The NPC National Championships showcases the best amateur bodybuilders in the country and its rarely successful for a first time competitor. Jonathan Irizarry plans to change that, as he guns for first place and IFBB pro status. The Texas native is focused and confident he has the goods to be the next pro from the Lone Star State.  Here's how he got this far…

Name: Jonathan Irizarry
Age: 24
Contest Weight: 222
OffSeason Weight: 241
Hometown: Arlington, Texas
Most Recent Title Won: 2011 NPC Collegiate Nationals (HW and Overall)

Darren Burns

First things first, How did you get into the sport of bodybuilding?

Growing up, my mother would always take me to the gym with her and I would just sit in the kids club. I was always around the gym environment and when I got hurt from playing tennis because of a shoulder injury, I used the gym for rehab.  As time passed, more and more gains came and one day, a man by the name of Robert E. Lee (Ronnie Coleman’s former training partner), said I should do a bodybuilding show. I’ve been hooked ever since.

What was your first experience like preparing for a show and getting onstage?

It was weird because I really didn’t know what to expect from it. Brian Dobson, Lee, and Metroflex Gym; Ft. Worth owner Rendy DeLaCruz, helped me with my posing for the last six to eight weeks before the show but the prep was definitely hard. I placed fourth out of five. I was hungry for a better placing the following year.

It took you a few tries to take home the NPC Collegiate National Title. What was it like competing and being so focused on a singular goal while pursuing your education?

It’s not easy going to class and dieting for a show. Especially when you have double sessions of cardio, workouts, and work to top it all off. But we do what is needed. Also just simply being driven and focused on the tasks at hand. Without that focus and determination I wouldn’t have been able to do so well being so bogged down with a huge load.

You eventually won the Collegiate National Title in 2011 and haven’t been onstage since. What have you been doing in your hiatus?

Initially I wanted to compete last year at the NPC USA’s. My plans faltered and I felt I just wasn’t ready yet for the big stage. So I took a year off and just focused on staying leaner while maintaining a good solid weight using flexible dieting methods. This has honestly been a life saver to me. By learning how to just simply eat, no restrictions, but using portion control and knowing exactly what you put in your body, I have been able to maintain a much better look in the “offseason”, which in turn has helped me tremendously for this prep.

You’ve been using the flexible dieting approach for this prep and have achieved your best ever condition. Tell us about the principles of this approach and how it’s changed your outlook on contest and offseason prep.

Yes, I have and I loved it. It allowed me to eat foods that you just don’t see guys normally eating while in contest prep. Don’t get me wrong, I still kept the main staple foods in for the majority of my prep, but what I did was always calculate my numbers going into every day. So If I wanted to mix it up a little bit I could. As you said, my best conditioning ever so the results show for themselves.

Darren Burns

Another change is that you’ve been working with John Meadows “Mountain Dog” training program. What have been some of the changes you’ve made in your physique since using his training methods?

What I love is that it’s a mixture of bodybuilding as well as some powerlifting techniques added. It’s great utilization of periodization throughout each program so that you can last all the way through basically injury free. And just having them all written out and in such great detail has allowed me to train even harder than I normally would.

Plano, Texas is becoming a hotbed for bodybuilding of sorts. With a brand new Gasp store and gym built there, how doe’s it feel to be one of the up and comers in that area.

I feel like I am pretty established here in my home state, especially in the Dallas-Forth Worth metro area. People here know who I am and I believe the majority looks forward to future success for me as well. But yes, the gym here is awesome. With the new GASP/Better Bodies store and the Ultimate Sports Nutrition supplement store it’s an all in one that we’ve never had before. The “New Mecca” is what we call it here.

You’ve worked with Hany Rambod and now you’re part of the Evogen team. What has that experience been like for you?

It has been an amazing experience thus far being apart of the Evogen team. A blessing that Hany Rambod himself was able to see worth in me and allow me to be on such a prestigious team. Everyone here on the team are established winners so I’m just happy to be one of them. All great people and great athletes – Hany knows how to choose the best of the best.

What’s going to happen in Fort Lauderdale at Nationals?

I hope to win. I think I can win with my combination of size, roundness, fullness, with a pleasantly aesthetic physique and a small waist. I just know that no matter the outcome, I gave my all and brought the best physique I could to the show. The judges will be the ones to pick and choose who moves on to the IFBB and I just pray I can be one of those few men to do so this coming week! 

2013 NPC National Bodybuilding Championships