Sean Sullivan Athlete Profile

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Sean Sullivan
Quick Stats
  • Sean "Sully" Sullivan
  • 1965
  • Cape Cod, MA
  • 5'6"
  • 156-165 lbs
  • 32
  • My girlfriend's glutes! Oh, mine? Chest
  • Deadlift
  • Fish Oil
Sean started competing at the age of 16, and has more then 70 competitions (and dozens of victories) under his belt.

Your Background

Competition History

Ok, that is like 70+ shows so I’ll just hit a few highlights.

  • 1981 Mr. Cape Cod 4th teen (my first show)
  • 1983 Mr. Cape Cod 1st teen
  • 1986 Mr. Venice Beach 1st
  • 1988 Mr. LA 1st
  • 1991 AAU New England 1st
  • 1992 NABBA Mr. Bay State 1st
  • 1993 NABBA Mr. MASS 1st
  • 1994 NABBA Natural USA 1st
  • 1995 AAU Natural Jr. Nationals 1st
  • 1996 ANBC Yankee Classic Overall Champion
  • 1996 ANBC North Atlantic States overall champion
  • 1997 ANBC Mr Cape Cod 1st
  • 1998 Old Orchard Beach 1st
  • 2001 ANBC Granite State overall champion
  • 2001 NBI Natural USA 1st
  • 2003 OCB Steel City 1st
  • 2003 DC Musclemania 1st
  • 2003 ANBC National overall champion (it took me 6 attempts but I got this one!)
  • 2004 NPC Northern States 1st
  • 2004 NPA Tri City overall champion and Masters champion
  • 2005 OCB Yorton Cup 1st open and 1st Masters
  • 2006 USBF Nationals 1st and 1st masters
  • 2006 NBI NY pro 2nd
  • 2006 NPA Fall Classic pro/am 1st
  • 2006 USBF Baltimore pro 3rd 

Sean Sullivan on TrainingWhat is your background and how did you get started in bodybuilding?

I was a troubled youth in Columbus, OH, and one day I had a chance encounter with a big Austrian guy named Arnold. He was giving a seminar with Mike Mentzer and a few other bodybuilders and I sat in. He was charismatic, confidant and everyone loved him - the exact opposite of me. After the seminar I asked him how he learned to like himself. He stopped what he was doing, talked to me for a few minutes and called another guy over who gave me two tickets to the 1979 Mr. Olympia.

The next day I watched Frank Zane become Mr. Olympia. After the show Arnold saw me and had me talk to Mike Katz, school teacher, Mr. America and once picked on cast off as a youth. Mike was the exact opposite after his exposure to bodybuilding and we talked for a good hour. The following week my mom bought me a weight set and bench press and I started doing my homework. If not for that meeting I would either be dead or perhaps in jail.

Why do you love bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding in its true form is not a sport or an art form, it’s a discipline just like the martial arts. It’s a combination of mind, body and spirit and teaches you that you can visualize and become anything you want! I am so glad that I experienced the end of the golden era of bodybuilding. That was a time when training was a fellowship and bodybuilding taught you more then lifting and being a bad **^%.  Now the sport is about ego and the message, for the most part, is tainted.

Helping others and learning to achieve inside and outside the guy is not the meaning anymore, now it's about who is bigger or stronger than who. Sometimes I meet people who “get it” and have used bodybuilding to improve all aspects of there life. People who help others, don’t strut around and talk down on people and who have real confidence. I see too many shallow people who have nothing inside and develop huge muscles as a way to compensate for insecurity. If they could just embrace the same lessons they use to get 20” arms to every other part of there life they would be much more happy and adjusted.


What is your training philosophy?

Back in the 80’s I was in the Marines and stationed in California. I was able to work with the two smartest bodybuilders of all time, Don Ross and Vince Gironda. Both taught me the one truism of bodybuilding, the body adapts to its stressors so you must constantly change your program. I call it the adaptogenic response and I found the longer I trained (in years) the faster I adapt to a program and must change the program. I don’t mean just swapping the order of exercises, I mean a nuts to bolts change. At this point I acclimate in 14-21 days. I find my clients adapt in 2-6 weeks so I am always changing their programs. This is the only real constant I have found in 30+ years of research and writing programs.

What's a good workout routine that has given you results?

I will give you a current program that many of my clients are thriving on. It’s a variation of the 10 X 10 and was something I got from a recent Charles Poloquin article.

