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How I Worked Out as a Competitive Bodybuilder

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Roman reminisces about his time as a bodybuilder - and shares his favorite workouts.

 

A long time ago in a gym far, far away…Roman was a bodybuilder.

It was the years between 2002 and 2004, and the gym was on Long Island.  Things have changed so much that it feels like the experience of bodybuilding may as well have happened in another galaxy, on a planet where binary sunsets are a daily occurrence.

Star Wars geekery aside, while the lifestyle of bodybuilding is extreme, and certainly different than my current one, it’s pretty awesome in it’s own way—and sometimes I miss it.

Sometimes I miss the control of it, of measuring everything, knowing how much weight you could lift on any given exercise to the quarter pound; the exactitudes that are necessary to excel.

Right now is one of those times.

You see, as I write this post, I’m about to board a flight that will take me away from Columbus, Ohio and the Arnold Sports Festival, where I’ve just spent the weekend wandering around in sheer awe of the spectacle.

Now entering it’s 24th year, the Festival (or, “the Circus,” as I’ve heard it called) is comprised of everything from bikini competitions and martial arts bouts to strongman events and powerlifting meets,  surrounded by hundreds of booths (collectively known as “the Expo”), each representing a nutrition or equipment company, and each employing a slew of gorgeous fitness models giving out samples.

It’s not hard to see why “circus” might be a good description.

Still, the Main Event is the bodybuilding competition (once known as The Arnold Classic), and the top of the top come to step on stage. This year, that included my buddy Ben Pakulski, who I met in Tampa a few months back. Ben took 4th, which is a huge accomplishment for his first time at the Arnold.

This was my first year at the Classic, and, truth be told, the first time I’ve attended a bodybuilding event since I did my last show in May of 2004.

As I start thinking about the guys who compete, as well as my own history, I’m starting to get a familiar itch: a longing not only for the thrill of competition (both against myself and others), the strange curiosity to see just how much muscle I could pack on my frame, and the general desire to dedicate myself to a specific physical goal and pursue it with ardent determination.

I’m feeling the itch, and while I don’t know that I’ll explore by competing or going on a muscle-gaining spree, I DO want to explore it somewhat academically, by going over some of my bodybuilding based routines with you.

And so, if you’ll be patient enough to bear with me on this little trip through memory lane, I think you will not only get to know me better, but perhaps learn a bit about training. At the very least, you’ll get a workout out of it! 

Roman the Bodybuilder: Stats, Lifts and History

I wasn’t always a bodybuilder.  I wasn’t even always fit.  If you know my history, or were kind enough to read my about page, you know that I spent most of my adolescent life a bit overweight. Never super-fat, but never lean.

I’m not sure when I started thinking myself as a bodybuilder (or when I stopped, for that matter), but I do know that after maintaining a lean and athletic (read: small) frame of 160-165 for the first 7 or 8 months following my initial weight loss, I wanted to pack some mass on.

And so, around the time I hit my 20th birthday, I started trying to gain as much mass as possible, while staying lean.  I did a lot of the bulk-and-cut type approach, but I never bulked so much that I got above 12 or 13%, and never cut enough to lose muscle.

In the first 6-month block, I went from about 165 to 190, then dieted back to 185; essentially I put on about 20 pounds of quality mass. This seems insane to some, because it was about 3+ pounds of muscle per month.

Surprisingly, this was not that difficult for me; perhaps because my body was primed for growth, or perhaps because 185 was still 15 pounds lower than my heaviest weight when I was a chubster. It’s also worth mentioning that as a mesomorph, I tend to put muscle on easily.  And, of course, eating enough calories was never a challenge for me.

In a very strange way, the first six months were easy.

The second six were not. Instead of gaining another 15 pounds, I gained 5.

By the time I was 21, I was walking around at a pretty lean 190, and decided that this was a “good start.”

I did a body transformation contest for T-Nation, trying to come in both pretty big and pretty lean, while mastering my particular training and nutrition theories. Here’s what I looked like in the middle of that contest.

side triceps

In the throes of learning the Side Triceps pose.

 

Some time after this transformation, I decided to try my hand at competition.

Now, I won’t bore you with the rest of the story, but for the next two years, I threw myself into gaining mass and getting lean.

I went back and forth a lot, because I was doing bulk/cut. For my first contest (of the three I competed in), I dieted too hard and came in at about 188, very lean but just a bit smaller than I would have liked.

At my heaviest, I was tipping the scales at 214 pounds with more body fat than I was comfortable.  From there, I dieted down to what I would consider my peak shape as a bodybuilder: 203 pounds at about 7% body fat.

Roman Bodybuiler

Inspiration: Frank Zane

As for some lifts, during this time, I was also close to my strongest, and was training the Big Three very consistently.

For those interested, my best weights ever were:

  • Bench Press: 365 for 2 reps
  • Squat: Parallel with 525 for 4 reps, Ass-to-Grass with 315ish for 8
  • Deadlift: 660 for 3 reps

FULL DISCLOSURE

I recently posted the above picture on my Facebook page, and some people absolutely insisted that I must have been using  steroids.

To that, I’ll say honestly that while I have considered steroid use, as of now, I have not used them. (This may change as I age, but I have no intentions of using for performance or physique enhancement).

