Mark Dagnall – Natural Bodybuilder
Weight (offseason): 190-200 lbs
Weight (contest): 174 lbs.
Training: 18 years
SL: How did you first get involved in bodybuilding?
MD: After playing football during my freshman year of high school I had asked my parents to buy me a weight set in order to help me gain some muscle for the next year. Well from Christmas of 1983 until the present I’ve been training. When I first got my bench and weights I also went out and bought one of Arnold’s first books. I don’t remember the name of the book, but it was a small paperback book with plenty of inspiring pictures. I read that book from cover to cover numerous times and designed my first routine. This first routine consisted of one exercise per body part, three sets per exercise, eight to ten reps per set, and this was performed every other day. The exercises were: bench press, chin-ups, military press, dumbbell curls, lying French press, squats, lying leg curls, and standing toe raises. After 6 months I went from 99 lbs to 140 lbs. Needless to say I decided not to play football opting to continue weight training year round, much to the coaches chagrin. I remember my parents talking about bench and weight set being the most utilized Christmas gift they had ever given me. Thanks Mom and Dad.
SL: What is your favorite body part to train? Why? Give me an example of a workout for that muscle group.
MD: I enjoy training every body part, but recently back training has become my favorite. The reason for this is because you really need a strategic approach to back training due to the number of muscles in the back area. When you hit a back pose you want the judges to see the total package…the rhomboids, lats, traps, spinal erectors, etc.
I begin my back workout with 3 sets to failure of wide grip pull-ups to the front. A typical rep range would be 1st set 20 reps, 2nd set 14 reps, 3rd set 12 reps. Next I perform 2 sets, 4-10 reps, of bent over barbell rows. 1st set 275×10, 2nd set 315×6. Next I perform 2 sets, 4-10 reps, close grip HammerStrength isolateral pull downs. 1st set 8 plates x 10 reps, 2nd set 10 plates x 4 reps. I then move to dumbbell rows for 2 sets of 10 reps using 120lb dumbbell, these are the largest dumbbells the gym I go to has. I then usually perform 2 sets of wide grip pull downs to the rear keeping the reps in the 8-10 rep range. My back training is finished with 3 sets of hyperextensions holding a 45 lb plate for 15 reps. This routine contains a total of 14 sets and takes about 45 minutes and my entire back is fried. I believe what really separated me from the other competitors in my competition was the fact that my back looked like a road map. I actually had people yelling “it’s Christmas” when I hit my first back pose during my posing routine.
SL: How many weeks out from the show did you start your precontest diet?
MD: I began dieting 12 weeks prior to the show. I tend to eat a lot of the same foods year round, so dieting for me isn’t really that difficult until the last couple of weeks before the show.
SL: Give me an example of what you might eat in a day during the offseason and precontest.
MD: Off-season I still eat a minimum of 6 meals per day spaced out every 2-4 hours. Eat meal consists of complete protein and some type of complex carbohydrate. For instance, meal 1 will consist of 7-10 egg whites, ½ cup of oatmeal, Cell Tech’s carb loaded creatine, a multi-vitamin, vitamin C, vitamin E and garlic. Meal 2 will consist of a meal replacement shake; I normally use Labrada’s lean body. Meal 3 will be 6oz of chicken or fish and 1 cup of white rice. Meal 4 is another MRP. Meal 5 will be a turkey burger with baked beans. Meal 6 will be a protein shake with no carbs.
My precontest diet is actually quite similar with the only difference being that a don’t use carb loaded creatine, I switch to plain creatine and mix it with crystal light. Also, meal 5 will be 6oz of chicken and ½ cup of rice or a 4-oz sweet potato. I usually lower my carbohydrate intake slightly each week prior to the show. The week before the show on the Saturday and Sunday I carb deplete. Then starting Monday I begin my carb loading process, slightly increasing my carbs each day mainly using rice, cream of rice, rice cakes, oatmeal and Cell Tech’s carb loaded creatine.
SL: What is your favorite cheat food?
MD: Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream. It’s awesome!!!
SL: What are your thoughts on diet? Do you eat clean year round? Do you believe in a low-carb diet?
