RJ Perkins is living proof that it doesn't take long to become successful in natural bodybuilding. He trains hard and smart and does his homework. In January of 2008 he dedicated himself 100% to bodybuilding. That same year RJ took home a 1st place finish in his first competition. Two years later he is a Betancourt Nutrition sponsored athlete, and has his sights set on an IFPA pro card.
Muscle & Strength: Everything about you screams results. You've been training seriously for only a few years. You train hard and smart. And you've packed on mass, and took 1st in your first bodybuilding competition. What were the biggest keys for you to accomplish so much in the sport in such a short period of time?
RJ Perkins: Wow, great question. I can choose one word to sum it all up, HEART. I am all heart. When I played football I was never the tallest, biggest, strongest, or fastest guy on the field, but what I lacked in all those categories I made up for it by the size of my heart. One of my favorite movies of all time that has had the biggest influence on me is "Rudy". He is the reason why I wore number 45 on my jerseys and is a true example of having the will and desire to fight for what he wanted, pushed forward when life pushed him back, and never gave up when it stared him in the face. So that is what I can dedicate my current success to, having the heart and desire to never give up, never quit, and never let anything no matter how big or small stop me from what I have to do to be the best I can be.
Besides being influenced by this one person I actually owe a lot of my work ethic, attitude, insights, and outlooks on all I do to my life outside the gym. All my life experiences whether be good, bad, or indifferent have taught me some form of lesson and have helped mold me in to the person I am today. I am far from perfect and my life is far from perfect but it is these things that have continued to help me grow and mature and lay down the foundation for who and how I am am. I also owe it to the people that have been in my life and are currently in my life. Through out my life I have always kept a small circle of people around me. One thing I learned in life is that there are peers, associates, friends, and family, and the small circle I keep is mainly select friends and my immediate family that support me 110% and continue to help me grow.
From then, to as of late, what has helped me and has been helping me is just my dedication to the sport and the desire to be the best. Hands down I know that there is someone out there who is bigger and better than me, that is just the honest truth. The thing that separates me from a lot of others is that I don't let that stop me, I use it as fuel added to my fire to keep going. The one thing I will never let anyone do is out work me. If you want to beat me at any anything and not to go over board with it, but you are gong to have to bleed to do it. I am a fighter and a scrapper, you do 45 minutes of cardio I will do 60, you do 30 reps with 225 lbs I will find a way to do 50, you run 5 miles I will run 20, and on and on. This is just who I am and how I was raised, being the smallest and youngest kid on my block growing and having an older brother can help mold you into a fierce competitor.
I am very happy and blessed of all that I have achieved so far in this sport but more importantly in life. I still have a lot of growing to do mentally, physically,and spiritually and continue to grow everyday. I still have yet to achieve all of my goals in natural bodybuilding and there is yet still more work to be done. I am just enjoying everything that I have been blessed with most recently so far in my bodybuilding career. It is a very long climb to the top and the ladder is on a stagger but I do not plan on falling off anytime soon and do plan on making it to the top one day.
Muscle & Strength: Tell me about your training style. You perform power and hypertrophy work, ala Layne Norton. Why did you get involved with this training style, and what do you believe its benefits are?
RJ Perkins: I guess everyone has finally caught on to how I train and is up to par on Dr. Layne's method of madness, ha ha. This is the style and method of training that I have been using for about 6 - 8 months I would say. When I started my official off-season back in 2008 I actually started with Scivation's "Tri-Phase" training. I used it for sometime and eventually just felt that it didn't get me passed where I wanted to go. Do not get me wrong it is a very solid and productive program and would recommend it to anyone wanting to try something different, but it just wasn't for me. I experimented with so many methods, DC training, Dorian Yates method, high volume, low volume, I mean everything and I was just not happy and or satisfied with my training and results.
I am a huge fan and supporter of Layne, I have been a fan since I researched and began my journey into this sport in 2008. So one day I Googled his (Layne's) training method/style for kicks and jokes to see what would pop-up, and sure enough the basic layout and fundamentals of his program came up. I read it over and read different posts, info, and details on how he (Layne) performed the routine and how others were using it. From everything that I gathered I put together a program I felt was suitable to me and my body and went to work.
