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As I write this I am four weeks away from competing in the NPC Massachusetts State/New Hampshire State/ Northeast Tournament of Champions, being held in Manchester, New Hampshire. You geography whizzes may have caught something odd there - you have to go to New Hampshire to win the Massachusetts state title. It's almost as bad as going to Canada to win the Mr. America, but at least you don't have to go through Customs and Immigration.
This is the third time since Randy has been training with me that he has watched me diet down into contest condition. Actually, I'm not sure if that's accurate. I did the show in New Hampshire last year without dieting too long and without doing my usual amount of cardio, as an experiment of sorts to see if I could stay bigger and fuller. The answer was yes, but I also stayed fatter. But still, I knew a couple weeks ago I couldn't keep Randy from competing any longer.
Understand that I have not been holding Randy back the way Cinderella's wicked stepmother tried to keep her from going to the big royal ball. No, I am neither punishing the young guy nor attempting to keep him hidden from the world lest he reveal a physique much greater than my own (there are plenty of those out there, so hiding just one doesn't do me much good). No, believe it or not, I am looking out for Randy.
As I talked about in an earlier episode in this series a few months back, I have come to embrace the wisdom of the late Orson Welles in his TV commercials for Paul Maisson wine: "We will sell no wine before its time."
Randy simply was not ready to step on stage and compare favorably with other regional-level bodybuilders in the NPC. Perhaps if we lived in a state like Florida or California where there are a lot more contests held, he may have gotten away with taking home a trophy in a novice class. But the New England area doesn't have many contests, and rarely do they feature novice divisions. That means all the good bodybuilders only come out to battle a couple times a year.
If you don't 'belong' in a show like that, you know it right away, and it's a humbling experience to say the least. It's kind of like being the poor guy at the ritzy country club. I didn't want Randy to get his ass handed to him and be turned off of competing forever.
It was no longer possible to contain Randy's desire to compete. If he didn't do a show within the next year I think he could actually burst - and I ain't cleaning up that mess. I've seen enough true crime shows to know what a pain in the ass it is to get bloodstains out of anything.
The contest was going to be the 2005 NPC New England, which is now about seven months away. That may sound like a very long time, but if it does, then you aren't a bodybuilder. Seven months really gives us just enough time to improve his muscle size and proportions as best we can before we start dieting him down at three months out.
Actually, bodybuilders never talk about shows in terms of months, but always weeks. Diets typically range from as short as eight to as long as twenty weeks, depending on how much fat the individual needs to lose. It's a good thing we don't apply this concept to everything, or else I would be turning 1,820 weeks old this month on my 35th birthday.
What Needs To Improve?
Randy is about 5-9 ½ and 200 pounds now, with abs. I estimate he would only have to come down to between 180 and 185 to be in proper contest condition. If this were the Seventies, long before anyone worried about striated glutes and Christmas tree backs, he could be closer to 190. But thanks to progressive standards, any man carrying more than five percent body fat on stage is now considered a fat bastard.
Even covered up in sweats backstage, you know who's in shape by the sunken eyes and gaunt, angular cheekbones and jaw lines. If it weren't for the big muscles, you would swear these guys were in the third week of a hunger strike or had just been released from some P.O.W. camp.
No doubt, Randy had made excellent progress in the two years and a month we had been training together. Then, he was about 170 pounds, though he hadn't been training or eating properly at that point. The early and mid-twenties are often fantastic years for making gains. You still have the supercharged hormones of adolescence coursing through your veins just before they start to dwindle, yet your metabolism is starting to slow down, allowing many former hardgainers to at last pack on some solid muscular pounds.
"Well?" Randy asked, huffing and puffing as he finished a few poses in the locker-room mirror. An old man was dusting his feet and his private parts with Gold Bond powder nearby, and looked at us as if we were crazy. Yeah, you're the one blowing powder up your wazoo and we're the weirdo's.
"Another five pounds of muscle in the right places is what you need," I commented.
"Which places are those?"
"Your arms, your calves, and your upper chest. Right now they are all weak compared to the rest of your physique. And a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right?" As I predicted, he immediately became defensive, trying to flex those areas extra hard to convince me they weren't 'that bad.'
"Let's be real here for a minute, Randy," I began. "Like me, you are no mass monster on the level of a Ronnie, a Jay, or even Jay when he was twenty years old and already 250 pounds.
As such, you have to get by on your overall shape and balance more so than overwhelming amounts of thick muscle. There are guys out there in the pro ranks today like Darrem Charles, Rich Jones, and others who aren't the biggest guys up there, but they have such incredible shape and symmetry that they are able to beat most of the giants."
"I'm not that small, am I?" Now his self-esteem was starting to slip away. Time to back-pedal just a few steps before it went down the drain. "I never said you were small. Look, you have a lot of things going for you.
Your shoulders are wide and your waist and hips are narrow, which gives you a great V-taper. Your quads and hams are about even, which is a rare thing. And your back has both some good width and thickness to it. But if you are to be as good as you are capable of, you need to bring up those weaker areas so they aren't a distraction.
Otherwise, in the judge's mind, he'll be drawn to them and have an excuse to place you further down the lineup. But if your physique is evenly developed and flows together, the opposite will happen. Some bigger guys may not have that overall balance. They may have a great upper body and weak legs, or be missing something like triceps or calves.
Wouldn't it be nice to blow past some of your competition, especially when there will probably be lightheavies three or four inches shorter than you and about fifteen pounds heavier?"
A dreamy smile spread on his face.
"Yeah, that would be wicked cool." Quick lesson in Bostonian for the rest of the country: Wicked = very, as in "Dunkin Donuts has a wicked good new ice latte."
Randy was sold and was putting his faith in me. This was not easy to do when I was on low carbs and not my usual articulate, energetic self. In fact, lately I communicated more in grunts than complete sentences. Needing a bit of posing practice myself, I decided to hit a few shots before packing up my gym bag and leaving. Randy watched, and a mischievous light came over his eyes.
"You know, you really could use a little more triceps yourself," he said, barely containing a laugh.
"Ah, who asked you," I spat back. "They're not that bad."
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