New York, 1964, marked the birth of an artist who would never miss an opportunity to learn, create, mold and display his work. Even in his teen years you could see his potential for bodybuilding. Today, in his 40s and a resident of Phoenix, Rusty Jeffers is well-known because he obliterated the other contenders at the ’04 Masters Nationals. He had passed the boundaries of the amateur ranks, and it was time to showcase his masterpiece on a professional stage. He’s beginning to move up the ladder and seems to be getting better with age. How is he doing it? What’s his strategy? Let’s find out.
KG: Does bodybuilding competition inspire you, or does working out in the gym feed your motivation?
RJ: When I was a teenager, I was into wrestling and football, but I actually liked training for the sports better than participating. Now my motivation is to get a better photograph. If I see photographs of myself after a competition and they look better than the last, I know I’m training in the right direction.
KG: When you pose, the audience is warped back to a time of legendary posers like Robby Robinson, Frank Zane and Ed Corney. Is that the era of bodybuilding you admire most?
RJ: Yes. Back then there was a lot of skill behind the posing. I remember back in 1980 or so they would kick you out if you started dancing onstage. Everybody just posed and put a lot of time and effort into it because it was a way of exhibiting their art. It’s graceful and pleasing. Today, there’s more leeway on the dancing moves.
KG: Do you think there is a place for the type of physique we saw in the ’70s on today’s stage?
RJ: Everything should get better over time, so it’s hard to reverse the evolutionary wheel. The standard now is to have striated glutes and shredded hamstrings; that’s what it takes to even place in top pro events because everybody’s become so obsessed with condition. I don’t think we can go back and accept a less impressive physique. Don’t get me wrong—I preferred the old-time physiques because the emphasis was placed more on shape.
KG: Are you willing to go the more-is-better route with the risk of distorting your shape if it will move your placings higher in future shows?
RJ: I’m always trying to get bigger, if that’s what you’re asking, but there is a point where big can become too big. I don’t see myself reaching that in the near future, but if I could show up onstage 10 pounds heavier than my last show and just as shredded, I’d be happy.
KG: Are you currently taking new steps to come in bigger for your next show?
RJ: I’ve learned more about nutrition, which I believe is helping. In regard to training, over the years I’ve obviously developed lots of strength, and as I become stronger, I’m getting more size. It doesn’t mean I’m necessarily lifting more weight, because I think that strength can be measured in many different ways.
For example, time-under-tension strength is something that I practice. If I’m holding a weight statically and my time under tension has increased from one minute to four, then obviously my strength is increasing and my muscle adapts by increasing its size.
KG: Are there any nutrition, training and supplementation principles from the ’80s that you follow and that you find are disregarded by athletes today?
RJ: Back then everything was regarded more as a religion; it was just something you had to do, and you did it every day without a second thought. Today it seems that the bodybuilding philosophy is geared more toward science because there’s been much more research. I try to mix the best of both worlds to come up with the best formula available to me.
KG: It seems that many of the classical poses are disregarded on today’s bodybuilding stage. Do you believe bodybuilders have become lazy when it comes to their presentation?
RJ: Yes, and understandably so. So much rides on condition now that the presentation seems to fall by the wayside. The IFFB sent out a voting petition so we could vote on whether the posing round should count. I don’t know whatever came of that, but it doesn’t seem that the posing round counts toward our overall score anymore.
I do understand that it’s a physique competition and whoever is in the best shape should win; however, I would like to see more points awarded for the posing round. A lot of the other athletes probably wouldn’t like that, though.
I was talking to Dave Fisher [another over-40 pro], and he thinks the posing round shouldn’t have anything to do with the athlete’s outcome at all. So it comes down to individual opinion. Some people want to see Melvin Anthony doing the splits and a body wave; others want to see dramatic, static posing.
KG: I posted pictures of you on a Web site two days prior to this year’s IRON MAN Pro. The majority of responses said that they’d love to see your shape and symmetry get rewarded with a top-five placing and thus qualify you for the Mr. Olympia. Why didn’t it happen?
