Twenty years ago, in 1992, I realized my bodybuilding dream by winning the Mr. Universe title. I competed in the ABA Natural Mr. Universe contest in Venice, California and I won the overall title on my first try. I was on top of the world because I always wanted to win the Mr. Universe title ever since I started bodybuilding. One of the first bodybuilding magazines I bought featured the results of the 1977 Mr. Universe contest held in Nimes, France. Kal Szkalak pulled an upset victory by defeating heavy pre-contest favorite Mike Mentzer. Kal had the kind of body I liked, huge arms and chest with a ripped back and cannonball delts. He looked so massive and confident on the winner's podium that I resolved one day to be standing where he was and be Mr. Universe in the near future.
It took me 15 years and and about 24 competitions before I finally realized my goal. By this time, I was 29 years old and had given up on the idea of becoming an IFBB Pro. I didn't want to take the amount of steroids that was necessary to get to the pro level. When the Natural Bodybuilding competitions started to get more popular, I immediately made the switch. It didn't take me long to discover that there was a contest called the Natural Mr. Universe. I knew that this was the contest I had to win to fulfill my bodybuilding destiny.
Wow, where does the time go? It has now been 20 years since that momentous day for me back in 1992. I competed until the age of 41 and decided to call it a career after 25 years of competition. I didn't have the desire to keep competing and, at the age of 41, I honestly felt like my best days were behind me. I earned my living as a personal trainer, wrote my first book in 2005 ("Natural Bodybuilding" published by Human Kinetics), came out with two DVD's in 2006 and 2007, started working for the supplement company Optimum Nutrition in '07 and started promoting my own Natural Bodybuilding competitions that same year. Although I would occasionally diet for a photo shoot or posing exhibition, I had NO intentions of ever competing again in a bodybuilding contest.
Well, we all know that once a bodybuilder, always a bodybuilder. Last year, I got more ripped than I've been in probably 15 years when I dieted down in order to make the cover of Ironman Magazine. When I achieved my goal of being on the cover (September 2011 issue), I decided to stay in good shape for the rest of the year. By the end of the summer, I made the decision to compete again. I traveled to Reno, Nevada to compete in the Pro Masters division of the Natural Olympia contest.
Unfortunately, after seven years off from competing, I totally missed my peak at this contest. I was really flat and even looked softer than I was and I didn't make the top three. I was so disappointed in how I looked that I immediately resolved to come back the next year and show the judges what my physique was capable of. When I heard that the Natural Mr. Universe was going to be held in Chicago (my hometown) in 2012, I knew that this was going to be my next contest.
I started training like an animal right after January 1st. My goal was to enter the Natural Mr. Universe and completely dominate the competition! I wanted to step onstage bigger, fuller and totally ripped and take first place unanimously. When you have an immediate goal in front of you, the motivation to train goes through the roof!
I combined Power Training with more traditional methods of Bodybuilding Training to improve my muscle mass and strength. I followed each cycle for 6 weeks using heavier weight and low reps (4-6 reps) for my Power Cycle Training and more moderate weight and reps for my Mass Building Cycles (6-10 reps). I made significant gains in only a few months using these cycles.
I was eating more calories and carbs at the beginning of the year but I kept my weight at 215 pounds. I measured all my bodyparts every 4 weeks to make sure I was making progress and also to keep my bodyfat in check as I got bigger. I made sure my waist didn't exceed 34 inches in the off season. Last year, my waist got down to 32 inches when I did my Ironman Magazine photo shoot and when I competed so I wanted to repeat that condition for 2012.
I began my diet for the Natural Mr. Universe this year 24 weeks out from the contest. Although I was not fat or bulked up when I started the diet, I wanted to make sure I was super ripped when I stepped onstage. I started my diet slowly to keep my newly-earned muscle while still reducing my bodyfat to extremely low levels.
I started my diet by eating 250 grams of protein and 52 grams of fats every day. I varied my carbohydrate intake to slowly lose the bodyfat. I do not respond well off a low carb diet so I kept my carbohydrates at about 200 grams to start off with and then raised or lowered them depending on where I was at with my diet. I also had one high carb day a week where I would increase my carbs by 100 grams from my normal diet.
With two months left to go until the contest, I could see that I was definitely going to be in top shape. I was almost ready for the stage nearly 8 weeks before the contest. It was just a matter of getting harder and harder at this point and practicing my posing even more. I knew I was going to win this year!
Part 2 Next Week!