The thing that I loved off the bat was that I was able to lift like a powerlifter and a bodybuilder, the style and method reminded me a bit as of how we trained for football in college. Now obviously the movements, volume, sets, and reps are different training as an athlete as compared to a bodybuilder, but to be able to bang out some real heavy weight but also build a sick physique was all I needed. What really put the icing on the cake for me and knew this program was perfect for me was I able to email with Layne for any help, tips, and tricks that I needed to help me get better, and there was never a question he didn't help answer.
I used the program for a whole month, and after that first month my size, strength, weights, and everything went through the roof. The program alone did not get me the results, obviously along with a solid diet and cardio program I was able to make phenomenal results and progress. At one point during my off-season while on this program I was the strongest I had ever been, my strength and numbers were unreal. I personally couldn't believe that I was able to lift what I was lifting. To some people these numbers may not relay as being strong or powerful but being an all natural drug-free athlete it fires me up!
- Barbell Flat Press (Raw) - 335 x 3
- Squats (Raw) - 500 x 2
- Deadlifts (Raw) - 565 x 1
- Front Squats (Raw) - 365 x 3
*When I say "Raw", I mean these are done with no wraps, straps, belts, or anything else.
Unless something happens where a miracle program is developed or I have discovered another secret program this is going to be my main focus on training. It took me little over a year to find a program that works best for me and I have, so if it is not broken why fix it right? The main benefit of this that I have found is that it can be used in and off-season, the idea an concepts behind the program have made it so it can be used as a two headed monster.
Though I have always believed you should never change your training method regardless of bulking, cutting, or prepping, this program keeps that concept. Also anyone looking for a challenge will benefit as well, mainly on my power days I found myself trying to set new PRs (personal records) every week in beating my previous best. This is an all one program I think anyone should at least give this program a try, be warned you will be addicted!
Muscle & Strength: One of the common fallacies in bodybuilding is that "bodybuilders" aren't strong. Yet pound for pound if you competed in powerlifting you would nearly be an elite level lifter. What can you tell a young trainee about the importance of strength, and its impact on muscle building? Just how important is progression of weight?
RJ Perkins: Let me please reformat that fallacy...it is that a lot of people feel and think that "drug-free/all natural" bodybuilders are not and can not be strong. All I have to say is WRONG. Anyone who does extensive following and research on today's natural bodybuilders, we are setting the bars high in regards to strength. People and names such as Doug Miller, Layne Norton, Alberto Nunez, Scott Kluth and others are just freaks of strength. If you YouTube these names and see there videos there strength as natural athletes is unparalleled and bar none. As far as myself I honestly do not consider myself to be on an elite level "yet", but I am proud and satisfied of the progress and numbers I made over my recent off-season and look forward to my continued progression.
It is pretty funny that question is being brought up actually. Someone posted a comment on one of my logs that I keep on a site and said as follows after going to my YouTube page and watching my videos.
"Been to the YouTube site not thrilled with it but then you are a bodybuilder and I'm a powerlifter so your lifts are incomplete from my view. I think you'd gain more muscle if you would do the complex movements fully instead of partial since you are not cutting in those pictures doing a full movement is better. When cutting I can some what see the benefit of partial movements but again not really."
Everyone has their right to an opinion and comments like this do not bother me at all. This just goes to show the continued battle between powerlifting and bodybuilding. In some people's eyes the weight that I move and my form/technique is spot on and phenomenal, and in others eyes my form/technique is crap so the weight doesn't count. It is what it is and I honestly have nothing to prove to anyone besides myself.
I am trying to bodybuild not be the next world's strongest man, so my form/technique is not gong to be that of one. I am not saying that form/technique is not key what so ever that is far from the case. Proper form and technique is the key to one main thing "injury prevention", but in a sport like bodybuilding a lot of what is considered norm goes out of the window completely. One thing people should realize is that powerlifting and bodybuilding are two completely different sports and styles. I just wanted to make that case and point known. So if a powerlifter thinks my squat form/technique isn't the right way to their standards but I gained 2" inches on my quads and continue to make gains and am injury free, then I am doing something right.
Getting back on track, strength plays a key role in muscle growth. Along with many other factors strength can help go a long ways. Now you don't necessarily need to be a strong bodybuilder in order to be a great one, as long as you know your body, diet, supplementation, etc. Think about it the stronger you are the more weight you can move, the more weight you can move the more solid dense muscle you can build, the more dense muscle you have the faster your metabolism increases, and so on. So a slow and steady and increase of strength can lead to other key factors and triggers that can help you succeed and achieve your physical goals.