Personally, I am not against steroids, in the same way that I’m not against drinking or drug use: whatever you put into your body is your business.

All of that said, I did use Pro-Hormones. These are substances that exert an anabolic effect in the body, either through the conversion of or the potentiation of existing hormones.

Meaning that the substance either converts to, for example, testosterone (or something similar) once it’s in your body or increases your own production of it.

The PH I used was produced by Biotest (parent company of T-Nation), and called “Mag-10.” A combination of 4-AD and 1-AE, Mag-10 was available at GNC or the like for about 75 bucks, and designed for use in two-week blocks.

I used it on two occasions; once to gain some mass (going from 201 to 209), and another time to hold to muscle when I was dieting down for a shoot (going from 198 to 188 or so and not losing muscle).

This may or may not negate my “natural” status in your eyes, but that’s a decision for you to make.  I’m pretty open about stuff like this, and I don’t credit more than 1% of my success to it.

Training Schedule (and a Workout)

It would be really hard to give you a complete breakdown of how I set up my training, because it varied so much throughout the year. I often set up my muscle gaining programs into four phases, each lasting four weeks.

That would look something like this:

  • PHASE 1 – Weeks 1-4: Full Body Training (3-4 times per week)
  • PHASE 2 – Weeks 5-8: Upper/Lower Split (3-4 times per week)
  • PHASE 3 – Weeks 9-12: Body Part Split (4 times per week)
  • PHASE 4 – Weeks 13-16: Specialization Program (varies based on body part)

I have talked about full body workouts ad nauseam on this blog, and while upper lower splits are fun, since this is a bodybuilding post, I’d like to talk about how I set up the training most normally associated with that: split routines. (Next week I’ll talk about specialization programs).

Here is the schedule I used for the third phase of most of my muscle gaining programs.

Monday AM: Chest
Monday PM: Biceps

Tuesday AM: Quads
Tuesday PM: Shoulders

Wednesday AM: OFF
Wednesday PM: Forearms (I know, how lame to have a forearm workout. But it’s a weak part and tried to bring them up) and some extra medial delt work.

Thursday AM: Back
Thursday PM: Triceps

Friday AM: Hamstrings
Friday PM: OFF

Saturday AM: Calves

Sunday: OFF

Now, you’ll notice on most days, I was training twice; once in the morning and once in the evening. (Usually, 11AM and 7PM.) I do not think two-a-days are necessary for muscle growth, and I think this program would had worked just as well if I combined the AM/PM workouts into a single session.

However, you need to keep in mind that I was training full time, and in gym literally 12-14 hours per day, so it was actually more convenient to train multiple times per day. Instead of a single 90+ minute training session, I had two shorter ones of 30-45 minutes each.

This was better for me in terms of scheduling around my clients, for one thing. For another, I have always preferred shorter workouts, as I find that I get distracted after the 60-minute mark and the last part of my workout is pretty useless.

A NOTE ON MUSCLE PAIRINGS

I never subscribed to the idea that chest and triceps (or back and biceps) should be trained together.  In fact, it seems absolutely silly to me.  In that set up, assuming you’re training intelligently, you’ll do all your chest work. Smart. However, your triceps are going to take a beating from all the pressing in your chest workout.  Meaning that the triceps portion of your chest/tri workout is compromised before you do a single rep; you’ll have to use lighter weight, and that can be a problem.

In my set up, after my chest workout, I hit biceps. They are completely fresh and I can get a great workout in 30-40 minutes.

Then, when I work out my back and triceps on Thursday, my chest and biceps will get hit again (to a lesser extent) if I’m using compound exercises. This means that I’m getting the same weekly volume as in a chest/tri set up, but have increased frequency and intensity.  Overall, I feel it leads to better gains.

THE WORKOUT

I want to give you as much value as possible, while also making this sort of reflective piece for myself; so rather than just giving a workout, I’m giving you my workout, which will include everything from sets and reps to the actual weights I used.

Regarding those weights, keep in mind that this workout is taken from my training journal when I was in strength/bodybuilding mode. While I was never the strongest guy in the world, some of these are numbers I can no longer hit, because I don’t train for these things specifically anymore.  Perhaps I’ll try this workout sometime soon and let you know my weights and performance.

 

Monday Morning (11AM)
CHEST

A) High Incline Barbell Bench Press

Sets: 3
Reps: 6/15/8
Weight: 225/155/185

B1) Low Incline DB Bench Press

Sets: 5
Reps: 15/15/15/15/13 (almost made it!)
Weight: 65lb dumbbells

 B2) Wide Grip Pull-Up (to near failure)

Sets: 5
Reps: 17/13/10/10/9
Weight: bodyweight

 C) Flat Barbell Bench Press

Sets: 2
Reps: 8/8
Weight: 275

D) Machine Fly

Sets: 2 (one regular set, one set with a drop set)
Reps: 15, 13–>8
Weight: 145

Roman’s Notes: Looking back at this chest workout many years later, a few things stand out.  The first thing I notice is the position of the flat barbell bench press—it’s my third chest exercise, and my fourth overall. I did just two sets, and not for many reps; just reinforces that even at that point, I didn’t consider the bench press a very good mass builder, at least not for symmetry.  (I stated this in this blog post.) I probably only included it to keep my strength up.

