Lifestyle Prior To Change
What was your lifestyle like prior to your transformation?
I was a typical college kid. I went to class, I ate unhealthy, I went out and would party and drink. Aside from my school work, I was lazy. I played video games, watched TV, and was just a typical young adult.
What was your low point or turning point?
I was just sick of being typical. My whole life my heroes were big, big guys. I loved (and still love) WWF/E. I grew up seeing guys like The Ultimate Warrior, Lex Luger, Stone Cold, Triple H, Hulk Hogan, Brock Lesnar and I wanted to be like them. I also was a huge fan of comics like Batman and Superman as a child and wanted to be big like them as well. Some of my other heroes were Arnold Schwarzenegger and Stallone from some of their more heroic roles.
I always wanted to be big and strong like these guys and just never had the drive or dedication to do it. In high school I was taught how to lift from my baseball coaches, but I never fully committed to it back then.
I was also sick and tired of being hung over, or feeling like crap because of my diet. I was sick of being weak, and I was sick of being small.
One day I was watching YouTube clips of Brock Lesnar (one of my idols to this day) training and got the motivation to go to the gym and set a goal for myself. From there I never looked back.
Please provide a timeline including when you started the transformation, and include major milestones:
- Transformation Start: September 2007. I was 150 lbs going into my sophomore year in college at Southern Connecticut State University. My initial goal was simply to gain weight and get stronger because my whole life I had been thin and in my opinion weak. So my beginning goal was to get to 190 lbs by the end of my fall semester. I was just starting out on my journey here and didn’t even have half the knowledge I have now about training and dieting, so basically what I did was dirty bulk. I ate a lot and went to my university’s gym 4 days a week and focused on the lifts I was taught in high school; bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press, cleans and a few other basic movements for smaller muscles like bicep curls and skull crusher.
- Milestone: December 2007: It was the end of my fall semester and I had reached my target weight of 190 lbs. My strength also improved which may all be because of the “newb gains.” Bench press had improved from a measly 105 lbs to 215 lbs, my squat had gone up from 135 to 225 and my deadlift went up from 105 to 215 lbs. I was happy, but not satisfied at all with the way I looked. My dirty bulk helped me gain a substantial amount of size, but I looked fat. I wasn’t satisfied with the end result, so I made a new goal; to drop down to 160 lbs, but retain most of the muscle I gained. So, this is where I really began to start researching dieting and training and where I think I truly fell in love with bodybuilding and the lifestyle. I started out reading the muscle magazines and worked my way over to the Muscle and Strength forums. On January 1, 2008, I set up a basic cut diet using the BMR calculator on the site and focused on eating clean, lean foods, fairly high in protein. I set a goal for myself that I wanted to be 160 lbs of lean muscle by June 2008.
- Milestone: June 2008: I once again reached my goal. I was 160 lbs, I was lean, and I was in the best shape of my life. I had gone from around 17% body fat to 10% body fat in a span of 5 months. I focused a lot on high intensity training during that time span. I really kicked my cardio up and I really intensified the lifting sessions. However, as evidenced by my first few posts on M&S, I still didn’t 100% know what I was doing. It was still the beginning for me. For the next couple years I learned more and more, and I also went through a few bulk and cut phases, where I would bulk to about 175 lbs then cut back down to 160. This helped me gain a little bit of size each time, and made me look bigger each time I cut back down to 160 lbs. I was satisfied with this regiment for the two years, but by the end of my last cut down to 160 lbs, I knew it was time for a change. It was December 11, 2010, and I told myself it was time to get big, it was time to get strong, and it was time to get to 185-190 lbs. for the first time since December 2007. I was much more confident in my lifting abilities now and my knowledge of dieting and training and I set the last day of the bulk for July 4, 2011. I upped my calories to about 4,000-4,500 a day, created a program very similar to Layne Norton’s PHAT (before I even knew who Layne Norton was) and started to kill it in the gym and in the kitchen.
