Mike Liberatore Explains 2010 Phoenix Prep With Dave Palumbo!

Mike explains what he will bring to the 2010 Phoenix Pro to capture the judge's attention. Mike's nutritional advisor Dave Palumbo also joins... Find out more.

Article Summary:
  • Mike Liberatore will be competing in the 2010 Phoenix Pro!
  • Mike has been working with Dave Palumbo to prepare for the Phoenix Pro.
  • The Phoenix Pro takes place February 20th.

One dark horse predicted to exceed many expectations at the 2010 Phoenix Pro is 2008 NPC National Championships Heavyweight winner Mike Liberatore, a 2007 MD Cyber Classic Champion who combines beautiful lines and crisp conditioning with proportionate size and marketable good looks.

With his classic lines, trademark conditioning and added thickness look for Mike to stand out among a stellar line-up - featuring notables Troy Alves and Melvin Anthony - in his first pro outing.

As with all top contenders, Liberatore is not only a product of discipline, hard work and meticulous planning and execution in the areas of training and nutrition. For the past three years he has had professional nutritional guidance by no less than success-oriented and results-focused nutritional maestro Dave Palumbo. Dave's supervision has assisted Mike to make steady progress to where he is now among the best bodybuilders in the world.

In the following interview Mike explains how he has progressed and what he will bring to the 2010 Phoenix Pro to capture the judge's attention. Mike's nutritional advisor Dave Palumbo explains also how he has enabled Mike to refine his raw potential and how he will maximize Liberatore's chances of success come show time.


Mike Liberatore Interview


[ Q ] The 2010 Phoenix Pro line-up is quite strong. How do you feel you will stack up in your pro debut at this show? Do you have any predictions at this point?

    I feel that I can compete with the top guys in the show. If I get a good look from the judges I can see myself placing in the top five. Judging is subjective so we will see. I'm bigger and better but I still have my great lines and trademark conditioning.

Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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Michael Liberatore Guest Posing At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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[ Q ] How did you get started in bodybuilding and what attracted you to becoming a pro bodybuilder in the first place?

    I got started by wanting to look like Arnold and Stallone. I thought that was what a man was supposed to look like. But I didn't do my first show till I was 26 and turned pro four years later. I was too busy chasing girls and playing other sports.


[ Q ] At what point in your career progression did you know that you could become one of the pro elite?

    When I won the Heavyweight class at the 2008 Jr. Nationals, where I should have won the overall beating Sean Allan. I then lost by one point to overall winner Brandon Curry five weeks later at the USA's where once again I felt I should've won. Phil Heath was the last person to win both in the same year.

    I then went on to win the Heavyweight class at the 2008 NPC Nationals beating Mark Alvisi for the 2nd time. Mark spilled over just a touch and I did just enough to win. I was at my worst at the Nationals from dieting all year. I won my Pro Card but I was not happy with how I looked.

    I looked much better at the USA's and truly beat Brandon Curry who was not in shape. Not sure how many other bodybuilders in NPC history won that much that fast, it was so fast I didn't get to enjoy it much.

Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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Michael Liberatore Guest Posing At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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[ Q ]What improvements have you made to your physique since you last competed?

    My legs are a lot fuller, my back has added thickness to my lower lats and my chest has come up a touch. I only weighed 209 at the Nationals whereas at the USA's I was 217. I should be around 220 but with added maturity and thickness.


[ Q ] What of your physical attributes will capture the judge's attention at the Phoenix Pro do you think?

    My condition is always on point and I have a classic physique that many do not have anymore. I'm a bit of a throwback with some added size. I will continue to improve and get bigger but I want to win looking like the bodybuilders of yesteryear with modern size.


[ Q ] Could you describe the training program you have used to prep for this show?

    I train high volume - pumps are huge for me. But I still do one set to failure on each exercise.

Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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Michael Liberatore Guest Posing At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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[ Q ] What changes, if any, have you made to your training to prepare for the Phoenix Pro?

    Not too many. I do different exercises for my back. Old school T-Bar rows, pullovers like Dorian did... I watched Dorian train Mark Dugdale on his video and learned a different way to train my back. It has helped.

    For legs I did a lot of single leg press, standard and vertical. I'm lucky my gym has an old school vertical leg press. It's a lost piece of art. Heavy walking lunges with 100-110 dumbbells for 24-30 steps. Also I squat last on a Smith press to take pressure of my lower back.


[ Q ] What has your basic training philosophy been and how has this approach helped you in the past?

    Volume, volume and volume. I need a pump and feel the muscle working through this. Mind muscle connection. Moving heavy weights just to move it does not fit my physique.


[ Q ] Since 2006 you have competed as a heavyweight. Is this a natural weight range for you? Would you eventually like to pack on more mass or reduce your weight come competition time to compete in a lighter class?

    I feel I can slowly grow to a weight of 230-235 with my same waistline. At this weight and proportions with the right improvements I feel I can be a top 10 bodybuilder in the world, or higher.

    I have lost size in the past from dieting wrong and training lazy. I am a different bodybuilder now. Smarter. I learn each time and ask questions of everyone, not just Dave Palumbo. I like to hear what Hany, George, Oscar, Chad, Dorian, Chris, and Neil have to say. No one person is right - one needs to use what is right for them!

Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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Michael Liberatore Guest Posing At The 2009 Jr. USA Bodybuilding, Fitness, Figure & Bikini Championships.
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[ Q ] On that note I understand you have also been working with Dave Palumbo to prepare for the Phoenix Pro. How has Dave's knowledge enhanced your physical progress so far?

