Phano Paul Som


Growing up as a young boy, I never was involved in any sports. Sports didn't interest me as much as cartoons or toys did but as I got older, I noticed that I had a growing interest in the sport of soccer. I was first introduced to soccer at the age of 15. By the time I was 17, I was training with a semi-professional team in Tennessee. All of that hard work eventually paid off as I found myself playing alongside some internationally renowned players at Berry College. I had quite a successful freshman year campaign before being plagued by injuries. I was put on intense therapy for a year to rejuvenate my damaged ankles. I was also thrown in the weight room to keep a decent level of fitness. This was when I was 19 years old. I weighed in at about 145-150 lbs soaking wet at the height I am now. I remember measuring my arms at a whopping 12 inches....flexed!

I reluctantly started lifting weights or what I thought was lifting weights with some of my teammates. We didn't take to it seriously and made it a social event more than anything. It was that summer when I started going to the gym on a regular basis with some of my friends back at home. We would frequent the local YMCA to have bench press contests or squatting contests just to name a few. Then we'd spend hours playing basketball and what not. I came back the following year weighing around 160 lbs. I thought to myself: not bad for spending a whole summer working out and not watching my diet.

I knew that I could really make some gains if I focused my energies towards weight training and dieting. That is when I asked my doctor for assistance. Dr. Dobrowolski was the former world record holder in the deadlift for the under-23 age years ago. He put me on a program and then suggested that I train to be a bodybuilder. I didn't cherish that idea but I followed the program anyways.

I trained on my own for an entire semester making slow but steady gains until I came in contact with my roommate from my freshman year. His name is Chad Mullins and we started training together. We immediately developed the type of training chemistry which propelled our physiques to new levels. He pushed me and I pushed him. He dropped from 225 lbs down to about 175 lbs shredded in the 2 years we spent training together. If you saw the pics, you probably wouldn't believe it because I still have a hard time believing what he had accomplished. Chad and I still keep in touch today.

The summer of 2000 brought about some interesting events. I trained for my very first bodybuilding competition, the NPC GA and the Southern SNBF Open. I didn't have a training partner so I made one. I took my friend and roommate, Greg Bluemling, and taught him the finer points of training. At the time, Greg weighed about 180 lbs. It hasn't even been 2 years yet and Greg now weighs about 235 lbs all natural! With the aid of Greg, I was able to prepare for my first competitions. I placed 4th in the novice MW NPC GA and placed 1st and won the overall in the novice SNBF Southern Open.

Then came a twist of fate in my life. I made an irrational decision to transfer to the University of Georgia. Probably not the best decision I have ever made but one I will definitely have to reflect on daily. Regardless, I have made some new friends and have learned a lot about myself.

After transferring to UGA, I started training with my friend Israel Tyree. We tried the whole 7 AM training routine for a month and I must admit, I have a lot of respect for those who train in the morning. About 5 weeks before the SNBF Nationals, I made the decision to do a crash diet and prepare for the nationals. I ended up placing 3rd in my height class. Afterwards, I swore I wouldn't do another show for awhile.

After a long semester at school, I made the decision to do another SNBF show in April of 2001. I dieted about 2 weeks for that one. The lesson I learned at this one was that even though I stay relatively lean in the offseason, I need to diet slowly for a competition in order to look my best. I had my head handed back to me and vowed to never walk on stage looking like that again.

Then came the arduous 14 week diet for the 2001 NPC GA. After what seemed like an eternity, I was awarded 1st Place MW at the 2001 NPC GA. Not bad for 22 and drug-free. Then I competed in the 2001 Southern SNBF Open in hopes of winning the overall open title this time around. Unfortunately, I was relegated to 2nd place and was very disappointed. I felt this was the best I had ever looked and to be off by a few hours is really frustrating.

Now I have put away my posing trunks and am concentrating on the joy of training. Training has new meaning nowadays. A meaning which I had long forgotten since the days of hanging out at the YMCA with my hometown friends. I hope that everyone who trains out there doesn't forget that meaning as I had.


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