by Cory Crow • Photography by Michael Neveux
As the short, cold and dreary winter days roll on, it’s very easy to lose track of the fitness goals that were so easily met during the long, hot days of summer. Muscles that were visible in shorts and T-shirts become muddled afterthoughts behind layers of sweaters, jackets and other articles of clothing designed to offer protection from Polar Vortices of doom. Even getting to the gym can be a struggle as the sunlight takes a break from its daily routine and hides itself behind clouds, making the days dark and your drive to get up and move even darker. Throw in snow, rain and ice storms, and your local gym may as well be located in Riga, Latvia, as opposed to right down the street.
Rather than a time when gains are made, the winter becomes a time when muscle is lost and flab is found, when building on last year’s success gets buried under a tub of pudding, cake and pie, followed by the grub-fest finale of the National Football League season. By the time you read this, it’ll be long past time to wake up from your long winter’s nap, metaphorically speaking, to reclaim lost gains and get your body ready for beach season.
One of the areas that the fitness conscious worry about greatly is chest. Besides the arms, there’s no bodypart on which the muscle-to-flab phenomenon is more worrisome than the pectorals. There’s a thin line between sporting a prodigious chest and having man-boobs. The former brings up images of Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, while the latter suggests doughy guys in too-tight T-shirts with seams straining to hold it all together.
Looking for new knowledge on how to be more like Mr. Johnson and less like a sausage stuffed in an Affliction T-shirt, I sought out the advice of Canadian rising star Samuel Dixon. The bodybuilder and fitness model from Quebec holds professional status in the MuscleMania organization and has been fine-tuning his physique in search of balance and muscularity for years. A personal trainer (“Competition costs money, and training makes the money so I can compete”), his plan for his clients involves educating them on nutrition as a lifestyle, not just the best way to bang out reps at the gym.
Nutrition and nutrition timing are just as important as working out, he said. He believes in eating a full meal one to two hours before the workout—but no sooner.
“You can’t get a good pump if the digestive system is working,” he advised, “so when you eat is as important as what you eat.”
Unlike mortal fitness buffs like the rest of us, Samuel doesn’t fall victim to the winter trap, described above. Instead, he focuses on maintaining and growing his physique year-round. Fitness models have to be close to peak condition and ready to appear at photo shoots at a moment’s notice. There’s not much of a market for a professional fitness model who needs time to lean out. Because of that, it’s highly unlikely that you’d find them taking time off or engaging in a “bulking” phase. So it’s not surprising that Dixon is not a fan of phase training or traditional bulking. True, sustainable gains are developed through consistency, not by binge eating, training and dieting, he said.
Samuel Dixon is one of many fitness models and natural bodybuilders who are ardent supporters of body-confusion training. Basically, they’re not likely to have a set routine, as you would find in a typical bodybuilding regimen. Instead, they change it up, depending on their physical and mental condition and what they decide needs attention in the workout at hand. That approach to training promotes symmetry, and it helps to alleviate boredom in the gym.
He starts with incline dumbbell presses, pyramiding up the rack and down in reps. The bench press is the meat and potatoes of any chest workout. Whether you perform it on a flat bench, an incline or a decline, with dumbbells or a barbell, it’s a mainstay for chest thickness. By pyramiding the weight and reducing reps, Samuel is increasing the difficulty.