I have no idea why I included the wide-grip pull up, but I suppose it was just to break up the monotony. On the other hand, at that point I could have been prioritizing the movement (not noted in my log), and just trying to increase efficiency. In any case, I’m impressed with the fact that I did so many.  I can bang out 18 wide grip now, but I think my drop off in subsequent sets would be much greater than in the workout above.

You’ll also notice that my total volume isn’t super high. I only do a total of 12 sets for chest (13 if you count the second part of the drop set as it’s own set). While this is fair amount, most bodybuilders do 18+ sets. However, keep in mind the structure of my schedule—on Thursday, I’d be working back and triceps, with the triceps portion of the workout being comprised of stuff like dips and close grip bench press, which would hit chest as well; again, similar weekly volume, just greater frequency.

Finally, some things I’d change: I would probably include squeeze presses in there to alternate with the barbell bench press. Other than that, I’m pretty happy with the workout.

Monday Evening (7PM)
BICEPS

A) V-Handle Chin-Up

Sets: 4
Reps: 8/8/8/8
Weight: bodyweight +35lb dumbbell

B1) Straight Bar Curl

Sets: 2
Reps: 6/12
Weight: 145/110

B2) EZ Bar Curl w 3-second pause midway (full squeeze)

Sets: 2
Reps: 15/8
Weight: 80/100

C) Nautilus Machine Curl

Sets: 1
Reps: 10
Weight: 115

D) DB Incline Hammer Curl

Sets: 2
Reps: 10
Weight: 40lb dumbbells

Roman’s Notes: I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Geeze, Roman! Not only did you do curls for your biceps, you did so many variations! Why are you such a bro, bro?”  Or something like that. Yes, I did a lot of curl variations. If you just know, I just happen to love bicep curls, and my arms always grew very well from them.

Of course, I started the workout with a big compound movement, the V-handle chin-up, which I still think a great start.

What jumps out most about this workout is how strong I was, in terms of both the amount of weight I lifted and the number of reps I lifted it for.  As an example, hitting a straight bar curl for 6 reps is, looking back, just a crap-ton of weight. I’d be lucky if I could do that for even one rep now.

In terms of volume, I’ve got 11 sets and am hitting everything from 6 to 15 reps; not bad for a biceps session, especially considering that I’d have a back workout to come later in the week. The set up seems fine to me overall, but if I were to design this workout now, I would probably include drag curls to get some scapular retraction, and do about 50% of the exercises with Fat Gripz to get some forearm work.

 

That’s what my typical “Phase Three” workout looked when I was a bodybuilder—which is why, by the way, Phase Three of the Super Hero Workout is not only “bodybuilder-y” in terms of the set up, but also uses a body part split like the one above: it’s always worked for my clients and myself.

Farewell to Arms: Transitioning Away From Bodybuilding

Of course, as you know, I wasn’t a bodybuilder for too long. I hit my peak at about 24 (pictured above), and after just 3 contests decided I didn’t really find it fulfilling. I knew I didn’t really have the desire to be a pro, and so I started looking at other things.

Eventually I got into fitness and underwear modeling, which required that I lose a bit of size. For those shoots, I would be anywhere from 175 to 193, with 190 being my “perfect” size.

Losing the mass wasn’t that difficult in terms of actually doing it—I basically just needed to eat less, not train any differently—but it took a while.

Here’s a shot of me in transition from bodybuilder to fitness model.

Doing the model thing

Photo Credit: Eric Jacobson

 

Firstly, how freakin’ hilarious is that cheesey grin on my face? Clearly, my ambition was to get a job in a Colgate commercial.

Anyway, in terms of my physique, you can see that while I’m not as big as I was in the bodybuilding shot above, I’m still holding a lot of mass. I weighed in at about 198 here. In particular, my arms look smaller, especially in relation to both my chest and my lats.  My chest is still beefy here, most especially at the shoulder tie-in. My lats are both thick and wide, which is great for bodybuilding but not so much for modeling (especially in clothing).

Eventually I would get smaller overall, and that led to some other stuff, but that’s another blog altogether.

Closing Thoughts

I’m about to board this plane and fly away from the Circus of Bodybuilding, and I realize that I’m not flying away from The Itch. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to be a bodybuilder, but will always appreciate the dedication required for success, and value the lessons learned from the process. While I haven’t done one in a long while, I love workouts like the one above. And, reading it now, I’m pretty tempted to train like this for a few weeks and see where it takes me.

That’s the abridged version of my bodybuilding journey.  I want to hear YOUR thoughts on all this!

Did you like me better as a model? A builder? Should I gain some mass?  Hell, you can even just make fun of my pictures.

TRY THE WORKOUT and let me know your thoughts!

If we get 60 COMMENTS, I’ll post about Phase 4…specialization training (including a full program)!

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

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  • Omi Baker

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  • Omi Baker

    Although to take exercises, taking nutritious food is also helpful to gain a fit & fine body. Your personal fitness trainer & health consultant’s advice is also helpful to take. Besides this one site can also be helpful – http://www.bodybuildoindia.co

  • Pingback: I'm Done With Back Squats. Here's Why. - Roman Fitness Systems()

  • BTW, I LIKE YOU IN ALL ASPECTS AS A PERSON, A FITNESS PRO, MODEL, FACEBOOK FRIEND,  ( I HAVE NAUGHTY THOUGHTS!)LMAO, ECT…….   JUST MESSING WITH YOU.  HOPE MY LONG LETTER DID NOT BRING YOU DOWN, IT WAS MEANT AS A THANK YOU FOR SO MUCH.

