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East Grand Forks man wins third regional bodybuilding contest

Tom Seydel's most recent title came at the National Physique Committee's North Star Bodybuilding competition earlier this month. Photo by John Stennes/Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
Grand Forks bodybuilder Tom Seydel, winner of three overall champion bodybuilding titles at regional competitions over the past two years, works out recently at the gym he manages in Grand Forks, N.D. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD2 / 4
Too skinny for sports when he was growing up in East Grand Forks, Minn., Tom Seydel now competes in bodybuilding championships at 205 pounds. JOHN STENNES/GRAND FORKS HERALD3 / 4
Submitted photo.4 / 4

Tom Seydel didn't play high school sports while growing up in East Grand Forks. "Too skinny," he said.

"Skinny" no longer is a word to describe the 39-year-old Seydel, who has won three overall champion bodybuilding titles at regional competitions over the past two years. Overall champion goes to the top performer in all of the six weight classes.

The latest of his overall titles came earlier this month against 43 competitors in the National Physique Committee's North Star Bodybuilding competition in the Twin Cities suburb of Burnsville. The others were at the Upper Midwest Championships in Fargo and the Gopher State Classic in Eden Prairie, Minn.

Success has come quickly, as he didn't take body building seriously until 2009.

The 6-footer competes at 205 pounds, which falls into the light heavyweight class. Although his regional showings have qualified him for national competition, which he participated in last year, he has opted not to attend this year. "I need to put on more definition," he said.

Not just strength

Muscle definition doesn't appear to be a problem to the untrained eye as he works out at the south end Grand Forks' Ironworks Gym, which he manages. As he lifts free weights, his muscles appear to burst like popcorn over heat.

Ironworks is not a workout facility geared to general fitness. It's for bodybuilders and power lifters. "We're known as a meathead gym," Seydel said. "We welcome grunting and other noises here."

Ironworks' walls are lined with black-and-white photos of muscled celebrities such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mike Tyson and Hulk Hogan. Developing a sculpted physique is about more than lifting barbells, Seydel said.

"Anyone can go to the gym and get stronger or bigger," he said. "It's the discipline of the diet and the lifestyle that is make-or-break."

Preparation for a competition begins with gorging on food to develop mass. Eating seven protein-heavy meals a day, Seydel topped out at 232 pounds for his latest competition.

Then the job is to cut as much body fat as possible, by again eating seven protein-rich meals daily, although in much smaller portions, over a span of 16 to 20 weeks. Typical menu items were chicken, tilapia, oatmeal, rice, asparagus, peanuts and "lots and lots" of water.

"You never eat when you're hungry; you eat on the clock," he said. "It's all about when you're supposed to eat and what you're supposed to eat."

Once a week, the regimen allows a "cheat meal," where the competitor can eat anything desired. Seydel said his cheat diet consists of pizza, steak or cheeseburgers.

'An ambassador'

Tom Kemper, promoter of the Fargo bodybuilding show, said Seydel has come a long way in a short time.

"He takes every bit of advice he can get and does everything he can do to be the best he possibly can," Kemper said. "I remember when we first met and I answered his questions for 40 minutes.

"It's a joy for him to compete, much less win. He's a great athlete and great ambassador for the sport."

Getting Ripped 101

Tom Seydel's six tips for bodybuilding beginners:

1. Have a regular routine for eating and training.

2. Dieting means smart choices, not starving yourself.

3. Eat 5 to 7 medium-sized meals per day rather than three large ones.

4. Building muscle comes from quality movements and good form, not heavy weights.

5. Choose weights that you can lift with good form.

6. Bodybuilding is 60 percent diet, 30 percent gym time, 10 percent rest and recovery and 100 percent discipline.

Call Bakken at (701) 780-1125, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1125 or send email to