What does it take to create a champion? Well if you asked 1992 Junior USA winner, Joe Carrero, he would say, "Fortitude creates champions," and this quality is exactly what he demonstrated as he emerged as an unknown New York bodybuilding competitor, to become, over his 14-year bodybuilding career, one of America's best amateurs.
Born and raised in New York City, Joe was inspired to compete in bodybuilding after watching a WBBG Mr. New York City show in 1978. At the time the 14 year old vowed the following year he would be up on a similar stage posing down with New York's best. And so it was: Joe made his debut at the WBBG Mr. Staten Island in 1979 as a 15 year old among men and placed an amazing second overall, while winning the best back, abs and posing display at the WBBG Mr. New York City the same year. He had arrived.
From the '80s and into the '90s, Joe competed against the very best bodybuilding had to offer. Rich Gaspari, Ronnie Coleman and Flex Wheeler all shared the stage with Joe and like them he also improved as a bodybuilder, presenting for the judges, and delighting the fans with, one of the best conditioned and balanced physiques around.
His career, and lifetime commitment to bodybuilding, culminated with an impressive light-heavyweight class win at 1992 NPC Junior USA.
Not one to play the "size at all costs" game, Joe consistently presented the most ripped physique on stage complete with a tiny waist, flaring muscle groups and few, if any, weaknesses. However, he eventually saw the direction in which bodybuilding was heading and, in 1993, decided to retire, the hardest decision he has ever made.
Today Joe still trains ultra-hard and maintains his great physique. Actually Joe has been increasing his training intensity of late and still talks with great passion of his commitment to the iron. Which begs the question: Will he make a comeback in the near future? Joe says he will not rule it out: "once a competitor always a competitor."
As could be expected from one who has spent the better part of his life dreaming up news ways to achieve bodybuilding success, Joe has learned many lessons, both training and nutrition oriented and on how to cultivate the attitude of a winner.
In the following interview Joe tells us how he built his physique to become one of the best amateur bodybuilding champions in the world and discusses his philosophy on bodybuilding and life.
[ Q ] How did you get started in bodybuilding and who (if anyone) inspired you to begin with?
I was born and raised in New York City, primarily Brooklyn and Staten Island. When I was growing up in Staten Island I played all of the major sports that most teens participate in:
hockey, etc. I really enjoyed hockey, but the one part about playing any team sport is that if the team was not at its best on any given day, and loses, it would not matter how well I performed, the team would still lose.
Losing is not an option in my mind! This was one of the issues that I had early on with "team sports." I needed a sport that I could control; I needed a sport where I could say to myself, "I am the team!" And bodybuilding is just that!
I remember very vividly witnessing my very first bodybuilding competition; the 1978 WBBG Mr. New York City, (held by the Legendary Dan Lurie), and all of the five Boroughs: Mr. Staten Island, Mr. Brooklyn, Mr. Bronx, Mr. Queens and Mr. Manhattan.
I still remember standing in the audience to get the best view of the competitors and thinking to myself, "I am going to come back here next year and win the Overall Mr. Staten Island at the age of 15!"
Back in the late '70s there were no teen bodybuilding shows, and if there were, I certainly did not know of any. When I posed, (pardon the pun), this
goal to my trainer at that time, Mario Strong (the 1977 WBBG Mr. Staten Island Overall Champion), I think that he must have thought that I was crazy! But, Mario Strong knew that I was determined, and he knew that I had potential, so he took on the task of training this "very optimistic 15 year old Bodybuilder" and shared his priceless knowledge with me, and the results were fantastic!
|Joe's Contest History|
|Jr USA||Light-Heavyweight Champion|
|1990||California State - Light-Heavyweight Champion|
|1989||California State - Light-Heavyweight Champion|
|1988||Tournament Of Champions - Light-Heavyweight & Overall Champion|
|1987||Mr. San Francisco - Heavyweight & Overall Champion|
|1985||Russ Warner Northern California - Light-Heavyweight Runner-Up|
|1984||Mr. New England States - Class A Champion|
|1983||Teenage National Championships - Second Runner-Up|
|1983||Mr. Junior Metropolitan - Class A & Overall Champion|
|1983||Novice New Jersey State Power Lifting Champion - 220 lb. Class|
|1982||Teenage American Cup Championships - Second Runner-Up|
|1982||Teenage Mr. Big Apple - Class A Champion|
|1982||Teenage Mr. Metropolis - Class A & Overall Champion, Most Muscular Winner|
|1982||Teenage Mr. North Atlantic Championships - Class A & Overall Champion|
|1981||Teenage Mr. Colonial America - Class A Champion|
|1979||Mr. New York City Winner Of Best Abs, Back, And Poser|
|1979||Mr. Staten Island - Runner-Up|
|1996||Mario Strong Annual Achievement Award For Contributing To Staten Island Bodybuilding History|
[ Q ] What did you like about bodybuilding to begin with - and what did it instil in you?