    SINCERELY,

    JUNE

  • John, you are a a big star to me.  Your helping, encouraging, supportive, funny, hott,, very knowledgeable, and put others before yourself.  You and your fellow fitness and nutrition  peeps, prograde, joel, josh, mike, isabel, dr.k, ect…  have helped me lose 65 lbs.  My body has a lot of damage to it, from accidents by car, slipping on ice, tripping over a piece of carpet, ect…That my insurance company, sent these guys in to help clean up, and estimate for the flood that happened in my house, water main burst under the house. LOVELY!  these guys cut the wettest pieces of carpet out, set up a bunch of dehumidifiers, blowing fans, ect….  They left the floor at the doorway from my bedroom half carpet/underpad the other half cement floor!  I got up one morning to use the loo, my foot got caught under the carpet, and i went airborn into my hallway.  Which has ceramic tile as the flooring, i woke up, i don’t know how long I was out cold, my cat woke me up!  I thought i was in bed still.  I tried to get up off the floor, not even knowing i was coherent or not, SHOCK HAD SET IN!  I tried to reach for the wall to help boost myself up, i did not feel anything broken, nothing.  Yet, i had shattered my elbow, broke the bone from the elbow to the wrist. The surgeon said my arm will never be straight again!!!!  I was very upset, traumatized!  When I woke up at 8:15 a.m., that is when i had the trip/accident.  I WASN’T FEELING ANYTHING AT ALL TILL  I finally started to come out of shock at 11:05, by 11:10  I was in so much pain, i though i was going to pass out and vomit. CALLED MY GIRLFRIEND TO TAKE ME TO WHAT IS LEFT OF OUR TOWN HOSPITAL AFTER THE GOVERNMENT SHUT DOWN MOST OF THE NIAGARA REGIONS SMALL TOWN HOSPITALS, MADE THEM INTO TRIAGE UNITS!! AFTER SITTING THERE AND BEING POKED AT AND EXRAYED!  We had to travel to another hospital 45 minutes drive, to sit there in emerg, without eating or drinking all f…ing day, and night, after the stuff i went through that day, they finally booked me in a room at 11:30 p.m.!!!  i asked for anything to eat???  I was so f…ing hungry, I would have actually eaten hospital food that was about 3 days old, THAT’S WHAT THEY GAVE ME. I ate it, there was nothing else they told  me!  I could not believe what a horrible thing to go through.  I was in the hospital waiting for the surgery for 4 days, on the 5th day i got to go home, and try to fend for myself, in all that pain, it was horrible!  I couldn’t do shit!  ARE YOU ENJOYING THIS, I JUST THOUGHT I WOULD SEE IF YOU WOULD READ THIS FAR? LOL.  HAD TO HAVE COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES COME IN TO HELP ME, A P.S.W. FOR ONE HOUR A DAY.  WTF?  MY LIFE SUCKS! THAT ALL HAPPENED, TOTALED MY CAR, STILL GETTING PHYSIO FOR THOSE ISSUES!, THE FLOOD, THEN THE BONE BREAKING, AIR BORN FLIGHT!, AND THE HOSPITAL SHIT (AND MORE THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE HAS HAPPENED SINCE) JUNE 2ND/2010 TO OCTOBER 23RD/2010.  NOW  3 FAMILY MEMBERS ALL VERY ILL, ONE TERMINAL, ONE ALZHEIMER’S MY MOM, BREAKS WHAT WAS LEFT OF MY HEART, MY OLDEST BROTHER HAS HEART CONDITION, IS PHYSICALLY DISABLED BADLY, HAD A STROKE, HE INSISTS ON TAKING CARE OF OUR MOM AT HIS HOUSE, SHE BEGGED US NOT TO PUT HER IN A HOME, SO WE HAVEN’T, SHE IS SO FAR GONE NOW, IT IS KILLING ME.  THEN MORE SHIT KEEPS HAPPENING, AND I PRAY TO GOD.  I AM A GOOD HEARTED, THOUGHTFUL, COMPASSIONATE, CARING, LOVING, SWEET, KIND,  BLAH, BLAH, BLAH, HELP OTHERS BEFORE MYSELF TOO MUCH, I HAVE BEEN RIPPED OFF MANY TIMES.  PLUS IN 2008 MY MARRIAGE BROKE DOWN AFTER BEING WITH HIM 29 YEARS, LIVING TOGETHER, DATING, MARRIED 24 AND HALF YEARS.  I WAS SAVING AIR MILES TO SURPRISE HIM AND TAKE US TO PARIS FOR OUR 25TH!  PLUS HE HAD, AND STILL IS WITH THE SKANK THAT I BEFRIENDED, BECAUSE SHE SAID HER MARRIAGE SUCKED, I TOOK HER OUT INTRODUCED TO EVERYONE I KNEW, I KNOW A LOT OF PEOPLE, BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T HAVE A LIFE!  SO SHE HELPED HERSELF TO MY HUSBAND, AFTER HE SEMI RETIRED.  SHE A GOLD DIGGING SKANK, THAT USED TO LIVE NEXT DOOR.  THERE IS A WHOLE LOT MORE!  BUT I THINK YOU GET IT NOW!  I ALSO HAVE PANIC DISORDER.   ” BUT, KNOW THAT, WITH YOUR HELP AND YOUR CO HARTS, I AM A LOT MORE HEALTHIER AND KEPT MYSELF GOING TO ATTAIN MY GOALS OF HEALTH AND WELLNESS.  I VOWED TO LET NOTHING OR NO ONE GET INTO MY WAY.  I KNOW I AM BY NO MEANS PHYSICALLY FIT.  BUT HOPING I CAN STILL ACHIEVE THAT, WHEN EVER THE HELL MY BODY GETS FIXED!  I AM IN TOO MUCH PAIN , WITH A BAD BACK, RIBS VERY BAD, BOTH KNEES, ONE IS WORSE THAN THE OTHER, MY ARM, MY SHOULDER, NECK, AND SHOULDER BLADE, MY BABY TOE IS BROKEN, BAD ANKLE, ECT……….  PLUS NOW I AM ADDICTED TO PAIN KILLERS TO HELP ME GET THROUGH ALL THE PAIN I AM IN.  PRETTY FED UP NOW.  BUT WANTED TO THANK YOU SINCERELY FOR ALL THE HELP YOU GUYS, JASON HUNTER, JOSH, AND EVERYONE THAT CONTINUES TO SEND ME THE HELP AND SUPPORT.  I CAN KEEP ON MY PATH TO HEALTH AND WELLNESS, HOPEFULLY IN THE FUTURE, FITNESS, WHICH I KNOW IT MAY NOT HAPPEN.  SO THANKS FOR BEING SO GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO, AND YOUR BUDDIES TOO.  SORRY ABOUT THE LENGTH,  JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN TO ME.  THANKS AGAIN.

