Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Meet New Competitor: CJ Camacho (U of L Student)

Be sure to check out my interview with aspiring, NPC Men's Physique competitor and U of L student, CJ Camacho at the world Famous The Factory Gym in Louisville, KY. 

Friday, August 23, 2019

Kentucky's Kezia Mullen - 2019 NPC North American Bound

Kentucky's Kezia Mullen is considered by most, to be the state's greatest NPC Figure Competitor, is prepped by the legendary Steve Weingarten, and is sponsored by the world famous The Factory Gym in Louisville, KY. 

Kezia won the prestigious Kentucky Muscle title and will be hitting the big stage at Gary Udit's 2019 NPC North American Championships in Pittsburgh, PA (August 28th - 31st). 

Big shout to IFBB Pro Patricia Brown for sponsoring Kezia competing.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Jodie In Command - Get Fit 24/7 Louisville

Check out my interview with Top Ranked, National Level, NPC Women's Physique competitor Jodie Engle. Recently, Jodie made a career change and is doing what she loves. Don't miss this great interview from Get Fit 24/7 in St. Matthews, Louisville, KY.

Jodie is a sponsored athlete with Next Level Sports Nutrition, Team AllMax, and The Factory Gym Louisville. You can follow her at @JodieAlexisFit on Instagram.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Kevin Johnson - Guest Poser - 2019 NPC Natural Kentucky

During a very successful Free NPC Posing Clinic at Proof Fitness in Lexington, KY, NPC  Mid Atlantic Zone Chair, Gary Udit, announced that Kentucky's own IFBB Pro Kevin Johnson would be guest posing at the upcoming 2019 NPC Natural Kentucky in Covington. This is a key contest that bridges southern Ohio and Northern Kentucky, with competitors coming from nearby West Virginia  as well. This opportunity, coupled with Kevin co-headlining with Gary and IFBB Pro Linda Andrew at this past weekend's clinic, further cements the Louisville native's roots on the pro circuit. Backed by two key sponsors in Next Level Sports Nutrition and Team GAT, the future is looking very bright for one of the most prolific posers of the day.

With regards to the event, its seen a consistent level of growth that continues to provide Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati with world class bodybuilding. Co-promoters Jeff & Angi Schuerman, together with Rick Bayardi and Gary Udit, have done a great job of working within the region, creating, maintaining, and strengthening ties in the community. More over, the contest is extremely fortunate to have the key support of longtime, title sponsor Affordable Athletic Supplements. 

Having a guest poser of Kevin's caliber, coupled with the hard work of the event's four outstanding co-promoters, makes all the sense in the world. This will be an event you will NOT want to miss!!

It'll also be the only Kentucky event I cover for StrengthAddicts and NPC Strong Kentucky. I plan on putting a ton of emphasis on Kevin's appearance. He's a driving force on the Kentucky scene and deserves the star treatment. I was able to do a little bit for this past weekend's clinic, but I will be able to do a lot more for the Natural Kentucky. 

If you'd like to follow Kevin on Instagram, you can do so by clicking here @1Manstalent / He's also a highly sought-after coach, trainer, and posing expert. Be sure to contact him, today.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Posing Clinic NOT to Miss!!

Learn From The Best on Saturday, August 10th, at Proof Fitness!!

If you're a physique-based athlete looking to take your posing to the next level, you simply cannot deprive yourself of the opportunity to attend this Saturday, August 10th's, NPC FREE Posing Clinic, featuring Gary Udit, Linda Andrew, and Kevin Johnson. The event will be held at Proof Fitness (4101 Tates Creek Centre Dr Ste 164, Lexington, KY 40517). It's sponsored by Next Level Sports Nutrition and the KY Open Sports Festival.

Gary Udit is our NPC Mid Atlantic Zone Chair. This zone includes Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, DC, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Gary is also a Mr. Olympia judge. The Olympia has often been, correctly, referred to as "The Superbowl of Bodybuilding." It's the most prestigious physique-based competition on the planet! If and only if, a professional athlete wins the Olympia (in their respective division), can they call themselves the best in the world. Only the NPC will lead you to the IFBB Pro League, which is the only road to the Olympia.

In addition to overseeing The MAZ, being an Olympia judge, and contest promoter, Gary is an expert in the field of posing - both scoring it and teaching it. Any competitor who is serious about presenting their physique to the fullest, would be highly encouraged to attend this Saturday, August 10th, at Proof Fitness in Lexington!!

IFBB Pro Linda Andrew is an accomplished pro figure athlete with a wealth of experience competing. She's also an NPC National level judge and does awesome interviews for NPC News Online (if you haven't caught any, look for them!!). Like, Gary, Linda has an eye for posing and in just a few seconds could help you perfect a pose, perhaps give you some insights into posture, and/or give you some much needed encouragement. That's right folks, sometimes you might be nailing a pose but be unsure of yourself. If someone of Linda's stature in the sport gave you a pat on the back, that will go a very long way to how you pose on stage. A big part of this, is believing in yourself! You have to show the judges that you are the winner!!

