will be 20 years since I won my first Natural Mr. Universe title. I believe in my heart that the Natural Universe contest is my destiny this year just as it was 20 years ago!

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Back to the Gym – Power Chest and Triceps Workout!

/ Posted 04.11.2012

No matter how much we plan it, there are always setbacks to our training program. I went out of town last week to promote one of the two Natural Bodybuilding competitions that I promote in Chicago. Due to a lack of sleep early in the week, I ended up with a brutal head cold when I finally arrived in the Windy City on Wednesday. Luckily, the cold got much better by Saturday so I was able to promote the contest without feeling like a garbage truck had run over me. However, I missed a full week of training in the process.

I arrived home to sunny and warm Tampa, Florida on Monday evening and took that day off as well to rest up and recuperate. Although I wasn’t 100% by Tuesday, I couldn’t wait another day to start training again. I missed the feeling of pushing heavy iron and getting pumped up. So, ready or not, I was in the gym again one week after my last workout for a heavy chest and triceps workout.

I am currently in the second cycle of my Power Training Cycle. This will last approximately 6 weeks and I am focusing on the basic exercises using multiple sets (3) of low reps (3-6 reps). This was scheduled to be the third week of the Power Cycle Training. I decided to attempt the poundages I had set for this week, despite missing a full week of training last week.

I began my chest workout with the Incline Barbell Press. The first week of my Power Training Cycle, I did three sets of 5 reps using 225 pounds. The second week, I did three sets of 4 reps using 235 pounds. This week, I was scheduled to do 3 sets of 3 reps using 245 pounds. After warming up with 135 pounds for 2 sets of 15-20 reps, I went right to my working weight. Even after being sick last week and not training since last Sunday, the 245 pounds for 3 reps was very easy. For the last set, my training partner Maks and I reduced the weight on the bar to 225 pounds and added two 20 pound chains to each side of the barbell. This, surprisingly, was also very easy and I did five reps on the last set.

For the next exercise, Maks and I moved over the Dumbbell Bench Press. For our second basic exercise, we were doing sets of 4 reps. I warmed up with the 95 pound dumbbells and then started my work sets with the 120 pound dumbbells. They were pretty heavy and I had Maks spot me close but I was able to get 3 sets of 4 reps with the 120’s. I was really having a great workout today after a week off.

For our last chest exercise, Maks and I did Incline Flyes. I am very strong on flye exercises and we were doing sets of 6 on the isolation exercise. I grabbed the 85 pound dumbbells for three sets of 6 easy reps on the Incline Flyes.

Next up were triceps. We started with the mass-builder, Close Grip Bench Press. I warmed up with 135 pounds for 15 reps and then did our working sets with 225 pounds for 3 reps. This was also pretty easy and I rammed up the weight for 3 reps for the first two sets. For the last set, we repeated what we did with the Incline Barbell Press and added the 20 pound chains to each side of the barbell. This was a little heavier, as expected, and I barely got 3 reps with 225 pounds plus a 20 pound chain on each side of the bar.

Lying Tricep Extensions, or “skull crushers” as they are more commonly called, was the second mass-building exercise for triceps. I started with 120 pounds and the goal was three sets of 5 reps. Because I was feeling so good and so strong today, I went up to 8 reps on the second set and it was very easy. I decided to add another 20 pounds to the bar for the last set and still got a good 5 reps with 140 pounds.

Our last triceps exercise was Overhead Cable Extensions while kneeling on the floor. I position my elbows on a high bench just like the first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott used to do. This makes all the difference in the world as it really helps to isolate the triceps. It is so much better doing the exercise this way instead of just bending the upper body forward away from the cable. I had Maks hold my back down with his hand so I could really concentrate on the triceps extending and flexing. I used 72.5 pounds on the cable machine for the first set of 8 reps and finished with 80 pounds for another 8 reps.

Great workout today! I can’t express how awesome it felt to get back in the gym and move some heavy weight around. I have less than 20 weeks until the Natural Mr. Universe contest in Chicago and I am going for the Gold this year. It will be my 20 year anniversary, having won my first Natural Universe title in 1992 so this is destiny. I am going to win the Natural Mr. Universe title again in 2012!!!

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