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 bersanophotography@comcast.net.

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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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Hellcentrics Training – Shoulders and Traps

/ Posted 03.19.2012

I am now in my fifth week of Hellcentrics training. If you read my last blog, you’ll know that Hellcentrics training is the advanced version of HRT (Hell Raiser Training). Basically, I do two working sets for each exercise. For each set, I will do 8 normal repetitions followed by four forced negatives (where my training partner applies pressure for a 4 second count during the eccentric portion of the rep). The Hellcentric training adds a new twist to the HRT program. Before each forced negative, I perform a partial rep in which my partner also applies both positive and negative pressure. So, to sum it up, I perform 8 regular repetitions followed by a partial rep followed by a forced negative rep.

For my shoulder workout, I do one basic exercise (a compound pressing movement), one exercise for the medial (side) delts and one exercise for the rear delts. I also do traps on shoulder day and I threw in one extra exercise for the side delts (cable upright rows).

For my compound pressing exercise, I choose Seated Dumbbell Press. After two warm-up sets with the 45 and 65 pound dumbbells, I was ready for my working sets. For the first set, I used the 85 pound dumbbells for an easy 8 reps followed by 4 partial/forced negative reps. I used this weight for my second set too but I only got through 3 partial/forced negative reps before I hit failure. On the Seated Dumbbell Press, my partial rep is from the lockout position to about 1/4 of the way down.

The side delts were next. My partner Maks and I did Seated Side Lateral Raises. Already being warmed up from the Dumbbell Presses, I went immediately into my first set. I used the 35 pound dumbbells and did 8 good reps followed by 4 partial/forced negative reps. On this exercise, I did the partial rep from the beginning to about a quarter of the way up with my partner applying both positive and negative pressure. From this point, my partner helps me lift my arms to the parallel position and then pushes on my arms down for the forced negative rep. I did 4 partial/forced negative reps on the first set and only 3 partial/forced negative reps on the second set.

To hit the side delts even harder, Maks and I went to the Cable Upright Rows next. I started with the full stack (95 pounds) and did 8 full reps followed by four forced negative reps with Maks pushing on the weight stack and me resisting for a four second count. This weight felt pretty heavy so I dropped it a little for the second set to 87.5 pounds. I was able to feel the side delts a little more on this set for another 8 full reps and four forced negatives.

For the rear delts, I did the Lying Side Lateral Raises on a decline bench. I used the 30 pound dumbbell and did a good slow 8 reps followed by a partial rep from the bottom to a quarter of the way up. After the partial rep, Maks helped lift my arm to the top and applied pressure for a 4 second forced negative rep. I did two sets just like this. The reason this training system was developed was to allow for a better pump in the muscles. After only set of Lying Side Lateral Raises, I had a great pump in the rear delts.

We finished the shoulder workout off with Dumbbell Shrugs. Because it would be too hard to do a forced negative on this exercise, we just did a very slow 4-5 second negative after completing the normal 8 reps. I used the 110 pound dumbbells for the first set for 8 reps and 4 slow negatives and then went up to the 120 pound dumbbells for the second set.

Although it’s still early in the year, my countdown has already begun for the Natural Mr. Universe contest in Chicago on September 1st. I am using a new Diet Coach this year, Cliff Wilson from Chicago (www.teamwilsonbb.com), and we are getting ready right now. I officially started my diet on March 13th, which is over 24 weeks until show time. This will give me plenty of time to get leaner and lose all my bodyfat and then fill out again in time for the competition. The big mistake I made last year was staying lean all year and then flattening out as the contest got closer. That won’t happen this year!

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Training Back and Biceps with Hellcentrics

/ Posted 03.07.2012

If you read the September, 2011 issue of Ironman Magazine last year, you will remember me talking about a new training system called HRT (Hell Raiser Training) that I used when I was dieting for my Ironman Magazine cover shoot. HRT involved 8 regular repetitions followed by 4 forced negatives (for a slow 4 second count) on each exercise. Although the resistance had to be reduced to get through all 12 repetitions, the result was a great pump in the muscles and an increase in the sarcoplasmic portion of the muscle cell, leading to greater muscle size.

