Friday, April 19, 2019

With Regard to Supplement Stores

First and foremost, I'd like to thank both Rob Nieters and Travis Schnell for all their support of NPC Strong Kentucky, it's been great having them on the team. It's also been great having a partnership with Blueprint, now Louisville Supplement Store. This relationship will continue for another six weeks through their advertisement on our various pages and platforms. However, upon the end of the ad bloc, NPC Strong Kentucky will be completely unobstructed from working with any shop and any athlete it so chooses. That being said, we will more than likely not have another official shop sponsor, opting instead for our meal sponsor, gyms, and other businesses in the fitness industry.

I feel very strongly about my decision to interview all of the athletes I have. I will continue to do my best to help NPC and IFBB Pro League competitors in KY, to realize their fullest potential. Unfortunately there may be some folks, perhaps with a little clout, who stand in the way of unity, but rest assured, 2019 will not be another 2018.

With regards to any feuds, whether past, present, or future, in Louisville, the position of this page, is one of absolute neutrality. Our #1 goal to GROW the NPC in KENTUCKY.

Once again, I'd like to thank Rob and Travis for their friendship - they're great people and do a lot of good. I'd also like to thank everyone in the NPC community in The Bourbon State. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Major Posing Announcement Coming - 2019 Kentucky Open / Kentucky State

It seems the gym world is buzzing throughout the Bourbon State, as Kentucky Open/State promoter Gene Goode is about to make a major posing announcement regarding his upcoming event at Rupp Arena. The contest, whose home venue in Frankfort was demolished, moved to Owensboro in 2018, enjoying huge numbers. Now, in 2019, the promoters will bring the best stage in Kentucky to Lexington's most talked about venue. Everyone is super pumped, but now with the upcoming posing announcement, the anticipation is building. Initially, when I first read the post, I thought maybe it'd be GAT athlete, IFBB Pro Kevin Johnson, considered one of the greatest posers in the country, if not the world. Johnson won Goode's Kentucky State in 2012; however, upon re-reading the post, it clearly states that the person in question is female. Who could it be then?

Kentucky has some very impressive female posers. There's IFBB Figure superstar Autumn Cleveland, who was part of last weekend's wildly successful Team Hornback posing clinic, and who commands legions of diehard fans. Cleveland's posing is so on point, she's been a part of numerous clinics and featured in countless articles and media coverage.

Another big name that comes to mind, is Ms. Kentucky Donna Williams Salib. Donna guest posed years ago, as an amateur, and later as a pro. She's placed Top 5 at IFBB Pro League pro shows and has a number of fans throughout the country and around the world. Donna knows how to bring an audience to their feet and keep them engaged!!

Another possibility I had thought was maybe NLSN's Sarah Barnett, who just won the Orlando Europa last weekend and who appears on the Kentucky Open contest posters; however, Goode's announcement clearly states that the person in question is a pro. Nonetheless, Barnett, who's also doing the upcoming NPC Kentucky Derby Festival Championships, may have amassed a series of titles, if not a pro card, by the time the Open rolls around in August.

Whoever the guest poser is, Gene has certainly created a lot of buzz for his contest. I know I can't wait to find out who will be the guest poser he keeps hinting at. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Rhea Wills - Future Social Media Superstar

There are those who dream and there are those who do. NPC Bikini Competitor Rhea Wills is a doer, a go-getter. This hardworking NPC Bikini Competitor and rising, social media star is a sponsored by Blueprint Performance and The Factory Gym (where this interview was filmed). She is also a pharmacy student, working in a hospital, yet finding the time to put her best efforts into everything she does.

As the old saying goes, where there's a will, there's a way.

Be sure not to miss this great interview.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Kentucky Head Judge, Jimmy Hornback's Clinic

If muscle is what makes the fitness world go round, then posing is what illustrates everything we love about the sport. If you were to ask bodybuilding fans who some of their greatest stars are, chances are, they'd name off people who can pose. Guys like the late Ed Corney, Bob Paris, Melvin Anthony and Kai Greene. Unfortunately many of these greats have long retired, but for folks in Louisville and the Kentuckyana region, they're in luck. Kentucky Head Judge Jimmy Hornback has got the knowledge and the eye for talent, that's made him a local legend. 

In addition to Jim, IFBB Pro and celebrated Judge, Monica Hornback, will be in the house, as well as superstars Derek Lunsford, Andre Ferguson, and local hero Autumn Cleveland. This event has it all. Will you be there?

