|We Build Muscle the Old Fashioned Way - With
Sweat and Steel - OSHIIT
Well, I Did It Again! My Second Contest
by jeff denson
What is a natural bodybuilding competition?
First of all, get out of your head any images of the modern mass monsters
that compete at the major bodybuilding competitions. To be 6'2" tall and 360
pounds of lean muscle requires drugs. Those people will not be at a natural show
(unless they're in the audience). Natural competitors rarely weigh over 220
pounds, and are usually under 190. They look like the bodybuilders of 1950's before
drugs became prevalent in bodybuilding.
I took 1st in the 50-year-olds and 3rd overall (all ages) in the
lightweights. While I'm always happy to win in my age group, I don't want to be
just good for my age, I want to know how a stack up against all ages. That's why
I always compete both against my age group and in the open (all ages)
competition. It's one thing to beat a bunch of old geezers like myself, it's
another to beat 20-year-olds!
|2011 at age 50
2013 at 52
Click Images to Enlarge
Not bad for a
steroid and drug-free
So What was the Plan?
I still don't consider myself a bodybuilder, but a fitness trainee. However,
as I've said before,
if you are fit and fairly strong, you will look somewhat like a bodybuilder, so
I do okay in bodybuilding contests. I did my
first contest two years ago to
celebrate my 50th birthday. In that contest I took 1st in the
50-year-olds and 2nd overall in the lightweights. Wasn't sure if I'd ever do another, but I needed a
challenge for my 52nd birthday. The challenge was to do a bigger show with
more competition and see how I faired. Also, for the last show I did more of
bodybuilding style workout which gave me good size, but made me puffier
(like a bodybuilder). This time, I wanted to see if I could achieve a harder,
For the show I picked the OCB Natural Southwest Body Building Classic. This
was a steroid-free and drug-free (tested) show. I picked the OCB because they
are serious about being drug free, as opposed to some organizations that claim
to be drug free, but don't test.
I lost about 18 pounds of fat while gaining about 8 pounds of muscle.
Like the last show, the training took about 6 weeks. But this time I focused
more on getting lean. I wanted to drop about 10 pounds for the show. The plan
was to gain about 1½ pounds during the week while
weight training, and then burn about 3 pounds of fat off during the weekend for
a net weight loss was about 1½ pounds per
Gaining weight while weight lifting allowed me to maintain and even add some muscle mass while still reducing
my body fat percentage. So my weeks consisted of weight training, while my weekends
were spent on the mountain bike. To lose 3 pounds requires about 120
miles on the mountain bike. Luckily, I really enjoy mountain biking and had a lot of
books on tape to listen to while riding. The plan worked exactly as I had hoped.
I weighed in at the show at 164.2 pounds, almost exactly 10 pounds less than my
starting weight. To track my fat loss, I made use of the Santa Fe Community College's
It's like a giant egg that you sit in and it estimates your body fat/muscle
percentages. According to it, I lost about 18 pounds of fat while
gaining about 8 pounds of muscle. My final body fat percentage according to the Bod Pod was 2.9%. Of course, you have to allow for the Bod Pod's margin of
error. More realistically, I was probably closer to 5%. In any case, I was very
You can lead a bodybuilder to water, but you can't make him drink!
This is one of the biggest myths about natural bodybuilding. It still amazes me how
many people think a natural bodybuilder should dehydrate for a contest. This
myth persists even
among bodybuilders who should know better. The real deal is: If you dehydrate
yourself, your muscles will deflate and you will look small and flat. Unless of
course, you are a 250-pound+ steroid-using mass monster, in which case, even
muscles still deflate, you'll still be huge! Myself, being somewhat on
the small side, wanted to look as big as possible. To do that, I did what is
known as a carb load. Essentially, you deprive your body of carbs for about a
week, and then a couple of days before the show eat as many carbs and drink as
much water as possible. The carbs consisted mostly of oatmeal and homemade
pancakes made by my daughter Alexandra. The muscles after having been depleted of carbs will
overcompensate and suck up carbs and water like a sponge making them swell
up to larger than normal. This lasts for about three days, then they shrink back
to normal. The key is, you have to drink water, and lots of it to make this
work. True Story: A friend of mine told that he made the mistake of dehydrating at his last show.
He dehydrated himself to point of headaches and dizziness. After the morning
portion of the show, he couldn't take it anymore, so he ate and drank a lot
of water. When he came back
for the evening show, the judges said he looked BETTER than he did in the
morning. The extra water and carbs helped re-inflate his muscles.