- Milestone: July 4, 2011- 187 Lbs. Through my training, dieting and dedication I did it, and I did it successfully. My genetics allowed me to only rise up to about 12% body fat during my bulk, while gaining 27 lbs. For the rest of the summer I focused on high intense/strength training as well as more unique training once or twice a week doing things like tire flips, battle ropes and circuit training at my old high school. For the rest of the year I focused on maintenance. I gained another 3 lbs and was 190 lbs, when I met my new lifting partner Tim Bonanno. We shared the same passion for bodybuilding, and made it our goal to push each other past our limits in hopes to one day compete and win competitions. It was around December of 2011 when we formed our training team Camp Swole. We wanted to make a team that focused on our lifestyle, our training, our diets and hopefully inspired others. We definitely inspired each other because my training was going better than ever. My squat, my bench, my deadlift, even my cardio improved. For the winter of 2012 we tried to get as cut as possible at 190 lbs, and we did that. By April of 2012, it was time to bulk again. I was 190 lbs and became obsessed with the number 215. It was my goal to get there by July 31, 2012. I began to use my own version of PHAT again from April-June, then I stumbled upon Norton’s PHAT online and for the last two months I used his version, with a Camp Swole twist.
- Milestone: July 31, 2012-215 lbs achieved. My 1 Rep Max for squat passed 500, my 1 rep max for deadlift had passed 500. My shrug on the last day of my cut was 575 (545 now), and my weighted bench dip was 405. My numbers were through the roof, and my body fat was around 12 % again. Everything I was lacking from the previous bulk had improved, and looking back now at pictures from last summer I can notice a huge difference all around.
- Transformation End: It is now August 2012 and I’m beginning my cut. My goal is to drop no lower than 205 and lean out within the next 12 weeks. I’m making good progress now, and hope to compete by the beginning of next year.
DJ's Training Approach
What was your weight training approach and split during your transformation?
I went through many different splits during the 4.5 years I’ve been doing this, but I’m going to include the split I designed during my last two bulks. The one I used to go from 160-215 in 1.5 years. I like to call it “The Camp Swole Split”, and it’s fairly similar to Layne Norton’s PHAT. The first half of the week focused on power and the second half focused on hypertrophy. Each muscle, like in PHAT, gets trained twice a week.
I also do different ab routines Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Some of my favorites include bicycles, decline twists, weighted crunches, leg raises, and windshield wipers.
Please add a workout that worked best for you:
|Sunday - Chest and Back|
|Incline Bench Press||3||3-5|
|Decline Bench Press||3||5-8|
|Lat Pull Down||3||4-7|
|Weighted Pull Up||2||3-5|
|Monday - Shoulders and Triceps|
|Seated Overhead Barbell Press||3||4-6|
|Close Grip Bench Press||2||3-6|
|Weighted Tricep Dip||3||3-5|
|Tuesday - Legs and Biceps|
|Wide Grip EZ Bar Curl||3||4-8|
|Wednesday - Chest and Biceps Supersets|
|Incline Bench Press||4||10-12|
|Decline Cable Flye||2||20|
|Wide Grip Pull Up||2||10-15|
|Lat Pull Down||3||12|
|Seated Cable Row||2||20|
|Wide Grip Flat Bench Press - Slow Negative on Last Rep||1||Failure|
|Thursday - Shoulders and Triceps Trisets and Supersets|
|Overhead EZ Bar Extension||3||15|
|Clean and Press||2||15|
|Close Grip Bench Press||2||15|
|Upright Row||4||15, 12, 20, 10|
|Skullcrusher||4||15, 12, 20, 12|
|Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press||3||10, 12, 15|
|Tricep Triset Circuit of Death||Rope Extension Down (10), Out (10), Down (10) x 2|
|Friday - Legs and Biceps|
|Squat||3||15, 15, 25|
|Leg Extension - (Full, Partial, Hold)||3||10, 10, Hold|
|Deadlift (Superset with Leg Curl)||3||10, 10, 10, Hold|
|Leg Curl||3||10, 10, 10, Hold|
|Toe Raise Supersets||6||25|
|Wide Grip EZ Bar Curls||3||10|
|Close Grip EZ Bar Curls||3||10|
|Reverse Grip EZ Bar Curls||3||10|
|Standing Cable Curl||3||10|
|Lying Cable Curl||3||10|
|Preacher Curl Drop Set||2||6, 10, 15|
Monday workout notes: I Start at the higher end of the reps (5-6) with the starting weight, and as I go up, I still shoot for 5-6, but usually get 3-4. Take good rest periods.