Be sure to head on over and have a blast, both at Louisville Supplement Store, and then walk on over to LAC Westport (less than 100ft away). If you're looking to compete at the upcoming Kentucky shows, in Indiana, or abroad, the lessons you'll learn will be invaluable to you. Who knows, if you compete in one of the many contests in The MAZ offering the Best Poser award, you might just win it because of attending this fantastic event, sponsored by Louisville Supplement Store. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

IFBB Pro Kevin Johnson Signs with Team GAT

IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Kevin Johnson of Louisville, KY, has signed with German American Technologies (GAT). The latest addition to Team GAT, joining fellow IFBB Pro Ty Robinson, shows the company's commitment to giving back, offering professional athletes an opportunity to follow through their dreams in the IFBB Pro League. Johnson, who turned professional at the 2017 NPC Nationals, is also considered one of the greatest posers in the country, if not the world.

Kevin is also a sponsored athlete with Next Level Sports Nutrition, which has stores in Louisville and Lexington, KY, and is prepped by long-time coach and friend Steve Weingarten.

In addition to being to an active competitor, recently competing at the 2019 IFBB Pro League Indianapolis Pro, Kevin trains a limited number of clients, locally. He is also available for meal plans and posing instruction. Be sure to contact him at @1MansTalent on Instagram.

For more information, on GAT, click here, and once again congratulations to Kevin for the big signing!!

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Idea is to GROW, not Divide

There's a reason this whole project is called NPC STRONG Kentucky. The idea is to grow the NPC, here, in the Bourbon State. While I run this unofficial, fan-based, athlete-centered page, I didn't name it. The project was named by my friend and mentor, our NPC Mid Atlantic Zone Chairman, Gary Udit. I have learned a great deal from Gary, as well as our President, Jim Manion (pictured).

I am committed to working with everyone. Have I made mistakes? Absolutely. And sooner or later, I make things right. Just recently I made things right with someone I hadn't spoken to in almost a year, even hugged it out, and I felt like a million bucks afterwards. Also, more recently, I did an interview with someone I've been wanting to do one with for a long time; however, due to ..., let's say, pressure, I didn't feel I should. I even felt the need to say I was going to do the interview beforehand, not really looking for permission, but maybe bowing to that same, pressure. I did the interview, loved doing it, and have zero regrets. Pressure creates tension, tension usually creates ill will, and from there, you have a breeding ground for feuds, rivalries, and cemented divisions.

Over the past eight months I've worked very hard to bridge some gaps in our Kentucky bodybuilding community and my hope is to continue to do so in 2019. Whether it's getting folks to meet, take a photo together, or simply "like" or double-tap each other's content on social media, it's all worked towards that end.

In the future, I'd like to see events with all supplement stores present, all teams present, and everyone having a good time. I'd like promoters to continue playing the great role they do - welcoming all companies at their NPC sanctioned contests. I'd also like to see the press, here in Kentucky, grow. We have a fantastic podcast each and every week called 2 Scoops Radio. I'm pretty sure they've referred to me as Lurch, which was hilarious (hey, at least Lurch has hair!!) Their shows are very informative and entertaining and I usually listen to at least one or two a month (and I don't even like podcasts!!). Do I agree with everything they say? No. But do they have a great show, great production value? Of course. I saw them cover last year's Kentucky Open and they did a fantastic job. How cool would it be if they covered all the Kentucky contests? I'd say, that'd be very cool, and press is what I do. The more, the merrier, because.... it GROWS THE NPC!!!

The big picture is growing the NPC - creating more opportunities, making more money, more contacts, and hopefully, more friends.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Get with the Right kind of Sponsor!

Christian Duque and PJ Braun at the 2018 NPC Nationals.

Competitors looking to make the fitness industry a career - or at the very least, supplement their existing incomes - need to have sponsors. Sponsorships don't just amount to money in your pocket or supplements in your pantry. In many ways, having a real sponsorship, raises an athlete's profile, gives them greater credibility in an industry consumed, if not overwhelmed, by status, and opens even more doors for a hardworking competitor. I don't care how many titles you've amassed, you don't want to walk around without sponsors. In fact, look at 7x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. When he went for #8, he was probably the only bodybuilder on that stage without a supplement contract. Contracts don't affect your physique or, much less, your placings, but anyone, even a reigning Mr. O, without one - just looks weak. And for the record, not all sponsorships are created equally.

So what all does having the right sponsor mean, anyways? 

The right sponsor is a company that takes care of its athletes; it's a company that invests into that athlete, be it featuring them in pop-ups at events, ads in magazines or on websites, and who uses said athlete in marketing campaigns, maybe has shirts made for them, and/or puts them in a prominent place at expos and/or big events. Look at how GAT treats Big Ramy, how Allmax treats Steve Kuclo, or even better examples, how BSN treated Ronnie and/or Muscletech treated Jay. Yes, big paychecks are nice and certainly worth every penny, but the right sponsors can make a rising star, a superstar.