There are so many things that I love about bodybuilding. I would have to say that the first and foremost quality that I like about bodybuilding and what it instils in a person is
Bodybuilding, in my eyes, is the toughest sport on the planet. Bodybuilding is a "24 hour job." Especially if you want to be the best, and who does not? If you are a seasoned bodybuilder, and you know your body, this means that you know your training schedule, you know exactly what you are going to eat, what
supplements you are going to consume, and you know exactly what time you are going to do so! This is Discipline!
[ Q ] How does your current training and nutrition philosophy compare to the one you had when you began as a bodybuilder?
nutrition philosophy have really not changed, per se, compared to when I began as a bodybuilder. I have always trained extremely hard, training each muscle group twice per week with the exception of abs, which can be trained three to four times per week.
I train six days per week on a three days on, one day off routine. Of course, off-season training and pre-contest training are two different animals, if I may use that term. I would just ease my body and mind from one style and program into the next. The same goes for my nutritional program.
I eat very healthy year round, and prior to competition I would make the proper adjustments in regards to my protein, carbohydrate, and supplement consumption. I had it down to such a science, that I could always know what I would weigh the day of the show just based on what I weighed the day I began dieting.
This takes years to master, it is called "trial and error" and knowing your body and
metabolism. Every time I competed, I would learn more and more about my body, and myself.
[ Q ] What are your views on cardio training? Do you think today's bodybuilder's overdo it?
My views on
cardio training are simple. If you want to be ripped to shreds when you walk on stage, you better have incorporated some very intense cardio training into your workout schedule. Aerobic training, in addition to weight lifting, (anaerobic training), is the key to an incredibly polished physique.
Of course an athlete can overdo it, just as an athlete can overtrain with the weights. When I was interviewed by ESPN in 1988 when I won the Overall Tournament Of Champions title in California, they asked me a very similar question about training. For me, I would always have to stop myself from overtraining myself.
I had such a deep desire to win, so that even if I completed my scheduled workout, if I had an ounce of energy remaining in my body, I would find something else to do.
[ Q ] What are some of the important bodybuilding lessons your have learned over the years?
There are so many important lessons that I have learned during my many years of competitive bodybuilding. I would have to say that the lessons that really stick out in my mind would be to train like there is no tomorrow; this is a given because in my mind, there is no such thing as a bad workout. But always, and I mean always, listen to your body.
All competitive athletes that push themselves beyond pain barriers, always pushing the limits, have had injuries because they did not listen to their bodies. And I am no different.
As I explain in great detail in my Carrero Muscle Newsletter #5, "Persistence," when the disc in my spine between my fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae became herniated while performing Incline bench presses during a great chest workout in 1986, I almost ended my bodybuilding career.
As I always do, I was pushing the limits, but I did not listen to the warning signs when my body was internally trying to tell me to stop because something was wrong. "Listen to your body" has to be the number one lesson that I have learned.
[ Q ] How important is mental attitude as far as succeeding in bodybuilding goes?
Mental attitude is everything in life! If an athlete wants to succeed in bodybuilding, not only do they have to have "God - gifted
genetics," but also they had better be ready to step up and train as if there lives depended on it! And even if they have the tools to become a great champion, if their minds are not ready to push their bodies, their success will undoubtedly be limited.
[ Q ] What is the hardest part about being a top-level competitive bodybuilder? What were some of the main problems you encountered?
Interesting questions. I have to be honest. I did not find anything difficult about being a top-level competitive bodybuilder. I loved it! I loved the training, the competitions, watching the
transformation of my body from day to day, month to month, and year to year.
I was in control of my physique and the kind of progress that it would make, and that was very exciting. I guess if I were going to mention one "main problem" that I encountered it would have to be the fact that bodybuilding is a very subjective sport.
I was in control of my destiny until I stepped out on to the stage and the posing dais, and then my destiny was out of my control. It is not like sprinters where whoever passes the finish line first wins, and if it is close, there is always the photo finish. So, what one judge may like in terms of a great physique, another judge may have a totally different opinion of. This was at times very difficult to accept.
[ Q ] Were you ever a big user of supplements? Which ones helped you and how did they help you?
Bodybuilders would not be the same without
supplements. Especially when we are dieting for competition and eating just enough food to fill up a small dog. Without the additional food consumption, there would be no way that I could get all of the nutrients that my body required from all of the pounding that it underwent in the gym.