I recently interviewed Tom Fuller, the creator of the HRT Training System, for an upcoming issue of Ironman Magazine. Tom has since updated the training system from last year. An advanced version of HRT Training, called Hellcentrics, improves on the old system by adding a partial rep before each forced negative rep. The added partial rep (which also receives the forced negative from your training partner) helps to increase the myofibular as well as sacroplasmic portion of the muscle cell. In other words, it not only brings more fluid into the muscle, it actually increases the thickness of the muscle fibers themselves.

To give you an example of how I am utilizing the Hellcentrics training into my workouts, I will illustrate a back and biceps workout conducted at the beautiful Powerhouse Gym in downtown Tampa last week. I am currently in my fourth week of Hellcentrics training after 6 weeks of Power Training that started off the New Year. I want to make some very substantial gains in muscle mass during this off season before I being dieting again for my next contest in the fall.

To start off the workout, my training partner Maks and I did 2 sets of Close-Grip Pulldowns with a light to moderate weight. This was done just to warm up the muscles and joints before the real workout started. I used 120 pounds for 15 reps and then 160 pounds for 12 reps on this exercise.

Our first back exercise using Hellcentrics was Wide-Grip Chins. I did 8 regular repetitions to start off and then the fun began. Holding the top position, I had Maks pull down on my bent legs until I was about 1/4-1/2 way down and then he helped me a little to get back to the top. This was the partial rep portion of the Hellcentrics. When I was at the top, Maks pulled down on my legs to provide a forced negative rep for 4 seconds during the eccentric portion of the exercise. When I was at the bottom, Maks helped me get back to the top again so I could do another partial rep followed by another forced negative. I did a total of 4 partial/forced negative reps after my regular 8 repetitions.

When doing Hellcentrics or HRT, you only need to do 2 working sets for each exercise. I usually do 2-3 exercises for each muscle group, depending on the size of the muscle. Smaller muscles like biceps and calves only get two exercises but bigger muscle groups like back can get 3 or 4, just so I cover the whole area of the muscle.

After the Wide Grip Chins, I went to an exercise for the thickness of the lats. Using free weight exercises with a barbell or dumbbells is hard to use with the Hellcentrics training. It’s easier to use this training technique with machines or cables. Instead of doing One-Arm DB Rows, I did rows on the Seated Hammer Strength machine. I did these one arm at a time and my partner was able to able the negative pressure during the partial/forced negative repetitions.

I started off the One-Arm Hammer Strength Rows with 3 forty five pound plates on each side. This was a good weight because I was able to do 8 full reps followed by a partial rep and then a forced negative. I noticed that I am getting stronger each week with the negative repetitions. It’s important with this training program to really resist each rep to increase that sarcoplasmic portion of the muscle cell. I did two sets on the One-Arm Hammer Strength Rows.

Next up, I did two more sets on T-Bar Rows. This is a free weight exercise that uses the lower back to help stabilize the weight so it’s not an easy exercise to do using negative reps. I did my first set with four 45 pound plates at the end of the bar. I was able to do the Hellcentrics with this by doing a strong partial rep followed by a forced negative. Four plates is not that heavy for T-Bar Rows but I had to use a moderate weight because of the partial and forced negatives.

Before I trained my lower back, I added a couple of sets to work the upper back muscles. I have very wide lats but I need to add more thickness to the inner back. I did an exercise using a rope attachment and set the pulley at about eye level. I pulled the rope toward my upper chest, keeping the elbows out wide to train the inner back muscles. I only used about 35 pounds but I did do the forced negatives on this exercise also for two sets.

Maks and I finished training back by doing Hyper-Extensions on the angled bench. I didn’t do forced negatives on this exercise but I did do 1 1/2 reps to focus more on the lower back muscles and less on the hamstrings and glutes. I did half a rep from the fully contracted position to half way down, then I went back up to fully contracted followed by a full rep. I did 15 1 1/2 reps for two sets for the lower back.