Take my friend PJ Braun, CEO and President of Blackstone Labs, with natural IFBB Pro League Classic Pro Keone Pearson. PJ signed this amazing athlete and put tons of resources into promoting him like only a company like Blackstone can. Whether it was doing podcasts with Keone and his coach, IFBB legend Flex Wheeler, or it was raving about him over countless cardio confessionals to BSL diehards, PJ (a former, top tier national level NPC bodybuilder) made a point of putting all of his considerable cred behind a new competitor. He not only pushed Keone, but he defended the fact he was 100% Natural for these contests. He didn't have to do that, but when a competitor signs to a competitor-owned and operated company, it's a different story than working for a suit. Everything Keone went through, PJ went through. Also, unlike other companies where you can potentially answer to any number of corporate officers and/or a constantly changing roster of bigwigs, with closely-held companies, you deal with the owner(s) directly. That's another thing that makes a company like BSL, the right kind of sponsor. 

The right kind of sponsor pushes its athletes, gives them even more opportunities, and truly helps them grow a larger, stronger audience. These companies see the big picture; they're keen to the fact that the more reach their athletes have, the more it will benefit the company as well. The ROI game is a complex one, but it's not rocket science. The reason most companies don't operate this way, is because athletes usually end up being used like cannon fodder. This is why so many great competitors bounce around companies, because the companies under-pay and over-work them. Would you be a loyal to a company that wanted everything, but did nothing for you? That's the wrong kind of sponsor.

If you're good to your athletes, they'll be good to you. Some companies, however, go above and beyond just being good. Going back to Keone, he's a superb athlete who's earned his gains and truly perfected his craft, but he's also hit the jackpot in having a legend like Wheeler in his corner and a sponsor like Blackstone Labs behind him. I mean, just think about the huge honor to be assessed by Steve Weinberger at the East Coast Mecca of Bodybuilding, days out from one of the biggest contests of your life!! That sort of thing, doesn't just happen, it's the product of many peoples' hard work, behind an athlete. It's truly a movement.

The truth of the matter is this, you can pretend like you don't need sponsors, but if you're serious about taking the next step, then you need to humble yourself and get real. The magazines are dead and the ones still hooked up to life support machines aren't signing exclusivity deals anymore. Long gone are the days you'd get $2k-$5k automatically deposited into your account each month, whether you shot or not, because you couldn't work with anyone else (assuming anyone else even wanted to work with you). The bottom line is, the gravy train - that was the magazines - stopped dead in its tracks about ten years ago. With the advent of more cellphone-friendly social media apps like Instagram, it flooded the industry with a whole new dimension of competition. Many companies would rather hire 10 Men's Physique or Bikini competitors than one or two, very well-paid bodybuilders. Most companies won't even look twice, let alone once, at muscular women. But this is where the old school mentality should kick in. Muscle sells; muscle is what makes the fitness world go round; you just need to know HOW to market that muscle, market your journey, and market yourself. 

Provided you're hungry enough, relentless in your approach, and seize every opportunity to get on the radar of someone like PJ Braun, then it just be you signing that big contract! Who knows, it might be you at the (East Coast) Mecca, you on the massive banners at the Arnold, it might be you getting shot by Jeff Binns, Amir, or maybe even the biggest legend of them all, J.M. Manion. Can this fairy-tale, happy-ending, be the culmination of all your efforts? I guess you'll just have to give it 110% and see.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Factory Gym - Hardcore Since '84

Jay Jones and Jorge Felix are Factory Gym sponsored athletes.

Great Scott, WTF happened to most of the old-school gyms?!?! They're gone!!

Chances are, if you live in just about any major American city, most old school bodybuilding gyms have gone the way of the dinosaurs. In most cities, "gym" chains run the show and they're all locked in battle over the $9.99/$19.99 a month crowd. These facilities typically have massage chairs, tanning rooms, and stuff their members' faces with candy, pizza, and bagels. What they're really good for, exercise-wise, is cardio equipment. Weight-training machines and free weights aren't a priority for them. Other chains, offer more in terms of weights, but charge an arm and a leg. These gyms are obsessed with up-selling, imposing mountains of rules, and even post silly signs in the men's locker rooms - like anyone is going to use certain supplements while using the can (so stupid). Finally, there's some gym owners opting to pay big franchise fees, in order to have one of the 3 biggest old-school gym names over their facility. In a way, having certain names like Gold's, World's, and/or Powerhouse, alone, will bring the bodybuilding crowd in the door. That being said, I've been to gyms with those names on the signage, in cities outside Kentucky, only to walk into what would otherwise pass for a Planet Fitness or Retro Fitness. 

Louisville Metro is Kentucky's largest city-county, with a population of just over 1.2 million, and two medium-sized bodybuilding contests, to its name. Like most American cities, there's a considerable variety of training facilities - all battling it out with marketing campaigns and competing for who's the cheapest - offering the most trivial amenities. Most talk a big game, but don't deliver squat.

