Name: Tony DiCosta
Why I Got Started
"You didn't know you were that fat, did you?" said the "kindly" personal trainer as he finished my 7-point body fat caliper test. And he was right ... 18% body fat is too much for a guy who's goal is to "celebrate" his 60th birthday by getting into the best shape of his life. But at least now I knew how far I had to go. Over the years, it had been my habit to train and diet down for a few months before my birthday so I could at least see my abs. Well, for the last couple of years I had been "busy" with stuff and my abs got buried a little deeper with each passing year.
My journey back to fitness began when I attended a local bodybuilding show in support of one of our gym's younger guys. While there, I looked at the men in the Masters Over 60 class and I knew what I had to do. To motivate myself to accomplish something extraordinary when I hit that archaic landmark of 60, I decided to train to enter that contest the next year (when I would be sixty). Having never entered a contest before, I was (luckily) completely ignorant of what I was getting myself into.
You see, even though I was not exactly your average "couch potato" my training sessions were all-to-infrequent, casual, and low intensity; Just good enough to look better than most of my friends, but a long way from looking like a "real" bodybuilder. And yet ... I could feel that there was still "something" in me. My old body had held up fairly well and I often felt that it had an untapped vitality in it. That feeling brought to mind my experiences in the hot rod industry. You see, for decades I made a living restoring antique hot rods.
No ... not an old car someone had recently put a brand new engine in, but genuine relics of the "heyday" of street rodding-that meant '32 Ford coupes with bored and stroked '53 Mercury engines built in some greaser's garage back in the 1950s. Sometimes I would get in one of these "survivor" vehicles and while checking out their roadworthiness there would always come a time when I felt it was appropriate to mash down on the gas pedal and find out what the old veteran had left. And many times I was surprised and thrilled as that creaking old roadster or coupe would get up on its hind legs and nail me back into my seat (accompanied by the glorious roar of antique glass-pack mufflers and the inevitable smell of oil and tire smoke).
So, I decided to mash down on the gas pedal of my body and see what I had left. Frankly, I was surprised by the result.
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My Old Body Had Held Up Fairly Well And I Often
Felt That It Had An Untapped Vitality In It.
How I Did It
I began in October of 2009 by slowly picking up the intensity of my workouts, testing to see if my body could handle the stress. It did. Then in February of 2010 I felt it was time to take it to another level, so I sought out Mark Simpson, Overall winner of the same contest I had attended. I asked him to mentor and guide me (I would train myself). That is when the body fat calipers came out, and dieting and (ow!) cardio came in. With the contest date of September 4, 2010, fast approaching we began an escalating fitness program that eventually entailed 6 weight training days (legs twice per week) with 6 morning cardio bouts. I'm not retired, I have a full-time job ... I really never expected to survive until the show. I had not done anything this difficult in my life but the changes were astounding.
In the final weeks before the show, posing practice (now THAT is hard work!) brought out cuts I never saw before while a few trips to the tanning salon, then the obligatory pre-contest spray-on tan helped each muscle to show (I got three coats-I had more paint on me than a 1959 Cadillac). For the first time in my life (and I had been training on and off since the mid 1960s) I felt that I looked like a bodybuilder.
"Drying out" for the show (Calvin Choy's Royal Palm Classic, Cape Coral, Fla.) was easy enough (lost 10 pounds of water in two days) but of course, being a rookie, I went too far and ended up dehydrated for the evening show. Still (they tell me), I was the best-conditioned guy in the entire show at any age. (Someone in the audience was overheard to say "Whoa, that guy must be from another planet.") So that was fun.
I did win the Over 60 Masters and also the open Lightweight class. I was told later that if I was not so dehydrated I might have had a shot at the Overall. But, hey, this was my first show! I had two beautiful trophies and made enough stupid mistakes to keep me very busy until next year. I was a happy camper.
I use many supplements; some for general health, some for muscle-building purposes, and some for joint protection and preventative care. Everyone needs to find out which specific supplements are right for their own body's unique make-up and health needs.
I am only going to list the products that I have found to be important for bodybuilders:
- Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Casein
- Now Hyaluronic Acid, 500 mg. 3 times day
- EFX HBM Elite: 3 caps, 3 x day
- Glucosamine Chondroitin (2,700 mg) 1-2 servings per day
- Fish Oil (900 mg): 2-3 servings per day
- CLA (2,400 mg): 3 x day
- Nature's Way Magnesium Complex, (500 mg): 2 x day
- Turmeric (1.44 grams) 1 serving per day
- Acai Berry (500 mg): 1 per day
- Ginger Extract (350 Mg): 1 per day
- Ultimate Nutrition DHEA (100 mg): 1 per day
- Vitamin C: 1000 mg per day
- L-Ornithine (500 mg): 4 at night
- Alpha Lipoic Acid (300 mg): 2 per day
- L-Arginine and L-Ornithine: 2-3 grams each at night
- Whey Protein: 2 scoops
- Glutamine (5g): 3 x day
- Kre-Alkalyn: 3 caps before and after working out
Note: This diet uses different amounts of carbs on different days. I employ that tactic as a form of "Carb Cycling" (though not in the strictest sense of that term). I would allow higher carbs on heavy training days, (legs, chest and shoulders, etc.) and lesser carbs on off days and arm workout days. All carb amounts are highly individualistic as everyone's "tolerance" for carbs is different. Where two carb amounts are listed the lowest one is for a low carb day, highest for a high carb day (duh!) All carbs should be "low glycemic" (having minimal impact on blood sugar levels, thus less likely to be stored as fat).