The split is:

  • Day 1 - Chest and back
  • Day 2 - Legs
  • Day 3 - Off
  • Day 4 - Arms
  • Day 5 - Off

You alternate the workouts. So for chest if your two movements are bench press and incline bench press, you alternate them each workout. You also alternate the body parts. So let's say back day is chin ups and rows, workout one you do a set of bench press, rest 45 seconds, do a set or chins, rest 45 seconds. Until all 10 sets are done. The next workout you alternate the inclines and rows. You end each workout with an isolation exercise for 3 sets of 12 to 15 reps, superset with the opposing body part. At the end of arm day do a tri-set for delts in the 8 to 10 rep range. No other direct delt work because of the volume of chest and back. Program lasts 60 days, so you do each cycle twice, but the second time through you must use a significantly higher weight! Here is a sample:

Sean Sullivan Natural Bodybuilder



Alternate one set of bench press, rest 30-40 seconds then do a set of chins, rest 30-40 seconds and back to the bench press. Do this for all 10 sets and use a 10 rep max weight and use the same weight for all 10 sets.






Sean Sullivan Champion BodybuilderArms

The nest time through do the same workouts but do 10 X 5 not 10 X 6 and use your 8 rep max. After that rotation do 10 X 4 with your 6 rep max. The next time through you go back to 10 X 6 but increase the load by 10%. This is a 60 day program but use an extra rest day or two when you need it.

If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  1. Deadlift; works the entire lower body as well as most of the torso.
  2. Dips; It’s a upper body squat.
  3. Clean and press; works the lower body and the vertical pressing plane.

What's the best training tip you could give to others?

Research everything! Don’t just follow something someone says on the message boards or in the gym, look it up. There are many good sources of solid information and most have nothing to do with the popular sites. For example when I am asked about a supplement I go to and look it up. So do your homework!


What is your philosophy on nutrition?

It's as individual as a fingerprint. You have to know your own tolerances for calories, fats, proteins and carbs and what type of carbs work for you. This requires a baseline diet. I have an article on my website that goes over the basics of the baseline diet, but it’s the most important first step in any nutritional program. In fact, one’s baseline needs changing all the time through a variety of factors, age, stress, workload and many others. I baseline every client to assess their needs and baseline myself every so often. I have found carb and caloric needs change as well as a need for increased EFAA’s. Would you ever attempt to navigate without a map and compass? Then how can you start a nutritional program if you have no idea where you are?

Give us a typical day in your off season diet:

Again it changes but here is my current diet:

  • Meal #1 - 6 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 1 cup oatmeal, 1 orange, apple or 1/2 grapefruit.
  • Meal #2 - 6 ounces lean meat (chicken / turkey / fish, lean ground beef), 3 cups veggies or a large salad and 28 almonds.
  • Meal #3 - 6 ounces lean meat, 2 cups vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.).
  • Pre-workout - 1 scoop whey protein, 1 scoop creatine.
  • Post-workout - 1 scoop whey protein, 1 scoop creatine.
  • Meal #4 - 6 ounces lean meat, 1 cup vegetables, 1 cup rice.
  • Meal #5 - 6 egg whites, 2 table spoons natural peanut butter, 2 cups veggies.

Sean Sullivan Bodybuilding Advice

Give us a typical day in your diet (contest prep):

Again, it changes. I start by making a 10% cut (mostly carbs) and keep cutting (mostly carbs) till I am on a low carb diet and I add a re-feed every three days. This is same as the Beverly diets or the Scivation diets and has been around a long time! I picked it up from Vince Gironda and he got it from Reho H Blare in the 50’s, so its been used successfully for over 55 years. Now this is my style diet, I don’t use this from my ecto or meso clients, but for us endos it's great!

  • Meal #1 - 5 egg whites, 2 whole egg, 1/2 grapefruit.
  • Pre-workout - 1 scoop AST VP2 whey protein.
  • Post-workout - 1 scoop AST VP2 with 5 grams micronized creatine.
  • Meal #2 - Lean meat and veggies and 28 almonds..
  • Meal #3 - 6 oz. chicken or turkey breast (weighed prior to cooking), 3 cup vegetables and 28 almonds.
  • Meal #4 - Same as meal #3.
  • Meal #5 - 6 oz. lean meat (chicken, lean beef, turkey breast), 3 cup vegetables (green leafy is best here - spinach, asparagus) or 2 scoops Met-Rx Protein Plus powder.
  • Mondays and Thursdays - Eat the following in place of your 5th meal at the end of the day: Or if you are hungry, you may add it as an extra 6th meal: 1 cup oats, 8 oz. sweet potato, 4 oz. banana. 2 teaspoons butter or oil or natural peanut butter.