    SINCERELY,

    J. WISBEY

  • Charles Mclaughlin

    You were working your butt off and still made time to actually workout. Some personal trainers I have seen get so busy that they stop training all together. I would say that you were very committed to being committed to yourself while attending to your customers needs. I wonder how you were able to prepare your food for the day. Did you cook on the weekend? I usually cook all my food except my breakfast meals on Sunday. My wife and I cook foods such as Beef Stew, Chilli Beans, Spaghetti that will last awhile. I like cooking in bulk style as opposed to cooking each meal. I think your bodybuilding pic looks pretty good and probably would have gone that route since you are able to pack on mass easily. The only probably is that your mind has to be made up that is what you truly desire. As we can see this was not the case but that all good. Now your creating programs that benefit people globally. I appreciate your input and the information that you put out is unbelievable. Keep up the hard work! 

  • Rosspickering

    Great post Roman!

  • Chris Hunt

    Great insight here – I’ve been looking forward to a blog like this since I read the “Pretty Mother…” articles on T-Nation (which I’ve saved by the way). Looking monstrous in the BB pictures, think I prefer the “smaller” fitness model version though. What are your thoughts on maximum muscular potential for drug-free lifters if you don’t mind me asking? I read Martin Berkhan’s slant on it (roughly height in cm -98 to 102, but I’m interested in your view. Thanks, Chris

  • Bradlaska

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the sample workout.  I’ll give them a try.  I’m always looking for wortkouts to do when I’m not doing Cross Fit.

    Brad Laska

  • John D

    Great post Roman. BTW I liked the model pic. Any reason you have 2 incline presses? Does the angle make a significant diffidence or were you trying to focus more on upper pecs? If you redesigned it, would you substitute one of the incline presses for a decline press?

  • Dzimm

    Loved the schedule and workout you have provided. I would love it if you shared a full program. I did one very similar several months back, but I definitely overtrained and lost some size that I’ve been unable to get back. Looking for a direction to go to get back to where I want to be.

  • Jbear

    How tall are you Roman?  (would like to know what a 5’8″ person should aim for bulk cut wise, I’m a mesomorph).

    •  About 5’8”.  I’m endo-meso, so my stats are possible for you

  • Ljonespt

    I admire your hard work and dedication.

  • Berzinator

    I definitely like the idea of each muscle still getting hit 2x a week when using a split. It makes more sense and is supported by research.

    But why did you include wide-grip pull ups on Chest day? I get Chest/Biceps, but wide-grip pull ups mainly hit back.

    • Berzinator

      Also did you change your training when you switched to dieting? 

  • Lcaiani1457

    How about for a woman to do this, it looks to
    Hard for woman to do this workout and you must
    be young to lift that much weight

    •  If that woman wants to be a bodybuilder, this is a decent workout.  If not, then I’d go with something else.

  • Emsie Swanepoel

    Wow you look good

  • Respect, awesome pics too I especially love the one from the “colgate collection”, I think that’s where your physique looks its best and where I’m aiming at rather than bodybuilding etc.
    Keep up the uber cool posts as always
    Cheers
    Christian

  • Juuso Korvola

    Great job on this post!

