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Interview w/ IFBB Pro, Dominick Cardone (Part 1, The Teen Years)

Interview w/ IFBB Pro, Dominick Cardone (Part 1, The Teen Years)

The East Coast bodybuilding phenomena that is Dominick Cardone has been on the radar of those who actively follow the NPC for years. Ranging from ages 15-16, the then teen bodybuilder was making regular appearances on sites such as RX Muscle, with a physique that improved dramatically with each showing, and legs that already displayed IFBB caliber potential. In just a few short years, Cardone has dramatically skyrocketed though the ranks, and garnered himself the status of IFBB Professional Bodybuilder, at just 21 years of age. This part of the interview was conducted in the weeks leading-up to his win at the NPC Nationals, and focuses primarily on his career leading up to this point… 

What got you into weight training, and more specifically interested in bodybuilding?

I played football for most of my life. When I got into high school, I played as a freshman. The summer before my sophomore year, the coaches started the team in the weight room. As I remember, everybody was taught the completely wrong form and it was a total mess. About 1-2 months after training, I signed up for Golds Gym. Within about 2 weeks of being there and researching on the computer, I came across youtube videos of Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler. For quite a few months I thought these were the only two bodybuilders ever, (Aside from Arnold). Quickly, bodybuilding caught my attention and I began training and eating accordingly.

Cardone, Competing at 16 Years Old

Cardone, Competing at 16 Years Old

At what point did this interest in bodybuilding become legitimate competitive aspirations, and what were your first steps in becoming a bodybuilder?

I started lifting weights right after I turned 15. It wasn’t anything serious, however I did put 25-30 pounds on my own within the first couple months, it was sloppy but everybody commented on if I “Worked out” haha. As I was scrolling through I met a teen at the time by the name of AJ Sims, Aj was a big inspiration to me because he competed at Teen Nationals quite a few times and was a great competitor. AJ took me in as a client at 15-16 and what started as me just wanting abs, turned into me wanting to compete! Shortly after I met a very close friend Michael Jirovec who was a competitor at my gym. We started training together and he linked me with his coach, Fakhri Mubarak. Fakhri I owe a lot to. He not only taught me about bodybuilding, but about life as well. At the young age of 16 I was blessed to have made friends with many older guys in the gym and in the industry, who helped developed who I am today. Thats when I competed in my first show at 16 years old, the NPC Metropolitans.

After my training with AJ Sims who got me with my foot in the door. My friend Michael Jirovec and Fakhri, got me on stage at 16. These two went above and beyond for me for that show. Believing in the skinny young kid who always talked big. Mike trained with me for that whole prep, Fak did my entire diet and lead me along the way.

Can you briefly describe the emotional process of preparing for your first show, what were you expecting?

You know I was a bit of a loner to start. I never really hung out with friends, nor have much social skills. I was beyond obsessive with my diet and training. I never missed a meal and always got every workout in. Getting ready for the show was a bit tough mentally. It was a lot of work but I was extremely focused. I was not really nervous because my tunnel vision was so strong I could not think of anything else. The fact that I had an IFBB Pro such as Fakhri guiding me was a major boost to my confidence. Sometimes you just have to jump in and test the waters, you can not be afraid to fail.

Following your first contest, what were your feelings after, both immediately and going into that offseason?

I did very well in that show; in fact, I beat a teen in the teenage overall who was 19 and about 20lbs bigger than me. I placed 4th in the light-heavy novice and 5th in the light-heavy open. This was a MAJOR accomplishment for me. Especially beating the bigger teenager. Im not going to lie, my head was a little big for a while, haha. My self confidence was higher than never before, it really helped me with my own self. I was very focused to step on stage again.

How driven were you early in your career, and how has this drive towards bodybuilding changed as you have matured?

In the beginning nothing could stop me. I never missed a meal or a training session. I stayed home, went to school, ate and trained. It was all I knew. When I turned 17 I started hanging out with my older friends and having a social life I never had before. So that year I was a bit distracted, but I do not regret it. Throughout the past few years I was on and off. Enjoying my life and bodybuilding. Each show proved to me I can get better each contest. As I got improved, so did my competition. Being able to go out to clubs and have older friends when I was younger allowed me to get that out of my system. Now, I have a view on just sights set on an IFBB Pro card. Life is about balance, you must spend time here or there, being social and training hard. I have to say im more focused than ever now [Leading up to his win at NPC Nationals.] I lost that drive for a short time, but got it back pretty fast.

You were in high school for some of your biggest changes, how did people initially react to your progress, and how did this dynamic change over the years?

