HOW I WON THE TRANSFORMATION SHOWDOWN 2020
When the organizers announced the contest on September, I was 3 months post shoulder rotator cuff surgery. The good doctors and staff of Davao Doctors Hospital had to re-attach the supraspinatus muscle to its insertion because it was completely torn for a good chunk of the year (even before that) and it was really bothering me a lot not just in my training but functionally. That being said, I was on a sling for 6 weeks and lost muscle mass, strength, range of motion and the pain, oh the pain. At first, it felt like the surgery just made it worse. I remember accidentally swatting a roach in midair as a reflex and it made me curl up and cry, the pain was so excruciating that I hated my decision of doing the surgery. The procedure took 8 hours by the way and the positioning device that they used to prop my bowling ball head on the operating table messed up the nerves on my scalp that left me with weird sensations and bald spots for months until just recently.
final weigh-in video at 159lbs
Ever since I discovered and fell in love with body building, I never faltered when it comes to training. I was back in the gym 3 days post-surgery. I tried to compensate with cardio and work on other muscle groups that are intact but it was just not cutting it for me. Not seeing the world in it’s normal state because of the pandemic also meant not being able to reach out to old friends and far away family members, not being to hop from one gym to another and not being able to work with my patients/clients. All of these brought me again to the place I dreaded the most and the feeling is just so heavy for the heart and the head. The hardest part of it all is not being able to actively participate in the care of my family and the crippling feeling of being a burden because of my limitations. Imagine not being able to give and receive tight-warm embraces, even carry and throw my beautiful children in the air which they really enjoy. Broken, I was hesitant to participate in anything physical, especially this one. A student of mine asked me if I would like to join and if I would train with him. If the kid believes that I can do it, why would I doubt myself. I said ‘yes’ and then I was hopeful again.
weekly transformation progress video
When the competition began on October, I was allowed a maximum of 10lbs and 90 degrees of movement on my affected shoulder, anything beyond was limited to active-assisted range of motion exercises and stretching as tolerated. I had to change my training program if I would like to at least fair well with the rest of the participants. I also gained a fair amount of unnecessary weight(187lbs) from being incapacitated and quarantined, that also had to change. So how I tackled this challenge? Let’s start with the latter. For my diet, I recalculated all of my nutrition needs (macros-based) from day zero to the day of the weigh-ins according to my activity levels (also programmed ahead of time). I aimed to loose 10% of my existing weight and nothing more to prevent ‘rebound’ from a drastic weight loss common amongst people loosing way too much over a very short period of time. Let me clarify things especially for beginners, I have been tracking my nutrition religiously for quite a while now so I’m familiar with how much a certain surplus, deficit or even maintenance diet would affect my built and performance. For anyone who would like to try the same route the first time, expect different results, I suggest taking time to learn to find your maintenance calories first instead of aiming for a drastic weight loss or gain. It will take several weeks but it is worth it, work your goal and adjust accordingly from that baseline. Manipulating your body composition will improve in time as you get to know it more. I strongly suggest guidance from people with experience and vast knowledge in this field. I usually walk around a maintenance calorie of 2600+/- to 3000+/- per day and can go down as low as 1700+/- to 1800+/- per day depending on my goals with ratio usually during off season around 45% carbs to 30% protein and 25% fat. The percentage varied as I got closer to the show plus the introduction of carb cycling (100:75:50) 4 weeks out from the weigh ins. Going back, I am a creature of habit and structure. My food for the last 8 weeks were very basic yet sophisticated and well prepared because I was raised by a strong woman who happened to be a very good cook that taught me that basic meals doesn’t have to suck in flavor and quality. That being said, I stuck to what is familiar, nutritious and filling prepared and cooked to my specifications. Some example of staple meals for this preparation are: Baked chicken breasts and milk fish prepared by brining it overnight, herbs and spices were added before wrapping it in banana leaf to save the juices and I rest it on top of a wire rack before the pan instead of putting it straight on the pan for easy cleaning. I unwrap it a few minutes before I bring it out of the oven to get some crust and browning outside the meat. For carb sources, I did not get rid of white rice but I made sure that I pair the yummy starch with fibrous carb sources like grilled eggplants, okra or sweet potato tops. Fats, believe or not, I blended straight out butter(because everything is good with butter) with garlic and put everything in a plastic squeeze bottle. I squirt a bit over my meals and when I cook with it, I squirt a little bit on the pan and spread it out evenly with a paper towel. I also prepare by the bulk twice a week so I can bring my meals anywhere and anytime when I need it. To be honest, I was never hungry for the entire thing because all portions were distributed and administered at the right time all the time like I was admitted in the hospital with my own medical staff. I had refeeds twice for 8 weeks (pork knuckle cooked German style on a bed of pickled cabbage the first time and machang plus 2 mooncakes the second time) plus my guilty pleasure of drinking ‘Monster zero’ until 2 weeks out when I removed it completely. I did not do any other diet methods known to man because I know that it will just mess with me more and most of them I’m just skeptical of. As to supplementation, I kept it simple too with my stash of whey/casein, creatine and caffeine. I also drank water immensely with some control during the peak week.