    This is actually quite therapeutic to read as I feel that I’m in that exact same position that you were in your bodybuilding days. I may not be aiming for competitons or modelling, but as of now, I’m trying to get as big as I can (naturally) and fully enjoy the bodybuilding lifestyle.

    Can’t wait for the next post!

    Juuso

  • Clement

    Great post, Roman. I really enjoyed watching the YouTube videos of the Arnold Classic and the personalities who attended the event.

    I’d always wondered about your personal programme that transformed you into such a successful bodybuilder or fitness model. Looking at your programmes, you’ve certainly been training as most fitness experts recommend – heavy, compound movements prioritized first and for the bulk of the programme and then moving into isolation movements as you enter your final weeks.

    As they say, success leaves clues. I’ve learnt so much from this post alone about how to train when preparing for a competition. And no, I do not consider you to be anything less than natural!

  • Dave

    Good article.

    So Roman is each set to total failure?

    •  Oh! Great question.  The last set of each exercise is to “near” failure. Would always try to leave 1-2 reps on the hole. 

      The later exercises might go to failure, particularly isolation exercises

  • gene s.

    How critical do you feel that the Anabolic chemistry was in supporting the rigors of this kind of training. I’ve worked like a beast for a long time and although I’ve made significant gains, even at my older age I find that recovery is always a problem sustaining significant levels of DOMS.  Feel fine once I’m warmed up and SMR is done the workout is  fun and painless but the next morning is troublesome re: soreness. I would often get in 4 days, upper/lower body split and 2-3 conditioning, balance, athleticism training sessions/week. Now, I’ve cut back cause after many months of this training style , the soreness is not quitting in spite of deload week or two here or there. 

    •  Not critical at all.  As I said, it was a cumulative 4 weeks in the grand total of a 3 year training timeline. 

  • rmg

    good rticle – disagree about the use of drugs.   They do not really have any place in building a body – all they do is to creat a false body – not a real one.

    •  By that logic, all alcohol does is create false perception, false fun, etc.

      • Lisahpost

        Lmao good answer!

  • Jim

    Great Post – real life examples are always a treat.

  • blackwidowxxx

    Your info is great…

  • Tfstar08

    The photo of someone at his heaviest body-building weight doesn’t even look like you! 

  • Ron Kobyluck

    John,you look great both ways.I am a little too old to lift your numbers{68},but like to add a little muscle.Is it too late at my age to tone up?As for your thinking about roids,I think its a bad idea.I lost my nephew in California last year when he was at a meet.He was 50 and going strong,than he had a massive heart attack.his name is Steve Kapper.Anyway keep up the good work.Everyone enjoys your blogs.          Ron

  • Personalds11

    Information is great love the use of double sessions for max results also make sure if you feel the itch COMPETE!!!!! Remember that you might look back and wish you had

  • Emailpaulymichael

    You looked sick as a bodybuilder!!! But any guys would say that to you I think. I would imagine women like the smaller look.

    •  In general, the model look is a bit more manageable, and yes women seem to respond better to it.

  • Vinnzapien

    Hey john do you have any muscle buliding programs? I’m trying to build muscle on my skinny frame lol serious though

  • Not bad, good info. I’m not a bodybuilder, but help people build their bodies. I think the colgate photo is more exceptable to normal people.

  • jmschlmrs

    Solid post Roman. You seem to have been both huge and strong at the same time (which makes sense). I was wondering whether you vary your reps much when switching from a mass focus to a strength focus, or is progressive overload just progressive overload?

    •  For hypertrophy, I found that some body parts did better with certain rep ranges than others. Arms grew well with any rep range; legs needed high reps; chest did better with low reps, but upper chest high reps; my laters were good w low reps/high volume.

      For just strength, low reps, moderate volume was perfect.

  • charmers

    I am a vegan BB–last 15 years–and I am 1.76 m tall and weigh 87.2 kg:)

  • Chaddaly

    Great article roman!
    as someone whose 23 now and hit a plateau in terms of muscle gains i’ve been considering pro hormones. Do you have any advice on them? For example did you experience any negative side effects and did your T levels return to normal after finishing them?
    Thanks 

  • Susan Rolfe

    Definitely love the model photo, but hey I’m a woman and probably have different tastes than a man. Your routines are definitely the best compared to the others’ (it’s like you’re all related even though the other guys seem to all be Canadian; I love that you are supporting one another’s programs and promoting each other’s routines). I have followed your 6 routine Final Phase Workout faithfully for 6 months and am amazed at the results. Please tell me how I can get my hands on more!

    • Susansilvarolfe

      Sorry! I meant to say the six 25th th hour routines! I want more!

  • Awesome-O! You were (and still are) quite the beast good sir. Interesting to get a grasp of your BB background too, and what you have learned since.

    Did you run into Mr. ex-Governator himself over there? Does he still attend?  

  • Brandon Farron

    First of all i would like to thank you for taking time to write this whole article. I have learned a few things from it, and amazed with the work load you were doing. I am going to try this type of work out and hopefully see some good gains as you previously did. Thanks.

  • I admire the dedication it would take to be a bodybuilder.   I couldn’t imagine “2-a-days” (or somehow eating enough food for 2-a-days to work).  I enjoyed reading about your experience though and can’t wait to see the specialization routines since this is something that intrigues me.  I read the T-Nation HSS-100 series on each body part and was considering doing that soon, but am going to see what you have to offer first.  Thanks, bro! 

