Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Science Behind Bodybuilding

WORLAND, Wyo. - There may not be a sport where the disparity between preparation and performance is wider.

Consider up to 20 years of muscle building, a year or more of intense cardiovascular training, and, arguably the most difficult part, 17 to 20 weeks on a designer diet, developed to maximize calorie deficit and protein intake in order to decrease body fat to below 3 percent.

All this preparation for what amounts to just a few minutes on stage. Welcome to the world of competition body building.

Considering the amount of necessary preparation, the sport is relatively new to Matt Jordan. And after an extended break to attend to business and family, the sport is new again for Marc Bennett.

The two workout partners took a trip to the Rocky Mountain Body Building Championships in Denver last year. The televised competition is a national qualifier and attracts around 200 body builders from several states. Bennett had competed in the event two times before, the last time being nine years ago.

"I wanted to see what it was like," said Jordan. "We thought it would be fun to try and compete in it this year."

So after a year of intense training, the duo will hit the highway to compete in the high-profile competition this weekend.

Competing in athletics isn't new to either Worland resident. Bennett, who owns Worland Health Club with wife Jodi Bennett and turned 38 just last Friday, was a collegiate wrestling standout. Jordan also competed as a high school wrestler.

Bennett never lost the competitive spirit of his wrestling days and has been body building off and on for the past 15 years, including five competitions. For Jordan, 33, staying in shape has always been a priority. This will be his first body building competition.

Although the training requirements for body building may be very specific to the sport, the wrestling experience has helped both competitors get used to the intense program. The biggest similarity is weight control.

Bennett said that while the age of 38 may not be described with terms like "spring chicken" in many sports, body building's top professionals are typically in their mid-30s to mid-40s.

He said it can take 20 years to develop the proper muscle mass. Whereas a person could healthily lose a pound of fat a week, it can be quite a task to build three pounds of muscle in a year, he said.

The diet and cardiovascular portions of preparation are necessary to bring the muscle mass to the surface.

"The whole object is to display as much muscle as you can and as little body fat as possible, because that's what allows you to see the muscle," said Bennett.

Body builders do this by creating a calorie deficit through diet and low-intensity, high fat-burning cardio workouts.

This portion of preparation generally takes 17-20 weeks in advance of a competition. This is also the period of time when the athlete begins to feel the physical effects of their sport. Simply put, with less energy from the calorie deficiency and extremely low body-fat percentage, the athlete becomes tired, hungry and _ yes _ grumpy.

According to Bennett and Jordan, this is the most difficult part of their sport.

"When they're hungry all the time, just like anyone else, they tend to lose patience a little quicker," Jodi Bennett said.

Jordan said the calorie deficit and muscle building is truly a delicate balancing act.

"I'm eating six times a day," he said. "Now, those meals don't fill me up as much as I would like. In order to lose the fat during the 17-20 week prep period, you can't starve yourself. You'll lose all the muscle. You have to work hard to maintain the muscle while the fat comes off slowly."

Jodi Bennett said the body builders' commitment to competing without performance-enhancing substances serves as an example for others.

"It can be done, and they can win (without performance enhancers)," she said. "They can do fantastic and have a great time and still be a role model. It's important that this is how they represent Worland and themselves."

The athletes don't dwell on the fact they may be competing against other body builders using performance enhancers.

"It is important to a point," said Jordan. "It's not something that I even worry about. If there was a magic pill, then everybody would be taking it. The magic pill is hard work, it's in the gym every day. It's keeping to your diet and not cheating."

Bennett previously qualified for the national competition but declined to participate because of business and family responsibilities at the time. This time, however, his ultimate goal is to finish in the top five in his weight class at the national competition.

Jordan said he's looking for fun in his first competition.

Both athletes have bigger priorities immediately following this weekend's show. For Bennett _ spicy enchiladas and zucchini bread. For Jordan _ anything as long as there is a lot of it.

Information from: Northern Wyoming Daily News,

By Bob Vines

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