MD: I have had a lot of training in the area of diet being a certified personal trainer as well as a specialist in performance nutrition, and I believe that you must consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight each day to maintain and build muscle. I play with my carb and fat intake during the off season, but I usually try to eat clean year round. During my pre contest preparation I definitely decrease my consumption of carbs. Eating too many carbs will make it impossible to lose fat.
SL: Do you ever count nutrients/calories? If so, what is your nutrient % ratio (p/c/f) like in the offseason and precontest?
MD: Typically my nutrient breakdown is 45% protein, 40-45% carbs and 10-15% fat for pre contest. Off season would be about 45% carbs, 40% protein and 15 % fat. I rarely count my calories, but I keep a journal of everything I eat and all my training weights, reps, etc . I’d say my pre contest caloric intake would begin at about 2800 calories and taper down to about 1800 calories. Off season I stay at around 3000 or so.
SL: Which supplements do you take? Why?
MD: I supplement my diet with meal replacements, whey protein, creatine, glutamine . During my final weeks of dieting I will use a thermogenic aid. The organization I compete in (nabfusa) does not allow pro-hormones. I believe that the supplements give me a physical and mental edge. As long as my diet is intact the supplements can only help.
SL: What type of results have you gotten from the creatine?
MD: I began using creatine in 1996 and have been using it ever since. I gained 15 lbs. from the first bottle. I stopped taking creatine for a short time in 1998 and lost a lot of strength, as well as 5 lbs so I stay on it year round for the most part.
SL: What style of training to you subscribe to? HIT, Periodization, high frequency, low-volume? Why?
MD: Over the years I have tried just about every training style, but I have pretty much settled on a very high intensity/moderate to low volume system. I train each body part 1x/week, performing all sets to failure in the 4-10 rep range. I am a firm believer in using heavy weights year round. This type of training keeps my muscles full and dense.
SL: I understand you recently won the Mass. State Championships. What federation was that with?
MD: I am currently competing in the NABF, North American Bodybuilding Federation, which is run by Al Thurston. I actually went to a few different Bodybuilding shows and found that the NABF shows were both well run and judged fairly, two very important factors. Al works very hard in promoting his shows, and he allows you to compete wherever you want with no repercussions, i.e. bad placings.
SL: What weight class were you in?
MD: I competed in the middleweight division which runs from 154 1/4 to 176 1/4 lbs. There were 16 competitors in my class and over 100 in the entire show.
SL: You won the best poser award…what was your routine like? What music did you use? Did someone help you with the posing routine?
MD: To be honest with you I thought that the routine was very basic. It lasted exactly 61 seconds and I posed to a classical piece by Vivaldi called Presto. I stuck to the basic poses, holding each pose for 3 seconds, I used one Frank Zane like pose, and finished with a most muscular that brought the house down. I then finished by thanking the crowd and the judges. My wife and I created the routine over the course of a month or so. I was very shocked to have won this award with such a large class.
SL: What are you plans for the upcoming year? Which shows will you do in the next few years?
MD: I am currently dieting for the NABF Bay State Naturals, which will be held in Somerset, Massachusetts on June 24th. I am looking into competing in the Musclemania show in Toronto on July 2nd, but that is not a sure thing for me at this time. Then on November 18th, also in Somerset, MA, I will compete in the NABF Pro-Am Nationals and hopefully earn my pro card. Next year I plan to continue to compete in the NABF and possibly the Musclemania shows, outside of that anything is possible. I am very honored to have the opportunity to share this information with you thanks to Steroids Live.
SL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MD: Some of my favorite bodybuilders are Skip Lacour, who actually answered all of my emails regarding contest preparation questions, Frank Zane, Arnold, Darrem Charles and Chris Cormier.
I would like to give a special thanks to my mother and father for getting me started with weight training, and my wife Karen for all of her support over the years.
SL: Mark Dagnall has an excellent physique which was built by 18 years of hard work in the gym. His proportions and muscle density give him the edge he needs to win. We will continue to follow Mark as he prepares for his next few contests and we’ll let you know how he does.