Jesse Dale is a natural bodybuilder, contest promoter, and a contest prep coach. In this interview, Jesse shares some client success stories, and talks about why it's important to stick with a workout plan.
Muscle & Strength: You starting competing as a teen. Tell us how you made the jump from a casual lifter to competitive bodybuilder at such as early age? What motivated or inspired you to compete?
Jesse Dale: I never really excelled at team sports despite being one of the strongest and fastest athletes on the field. Coaches never bothered to invest any time or effort on teaching me the fundamentals of the game. My senior year of high school I had no avenues that I really excelled at to compete in. My brother, Jason, taught me the fundamentals of working out. I stuck with it and began to be known around the neighborhood for my strength and development. Since I could only depend upon myself to increase my strength and muscularity, I stuck with it and began to read and research anything that I could get my hands on pertaining to the topic.
My high school did not have a strength coach or anyone knowledgeable on the topics of strength, conditioning, and bodybuilding so I had to conduct my own research. I have always enjoyed competing at sports that I had complete control over (I was a sprinter in high school) and was intrigued by the science of building muscle and nutrition. When I learned about bodybuilding shows I figured that the only way I could do ok was to train smarter than my opponents and at the same time work harder than them. For me the science behind proper training and nutrition consumed me leading me to go to college for Exercise Science and get 5 national certifications for personal training.
My first show that I did as a teen I won, competing against 8 others in the teen class. This really motivated me to continue to learn and workout hard. I really enjoy helping other get involved with the sport and feel that to remain credible I need to continue to build a winning legacy with my own physique. I believe that we all have a natural potential, what motivates me is attempting to come closer to my potential with each show that I do.
Muscle & Strength: I'm sure you get many questions asking about your current training approach. I'm more curious about what style of training you did when you made your greatest gains. When did you make your greatest gains, how were you training, and what training mistakes did you make at that time?
Jesse Dale: In the process of reading, getting certified, and going to college for Exercise Science I stumbled upon a book by Dr. Frederick Hatfield titled Bodybuilding: A Scientific Approach. I modeled my entire workout program around Hatfield’s philosophies. I also attribute almost all of my gains and scientific knowledge of the sport to this book. Hatfield has been talking about BCAA supplementation for decades, way before it was back in vogue to take BCAAs pre-contest.
The model of training that I mainly follow is holistic training or muscle fiber type training. This entails selecting 3 exercises per body part and performing 3 sets (after warm up) of 5-7 very explosive reps as heavy as possible with little eccentric. The next exercise I execute 3 sets of 9-13 reps in a slower more rhythmic pattern, I then end with the third exercise with very high reps (up to 40). I execute these very slow and controlled. This model hits my type IIB muscle fibers, type IIA, and type I. Over time I have curtailed this model to better fit myself depending on if 1 muscle fiber type is more dominant from one muscle to the other.
I saw the greatest gains in 2004 using this model and since then I have added 3 other models to my contest preparation and am currently in the best shape that I have ever been in using my current program. My entire base and infrastructure is based on the teachings of Dr. Hatfield. Now I structure my macrocycle into 4 mesocycles each with a different style of training. Phase I is hypertrophy training as described above, Phase II is lower volume, higher intensity training to build off Phase I. Phase III is high volume, high intensity, and Phase IV is fat loss. Each phase key areas such as volume and intensity are manipulated to stimulate the desired hormonal response in my body and prevent adaptation from taking place. My diet and nutrition program run congruent with the training phases.
The biggest mistake that I have made is not following my entire plan through and attempting to add variables from several other models into my own. When you do this you’re left with a blend of several programs - it simply falls apart. Find a program and stick with it, avoid those who feel that their way is the only way and who criticize your program. My mistakes always stemmed from listening to “the big guy” at the gym who had little to no scientific rationale to his programming at all. My results always halted when I deviated form the original plan or blend 3 different peoples philosophy’s together To this day I avoid the blogs and muscle magazines and remain focused on my plan, not to say there are not other plans out their that work, but I feel that if someone executes a play flawlessly (any play) then they will see success, especially if the playbook is written based off a sound and scientifically based rationale.
Muscle & Strength: Great advice. I thought I was the only one who owned that Hatfield book, until I met you and Sean Sullivan. You bring up an interesting topic that I would like to ask you more about, and that is sticking with a workout plan and adjusting it to your unique needs. What can you tell a beginner about finding a workout and sticking to it? Are there workouts to avoid? How do they pick the right workout, one that will serve them well over time?