IFBB Kevin Johnson has been said to be one of the two greatest posers in Kentucky and someone whose posing will be internationally celebrated - I know so, because I'm one of the people making these remarks. Kevin turned pro at the 2017 NPC Nationals, but has not really enjoyed much of the spotlight his pro status, physique, and posing abilities warrant. His presence, as a co-headliner, for this very important seminar, will undoubtedly turn a very important new page in his career. Kevin is proudly sponsored by Next Level Sports Nutrition.

In closing, I'd like to to take this opportunity to personally invite you to this amazing event. I will be doing press for StrengthAddicts / NPCSKY, so maybe we can do an interview or snap a candid. Remember, you don't have to come out all day, just come out for your division only. That being said, if you wanted to hang out all day, please do so. If you're not competing and have absolutely no shows planned, you should most definitely come out as well. But why?!?!! Because a big part of being successful in the fitness industry requires networking, showing support, and getting yourself and your name - out there!

See YOU this Saturday, at Proof Fitness, in Lexington, KY!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Jodie Engle - One Step Closer - 2019 NPC USA's

First and foremost, I'd like to say how proud I am of my friend, NPC Women's Physique Competitor, Jodie Engle. Jodie just got back from a stellar outing at the 2019 NPC USA Championships in Las Vegas, NV, where she earned an impressive Top 5 placing. Most bodybuilding fans understand the hierarchy of NPC contests and would be quick to congratulate Jodie, with new coach James Brown in her corner. For newer fans of the sport, it's important to understand that getting Top 3 at a junior level national show (e.g. Junior USA's, Junior Nationals), then getting a Top 5 at a (full-fledged) national-level pro qualifier (e.g. USA's, Nationals, Universe, and North Americans) is a significant step up (most certainly not, down). An easy way to distinguish the level between junior and (full-fledged) national-level pro qualifiers, is as simple as seeing which contests give pro cards to bodybuilders. Bodybuilders don't get pro cards at Junior Nationals or Junior USA's - even the bodybuilder who wins it all, doesn't get one.

I spoke to Jodie in the days before heading out, briefly while she was at the contest, and late last night. I wanted to make sure this piece got as much of her story in it, as possible. To say she was happy with the experience would be the understatement of the century. "This was by far the most fun I have ever had at any show I have ever done - from start to finish, everything went smoothly, thanks to my coach James Brown. He told me to simply get on the plane and get to Vegas and let him handle everything else. He did exactly that. I literally did not even have to think; he handled everything for me, so huge thank you to my coach!"

That being said, to simply sum up this contest as smiles and trophies, would hardly be accurate. Jodie embarked on a journey full of hurdles, but what ever obstacle life put in her way, she saw to overcoming it. This woman is a trooper! If you ever count her out, be afraid - be very afraid. If you think all Jodie will ever be is a local champion, you've probably been wiping the egg of your face for quite some time, especially as her star continues to rise.

"Not too many people realize everything I endured during this prep - from a major break-up, job changes, 16 hour workdays (6 days a week) and finally quitting a job to solely focus on prep. To say this journey showed me I am a lot more capable than I ever imagined, would hit the nail on the head." - Jodie Engle

2019 has been a very good year for Kentucky's top, amateur, Women's Physique competitor. Countless women look up to her, want to follow in her footsteps, and countless more across the country (and eventually around the world) will be inspired by this hardworking career professional, mom, and soon to be pro athlete. The next step from here, will be an 8 month improvement season, followed by taking the stage at the 2020 NPC Junior Nationals!

 "To everyone who has watched and supported me these past 32 weeks all I can say is, thank you, your support means more than you could ever realize.
I'm far from done, everyone! The fire lit under me is burning hotter than ever and PLEASE quote me on this.. with James Brown in my corner, I WILL get my pro card in Chicago next year." - Jodie Engle 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Michelle Jackson - A New Voice for Kentucky's Fitness Community

Michelle Jackson on Facebook LIVE

About a couple weeks ago, while surfing around Facebook, I stumbled upon a LIVE Chat hosted by NPC Figure Competitor Michelle Jackson. I interviewed her at The Factory Gym in Louisville a few months ago and have stayed in loose contact with her since. From what I know of her, she's an incredibly hard working and committed athlete, trainer, and competitor. When our first interview wasn't able to happen, she came back a second time to Louisville (from E-Town), to make sure it happened. To say I've always been impressed with her, would be an understatement - Michelle has some clear-cut, undeniable ambassadorial qualities, and a work ethic, second to none.

The Facebook LIVE Chat I got to watch showed me a different side of her than when we'd interviewed. She wasn't talking about contest prep, competing, and/or anything of the sort. She was talking about real life, her life, and she was able to do it on a live situation. Imagine opening up about your feelings, with questions coming your way, and being able to pay your viewers attention, meanwhile carrying on with your thoughts. She did a very good job and I knew I had to reach out to her. 

I was supposed to fly out to Gary Udit's 2019 NPC Teen, Collegiate, Masters Nationals, and I was running a bunch of errands, but I asked Michelle to give me a call and we spoke for about 30 minutes. The topic of the conversation, was the idea of her doing her own weekly show. It's a conversation I've had with only one other person, Kendall Norris of Lexington, who would also do an excellent job. 

Since our conversation, Michelle has released three more videos. I don't believe she has a name for the series, just yet, but she's planning on launching a YouTube channel and in time I will help her with logistics, marketing, and hopefully getting some sponsors. With regards to sponsors, however, I'm starting to change my game plan. Local is better when buying fruits and vegetables, but a lot of local sponsors are for the birds. If we got Michelle with 1-2 solid, regional/national sponsors, there's no limit to what she could.

