The NGA has a mission to promote only drug free - natural bodybuilding and fitness events. Additionally the NGA tries to fight against the ever-controversial politics related to the sport of bodybuilding. The NGA is an open organization that allows their athletes to compete in any other organization if the please to do so. They do ask, however; that their athletes only participate in drug tested events held by other sanctioning orginazations. Basically their athletes are free agents able to compete when and where they please.
Drug testing is conducted at all amateur shows. The minimum requirement to be able to compete in an NGA contest is having a history of five consecutive drug free years of bodybuilding under your belt. Professionals are required to have a seven-year history of being clean. The year 2000 marked the birth of the NGA Pro division. Any other natural Pro is allowed to compete as an NGA Pro with proof of professional status.
The NGA follows a strict substance policy and anything that is not approved by the IOC or has been banned by the FDA can not be used by an NGA athlete. Have you ever seen those lists? If not... be prepared because you are limited to taking a few core supplements only. The athletes of the NGA are really natural to say the least! Learn more by checking out the NGA's web site at NationalGym.com.
Now that you have learned a little about the NGA lets meet one of their newest professionals, Rommel Cordova. I met Rommel during my precontest phase of the year 2000. At that time I was preparing for the Southern Classic and making several trips to see Maris Lee who was assisting me with my nutrition. Since then it seemed as if I only ran into Rommel when I went to visit Maris. They both work out of the same gym as personal trainers and both seem to live there because every time that I am in there so are they.
I now live in the same area and train at the same gym so I see Rommel pretty much every day. I respected his advice before he was a Pro and had him take a look at me on occasions right before a show. He would give input and I would respectfully act upon his suggestions. I had the honor and opportunity to get with him and conduct an informative interview for my followers and the Bodybuilding.com readers. Lets begin!
Name: Rommel Cordova
Contest Weight: 170lbs
Off-season Weight: 180-185lbs
- 1998 - 1st Place, NPC Mr. Louisiana Open Light Weight
- 1998 - 1st Place, NPC Greater Gulf States Open Light Weight
- 2000 - Top 15, NPC Nationals Open Bantam Weight
- 2002 - 1st Place, NPC Heart of Dixie open Light Weight
- 2002 - 1st Place & Overall Champion, NGA Mr. Natural Louisiana
Dino: How many days per week do you train?
Rommel: "Six days a week."
Dino: How long do you normally train for?
Rommel: "I train anywhere from 30 - 45 minutes per session. I split train so I do two sessions each day. That is a total of about one hour of training a day."
Rommel: "I have a partner but most of the time I end up training alone because of a conflict of schedules."
Dino: Does this differ during the contest season?
Rommel: "Yes, during the contest season I train alone because the schedule tightens up and it is once again too hard to match schedules."
Dino: What does your training schedule look like?
Rommel: "I train the entire body in a two day period. I'll train upper body one day and lower the next."
Dino: That is unique, so you must break up the body during your split sessions. Like for upper body day you train chest, shoulders, and triceps in the morning and back and biceps in the evening. Is this correct?
Dino: Do you go for heavy weight lower reps or strict form and a lighter weight selection?
Rommel: "I try to mix it up as much as possible. I know a lot of guys go for 10 reps all of the time, I think that the body gets used to that. I try to keep shocking my body by always swapping each week from heavy to light."
Dino: Do you get sore?
Rommel: "Yeah, I get sore."
Dino: But it is not like a deep DOMS or anything right? I mean it is more of a pump and tightness feeling, is it not? Do you feel recovered enough to train that body part again in two days?
Rommel: "Yeah its like that tightness in the muscles, but my legs still get sore. I feel recovered by the time I train again."
Dino: How much cardio do you do in your contest season? And off-season?
Rommel: "During the contest season I get in three 30-45 minute sessions. During the off-season I do one session first thing in the morning on an empty stomach for about 45 minutes, but then I eat a big breakfast after."
Dino: Do you use your heart rate as an indicator or do you go for time... what is your strategy?
Rommel: "It is good to start off with a heart rate monitor but I know what to do now. I can tell by how my body is feeling if I need to go faster, etc... I have experience with cardio and I can tell."
Dino: Do you consume a nocturnal meal? If so what does it usually consist of?
