Bodybuilder Puts on Muscle the Old Fashioned Way

Carlos Varela, Flickr ; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal;  Jerry, Flickr

Carlos Varela, Flickr; Jeff Kirchoff, Lee's Summit Journal; Jerry, Flickr

David Weaver eschews drugs in quest for world title. 


This article originally appeared in the Lee's Summit Journal.

David Weaver is hard to miss.

At five feet, 11 inches, his height is average. It’s his 240 pounds of solid muscle that stand out.

“I didn’t realize you were that ripped, man,” says friend Josh Berry as he examines Weaver’s training photos. “You’re chest is shredded up. Dude, you’re legs are shredded big time.”

Weaver smiles. 

Berry isn’t the only one who has noticed the Lee’s Summit man’s chiseled physique. The judges at the 2005 Natural Southern States Classic in Liberty did, too, and made him the contest’s overall winner in April. 

That bodybuilding victory allowed him to qualify as a professional, which means the 24-year-old can not only win trophies, but cash when he flexes and poses on stage. His next competition, in May of 2006, is the Pro Natural American Championship in Austin, Texas. The show features $6,000 in prize money.

“Eventually I think you can make a living at it,” said Weaver, a security officer for the
Department of Energy in Kansas City. “I love to be an ambassador for my sport.”

Weaver makes clear, however, that there are really two worlds of bodybuilding. One is the drug-free version he participates in. Competition is strictly regulated by polygraph testing and urinalysis. 

These natural bodybuilders are healthy and impressive – even remarkable – but don’t look superhuman. In order to win, athletes must pass both tests, verifying that no steroids, diuretics, growth hormones or other illegal drugs have been used in the past seven years.

Then there’s the dark side of bodybuilding, where competition is laden with dangerous and illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Weaver said these athletes have much larger muscles, but risk suffering serious health problems.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that steroid use has been associated with cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes, even for users under age 30. Steroids can also damage skin and lead to extreme mood swings known as “roid rage.”

It’s easy for people outside the bodybuilding world to assume that all competitors are steroid-injecting freaks.

“That’s the reason this sport has not gone mainstream,” Weaver said. “I wish people would know the difference between them.”

Although many high school and college students assume they have to use drugs to compete, Weaver’s convinced otherwise.

“You can look like this without taking all these steroids,” he said, referring to his training picture.

Weaver makes it clear that he isn’t out to criticize others. He just wants competition to be fair. Drug users habitually sneak into drug-free competitions and “trophy hunt in our shows,” he said.

Weaver, who hopes to see the sport attain Olympic status, said its popularity is increasing based on the growing number of competitors.

“People are becoming aware of it,” he said. “It’s a healthy lifestyle.”

Berry, 26, a weekend manager at Summit Fitness, was inspired to begin training by watching Weaver and attending a bodybuilding competition.

“David’s one of the people who got me into it,” Berry said. “I’ve only really been lifting for about a month now but I’ve been putting on some size. He’s always in here, so I watch and talk to him all the time. I’m always asking him what to do.

“David motivates me because he’s got a good workout effort. That’s the first time I’ve seen any of those pictures. He’s huge. That’s the shape I want to be in. He’s not ridiculously huge, but he’s big.”

‘I felt the pump’
Weaver first picked up weights as part of his football training in middle and high school.

“I felt the pump,” he said. “I’ve been addicted to it ever since.”

Although he aspired to professional sports and even played football in college, injuries dashed those dreams. A torn hip muscle sidelined his football career at Missouri Southern State College in 2000. The same injury flared up when he later tried out for the baseball team at Central Missouri State University.

After those setbacks, he decided to stick to weight training. When a friend mentioned that he had competed in a bodybuilding meet, Weaver was intrigued and decided to try it himself. In 2001, he took second place in the novice contest and won the collegiate division of the Kansas City Gold’s Classic. 

“I was hooked,” he said.

This year he broke through big time by winning his division of the Natural Missouri Physique contest and conquering the pro-qualifying Natural Southern States Classic.

The Drive
For Weaver, bodybuilding’s appeal is its emphasis on individual effort.

“You get what you put into it,” he said. “For me, that’s my drive. That’s what makes you stay hungry is seeing how far you can push the human body naturally. You can’t come in here one time or two times a week and get smashed on the weekends and skip meals. Persistence is the key. When you are in the weight room, it’s just you. One more repetition, one more set.”

Weaver puts in 90-minute workouts five to six times a week. He increases that to two hours daily in the 120 days before a contest. In the last two weeks before a show, he adds 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise, twice daily.

In addition to the killer workouts, he follows a strict nutritional regimen. Weaver eats six to seven small meals a day because his body burns more calories that way. Those meals include plenty of chicken, turkey and eggs, beef, salmon and protein shakes. He also tans and shaves his arms, legs and chest year-round for the shows.

The limited meals and heavy exercise become exhausting in the last few weeks before a competition, with symptoms including nagging hunger pangs. 

The heavy exercise and restrictive diet leads to the loss of about 40 pounds, bringing his contest weight down to a ripped 200.

“That’s where it becomes really strenuous,” he said. “It is a healthy lifestyle but the last two or three weeks really takes a toll on your body. I don’t want to make it sound negative, but if you really want to be a competitor, that’s the kind of stuff you’ve got to go through.”

So why be a competitor?

“You don’t do it for the money or the trophies,” Weaver said. “You’ve got to stay hungry. There is always somebody at the top and you want to keep chasing them.”

Weaver’s aspirations aren’t small. He’d like to eventually win the natural equivalent of the Mr. Olympia contest, which is the World Bodybuilding Championship in New York City.

“If I’m going out there I want to try to win the whole thing,” he said.

For now, Weaver’s focused on his pro debut in May. Beyond that, he has several aspirations. One is to manage a gym. He has also considered becoming a Navy Seal because he’s drawn to the physical challenge of the job. In addition, he’d love to make a living as a bodybuilder.

At the root of it all is personal challenge, “to see how far I can naturally push my body to go. It’s just something I love,” he said. “It’s not how much money you have. It’s how much heart dedication you have. It’s all up to you.”