Also, I think it's about time women had a voice. A big part of successful media, is representing various perspectives, and I think the male-dominated media could definitely use a break from the monotony. 

Friday, July 26, 2019

re: Chauncey Wilson's Big Annoucement

It's very unfortunate that one of Kentucky's most promising IFBB Pro's, Chauncey "The Shredder" Wilson, has had to go public with a situation that could not be resolved between him and his former sponsor. When Chauncey won the NPC Kentucky Derby Festival Championships, several companies rushed to get him to ink deals. Upon turning professional, at the 2019 NPC Junior USA Championships, I spoke with Chauncey and Jason [Theobald], regarding the idea of renegotiating contracts and moving forward as a pro. Both of these guys had some great ideas of their own, so I just added to them.

I became aware of Chauncey's situation almost immediately. I tried to apply some pressure, but was unsuccessful. I was also made aware of another athlete of the company in question, going through some unusual issues. That athlete was momentarily dropped, then taken back, after some efforts. That same athlete was once again in limbo when a certain sale took place, but last I was told, I was promised (actually), that his place was safe. I'm intentionally being vague, so my apologies for that, but I don't want to jeopardize anyone's gig.

When it comes to NPC and IFBB Pro League athletes in Kentucky, this page will go to bat for them. This page isn't tied to a contest and it's 100% unofficial. Anyone who wants to try to get me in trouble for that, knock yourself out.

On the other hand, the truth of the matter is, if you don't work, you get cut. Companies sponsor athletes and they have certain expectations (contained in signed contracts). If you're supposed to post a code, post photos, and/or be active on social media, then the athletes have to live up to that. If they don't, then they deserve to get cut. But let's qualify this a bit, too. If an athlete has won a major regional contest, then won a national-level show and turned pro, and is in peak weak for his/her pro debut (not to mention earning a Top 6 placing), all in a 2 month period, those are pretty unique circumstances. With the amount of success enjoyed and the various stages where said competitor is earning top placings, whether or not he/she posts 2x on IG seems pretty trivial - if you ask me. If an athlete is winning huge contests, wearing a company's attire and promoting said company on press, that seems 100x more powerful than reposting a bogo or hyping up a sale where you can get a free shaker cup on IG.

Then again, if the company in question wasn't happy, they could have severed the contract, but not paying for Chauncey's expenses on an approved trip? Also, not paying any part of the renegotiated contract, is also inappropriate and shows bad faith. I have a real problem with companies who sign athletes, make promises which athletes detrimentally rely on, and then simply leave the athletes with the bills for their hotel, contest fees, and per diems, standing there, SOL. I also have a real problem with companies who agree to advertise, give assurances they'll pay, and then later on decide they don't want to pay and just go about their merry way.

I don't just do contest coverage for a living.. one of these days.. one of these days.

I'm very sorry Chauncey is going through this.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Kentucky, IFBB Pro's Team Up

Chauncey Wilson assesses Richard Sparks.

IFBB Pro's Jeremy Decker and Chauncey "The Shredder" Wilson are great friends, both elite level athletes, and both work very hard. While they're accomplished competitors, they're not the type to brag or be full of themselves. Do they have self-confidence? Yes. Do they ever act better than anyone else? Never.

These guys also have history, a great story, indeed. Chauncey prepped Jeremy to a key placing and earning his pro card at last year's NPC North American Championships in Pittsburgh. A year later Jeremy was in Charleston, SC, to see Chauncey win the 2019 NPC Junior USA's, taking the Classic Physique Overall, and earning his IFBB Pro League pro card. Both guys truly believe in each other, have been there for each other, and will be very successful in all future projects.

So what are these two guys up to, what's the big project? Well, as y'all may know, it's become considerably harder to get nationally qualified for NPC competition. As word continues to gets out and more and more people want to compete for titles in Louisville, Lexington, and Covington, not to mention, throughout the region, posing has become one of the most in-demand disciplines that new and veteran competitors want to sharpen. Now, contrary to the wisdom of social media..., you can never develop posing prowess by simply watching YouTube Videos or IG TV, you also can't get it by going to contests and trying to copy that which you see on stage. The truth of the matter is, if you want to become a great poser, you need to study with a great poser. It's very much akin to martial arts. Would you learn Kung Fu off a video online - or - would you study with a sensai with years of experience under his/her belt?

Now, when it comes to posing, there's two major names in Kentucky - Kevin Johnson and Chauncey Wilson. Both of these guys are the very best, though neither one of them have ever truly received the star treatment. Other clinics have done great work, but all clinics in the future should include the best of the best - talent of the future! In fact, I was honored that Chauncey made the drive to Newport, KY, earlier this year, and was part of our Free NPC Seminar at Crunch Fitness. I'm also very happy that  IFBB Pro Kevin Johnson is featured in the upcoming Kentucky Open Free NPC Seminar in Lexington (also featuring Gary Udit and IFBB Pro Linda Andrew).

Getting back to Chauncey and Jeremy, though, what they're doing is also noteworthy for two other, very important, reasons. Not only are both men pro's and not only have both men competed on national stages, but they're sharing their knowledge for free. They are also offering the group posing option on a weekly basis!!

