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Switching From Bodybuilding to Physique

Q: How was your first physique contest? Did you do anything different to prepare compared to bodybuilding? What will you do differently next time?

A: I have to say that competing in the pro men’s physique competition at the Europa Super Show in August was a blast! Last year I missed out on competing because of my shoulder surgery, so it had been exactly two years since I got onstage. It was really great to be back up there on the IFBB pro stage. Ed and Betty Pariso have done an incredible job in building the Europa Super Show. It’s become an event that athletes and fans flock to from all over Texas (and the world!). It’s really cool to get to visit with the athletes and fans who I rarely get to see, plus meet new ones.

After competing as a bodybuilder for three decades, I found it a little weird to do only two poses—front pose and back pose. Truthfully, I was more nervous for this show than I’ve been since my first years competing in bodybuilding. In bodybuilding you have a 60- or 90-second routine to show your best stuff. In men’s physique you have 10 to 12 seconds, so you really have to nail it. There’s no room for error.

The other thing that got me (and I really wasn’t prepared for it) was having to stand for so long holding the front pose, with my abs flexed, when we were all lined up and waiting for comparisons. In bodybuilding they quarter-turn you, and then you have eight mandatory poses. It’s very strenuous, but you get to change positions. In the physique lineup my abs were burning like crazy, and I didn’t dare relax them. I didn’t want a judge to look up and catch me standing there with no abs showing!

A number of people have asked me if I prepared differently for physique. Initially I was saying, “Not much.” I purposely did considerably less biceps work and a little less triceps work so that my arms would be a bit smaller (they were actually only a quarter-inch smaller than usual), and, I didn’t deadlift heavy so that I could bring down my back and trap thickness a little.

While it worked on my traps, if you take a look at the photos of my back poses, you can see that my back thickness wasn’t really down at all.

I was thinking that I had made only a couple of minor adjustments in my training, but as I sat down to write this column and started mulling it all over in my head, I realized that I did train dramatically differently for this show. It was not because I was competing in physique, however. It was because my right shoulder was a very long way from feeling good when I started my contest prep on May 13.

At that time I was still experiencing a great deal of pain in the shoulder. I could do most of the exercises that I like to do but not with much weight. For example, I remember during the first few weeks of contest prep I was performing 25 to 30 reps of overhead dumbbell presses with a 30-pound dumbbell; before the injury I could do 10 reps with 80-pound ’bells. Obviously, I felt that I needed to lift a heavier weight, but when I tried to lift the 35-pound dumbbells, I got a stabbing pain in the shoulder. So I stayed with the lighter weight and just kept doing very high reps. I would also get to a point in my sets where I wasn’t at failure yet but I had to stop because of pain in the shoulder joint.

I experienced that problem with almost all of my upper-body exercises. Since I desperately needed to add size back to my upper body (particularly the right side) and I couldn’t train hard or heavy, I increased the frequency of all my upper-body workouts to three times per week. I used three different training protocols.

1) Straight sets with high reps  of 20 to 35

2) Steve Holman’s 4X training method

3) Blood-flow-restriction training

As I gradually added muscle, my shoulder pain subsided. I was able to add more and more weight, and I was able to train upper body very hard over the last six weeks of contest prep. Because I was able to increase my training intensity dramatically, I had to drop the frequency back to two days per week for each bodypart.

At this point I’m still not back to full strength, and I’m not pain free. If my shoulder continues to improve, I will likely have to return to my normal program of training each bodypart once a week.

What will I do differently for my next show? I’m going to get leaner! For the Europa I gave myself 14 weeks. In retrospect I should have taken 20 weeks to prepare. I lost 14 pounds in 14 weeks, and I really needed to drop closer to 20. As I’m writing this, I’m eight weeks out from the Titans Grand Prix in Culver City, California (y’all, come cheer me on!). I’m going to drop about five or six more pounds so that I’m leaner and my waist is significantly smaller. I know I’m not a 20-something beach boy model-type, but I think I can give those youngsters a good run for their money!

By the way, I just want to let everyone know that I’m still training my legs very hard. Squats are my favorite exercise, and legs are my favorite bodypart to train. Plus, I’ll be guest posing at the NPC Washington Ironman Naturally on October 5—yes, a bodybuilding routine! I have something really cool planned, so if you’re in the Seattle area, come see the show.

I know there are a lot of bodybuilders looking down their noses at the men’s physique competitors, thinking that they don’t have to train or diet as hard. Trust me, I trained and dieted just as hard for physique as I did for bodybuilding. And the IFBB pros have some great bodies! Most of the guys could have won at a natural bodybuilding show.

Stay tuned! I’m not sure what’s going to happen next year. I’ve recently learned that Gary Udit will be adding a Pro Masters Bodybuilding division to the North American Championships next year, so that’s a possibility.

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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