Tuesday, March 14, 2017


The Rangers, a special combat unit of the US Army, are about as tough as they come. If you're selected for Ranger training school at Fort Benning, Georgia, you can look forward to 20 hour days in which the word " rest " is not part of the language.

Daily activities include hand-to-hand combat, climbing steep hills with minimal equipment, and wading through jungle swamps where the least of your worries is that slippery creature coiling around your leg in the murky water.

No wonder the course has a 60% washout rate. Hey, pal, if you can get through this glute-busting stuff, the rest of life really is a bowl of cherries. Just ask Rick Stephenson.

Stephenson, a 32 year old San Diego resident, is a graduate of that school. He's also the 1988 NPC California State Bodybuilding champion. At 5'8" and a contest weight of 210, Rick has a rugged look honed from years of military discipline combined with hours of intense training in the gym. Rick considers his experience in the Ranger training camp one of the most rewarding times of his life. "The Rangers," he says, " have a saying: 'Your body can stand 10 times more than you think it can.' When you've gone through that kind of punishment, you almost look forward to intense sessions in the gym."

Rick was born in Yuba City, California. He participated in sports ranging from wrestling to pole vaulting. "I started fooling around with weights at 14," he says, "I really enjoyed the feeling that I got from lifting weights. Before long I decided that weights were the best route to big muscles and strength.

He didn't get serious about training, however, until after he joined the Air Force.He enlisted right out of high school and was promptly sent to West Germany. There the bodybuilding hug bit him. He and two friends trained regularly at a well-equipped base gym. rick remembers leafing through MUSCLE BUILDER ( now MUSCLE & FITNESS ) and admiring photos of Danny Padilla, Ken Waller, Arnold and other champions of that era. What really impressed him was the mass of these men, and he vowed to emulate their example.

When he got out of the service in 1979, Rick entered Mesa College in Dan Diego, majoring in aviation occupations. He planned to get his college degree, then re-entered the Air force for pilot training.

He obtained an associate's degree after two years, but the wild blue yonder beckoned. He re-enlisted in the Air force. During this second tour of duty he became one of the select few members of the Air Force chosen for Army Ranger training. He arrived at the ranger school weighing 225; the rigorous training brought his weight down to 170.

He kept up his weight training through the years, and in 1981, while he was training at a local gym in San Diego, someone noticed his impressive muscularity and urged him to compete. Rick acquired a sponsor and competed in the Gold's Classic in Los Angeles as a light-heavyweight, placing second. " "At that time in my life," he says " I was just interested in training and getting big. Competition really hadn't interested me. But once I got a taste of competing, I was hooked."

After the Gold's Classic, he jumped into the Nationals in Las Vegas. That proved a sobering experience as the ill-prepared  Stephenson bombed out, placing 11th in his class.

The pressures of travel from his Air Force job kept him from competing again until 1985. That year he moved up to fourth in the light-heavyweight class at the USA Championships.

Right after the USA,Rick got out of the service. The next year, he and tow partners officially took over Gold's gym of San Diego ( Pacific Beach ).

Rick enjoys the gym business and gets along well with his clientele. since he and his business partners are competing bodybuilders, they knew how to upgrade the gym with the latest high-tech equipment. Under their management, the gym membership grew. but Rick still had competition on his mind and took aim at the 1987 NPC California Championship.

In a hard-fought battle, Rick placed second in the light-heavies losing to Shawn Ray ( who also won the overall title). One year later, Rick returned as a heavyweight and easily won both his class and the overall title.

With the California Championship now his, Rick's current goal is to win the USA Championships in Raleigh North Carolina in July. Here's how he's planning to do it.



In assessing his physique, Stephenson says, "There aren't any dominant points about my body, expect for my butt in the off-season."

One mistake he made in the past was training too often, " I think taking more rest days during the off-season allows more complete recuperation and gives the body the break it needs before you begin precontest training," he says now.