I, personally, think that everyone in Louisville should take advantage of this amazing opportunity! I also think that if you're anywhere in Kentucky, you owe it to yourself to be a part of at least one class. You've worked too hard for this, between your diet, your training, and all the contest-related costs, to not give your posing a very real try. Even if you have the BEST physique on contest day, if you can't show it, you're not going to win. Also, even folks who can nail the mandatory poses, may be like deer in headlights in a pose down situation. Pose downs are entertaining for the audience, but every so often, a pose down may also BUY TIME!! There's really close calls where judges are having trouble tabulating their final scores and an all out pose down, gives them more time, and sometimes might even push a competitor that tiny, little bit, over. A poser who's really on the ball, might impress a judge enough, to make break what otherwise might be a dead heat. There's a TON of strategy that's employed in great posing, as well, so please don't underestimate the abilities of great posing coaches.

As you can see, I believe posing plays a HUGE role and that's why I wanted to commend Chauncey and Jeremy for really giving back to the fitness community. Please contact them on Facebook and/or IG for more information.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Meet, Ryan Becht of Louisville Supplement Store

Ryan & Casey Becht - Louisville Supplement Store

I'm sure many of you have heard, by now, that Rob Nieters sold Louisville Supplement Store. In a short amount of time, Rob, together with Travis Schnell, made a very strong impact on the Louisville fitness scene. These efforts were enhanced with the strong support of (past/present) sponsored athletes likes IFBB Pro Sam Adiki (aka The African Lion), IFBB Pro Wayne Williams, NPC athletes like Jorge Felix, Tracy Cates, Nick Tong, Jay Jones, Rhea Wills, and others. Things were on the up and up, the 2018 feud was over, and the contest season was off to a a great start. No one could have anticipated the sale, much less the sponsored athletes. The good news is, Louisville Supplement Store's doors are open, the sponsored athletes have a bright future, and LSS's new owner, Ryan Becht, will continue to help grow the fitness community here in Louisville and throughout the region.

So who is Ryan Becht?

Ryan, like many of us, is someone who discovered fitness and found a great journey in it. For some of us, the fitness journey took us into media, competing, and/or business, just to name a few paths. In Ryan's case, fitness helped change his life. Some six years ago, he stopped drinking, put all his faith in God, and started training seriously. It was while training, at LAC Westport, that he met Casey. They fell in love, got married, and have a great family (with four great kids, ranging in ages from 5-13). He also met two great friends in Mark Krauss and Michael Dubree, both of whom also reclaimed their lives, much like Ryan had. Mark and Michael also showed Ryan how to train.

As time progressed in both Ryan and Casey's training, she'd go on to compete at last year's NPC Kentucky Muscle, taking 2nd in Figure, and becoming nationally-qualified. As a result, the couple are headed to Miami, FL this year, for the 2019 NPC Nationals, where Casey will compete for an IFBB Pro League Pro Card.

When the opportunity of buying Louisville Supplement Store presented itself, Ryan saw a great opportunity to further the very strong network he and Casey had built. In fact, to quote him directly, "this store is a dream of both of ours and developing an awesome team is paramount. We just want to grow a great company and supply jobs and excellent service and products."

I know that Ryan and Casey will do a fantastic job!! Help me, in wishing them, many blessings and good fortune!! Be sure to visit Louisville Supplement Store, today!!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Cory Howell's 2 Scoops Radio

First and foremost, I'd like to say how proud I am of Cory Howell for pressing forward with 2 Scoops Radio. It's very difficult breaking from one's comfort zone, breaking with a routine, and moving forward onto new formats and frontiers. For well over a year, Cory and Ty worked very hard to create something very special on the airwaves. Week after week, they put in a great deal of time, energy, and resources into giving thousands of podcast listeners something to look forward to with each, new episode. After a two month hiatus, Cory moved forward, now with his second episode of the new program in the can.

When we met up, we'd discussed the idea of him flying solo (at least for a while), and how successful it would be. I think the LIVE component also provides plenty of great questions, in addition to those submitted pre-recording. In time, however, I'm sure the traditional podcast format will be offered, as well.

I'd say the hardest part is now behind him. That first episode was probably the toughest, because it broke the hiatus, it ended the silence. With a studio in the works and a good 5-6 months left in the season,
2 Scoops Radio will have plenty to talk about and a who's who of guests to pick from. Anyone who's asked to be a part of this awesome program, would jump at the opportunity. I'm also eager to see
2 Scoops Radio become a major force in Kentucky contest coverage, so I'm hoping our promoters DM/email Cory in the near future.

With regards to sponsors, I truly think companies should look at this program as a great way to get the word out about their goods and services to both the local and national fitness community. From supplement stores, to meal prep companies, to sports massage, suit designers, and baked goods!! Advertising is key and if you don't have money to advertise, then impose a pay cut on yourself, and do right by your business. Businesses no one's ever heard of, are bound to go belly up.

2 Scoops Radio never had sponsors, they never got press passes, and they never got paid for their work. Could you imagine working your tail off for over 50 programs and not getting anything back for it? Could you imagine, on top of that, having to spend your money to host podcasts, buy equipment, and travel to contests (even pay for parking!)? I'd say that would take a toll on anyone.

