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First-Time Competitor at 50

7209-prime3Q: I’m 50 years old, and I’m finally going to make the leap and compete this fall. I’m not sure whether to compete in bodybuilding or physique. I’m hoping you can give me some guidance on that. Also, your waist looks incredibly small. What size is it, and what oblique exercises do you do to get rid of the “love handles”?

A: Congratulations on your decision to compete! It’s really cool to see the growth of the over-50 masters division during the past two decades and how much the quality has improved.

Regarding which division to enter, if you’re in a quandary about whether to compete in bodybuilding or physique, enter both. The fact that you are considering bodybuilding tells me that you probably have enough muscle to do it. Many people don’t realize that you don’t have to be gigantic to be competitive in bodybuilding on the amateur level in shows that are not national-level NPC events. The IFBB pro bodybuilders that you see in the magazines are the elite of the elite. Chances are extremely slim that you will have to stand next to anyone like that in a local, state or regional show.

Even when you’re looking at my photos, you have to realize that I’m not nearly as big as I look in the pictures. At 5’7” I usually compete weighing 170 to 175 pounds.  So, when I’m not pumped up and flexing, I look like a pretty normal, albeit superfit, guy. Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to compete in bodybuilding.

That you are also considering physique tells me that you feel pretty good about the way you look in swim trunks. Get a nice pair of board shorts, and go for it!  For bodybuilding as well as physique you’ll need superlean, nicely shaped muscle. Many of the really good natural bodybuilders are able to do quite well in men’s physique by posing in a very relaxed fashion.

Enter both divisions for your first show. See which division you are more competitive in and more comfortable doing. Also, speak with the judges after the show and ask their opinions. When you figure out which division you are more suited to, you can narrow your focus for your next show. Or you may be like my friend Mo Bennett. He’s done well in both divisions and at this point enters both at every show because he enjoys it.

Let’s now move on to the subject of those “love handles” and getting your waist as small as possible. My waist is 27.5 to 28 inches in contest condition. In order to get it that small, I do absolutely no oblique work! I have not done any direct oblique work in 29 years.

Early in my bodybuilding career I was obsessed with having the best abs in Texas and I was training my abdominals—including obliques—like crazy. The result was that I added 1 1/2 inches to my waist from contest shape in 1983 to contest shape in 1984. I realized that I was hurting my V-taper by adding muscle to my obliques.

I cut all direct oblique training from my program and reduced my ab-training sessions to once per week, and I was able to reduce my waist dramatically. At the ’88 NPC Texas State Championships I won my first overall title (as a lightweight weighing 154.25) with a waist of 26.75 inches.

Having a small waist and ripped obliques is all about getting your bodyfat extremely low. You can’t spot reduce. I don’t care what the infomercials or some magazine articles tell you, you can’t work the fat off your “love handles” no matter how many boxer crunches, broom twists or side bends you do. You have to lose fat all over your body by following a solid diet, training hard with weights and adding cardiovascular exercise as necessary.

Your obliques contract during so many exercises, and they contract really hard when you are training the rectus abdominis. Don’t screw up your V-taper by working them and adding muscle to your “love handles.” Just get your bodyfat down, and your waist will be as small as possible.

For my very simple ab workout go to and click on the “Ab Training” video in the upper-right hand corner. E-mail me if you have any questions and let me know how your first contest goes!

Oh, one other thing: Posing is extremely important. I have a contest-preparation video available at that covers bodybuilding posing as well as diet, tanning and training.

Train hard, and eat clean!

Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. Check out his new Web site at To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected] IM


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