RJ: Some of the other guys were a little harder. I don’t know if the big money in the sport has anything to do with who’s placing where, but it seems that most of the guys with the big-money sponsorship deals place higher. Hopefully, I will get a sponsorship from one of the larger companies, which would definitely help my exposure and career.
KG: Is there anything unorthodox about your training, or would you regard it as standard issue?
RJ: I don’t think anything’s unorthodox anymore, considering all of the extreme ways of training that have been introduced. Everybody should try various ways of training and through trial and error find out exactly what works for them.
So many people respond differently because we are different. I like to mix up my training. For a period of time I follow a typical Dorian Yates‑style workout—very heavy and intense. Following that phase I mimic Arnold’s type of training for a while. Both seem to work great for me.
KG: You’ve really grown into your physique over the past few years, and you didn’t turn pro until the age of 40. Why do you think you are making better gains now?
RJ: I think it’s due to finally figuring out the formula for my body. I’ve made a lot of mistakes over the years, but I’ve ironed out many of those creases in the more recent part of my career. Overtraining was one of my bigger downfalls.
KG: Do you recommend cardio to a bodybuilder during the off-season?
RJ: From a competitive standpoint, it all depends on the individual. If you tend to be on the heavier side during the off-season, then I recommend it. It helps with increased recovery between sets so you can train harder.
From a health standpoint, some cardio is necessary across the board because we should all be taking care of our heart health to extend our longevity. If you want to be pushing up daisies 10 years from now, maybe it shouldn’t be a concern, but what you do today will determine what you’ll be doing tomorrow. I like to do 30 minutes three times a week in the off-season. When I’m in precontest mode I do 30 minutes twice a day.
KG: High-fat, low-carbohydrate diets are becoming increasingly popular among bodybuilders. Have you tried it, and did it work for you?
RJ: I’ve tried it, and I can make it work for me, but I prefer the higher-carbohydrate, lowfat route because I tend to feel better and recuperate faster from my workouts.
KG: Do you believe that having a training partner is an advantage?
RJ: Yes. My wife has been my training partner for years. Sometimes you just need someone there, not necessarily to assist you with the exercise but to give you extra confidence to complete the reps required on an exercise. Just knowing that my wife is there when I’m pushing out a 1,000-pound leg press makes it easier because I don’t have to break my concentration worrying about getting stuck under that weight.
KG: Does your training change when you’re preparing for a show?
RJ: Yes, my intensity increases. I think when you have a goal, you tend to train a little harder. It’s human instinct.
KG: What is your most memorable competition?
RJ: It was the first competition I won, which was the ’80 Teenage Mr. Arizona. I trained so hard for that competition because I’d competed in two contests prior to that and I didn’t even place. I had something to prove to myself, and on that day I did it.
KG: Who was your main source of inspiration back in those days?
RJ: If you’re from Arizona, the name Carlos Rodriguez might ring a bell. He had a gym called the Tucson Health Studio, and he used to run the Mr. Tucson and the AAU Mr. Arizona. His gym was an old train warehouse, and it was filled with ancient weights and lots of bizarre things. There would be rings hanging from the ceiling so we could put our feet up on a bench to do flyes with them.
KG: Who inspires you now?
RJ: Ahmad Haider inspires me. He has a very nice, balanced physique, and he’s a good-looking guy to boot. To me that’s bodybuilding. IM
Rusty’s Arm Routine
I do all my arm work using supersets. I start with barbell curls supersetted with triceps pushdowns, as follows:
60 pounds x 12 reps on each exercise (warmup)
80 pounds x 12 reps on each exercise
100 pounds x 12 reps on each exercise
120 pounds on barbell curls and 140 on pushdowns x 12 reps each
135 pounds on barbell curls and 160 on pushdowns x 12 reps each
Next, I like to do incline kettlebell curls—or you can use dumbbells—supersetted with close-grip pushups, three rounds. I use 40-pound kettlebells for 12 reps with perfect form, then immediately go to close-grip pushups, performed very slowly for about 15 reps.
Last, I do two rounds of preacher curls supersetted with a 21-rep triceps move—decline extensions followed by tight-range pullovers followed by close-grip bench presses.
You should be dying after this—if you can even raise your arms, you didn’t do it right.
Warning: Don’t drive right after this workout!