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Over 40 Bodybuilder of the Week: Leigh Keess

Over 40 Bodybuilder of the Week: Leigh Keess! - Pics and info and more!

  • Name: Leigh Keess
  • E-mail:
  • Age: 53
  • Where: Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Height: 5' 6"
  • Weight: 160 Lbs., Contest: 122 Lbs.
  • Years Bodybuilding :8
  • Favorite Bodypart: Biceps
  • Favorite Exercise: Preacher Curls
  • Favorite Supplements: Solid Whey Protein Powder (chocolate, of course!)

How Did You Get Started?

I began by enrolling in an introductory class for orientation to the gym, offered by a local gym and designed specifically for women in an effort to remove the intimidation some feel about going to the gym for the first time. As I began to notice changes in my body, and my strength increasing, it only spurred me on to train harder. Before long, I realized I wanted to pursue the bodybuilding aspects of lifting weights, and told my husband, Colin, that for Christmas all I wanted was a set of training sessions with local Nationally-competing bodybuilder, Shelly Yakimchuk.

"Santa" brought me exactly what I asked for that year, and I began training with Shelly. She designed a bodybuilding program for me, gave me diet advice to pack on muscle-mass, and all the encouragement anybody could ask for. Eventually, she brought up the idea of competing, which I thought was completely out-of-character for me (I was very shy), and also 49 years old!

But I wanted to see if I could at least LOOK like a bodybuilder, so embarked on the precontest training and diet... still never thinking I would actually ever get onstage. But I did, through Shelly's determined motivation... and the rest is history. Shelly and her husband, Chris, remain my coaches and great friends to this day.

What Workout Plan Worked Best For You?

That is difficult to answer, as my workouts change from off-season to pre-contest, and from year to year. The longer one trains and the older you get, your body responds differently, and the approach you take to training it has to change to bring about the desired results. Basically, though, off-season, I let my bodyweight rise to allow for greater effort in the gym, and my workouts are typically heavy, with lower reps. Contest-prep is entirely different, as one is trying to shed body fat and preserve muscle-mass.

My workouts then gradually become lighter, and the reps higher as my focus changes from mass-building to cutting. Through both seasons, though, I basically stick to a 5-day split, devoting a day to chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs. Any parts that I feel are lagging get extra work.

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What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For You?

Nutrition is also dependent upon the season. Off-season, I still keep my diet pretty "clean", with the protein content high... and much of that coming from red meat and protein supplements. Contest-prep, as with workouts, is vastly different and I am fortunate in having coaches that can get my diet dialled-in very exactly.

What Supplements Have Given You The Greatest Gains?

I have already spoken about the protein powder I use. I have tried creatine in the past, but felt that it promoted an uncomfortable water-retention, so I seldom use it. The protein supplementation is important, I think, because of the sheer volume of food one would have to consume to duplicate it with real food... but real food is always preferable.

Why do you love Bodybuilding?

The greatest gifts bodybuilding has given me are the increase in self-esteem, the overcoming of my shyness, and an ease of living in my own body. It is also a sport that my husband and I can do together... a good training partner is essential!!

My husband and I have started a weight-lifting club at the local high school, and I have been called in several times to speak to Phys Ed classes and demonstrate some of what goes on in the gym... I never could have done that before... a class of teenagers would have been far too intimidating to me. I also love bodybuilding for the close-knit community that it comprises and the friends I have made there.

What Are Your Future Bodybuilding Plans?

Well, this past year, I became qualified to judge at the Novice level. I would like to pursue that aspect and qualify to judge Provincially and perhaps one day, Nationally. I intend to compete in the Grand Masters Women class at Nationals this year in September, and after that (at least at this point) I think I will move from the competition part of the sport to the coach- ing and judging side.

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My husband and I have a personal train- ing company, helping people in various aspects of bodybuilding, and personal fitness; and have so far produced very successful Provincial and National competitors... so I would like to concentrate on that.

What One Tip Would You Give Other Bodybuilders?

Well, there are two, actually... regardless of whether you train with a view to competition or not, TRAIN HARD and BE PATIENT!! The gains come slowly... but they do come. And, I can't stress enough the value of finding a good coach. We all need motivation and sometimes it has more impact coming from someone more objective about our bodies than we are!!

Who Are Your Favorite Bodybuilders?

My role models are definitely my two coaches, Chris and Shelly Yakimchuk. Most people, when asked this question will assume you are referring to a pro bodybuilder, and I do have favorites there, as well.

From the time I first started buying the bodybuilding magazines, I admired Nasser el Sonbaty; not only for his physique, but also for his education and academic credentials. A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to be able to meet him, as he came to our Saskatchewan Novice show as a guest-poser, and I was able to spend time talking to him, and was greatly encouraged by the things he had to say.

So yes, he remains my favorite pro male bodybuilder. I also have a favorite female pro bodybuilder, whom I have also had a chance to spend time talking with... Helen Bouchard, of Edmonton, Alberta. She won her Pro card at the first National competition I competed in, and I have been fortunate to be able to visit with her at competitions since.

I hope this answers your questions satisfactorily. I would also like to add another...

What have YOU done for B'bing?
Being an older athlete, I have had the experience of breaking new ground especially for female bodybuilders. When I first competed, there was no Masters category offered for women, only men. After a couple of years of lobbying, I like to think I had a hand in getting that category established, both at the Provincial and National level.

That first year, I was the only competitor... the next year, there were several, and the 40+ became a toughly-contested category. Then, a Grand Masters was established... but only for men, so I spent another couple of years getting that introduced for women, too.

My husband won it the first year it was offered... how nice if we could both have done that!!! Then, I noticed there was a class for Junior Men (up to 21 yrs) but not for women. Another crusade, and Junior Women was introduced in Saskatchewan last year. So, now I am proud that the sport has opened up somewhat to welcome and encourage younger and older athletes.