On The Map with Derek Lunsford: Vol. 1 Columbus, Ohio

Anyone who has been to the Arnold Classic in Columbus, Ohio knows that this is one of the biggest and best bodybuilding, powerlifting, and fitness event of the year. It never fails to bring the most exciting attractions each and every year. The Arnold gives fans a chance to meet their bodybuilding, fitness, and powerlifting idols. This year, Frank McGrath, Evan Centopani, Vincenzo Massone, and I were at the Animal booth. In The Cage, you experience the absolute power of some of the strongest lifters on the planet, many of whom happen to be a part of the Animal team. Let’s just say these guys are lifting tonnage. So the overall experience is intense. The DJ is playing loud music to amp up the lifters, the bodybuilders are hanging out with the fans, and the entire Animal team is bonding and building good camaraderie with each other. If there’s any place to be at the Arnold Classic, it’s at The Cage.

I learned a lot about myself over this weekend. I learned that meeting the fans and hearing what they have to say means more to me than I thought. Getting the opportunity to make a positive impact on these impressionable kids gives me the motivation to keep improving both as a bodybuilder and as a person. Lifting weights is great. It’s how I built my body the way it is. But to me, that’s a given. I will do the work to be a great bodybuilder because it’s who I am. It’s in my blood. My drive to be great has shifted away from simply being the best bodybuilder I can be for myself to being a better role model for everyone else.

I caught a lift to train chest with Evan the first morning of the Arnold weekend. Neither of us had been to that gym before, but I enjoy being in new gyms training in different atmospheres. Sometimes it can be tricky figuring out what exercises to do, but then again, bodybuilders should be able to work with whatever they’ve got and make no excuses to not have a good workout.

Since I’ve been on a restricted diet, I decided to train fasted. I typically like to get several meals in before I train, which I think is best, but regardless I knew it would be a good workout. We warmed up the chest and triceps using the cable machine. For chest we did a few sets of cable flyes and for triceps we did a rope push down using the cables. After a good pump, we moved on to do our main working sets.

Taking Evan’s lead, we did 10 sets of 10 reps on the flat barbell bench using 275lb. The goal was to use a starting weight that we knew we could easily get 20 reps. Instead of busting out 20 reps, we did 10 reps and racked it, then the next guy goes. Not only did we go back and forth, but we set a timer at 90 seconds between each set. The timer kept us moving and not taking too long of a break between sets. By the time we got half way through, I was struggling to get all 10 reps. Evan explained this is the point of the exercise—if you’re able to get all the sets in without struggling, you didn’t go heavy enough. For me, this was a good weight to push the entire time. Evan pushed me on every set. I have to admit, I’m not used to this style of training. I noticed that my strength started to increase in the following weeks and the fullness in my chest was more pronounced.

The next day we had an epic ABC (Animal Barbell Club) at Powershack Gym after a full day at the expo. The entire gym was completely dedicated to Animal and the fans who signed up for the ABC event. It was a great time. Frank and I trained arms (biceps and triceps) together and a few guys would jump in here and there for a few sets. The whole time we were having a solid workout, we were able to share stories, talk with each other about training, and answer any questions. It was really cool getting to lift with everyone. You could tell the atmosphere was filled with motivated bodybuilders and powerlifters. Nobody had a bad workout.

It was surreal training with Evan and hanging out with Frank and the rest of the Animal team because just two years ago I was a fan coming up to meet them for the first time. I knew I would be somewhere successful one day, but I never thought it would be here and now and with the guys I’ve looked up to since I first chose bodybuilding for my life. Though I’ve only just begun getting to know them, I feel like we’ve known each other for a decade. They’ve all welcomed me as part of the team and treat me just like they do anyone else. I’m proud to be part of this group of people.

I truly enjoy traveling, meeting new people, and building connections with everyone I meet. I couldn’t choose a better lifestyle for that than bodybuilding. The first stop in my series “On the Map” was the Arnold Classic and we’ll keep you posted on what’s next. If you happen to be at an Animal event, don’t hesitate to stop and catch a word. I don’t want to miss out on anyone.