Rommel: "I do in the off-season because I am always trying to build muscle, but I cut it out during contest preparation. I will just grab a chicken breast or a protein drink. It is always just protein and always easy to digest. I only eat if I wake up but if I wake up I am going to eat it."
Dino: I thought that I was the only one who preferred my veggies pureed but I hear that you eat "rice & chicken" from your blender every day, is that true? If so why? What is the theory behind this practice?
Rommel: "I stay busy all day and I do not have a lot of time to eat my meals so I blend them into a milkshake consistency and drink them. It is more about convenience for me."
Dino: Do you believe in food mixing? For example I do not like to mix my carbohydrates with protein or fat, I feel that they get absorbed better this way. Do you follow a similar practice?
Rommel: "Yes but I put a little bit of protein, about 15 grams, into my post workout meal along with about 70-80 grams of simple carbohydrates. I also feel that if you are taking supplements this is also the best time to take them. It is like the body is ready to reload with nutrients at this time. I do sort of the opposite one-hour following my post training meal. I will eat a good bit of protein and just a little bit of carbohydrates mostly from fiber."
Dino: Do you count calories or grams; do you have a food log or journal?
Rommel: "I used to keep a contest journal so I would have a record of what I did but over the years my body has changed so much that it is different. Things that used to work for me are not working or I have found other ways to do something. I always cut red meat out when preparing for a contest along with increasing the cardio."
Dino: Do you ever cheat on your diet like a planned cheat day?
Rommel: "Yes in the off-season I have a cheat meal. It is controlled to one meal only and even that meal is limited. I usually have that meal on Sunday. During the contest season, like 16 weeks out, no more cheat meals are allowed."
Dino: I know that you diet year round as I do but... how long is your "contest dieting strategy"? 8-30 weeks of preparation is a common time frame for bodybuilders, personally I dieted for 22 weeks this year, what is your personal length of time needed to be in tiptop shape?
Rommel: "16 weeks and if I am not ready I will not enter the show. I will not enter unless I am 100% prepared."
Dino: I know that a common fear of bodybuilders is loss of mass. Do you ever worry about losing muscle when dieting for a show?
Rommel: "No, because I keep my protein intake up."
Rommel: "When I am preparing for a contest my protein intake is about 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. In the off-season it is all the way up to 3 grams. I allow red meat in my diet in the off-season and that brings my protein intake up real easily. I can eat a pound of lean ground beef easily in two to three meals and that is about 100 or so grams right there. I really like using turkey, chicken, eggs, and in the contest season salmon. The fish gives me some EFAs too."
Dino: What is your carbohydrate intake (grams) in both the off-season & contest season? What are your favorite types?
Rommel: "I like oatmeal and rice but I use rice mostly. When I use carbohydrates to carb up with I tend to accumulate water under my skin. I use dry oats to assist in removing that water. The water is needed to help digest the oats and is pulled from my skin. In the off-season and during contest preparation I use about 200 grams each day. Carbs really do not change much when I am dieting. I do use more when I am carbing up for a show, it all depends on how I am looking."
Dino: What is your take on veggies and their importance on dieting? Do you feel that the leafy greens & fibrous vegetables create a calorie deficit?
Rommel: "Yes they help me feel full too. When you are dieting and you stop eating your body will shut down its metabolism so I may use some vegetables during contest preparation to keep feeding my body something. You also have to drink a lot of water when eating a high fiber diet. Fiber and water aid in digestion."
Dino: Do you use prohormones? If so what brand, type, and why do you choose this regimen?
Dino: So the only hormones that you have to work with is what your body manufactures?
Dino: What is your stand on insulin and insulin mimetics? It seems as if insulin is a popular item on the natural circuit but with the recent death of Dustin Nemith, the 24-year-old NPC competitor from Baton Rouge, the subject has become controversial. Do you think that if use properly it can be beneficial to natural bodybuilders or do you view it as a banned or controversial substance?
Rommel: "If you are going to use insulin you better have done your homework. You need to read your blood and do all kind of things. What 5 IUs may do to someone may do something totally different to you. You need the help of a guru and should always have a friend there to assist you. If you get the shakes and you know you need to drink a soda or eat a candy bar but you cannot move the muscles to do this, a friend will be able to save you. You need somebody to be able to give you some orange juice or something."