Friday workout notes: On the leg extension/leg curl, I do 10 full reps, 10 partial reps, and then hold for 10 seconds or for as long as I can. On the toe raises, I like to work all the different angles continuously. My foot positioning is straight, in and out. The first set I do with my feet straight. It’s a weighted set of 10 supersetted with 15 reps at bodyweight. I do the same thing for the in and out position, then repeat this process once more. This has targeted my calves better than anything I’ve done.
Please detail your cardio approach during your transformation?
Initially I was focusing on running a certain amount of miles as hard as I could and keeping my heart rate elevated, but for the past two years have really switched over to HIIT cardio. I have two different versions I like to use. One is the typical 100 M dash (or 15 second sprint), then rest for 35-45 seconds. I usually do 5-6 sprints doing this, and typically do this 2-3 times a week.
The second form I use is more an MMA based approach that I stole from one of Brock Lesnar’s training camps. It is 5 straight minutes of high intensity cardio with no break. I do this now during my cut on my more intense cardio day. I usually dedicate one day during the week to something like this. The way I would typically do this is:
- Sprint (1 Minute)
- Bike Raised up with no sitting (1 Minute)
- Sprint (1 Minute)
- Bike Raised up with no sitting (1 Minute)
- Sprint (1 Minute)
That is 1 Round. On my intense cardio day I will start with this, then go onto things like tire flips and ropes, then come back and do a final round to end the work out.
Please list 3 things you learned about exercise, weight training and/or cardio during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- Diet is just as important, if not more important, as any other aspect of training. When I was working as a personal trainer at a gym one of the things we had to ask is what the clients weak point was. 99% of them said diet. The problem is, things like fast food, and processed foods are a relatively new thing when compared to how long we’ve been around, but people today have it programmed in their brains to eat this sort of stuff because it took off so fast. My generations grandparents started eating it, and they taught their children (our parents) to eat it, our parents taught us to eat it, and now that is getting passed down to the next generation. It’s super hard for people to break these bad eating habits because it is programmed into their brains to eat like this at a very young age. If you do break the habit, though, that is when you will really start to succeed with your goals. A clear example of this, is the difference between my dirty bulk, and my clean bulk. I gained similar weight in 07 to what I gained in 2011, then again in 2012, but I look much better now because I’m eating right as well as training hard.
- Don’t over do it in the gym. What I mean by that is, don’t do a million different exercises and be there for hours and hours. Some people will look at the split I just posted up and still say I’m over-training (which I’m not), but in comparison to the amount I was doing when I started, this is nothing. Starting out, I thought the longer I was in the gym and the more stuff I did, the better because I was working really hard and leaving exhausted. After analyzing and completely redoing my workout schedule, I realized I could be in the gym for half the time, or even less, and work even harder. All of those workouts posted take no more than an hour and 15 minutes at the most, and usually is about an hour. I’m more than 5 times stronger in certain lifts since switching to this and realizing I didn’t have to over do it to get results.
- Form will always be more important than weight. I learned this at a very young age and will always stand by it. I’ve seen people brag about squatting 400 plus, then when I go to spot them they’re coming down legit 1/8 of the way. I’d rather see them strip to 135 and go ass to grass then do that.