Biceps were up next. We started with Seated Dumbbell Curls. I only used the 40 pound dumbbells for 8 full reps and 4 forced negatives. I did the Hellcentrics on this exercise by doing a forced partial rep from the top position to almost half way down before coming back up. My biceps got super pumped from two sets of this exercise.

We finished biceps with Barbell Preacher Curls. Using an 80 pound barbell, I did 8 reps, a partial forced rep (from top to a quarter way down) and then a full forced negative. Two sets of Barbell Preachers and we were finished.

I hit a few poses after we were finished training. I’m at about 207 pounds (at night) right now and my bodyfat is still 11 %. I probably need to get just a little leaner than where I am right now for the ideal off season bodyweight but I’m still pretty lean. My arms are up an inch from my contest last year and my legs are up about 2 inches so I’m making good progress. I’m training VERY hard each and every workout because I want to make significant progress for this year. I don’t have any time to waste because it will be time to start dieting before you know it. I’ll keep updating my progress right here on Ironman Magazine.com!

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Muscle at the Movies Oscar Party

/ Posted 03.07.2012

Just like many bodybuilders, I love the movies. I have been a big movie buff for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Chicago so I was reading movie reviews by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, even before they started reviewing movies on TV. When I was in high school, I had my own movie review column in the school newspaper (“Hansen Picks the Flicks”). I continued the tradition when I went to college, reviewing movies for the college newspaper.

When Aaron Singerman from RX Muscle.com moved to Tampa, Florida from Houston, Texas, I soon discovered that we shared a love for the movies. Aaron goes to the movies all the time, just like I do. We came up with the idea of reviewing movies on RX Muscle.com. The show became a big hit on the website and many viewers responded favorably to our movie reviews. Since Aaron and I are both bodybuilders, we decided to call the show Muscle at the Movies. Instead of two high-brow critics reviewing movies that no one can relate to, Aaron and I bring an “everyman” approach to movie reviews and give a thumbs up or thumbs down (maybe that should be “biceps up or biceps down”) to movies that most people go to see.

On Sunday, February 26th, we both attended the Oscar Party, held at the beautiful Tampa Theater in downtown Tampa, Florida. I went to this event last year and had a great time. The Tampa Theater is one of those old, grand theaters that, sadly, are very few in number in this country. It has a balcony and is decorated with beautiful columns and incredible architecture.

I go to see movies at the Tampa Theater as often as I can. This is a non-profit venture and it’s kept alive by ticket sales and donations. The Tampa Theater usually plays art house movies that you can’t find playing at the typical multiplex as well as holding concerts and other special events.

At the big Oscar Party, the Tampa Theater literally rolls out the red carpet and treats their guests to a fun evening. All ticket holders are given a limo ride around the block before being dropped off in front of the Theater. As you exit the limo, you are greeted with cheering fans held back by the velvet rope. A Joan Rivers look a like (“Roan Jivers”) interviews the “stars” walking the red carpet. Inside, attendees get to watch the Academy Awards on the big screen instead of falling asleep at home in front of the TV.

Aaron and I were interviewed by Roan Jivers before the big night began. After our interview, we took a limo ride around the Theater before being dropped off on the red carpet. After a shot of vodka to salute the evening, I was feeling good when I entered a contest to pick all the Oscar winners. I won this contest last year so I thought I would give it another shot. I found out the following week that I won the Pick the Oscars contest again! (My secret? Read Entertainment Weekly).

Aaron and I were joined by one of my clients (and future Figure competitor) Tallia Keene and her lovely daughter. Tallia took the limo ride with us as well as walking the red carpet and signing autographs.

