Balancing Upper Body and Leg Development for Overall Proportion
Curtis Bryant’s route to victory in the light heavyweight class at the 2008 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships was different than many other competitors who make the leap from amateur to professional level. Living in Richmond, Virginia, Curtis also had a day job for years as a welder, and the extreme physical requirements of that work became a natural asset in helping to build his upper body muscles. Along with a conscious dedication to clean eating and long periods of preparation before a contest, Curtis was able to develop a wide back and chest and powerful arms. However, he needed to balance this upper body conditioning with an equal degree of mass and definition on his leg muscles.
Bringing Up Lower Body to Upper Body Proportion
While his legs have developed well to become proportionate in size, shape and detail to his upper body in recent years, Curtis still follows a combination of both the core mass building and shaping exercise to bring himself to the top of his form during the pre-contest period, and maintain this balance of upper and lower body density and width that propelled him into the professional ranks in 2008. “My strong points were my legs and my back,” he points out about winning his class at the USA. To achieve the maximum in size and detail, he follows a 12-week training period so that each muscle group is gradually trimmed down. “In the off-season I go up quite high in weight but I stay quite lean,” he explains about moving successfully from the middlweight to light heavyweight division as an amateur. “It wasn’t really the diet — I try to stay at around 235 lbs., but my weight will go up – if I keep eating right and train right, it will just keep going up. So I try to stay at between 235 lbs. and 240 lbs., so I can make that 202 class now, because I know if I train intense I’m still going to grow.” He also spreads his leg training over four of the five days of his training split, as follows:
Monday – Chest and Biceps
Tuesday – Back, Biceps, Calves
Wednesay – Shoulders, Traps, and Calves
Thursday – Quadriceps
Friday – Hamstrings and Deadlifts
Saturday – Rest
Sunday. – Begin Training Split again
Cardio – 30 Minutes a Day
At 5’6″ in height, Curtis realized that his type of physique required the maximum degree of both width and density to create the contrast between upper and lower body and tapering form that would impress the judges at contest time. Fortunately, his favorite exercises were also the critical ones for producing that appearance — for instance, squats for the legs, or barbell bent rows for the back. His time away from preparing for competition has also led him into personal training, which is easier on his body than the job of welder used to be, but it also lets him use his own first-hand experience with some of his key exercises.
Keeping Condition on Course
As far as any refinements he may be planning for his future competition as a professional in 2009 and beyond, Curtis remains realistic about using what has already worked best for him in the past: “I think I would just want to come in in as good condition as I did last year — that is the biggest thing. Not coming in bigger, just coming in really conditioned. I think that’s the important key for me this year,” he observes. Along with his lengthy pre-contest training period, he still allows himself an even longer pre-contest diet period to be in total control of the process of dropping size while keeping the hardest and most detailed muscle mass: “I take usually about 16 weeks. I have so much muscle that I have to burn a little off just to make that 202 lb. cut-off point, the same as that light heavyweight class. But I have to take it off nice and slow, so I don’t mess up!” he says with a laugh. His discipline and patience is unusual, but his formula for building and sculpting size and width for a professional level physique is one that other competitive bodybuilders with a similar structure can find useful in taking their overall physique to an impressive level of proportion.