The truth of the matter is, 2SR brings undeniable value to Kentucky's fitness community, creates interest in NPC contests, and could do even more great work, provided they have the right backers. This is all the more reason, that I think the second half of 2019, will be very fruitful for the show, and why I believe Cory will write a new chapter in its history.

All the Best!!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Athletes and Promotion

There are athletes who are actively making a name for themselves and there are those who are not. Social media is key, but social media alone won't do the trick. When looking for sponsors to work with, it's very important that you look beyond making a few grand a month, and be sure that you're getting exposure. If you're a Kentucky-based athlete, you must understand that there's a lot more to planet Earth, than Louisville and Lexington.

It always amazes me how few athletes realize their time is limited. Most athletes only have a handful of years to make their mark. Unless you turned pro in your early 20's, time is not on your side. You need to do everything in your power to put yourself on the map. 

I have been working with social media, promotions, and brand development for nearly a decade. I speak on a daily basis to some of the brightest minds in the fitness industry. I like to think I absorb a good bit of that knowledge and one of my biggest goals, is to help athletes I care about; however, as the old saying goes, you can drag a horse to water, but you can't make him drink.

Sponsors are great, but they have their agenda. As an athlete, you need to have yours as well. If no one knows who you are in TX, CA, NY, and/or South Florida, then YOU need to get on the ball. Kentucky is a great place to live, but it's hardly on the fitness industry map. For most people, KY is hillbilly country, so being a star here, doesn't do much for you in places that dominate the scene. That being said, if you're not even getting the superstar treatment here, then you really have problems. 

Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about; maybe I land all these jobs and maybe my star keeps rising because I have really good hair - or - maybe it's because, I do. I would hate to see a superstar have nothing to show in 2-5yrs. Once you're no longer useful, rest assured, you will get dropped. Businesses are profit-driven; they're not [really] families and they're most certainly not charities. We have some big stars around here, folks like Chauncey, Kevin, Benquil, Myka, Kendall, Jodie and a few others. I hope all of these folks really, truly, make it. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

There's No Comparison!!

You've arrived at the best!! NPC Strong Kentucky is coming up on its first anniversary and it's really stayed the course. Despite some haters, a bad ad account here or there, and even though I've decided to cover less contests in KY, opting for more national ones, the page has blossomed. I can't even begin to say how important the partnerships with our three gym sponsors has been. Powerstation Gym in Middletown, OH, Lift Inc. Gym in Somerset, KY, and The Factory Gym in Louisville, KY, have been instrumental in making this page such a success. 

I am very proud of what's been accomplished and what will continue to be done. We've seen the end of a feud in Louisville, initiating that dialogue, and we're now pushing hard for the return of 2 Scoops Radio. This page is about growth, not drama; when I say I want to expand the NPC, it's not just lip service. 

Thanks to the guidance of my mentor, Gary Udit, and all the hard work I put into this project, I know that come late August, when we really celebrate that first year, it'll be epic. I also plan on bringing you a great meal prep sponsor - a very respected national name - as well as national supplement companies. I'm going to really up this page's game, even more so!

NPC STRONG KENTUCKY - 100% Unofficial, Fan-Based, and ATHLETE-CENTERED!!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Handshakes and Contracts in Modern Bodybuilding

A very famous bodybuilder, who used to wear jumpsuits at expos, and who's very, very strong, once told me he had a contract with a giant supplement company all based on a handshake. For years, the checks always came in, he worked his butt off, and everyone was happy. Then all of a sudden, things started to change, maybe the company sold, and that contract they had was no more (at least that's what he thought). He could have sued, but didn't. I'm an attorney and there have been a great many times, I've salivated at the thought of suing a company (or two). A first year, no a first semester, law school student could unleash a lawsuit on a contract breacher that would make their head spin, but is it worth it? That's what it really amounts to. The cases I've contemplated would cost me more time and effort than they're worth, but what about my friend, whose entire family depended on that money? If the sponsorship is your livelihood, then the stakes are way higher.

Years ago, a person's word was everything. If a man agreed to terms, it was done. It was cast in stone. If a man told you he'd pay, he'd do whatever it took to live up to his promise. It wasn't just about doing the right thing, entirely, it was also about honor, his own personal honor. Those values have been severely eroded today, but there's still people who do business this way. I'm one of them. If you give me your word, that's good enough for me.

That being said, every email, every text message, and every voicemail that manifests the parties' mutual assent, of an offer and acceptance, provided there's adequate consideration, results in a fully binding and enforceable contract. You don't need a formal writing; sometimes, even a napkin with some scribbling on it, is all it takes.

With regards to sponsorships - it's on you. If you're talking about trivial amounts of money, then a handshake might suffice, but you're taking a chance. If it's your mortgage, car note, and/or the sole means for your financial survival, a contract might be the better choice.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

The Factory Signs The Shredder!!

Big News!! Chauncey "The Shredder" Wilson, your 2019 NPC Kentucky Derby Festival, Classic Physique, Overall Champion, has been signed by The Factory Gym. Chauncey has been all over the news as of late, doing an interview with StrengthAddicts, getting signed by Louisville Supplement Store / Blueprint Supplements, and now inking with the most hardcore gym in the land. Wilson is also sponsored by Zilla Meals, who sponsors NPC Strong Kentucky!