Dino: Do you use insulin or insulin mimetics?
Dino: What is your current supplementation program?
Rommel: "I use MuscleTech Hydroxycut fat burner during the contest season only or if I get too out of shape in the off season I'll use it along with more cardio to get back on track. Besides that I use creatine, HMB during precontest, L-carnitine, Glutamine, and a multivitamin."
NGA ATHELTES AT THE MR. LOUISIANA
Dino: Congratulations on your recent status of professionalism. I admire your accomplishments. I too want to become a professional athlete (bodybuilder) by the age of 30. Was this your first NGA contest?
Dino: What were the competitors like? Do you think that they were really 100% natural?
Rommel: "Yes, they caught three of them."
Dino: Three failed the drug test?
Dino: What was the "drug" test? Urine, lie detector, or blood related?
Rommel: "Polygraph and the winners also received a urinalysis."
Dino: How many bodybuilders were in the show?
Rommel: "With the females and everyone about 65 total."
Dino: What inspired you to become a bodybuilder and did you always know that you wanted to become a professional bodybuilder?
Rommel: "Since I was young, I was 15. I was into athletics before and just started weightlifting for sports. I liked the feeling of the tightness and the pump. I enjoyed training and it started from there."
Dino: How do you stay motivated to diet year round? Is it just from maturing as a bodybuilder over the years?
Rommel: "Yes, maturity."
Dino: What are your plans as a NGA professional?
Rommel: "To come in tighter and bigger. I want to work on my posing too. I will try to compete in a Pro show in spring or early summer."
Dino: Will you ever compete in the NPC again?
Rommel: "Maybe, I just like competing."
Dino: What is the NGA's winnings as a Professional bodybuilder?
Rommel: "You can win money and prizes. I think that first place at one show was like $1500.
Dino: You are a personal trainer by trade, do you attribute your ability to being so successful in this field because of that? For example, lets say you were a doctor, lawyer, dentist, or any other occupation would bodybuilding be more of a challenge to you as far as training and getting all of your meals in?
Rommel: "I kind of wish I had a 9-5 job. This would allow me to train at the same time every day. I like to be on a schedule. I think that if you train at the same time every day then the body adapts to that. The body will prepare to train at the time every day. My schedule has me training at different times all of the time."
Dino: How do you eat all of your meals working all day long?
Rommel: "I precook my meat 4-5 days ahead of time. I cook my vegetables and eggs every day because they are easier to prepare. I just pack all of my meals with me."
Dino: What is your perspective or outlook on organizations such as the NGA? Will they ever be really big? Like NPC big or does politics and the power of the Weider association have too much control on those issues?
Rommel: "They will grow because it is healthy and people like that. That is what bodybuilding is about anyway, getting healthier. Being natural requires a lifestyle change."
Dino: How do you stay so damn full & vascular? I often reference your vascualrity to the vascular road map appearance of a professional racehorse's awesome & quite impressive appearance. Is this genetics or a matter of being so lean and conditioned?
Rommel: "Blood flow is the key. I do a lot of cardio and I am consistent. Cardio requires for blood vessels to pump blood. When I train light that requires a lot of pumping also the body adapts to this by creating more vessels and making them efficient so it is easy for the heart to pump blood. Maturing every year also has something to do with it. Lots of water is important to, water is need for just about everything in the body but water balance is important. A low fat diet is also beneficial but blood flow is the key."
Dino: I get a lot of flack form other bodybuilders about never really "Bulking-Up". Their version of bulking up is just getting fat in my mind. Do you think that it is necessary to bulk up to 30+ pounds over your contest weight?
Rommel: "No, it is too stressful on the body."
Dino: Do you think that the guys that stay close to contest condition year round are at a disadvantage to their bulked up co-competitors?
Dino: Do you think it is possible to build muscle while dieting or maintaining a particular state of conditioning? If so, is it slower that the guys who bulk up?
Rommel: "Yes in the beginning of a contest diet it is because you are still strong and you have just started to do everything. Later on you switch over to lighter weights because the joints ache from training heavy and a lot of flexing light weight exercises are used instead of real heavy weights."
Thank you, it was an honor to have this interview with you I am glad we had a chance to do this!
Dino Paul Pierce, CFT (III)