Jesse Dale: In today’s world the best advice that I could give is to find an accomplished and knowledgeable person who can thoroughly outline a plan for you. It should be like an interview process. First see if there are any knowledgeable trainers who specialize in contest preparation in your area. If there are not then at least set up a face to face with the person first before hiring them. Once you are in front of them be prepared with a list of tasks that you would like to accomplish (be specific, increase my leg press by x %, decrease my body fat by x %). Ask the person to specifically outline their game plan for you based of what your goals are. I am HUGE into education and one of my biggest pet peeves is gym folklore or gym logic, thus I HIGHLY suggest that the person who you are potentially going to hire is a professional with at least a national certification to back up their advice. Also look at their experience, do they do this part time or is this their profession, can they provide references, do you connect well with them.
Programs to avoid would be ones that over promise typically found in the Muscle Mags. “Gain 20 lbs in 20 days” “Lose 3% body fat in 2 weeks” etc. Solid results do not come quick or easy. Picking the right workout without hiring a professional can also be done. Even a flawed plan executed flawlessly will deliver results. I would suggest finding a beginner level book, studying up on the physiology, biomechanics, and fundamentals of nutrition, and follow a plan suggested in that book. Great sources can be old college Exercise Science text books. They are scientific and full of information and can be found cheep if you purchase the older editions. Look for text books from the Exercise Science department such as Weight Training Fundamentals, Exercise Science 101, etc. A decent book that I read earlier on was Designing Resistance Training Programs by Dr. Kramer, it’s a bit technical for a beginner but pretty good. Whatever approach you take do not deviate from it, stick with it until the end.
Muscle & Strength: You are involved with contest prep. How long have you been assisting other athletes and what services do you provide?
Jesse Dale: I have been assisting others in contest preparations for the past 8 years. I provide complete training protocols, nutrition, and supplementation leading up to the contest. We also offer posing seminars to fine tune the athletes presentation. Normally I break the 16-24 week contest preparation into 4-5 phases depending on the athlete. Every 4-6 weeks I change training, nutrition, and supplementation variables to meet the athletes needs. I strongly suggest meeting once or twice per week to insure that the athlete is executing their workout with the proper intensity however we do have online clients as well.
Muscle & Strength: Can you tell me about some of your client success stories?
Jesse Dale: There are several. The four that stand out the most may not appear to be so impressive to the elite competitor but they stand out the most to me. The first 2 are Doug and James. Neither one of them have ever lifted seriously before and hardly knew that local bodybuilding events even existed. I inspired them that ANYONE can compete regardless of their existing starting point, both had family and demanding jobs limiting their time that they had to spend in the gym.
Doug was more of a mesomorphic build and in his low 40’s, he had a lot of bodyfat to lose. James was in his late thirties and was rather stringy. Neither one of them EVER believed that entering a bodybuilding show would be a remote possibility for them. 16 weeks later Doug had lost over 50 lbs to put a respectful physique on stage. James gained some great muscle and proudly displayed his “new” physique to his friends and family on show day. I choose these 2 because these were your typical average Joes who obtained extraordinary results with very limited resources. Not only did their transformations show the general public that anyone can do this but both of their lives were changed in a big way. It’s my belief that anyone can take someone with great genetics and work ethic and improve on that but the true testament is taking someone from ground zero and building them up.
The two other success stories are from female bodybuilding. Tracy Nash has been a client of ours for over 3 years She came to us 70 pounds overweight, on several medications, and had never heard of physique competitions. Tracy would not dream of even wearing a bathing suit in public and was walking using a walker for some time. Tracy also had several limitations including a few back surgeries that made exercising difficult for her. As Tracy began her training I brought up the prospect of her possibly competing in a few upcoming local shows. I never dreamed that she would place but I was looking for something to motivate her during our sessions. To my surprise she considered it and she bean her Phase I diet and training program.
Since then she has placed first in the OCB Natural Indiana in 2007, 2nd place in the OCB Motown Muscle Classic Pro Qualifier in 2008, OVERALL Women’s Champion in the INBF Tri-State Championships in 2008, and Overall Champion in the NANBF Mrs. Natural Illinois on May 16th 2009. In addition to her bodybuilding success Tracy won a powerlifting meet in winter of 2009 setting a state record for her age class in the SLP Black Iron Open Bench Press and Deadlifting event. All at the age of 46! Tracy’s transformation was so profound that local newspapers and magazines have published her success story. Tracy continues to work with us today with her 2010 goal to get her natural pro card in female bodybuilding. Tracy’s life was so changed that she received her national certification for personal training from the ISSA and is a member of our personal training and contest preparation team!
The other success story would be Traci Ostendorf Traci read my article in Beverly No Nonsense Magazine after taking 5th place at the NPC Natural Ohio in 2008 She like the fact that my wife, Jennifer, and I worked together in addition to the rest of the team to assist others in reaching their potential. We formulated her diet and tweaked her training program helping her to some huge victories. Tracy won her class in the NPC Indianapolis in 2009. She also won The 2009 Circle City Championships. This year she has her eye on revenge in the Natural Ohio and is looking at the Northern Kentucky stage later this year.