  • I relate to your story of chubster – brawny. Especially being able to heap on a lot of weight within a short time. When I was a fat teen I weighed about 185lbs at 5’4 and as I got older and started to lose weight I ended up right around 5’8 at 150 before I decided I wanted to actually ‘bodybuild’ once I did that I hit 180lbs within about 6months with minimal fat gain. 

    Since then it has been harder to get much higher than 190. No way near as lean as you are though but some day :)

  • Jan P

    that workouts for chest and biceps look interesting, for me that’s a lot of volume, since I mostly train for strength. Since my goal is to have high powerlifting numbers with having big shoulders and traps, I’d certainly appreciate if you outlined a shoulder day in yours style.
    It kinda look like CT’s HSS-100 without the last burnout set…
    Still, your strength was amazing! I wonder why you never tried powerlifting.
    And I second the request for a current pic for comparison – show off some of your ink! ;)

    •  I actually was going to compete in PLing. Was chasing 700 on the deadlift, but hit a small injury.

      Current pics will come in a month or so, as soon as I get my new ink!

  • CD

    enjoyed the blog, i am nearing the big 40, and i am interested in putting on some lean mass while decreasing bodyfat.  any programs or ideas to try?

    • Absolutelty! CD, I would recommend my Super Hero Workout. Helps you put on size while keeping you lean.

  • Chris

    Great post Roman! Thanks for sharing your workout. I think most people prefer a model look, so stick to that. A builder is just too massive

  • KristaAnn

    Love the blog today.  I love your after look as a fitness model.  While training hard and seeing the results as a BB is exciting, I think you look super hot after you stopped.

  • Seth

    nice tatooine reference and i like the huge arm look you had going. the joke about your smile is obviously implied.

  • Vlad

    Hey John,I really appreciate the effort you put into writing this good info and I would appreciate you even more if you could write a detailed post about training for the model look(which is more appealing to me than that of a bodybuilder).Keep up the good work!

    •  Training for modeling would be a good piece.  I’ll definitely do it in the future.  Thanks!

  • Óscar Solano

    So cool that you answer almost every comment! For someone who can only do one hour 3 times on weekdays and up to 2 hours on weekends, what do you think is the best approach? The thing is I go Monday – Wednesday – Friday – Saturday – Sunday, so it’s 4 days in a row…

    •  I think, in that case, that alternating upper and lower each time you hit the gym would work well.

      • Óscar Solano

        ¡Gracias!

  • Chuck S

    Another guy said that the first bulk is the easiest and subsequent ones have diminishing returns. Also somebody else said that bulking for 2 weeks, cutting for 1 week, and repeating works well.

    • Yea, the 2/1 approach works well, or even the 3/1 approach.  That’s probably how I would do it now.

  • RJG

    dude, your BB pics look awesome man!!!

    START BODYBUILDING AGAIN!!! It will be cool to see you beefed up!you got an awesome body!

    •  Thanks, RJG! I don’t know that I’ll ever step on stage again, but putting on some mass isn’t out of the question!

  • Darin

    Great writing here. inspirational. i have a son doing work with the inner city kids living in NY. do you ever take on short time clients to head them in the right direction? darin@javacrew.com

  • Edub

    Hey Roman, was also wondering– is there any source you used to design your bodybuilding workouts? I realize there’s “bodybuilding” workouts available everywhere but just wondering if there was a certain source you recommend for learning more about training specifically for physique enhancement. 

    •  I really liked stuff by Ian King.  He had a great approach that influenced me a lot in my earlier program design.

  • Dtonneman

    Wish I would have bumped into you at THE ARNOLD.  And yes, “circus” is a great description. 
    Which one of the 4 Phses is your favorite?

    • Sucks we didn’t run into one another! I don’t have a favorite phase–they all have things that I enjoyed.  But I think phase 4 is the most fun.

  • Edub

    Good stuff Roman, I appreciate how you aren’t afraid to give advice based on what makes you look good (it seems like some fitness pros think this is girly or stupid or whatever). I always rely on you for advice about lookin good at the beach. It’s cool how you are actually willing to reflect back on this and look at how it worked even though you have evolved. 

  • Billxedos

    Awesome post as always. How tall are you by the way?

    •  Thanks! I’m 5’7.5″  Sometimes, on a good day, I’m 5’8″ =)

  • Columbus native

    I liked this and all your posts and your video with Isabella.  Working hard at 58 and 24% BF!  Any opinion of Dr. Jeffrey Life’s The Life plan?

    •  I haven’t read it, but I will check it out.  Thanks for the kind words!

  • Joel Marion

    Interesting.

    • Joel Marion #2

      Good job.

  • CuriousGeorge

    Awesome post. Definitely up there with the cheat day ones. So then, what would be a good mass builder for the chest? Squeeze press, pull overs, and decline?

  • Wow…informative post, Roman.

    And good, got damn, that grin is cheesy and the teeth are blinding…I’m mad you *DIDN’T* get a Colgate commercial based off of that! LOLOL!

    But, This is pretty good. My knowledge competitive bodybuilding and what it takes to get there *AND* maintain it is limited…

    I tink I learned a lot in this post and need to come here more often. :)

    Enjoy your week!

