Haitian immigrant Al Auguste is no stranger to hardship. Maybe that's why his back routine is tough enough to make you cry


The halcyon days of Haiti ended in 1492, when Columbus rowed ashore from the Santa Maria and thought he'd found India. Since that time, Haiti, which shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, has labored unremittingly beneath the weight of extreme poverty and political high jinks. Instability is the dominant currency there.

For Al Auguste, the old cliché about that which doesn't kill you only makes you stronger may hold some water. If he had had a choice, living in the turbulent tropical hell of Leogane, Haiti, may not have been high on his list of ideal childhoods. Not surprisingly, however, the experience is at the core of who he is today.

Al was raised by an aunt, whose own four children he refers to as his brothers and sisters. Along with soccer, political and social unrest were the constants in his life. "We were always worried," he says. "We were always mentally alert and knew that anything could happen. Just about every time somebody stepped into office there was a coup d'état. It turned into chaos. Schools would be closed sometimes for up to six months."

In 1991 at age 14, he immigrated to Belle Glade, Florida, to live with his biological father. Unfortunately, leaving one country for another didn't provide the immediate relief he was hoping for. "When I first moved here, the area I lived in wasn't that different from Haiti," he says. "Belle Glade is a small town with practically nothing to do. In that kind of town, people are more apt to steal, and even kill, to get whatever they want."

Although fear was still an uncomfortable reality of this life, school for the first time was far more stable, and Al not only added football and cross-country running to his list of activities but he flourished academically as well. And at 14, he lifted his first weight.

When he moved to Orlando two years later, he experienced a measure of stability and calm unknown in his life. He excelled at soccer throughout high school and went on to play at Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Then, during his freshman year, he hit the same wall as so many promising athletes: He tore his ACL.

When he was able to play again, it wasn't at the level he was accustomed to, and he gave the sport up for good in his junior year. Until that point, his weight training had always been sport specific; now, unburdened from the need to be powerful and fast, he began to alter his workouts to focus more on size and shape.

In 2001, a year after graduating from college with a degree in education, he found himself training for a bodybuilding contest. A causal conversation in the gym with another lifter, who thought his physique was predisposed to the sport, piqued his interest.

It didn't matter that he knew virtually nothing about bodybuilding—he was used to obstacles. He read what he could find, asked questions, absorbed all the information he could get his hands on. Syncing his training with his diet was perhaps the most difficult challenge. "It was a trial and error period," he says. "People were telling me to just eat chicken and broccoli or chicken and rice. I think I was doing it wrong the first time, but I eventually figured it out."

In fact, Al says learning things quickly is a skill he's blessed with. His first bodybuilding show didn't result in a placing, but later that same year he took fifth in the NPC Southeastern USA contest.

Moving on Up

Al has been putting on size and weight since 2005, when he competed as a welterweight in the NPC Nationals and realized he'd have to add significant mass if he wanted to succeed in the sport. At the time, he says he just went all out, lifting hard and heavy and eating everything he could force down. By the time the 2006 NPC Nationals rolled around, he took seventh in the light-heavyweight division. Less than a year later, he was still getting bigger and better when he took second at the 2007 NPC USA Championships.

Al says his goal is to break the pro ranks within two years, and more size is definitely on the agenda. Once again, he'll aspire to the glutton's life. "I usually get between 3,900 and 4,500 calories day," he says. "I'll probably have to increase that to 5,000–5,500."

He's considering entering the USA Championships in July, but might wait until the Nationals in the fall, which he says will give him the time he needs to add quality size. But as usual, it won't come easily.

Al drives a tire truck full time and trains around his work schedule. Eating is done on the highways of Orlando, and sleep, well, sleep is a precious commodity. "When I'm getting ready for a show," he says. "I train in the morning and after work. It leaves very little room for sleep. I usually get between three-and-a-half and five hours a night."

Nevertheless, it's not a hardship that's likely to derail his ambitions. He's been through worse. Besides, bodybuilding is a sport that selects for certain characteristics, and that appeals greatly to him. "You have to be 100% to reach your potential," he says. "It's not like you can roll out of bed and say 'I'm going to give it a shot today!' It takes time. And it takes real commitment."

After 14 years in the tumult of Haiti and two more in the bleak rural landscape of Belle Glade, time and commitment are two things Al Auguste never takes lightly. M&F

BIRTHDATE: Dec 31, 1976
BIRTHPLACE: Leogane, Haiti
HEIGHT: 5'7"
WEIGHT: 195 pounds contest, 210 pounds off-season
OCCUPATION: Amateur bodybuilder, truck driver
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 2007: NPC USA Championships,
light-heavyweight, 2nd; Nationals, light-heavyweight, 3rd CONTACT:

THE ROUTINE EXERCISE SETS REPS Pull-Up 4 12–15 T-Bar Row 4–5 10–15 Reverse-Grip Pulldown 4 8–15 Hammer Strength Machine Row 5 10–12 TRAINING SPLIT DAY BODYPARTS TRAINED 1 Legs 2 Chest 3 Back 4 Shoulders 5 Legs 6 Arms 7 Chest Al cycles his workouts and repeats bodyparts every three or four days. He says he rarely does cardio.

TARGETS: Upper lats
START: Grasp a fixed horizontal bar with a wide overhand grip and wrap your thumbs around it for safety. Hang freely from the bar, arms fully extended and feet crossed behind you. This is your starting position.
EXECUTION: Contract your lats to raise your chin over the bar. Concentrate on keeping your elbows out to your sides as you raise yourself. Hold yourself momentarily in the peak-contracted position before lowering back to the starting position.
AL SAYS: "I like my grip to be a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and I make sure my chin goes over the bar on every rep."

TARGETS: Upper lats, middle back
START: Lean your chest and torso against the pad of the T-bar bench and place your feet on the footrests. With your arms fully extended, grasp the handles with an overhand grip. Wrap your thumbs around the handles for safety. Unrack the weight and steady it in front of you.
EXECUTION: Pull the handles toward you, keeping your elbows close to your body on the ascent. Hold the peak-contracted position momentarily before slowly lowering the weight to the starting position. Repeat for reps.
AL SAYS: "Don't allow your upper body to rise off the pad in an effort to pull the weight upward and complete reps; if you need to do this, you may be using too heavy a weight."

TARGETS: Lower lats
START: Attach a long lat bar to the cable and adjust the kneepad so you fit snugly in the seat. Grasp the bar with an underhand shoulder-width grip and sit down, maintaining an erect posture by arching your lower back. Extend your arms fully above you, hold your head straight and put your feet flat on the floor.
EXECUTION: Contract your lats to pull the bar down to your upper chest, bringing your elbows down and as far behind you as possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades together at the bottom as you hold the peak-contracted position for a brief count. Slowly return the bar along the same path and repeat.
AL SAYS: "I keep my elbows tucked to my sides, which helps me involve more of the stubborn lower lats."

TARGETS: Lower lats
START: Sit in the machine with your feet on the foot supports. Grasp the handles and place your chest against the pad, a slight arch in your lower back. Keep your gaze focused forward.
EXECUTION: Contract your lats to bring your elbows backward, keeping them close to your sides along the way. Briefly hold the contraction, then return under control to the start position.
AL SAYS: "I like to do this one arm at a time, using my nonworking arm to anchor myself to the bench. I can go heavier and it allows me a slightly greater range of motion."