We’ve all seen magicians defy gravity, find quarters behind our ears, pick out our chosen card, or vaporize themselves out of seemingly inescapable constraints.
Looks easy, doesn’t it?
That is, until you try it yourself, and realize there’s a lot of hard work behind the “magic”.
Steve Duperre appeared on the bodybuilding scene in 1997 like a rabbit leaping out of a hat. He seemed to come from nowhere.
But although Steve’s been known to whip out a few tricks as an accomplished magician, there’s no secret to his success on stage and beyond – just hard work and practice.
Act One: Making a trophy appear for a 135 lb bodybuilder
Steve’s bodybuilding career began over a decade ago when he entered a competition to support two buddies working their way to the stage.
He didn’t expect much. He didn’t feel like much. Compared to his friends he was small, weighing in at a mighty 135 lbs.
First rabbit, first hat: He walked away with a 3rd place win amongst the group of 13 competitors.
The trophy wasn’t big, but Steve had gotten a glimpse of the stage’s inner workings. He wanted more.
Act Two: Finding the right trick: eating and training
Steve had some learning to do. There were lots of established protocols and strategies out there to get bigger.
But getting huge wasn’t enough. Steve wanted to achieve peak health in a body that was also strong and fast. He wanted to compete naturally, he wanted to enjoy other activities such as hockey, and he wanted a lot of other things in life besides bodybuilding.
How would he pull this one off?
Like any good apprentice, he looked to the masters. He set himself to the discipline of smart nutrition and training, searching for the unique combination that would allow him to push his physique to the limit.
This trick of tailored nutrition and training has made all the difference to him. He’s stayed away from performance enhancing drugs, improved his health and fitness, and achieved his physique goals over the years.
In fact, very few enhanced athletes have beaten Steve in his weight class over the years.
After a couple of 2nd place finishes in 1998 and 2000, Steve came out on top in the Lightweight class in 2004. With each passing year, Steve has seen his physique continually improve. Most recently, he won both the Lightweight and Classic Short divisions at the 2008 Ontario Natural Championships.
Act Three: Keeping the audience (and the body) coming back
Even the best magicians can’t cheat time.
As the age gap between Steve and his competition seemed to grow, he realized that continued dedication to eating and training would be even more crucial to his success. It was his only chance to stay ahead of the younger guys he was competing against on stage and on the ice, and his best chance for optimal health and longevity.
Whatever Steve may lack in youth, he’s gained in mastery of his craft.
Coming up on his 39th birthday this summer, Steve’s left most of his competitors in the dust. Most of the guys he trained or competed against that used performance enhancing drugs to get ahead no longer train at all. Steve is stronger and in better shape now than most guys half his age.
Thanks to proper nutrition and regular exercise, his body looks and performs much younger than it is. No magic here – just a lot of smarts and hard work in the gym and the kitchen.
Act Four: Keep ‘em guessing: mixing up workouts
Whether prepping for competition on stage or on the ice, or enjoying life in the off-season, there’s never been much difference in the way Steve approaches his nutrition. Along with his training strategies, the way Steve and his family eats have become the lifestyle that they stick to rigorously year round.
Steve works on two things in the gym. Improving his symmetry and size to look better on stage is important for his physique. But as a “small” guy, he also needs to be strong to stand up his bigger opponents on the ice.
To meet both goals, Steve lifts weights 4 days a week, split into sessions focused on back, chest, legs and arms. Since all of his workouts are very intense, based on the techniques and protocols of Charles Poliquin, he structures his program so that he never trains 3 days in a row.
Steve spends 5 hours a week playing hockey in addition to his gym time. During the summer months, his cardio shifts to rollerblading or other outdoor training modalities. Regardless of what he’s doing for activity, he keeps it high intensity to keep him in shape for the upcoming hockey season.
Act Five: Find some good (nutrition) tricks, and practice them
Steve’s approach to nutrition has evolved over the years but much of it came after his first stage win. When he began studying the protocols that were out there, he found that he just kept coming back to John Berardi’s articles.
Unfortunately for Steve, this was before John had all the plans and rules laid out so nicely in the Precision Nutrition system. It took Steve many months of reading, and lots of trial and error, to come up with a proper nutrition strategy that worked.
When the Precision Nutrition program came out in 2006, it turns out Steve was ahead of the game. The PN program was very similar to the guidelines that Steve had been following for years.
Before he turned 35, Steve would typically eat around 5,000 calories per day, spread out over 7-8 meals. In a focused fat loss phase leading up to a competition, Steve would cycle his calories between 2500 kcal on training days and 1600 kcal on off days to get his physique tuned up for the stage.
Now that he’s over that mid-30s hump, his body has changed slightly. He now consumes only about 3,000 calories and 240 g of protein per day, spread out over 6 meals.
Because of his hectic schedule, there isn’t a lot of variety in what he eats. The only meal that really changes on a daily basis is supper.
Steve supplements only with fish oils (20 g per day), protein powders, and Greens+ with breakfast and supper every day.
When competing, the only difference is that Steve goes back to cycling calories with high and low days. By eating clean and staying lean year-round, he’s never too far from being stage ready.
Act Six: Find some lovely assistants and a good backstage team
Steve’s zest for learning and desire to be the best led him to the information that was there. Even with a sense of focus, finding the right information for his values and goals wasn’t easy. The work came from the brain power and time to put it all together, and the dedication to be consistent with his approach.
Now as a trainer and coach, Steve can distill all those years of education and experience into simple advice for his clients and athletes: eat right, train hard with a focus on intensity and proper technique, and stay clean. Anyone that has spent some time with Steve gets this.
A perfect example is Steve’s training partner, Michael Martinez, the current Canadian Natural Junior Champion. At 18 years old, Michael’s been training with Steve for the past 2 ½ yrs and during this time he’s gained close to 50 lbs while staying 100% drug-free.
Like Steve, Michael’s success has come from learning to eat properly and train hard while being smart with his training. By sticking with Steve’s approach, Michael has avoided many of the injuries typical of new bodybuilders, such as injuries to the shoulders, knees, elbows, and lower back.
Any athlete that trains and plays hard will face injury at some point in the game.
Steve also knows that injuries aren’t the end of the world. He researched injury prevention and treatment just like he researched diet and nutrition.
Steve has a strong “backstage” team: an excellent physiotherapist, chiropractor, and massage therapist. With these folks working in the wings, Steve can keep himself and his athletes moving, and prevent training from coming to a complete standstill.
Act Seven: Expect the unexpected – and celebrate its appearance with a flourish
Steve didn’t expect to place in that first bodybuilding show. Winning that unexpected prize has led to a lifetime of experiences and lessons he wouldn’t trade for anything.
Dedication and consistency are essential to success, whether it’s becoming a great bodybuilder, magician, or coach. Like everyone, Steve’s experienced the ups and downs of working towards his goals.
Though some may try to define him by his varied accomplishments, he’s learned that a person is truly defined by how they move forward when the magic trick goes wrong.
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