    Dave is very knowledgeable, but we do disagree from time to time. You must challenge your trainer; he is not you and does not feel what your body is doing. But he has helped me grow and learn so much.


[ Q ] What key insights has Dave given you that will enhance your contest prep for this and future pro shows?

    Condition, condition, and condition! Work hard and don't cheat on your diet. He says with my given shape and metabolism that I should always do well no matter what the line up may be.


[ Q ] Dave has an excellent success rate with his clients. In your experience what is Dave like to work with?

    He is stubborn unless you challenge him. You must ask questions and express your mind. I'm smart and push Dave to work hard for me. He has become a good friend and mentor. I owe him a lot; we have grown as trainer and client over the last three years.

Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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[ Q ] What are your immediate goals?

    Make the top five at my first show, or better yet, grab an Olympia qualification. Then take some time to improve, win a pro show and then make the top 10 at the Olympia. I want to be consistent like Dexter - that's how you get better. To always be in the running!


[ Q ] What are your long-term bodybuilding goals?

    I would like to place top six at the Olympia and top three at the Arnold. Win multiple pro shows. Be respected by my peers and to be good to the fans and be loved by them in return.


[ Q ] What will be your competitive plans following your debut at the Phoenix Pro?

    Not sure - need to talk to the Judges and Dave. It all depends on my placing.

Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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Mike's Trainer Dave Talks...


[ Q ] How long have you been working with Mike Liberatore for and what progress has he made with your nutritional guidance?

    Back in 2007 Mike won the $10,000 first prize for the MD Cyber Classic that I promoted while the editor-in-chief at MuscularDevelopment.com. We become friendly at that show and I started working with him on his offseason and, then, pre-contest diet for the '07 IFBB North America where he placed a very respectable 3rd in the HW Class (his first national-level contest).

    Mike has a gifted metabolism (similar to my own) and the more knowledge I fill him with, the more impressive his physique seems to get.

    In 2008, he had a banner year with a victory at the NPC Jr. Nationals (HW Class), a controversial 2nd place to Brandon Curry at the NPC USA and then a class victory at the NPC Nationals, which earned him his IFBB Pro Card. Throughout the entire two year run, Mike consistently improved his physique (both size and conditioning wise).


[ Q ] What unique nutritional requirements does Mike have going into the 2010 pro season?

    Because Mike does have such a uniquely fast metabolism, it's very important that you keep an eye on his weight. If it starts dropping too quickly, you have to feed him more calories to stop him from losing muscle. Luckily, he's very neurotic about how he looks and feels while preparing for competition so I know I'm always going to get a lot of feedback and questions.

    When a competitor that you're training doesn't live close enough for you to actually see them in person, daily feedback becomes invaluable in the coaching process. This year, I fed Mike my usual high protein/moderate fat/ketogenic diet; however, for the first 10 weeks, I had him include some starchy carbs in his daily meals.

    In all likelihood (because of his crazy metabolic rate), Mike was still probably in a ketogenic state despite eating 100-150g carbs per day. Together with the protein and fat, Mike's caloric load totals for the day were pretty high. At four weeks out I pulled all the carbs and now at around 14 days out he's very close to contest conditioning.

Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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[ Q ] What changes have you made to Mike's diet and how have these benefited him?

    By feeding him more food (since he's bigger this year), we've ensured that he won't lose a single pound of muscle. In fact, Mike may have even gained some muscle since he eats 10x better and more diligently when contest dieting (as opposed to offseason where his discipline is less than ideal).


[ Q ] Based on Mike's current conditioning and overall look this far out from the Phoenix Pro, how well do you think he will do?

    I predict Mike will crack the top five at his first IFBB Pro show. I think his beautiful symmetry and stellar conditioning will make him stand out on that stage. While he won't be as big as Toney Freeman or Quincy Taylor, he'll bring a polish to the stage reminiscent of Shawn Ray.


[ Q ] What qualities does Mike have as a bodybuilder that will ensure he does well on the pro scene?

    He has perfect symmetry, a polished look and presentation, and he's a good-looking guy. Remember, marketability is huge when it comes to Pro Ranks of bodybuilding.


[ Q ] How will you dial Mike in the final week before the Phoenix Pro?

    I'm a big believer in the wise phrase, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" If Mike looks incredible on the Monday before the competition, I'll do very little to his physique. Of course, I'll carb him up (but not excessively), I'll cut his sodium somewhat (but only on Friday), and I'll restrict his water (but only for 18 hours). These minor tweaks will enable him to fill out and drop any excess subcutaneous water without spilling over or flattening out.

Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships. Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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Michael Liberatore At The 2008 Junior National Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships.
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[ Q ] How will you ensure Mike maintains his muscle fullness throughout his current dieting phase?

    To me, the term "muscle fullness" implies how much glycogen (and water) is crammed into the muscle cells. In that light, muscle fullness is meaningless except on the day he steps onstage. I actually like to have my athletes walk around slightly depleted and flat while dieting. That's the only way to ensure that you strip every last bit of fat off their frame.

    As long as protein and essential fat intake is high enough to sustain lean muscle repair; and cardio is not too excessive or high intensity, there's no way a bodybuilder will lose muscle. Once the fat is gone and carbs are reintroduced back into the body, the muscles will fill out and look round and tight onstage.