Muscle & Strength: One of the most frequent type if questions I hear is along these lines..."I am 18 years old and 5'10", 145 pounds with 9% bodyfat. I want to gain muscle without adding any more fat." What advice would you give to a young lifter like this?
Jesse Dale: That is tough question for my personality because I don’t agree with “canned programs” or any one method that works for all. All of my methods are personalized towards the individual. The very best advice for this person would be to interview several qualified professionals and pick one and stick with his or her advice. The second best advice that I could give does not sound fancy but I would say build a solid foundation with the basic free weight movements, eat solid nutrients (protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats) every 3 hours, drink a gallon of water per day, and invest in a good creatine product and meal replacement/post-workout protein shake. I would also advise them to do some soul searching on their existing training mentality. Are they focused in the gym and able to push themselves to true physiological failure as opposed to mental failure. Young lifters tend to jump around from program to program so I would really emphasize consistency of the basics.
Muscle & Strength: Tell us about you involvement with show promotion? How long have you been promoting natural contests, and with what organizations?
Jesse Dale: My wife and I promote the OCB Circle City Championships in May and The Natural Indiana IFPA Professional Qualifier in September. The Circle City Championship is among the largest OCB shows in the country and continues to grow. My wife Jennifer and I almost lost faith in the sport in 2002 when I was offered steroids at a “natural” contest. Back then we did not even know that natural organizations existed. We first learned of the NANBF and then later met Matt Shepley, the president of the OCB. We were judging a pro qualifier that he attended in Ann Arbor, Michigan and we volunteered to assist him with a show that he was running in Indiana. The next year he asked if we could take the show over.
Although we were apprehensive at first I thought back to when I almost quit the sport due to the drugs. The thought of getting high school aged kids and others introduced to the sport really appealed to both of us. Now every decent physique that I run into I tell about natural bodybuilding and natural federations. I believe that bodybuilding can be much more mainstream just like any other sport if promoted properly. This May will the 3rd annual Circle City Championships and September will be the 4th annual Natural Indiana. We feel that the OCB promotes their athletes well and we work very hard to provide a positive experience for all our athletes.
Muscle & Strength: I hope you don't mind if I ask about that "steroids" incident. It seems like a good story. I'm not asking you to name organization names, but can you tell me a little more about that day. Were you competing, and how did it come about that you were offered steroids?
Jesse Dale: It was a natural show in 1999 (not 2002). I was young and my physique was within the middle to end of the pack in a class of 17 or so competitors. Just after pre-judging one of the expeditors took me aside and was excited about the potential that my physique had. He then went on to explain that I could be a great champion after a few cycles of winstrol. I was very taken by surprise and thought that maybe he was joking or testing me in some way so I asked about the show being natural or drug tested. He went on to explain that half my class was probably on something and that as long as you get off in time you will not register positive. I was so disappointed that I did not show back up to the night show. Thinking back I do not believe it had anything to do with the organization at all, just some guy trying to prey on a kid. In my opinion strict drug testing is more dictated by the promoter rather than the organization itself.
Muscle & Strength: What do you like best about working with the OCB and IFPA? And why should young competitors consider these federations?
Jesse Dale: I really appreciate the attention that the athletes receive at OCB shows. Matt Shepley has done a great job expanding the organization with the merger with the NANBF. Finally it appears that there is one large natural federation with a presence. Matt gives us the autonomy to run our shows offering periodic mentoring as we need it. As mentioned the OCB does a lot to promote its athletes featuring pictures of all contestants on the OCB official website as well as giving the athletes great coverage in Fitness and Physique magazine. Promoters of OCB events cater towards new competitors by being available to answer questions and provide general guidance leading up to the show. Although very competitive the shows themselves have a more “personal” feeling to them as opposed to the athlete being treated as a number out of 100’s they feel more unique. Finally, the drug testing is taken very serious with rigid standard that are enforced (urinanalysis and polygraph).
Muscle & Strength: What are your hopes for the sport of natural bodybuilding? And do you believe it will ever make a comeback against the magazines and marketing of the steroid users?
Jesse Dale: In my opinion the sport (natural bodybuilding) is headed in the right direction. With the merger of the NANBF and the OCB, this creates a great stride for the growth of the sport. What need to happen next is all of the natural organizations need to get off their high horses and work with each other. This is the ONLY way that the sport will become more mainstream.
I was conversing with my wife this morning about how the natural physique has really stepped up throughout the years. Today’s class winners in natural shows can hang in most untested shows and today’s natural pros can stand up in almost any show out there. Science and an increase in knowledge regarding proper training and nutrition are now being utilized and have become more mainstream to even the beginning level competitor. The IFBB has appeared to put more of an emphasis on aesthetics and conditioning as opposed to just shear size which is paramount in making the sport more mainstream.