The Shredder, who is prepped by IFBB Pro Jason Theobald, is destined for greatness and I predict will earn his IFBB Pro League Pro Card in 2019. For years, The Shredder has been a major draw in Kentuckyana bodybuilding, from appearing on podcasts, inspiring countless, and being the face of major NPC contests. When a promoter picks a bodybuilder to be the focus of a contest poster, that's when an athlete knows, he/she has hit the big time!

There's no telling what the future holds for this awesome athlete. I know one thing's for sure, signing with The Factory Gym was a great move! Chauncey will be backed by a gym who will do everything to push him into the spotlight, and I know he will also work very hard to promote the gym in and outside Kentucky. 

2 Scoops Radio, NEEDS To Continue

As I'm sure most of you have heard by now, it seems that Louisville's 2 Scoops Radio podcast has come to an end - or at the very least, an indefinite hiatus. The program, which aired weekly, was hosted by Cory Howell and IFBB Pro Ty Robinson, and featured new and established competitors, as well as fitness stars. The program was received very well by the bodybuilding community and also had a close connection to Next Level Sports Nutrition. The collaboration saw them work together often (e.g. the 2018 NPC Kentucky Open, posing clinics, charitable events). As I'm sure everyone knows by now, Ty and Next Level parted ways some time ago. The details of the split are no one's business, but theirs; however, I had a hunch that when said split took place, the program's days were numbered.

When folks change jobs, schedules change, and sometimes outlooks can change as well. I've been there before - both on the employer and employee side - and it's all about regrouping, never skipping a beat, and continuously raising the bar. Unfortunately, the regrouping process doesn't always work well for projects and/or secondary interests. The fitness industry is perhaps the toughest place to make a buck and land on your feet after a career change. I have faith that once things settle, 2 Scoops will carry on - at least that's the hope.

Kentucky needs all the press it can get!!

I've been wanting to do a podcast for a long time. Initially, I was sold on the idea of having a podcast where I had a co-host, a solid backer who'd buy all the equipment and build us a studio, and pay me per show. I share these details with you, because they're part of MY STORY. When my co-host bailed (not his fault, not mine), the backer bolted, and I was left with a great name/url "Bluegrass Bodybuilding" and no direction. That podcast was supposed to LAUNCH in January and here we are in MAY and still no podcast. My friend PJ told me, just this morning, that I should just do it already and I probably will, but I shared this example to illustrate, just how much changed circumstances can alter everything. I will get the podcast out, because I'm Christian Duque, and I don't need anyone or anything to be successful, but it just might take a little longer. 

Here's the deal, 2 Scoops Radio went the distance, for a very long time. In podcast-time, anything double digits, is huge. These guys went at it for a straight-up year and they were getting sandbagged for a big part of that time. I won't say by who, but the fact they couldn't cover contests was/is utter bullshit. They were never in bad standing and they could have always have gotten a press pass. It's simple, you send an email to the NPC National office and they do the rest. Any promoter who listened to anyone but Rick, should have known better. 

Moreover, on what could very well have been their last episode, Cory shared some of the reasons he didn't cover the Derby (e.g. the grueling process of getting media credentials [which it's not], paying for tickets, and paying for parking). That made my blood boil! Had it not been for RD Caldwell Jr. and several other friends of mine in the industry, I too, would still be paying for everything to add value to promoters' contests.

Media does not pay for tickets. Media ADDS VALUE to contests. The more BUZZ a contest has, the easier it is for a promoter to  sell more booths, sell more tickets, and get more Competitors to enter in the future.

I remember last year, when the 2 Scoops guys thought they could cover the Tricky and when they were told they couldn't; they actually had to relay the news to their audience, just days before the contest, on one of their episodes. That's a humiliation they should NEVER have had to endure. That being said, I can't be a hypocrite. At the time, I was a part of that STUPID supp shop feuding, buying into without questioning, and even asking for seconds. Now, looking back, I'm disgusted and anyone who tries to pull that crap again, I'll take on - and I'll win. That crap is over. That feud is pretty much dead and both sides are open to dialogue and dialogue will happen, when the time is right.

Cory and Ty went through a lot, but I strongly hope they'll meet and talk. I have already pledged to help in any way I can. I made the pledge privately to Cory, but I make it publicly from here as well. Private pledges mean little. I want the world to know, I'm here for you guys, just let me know. I also implore everyone reading this to Inbox and DM these guys and let them know you want the show to to continue. If weekly is too much of a pain the ass, then do 1 monthly podcast. If you can't both get to the studio, record it remotely. I've been a guest on a million podcasts where all I do is call in. Ideally, you want both hosts in the same studio, but beggars can't be choosers. Wherever you tape it, we'll listen - myself included. I'm a 2 Scoops Radio, FAN!

One last thing, 2 Scoops Radio IS Cory & Ty. I commend Cory for calling it quits - or going on hiatus - as opposed to finding a replacement for Ty. I don't think that would've been the right move. That being said, I'd like to see the Gains Train hit many more stations in the future. It's my hope that the show carry on. Try to talk fellas, don't stop now. 

