The First Time Is A Charm: An Interview With Lishia Dean.

On November 6, 2004, the NPC was introduced to a new power in the world of fitness competition, Lishia Dean. Power is a perfect word to describe Lishia, especially winning the overall at the Quincy Roberts' Elite Muscle Classic...

On November 6, 2004, the NPC was introduced to a new "power" in the world of fitness competition, Lishia Dean. Power is a perfect word to describe Lishia, especially when you consider that until stepping on stage at Quincy Roberts' Elite Muscle Classic, she had never competed in a fitness or figure contest.

Don't let that fool you though. This Greensboro, NC native is no stranger to competition. She comes from competitive powerlifting and holds the NC State records in the 148 lb. class for the bench press and deadlift.

Lishia came ready, not just to compete, but to win. In her first ever outing, she won the overall title and qualified for the Nationals in Dallas, Texas. The following is an interview I conducted with Lishia just after returning from the Nationals - enjoy and keep your eyes open, cause she coming and coming strong!

The Interview

[ Q ] Where and when was Lishia Dean born?

    A: I was born in Greensboro, NC on November 8th, 1978. I am 26 years young!

[ Q ] What sports did you compete at earlier in your sporting career?

[ Q ] What led you to start training with weights and how old were you?

    A: I have always been very active and competitive. As a little girl, I took dance and gymnastic classes. Through high school, I took a PE class that included plyometrics and weights. We only did 4 lifts: Incline bench, Flat bench, Deadlifts and Squats. I was hooked from then on.

[ Q ] When did you start thinking about competing and why? You started out as a powerlifter and made the jump to fitness. What caused this "change of interest"?

    A: In December of 2000, I met a wonderful man named Red Swaim. Red competed at the World level in Powerlifting and in local meets up until the age of 64 years old. He took me in as one of his own and trained me to succeed as a Powerlifter. I currently hold the North Carolina AAU State record in the bench press (140 lbs.) and the deadlift (320 lbs.). I found that I was strong for a woman in the weight class of 148 lbs.

    In January of 2004 Red passed away. I have competed in one bench press meet since then. It just wasn't the same without Red. However, I still had the competitive spirit. The Greensboro Prowlers discontinued their team for 2004, so I was not able to dance. I wanted to find something new to get involved with. At this point, I began to think about Fitness competitions because it combined dance, strength, and athleticism.

    In June of 2004, I went to one of Jen Hendershott's Phat Camps ( in Jacksonville, Florida. It was an awesome experience. Jen was so personable and helpful that after I left, I set a date to compete in my first show.

[ Q ] Tell us a little about your first show, Lishia. What was the experience like?

    A: Exciting and Unbelievable! Even though the preparation was tough, I loved the challenge. I dieted for 12 weeks and lost 30 lbs. My everyday training begins with exercises similar to my powerlifting training.

    I still bench, deadlift and squat, HEAVY. The other exercises are moderately heavy with more focus on isolating the muscle I am training that day. It helped that everyone around me was so supportive in getting my suits, tanning, diet, training, posing and all the little things that count.

[ Q ] You not only did well, you won the overall and qualified for the Nationals first time out! How did it feel? What were your thoughts on competing at the National level?

    A: I put a lot of time and effort into my routine and physique. To be rewarded for that at Quincy Robert's Elite Muscle Classic in Greensboro was truly amazing. I had so many emotions rolling through me when I won the overall trophy and with knowing I just qualified for Nationals.

    I was not planning on doing Nationals since it was 2 weeks after the Elite show. Honestly, the cost was an issue. Fortunately, my chiropractor Dr. Harrington with Harrington Chiropractic, The Greensboro YMCA and close friends decided to sponsor me and give me this opportunity. Little did I know I would place 10th at my first National show. I've got the itch now! NOW IT'S ON!!!

[ Q ] We all have a funny story to tell when we started out training. What is Lishia Dean's?

    A: I was in the 8th grade when I became interested in working out. I had a "Get in Shape Girl" cassette tape and poster I followed in my room at home. After doing that for a week, I decided it was too easy. I went to my dad's mechanic shop to look around and see what I could find. I brought home a 17 lb. cinderblock.

    I threw on the song "Push it" by Salt-n-pepa (yea, it was the 80's), put my forearms through the holes of the cinderblock and started curling. Then I did shoulder presses with it. Those are the only two exercises I knew to do.