This doesn't mean that you should go to the gym today and just pick up the heaviest thing you see and try to move it. One main thing everyone needs to realize about this sport especially when you are an all natural athlete is that it takes time. All the great athletes we idolize and who compete today have been grinding this life out and putting forth work to look and obtain the physique and abilities they have achieved. The strength and the physique will come just continue to be patient and give it the best that you can day in and day out.
Muscle & Strength: RJ, I want to ask a popular question..."How do I get abs?" It seems that having abs is almost more important to many then having overall full body muscularity. What does it take to get abs in terms of diet and training? And can you expect to have abs all year round?
RJ Perkins: I do get that question a lot, and I mean A LOT, but the first thing I say is "you have abs they are just hiding under fat". Let me tell you it is the females who ask me how to get abs more than the men and when I tell them that they look at me hard enough they can burn a hole right through me. It is the truth, I am a upfront and honest person and sometimes people just don't want to hear the truth but it is true everyone has abs they are just hidden under the fat we carry.
All in all what people are asking when they ask this question is how can I improve them? The main thing I emphasize is diet. People seem to think that exercising and buying a fat burner alone is going to get it done. This is far from the case. Any form of physique transformation no matter what it is for begins and ends with diet. If you put in insufficient amounts of calories and bad foods you get bad results, you put in sufficient amount of calories and good foods you get good results. So to everyone out there if you want a solid 6, 8, 12 pack start with diet, then work on your cardio and training regimen and you will be surprised the results you get.
Muscle & Strength: Do you enjoy the rush and thrill of competing? And have you developed any competition day rituals...as in limiting water intake, eating only certain foods, etc.?
RJ Perkins: If I didn't enjoy the rush and thrill of this sport I might as well just pick flowers and sew sweaters. I don't get on a treadmill and walk on it for 60 minutes because I need something to do with my spare time. If anyone does not get any form of rush or thrill from this sport they are in the wrong sport. I love this sport and love what I do and I personally feel you need to be a little sick and twisted to want to live this lifestyle. Yeah there are times when I cry, complain, get sick and tired of it all but I have yet to quit because my passion supersedes my ability to give up.
I really haven't developed any rituals or traditions yet as my current prep method and approach is different from my previous one. In regards to limiting water and only eating certain foods my first show I did a water load then deload, I am taking a different approach as my current diet and regimen is different compared to the last time. As far as foods my thing is basically why change the types of food you have been continuously been eating during prep? I have seen guys eat clean sweets, salmon, chicken, brown rice, oats, etc then try to carb load before shows on pancakes, toast, even pizza, and other random crap. Why change what you have been eating to load up, like the old saying "if it isn't broken why fix it?" So in regards my personal food choices I basically keep them the same whether I am cutting the carbs, adding, or loading, I just feel comfortable with that approach plus keeps me mentally sane and I can sleep at night.
Muscle & Strength: Tell me about your relationship with Betancourt Nutrition. How did you get involved with them, and how do you personally use their supplements?
RJ Perkins: First off just want to say it again if I have not said it enough, thank you so much to Betancourt Nutrition for the chance and opportunity to be a part of the team. Betancourt is a phenomenal company and I love being a part of the team. I have great communication with the company which is key to me and the people are real and down to earth. The thing that impressed me the most with the company was that the owner of the company Jorge Betancourt is fully hands on with everything is right there in the battle field with his company, employees, and athletes. To me this just goes to show the dedication and passion behind the company that he has and just motivates me to give my best to represent the company.
As far as getting involved with the company, I was able to make a great connection and network with one of Betancourt’s sales managers for the company. We networked and communicated through a lifting site and the forums. Finally one day we got the talking about setting me up with a possible sponsorship with the company. After laying out the details and what were my personal responsibilities and duties as a sponsored athlete it was a done deal. I have such a strong support system with the company and a great team behind me. They have been doing everything to help make me a better athlete and develop my bodybuilding career. I am very happy and very thankful in my decision to be a Betancourt athlete and could not picture myself being anywhere else.
I receive a lot of emails and messages asking me how I stack the products currently and do my best to help others use our products to their best advantage.
- Magnum Multi-Vitamin - 2 pills w/ breakfast + 2 w/ my pre-wo meal.