All The Best, 
Your Friend,

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

CBD Protein Comes to Louisville Supplement Store

If you're stressed out - all the time - like I am, then this is music to your ears. Blueprint's Rob Nieters first tried CBD just nine months ago and in a short time, has invested a great deal of time and resources into having one of the widest selections of quality CBD products on the market. Louisville Supplement Store offers everything, imaginable, from vapes to lotions to now, protein powders!!

LSS has two great protein products, now available, a 3,350mg Cbd whey in 3 flavors
and a 1,675mg Cbd whey in 2 flavors.

I don't know about you, but 1-2 scoops of either, would not only feed hungry muscles, but would make one heck of a great meal before bed. Maybe include a tablespoon of peanut butter or some oats, depending on where you are with your macros, but you could have DEEP, RESTFUL SLEEP AND GROW!! Sounds pretty damn good to me!!

Be sure to head over to Louisville Supplement Store at 9407 Westport Rd Ste. 123, in Louisville, KY, today!! I have a feeling you're going to love it there!!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Next Level Sports Nutrition, Title Sponsors, 2019 NPC Kentucky Open

First and foremost, let me just say how happy I am to report this piece of news. Next Level Sports Nutrition is now, the official title sponsor of the upcoming, 2019 NPC Kentucky Open and Kentucky State! This is literally a match made in heaven, and here's why.

Gene and Tina Goode are shining examples of how contest promoters in the NPC should operate. They go the distance to ensure the highest level of customer service, from their family of staff, their iconic stage, and their constant giving back to the fitness community. You can see Gene and/or Tina at NPC seminars, posing clinics, in-stores and community events all throughout the state. They also go to many of the big shows, out-of-state, like the NPC Teen, Collegiate, Masters Nationals, the North American Championships, and others. They're two of the hardest working promoters in the business and they've really been through quite a lot the last two years, from losing their beloved venue in Frankfort, making a costly move to Owensboro, and now settling in their new home venue in Lexington.

Speaking of hard work, Sean and Amy of NLSN are two incredibly hardworking business owners in the fitness industry. After successfully owning and operating multiple stores in Louisville, they've expanded to Lexington. They also have an undeniable track record of creating opportunities for countless Kentucky athletes, both at the amateur and professional levels. The 502 Wrecking Crew put  many athletes on the map and gave them their big break. In addition to everything I've stated here, I also have great respect for both Sean and Amy, for giving IFBB Pro Kevin Johnson a real chance. Of all the athletes they signed, this one particular signing cost them a lot of headaches, blowback, and drama, but they put 100% of their efforts behind him and never looked back. That's the kind of heart you just gotta respect.

Kevin Johnson has a real future - he could very well be one of the few bodybuilders of his day, to make an indelible impact on the sport. He's not only a gifted poser, but one look at what 2x Women's Phyisque Champion Sarah Barnett accomplished over the last month at the Europa Orlando and the Kentucky Derby Festival Championships, and it becomes crystal clear, you're dealing with a very talented athlete. 

In closing, I hope you're all very excited about the coming contest. I have a feeling the Kentucky Open is gonna take it to the - NEXT LEVEL - in LEXINGTON :) 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sarah Barnett Repeats at the NPC Kentucky Derby

Contest prep guru, Tyler Bedson, hit the nail on the head when he spoke about Sarah Barnett's will to win. "Her consistency and desire to win shows, grows more and more, with each passing day." Bedson has coached Barnett to another Overall Win in Women's Physique, this time at the NPC Kentucky Derby Festival Championships. Before that, Bedson coached Barnett to a big victory at the Europa Orlando, some 800 miles away, in Florida. The Bedson/Barnett collaboration is unstoppable, as eyes on the national scene are now fixated on the Next Level Sports Nutrition athlete. Her road to pro is clear-cut and undeniable. Now it's time to push her on all fronts, with an aggressive marketing campaign, the likes of which the 502 Wrecking Crew is famous for.

That being said, a big part of the credit is owed to IFBB Pro Bodybuilder Kevin Johnson, who created Sarah's very moving posing routine. The song selection was perfect and Sarah presented a routine hugely artistic and perfectly executed - it told a story better than words ever could. Kevin is an absolute genius, but beyond that, he's a true artist. I watched the 40 second clip, no less than 15x straight, over and over and over again; it was really emotional. I honestly loved it and simply can't say enough about it. 

Kevin Johnson is the greatest poser and posing coach in Kentucky. 

Other folks who brought fantastic physiques, and who we will be looking to do interviews with at The Factory and Lift Inc, included  Tiffany Davis (a novice competitor that cleaned house!!), Rachel Jensen (who won Class F, Open Bikini), Total INSANITY between The Shredder - Chauncey Wilson and Cody Nolen, and a big win by MPD Competitor Tracy Cates, and others!

Unfortunately, and as suspected, there was zero media coverage at this event. We won't dwell on this embarrassing note, but will say that good customer service, demands that one of Kentucky's largest contests, invest in having press for the competitors.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Sarah Barnett - A Name to Watch at the NPC Kentucky Derby Festival

Next Level Sport Nutrition's Sarah Barnett's big win at the Europa Orlando made headlines, with people all throughout Kentucky cheering her on. Backed by her well-respected and sought-after guru, Tyler Bedson, this looks to be a very promising year.

