10 KEYS TO SUCCESS IN NATURAL BODYBUILDING
by Ben Yosef with Philip Ricardo Jr.
PRJ is Natural Bodybuilding royalty. With fifty shows and twenty-nine titles (class wins and/or overalls) to his name, Philip Ricardo, Jr. could very well be the busiest, winningest, natural bodybuilder of all time.
Any competitor, past, present, or future, will be hard pressed to compete with such a man. That goes for on stage, as well as number of contest outings.
Has a man of this caliber experienced setbacks and challenges like the rest of us? You bet. Does he have a recipe for success? Yes he does.
I figured I would pick the brain of this living legend and compile a list of keys to his success.
This might just help the rest of us mere mortals get a little bit closer to opening that proverbial lock.
1. MAKE A DECISION.
If you want to come in bigger, let your weight climb and have a solid offseason. If you want to always be in great shape, for appearances, or just for yourself, then keep your weight down.
…in 2010 I was fuller and more muscular than in 2008.
“I am a hard gainer and I also have lots of guest appearances, so I try to stay in decent shape as to not disappoint the bodybuilding fans. 2010 was probably my best year as a bodybuilder, and I attribute that to having a long off-season in 2009. I was actually deployed to Iraq that year but I was able to eat and train (that’s all there was to do there), and I was bigger and stronger than in years past. So in 2010 I was fuller and more muscular than in 2008.”
2. HAVE FUN OUTSIDE OF THE GYM.
I think anything in moderation is ok…
Don’t be afraid to enjoy your life, and let loose once in a while. But, know when you have had enough.
“Being a retired Marine, where we work hard and play hard, I would party most weekends with my friends. Even early in my competition days I would drink, even the weekend before a show. I wasn’t a heavy drinker, just social with friends, at clubs or parties, mostly on Fridays and Saturdays.
I think anything in moderation is ok, and sometimes being too strict and serious all the time will make you not as fun or pleasant to be around during contest prep. [Laughs]
Now that I spend time with my family, and live a much cleaner lifestyle, I might have a drink to celebrate on a special occasion or something. These days I am too old and settled down to party and let loose, so my life now consists of God, Family, and Natural Bodybuilding!“
3. GIVE IT TIME, AND FEED IT WELL.
When it comes to conditioning, give yourself enough time. Also, you are what (and when) you eat.
I diet for 16-20 weeks to get rid of the visceral fat.
“I diet for a longer period (16-20 weeks) to get rid of the visceral fat, adjusting my sodium and water the week before the show, and clean eating. I can physically tell a difference between eating processed foods, or even what may be considered “healthy” foods, vs. eating foods that are very natural or organic without extra fillers and ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
I believe the key to extreme conditioning and achieving a grainy dry look, as well as feeling healthy, is eating clean and using your carbohydrates /fats for energy expenditure (food timing). Also, when I start to eat clean I feel more energetic and my face is clear and healthy looking.
I cycle my carbohydrates by eating higher carb meals on the days I’m most physically active (for example, my heavy leg or back days or two-a- day cardio sessions). That way, I get the most out of my food, while maintaining my muscle mass as best as I can.“
4. STUDY AND PRACTICE.
If you want to make an impression and entertain, you have to put your time in.
Especially when guest posing, I try to create a routine that is theatrical, so the fans can feel like they are watching a movie.
I feel honored and blessed that people enjoy my performance.
“I have been competing for over twenty-one years. When I first started, I was terrible and robotic. I used to just choose a song that was popular, and maybe practice my routine the week before the contest.
Then, I began to study how veteran competitors, and legends like Frank Zane, moved and flowed with the music. From that, I learned how to pose and choreograph. I found a formula that would allow me to show off my physique properly, as well as entertain the audience. Now, I take time to put my routines together, usually eight to ten weeks before the event. And, I try to practice posing five days a week, if time allows.
I normally like to find a song that motivates me, and that tells a story, or has lots of high and low portions throughout the music. This way, the routine creates different moods, usually starting off slower and ending in a climactic finish.
It is very important when transitioning/moving from pose to pose to make it look as artistic and effortless as possible. You do not want to be too stiff or too relaxed as you move into each pose.
5. STAY HUMBLE AND SHARE YOUR GIFTS.
If you remain accessible, and treat everyone as your equal, you can’t go wrong.
“I believe that appreciating everything life has to offer helps me to be able to relate to everyone I meet. I can be on the same level with everyone because no one is above the other except God Almighty.
I always wanted to be great at anything I did, whether it was sports, school, the military, etc. God has blessed me with the gift of bodybuilding and I feel so honored and grateful for it. When people enjoy this gift I was given it makes me feel good and gives me energy. I love to give back to everyone who enjoys what I do.
I feel that you can inspire people more if you share your time with them and help them reach their goals. To be a true role model and mentor you have to be available to people who seek you out.