How are you currently training, and has your training changed since the completion of your transformation?
I’m currently training to cut body fat. I’ve upped my cardio (during the bulk was only doing cardio once a week), and changed my split from Power/Hypertrophy days to Superset/Tri-Setting days. The breaks are shorter and the workouts are more intense. Once every 2 weeks I focus specifically on a power day to assure that I don’t lose too much strength during the cut (squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press and shrugs).
DJ's Diet And Supplement Plan
What was your diet/nutrition approach during your transformation?
I keep my approach very simple. I tell people if they eat like an animal they will become one. What I mean by this is eat like a carnivore/herbivore hybrid. Meats, fruits, veggies, eggs, and throwing in other things like oats and whole grains were big for gaining size. Below I’m going to detail a higher carb diet I used while bulking.
Can you give an example of what your daily meal plan looks like?
- Meal 1: Bulk shake - 12 OZ milk, 1 scoop whey protein, 1.5 cup oats, 1 banana.
- Meal 2: ½ LB Ground turkey with banana peppers and 1 serving of whole grain pasta.
- Meal 3: 4 Hardboiled eggs with 2 pieces of whole grain toast and ½ cup Greek yogurt.
- Meal 4: 2 Scoops whey protein with 1 large banana (Post Workout).
- Meal 5: 2 Chicken breasts with 2 servings of whole grain pasta/diced tomatoes and peppers.
- Meal 6: 2 Cup oats with Greek yogurt and fruit.
- Meal 7: 1 Can of tuna, 1/2 cup cottage cheese.
Were there any diet/nutrition mistakes you made that you learned from?
The first mistake I made was dirty bulking when I was 20. I pretty much ate everything I could because I wanted to gain size. The diet wasn’t very clean. Another mistake I made was not eating enough for a while when I first started cutting. I was in a huge deficit and it affected me. I felt weaker, more moody, and easily irritable.
Please list 3 things you learned about diet & nutrition during your transformation that helped you succeed:
- You need to eat even when you’re not hungry if you want to gain. For a long time I thought I was getting enough food simply because I wasn’t hungry all the time, but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t until I started eating more and more meals that I started to gain. I know you don’t have to necessarily eat 7 meals a day to meet your macros, and some might even say I’m over-eating in the diet posted above, but it wasn’t until I started eating like this that I started to make really good gains.
- It’s very important to track your calories (especially for beginners) when trying to gain size. This goes hand in hand with the previous answer. I always thought I was getting enough food but once I started to write it down, I realized I was not even close to getting enough. I can’t tell you how many times other people have experienced the same thing. I get asked on a daily basis about how to get bigger from people in the gym, and one of the first things I tell them is to eat more. They usually say, “I am,” and then I have them write out what they eat, and they’re usually at about 2,000 calories a day. I was in that exact same boat until I started to write it down.
- Don’t be afraid to eat more and gain some fat. One reason I was somewhat stagnant for a few years (fluctuating between 175 and 160) was because I was so put off by my initial dirty bulk. I gained some bad size and I didn’t want to look like that again. Once I got that thought out of my head and realized a. the importance and value of a pretty clean diet and b. that I wasn’t the same kid anymore and was much more educated on the subject, I began to see success. A lot of people also tell me that they don’t want to gain fat and I tell them, “as long as you keep the diet clean, kill it in the gym, and stick with it, you will make good gains, you will also gain some fat, but it’s impossible not to.”
Did you allow yourself cheat meals?
I set a cheat meal every 3 months. I know a lot of people do them a lot more than that, but I feel that if I had them once a month or more, then I would have nothing to look forward to. I kill it in the gym and in the kitchen for the most part and when I do get the chance to cheat it’s like a Christmas gift or something, it’s a reward, and if I got it too often I wouldn’t appreciate the reward. As each cheat meal gets closer I legit start to water at the mouth thinking about it, and that’s something good to look forward to.