To see the video of all the action on the Muscle at the Movies Oscar Party, check out his link:

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Fun at the 2012 L.A. Fitness Expo

/ Posted 02.07.2012

It was fun being back at the L.A. Fitness Expo again this year. Sponsored by Ironman Magazine, the L.A. Fit Expo is getting bigger and bigger each year. One example is the Ironman Naturally contest. Last year, this contest brought in only 65 competitors. Only one year later, 118 entries tried their hand at this quickly growing competition.

I was on hand working the Optimum Nutrition booth at the Expo and I also gave a seminar on “How to Make Progress as a Natural Bodybuilder” at the Expo on Saturday afternoon. I had a really big crowd for my seminar along with lots of great questions from both men and women. Because I was on one of the main Expo stages, many people walking by were stopping in the aisles to listen to the seminar. I even had a few people approach me after the seminar to express interest in my growing Natural Olympia Fitness Getaway that I am holding twice a month in Tampa, Florida (http://www.naturalolympia.com/FitnessCamp.html).

 

The Ironman Magazine booth was very popular at the L.A. Fit Expo. Bodybuilding Legend Robby Robinson was on hand to sell his latest book. Dave Goodin was also on hand to sign copies of IronMan Magazine. Dave is looking great as usual and he’s planning on competing again on the IFBB Pro Stage later this year.

You never know who you’re going to run into at these expos and it was great to finally meet big Tom Fuller in person. Tom is the innovator of the HRT (Hell Raiser Training) system. This unique training method combines positive reps with forced negative reps to create a greater pump in the muscles by forcing more blood and glycogen into the muscle cells. This results in awesome pumps during the workouts and more muscle growth. I experimented with the HRT system last year when I was dieting for my Ironman Magazine photo shoot and I’m looking forward to using it again this year in the off season when I am eating more calories. Look for an in-depth interview with Tom in an upcoming issue of IronMan.

I also ran into another Bodybuilding Legend at the Expo. Eddie Giuliani was spotted at the Optimum Nutrition booth talking to Expert Trainer Charles Glass. I grabbed Eddie to take a picture with him because I recognized him from the Golden Age of Bodybuilding. If you don’t know who Eddie is, he is a former class winner at the IFBB Mr. World contest and he’s most famous as the guy who jumps into Arnold’s arms at the beginning of the movie “Pumping Iron”. It was great to see Eddie healthy and happy as he must be in his late 70′s.

Since this is California, there were plenty of gorgeous women walking around the Expo. The lovely Heather Clay was dressed in a female gladiator type outfit and signing copies of the Ironman Swimsuit Spectacular issue, in which she is prominently featured. I also saw Denise Milani at the far end of the Expo. I met Denise last year when she was walking around the expo and she told me then that she wanted to be a part of this industry. Fast forward one year later and Denise has entered and won her first bikini contest at the NPC Excalibur last year. She is looking forward to competing in the NPC USA’s this summer in Las Vegas. Judging from all the attention Denise was getting at the Expo from both fans and industry players, she is going to have a great future in the sport.

Unfortunately, because of my flight schedule, I couldn’t stay at the Expo both days and I had to fly home on Sunday. However, I still had fun at this year’s L.A. Fit Expo even for only one day. Look for my upcoming video interviews on www.realstrength.com and my website www.naturalolympia.com soon!

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Power Workout – Week 3 Chest and Triceps

/ Posted 01.18.2012

I started my third week in my Power Cycle this week. On Monday, I hit chest, triceps and calves. Basically, the Power Cycle allows me to slowly build up my strength by doing multiple sets (3) of two basic exercises with gradually increasing poundages. The first week, I did sets of 5 reps, the second week sets of 4 reps and this week I did sets of 3 reps. Next week, I will go back to 5 reps but use the weight I used on the second week and not the first. This way, I will finish off the cycle with more weight than I used in the beginning.

For my chest workout, I am doing two basic exercises – barbell bench press and incline dumbbell press. I finish off with 2-3 sets of a shaping exercise, flat dumbbell flyes. My barbell bench press is probably my weakest exercise of all the movements I do. I need to really build up the development and strength of my triceps muscles because I think this is the cause of my lack of strength in the bench press.