Also, this plan is for a guy about 150-160 pounds, training 6 days per week and also doing cardio separately. Adjust accordingly.
On this diet I lost fat and gained muscle at the same time.
- 1 scoop Whey Protein in Water
This is the schedule I used for about 6 months to get in shape for my first contest. I really would not recommend this for any longer than that, especially when combined with 6 day per week cardio.
The workout schedule is consecutive in nature with one day per week off-Sunday (I never train on Sunday), so each workout could fall on any day of the week: Except for legs which are worked twice per week (Tuesday and Saturday) and the upper-body workouts happen on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in a sequence, so each week a different upper-body workout gets done twice. Every workout is preceded by 3-4 sets ab work and 15 minutes of mostly dynamic stretching.
|TERMS YOU'LL NEED TO KNOW|
Day 1, Day 5: Chest/Shoulders
- Push-ups: 2-3 warm up sets of 25 reps
- Incline Bench Press: 2 warm up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Reverse Flyes: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Cable Crossovers: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Seated Smith Machine Shoulder Presses: 1 warm-up set of18 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Decline Bench Press: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Side Laterals with Cable: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
Day 2, Day 6: Legs
- Warm up: 20 minutes medium intensity on Elliptical Trainer
- Lying Leg Curls: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- One Legged Cable Kickback: 3 sets of 20 reps
- Standing Leg Curls: 1 warm up set of 14-16 reps, 3 work sets of 12-15 reps
- Leg Extensions: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Hack Squat: 2 warm-up sets of 20,16 reps, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 1 drop set of 20 reps
- Hyperextensions: 1 warm-up set of 18 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
Day 3: Arms
- One-Arm Concentration Curls: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Dumbbell Triceps Extensions: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Standing Cable Curls: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Bent-Over Triceps Dumbbell Kickbacks: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Standing E-Z Bar Curls: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Triceps Cable Pushdowns: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
Day 4: Back/Traps
- Standing Straight-Arm Pulldowns: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Pullovers: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
- Shrugs: 2 warm-up sets 24, 20 reps, 3 sets of 20 reps
- T-Bar Rows: 2 warm-up sets 20, 16 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps
Day 7: Rest
So a typical week would look like this:
- Day 1: Chest/Shoulders
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Arms
- Day 4: Back/traps
- Day 5: Chest/Shoulders
- Day 6: Legs
- Day 7: Rest
The following week would be slightly different, starting off on Monday with the next upper-body routine:
- Day 1: Arms
- Day 2: Legs
- Day 3: Back/traps
- Day 4: Chest/Shoulders
- Day 5: Arms
- Day 6: Legs
- Day 7: Rest
Cardio:Cardio was carefully planned using three pieces of equipment, each on a different day:
I hit the upright bike very hard, standing in the pedals using a lot of resistance, so I never used that on a leg day. The elliptical trainer was the least stressful on the leg muscles so I usually used that on leg days.
All cardio was done in the early morning on an empty stomach, and performed at a medium pace (heart rate at about 70% Max Heart Rate) to be in the fat-burning range, not so hard as to be in a true "cardio" range which would have a catabolic effect, counterproductive to our overall goal of gaining muscle.
This regimen allowed me to burn fat while gaining muscle. Since I was overweight and undersized I HAD to do both and so I found out for myself that it is, indeed, possible (though many will tell you it is not).
Suggestions for Others
"First Do No Harm." Taken from the medical profession, that is the one, overarching principle I advise in all areas of training. Whether it involves intensity levels or choice of exercises, your #1 priority is to eliminate any aspect of your training that could hurt you and take you out of your game.
If an exercise causes the kind of pain that you know is beyond normal muscle soreness-find another exercise! There are thousands to choose from. The point is: If you can keep yourself from getting hurt, you will succeed (even using the most elementary routine) because you will always be working and perfecting your training. Allowing yourself to get hurt begins the "death of a thousand cuts" decline that halts so many bodybuilders in their tracks.
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If You Can Keep Yourself From Getting Hurt, You Will Succeed Because You Will Always Be Working And Perfecting Your Training.
Now for something most bodybuilding articles won't tell you: This sport can be intensely self-absorbing. When you are concerned day and night with yourself (which is exactly the kind of commitment it takes to succeed at this) you will have to work at remembering to make time for others in your life. I found I had to be creative and intentional in this area. What would it profit me (or you) to win that contest but "lose" the people closest to you? And remember to serve somewhere: The best-lived lives are usually the ones that are lived for others.
In Closing, tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, so enjoy your bodybuilding experience with all the gusto you can manage. And no matter what your chronological age you must remain young at heart-for in the words of a very wise man named Solomon,
"Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart ..."
Ian C. Ware, Iaje Photography LLC, www.iajephoto.com
Mike & Desiree Duggan, Corso Photographic, www.CorsoPhoto.com
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