I have played football, basketball, and baseball my whole life but injuries and a kidney illness ended my football career last year, my freshman year in college. The next summer my interest in bodybuilding became apparent when I took a trip to Colorado to visit my grandparent’s lodge. One thing I always kept constant despite my injuries was my diet. I made sure I was getting all the correct nutrients I needed to maintain maximum muscle when I was unable to train. I also made it to the gym 4 days a week to keep what I had. I knew nothing about natural bodybuilding at the time… that is until I left for vacation a few months later. When I arrived in Colorado, I was feeling pretty healthy and my strength was slowly returning to normal. I was especially excited for this trip because the lodge I was staying at had a fully equipped gym right outside our room. I began lifting and my hand wasn’t hurting at all so I decided to slowly increase weight for a few pyramid sets on deadlifts. Before I knew it, I was pulling as much weight as I had when training for football camp and the adrenaline was back. I was in the zone.
As soon as I finished my final set, a big guy wearing an Optimum Nutrition sweatshirt came over to me and asked me how old I was. I told him 18, almost 19 and he complimented me for the work I had done. I asked him about bodybuilding and he said he competed when he was younger and that he had the time of his life. He also explained that it kept him out of trouble as a kid and taught him an incredible amount of discipline. This instantly intrigued me because training has always been my favorite part of football, besides scoring touchdowns and hanging with teammates. I loved football, basketball, and baseball, but I was also burnt out from being on a schedule. Team sports are great, but I wanted to work out on my own time, develop my physique and do it in the healthiest way possible. I knew I had the discipline, a fair amount of knowledge; all I needed was a place to start. That night I made my way up to the computer room and found Bodybuilding.com. On the front page there was a link featuring “knowledgeable natural bodybuilder Layne Norton” I read through his first article, then the second, the third, I was so excited learning about his experiences from when he was my age. Right then and there I realized my goal would be to compete before I turned 21. The next day I made my way to the gym and completed my first “true” leg day filled with all types of intensity techniques I had used in the past, but never for the sole purpose of muscle growth. I now had the vision to complete my goal so I set up my own bodybuilding style program focusing on gaining lean mass. The progress I made led me to check out a few shows and I was hooked from there.
I train with weights 5 days a week. I have tried several different routines in the past while always paying attention to what my body responds to best in terms of frequency, volume, and intensity. Depending on how I’m progressing I may devote an extended block of time to either 1-3 reps, 4-6 reps, or 8-15 reps for power, strength, or hypertrophy only. An example would be:
• Day 1: Lower
• Day 2: Push
• Day 3: Pull
• Day 4: Off/Cardio
• Day 5: Repeat cycle
All in all, I feel it’s important to utilize effective strategies for gaining strength while working in the lower rep ranges. Invariably, this allows me to use heavier weights when I move on to higher rep ranges… ultimately leading to more muscle. I think it’s crucial not to fall into the “paralysis by analysis” trap and understand that there are really no rules when it comes to training. As long as you’re using correct form, supporting your efforts with sufficient calories, and getting proper rest… the only requirement is HARD WORK. Don’t over think it, listen to your body and give it your all every single day.
Out of all the variables that go into creating a more impressive physique, the area I am most fascinated with is nutrition. This area is very distinct for each individual and it’s important to learn how your body responds to different amounts and types of foods. I make sure I eat enough protein each day to support muscle gains and I fill in the remaining calories I need from fiber-rich carbohydrates and mostly essential fat. While trying to get as lean as possible, I will start my diet at 500 kcals below my maintenance level and keep on adjusting my intake so that I’m always losing about 1-1.5 pounds per week. Even though I am aiming to hit a certain amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats per day—I still believe that those calories should only come from minimally processed, whole natural foods. Doing this will help you reach your desired physique faster than anything else and you will feel a lot better during the process.
When I go to the store, I always get the same exact things every week. My fridge ends up a looking like this:
Although I never really crave anything outside my normal diet, I do like to enjoy an occasional sushi buffet, any kind of traditional American breakfast food such as pancakes, waffles, etc, or a big plate of gnocchi with a glass of Italian wine.
I look at bodybuilding and fitness as a foundation for success in other areas of life. I’ve always believed that anyone who wants to fulfill their potential in life should start with taking care of their physical body. A strong body will lead to a strong mind…knowing this pushes me everyday in pursuit of my full potential in and out of the gym.
I’ll always say that my greatest achievement, and true reward is knowing that I’m improving each day while helping others along the way—trophies are equivalent to the subjective opinions of a few. They’re great, but they don’t determine my self-worth in the least. In my first show I was awarded 3 first place trophies and 1 second place, here is a photo:
- Earn my DC degree (Doctor of Chiropractic)
- Continue to build my consulting and publishing business
- Become a positive role model and ambassador in the fitness and nutrition industry
- Earn natural pro status
There have been a lot of great people who’ve helped pave the way for us younger guys, but I’d say the ones I look up to most are -
"It is a shame for a man (or woman) to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his (or her) body is capable" –Socrates
If there's any one skill that I've seen in champions - (people who have really achieved their highest desires) - it's an unbelievable level of persistence. They'll change their approach as necessary, but they won't abandon their ultimate vision.