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He can still hear what his date told him more than 20 years ago as clearly as if she’d said it yesterday: “You need a chest.”
Growing up, Ronald J. Horton was a naturally skinny kid who was into sports and fitness. But as he grew, he didn’t develop what his girlfriend liked—solid chest muscles. Horton immediately started lifting weights, and over the next two decades—and a few girlfriends later—he entered the world of bodybuilding and amateur competition.
Today, Horton, 38, is an account executive at The Source magazine, but when lunchtime comes, you’ll find him in a nearby gym. His weight-training regimen starts on Monday with his chest and arm muscles—what he calls “beach muscles.” On Tuesday, he works his legs. Wednesday is a rest day. On Thursday, Horton works his shoulders. And on Friday, it’s another chest workout. Sunday, of course, is a day of rest. His workout sessions last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour.
Preparing for and competing in bodybuilding competitions is particularly grueling. Horton says it’s probably the most disciplined thing he’s ever done. At six feet, he normally weighs 225 pounds off-season. But for competition, he drops to a lean 205 pounds. The goal is to maximize the loss of body fat while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. And putting together a posing routine for a competition is equally taxing. In addition to perfecting mandatory poses, he has to select music and develop an individual posing routine. Competitors are critiqued on every detail: abs tight, quads and calves flexed, shoulders back, and chest erect.
“Competing, for me, is difficult because I go through this metamorphosis,” he explains. “You completely understand the importance of nutrition and eating properly. Dropping your body fat from 8% or 10% to less than 5% or 3% is unreal. We’re not made to walk around that lean.”
Bodybuilding is not just a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. Consider this if you think you’ll want to flex on the beach this summer:
YOUR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES: Do you want to be a competitive bodybuilder? Or do you just want to impress others? Be sure to see your physician to get an assessment of your current level of fitness and be apprised of any health risks before you start your training regimen.
NUTRITION: The bodybuilding lifestyle calls for primarily high-protein, moderate-carbohydrate, low-fat diet, and plenty of water. Bodybuilders spread their daily caloric intake over as many as seven meals, eating every two to four hours. In addition to healthy, whole foods, bodybuilders also take nutritional supplements, including vitamins, minerals, and other products designed to either help burn fat or preserve muscle.
TRAINING: Keep weightlifting sessions short (ideally, less than an hour) and intense. Also include two to three cardiovascular exercise sessions, at least 30 minutes in length, each week.
REST AND RECOVERY: Muscles grow, not while you are training, but during the recovery periods between lifting sessions. This is why bodybuilders rarely exercise a body part (other than abs) more than once a week. Also, be sure