Here's what has changed, and what has been learned.Read article
Although there are two bona fide pro legends, Shawn Ray and Branch Warren, among the 32 NPC Teen National champs, only six overall victors had turned pro before 2015. Now Cody Montgomery has joined that exclusive club. Already he’s had a legendary amateur career. Of those 34 Teen Nats, he’s the only person to win more than one, and he did it thrice. Then he leaped into 2015’s USA Championships and once again took home the heaviest hardware, becoming the first person to go pro in his debut NPC open contest and, at 20, the youngest overall winner of a pro qualifier. Expectations are now sky-high. Can he keep his winning streak alive in the big league? Can he have a legendary pro career to match his amateur years? Settle in. We’ve witnessed only the first steps of what will likely be a long journey.
“Words can’t capture everything I’ve experienced already,” Montgomery says. “When I first started bodybuilding, I just wanted to be noticed, because I was a nobody, and as time went on I wanted to be remembered as the greatest teen bodybuilder ever. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case, but I definitely have the titles to back it up that I was a very good teen bodybuilder. Regardless of whether or not I’m the best ever, I don’t think anyone’s going to beat that record [three Teen National overalls], so it feels good that I’m going to be remembered for that for a long time.”
Cody Montgomery was born in Anchorage, AK, on Aug. 6, 1994, the youngest of three children. His parents, oil engineers, relocated the family to suburban Dallas. There, the youngest Montgomery was a skinny skateboarder before, at 12, he began lifting weights for football. “I still remember when I broke 100 on the gym scales,” he says with a laugh. Soon that number was rapidly expanding. “The summer between junior high and high school, I really got into eating and lifting to get bigger. As a freshman, I competed as a powerlifter in the 181s [division for those who weigh 165-181 pounds].”
Jay Cutler and Flex Lewis were his early inspirations, and he remains a fan of both even as they’ve become his friends. “I started looking at YouTube videos of bodybuilders, lifestyle videos, and training videos, and those were the two guys I focused on the most.” Four-time Mr. Olympia Cutler and four-time Olympia 212 champ Lewis were each, like Montgomery, teen prodigies and youthful professionals. Cutler won the heavyweight class of the 1993 Teen Nationals before losing the overall to Warren. Lewis was the British junior champ at 19. Both O titlists earned pro status at 23.
Montgomery began his rapid rise a week after his 16th birthday when he won the teen division of the 2010 NPC Dallas Europa. “It just felt right, like it was my calling,” he says of his debut outing. The following year, he won not just the teen title of the Ronnie Coleman Classic but also the men’s middleweight novice division. Then, in 2012, he set his sights on the NPC Teen Nationals. High school teachers allowed him to down the necessary meals and protein shakes in classes to stay on his meal plan. He was only 17 (the Teen Nats is held annually in late July, just before Montgomery’s birthday), but at 184 pounds, the 5’7” Texan presented a surprisingly “finished” physique with rare qualities like zippered quads, a lumbar Christmas tree, and pointy biceps. In a shocker, the light-heavyweight became the youngest person to win the overall title.
“I think other than the USA, that was the greatest moment of my life,” Montgomery states. “I wasn’t expecting it. Nobody knew who I was. With the Teen Nationals, there’s not a lot of hype, but whatever hype there was that year was for Dominic Cardone [who won the heavyweight class], and he had major sponsorship and everything. I was just some nobody going in there. And that was probably the coolest experience of my life, because it was the first time I really got accepted into the world of bodybuilding.”
That acceptance included a subsequent photo shoot in Gold’s Venice with legend Chris Cormier, who, at 26, won the 1993 USA Championships—the year before Montgomery was born. “The Real Deal” went on to win 11 pro shows and finish second in the Arnold Classic six straight years with the type of proportionate, mass-with-class physique that Montgomery is building. “He’s seen it all, done it all, but also had some stumbles, so he can tell me how to do things right in bodybuilding but also in life,” this year’s USA champ states. “He’s been great just advising me on a personal level. I think of him as a father figure.”
With one Teen National title, Montgomery’s focus turned to becoming the first person to repeat. “That second year, I thought of it more as a job,” he admits. He barely eked in at the 198-pound light-heavy limit on his way to making history with Teen Nats title No. 2. “And then after that I got more and more motivated, and it just became more of my life.” With two titles at 18, why not go for No. 3 at 19? After all, three is a tally that will likely never be matched and, safe to say, never be topped. For extra motivation, Montgomery, by then a business student at the University of Texas, San Antonio, also entered the NPC Collegiate Nationals, held concurrently with the Teen Nats. Weighing in at 214, he won both shows.