At first people had no idea what I was doing. I did not tell anybody I was doing a bodybuilding show. The kids in school just wondered why I was packing food to school and training so much. However, they saw my body change quickly, VERY quickly. As a sophomore /junior I was definitely the biggest kid in school, but I was humble about it. When I posted my competition photos after my first show on facebook, everybody in the school saw it. They had no idea that is what was hiding under my shirt. They respected it in a sense. It’s safe to say my new physical presence demanded respect from the school, but humbly so. As the years went on, I got more mature and a more defined look to me. I don’t feel I look like anything special, but I don’t look like an average human; so I do in fact get a lot of comments throughout the years. I don’t look for the attention though, as I body build for competitive purposes and my own satisfaction.

During high school you looked notably mature for your age, as far as females and partying, what impact did this have?

haha….. It was a fun time, I do have to say. I did have all older friends, 24-40 years old. So I went to my first club when I was 17, and I did look much older for my age. I always had gotten attention from older girls. I also was subliminally trained to act mature as well, because of having older friends. So it played out pretty cool. I got to experience a lot of things young thankfully, that I would not want to do later on. I see a lot of bodybuilders in 20’s get into partying and weird relationships that make them fall away from the sport. I fortunately learned a lot of lessons throughout the years and was forced to grow up pretty fast. Now, I have nothing but positive goals in mind.

Living on east coast, you have essentially grown up in one of the most competitive regions for physique sport on the planet. What impacts do you think this environment has had throughout your career to this point?

I think the east coast certainly has impacted me. Being around the Bev’s Gym crowd and all the pros at the show, has pushed me to attain that high level. Pretty much everybody takes competing serious on east coast, for the most part. More so a few years ago than now. Many great IFBB Pros have came from the east.

Up to the 2012 Teen Nationals, what was your contest history?

Dominick Cardone_2014_NPC Eastern USA

Winning ’14 Eastern USA

2010- NPC Metropolitans

-1st place teen a and teen overall champion

– 4th place novice light heavyweight

-5th place open light-heavyweight

2011- Eastern USA

– Teen B and teen overall champion

– 1st place novice light heavyweight

– 5th place open light heavyweight

2012- NPC Teen Nationals

-1st place heavyweight

Going into the NPC Teen Nationals in 2012, what was different from other preps?

Back in 2011 for Eastern USA, I worked with George Farah. That was my first taste of real contest conditioning. That was a great showing for me. But for 2012 Teen Nationals, I worked with Oscar Ardon from 7 weeks out. It was tough, very tough. I trained with him for every single workout which was brutal each and every time. However, my mental mindset was trained for victory and only victory, I was so focused it was crazy. My day revolved around the show, day in and day out was focused on victory. Every meal, every rep, every bit of sleep was focused in the efforts of attaining victory. I started at 7 weeks out, 220lb soft and out of shape. I weighed in at 208lb hard as nails. I grew pretty dramatically into this show. I could have been a touch tighter, but the size improvements were ridiculous.

What role did your coach serve for this prep?

I pretty much relied on him [Oscar Ardon] for everything. He trained me for every single workout, did the entire diet regiment and made sure I was focused mentally. From start to finish he lead the way completely.

You were a pretty heavy favorite going into the show, and even after prejudging many had you winning the contest, how did you feel immediately after prejudging and what were your expectations going into the evening show?

As soon as I pumped up backstage, I evolved into something I never imagined myself to be, I was VERY confident. Even the other kids in the show were commenting on how I looked. The crowd and judge’s reaction was pretty dramatic to. I honestly thought I was going to take the show based on what everybody had said.

Montgomery (left) and Cardone, competing at the 2012 NPC Nationals

Montgomery (left)/ Cardone – 2012 NPC Teen Nationals


Emotions immediately following placing?

To this day, I still watch the video from time to time. When I wasn’t announced the overall champion. As I type this I still flashback and remember that feeling. It sucked. Plain and simple. I gave that prep my all, trained my hardest. My mindset was fixated on achieving nothing but winning. I remember walking backstage and just going through a tunnel. I went back into the pump up room and leaned against a chair alone and thought how? How, after everything I put into this show, I lose? It cant be… but it was in fact true. You think back and say to yourself, ‘I did the cardio, I trained till I collapsed, I dieted hard.’ But the mind cant put together the pieces to the puzzle when the outcome isn’t what you were trained physically and mentally to achieve.

What lessons did you take from this experience? How have you applied them and what benefits do you think the experience served?

I learned a lot about my body that prep. I mean, A LOT! What did not work, what did work etc. It not only served positive benefits, but to my clients. I had a much greater understanding on all the aspects of getting ready for competition. I have not competed since, but a lot of which was learned, is being applied to the current contest prep for November [Where he would go on to win professional status in the IFBB]

PART II, Coming SOON! 

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