Amateur Bodybuilder Of The Week: Ripped And Ready!

Bodybuilding reveals the workings of the human body. It pushes people to their limits. Paul knows this all too well. He blasts through challenges and sets bigger ones in their place!

Name: Paul Andrew Tomko
BodySpace: Project_Ripped
Facebook: PaulTomkoStrength
Location: Washington D.C.
Age: 24  Height: 6'2"  Weight: 212-215 lbs contest, 230 lbs off
Years Competing: 3 years

How Did You Get Started?

I swam intensely throughout junior high and high school. I lifted a little bit, but like most guys in high school, my friends and I mainly did bench press, arms, and focused on the beach muscles.

I rowed for the University of Washington during my freshman year of college. While on the team, we had weight training workouts twice weekly, two and a half hours of rowing practice on water, and about an hour of rowing on indoor rowing machines (the Death Wheel as we called it).

As athletes we had great dining facilities. I ate at buffet-style dining halls most days of the week. I found myself looking forward to our weight training sessions more and more. As a relatively new lifter, I found my strength and size gains came quickly, especially while I ate like a horse with the rest of the UW rowing team.

I decided to quit rowing toward the end of my freshman year to focus more on my Aerospace Engineering major and have time to work in a research lab to help pay for school. After years of swimming and rowing, I was used to training four hours a day and found myself lacking a competitive outlet. I started lifting five days a week and continued to eat like an endurance athlete. The rest is history. I ended up gaining more than 50 pounds of lean body mass over the course of my four undergraduate college years. Before I graduated, I competed in and won my division at my first bodybuilding show.

What Workout Plan Worked Best For You?

I am a huge fan of high volume. I use many exercises to hit muscles groups from all different angles. I normally only do three working sets per exercise, the first one being more of a heavy warm-up. Although the amount of sheer exercise variety volume might surprise you, keep in mind I'm only performing two all-out sets for each exercise. I like to keep the pace moving in the gym. Although many of my workouts are listed with 30-plus sets, I'm usually out of gym in 75 minutes. The only exception is my weekend leg day which is closer to two hours.

Note that I pyramid my working sets. I start with lighter weights with higher reps, and work up to heavier weight for lower reps. If it says 3 sets for 15-5 reps, that means I try to hit failure around 15 reps on my first set and 5 reps on the third. My last set for any exercise is typically a drop set, sometimes a double drop.

Day 1: Chest/Delts/Arms/Abs

Day 2: Back/Hamstrings/Delts/Abs

Day 3: Calves/Abs/Cardio

Day 4: Arms/Abs

Day 5: Back/Delts/Abs

Day 6: Legs

Day 7: Calves/Abs/Cardio


What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For You?

Whether I'm dieting down for a show or bulking up in my growing season, I'm always eating clean bodybuilding foods. This means I go beyond just hitting macronutrient targets, and instead try my best to eat wholesome, unprocessed foods. In my opinion, eating processed, pre-packaged, and refined foods to hit your macros is taking the easier, less optimal road to achieving your fitness and bodybuilding goals.

There's no way to replicate the natural micronutrient/phytonutrient profile of wholesome unprocessed foods that your body was designed to grow off of. Most man-made creations on grocery shelves these days are designed for mouth feel, taste, and texture. When you break it down to the actual quality of the ingredients, you're really selling your physique short by feeding it low-octane crap. I notice that it's easier to lean down and get shredded with wholesome foods vs. if it just "fits your macros." I feel better, have more energy while dieting, and sleep better because my body is running more efficiently.

My meal plan looks very similar whether I'm bulking up or leaning down. If my goal is to get leaner, I remove carbohydrates from my diet slowly and focus the majority of my carbs around workouts and at breakfast.

I incorporate higher-carb intake re-feed days once every 3-4 days while dieting. These days have roughly 150 percent the amount of carbs that my normal lower-carb days have. For example, if I'm low-carb dieting at 300 grams of carbs a day, then every fourth day or so I'll have a high-carb day with around 450 grams of carbs. These higher-carb re-feed days serve a couple purposes:

  1. They help prevent fat loss plateaus by keeping my metabolism elevated.
  2. They keep leptin levels elevated.
  3. They help keep my energy and strength up in the gym.
  4. They provide a mental break from dieting.

On a typical day, I drink anywhere from 2-3 gallons of water. Remember, proper hydration is very anabolic.

Meal 1: Breakfast, 6 a.m.
Meal 2: Mid-morning, 9 a.m.
Meal 3: Lunch, Noon
Meal 4: Pre-Workout 3 p.m.
Meal 5: Post-workout shake, 6:30 p.m.
Meal 6: Dinner, 7:30 p.m.
Meal 7: Pre-Bed Dessert, 9:45 p.m.

What Supplements Have Given You The Greatest Gains?

When it comes to supplements, there are several important factors that must be considered:

  1. Does it actually work? Money is tight these days, so it's important to filter through all the supplement industry hype and make sure I'm not wasting hard-earned money.
  2. Am I getting the highest quality product for the price I'm paying? Let's be honest, there are a ton of different supplements out there. If you really want the competitive edge it's of upmost importance that you understand the products.
  3. Is it safe? I make sure that any product I take is safe and that I understand the ingredients on the label. I tend to avoid products that have questionable ingredients hidden behind proprietary blends altogether.
Morning And Before Bed
Morning, Pre-Workout, And Before Bed
Intra-Workout and Between Meals

Note: I sip on several scoops of Core ABC throughout the day, primarily between meals to help spike protein synthesis and keep me very anabolic.

Why Do You Love Fitness/Bodybuilding?