As a three-time Teen Nationals champ, Montgomery has advice for other teenage bodybuilders. “Don’t rely too heavily on supplements. Obviously, supplements play an important role, but I think some teenagers will drink a lot of protein shakes instead of eating real food. You need to have a balance. That’s one thing I’d say to teenagers regarding everything and just life in general: Keep a balance. Remember, you’re only young once, so be sure you enjoy it, but at the same time be focused and know what you have to do to make the kind of bodybuilding gains you want or whatever goals you have. You also need to get your mind positive. Sometimes you have to work on that, work on eliminating negative influences from your life and work on eliminating negativity from your thinking. That’s one thing I had to work on over the past year, and it paid big dividends for me.”
ONE AND DONE
Montgomery is refreshingly honest about experiencing what he calls “a bit of a depression” earlier in 2015. “I didn’t have my previous contracts. I’d broken up with my girlfriend. Life felt like it was falling apart.” He had originally planned to do the NPC Nationals in November, but he told his nutritionist, Chris Aceto, he needed something to focus on before then. “I said, ‘If you believe I can win the USA, let’s do the USA.’” Aceto concurred, and the 20-year-old phenom prepped for the July pro qualifier. He had to pull hard that last week to make it under the heavyweight limit, weighing in at 224. It was his first open contest and first pro qualifier, having earned his way onstage by winning the Teen Nationals (and Collegiate Nationals). A stomach bug the night of the show nearly derailed his undefeated streak, but once again Montgomery brought his winning combination of pleasing lines, an aesthetic shape, and high-def detailing. He won the heavyweight class over 2005 Teen Nationals champ Gerald Williams (who subsequently went pro at the North American Championships) and then took the overall. Neither win was ever in doubt.
“I almost feel like that [the USA] was more godsent because of everything I went through this year, being down and showing resilience and that I can persevere. It meant a lot to me personally that I never stopped believing in myself. I just think it was godsent that I was sick and not only managed to get onstage but won. All of this doesn’t even make sense to me yet. Maybe it never will. But I love the feeling, and I certainly feel blessed.”
The 2015 USA champ took the fall university semester off to “let things settle down and focus on travel for appearances,” but he does plan to get his degree. He’s gone from 184 in the summer of 2012 to 224 in the summer of 2015, at a steady pace of 10 to 15 pounds per year. “I’m not trying to push crazy amounts of food or anything like that and change my look,” he explains. “I think a lot of people make that mistake when they turn pro—they try to get monstrous and lose all their lines.” Before he even turned 21, Montgomery had racked up a record three Teen Nats and an unprecedented one-and-done USA win. But he’s in this for the long haul. Bodybuilding is his career now. And ultimately he wants to be remembered more for what he does as a professional than what he did as an amateur. He wants to have a legendary pro career, like fellow Teen National champs Shawn Ray and Branch Warren, and like fellow USA champs Chris Cormier and Phil Heath. The truth is, for all Cody Montgomery has achieved, at 21, all he does is win, and he’s just getting started.
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MONTGOMERY’S TRAINING SPLIT
DAY 1 – BODY PART: Quadriceps, Hamstrings
DAY 2 – BODY PART: Chest, Calves
DAY 3 – BODY PART: Back
DAY 4 – OFF
DAY 5 – BODY PART: Shoulders, Hamstrings
DAY 6 – BODY PART: Triceps, Biceps, Calves
DAY 7 – OFF
MONTGOMERY’S TRICEPS ROUTINE
Rope Pushdown: 4 sets, 12-15 reps
Dip or Machine Dip: 4 sets, 10 reps
Close-grip Bench Press: 3–4 sets, 10 reps
Triceps Ladder: 3 sets, 15-20 reps
Overhead Rope Extension: 3 sets, 10 reps
MONTGOMERY’S BICEPS ROUTINE
Machine Curl: 3–4 sets, 10–12 reps
Hammer Curl: 4 sets, 8–10 reps
Reverse Curl: 3 sets, 10 reps
One-arm Cable Curl: 3 sets, 10 reps
Spider Curl: 3 sets, 12 reps