As to training, with limited motion and weight allowed, I focused on the idea of ‘conscious tension’ or ‘conscious muscle activation’. Though weights were very objective as they were, my limitations allowed me to really isolate the areas that I was working on especially the obvious atrophy on my entire right upper body/extremity that I’m still trying to work on until now. I am proud to say that most of the reps I did for the past couple of months recovering from the surgery all the way up to the show were performed with great deal of control for quality/form and extra effort to make the 10lbs appear as if it was 85% of my 1 rep max all the time. My knowledge in anatomy, kinesiology as a therapist helped me a lot too with my progress. I still have a lot to work on believe me, my right side still has to catch up. I am happy that the judges did not notice the discrepancies on my poses as to symmetry, At the time of writing this, I have not tried a single pull-up since June, I cannot perform free-weighted overhead presses in all areas, I cannot hold and sit a barbell on my back that prevents me from squatting, I cannot do heavy deadlifts and I cannot produce a legit back/front double biceps and latissimus dorsi pose essential for mandatory poses during shows. I trained 6-7 days a week with cardio and weight training. My split was: HEAVY LEGS (anterior chain dominant)-MODERATE/LIGHT PULL DAY – HEAVY PUSH DAY – HEAVY LEGS (posterior chain dominant) – HEAVY PULL DAY – MODERATE/LIGHT PUSH DAY – ACTIVE REST (some form of cardio and household chores). ‘Heavy’ and ‘Mod’ varied considering my impairment, ‘Heavy’ days for the sake of this article meant longer time under tension reps with the MD prescribed weights. For example: Smith machine presses (flat) 4×8-10 at 6:2:2:4 meant a rep would last 6 seconds going down or negative, it stays at the bottom for 2 seconds or negative-pause/hold, followed by 2 seconds to go up or positive then stays on top for 4 seconds or positive-pause/hold before the next rep. And yes, I mentally count my tempo if you would ask. ‘Moderate-light’ days were focused on high repetition sets to failure ranging from 20 – 40 reps per set. I prioritized leg days after rest days, refeeds and high carb days so I’d be well rested and perform at my best. To compensate for the squats, I used the Smith machine then just wrap a towel on the bar so I would just hold on to the towel instead since my shoulder range of motion won’t allow it. Deadlifting was not an option too for this preparation. I basically utilized machines for most of my leg workouts this time around. For cardio, I went with LISS (light intensity steady state) because HIIT (high intensity interval training) meant less control and jerking on my operated shoulder. I enjoyed the spinner alternating between uphill and flat ground. Sometimes, I hang my affected arm on the TRX mounted on the ceiling to passively stretch my shoulder overhead while I ride the spinner. Netflix and YouTube video podcasts/news kept me company to kill time during my cardio sessions. I had multiple lucky days of doing outdoor bicycle sessions with my son and wife in the afternoons too that was really fun for all of us.
I was way off when it came to rest. With schools closed, my kids never needed to wake up early for online schooling and sleeping late was also acceptable. We co-sleep with our kids so go figure. I am an early riser so I get a good 5 hour sleep every night. I am lucky though because I get to squeeze in a nap in the afternoons that I always look forward to everyday.
The Transformation Challenge came when I needed it the most, when I’m broken and starting to lose hope with my current predicament. It gave me something to look forward to everyday carrying out the challenge with like-minded individuals with maybe the same reason as I do or more. It was never the prize for me like with other shows that I competed on but the blissful feeling of having a reason to endure and come out victorious. I say there should be more activities that promote a healthy lifestyle like this especially these days when a lot of people are passively waiting for the non-existent magic drug rather than improving themselves through hard work and consistency. Now it’s time to move on, and since the writing of this, I am slowly getting back to my maintenance weight with more leniency when it comes to what I eat but still applying what I know best. I rested one whole day and caught on with my kids and other chores, I also got to bake (sourdough bread and cookies….like a lot) again and started shopping (on-line only) and wrapping gifts for my loved ones. I concluded the traditional holiday mini-cut with my clients and friends on the same day as the judging for this part of the year so we can enjoy some holiday treats for a job well done.
For the beginners, I wish you did not get this far into reading expecting that I will be sharing a secret workout technique, a super diet method or an outstanding miracle supplement for abs and body definition. For a seasoned body builder or an enthusiast when it comes to body transformation, I apologize for breaking your bubble because a lot of what I wrote above is nothing new to you anymore, or maybe it does not work for you, or maybe you have something much better to offer. To be honest, I think I won because I joined without an agenda. I was just happy that the challenge existed to occupy my wandering mind and longing heart. I won because I know that I was not doing it alone so I did my best everyday for the group. Lastly, I won because I have to give myself a chance.
Mad love to the Transformation Showdown organizers Huan and Dennis, the sponsors Supplementhub, Bootybands, Gains for Days, Bunny Basket Bohol, judges, and these special people on my side: The Sillano’s and the Mansukhani’s, Coaches/Friends William, Juno, Gohan, Chris and Ivene, Doctor Paolo Tabar and his staff, my Kilos Davao Team, my beautiful children Kawayan and Malaya, and of course, Radha my everything.