I have learned over the years that this sport can be very selfish and cut-throat. I was guilty of this early on too. The longer I have been in this arena, the more I have learned that there are right ways and wrong ways to conduct yourself in life. That being said, I know that I still have a lot to learn and a lot of self improvement to do. I love to be open and available to everyone because I want to be a positive representative to the sport and to God.”
6. IT’S EVEN SWEETER WITH FAMILY.
You can enjoy the fruits of your labor if you are a lone wolf, but your experience will feel much more whole with a team, unit, or family.
“I feel that without family support it is tough to be a truly successful person. There is a difference between those who reach success without having a family support system or someone to share it with, and those with family and support. I have respect for both types of successes, but the legacy you leave is much deeper with family and success.
Having great teamwork, especially with my wife, can make preparation much easier when preparing for shows. When my family is proud of what I do it gives me strength, energy, and a great sense of well-being that is priceless.
Can you compete successfully without family? Absolutely, yes! But is it as satisfying and rewarding? What are trophies, titles, and accolades if you don’t have anyone to share them with?
It always brings me so much joy when my kids strike poses for me, and try to exercise with me and my wife. That is a sign that they are proud of what we do and that they also may adopt a healthy lifestyle as they get older.”
7. BUILD YOUR FOUNDATION WITH COMPOUND MOVEMENTS.
Begin your journey with compound lifts. Be prepared to tweak as you get older.
“It’s hard to believe where I’m at in the sport today. I feel like consistent training has been the key.
I have really changed over the years, mostly due to age and the realities of life. When I was younger my foundation was definitely built more on heavy compound lifts with barbells and dumbbells.
That was due to the fact that I had a hard time putting on muscle size. I knew that I had to get as strong as possible with the basic compound movements of bench press, squats, and dead lifts.
As I got into my 30’s I had to adjust to the little aches and pains that occur from consistent hardcore training. I incorporated machines and used more dumbbells for chest due to recurring rotator cuff issues, while I continued to squat with barbells as well as the Smith machine.
I also adopted the principles of periodization training where I would work on power training for a short period of time and switch to more volume training in order to save my joints from the heavy continuous poundage.”
8. PARTNER UP WHEN YOU CAN.
Go it alone if you must. However, you can make even more gains with a partner.
I currently don’t have a workout partner, but I truly wish that I did have one these days. It’s easy to get stagnant and not push to your full potential.
Ever since I retired from the Marine Corps it has been hard to find a partner that has the same work schedule that I do, and is able to push me the way I need to be pushed.
I do enjoy the flexibility of training the way I want to train, going solo. However, to continue to hang with the big boys I really want to find a partner to push me to the limit and maybe incorporate some powerlifting style training into my regiment.
Currently my sponsor, BodyEvolution, flies me into Utah from time to time to train with them. It is an unreal experience working out with BodyEvolution President and National Powerlifting Champion Jason Hansen, and BodyEvolution Trainer, Dave Edgell.
Their strength and conditioning background have given me more tools to develop my physique. Unfortunately, I am only able to train with them a few weeks out of the year.
9. BE PREPARED, STAY RELAXED, AND HAVE A PROCESS.
It’s all a breeze when you dot your “i’s” and cross your “t’s.”
“I have a more spur of the moment approach to contest day (which may not be the best practice for most), due to the fact that I like to interact with other athletes as much as possible backstage. Even though it can be really stressful preparing to get on stage, if you have done your homework with your contest prep, being a little more relaxed backstage can ease the tension and let you have more fun before the prejudging.
I normally wake up at 3:00-4:00 a.m. since I look better as the day goes on, and I try to get a few full meals in and some water to fill me out. I usually eat my last meal, which is typically a protein bar with a little sugar and sodium in it, to help fuel me for the pump up and prejudging about an hour and a half prior. My wife Mary is at all of my shows and has mastered making my tan look awesome! I usually put on a first coat of tan in the hotel room in the morning and let it set. Then, about thirty to forty-five minutes before my class is supposed to start, I have my wife apply another coat while I take my pre-workout, BOOM by my sponsors, Body Evolution. Then, I slowly start to pump up.
I usually do a combination of push-ups, front and side laterals for shoulders, towel rows for back, and use the elastic bands to do a superset of bicep curls and pec squeezes. I also try to find a mirror and strike a few mandatory poses to make sure one last time, that I’m hitting them correctly and ready for the stage. Then it’s show time.”
10. HAVE FAITH.
Philip Ricardo Jr. accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. Whatever you believe in is up to you. Just believe in something.
“I always feel that God has given everyone a gift that inspires the people around them.
God has blessed me with the gift of bodybuilding and I feel so honored and grateful for it.
I love to be open and available to everyone because I want to be a positive representative to the sport and to God.”
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