Professional skydiver Rob Ross was enjoying a good life, fulfilling his passion every time he stepped out of an airplane—until that fateful day in 2000 when things went wrong. A malfunction in his chute triggered an excessively hard opening. Rob was too focused on surviving the jump to notice the incredible pain in his back.
Realizing the chute wasn’t going to get him to the ground safely, he had to make the difficult-but-instant decision to cut away his main and pull the reserve—and that’s when the pain hit him. It tortured him all the way to earth. He had two broken vertebrae—L5 and S1. Skydiving was over for Rob.
He had made a thousand jumps, but now in an instant his livelihood was gone. Rob had always worked out to stay in shape, maintaining a lean 200 pounds, but after the accident he fell into a deep depression. He turned to food for comfort, and over the next couple of years he gained 100 pounds.
After a lot of rehab Rob got the okay to go back to the gym—but not skydiving. Besides, at 300 pounds he would need a parachute made for landing tanks. He hired trainer Nate Smith, and Nate helped get Rob’s weight down to 240. Then came another fateful day.
Rob and Nate walked to Gold’s Gym in Redondo Beach, California, and met me, Dave Fisher. I’m a professional bodybuilder, retired from competition, and now a trainer. I remember the day they walked in—jeans, tank tops and all oiled up. We said, “Oh, boy, what do we have here?”
To make a long story short, I introduced myself, and in time Rob hired me to train him. It went great, and soon I was working out with both of them to help them take it to the next level. As a trainer you sometimes can accomplish more when you get right in there and show the client how it’s done.
I brought up the idea of competitions on several occasions—to give Rob a goal to work toward—but he would have none of it. Then his wedding to his girlfriend Donna was coming up. Rob asked me to get him in his best shape for the occasion. He wanted to look really good for the photos, and since the wedding would be in Hawaii, a lot of skin would be showing.
I sent Rob to diet guru Philip Goglia at Performance Fitness Concepts in Santa Monica. Phil had done my diets when I competed, getting me down to 2.8 percent bodyfat, so I knew he was the man for Rob. I would handle the training; Phil would handle the eating.
All went well, and we got Rob looking pretty good and fairly lean for the wedding. He looked great in the photos, and after his pig-out days in Hawaii with his new bride, he returned to training but lacked enthusiasm. I told him he needed another goal: “Come on, Rob, there’s a show in five months. Let’s go for it.” He agreed to train for it but without committing.
Well, he started looking better and better, and people in the gym started to comment on it. Finally, he bit the bullet and committed. We were going to go for the NPC Excalibur in December 2009.
The last two months of any first-time competitor’s diet can be very difficult, and Rob’s was no exception. No one expects it to be that hard, but it is.
We got Rob to the show at 194 pounds and under 3 percent bodyfat at 5’10”. He took second in a novice lightweight class that had 15 competitors. Not bad for a guy in his 40s doing his first show—and awesome considering where he came from.
Rob and I wanted to tell his story—not for personal gain but to help others. You may be in a very bad place in your life right now. Maybe you are as far off course as Rob was, or maybe you’re a lot worse, but after reading this, you might say, “If he can do it, I can too.” We want you to try—and never give up. You’ll never know what you can do until you try.
If Rob can do it, so can you.
He uses this program on a five-days-on/weekends-off schedule
Bench presses or dumbbell bench presses (alternate weeks) 3 x 8-12, 1 x 15-20
Incline dumbbell presses 3 x 8-12, 1 x 15-20
Cable flyes 3 x 8-12, 1 x 15-20
Tuesday: Back and traps
Dumbbell shrugs 3 x 15-20, 1 x 20
Pulldowns 3 x 10-12, 1 x 15-20
Seated rows 3 x 10-12, 1 x 15-20
Hyperextensions 4 x 25
Lying leg curls 3 x 10-12, 1 x 15-20
Leg extensions multiple sets to reach 300 reps
Leg presses 3-4 x 15-20
Hack squats 3 x 15-20
Calf raises (seated or standing) 4 x 20
Shoulder presses 3 x 8-12
Upright rows 4 x 8-10
Lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Front raises 3 x 8-10
Bent-over lateral raises 3 x 8-10
Alternate dumbbell curls 3 x 12-15
Barbell curls 3 x 8-10
Hammer curls 3 x 8-10
French presses 3-4 x 12-15
Skull crushers 3-4 x 12-15
Pushdowns 3-4 x 12-15