Leg Day, And My Trip To The Natural USA Bodybuilding Competition


Saturday, October 1st, 2005. I can’t believe it’s October already. Today was the day I originally had scheduled for my first contest – the Natural USA (first once since 2001). As I mentioned in last Monday’s blog, I’ve moved back my competition date and actually picked two new contests, just two weeks apart – the NPC South Jersey October 15th and the NPC New Jersey Gold’s Classic October 29th. Although I didn’t compete, I took the trip up to Tarrytown to watch the prejudging at the Natural USA show today. Someone asked me, “Tom, Did you find yourself wondering, “Am I going to kick myself for not doing the show, or will I be relieved that I didn’t do it?” I’ll answer that in today’s blog…

QUADS (a.m.)

A1 Swing squat machine
2 warm up sets
Set 1: 140 lbs X 20 reps
Set 2: 180 lbs, 200 lbs, 220 lbs X 6, 6, 6 reps (ascending set)
Set 3: 180 lbs X 12 reps, 90 lbs X 10 more reps (drop set)
B1 Front Squat Machine
Set 1: 270 lbs (3 plates per side) X 25 reps
Set 2: 360 lbs (4 plates per side X 15
Set 3: 410 lbs (4 plates + quarters per side) X 12 reps
Set 4: 450 lbs (5 plates per side) X 11 reps
C1 Hammer Strength Leg Extension
Set 1: 70 lbs X 12 reps
Set 2: 80 lbs X 10 reps
Set 3: 80 lbs X 10 reps, drop weight to 50 lbs, 8 more reps
C2 Lunge “medley”
Set 1: Bulgarian split squat X 30 lbs dumbbells X 14 reps per leg
Set 2: Walking lunges X 35 lbs dumbbells X 12 reps per leg
Set 3: Barbell lunges X 135 lbs X 8 reps per leg


A1 Seated Leg Curl
Set 1: 180 lbs X 15 reps
Set 2: 180 lbs, 195 lbs, 210 lbs X 6, 6, 6 reps (ascending set)
Set 3: 210 lbs X 10 reps, drop to 165 lbs X 10 more reps (drop set)
Set 4: 165 lbs X 10 reps of one legged negatives (down with 2 legs, up with 1 leg)
B1 Hyperextension
3 sets X 25 lbs.
C1 Reverse Hyperextension
3 sets X bodyweight X 12-15 reps


A1 Calf Press on Cybex rotary calf machine
3 sets X 180 lbs (4 plates) X 23, 20, 18 reps
B1 Standing Calf Machine
3 sets X 300, 350, 400 lbs X 10, 10, 7 reps (ascending set0
C1 Seated Calf Machine
3 sets X 135 lbs (3 plates) X 23, 21, 19 reps

Workout Commentary

My friend John Bartlett came up today to train with me and then to go watch the Natural USA competition in Tarrytown, New York, just a 45 minute drive north of my home town Hoboken, New Jersey. Before we went to the show, we drove out to East Rutherford New Jersey to train legs at Strong & Shapely Gym.


By the way, check out John’s transformation website(s); you wont believe your eyes when you see what he accomplished in less than 12 weeks – I could hardly believe it myself!



John and I started off legs with the Swing Squat machine (search previous blogs if this is the first time you’ve heard of it… it’s “famous” around these parts!). After a few warm up sets (I take my time warming up these days), we did three work sets – one for high reps, one ascending set and one drop set.

After swing squats, we moved on to the front squat machine. I just started using this machine last week (after not having used it for years literally). It was a good change from leg presses, etc. We did four work sets (all straight sets), building up to 5 plates for 11 reps.

Last, but not least, we finished quads with a superset between hammer strength isolateral leg extensions and three different types of lunges (or split squats), which I like to call a “lunge medley”: Bulgarian split squat, walking lunges, barbell dynamic lunges.

After quads we moved on to hamstrings and glutes. I had planned for stiff legged deadlifts today, but after the heavy front squat machine, my back was feeling a little tight, so I changed my plan at the last minute and instead went with seated leg curl for four sets.

On each set we used a different technique: high rep straight set, ascending set, drop set, one legged negative. The last set with one legged negatives was brutal! It’s done by curling down (concentric movement) with both legs, then releasing one leg from the pad and letting the weight back up (eccentric movement) with only one leg! Because you are much stronger on the eccentric than the concentric, you can lower more than you can lift. I’ve done these a few times over the past few months on leg extensions, but this is the first time on leg curls.

After isolating the hams with the leg curl machine, we finished off with hyperextensions, which work hamstrings as well as the rest of the posterior chain – glutes and low back, then a few sets of reverse hyperextensions, which is more focused on the glutes and lower back.

The lower back area is one of the very last places to come in when contest dieting. Often you can be totally lean from the front view, and still have a little fat left on the kidney and low back area. Even in very lean bodybuilders, you seldom see striated glutes or striated lower back (“Christmas tree”). These two exercises will not only strengthen your lower back, but provided you get lean enough, they’ll help you with that striated backside!

That was it! It was back to Hoboken for oatmeal and egg whites, then onward to the show up in Tarrytown.

Had I competed, the class I would have entered would be the open division. There were only 8 men in the open, and it was not in weight classes, but height classes. When there are more competitors, this organization (the NBI) divides it into short, medium and tall, but since there were only 8 competitors, they only had two divisions. I’m not 100% certain, but I believe that tall class was 5’ 8” and above and short class was under 5’ 8” so that would have put me in the tall class (I’m 5’ 8”)

John took a few shots of the tall class (just 3 guys – there were 5 in the short class). Take a look for yourself:

Front_Lat_Spread_Natural_USA_mens_open_tall 325 wide.jpg


Judging by the competition, I’m sure I would have done okay even if I was off a few percent. However, I was very comfortable with my decision to wait until October 15th to compete. I was sure about my decision on my own, but I also talked it over at length with Richie beforehand.

It’s good to have a second pair of eyes (that you trust) to look you over and a “voice of reason” (which you trust) to help you make the right decisions. Richie did not encourage me to compete nor discourage me from competing, he simply assessed my physique a week ago and agreed with my assessment that I was not 100% peaked yet and then left it up to me.

how do I think I would have done? Based on the 8 physiques I saw in the open division, I know I at least would have been competitive. However, in looking at the physiques as a spectator with a judge’s eye, It was totally apparent to me how some guys were just slightly off and it surely cost them a placing (or more) in their division.

This reinforced to me how important it is to have your conditioning 100% dialed in for the day of the show. All else being equal, ripped always wins the show, but it’s actually quite rare to see many people absolutely shredded, bone dry and totally dialed in, especially at the drug tested competitions.

For example, take a look at the guy on the left in the blue trunks. Inch for inch, he had more muscle mass and thickness than the other two guys on the right in the black trunks. Unfortunately “blue trunks” was clearly on the smooth side, and if I were a judge I would have had him in third for that reason. Had he come in ripped, he might have won the class. I have no pictures of the 5 guys in the short class, but it was the same story – a couple of guys with excellent and symmetrical physiques, fully capable of winning the class, but a little bit off peak condition.

My goal is to be in 100% peaked condition and dialed in for my show. By achieving that goal, then regardless of where I place, I will be satisfied (well, sort of… heh heh.. it’s nice to win… but usually, if you really are 100% and the best you can be on that day, then your placing tends to take care of itself).

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