By taking what I had learned my particular body required, and everybody is different, I was able to
recover from the hours of training and continue to add muscle while maintaining as little body fat as possible. And for me, when it came to competing, I always showed up ripped to shreds!
[ Q ] Between 1989 and 1990 you made excellent progress to go from runner up at the California State Championships to winning the whole thing. How did you make the physical changes necessary to win this prestigious show?
Thank you for your very kind words. I can tell that you watched my "Fortitude Creates Champions DVD" very closely. After I placed second in the 1989 California State Light-Heavyweight Championships to
Flex Wheeler, I promised myself that there was no way that I was going to lose in 1990.
Unlike many other bodybuilders that take time off after the show, I was back in the gym the next morning in Santa Monica hitting it again and counting down the days. Being that I was already at the top of the Light-Heavyweight Class, weighing in usually between 196 - 198 pounds, I knew that the only way that I could change my physique was to create definition and separation in my muscles that would blow everyone's minds the next year.
Joe Carrero Posing - "Fortitude Creates Champions".
I continued to train heavy, as I always did, but I incorporated many supersets and descending sets with my routines, especially as it became closer to the show. The results were everything that I was aiming for; massive thick muscle that was separated with deep definition, and ripped to shreds! The result: 1990 California State Light-Heavyweight Champion!
[ Q ] In 1992 you won the Junior USA title and were on a roll and poised to become a very good pro competitor, yet you retired from competition. Why did you choose to retire?
During my fourteen years of competitive bodybuilding working my way up the ranks, I stood on the same stage and competed against some of the best bodybuilders on the planet, such as
Flex Wheeler, just to name a few.
Yes, after I won the 1992 Junior USA Light-Heavyweight class, I knew that I was very close to fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming a professional bodybuilder. I trained very hard as I always do, for the 1993 USA Championships and showed up in even better shape than I did in '92 when I won the Light-Heavies at the Junior USA.
I always improved from year to year. In fact, I remember one of the judges saying to me that day that I "looked like I had the skin of an onion as it is transparent!" I weighed in at a ripped to shreds 197 1/2 pounds.
Unfortunately for me on this day, as I touched on in an earlier question, the judges were not looking for my physique. Quite frankly, I do not know what they were looking for. In all of their infinite wisdom, they placed me a very disappointing, and frankly insulting, 13th place.
I knew that there were not 12 other Light-Heavies better than me, I do have my own two eyes! I must say that this was the only time in my entire career during the pre-judging that I actually felt like walking off of the stage as I was being ignored for the call outs during the mandatory poses.
I knew right then and there that I would come back for the night show like the Champion that I am; but I also knew that I would retire from competition that night. This was one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever had to make; but it is almost as if this life changing decision was made for me, whether I liked it or not.
[ Q ] What has been your greatest moment as a bodybuilding competitor and why?
I have had so many great experiences as a bodybuilding competitor. However, there is one moment that truly stands out in my mind as the greatest moment of my career. That would have to be my
photo shoot after I won the California State Light-Heavyweight Class in 1990, with the legendary photographer Art Zeller! Mr. Zeller, may he rest in peace, was a true gentleman, and a gift to the sport of bodybuilding.
Photo Shoot Articles:
I remember I was training at Gold's Gym in Santa Monica a few days after the show. One of the other bodybuilders in the gym noticed that I was having a photo shoot in the gym with another photographer. So he came up to me and said that I may want to give Art Zeller a call and see if he would take some photos of me. He gave me Art's office number and I proceeded to call.
It was so funny! I called Mr. Zeller and introduced myself, and he said to me, "Since I do not know who you are, and I am very busy, I need to take a look at you and see if I will photograph you. If I choose not to, please do not get offended." Of course I said fine, after all, Art Zeller was the best.
I knew that there were many other bodybuilders that, like me, could only dream of being photographed by Art Zeller. I then informed him as to where I was staying in Santa Monica so that we could meet. When Art showed up, he said, "Ok, let's see what you got!"
I hit a few poses and the first words that came out of his mouth were, "You're not a pro yet?" I replied, "Not yet." To which he again replied, "You're really not a pro yet?" This was one of the greatest compliments that I had ever received in my bodybuilding career!
At this moment I knew that he would photograph me. We spent an entire day shooting at the gym, the beach, and various other locations. I was so incredibly honored to be photographed by the same legend that also looked through his camera lens and photographed my idol when I was growing up as a young bodybuilder, the one and only, Arnold Schwarzenegger! This was a dream come to life.
