Determined Senior Gains Bodybuilding Success

Senior Sam Lodestro has been taking the idea of just going to the gym to another level. Over the past three years, what started as a freshman hobby of weight-lifting for him has turned into a lifestyle of bodybuilding, competition and a general devotion to health.
Sam began lifting weights so he wouldn’t be the smallest player on the JV football team freshman year. Soon, however, lifting weights became much more than a hobby.

“I made the decision during my junior year that I wanted to compete someday [in bodybuilding], but knew I would not be competition-ready for some time,” Sam said. “That time has finally come.”

On Saturday, October 6, after years of preparation, Sam competed in the National Physique Committee (NPC) San Francisco Bodybuilding Championship National Qualifier and placed first in the teen division. The competitors are judged on symmetry, shape, size and conditioning. This win, he said, did not come easily.

“The competition itself is not so rigorous,” Sam said. “It is the time, work and effort that is put in to prepare for the show that is a true test of will.”

Sam said bodybuilding is the process of shaping, sculpting, crafting and perfecting your physical form based upon your goals.

“It’s about bringing yourself to the absolute pinnacle of visual aesthetics and health,” Sam said. “The actual sport of bodybuilding is much the same; looking your best and being compared against others of the same caliber.”

Sam’s older brother and father competed in powerlifting in high school and college. Both of them have always supported him and pushed him to his limits, bodybuilding included. After seeing bodybuilders and models in the media, Sam decided that he wanted to compete one day alongside them. He says that his role model is bodybuilding competitor and model Ryan Hughes, whom he saw in an article during freshman year.

“I always looked up to great athletes like Mohammed Ali and Arnold Schwarzenegger for their dedication to the sport they participated in,” Sam said. “When I was younger, my older brother and father were my role models as far as lifting goes, but I knew very little about the actual culture and lifestyle of bodybuilding and fitness as a whole.”

Sam works with three separate trainers – two who coach him in strength training and Olympic lifts, and one who works with him on the elements of competition, including posing, diet, symmetry and stage presence. Along with this, Sam goes to the gym to do a variety of cardio and weightlifting exercises five days a week. In the off-season, he is more concerned with adding size and strength. However, when competition nears and he is trying to cut off excess body fat, he does cardio every day.

In addition to his exercise regimen, Sam dedicates time and effort to eating healthy.

“When I am not prepping for a show, my diet is pretty lenient but still moderately healthy,” Sam said. “I go to places like Chipotle and Italian Deli for lunch just like any other student, but choose healthier options when doing so, for example brown rice instead of white [rice]. However, when I am getting close to a show, there is no room for error in my diet.”

A pre-show diet consists of a strict and scheduled amount of oatmeal, eggs, brown rice, chicken, broccoli, sweet potato, string beans, tilapia and 100 grams of whey powder daily. He precooks all of his meals for the week and then stores them in tupperware to track exactly how much food he is taking in at each sitting. Like many other bodybuilders, he also takes legal sports supplements.

Preparation for a show is huge, and the weeks leading up to an event are often the most significant. In the off-season, Sam weighed 195 pounds and had 12 percent body fat, but as the competition neared, he shed excess weight, weighing in at 178 pounds and cut his percent body fat in half.

He said, however, that the effects of bodybuilding go far beyond the physical gains.

“I have become a much stronger person not just physically, but mentally as well,” Sam said. “Academically, I am more motivated and push through work when it gets difficult where I may have just given up before I started this whole journey … I live a much healthier lifestyle because of it; I look better, I feel better about myself and am more motivated in anything I set out to do.”

As for the future, Sam is sure bodybuilding will continue to be a part of his life. He hopes to make it to Nationals in Las Vegas next year, but is currently focusing on getting bigger and better than he was at this competition.

“What I do is a lifestyle choice at this point and I will not give it up,” Sam said. “There is such a thing as going pro in bodybuilding, and I plan on doing so some day, but I have no intention of making a career out of it. I have no plans of ever stepping on stage with Mr. Olympia competitors … but I am committed to this way of life and plan on making great progress in the future.”

Through all of his work and competition, Sam said that bodybuilding is nothing easy, but rather a test of true dedication to health and physique.

“Motivational videos and stories of success can help keep you going, but in the end it comes down to whether or not you truly desire to achieve your goals,” Sam said. “In the moment, when I’ve been in the gym for hours and think I can’t take anymore, something always tells me to keep going. In this case, what doesn’t kill you truly does make you stronger.”