His off-season split involves training two days, taking the third day off, training the fourth day, followed by two more days off. He the repeats the cycle.

For pre-contest, he trains on the Weider double-split routine, using the three-days-on, one-day-off split, like this: 


    a.m. - chest , shoulders

    p.m. - triceps


    a.m. - quads, calves

    p.m. - hamstrings


   a.m. - back

   p.m. - biceps

Before the evening workout, he rides a stationary bike for 30 minutes. During the first three workouts of the week, he uses heavy weights and slower movements, with more rest between sets. The repetitions range from 8-10. On the second three days of the training cycle, he uses the Weider Quality Training Principle, resting only 30 seconds between sets and increasing his reps to 15 per set. " Fast training stimulates muscle density," he says.

For smaller muscle groups, such as biceps, triceps and shoulders, he prefers to do three exercises per muscle, 3-4 sets each exercise .For example , here's a typical precontest triceps routine:

 1) Pulley Pressdowns - 3 sets

 2) Dips ( machine ) - 3 sets

 3) Incline Barbell Triceps Extension - 3-4 sets

Some days, he may do more sets depending on the muscle response. This is, of course, the Weider Instinctive Training Principle.

For larger muscle groups, Rick uses the Weider Pre-Exhaustion Principle, doing an isolation exercise followed by a compound movement. For instance in training chest, he'll do a flye-type exercise first ( isolation) then a press movement ( compound ). He uses various angles ( incline, flat, decline ) and several varieties of equipment ( pulleys, free weights, machines ) to fully congest the muscle. For the larger muscle areas, he'll do more sets ( 4-5 per exercise ), using the same heavy/light rep pattern as the smaller muscles.

Rick says you need to understand the feel of a muscle in order to work it properly. In training chest, for example, you must bring the arms slightly inward as you approach the contracted position in both flyes and presses. In training back, you must isolate the lats and not let the biceps do too much of the work.

Rick's precontest diet consists of five meals a day with proper supplementation. His lovely Swedish-born wife Agnetha prepares these meals, carefully weighing and measuring ingredients to ensure exact proportions. a top personal trainer herself, Agnetha is aware of the importance of proper nutrition for bodybuilding success.Rick eats breakfast at home. Agnetha packs his other four meals in Tupperware containers, and Rick eats the contents of one of these prepared containers every 2 1/2 - 3 hours. He sets an alarm on his watch to go off at these exact intervals. Remember - he's an ex-military man!

Breakfast consists of  cream of rice or oatmeal with an added 30 grams of 100% of egg-white powder. The next four meals each contain two cups of rice or pasta, 6 ounces of chicken or white fish, and one cup of steamed vegetables.

His precontest diet averages 2,100 - 2,500 calories daily. He eats the same kind of foods off-season, only more up to 3,500 calories a day. If he's dropping weight too quickly before a contest , Agnetha will add more carbs : protein and fat remain the same. Rick gets about 60-65% of his calories from carbs, less than 5% from fat, and 35% from protein.

For supplements, he uses the egg-white powder in the morning along with a multivitamin-mineral pack. He also takes 10-15 amino acid tablets a day.

Some might consider the weighing and measuring of all his food to be a bit obsessive, but Rick thrives on this strictly regimented diet. "I don't have any desire to binge, and I experience no food cravings," he says.

Unlike some competitive bodybuilders, Rick realizes the importance of a good posing routine. He recently purchased a video camera to videotape his posing practice. He practices posing one hour a day for the last six weeks before a contest, particularly the mandatory poses. He holds each pose 20-30 seconds , and does this three times. Not only does this technique improve his posing, but it's an application of the Weider ISO-Tension Principle, imparting extra harness to his body.

Many bodybuilders grouse about the stress and strain of contest preparation, but not Rick. When the stress of contest training begins to get to him, he remembers a saying popular with the rangers: "If you're comfortable, you're wrong."

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