I love bodybuilding because you reap what you sow. The harder you work, the more dedication you give to the sport, the better and faster you will see results. I love the mental and physical aspects of training, the dedication that is required in the weight room and the kitchen, and the hour-to-hour decisions each and every day. Following the natural bodybuilding lifestyle, whether you compete or not, is extremely healthy. You can literally add decades of quality years to your life by working out consistently, eating healthy, and getting adequate rest. You'll be able to postpone or even prevent the onset of countless diseases.

What (Or Who) Motivates You To Follow A Healthy Lifestyle?

For me, it comes down to living and making the most of this wonderful life we have. Making healthy decisions with your diet, training consistently, and supplementing with the right nutrients creates a super-healthy, super-sexy body inside and out. You'll have more confidence because you look your best and you'll have more energy to do things that you love. It's much easier to follow your dreams and make the most of your life when you don't have to deal with nagging health concerns. When you're healthy, strong, and confident, you're putting yourself in the best possible position to be successful in life.

When he gets bored, Paul pulls down the sky.

What Made You Want To Achieve Your Goals?

You only get one life. The harder question to answer is figuring out what exactly you want to accomplish in life. Find out where your passions lie and what makes you happy. Once you figure that out, go after your dreams and goals with an impassioned willpower. Every day that you wake up, you have a decision to make. You can either work relentlessly towards what you love in order to achieve the life of your dreams, or you can sit on the sidelines and let life beat you down.

"If you love life, don't waste time, for time is what life is made up of." - Bruce Lee

What Are Your Future Fitness/Bodybuilding Plans?

My goals have changed over the years, and they continue to change and evolve all the time. Initially, at six-foot-two, 150 pounds, I was tired of being a string-bean skinny kid. I wanted to be as big as naturally possible and win a natural bodybuilding pro card. I started out competing in bodybuilding, but now I compete in men's physique events too.

One goal that never fades is my desire to be as healthy as possible from the inside out so I can truly enjoy this amazing life to the fullest potential. My long-term goal right now is to become a top IFBB men's physique pro, building a physique with classical proportions and symmetry with an emphasis on the V-taper. However, more important than any personal physique goals I have is my desire to help educate as many people as possible from the competitive bodybuilders to the grandma next door.

(Note: Since submitting this article to, I won a natural bodybuilding pro card in a smaller organization called the NGA. Like I said, my goals have now shifted towards making a name for myself in the IFBB as a men's physique competitor.)

What Tips Would You Give Other Fitness Competitors?

Be patient. Anything worth having takes time. You won't gain 30 pounds of muscle in a week, but you can make very good gains when you consistently nail your training, nutrition, and get enough sleep. Consistency really is the key. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Have fun pushing yourself past your current limits, but also make smart and safe decisions in your training to minimize your risk of injuries. This means warming up correctly and not going for that last rep if it means compromising your technique. Learn to enjoy the bodybuilding lifestyle and accomplish mini-goals that you set for yourself.

Most importantly keep a healthy balance in your life. The bodybuilding lifestyle should really add to your quality of life by making you healthier, more confident, driven, and goal-oriented. It can be easy to get obsessive about the lifestyle and diet (especially when getting ready for a competition), to a point where it begins to detract from your overall quality of life. Try to maintain that happy balance in life and always keep the big picture in mind, including family, friends, relationships, your career, etc. Learn to integrate your fitness goals into your daily life while maintaining that balance and you'll enjoy a quality of life many people only dream of.

Who Are Your Favorite Fitness Competitors/Bodybuilders?
  • Doug Miller: In my opinion, he's the top natural pro bodybuilder today.
  • Layne Norton: His articles and video series helped transform me from someone who just wanted to get big, to a true and successful competitive bodybuilder that won at my first show (2008 NPC WA Ironman, Junior Men Division of 7 guys).
  • Dorian Yates: I am a huge fan of athletes who simply outwork and crush their competition with impassioned willpower through hard work and unwavering dedication.
  • Hidetada Yamagishi: Hide continues to take down larger competitors with his classic lines and symmetry, and has given me a ton of useful information over the years in terms of injury prevention and training advice.
  • Tanji Johnson: Hands down the most amazing fitness competitor in the world.
  • Greg Plitt: One of the top fitness models in the world, a former Captain and Army Ranger, basically an all-around badass who leads a great example of how anyone can dominate in life and follow their dreams.

"Love the life you live, live the life you love." - Bob Marley

What Features Do You Use On

Over the years I have taken advantage of the vast number of articles and videos on Some of my favorites articles were written by Layne Norton, Dr. Fred Hatfield (a.k.a. Dr. Squat), and Joe Klemziski. Video series like Layne's "Inside the Life of a Natural Pro Bodybuilder" and Kris Gethin's "Dorian Yates' Blood & Guts Hardcore Mass Trainer" series were both informative and fun to watch.

I'm a huge fan of BodySpace, which I've used over the years as a source of motivation and a tool to track my progress and bodybuilding journey.

Other Thank You Shoutouts!

I would like to thank my parents. Watching their extreme work ethic over the years definitely had a big influence on my drive in life. They have continued to support me over the years, even when they didn't understand why I wanted to compete as a bodybuilder. I love them for that.

I also appreciate my big sister Linda and my big bro John for supporting me in my fitness journey over the years. I'm thankful for great friends who have given me support, from childhood friends whom I've known forever like David Bai, to all the great friends and supporters I met in college, like Danny Cornutt, Tyler Pegg, and Preston Moore.

I was also blessed to have some amazing workout partners over the years, Not only Danny and Tyler, but also big Scott Kluth. Also, a shout out to Miki for always being there to do all my contest prep cardio alongside me; you are one crazy Italian dude, but I wouldn't have made it through all those 5 a.m. stadium stair sessions without you.

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