What are your favorite meals and foods?

I love veggies and almonds.

Favorite cheat food?

Never met a pizza or cookie I didn’t like.

What's the best training tip you could give to others?

Learn your body needs and work with it. If you’re a meso and process carbs - well - why do a keto diet? Or if you’re a endo with insulin sensitivity problems don’t do a high carb approach. Learn your body.


Sean Sullivan Shredded Natural BodybuilderWhat supplements do you use that give you great results? How do you use them?

  • Fish oils; EFA’s are needed for every body process and have been linked to increase fat loss, body comp changes and hormonal balance.
  • BCAAs; the only true anabolic compound. BCAAs are anabolic when dosed accordingly. No, you will not get steroid gains, but you will increase your rate of muscle synthesis.
  • Micronized creatine. Yes, good old cheap creatine is still #1 on the block. Sure all the fancy stuff is good to, but the cheap stuff still does all it says and costs ¼ as much as the latest “new thing”! Creatine is like a tooth brush. For 300 years man cleaned teeth with a simple tooth brush, but over the last 10 years we have redesigned the tooth brush 10,000 times and have a team of NASA scientist working round the clock on the tooth brush problem! Ask a dentist and they will tell you a normal soft is A OK! Same with creatine. You don’t need to add the kitchen sink. By the way, know all those tests on creatine the guys in lab coats do? The one’s that all say it’s the real deal and works as advertised? Well here is a little tidbit, they only use pure creatine monohydrate

What brands do you think are offering the best products at the moment?

I love Beverly, Gaspari, Labrada, Scivation, Phenom Labs and AST.

What do you think is a good off season muscle building stack?

Squats and deadlifts. Oh you mean supplements? Fish oil at 6-10 grams a day, 5 grams of creatine monohydrate and 30 grams of BCAAs.

What do you think is a good pre-contest/fat loss stack?

Cardio and diet. As for supplements, the same as above now that the ECA or EC stack is gone but I find green tea is good. Yohimbe is helpful, for those who can tolerate it, to help with stubborn fat.

Advice For Others

What are the 3 best tips you'd give to someone thinking about competing in natural bodybuilding?

  1. Go watch a show and get a feel for what goes on. This will help with that first time lost feeling.
  2. Learn the rules and regulations for the federation your going to do. For figure ask about the stage walk and how to pose. Same for bodybuilding, learn how they want the poses held and the basic regulations.
  3. If you use a coach for your diet make sure it’s someone who has a track record with natural bodybuilders. Drugs change everything, and make sure it’s not someone who had 1-2 successful clients. Find the guy who has taken 20-30 OK clients and given them marked improvements. And make sure they don’t have a one size fits all diet approach. 

What is your best advice for looking your best on competition day?

Learn how to pose! I have seen so many great physiques fail to do as well as they should because of poor posing. More so than tanning, trunk color or grooming, your posing will either help you excel or hold you back.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who's having trouble staying on track?

This will sound crazy but help someone. I am serious, find someone in the gym who is starting out, or perhaps they have stalled too and help them, become a coach. It’s so motivating to help other and seeing there progress motivates the person helping. Remember what I said about the golden era? Well that is what they did back then and it will work now just as it did then. And you will have a feeling of accomplishment that can only be attained through helping other.

Sean Sully Sullivan Natural Bodybuilder

Future Plans

What shows have you got coming up, where can we see you compete?

I am retired…but I would keep an eye on the stage at the IFPA Gaspari Pro in 2010.

What would you like to achieve in your natural bodybuilding career?

My only goal was to place top 3 in a show so I have already exceeded all my goals. The sport owes me nothing so now it's time for me to give back.

Favorite Competitors/Goals

Who are your favorite bodybuilders and idols?

There is a long list but if I had to pick one it would be Phillip “Rico” Ricardo Jr. Not only does his physique stand alone he is a true bodybuilder and gives back to the sport. He has no ego and is a man of integrity and honesty. We need more like him, Semper Fi!