After dieting so many months last year, my strength went down further than I anticipated. To begin the power cycle two weeks ago, I started with only 225 pounds on the bench press for 5 reps. Last week, I did 235 pounds for 4 reps and this week, I was up to 245 pounds for sets of 3 reps.

My training partner Maks is super psyched about our training this year and he wants to make some great progress. Maks is only 22 years old and his goal is to get both bigger and stronger. Of course, at 22 years old, he doesn’t have to worry about aching joints, bad lower backs or declining testosterone levels. However, he is struggling with a hyper fast metabolism that won’t allow him to put on any weight. I remember those days.

Maks is closing in on 190 pounds and he wants to get up to 200 pounds and over this year. He’s using Optimum Nutrition’s Pro Complex Gainer to supplement his diet and help him gain weight. I, on the other hand, am hovering around 200 pounds and just trying to stay lean as I add muscle mass and strength. Maks would give anything to be 200 pounds. I could get to 220 pounds just by having a bad weekend. Different ages, different goals, different strategies.

I went up to 245 pounds on the bench press today for an easy 3 reps. On the third and final set, Maks talked me into using 255 pounds and that went up pretty easy too. I know it seems like ridiculously light weight but it felt good to finally start adding some strength after being so lean last year. Maks did 255 easily and he is building up his strength again after taking a few weeks off for the holidays.

Incline dumbbell presses were the second exercise we did. I’m much stronger on the dumbbell inclines than I am on the barbell flat bench. I did the 90′s in week one and the 100′s last week. This week, I started with the 110′s for an easy 4 reps. I felt like I could have gotten a couple more reps but I played it conservative and saved my strength by only doing four reps.

We finished our chest workout off with 3 sets of flat dumbbell flyes. If you’ve seen my training video Real Muscle (available on the Home Gym Warehouse), you know that I do flyes with my legs off the floor to really isolate the chest muscles. I’m pretty strong on flyes also. I did the 65 pound dumbbells on week one, the 70′s on week two and I used the 75′s this week for 3 sets of 7 reps. This gave me a good pump in the chest to finish the workout. The lower reps on the bench press and dumbbell incline press didn’t allow me to really get a good pump.

For triceps, we are sticking with the two mass-builders during the Power Cycle, close-grip bench press and dips. I did 185 for 3 sets of 5 reps on week 1 with the close-grip bench press. Last week, I went up to 195 for 4 reps and that was pretty easy. Today, I did 205 pounds for 3 reps for the first two sets and then went up to 215 pounds for 3 reps on the last set, thanks to Maks pushing me to use a heavier weight to finish off.

Dips was the second movement for triceps. I went up to a 45 pound plate for extra resistance today and did two sets of 4 reps and then only made 3 reps on the last set. My goal is to lock out on the top of the exercise to activate the medial head of the muscle (the belly of the triceps) and then lower really slowly until my upper arms are parallel to the floor before pushing hard back to the top.

Our last triceps exercise was lying tricep extensions (aka “skull crushers”). I started with 100 pounds for an easy 10 reps and then finished with two sets of 8 reps with 120 pounds. The lying tricep extensions work the long head of the muscle and the higher reps helped to pump more blood into the triceps.

Finally, Maks and I finished off the workout with calves. We started with Seated Calf Raises for the important soleus muscle of the calves. Since the soleus muscle is mostly red muscle fibers, we did high reps on this exercise. I started with 90 pounds for 20 reps on the first set, 140 pounds for 15 reps on the second set, and finished with 200 pounds for 8 and 7 reps, respectively, on the third and fourth sets.

I included 20 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, setting the speed at 3.2 mph and the incline at 8.5, for a fast walk. I’m still doing at least three days a week of cardio in the off season to stay lean (and off set the occasional binging of chocolate chip cookies that seems to occur several times a week). I weighed 202 at the end of the workout and looked pretty pumped and full when it was all over. Good training session today!