  • Alex Guillien

    I feel like your story is eerily similar to mine.  Growing up as a “chubster”, going the bodybuilding type route, finding the happy medium, and enjoying the process along the way…You are an inspiration and a reference that anything is possible and possible at levels of excellence.  

  • Brad

    Damn Roman I would kill to be just at 180, but even as an ectomorph I’ve never been able to bulk without putting on SERIOUS fat with it, like 2-3 pounds for every one pound of muscle :P even though I keep my protein and veggie intake high, carbs around workout, and calories aren’t outrageously high (generally under 3,000 for the day). Am I genetically doomed? Is 15 (yeah, only 15) inch arms too much to ask for?

    •  I wouldn’t say doomed; you just need to find what works for you. For me, it was tons of volume and tons of food.

      For you, it might be HIT (one set to failure etc) and less food

  • Kedric

    Great post, the last picture looks the best among the three. Props to hardwork and dedication, maybe include a picture of the current Roman in the next post. Cheers

    kedric

    •  Good idea! Current Roman is covered in tattoos, but still lean! I’ll get a photographer to take some shots of me.

  • TylerCarter

     Wide lats make clothes an issue, especially when your back is wide enough to see from the front.

    •  haha yes, when you see your back from the front, it’s hard to really difficult to get into clothes.

  • Ylwa Eklund Falk

    Well this was FUN. And informative.  Helps me re-focus in my contest prep. LOVE the Colgate-picture, very Brandon Walsh à 90210, as for the “spike-era” of late 90’s-earlt 2000’s I guess you were just human in that sense.

    I know this is probably not a very common question, but how much lean mass should a female expect to put on in a 6 month period compared to a dude? If you’re traingin for real and not “toning”

    •  I would say about .5-1 pounds per month is realistic, assuming you do most things right =)

  • Darren

    Another great post, especially as you are well known for skillz in ze fat loss realm. Since you are  a great experimenter, a month of bodybuilding with the Paleo diet would have been a great thing to see, but your response to it while on a FLF diet might be even better. So many roads, but always FUN!

    •  I may actually do a vegan experiment next, and perhaps a crossfit one. I will squeeze some BBing in there soon.

      • Dude, a vegan experiment, for serious?

      • nickjaa

        I am crazy looking forward to the vegan experiment! you should do vegetarian though so you can get all you b12 without supplementing

      • Crazyfit

        Cross*hit NOOOO! Dangerous, not backed up by any science, no recovery, deadlifts for time and other such nonsensical balderdash. Please, say it ain’t so,.

      • Charles Mclaughlin

         I am also down for a vegan experiment. I might try diary, eggs, fish, tofu, tempe, yogurt, cheese, nuts and beans diet. I believe this is still vegetarian but I could be wrong.about the fish part. I live in Indonesia so there are all sorts of dishes that are prepared meatless and taste awesome.

  • Rocky

    Dude put the mass back on! You look badass that big.

    Plus it’d be fun to follow you on your progress and learn more about getting hyooge like that.
    Wondering how you structured your cardio and diet when bulking though?

    Like did you stay in a permanent surplus throughout the whole week or eat to maitnence on non-training days. Things like that would be another awesome blog (just saying)

    One of my favorite blogs though. A fun read and extremely interesting.

  • Awesome post Roman. Your honesty regarding PHs is really refreshing.

    BTW does your bodyweight numbers include hair gel on the tricep pose pic? =)

    •  Hehe, please don’t hold it against me. I think that was towards the end of my punk rock phase.  At least I didn’t have purple hair for that pic, which was not uncommon at the time.

  • Bwbski22

    What gym did you used to train at on LI?

    •  Mostly, Island Fitness, Powerhouse, and even a Planet Fitness (seriously!)

  • Wallace0713

    That is a lot of info. Thanks for including the workout phases. It’s nice to see something like this without having to pay $39.95..

  • Hey Roman,

    GREAT post as usual! I would be highly interested in reading about your years in fitness modeling, seeing as that is something I want to do with my life. Would the Superhero Workout be a good start to get that “model” look? I’ve done “Built for Show” and “The Hero Workout” by Nate Green, and have been doing WS4SB by Joe Defranco most recently.

    •  Super hero would be the exact program I’d recommend. It was designed for essentially that. ALTHOUGH I might double the length of each phase, rather than perform it back to back

  • bobby

    Did any of your friends make fun of you for modelling?

    •  Not for modeling itself, but more for my ambitions for my modeling career, which were pretty lofty. There was a minute there where I thought I was gonna model, then get picked up for a Mentos commercial, then turn into a movie star and play Pablo Escobar in Medellin.  (Well, not really, but sort of).

      My friends were super supportive (except maybe on).

      • Andrés

        I´m from Colombia and I find this funny, Cool Story Mr. Escobar

  • Cillianhurle

    This is cool, I was about to start a bodybuilding phase and was looking for a split, really like this one and think I will try it for a few months….

    Would you recommend sticking with IF while doing a program like this?

    •  Assuming you can eat enough cals in your feeding window, yes.

  • Now, I didn’t read this whole post, saved for later, but the info looks great, and the sheer time and effort you’ve put in to it deserves props. 

    James