And I'll repeat this for the umpteenth time: If you are not a
20-something-year-old, genetically gifted, steroid-using bodybuilder with 6-10
years of training behind you, then following the methods of a
20-something-year-old, genetically gifted, steroid-using bodybuilder with 6-10
years of training is not likely to work
best for you. Ignore what the magazines say. They're mostly BS anyway. Their
main goal is to sell you magazines and supplements.
How Much Work Does It Take?
Another thing was workout schedules. And while I cranked it up while training
for this show, during most of the year, I typically train about SIX HOURS TOTAL a week (3
one-hour weight sessions and three one-hour OSHIIT cardio sessions). Okay, if
you count Parkour and gymnastics, add a couple more hours a week (but those are
mostly just about having fun). I try to work out no
more than an hour a day. Most of the people I talked to did two to three times
that amount. My feeling is if you are able work out more than an hour, then your
intensity is too low and you need to crank it up a notch. You'll get better
results with short, high-intensity sessions than you will with long marathon sessions.
Do just enough to stimulate muscle growth AND STOP! After that, all you're
doing is raising cortisol levels. And unless you're taking steroids to
counteract the cortisol, then you're just stunting muscle growth. Again, if
you're steroid free, you can't do a steroid user's workout (especially as you
get older). Many of the
people I beat were half my age,
and most those had actually been training more years than me! Although I did a lot
of bike riding and was quite fit before I started lifting, I didn't get serious about strength training
until about 4 years ago.
But like I said, I cranked it up for this show, especially the two weeks
prior to the show. And by show date, my body was toast. I couldn't have
continued at that pace for another week. I took the week after the show to
recuperate. Trust me, I needed it.
Dude, What's With the Back Bend?
It was an accident, I swear! As part of the contest, each contestant is
allowed to do a 60-second routine of posing. This is kind of a free for all. You
are allowed to use costumes, props, etc. There's an award for audience favorite.
I knew I had no chance of winning that, so I thought I'd just have some fun with
my routine. I was going to do a headstand into a leg pike raise and back, then
go from there to some leg pistols, and then scorpion into one-armed backbend
pushups, and then spring up and finish with some cartwheels. Just wanted to see
the audience reaction to a real show of strength and flexibility. I had been
practicing back stage and everything was fine. However, what I didn't take into
consideration was that the stage was a wooden floor. Not a problem in itself,
however, after a day's worth of oiled up bodybuilders had been walking on it, it
had a few "slick" spots. Just as I was going into the headstand, my hand slipped
just enough to throw me off balance. I had to land somehow, so I decided to
just land into a backbend and wing if from there. I got a few comments, such as
"it was the strangest routine they'd every seen," to "that was incredible." Go
Is That Tan Real?
No. It's a spray on. The tan was applied and maintained by
Solarius Spa of Albuquerque.
I don't tan well, and without a dark tan, the stage lights will completely wash
you out so that you look like a ghost. The tan mostly washes off after the first
shower, but leaves a nice glow for a few days.
Do You Look Like That Year Round?
wish! But, of course not. Just like when I was bike racing, I tried to
"peak" for the contest. As described above, the tan is spray on, the
muscles are carb loaded and pumped up. To pump up, I mostly did
handstand pushups right before going on stage. The engorges the chest
with blood, making the muscles larger and veinier. And of course I
trimmed down for the contest. Less than 5%
body fat is below what is considered healthy for day to day living. I
try to keep my body fat between 8 and 10% the rest of the year.
you don't want to have to pump your legs on contest day, as that will
draw blood from the rest of your body. So, the day before the contest, I
did a killer leg routine that left my legs pumped all the next day. My
apologies to poor Zeb who did that leg workout with me and then had to
get his girlfriend to help him stand up later that day.
picture of me doing the handstand against the wall was taken several
days after the contest and is more representative of what I look like
most of the year. No tan, not carb loaded, and not pumped. Just
lean, strong, and athletic.
Yeah, But You Have Really Good Genetics
I hear this all the time - And frankly, I find it insulting! I work hard and
I work smart. I don't have great genetics. I was the classic string bean growing
up. When I got out of the Navy, I still only weighed about 130 pounds. At 5'9",
that's not a lot of muscle. I've spent a lot of time studying and learning
about what works and what doesn't and I've applied that knowledge.
The reality is, you have to have good genetics to win at the elite level. I'm
not there; Not even close. However, with average genetics, like me, you can
achieve incredible results. More than what most people desire. I have yet to
meet someone in good basic health who wasn't able to lose weight and put on
muscle - Assuming of course, they were willing to change their diet and do smart
workouts instead of the usual nonsense that most people do.