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Off Season Power Training

/ Posted 01.13.2012

The Off Season has officially started! After taking it easy for the month of December by first taking a couple of weeks off followed by another couple of weeks of light, pumping workouts, I am now on the quest to making progress for the New Year. My assignment, if I choose to accept it (loved “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” btw), is to increase my muscle mass while staying lean at the young age of 48 years old and maintaining my completely Natural status (no steroids, growth hormones, insulin or pro hormones).

My game plan is to alternate cycles of Power Training (to increase my strength on the basic exercises) with High-Intensity Training. I am anxious to again implement the HRT Training Program that I used last spring. HRT stands for Hell Raiser Training and it was designed by Tom Fuller. Tom originally came up with the idea of HRT as a means of increasing the pump in the muscles during the workout. It involves 8 traditional repetitions followed by 4 forced negatives with the help of your training partner. I used the HRT Training Program for a few months last spring when I was dieting for my Ironman Magazine photo shoot and I loved it. I’m psyched about giving it another go in the off season when I am eating more calories and carbs. I figure the additional carbs and nutrients will add up to an even greater muscle pump!

Before I jump into the HRT Training, however, I wanted to spend some quality training time increasing my strength. After dieting for a full 11 months in 2011, my strength was really neglected and I felt pretty weak in some exercises. Now that I’m recovered from all that intense training and caloric restriction from last year and I’ve added some weight, I want to build up my strength again by employing a Power Cycle.

My Power Cycle Training involves using the same weight for three sets on the basic exercises. The basic strategy looks like this:

Week 1 – 3 sets of 5 reps

Week 2 – 3 sets of 4 reps

Week 3 – 3 sets of 3 reps

Week 4 – 3 sets of 5 reps (using the weight used in Week 2)

Week 5 – 3 sets of 4 reps (using the weight used in Week 3)

Week 6 – 3 set of 3 reps (using the heaviest weight of the cycle)

I am choosing two basic exercises for each major muscle group and maybe adding a third shaping exercise done for more reps, depending on the size of the muscle. For example, when I train chest, I am doing Barbell Bench Presses first using the above cycle. Than, for my second movement, I am doing Incline DB Press with repetitions ranging from 6, 5, 4, 6, 5, 4 and finishing with 3 sets of Flyes for 8 reps.

Today, I trained back and biceps at the awesome Powerhouse Gym in downtown Tampa, Florida. If you are ever in the Tampa area, you owe it to yourself to check out this gym and get a workout in. It’s definitely one of the BEST Gyms I’ve ever trained at in my long career. This is the second week of the Power Cycle so I was doing 3 sets of 4 reps with the first basic movement (Barbell Rows) and 3 sets of 5 reps on the second exercise (Seated Cable Rows). I finished back with Hyper-Extensions for the lower back before moving onto biceps. For biceps, I only did two sets of 5 reps on Incline Curls followed by two sets of 4 reps on Barbell Curls.

I was sipping a Speed Stack from American Bodybuilding to get some energy going before we started training. I started the workout off with two sets of 10-15 reps on Close-Grip Pulldowns to warm up the lats. The Close-Grip Pulldown is a great exercise for targeting the lower lats but doing it with a light weight also helps to pump blood into the rear delts, biceps as well as the back. It’s very important to warm-up before training heavy with any bodypart.

After the Close-Grip Pulldowns, my training partner Max and I did some Wide-Grip Chins for the upper lats. It’s the best exercise for developing the coveted V-shape of the back. Using only our bodyweight, we did 2 sets of 9 reps each set to pump up the lats even more.

Our first basic exercise for the Power Sets was Barbell Rows. I feel that this exercise is the number one mass builder for adding thickness and size to the back. I prefer doing them old school style with the back parallel to the floor and grabbing the bar with a wide grip. This helps develop thickness in the outer lats as well as more width right through the center of the lats.

After warming up with 135 and 185 pounds over two sets, Max and I loaded up the bar to 235 pounds and did 3 sets of 4 reps. I’m positive I could have done more reps with this weight but the whole objective of the Power Cycle is to slowly build up your strength by using gradually increasing resistance over a six week period.