    My dad started to notice scratches on my forearms and wanted to know where they came from. My response was, "I fell down in PE class". I guess I was afraid of what he would say if he knew I was working out. I was in my room and my door wasn't quite shut.

    My dad caught me doing my exercises with the cinderblock. He barged in and asked me, "What are you doing?" He took the cinderblock back to the shop. I knew for sure, he was mad! About 30 minutes later, he came down to the house with part of a tractor axel sanded, painted and weighing 22 lbs. and said, "Here, this will work much better and save your arms too!". That is how I started lifting!!

[ Q ] What if anything did you change in your training going from power lifting to fitness?

    A: I do all of the same exercises training for fitness as I did in powerlifting. I just adjusted to number of reps and sets I do. For powerlifting I would do 5-6 sets of HEAVY weight for 4-5 reps per set of the compounds movements (bench, deadlift and squat). I only did 3 exercises total.

    For Fitness I do 3-4 sets of HEAVY weight for 8-10 reps per set, with the same compound movements. I do anywhere from 5-6 exercises total and include supersets and explosive exercises toward the end of my workout.

[ Q ] What do you feel are your physique strong points?

    A: I feel my back is my best feature and I owe that to deadlifts. My thickness is good, but I would like to add more width to my back. I am pleased with my arms also. I feel they are proportionate and have nice shape.

[ Q ] What areas are you looking to improve upon for your next competition?

    A: I am looking to improve the overall size of my physique. I have a very short, wide waist. I would like to focus on the size of my shoulders, lats and leg sweep to help create a smaller looking waistline. I would also like to add more shape to my lower body.

[ Q ] What is your favorite training routine / body part?

    A: My favorite day of training is Wednesday's when I train back. I love to deadlift! For a woman, I am strong at it and love the look it gives my back. I also like running sprints and working plyometrics for my legs. These workouts are hard and not much fun at the time, but the physique improvements from them are worth the effort.

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[ Q ] What advice can you offer to the newer faces looking to make the best showings possible in fitness?

    A: STICK TO YOUR DIET! This is what Matt Hendrick and Jen Hendershott preached to me! Training hard in the gym is a must, but I have found most of the work is done outside of the gym (diet and rest). A competition diet and recovery are crucial to success! I am a prime example.

    Like I stated earlier, my workouts are very similar to when I trained for Powerlifting and now when I train for Fitness. I was not on a diet when I weighted 148 lbs. and competed in powerlifting.

    When Matt, my fiancé and training partner, structured my diet, my first fitness show I weighted in at 119 lbs. (See my before and after pictures).

[ Q ] Before we finish up Lishia, is there anything you would like to add? Goals for the future, that type of thing?

    A: My goal now, is to turn Pro within the next couple of years. I am going to continue going to Jen Hendershott's Phat Camps. They are always so motivating, especially if it is close to competition time. I may compete at the Bodyrock show in July. I definitely plan to compete in August at the Team Universe in New York and at Nationals in Atlanta during November.

I would like to thank:

  • Dr. Harrington at Harrington Chiropractic for my wellness program. (336-852-5858)

  • The Greensboro YMCA for allowing me to train at their facility. (336-387-9622)

  • Barry and Daniel at Max Nutrition for all my nutritional needs. (336) 852-3700 or (336) 292-1110

  • And all of my friends that helped me financially get to Nationals this year!

  • Lishia is the Fitness Director at the Spears YMCA in Greensboro, NC. If you are interested in contacting her for help with your training program, please email at:

  • Look for her website coming soon!

About The Author

Jason Morgan is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer and IFA Certified Sports Nutritionist with specializations in:

  • Specific Nutrition
  • Exercise and Fibromalygia / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Care and Prevention of Sports Injuries
  • Hormones and Performance
  • Creatine Supplementation Theory and Practice

Morgan has authored 3 books on training, health and fitness:

  • Muscle Meals In Minutes
  • Body Shock! The Secrets To Explosive Muscle Growth
  • Keep Moving - The Complete Guide To Senior Fitness

Morgan is also the owner of Muscleworx Personal Fitness Services and is available for one-on -one instruction and coaching in the Greensboro, NC area or online at He can be contacted by phone at (336) 545-6574 or