I have some very memorable photos of Art and I at World's Gym in Venice during the Gym shoot on my web site in the "Gallery Plus" section for viewing, in addition to the article that he wrote about me in the UK Body Power Magazine, ironically with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover! This is definitely the greatest moment in my bodybuilding career!
[ Q ] You are a lucky guy being photographed by such a distinguished man. Shifting subjects, you also competed as a powerlifter. Tell me more about this. How did it help your bodybuilding training?
This is a funny story. I have always been a strong believer in heavy training to build quality muscle and size. Since it was known that for a "bodybuilder," I was considered strong, one of my training partners dared me to compete in a
So, in 1983 at the age of 19, I competed in the Novice New Jersey State Powerlifting Championships. I competed in the 220lb. class weighing in at 212lbs. When I began wrapping my knees for my first squat attempt, one of the true to form powerlifters said to me, "look at the bodybuilder, come over here and I will teach you how to wrap your knees correctly!"
The other powerlifters in my class got a big laugh out of that - until I began lifting. I finished with a 650 pound Squat, 430 pound Bench Press, and a 660 pound Deadlift; winning first place in the 1983 Novice New Jersey State Powerlifting Championships. So much for the "bodybuilder."
[ Q ] Who do you like physique-wise amongst today's professional bodybuilders and why?
This is a difficult question that I do not think I have an answer for. All of the top professional bodybuilders today are great in their own style. I find it sometimes very difficult to distinguish who should ultimately place higher than the next? I am sorry to be so concise, but I really do not have a favorite.
[ Q ] What do you like most about bodybuilding?
I would have to say that what I like most about bodybuilding is the fact that, in my opinion, bodybuilding is the "fountain of youth." Train hard, eat healthy, and get your rest, and God willing, live a long and healthy life. All bodybuilders should learn a lesson from Jack La Lanne. Jack was, and still is, ahead of his time!
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[ Q ] What are your views on the current state of bodybuilding? Do you like the direction it is going in?
With respect to all bodybuilders both professional and those training to become professional, I have the highest amount of respect for what you do. I know what it is to train for hours on end everyday until you feel like you cannot move; only to go home and consume the precise amount of
recover, but nothing more, only to do it again tomorrow in the quest to become the greatest.
All great athletes have to make very serious decisions about what they will do, and what they will not do. I grew up in the generation of the greatest physiques of all time; physiques such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ed Corney, Franco Columbo and Frank Zane.
I think that something occurred between Lee Haney and Dorian Yates that changed the way we look at bodybuilders today, and will into the future. But one thing is certain, all of us bodybuilders are human beings, and just in case anyone needs reminding, we only get one life. Please choose wisely my friends.
[ Q ] What are your training goals these days?
My training goals these days have been to continue to progress physically and mentally, while staying extremely healthy. I always enter the gym with a workout in my mind, and I will not leave until it is completed. I train very hard six days per week incorporating both very intense weight training and
cardio training, sometimes working out on the elliptical machine for up to two hours straight.
[ Q ] What is your current career?
In addition to creating my bodybuilding
web site, which is intended to inform, educate, and entertain readers around the world that are interested in bodybuilding and physical fitness; after I retired from bodybuilding competition I returned to College. I studied Real Estate and have been a Real Estate Professional since 1995.
I am presently working for the fastest growing Real Estate Organization in the history of the United States, INTERO Real Estate Services. One of the things that I find great about this organization is the fact that all of the corporate leadership are physically fit and workout in one form or another. In fact, my training partner these days is the CEO & President of INTERO, Mr. Gino Blefari.
Joe Carrero Discusses The California Real Estate Market.
[ Q ] Would you like to make a bodybuilding comeback? Why/why not?
This is a question that I have been asking myself more and more recently. As you know, I love bodybuilding. And I still train like a bodybuilder. Although many years have past, it is sort of like the old adage, "it is like riding a bicycle, once you know how to, you never forget."
At this juncture, I do not have any immediate plans to return to the stage, but I would not rule it out in the future. Once a competitive athlete, always a competitive athlete. My very good friend, the great master poser, Ed Corney will attest to that!
[ Q ] Who would you like to acknowledge for having helped you throughout your bodybuilding career?
This is the easiest question to answer, my family. My loving parents, and my brothers and sister were always there to support me during my competitions no matter what place I would come in.
My family would always encourage me to train harder and aim for the next show. Any bodybuilder that has a support group like family, a support group that will "tolerate" us during our incredibly difficult diets and training; is the luckiest athlete in the world.
Thank you David, and thank you Bodybuilding.com for this great interview. And to all the bodybuilders, keep training hard and never get discouraged. Remember, "Fortitude Creates Champions!"
Visit Joe's site: http://www.joecarrero.com/