Although many competitors in Kentucky won't drive more than an hour away for an NPC seminar, let alone to compete, Barnett scored a huge win at a contest over 800 miles away!! She got on a stage where no one knew her, with competitors she'd never met, and she dominated!!

When I asked Sarah about her stellar placing in Orlando, here's what the champ had to say:

"Winning the Europa Orlando was a really cool experience. It allowed me to see all of my hard work come to fruition. But I know that the work is not done as we enter in to the last week leading up to the Ky Derby show. This is a tough show, and I know the competition will be stacked. I have no idea who I will be up against, but I know it will be a tough battle regardless."

One of the things I really like about Sarah, is her mindset going into this contest tomorrow. Most people might have a big head after winning a show like the Europa Orlando, but not Sarah. She recognizes she's up against great athletes, she knows what she brings to the table, and she's ready to fight for the win! This contest is also closer to her heart, as this is where she's from, where she lives, but to be sure, I wanted her to share, directly.

"Competing in KY is important to me because it allows those that have supported me throughout this journey the opportunity to come and watch and see what show day is all about. There are quite a few people that don’t know too much about the sport that have been very supportive, so I am happy that they will be able to come and experience the day for themselves. While I enjoyed competing out of state, I also like to make sure I am supporting the events in my home state as well."

I am, personally, hoping for a repeat, and let me tell you, if that happens, Sarah will be on her way to earning a Pro Card in 2019. The Florida win, alone, puts her in position, but repeating in Louisville, that would create a literal industry wave that she could ride to the Pro Qualifier of her choice! I couldn't put the finishing touches on this article, without the words of the great Tyler Bedson. In fact, I'll close with them.

 "Sarah has a high quality work ethic. Her consistency and desire to win shows, grows more and more, with each passing day. Together we’ve been able to effectively communicate and overcome any challenge presented to us!" - Tyler Bedson

Thursday, April 25, 2019

NPCStrongKentucky Welcomes Powerstation Gym

After our wildly successful seminar featuring our NPC Mid Atlantic Zone Chairman, Gary Udit, in Newport, I have been eager to create a stronger presence in Northern Kentucky, as well as a foothold in southern Ohio. The goal is to create an unofficial, athlete-centered force, zealously loyal to the NPC, that will help grow the sport and push forward with Gary's commitment to customer service - always putting the competitors first. 

I have been extremely fortunate to find someone I trust and who I believe in 100% in the area, in Jason Theobald. In addition to my friend William Gage Miller, who's done a great deal and who I will continue to rely upon, Jason will also play a very key role. We started talking right around the seminar and have spoken at great length over the last two weeks, further defining what it is we'd like to accomplish. Jason is a driving force in the sport. He's a pro athlete, WIDELY respected and sought-after guru, co-owner of an amazing supplement company and a true believer in growing the NPC. 

The addition of Powerstation Gym is absolutely huge!! It's a facility with a Mecca-like vibe, with tons of amazing equipment, and very big names that train there. It's also strategically located, just around 50 minutes from Cincinnati/Covington, 35 minutes to Dayton, and about 80 minutes to Columbus. This is precisely the kind of foothold we wanted in Ohio, with an undeniable reach into Northern Kentucky. We really hit a home run here!!

There's a lot being discussed and planned. For now, I'd like to thank and commend my friend Jason Theobald, welcome Powerstation Gym, and wish you all, the very best!!

Monday, April 22, 2019

Where's the Media?

Imagine you're a competitor and you're getting ready for a contest, maybe it's the biggest in your state, and you've really invested a lot into it. You've hired a coach, you've altered your eating, you've purchased suits, accessories, taken time off work, booked a hotel room and paid entry fees. Nothing is going to stop you. You have, what's often loosely referred to as, tunnel vision. You're a man/woman on a mission. 

You get to the contest and look your best. You're on time for check-ins. You've got your number, your info packet, you get a great night's sleep. You're on time for tanning, you're early for the athlete's meeting, you really walk away feeling confident. You take the stage at prejudging, nailing those mandatories, holding your peak, looking very sharp, standing tall, confident. Life is good. 

You don't get lost, afterwards. You eat a sensible meal. You're back, early, for the night show. You win your class! You win the overall! You want to tell the world about your journey, about how you conquered your demons, overcame all the obstacles; you want to thank all those who helped you, you want to announce your next show, thank your coach, send love to your family, but wait... there's no media, there's no one to ask you how you did it, no articles will be written about you, no videos will be blasted all over social media. I guess you could ask your friend to point your phone at you, provided you have a friend. Maybe you just prop your phone against someone's rubber dumbbell and give a speech. Maybe you just hold your phone in your hand, trying to gather your thoughts for a 15 second story or a 60 second post. That'll be the extent of your media coverage.

Promoters who truly care about customer service, should strive to have media. Sometimes there's no media around - that does happen - but where there is, they should at least try.

Great media brings a promoter great value. Solid media means the show will gain popularity and a good promoter can easily market that popularity to sell more booths, get more competitors to enter, and sell more tickets.

Great media also makes for very happy competitors.

Sadly, some contests are more about the promoters, than they are about the competitors. This is why so many contests don't have press, don't have guest posers, and charge competitors, their trainers, and their families for absolutely everything. Customer service hasn't just taken a backseat, it's been thrown in the trunk.

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.