This year, bodybuilders and figure competitors in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart wanted to get an edge on their competition with more than lifting weights and practicing poses: they needed a support system.
That’s why they created the USAG Stuttgart Bodybuilding and Figure Team — just in time for the 2010 Annual European Bodybuilding and Figure Championship, held in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s Kelley Theater Aug. 28.
Their strategy worked.
The Stuttgart team still walked away with eight awards, including the overall men’s and women’s bodybuilding trophies.
Competitors came from all over Germany, including Landstuhl, Darmstadt and Vicenza, Italy.
“Year by year, we get more competitive,” said Anja Langer, one of the competition judges and 1988 Ms. Olympia runner-up.
“This competition is very hard to judge,” she added. “It’s very impressive to see the willpower people have.”
Bodybuilders were judged on their muscularity, symmetry and proportions through 90 seconds of free posing, followed by mandatory poses for comparisons with competitors. Figure competitors were judged for poise and facial beauty, in addition to muscularity, during a “T-walk” to both sides of the stage, and in comparison poses.
The competition was sanctioned by the International Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation. Guest posers included Justin Houstin, World Natural Bodybuilding Federation pro, and 50-year-old Reinhard “Hucky” Maier, local national and International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness pro.
Training for both bodybuilding and figure competitions involves intense workouts and very strict diets.
“When you get to the point where you are weighing your chicken and counting your almonds, you know you have discipline,” said Nelanie Hamilton, a first-time figure competitor from Stuttgart.
For figure competitors, it gets even harder: they have to demonstrate their strength in four-inch heels.
Hamilton joined the Stuttgart team for extra support. “It allows you to tap into the experience of others,” she said.
In fact, helping others through the training is one reason why Travis Welborn started the team.
“It’s a team concept: people help you out,” said Welborn, a technical sergeant who works for U.S. European Command J2 and the third place winner in the men’s lightweight bodybuilding category. “We mentor each other; we help each other from diet tips to … posing and practicing.”
Besides supporting each other, competitors still had to spend a lot of time and effort working on their physiques, as evidenced by Stuttgart’s top male and female bodybuilders.
Naomi Ludan, women’s heavy-weight bodybuilding and overall winner, attributed her success to two things: “dedication and sacrifice.”
It was Ludan’s first time competing, although she has lifted weights for several years. The audience almost drowned out her music with cheers when she took the stage, showing off muscle striations that rivaled her male counterparts.
Likewise, Vashaan Johnson, a specialist with the 52nd Signal Battalion who took first in men’s middleweight and overall bodybuilding, called training “a part-time job.”
But his work paid off: Johnson took home a pro card.
For Charmaine Valmonte, another first-time bodybuilder, her dedication paid off in other ways.
Since Valmonte started training, she lost 23 pounds, and her uniform — which she says used to fit like skinny jeans — now hangs off of her.
“This bodybuilding challenge was my 40th birthday gift,” said Valmonte, an Army major who works for EUCOM J6.
She added that she couldn’t do it without encouragement from her teammates. “We look to each other for motivation,” she said.
“It’s a challenge. Some days it’s painful,” she added. But in the end, it was worth it all. “Stepping on that stage is a mission accomplished.”