After the Barbell Rows, I was feeling pretty big and pumped. For our second basic movement, Max and I went with Seated Cable Rows. We did T-Bar Rows last week for our second exercise but I thought Seated Cable Rows (using a close-grip) would be a good substitute. I did one warm-up set using 220 pounds and then did three sets of 5 reps using the full stack (260 pounds). This weight felt pretty easy so I increased it by 10 pounds on the last set, making it 270 pounds.

To finish off back, we did 3 sets of Hyper-Extensions on the flat Hyperextension machine. I did 20 reps on the first set using just my bodyweight and followed that up with two more sets holding a 45 pound plate to my chest. I was able to do 15 reps using the extra weight followed by a drop set with only my bodyweight for 8 more additional repetitions.

For biceps, I kept the sets much lower because this a very small muscle group. I began with Incline Curls on a very high incline. I warmed up with the 40 pound dumbbells for 10 easy reps. Then, I did two sets of 5 reps using the 50 pound dumbbells. This was a challenging but very achievable weight for this exercise.

My next basic exercise was, of course, the Standing Barbell Curl. Last week on week one of the Power Cycle, I used 105 pounds for 3 sets of 5 reps. Today, I went up only 10 pounds to use 115 pounds for two sets of 4 reps. Again, I could have gone much heavier but the point of the cycle is to slowly increase my strength by doing multiple sets of gradually increasing resistance.

I finished my workout off with two sets of Hammer Curls. I like doing the Hammer Curls alternating arms and curling the dumbbell across my torso, aiming for the opposite shoulder. I feel it more in the brachialis muscle doing the exercise in this fashion. I used the 55 pound dumbbells for two sets of 5 reps.

Things are looking good this early in the training year. My weight is at about 200 pounds first thing in the morning before breakfast (actually 198 pounds) and my bodyfat is less than 10%. I want to stay lean and keep eating quality food with my macros at about 250 grams of protein, 300-350 grams of carbs and 60 grams of fats. Stay tuned for more updates!

 

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Start the New Year off right!

/ Posted 01.03.2012

As we welcome in 2012, it’s common to look forward to a brand new year and the opportunities that await us. This is the time to set new goals, new resolutions and plan for the future. I love the idea of setting goals. That’s what helps define your desires and puts a time limit on them. This forces us to work harder in order to bring our goals into reality.

The secret to realizing a big goal or resolution is to work toward that goal EVERY DAY! This is where most of us fail to ever realize our goals. It’s exciting to look at the final destination but it’s the small, daily steps that lead to that finish line. Although the big goal might look very appealing, the work that must be done every day is often routine, boring and mundane. This is what separates the people who realize their goals from those who are ultimately disappointed.

When you set up your BIG goal, be sure to write out exactly what you are going to need to do every day, every week and every month in order to realistically achieve your dream. In Bodybuilding and Fitness, these goals can range from winning a contest to achieving a certain condition with your physique.

If you want to change your physique, you will need a game plan with both your training and nutrition program. Begin with the end in mind and write out exactly what you want your physique to look like at the finish line (the date you want to achieve your goal). You might need to bring your calves up an inch and a half to bring them in proportion with your thighs, you may need to get your waist down to 32 inches to rid your physique of all your subcutaneous bodyfat and create the ultimate V-taper. Maybe you want to bring your bench press up 50 pounds or increase your arms by 2 inches.

When you know what the final goal will look like, break down where you want to be each month in order to achieve your finished look. It’s going to take months of work to reach your final destination and each succeeding month should bring you closer to your big goal. By knowing where you need to be each month, you will be more motivated to do the work you need to do each day and each week.

If you really want to be successful, take the time to map out your strategy to achieve success. Winning doesn’t happen by accident. Plan to reach your individual goal and keep yourself accountable by doing what needs to be done each day and each week to make it happen. Good Luck to all of you in 2012 and here’s to your SUCCESS!!

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