A bodybuilder wannabe I know is in his late 20s and has been training for
about 10 years. But all he does is peaking and toning exercises like tricep
kickbacks, lateral raises, etc. Rarely doing anything that has any hope of ever
putting any real muscle on him. So one day, while I'm doing barbell deadlifts,
he is next to me "sculpting his shoulders" by doing seated overhead presses on
the Smith machine with a miniscule weight. He turns my way and comments that I
get good results because I have really good genetics. I grunted through a few
more deadlifts and commented back sarcastically, "Yeah, that must be it."
His problem wasn't a lack of good genetics, his genetics were fine. His
problem was he didn't understand the difference between puffing up muscles and building muscles with exercises like deadlifts.
Look, if you have only a few weeks until that class reunion, beach party,
whatever, then peaking exercises are the best way to improve your physique in a
short period of time. However, once you've peaked your muscles, your progress
will come to a halt until you add in some muscle building exercises. And this is
what people don't understand. Yes, you will get good results for the first few
months doing peaking exercises. But once your muscles are peaked, your done.
Finished. Finito. You can only peak a muscle so far. Once that's done, your
progress will come to a grinding halt. You'll be stuck there for years until you
do something that will build more muscle. And that's the deceptive part of the
problem. People start a weightlifting program by copying what they see in the
magazines, they do some bicep curls, tricep pushdowns, lateral raises, etc.,
their muscles puff up and they think they are on the road to success. After
about three months, their progress comes to a grinding halt. They are no longer
making any gains. After six months, they get frustrated, and decide their
progress stopped because they aren't doing enough, so they spend more time at
the gym. But, this is to no avail, since their muscles are already peaked -
there's no more peaking to be done - so of course, they still don't get any
better results. And then they usually get frustrated, blame their genetics, and
Like I tell people, how much icing can you put on a cake you haven't baked
yet? Bake your your cake! Then add the icing!
If your goal is aesthetics, then by all means do some peaking and puffing
exercises. Just keep in mind, you won't progress very far unless you add some
actual muscle building exercises as well. So do your squats, deadlifts, pullups,
rows, shrugs, standing overhead presses, dips, etc. along with your front
If you aren't progressing, don't blame your genetics. Blame your diet and
Excuses, Excuses, Excuses
Training for a bodybuilding competition is hard and requires commitment and
dedication. You can always find an excuse to not achieve your goals. Most people
have a list of goals they would like to achieve, but never do. There always
seems to be something more important, like the new season of American Idol is
just starting and I have to see that. The difference between those who succeed
and those who fail, is that where others give in to their excuses, the
successful push past them. Shortly after I started training for this event, I
had a routine colonoscopy in which they removed a few polyps. Luckily, they were
benign and all was well. However, I had a bad reaction to the procedure. I just
felt really run down afterwards. The docs said it was just a reaction to the
anesthesia and would go away in a few days. But it didn't, and it just kept
getting worse. Finally, I had to go to a heart doctor because my heart had gone
into a steady murmur and any physical exercises made me breathless. I was
gasping for air like a fish out of water. The doc said one of my heart valves
was inflamed and therefore my heart was not able to pump much blood. They're
still not sure if it was a reaction to the anesthesia, or an infection caused
from cutting into the colon. In any case, after a few days of antibiotics I felt
much better, but not even close to my normal self. Between the reduced heart
capacity and the general malaise caused by the antibiotics it was hard to do any
real workouts. It took about a month to heal up. I could have thrown in the
towel and called it quits, but I did what I could during this time and when I
felt better, I put it into overdrive to make up for lost time. Look, we all have
obstacles to overcome on the way to achieving our goals. Whether you chose to go
around the obstacles, or turn back is up to us.
And oh yeah, my heart has now healed, I feel great, and am ready to kick ass
and take names!
Will You Do Another Bodybuilding Contest?
Probably, but I'm not planning on doing one anytime soon. Maybe in another
two years. They're too much work and too expensive. Between entry fees, tanning,
motels, tickets for family, etc., this show cost me over a $1,000 USD. And they
interfere with the other goals I wish to pursue such as Parkour. However,
I may consider doing some fitness/physique contests.
A big thanks to those who came out and supported me and thanks to my wife Amanda,
daughter Alexandra (thanks again for the pancakes, they were delicious), and friends for putting up with my obsessive training schedule. As
some noted, training for a show is just as hard for the people around you, if
not harder, than it is for yourself.
Also, a special thanks to
Interiors for sponsoring my tan and to
Los Alamos Fitness
Center for helping me get started and letting me do some training there.