The real game-changer, here, is equipment. No gym in Louisville has what The Factory has. You could sit in every conceivable angle and be the biggest Iron MacGyver, but you're not going to be able to hit and stimulate the muscle, the way you'll do at 4709 Allmond Ave STE 3B. Louisville, KY. Even their reverse leg curl machines will blow your mind!! From the most basic to the most intricate, you have access to machines and devices others gyms won't have in a million years! There's plenty "gyms" in the area, but only one Factory - don't be fooled!!

The Factory Gym, whose motto is "hardcore since '84," is all about physique-based and strength-based athletes; it's not just an old school gym, it's like walking into a time warp and there's no telling who you might run into - from pro bodybuilders to powerlifters to pro wrestlers.

The Factory Gym also sponsors some of the best athletes in Kentucky, not to mention, proudly sponsors NPC Strong Kentucky. Be sure to stop by, the next time you're ANYWHERE near Louisville. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Rick Bayardi, Leader of the NPC Kentucky District!!!

Rick Bayardi, Leader of the NPC Kentucky District!!!
By Christian Duque

When it comes to hard work, leadership, and vision, we here, in Kentucky, are extremely fortunate to be led by a district chair like Rick Bayardi. He is the one and only person who runs things in Kentucky, and he’s exactly why this State’s NPC office runs as smoothly as it does. In addition to being an exemplary chair, he also leads the A Team, which works a variety of shows in The MAZ (NPC Mid Atlantic Zone), as well as the most important contest in bodybuilding, the IFBB Pro League Mr. Olympia in Las Vegas, each year. Let’s just pause here for a moment. The Mr. Olympia is often described as “the Superbowl of Bodybuilding,” and rightly so. The fact that Rick’s team is responsible for operationally running this event, this historic, international event, says a lot. Rick and his team are entrusted with a huge responsibility and they never fall short; in fact, they continuously raise the bar, higher and higher.

When you have someone of Rick’s caliber at the helm, it makes the whole process run smoothly, from effective judging panels to clear communication of NPC Rules and Updates to the competitors, and perfect lines of communication between the promoters and the Federation. If there’s ever any confusion as to who is in charge of the NPC, here in Kentucky, I hope this article settles it.

One of the main reasons I started NPC Strong Kentucky, was because I wanted to provide even more customer service to the NPC community here. A big part of customer service, is informing our people, making sure we’re all on the same page, and building a stronger community. I want you, the competitors, to know exactly what’s going on, as well as promoters, vendors, and anyone else interested in our sport. Each state in the NPC has its own leadership. The only two offices that exist, are that of District Chair and District Vice Chair; these are voluntary, unpaid positions. Kentucky’s Chair is Rick Bayardi - there is no Vice Chair. There is also no chair-in-waiting, there is no unofficial chair, and there is absolutely no one who speaks on behalf of Rick - or - who Rick consults with, here, prior to making decisions. The only person Rick consults with is Gary Udit, our NPC Mid Atlantic Zone Chair.

Rick knows this industry inside and out. He knows cool heads prevail and works extremely well given any situation, that’s part of the reason he’s the best. Whether he’s overseeing expediting, promoting a contest, or speaking to a full auditorium of athletes, Rick is always on his game.

In fact, when I asked Gary what his thoughts on Rick’s leadership were, here’s what he had to say, “Rick Bayardi serves the NPC as District Chairman for the West Virginia District, the Ohio District and also the Kentucky District. Thanks to Rick’s leadership, passion, meticulous attention to detail and drive to excel, those districts have become the gold standard in the NPC.”

And there you have it, Kentucky is in very good hands. We have great competitors, vendors, judges and promoters. Everyone plays an important role in growing the NPC and growing the sport. Also, there’s a big reason why so many people love competing in The MAZ. It doesn’t matter if you compete in Delaware, run by its awesome State Chair Todd Howe, Maryland, run by it’s awesome, newly-appointed Vice Chair Tony Roberts, or Kentucky, run by the awesome Rick Bayardi, because if you’re competing in The MAZ - all of our contests run the same way - perfectly! We have amazing district chairs and vice chairs, all trained by, and overseen by our NPC Mid Atlantic Zone Chair, our friend, Gary Udit. Gary and all of the other zone chairs are under the leadership of our esteemed President, Mr. Jim Manion. That’s how all this works and why the NPC is the absolute best, in America, and worldwide!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

NPC Strong Kentucky (Ep1) - Competing in Multiple Federations?

Always think about your BRAND.
PERCEPTION is very important.
Just because you CAN do something,
doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Welcome To the Official Blog

Welcome to the official blog for NPC STRONG Kentucky - a support club for the NPC Kentucky and all things NPC and IFBB Pro League. Please be sure to follow us on Instagram, as well as join our Facebook Page and Group. We will have content throughout the year, releasing consistently throughout the off-season. Please share this blog with your friends.