- Ripped Juice Extreme - 2 capsule 60 - 90 minutes after my first meal + 2 capsules pre-wo.
- BCAA Chewies - 7 in between meals + 16 post-wo.
- Creatine Chewies - 4 post-wo.
- Big Blend - 2 scoops when needed or when on the run and can not eat a whole food meal.
- BullNox Chewies - 10 chewies pre-wo or BullNox Powder - 2 scoops pre-wo.
- BullRush Recelarator - 2 scoops post-wo.
- Glutamine High-C - 2 servings before bed when I get home from my second job on Fridays and Saturdays or 1 – 2 scoops when needed.
This is my current stack during my show prep training. If anyone has any questions in regards to product and or needs advice on taking Betancourt product feel free to contact me.
Muscle & Strength: What's your approach to cardio, on season and off-season?
RJ Perkins: If I had a choice I would make cardio non-existent, you and I, plus 99.9% of the people out there who live this type of lifestyle hate doing cardio. It is a necessary evil and should be a requirement in everyone's training regimen. Now it is completely obvious that it is required during show prep, but to me the more crucial time is during the off-season. Yes I said it - cardio during the off-season is more important than in season. Now this is my personal opinion and I have my personal reasons as to why.
As far as my approaches to cardio in season as compared to off season the two main difference are one - intensity, and two frequency. The amount that I do and how intense my cardio is are completely different. Though the lay out and format of my cardio is the same, how long I do my sessions and what I do are different as well. The benefits, gains, and positive losses you can get with a strong cardio regimen are astounding. From all the research and reading I have done here are the keys to incorporating cardio especially during the off-season.
- It will increase your appetite which can help you increase your caloric intake and ability to eat clean food to meet your needs to help you grow.
- It increases your cardiovascular system which will help you with your weight training tremendously.
- It helps increase injury prevention which can help keep you from being sidelined and out of the gym.
- It keep fat gains at a minimum so you don't have to diet, train, and prep longer than needed for a show (I had to learn this the hard way).
There are more reasons but these are just some of the key factors and benefits behind doing cardio especially during off season. There really is no need to elaborate and go into detail about for show prep. We know why we do it and we all know that we do a lot of it and hate it. Once again it is very necessary. For those looking to get started and involved with the sport of bodybuilding get used to the treadmill, elliptical, stair master, and any other piece or form of cardio as it will be your best friend next to Tupperware.
Muscle & Strength: What are your short and long term bodybuilding goals, and when will you be competing in the near future?
RJ Perkins: Right now I am in full prep mode for and up coming show. I am not giving out full details as things are subject to change depending on how prep goes. I will make sure and announce across the Internet where, when, and what show I will be competing in. As far as the short term goal it is currently being worked on. I am prepping to earn my IFPA Pro Card, it has been my passion to earn it since I picked up natural bodybuilding. My current prep has been long, rough, and with one main focus "WINNING". Everything from my diet, training, and cardio has been full tilt, everything pushed to the max to help make me the absolute best athlete on stage.
It has been quite an experience so far with all new training and diet tactics plus working two jobs there are days where I do not absolutely want to move or get out of bed. I do though and I make sure I am always taking it day by day and one step at a time. One thing I am always making sure of is that my competition is not out working me. I have been doing everything keeping in mind that there are people out there trying to beat me. So I give everything 110% everyday making sure that I am out working them so that if I do not claim victory on the day of my show, I know I gave everything that I hadphysically, mentally, and spiritually.
As far as long term if you are not always wanting or seeing that you need improvement you will never be better than average. I have years ahead of me, Lord willing I stay healthy and he/she keeps me on earth long enough to see them. I just want to continue to grow and become a better athlete. Not just physically but mentally as well, I know for a fact that I will become a IFPA pro, whether it be this year, next year, or whenever it will happen. I guess we will have to see later this year. Regardless if it happens or not I am going to continue to work and give it my all everyday to make sure that I am the absolute best athlete I can be.
I am also looking to expand and grow my name in the industry. I would really like to become the next face of natural bodybuilding. Let me be real - there are thousands of great athletes out there and I mean thousands. I won't let that stop me though, so I am looking to continue to market myself and expand my name. I am already with a phenomenal supplement company Betancourt Nutrition that have been an absolute pleasure to be part of such a great company and team. That is really it, I am just staying hungry, keeping my eyes and ears open, and keep my dreams alive!