What supplements did you use during your transformation?
- Pre Workout - Muscle Pharm Assault
- Post Workout - 2 Scoops of Optimum Nutrition Whey
- Optimum Nutrition Glycomaize
- Optimum Nutrition Opti-Men
- Universal Fish Oil Pills
- Universal Storm (For the last 8 weeks of my last bulk)
Advice For Others
What are your best 3 tips for someone looking to make their own transformation?
- Don’t worry about what anyone thinks or says in the gym. When people ask for advice I usually ask, “What has kept you from going and training with weights or from exercising?” Most people respond, “I don’t want to look like an idiot.” This is what the majority of the people I’ve worked with or helped are most worried about. My advice is to not care what other people in the gym are thinking or doing. You’re not there for them, you’re there for you, and chances are they’re not even looking at you anyway. Be oblivious to the haters and or people “mirin” and you will achieve the physique of your dreams.
- Find what works best for you. There are so many workouts you can find online or in magazines, but just because they worked for someone or are published in a magazine doesn’t mean it’s the end all be all of exercising. I had to go through (and still go through) a lot of trial and error to find what works for me and I stress that to everyone that asks. A lot of people go on this split or that split and have difficulty with it and my advice is to devise your own split, something that you know your body will respond to.
- Never be satisfied with yourself. If you get to a point where you’re content, then you’re not going to work as hard as you did before. . Don’t ever be content. Ask for critiques and find new things you want to work on. If you continue to find things you want fix or tweak and constantly set new goals for yourself then you will continue to improve.
How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?
I stay motivated because I am never satisfied anymore. Once I reach a goal I set a new one and do everything I can to reach that goal. My advice to others is to do the same. If you are having trouble doing that, then find someone to motivate you. I’m training one of my best friends right now, and he had a little trouble motivating himself, so I offered my hand. As a result, he has lost more than 40 lbs in the past 8 weeks because I do everything I can to motivate and help him. Never underestimate the power of a good friend, lifting partner or a good trainer. Find someone you can trust and stick with it. The hardest part is getting started, but once you do, and once you make a habit out of it, it will be like any other habit you’ve had, it will become routine and even replace bad habits.
Your Life Now
What is your life like now that you’ve made a transformation?
My life is great. I’m the most confident I’ve ever been in my life and I plan on competing in 2013. I have started my own training camp, Camp Swole and I want as many people to be apart of my team as possible. Being “Swole” is just about being jacked up and big, it’s a positive lifestyle that I want to share with any and everyone in the world. Aside from me running actual training camps and training people, if you’re working your butt off in the gym, and in the kitchen, and have a confident and positive attitude, you’re camp swole. I want people from all over the world to show and prove how swole they are and that’s another reason I stay so motivated.nnIt’s all about spreading a positive message to everyone that they can be whatever they want to be if they dedicate themselves to this lifestyle.
What motivates you currently to keep improving yourself?
I really want to compete and make a living off my body. If I’m just some guy preaching about “get swole” without actually being swole, then I’m nothing to an audience, but if I keep myself shredded and huge and continue to improve, then maybe they’ll take me seriously. I want to make Camp Swole as legit as possible and hopefully one day make it big, so I have to keep improving in order to do that. Potential camp swole members motivate me to get even better, and hopefully my improvements will motivate them. I also have to keep improving if I ever want to get sponsored or compete.
Anything else you would like to share?
I know I have said this a few times, but Camp Swole is a lifestyle I want everyone to be apart of. I’m repping Camp Swole all f’in day. I want everyone to be as confident as I am, and feel and look as good as they want to. I also want to shout out Randall P, Tim Bonanno and most importantly my girlfriend Kelly for always supporting me and helping me push past my limits, one rep at a time.
How Can People Contact You?
How can people contact you?
The best way to initially contact me is:
We can exchange info on either of those sites.