J.C. Salter has left the baseball diamond and entered the world of bodybuilding.
Instead of tentatively dipping his toe into the shallow end of the pool to see if he’s comfortable with the temperature, Salter dove right into bodybuilding’s unknown waters when competing in the Arnold (Schwarzenegger) Classic in Columbus, Ohio from Feb. 29 through March 3.
“It’s the biggest multi-sport convention next to the Olympics,” said Salter, an Ottumwa native.
The road that led him to Columbus starts at Marshalltown Community College. Salter, who was a four-sport athlete at Ottumwa, played baseball for the Tigers his freshman year in college. Although he had been lifting weights since his freshman year in high school, he really got serious about weight lifting at Marshalltown. What at first was just a means to become a better baseball player blossomed into a love of weight lifting itself.
After his freshman season, Salter elected to leave Marshalltown and pursue an Emergency Medical Technician Degree — he has that degree today — at Indian Hills Community College. Salter’s goal is to become a firefighter, which requires an EMT degree.
While his baseball career was now behind him, Salter’s love of weight lifting never ebbed. He continued to work out every day, and, one day, the idea of becoming a bodybuilder crawled into his brain.
Salter was convinced to compete in the Arnold Classic by Kevin Lisak, a friend from New York.
“He said, ‘hey, do this competition with me,’” Salter said.
He said at first he was nervous about making his debut at such an elite venue. But, he eventually concluded his early nerves were a necessary medicine. He adopted a strict dieting regimen and hit the weights hard in the final 16 weeks leading up to the classic. In the last three weeks, he said he was consuming 1,500 calories a day and drinking over two gallons of water.
When the big event arrived, Salter’s dedication and discipline paid off in the form of weight loss and decreased body fat. He went from 213 pounds and 14 percent body fat to 180 pounds and five percent body fat.
Salter competed in the men’s physique competition in the short division — medium and tall are the other two divisions.
“I was the youngest one there out of 100 competitors,” Salter said. “Being the youngest one there kind of showed me where I was at.”
He didn’t place in the top 10, but he enjoyed the experience and plans to compete in the classic again next year.
Weight lifting and healthy eating are at the epicenter of bodybuilding. But the weight-lifting regimen for bodybuilding differs from the workouts that are conducive for baseball, basketball and football players.
“Basically in body building you isolate each muscle group,” Salter said.
On Monday, Salter works on legs, Tuesday chest, Wednesday back, Thursday shoulders and Friday he works on his arms.
“When I’m in constant prep mode, there is never a day off,” Salter said.
While he prepared for the Classic, Salter was trying to break into the fitness modeling industry. He reached out to Lisak, who referred him to Michael Anthony Downs who invited Salter to Tampa, Fla. for a three-day photo shoot. While in Florida, Salter had his picture taken in three different settings: The beach, an urban setting and in the gym. After the shoot, Salter flew to Ohio to the Arnold Classic.
“I never really planned on doing it [fitness modeling], it just kind of fell into my lap,” he said. “It turned out to be something I really enjoyed.”
The time, devotion and attention to detail photo shoots require surprised Salter.
“I figured you would take a few pictures and then it’s done,” he said. “We would take 30 to 40 pictures to get the perfect shot.”
In April he will do another photo shoot with Downs in Los Angeles as well as a shoot with Luis Rafael, who has done photo shoots of famous fitness models like Steve Cook; in Miami.
Salter had to change the way he approached eating while training for the Classic. His disciplined food regimen today is anathema to the carefree eating habits he embraced in high school.
“Basically in high school, I didn’t pay attention to diet,” Salter said. “It wasn’t until bodybuilding that I found out how important nutrition was because I saw my body change rapidly.
“I ate the same thing every day and it was tough, but after a while it was just kind of routine. Bodybuilding is very routine-oriented; it’s structured. Once you have things planned out, it’s so easy.”
At the Classic, the participants in the men’s physique competitions did three poses — front, back and side pose — and were judged based on physical intangibles like wide shoulders, wide back, small waist, defined abs, muscular legs and whether they had four or five percent body fat. In addition, the preparation they put into the poses and the confidence they exuded also was under the microscope.
“My goal with all this is I want to be an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro, which is the top of the top,” Salter said.