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Road to Competition

The Road to Competition – Duane Brickhouse



Duane Brickhouse wanted to step on stage for years, but simply didn’t believe in himself or in his potential. Plus, he felt that at his age, he had truly missed his opportunity. This has taught him that it’s never too late to go chase a dream or to make a change in your life, and that you never know what you are really capable of doing until you put yourself out there. He is now a successful physique competitor and incorporates the hard work and discipline he has built to become the best husband, father and person he can be.

Q. How did you get started in fitness and competing, all the way up to your recent successes?

A. I’m definitely a late bloomer. I started lifting weights to get stronger for basketball in my late 20’s. As I began to spend more time in the gym, I developed a passion for building muscle, and the gym quickly replaced basketball as my primary hobby. I started to read as many fitness magazines and textbooks as possible so that I could learn anything and everything about what exercises to do, and program design. I also started to meet people in the gym that competed locally in bodybuilding, which started to give me ideas about where I could go with this. In 2010, my wife and I made our first trip to the Olympia, which was the first year hosting the Muscle & Fitness Male Model search. I watched Steve Cook win and I felt like I could have been on that stage. Seeing the rest of the competitors throughout the weekend was extremely motivating. The following year, the NPC & IFBB created the Physique division, which has a very similar look to the M&F Model search. By 2012, I figured that it was now or never. I printed out the application for the Model search and asked my wife to submit it for me. Surprisingly, I pulled off the win, which of course motivated me to try my hand with the NPC Men’s Physique Division. I was fortunate enough to win the overall at my first show and I have competed in 3 regional and 3 national NPC shows and have placed top 5 in all but one.

Q. How do you balance fitness with your personal life and what does this lifestyle mean to you?

A. I feel like my fitness life has truly improved my personal life. The structure that I have while preparing for a contest really helps to focus on the important things in life that need to be done. That focus doesn’t really have an “off” switch, so it carries over into my family life and the workplace. My diet (in particular how often I eat per day) can definitely cause some challenges, but so far I have been able to work it in. It doesn’t hurt that I have a strong support system of friends and family that help me along the way.

I’m a father of four girls, so to me, setting a good example has become extremely important as they get older. I believe that my new lifestyle is helping me do that by showing them that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. Also, I am a big believer in continuous improvement. I step on stage to win against other competitors, but the real test is with yourself. You have to constantly push to be better than you were the day before. Again, this is something that carries over. It’s not just about stepping on stage.

Q. What you are up to at the moment?

A. From a fitness standpoint, I am coming off of five months of competing. I am relentlessly chasing an opportunity to be a professional physique competitor. Outside of that I am doing my best to help others reach their fitness goals (I’m a certified trainer) and just trying to position myself for what other opportunities may arise in this arena.

Outside of fitness, I’m focused on spending time with my family. My wife and I have 4 daughters ranging in age from 3 to 18. I’m also continuing to focus on my career in the healthcare industry. I have worked with the same company since I graduated from college in 1998.

cables-3Q. What is your training and nutrition regimen while training, and when you are in your “off season?”

A. To be honest, since I just started competing in September of 2012, I have not really had an “off season.” My guess is that from a training standpoint, I will focus on adding size. At the national and pro level, the competitors tend to be a little bigger. As far as nutrition goes (which is the hard part), I will continue to eat 5-6 meals a day, and I will most likely stay fairly clean. I will however add pizza back into the mix! Ultimately, I know this is cliche, but this is my lifestyle. I think it will be very hard to deviate too much from what I do now. Diet is key. You can work out as much as you want, but until you make consistent improvements in what you eat, you will not be able to achieve your fitness goals. It has to be a lifestyle.

Q. Do you have any advice for others looking to start the journey of competing, as well as on how to reach their goals?

A. I wanted to step on stage for years, but I simply did not think I was good enough, or had the dedication/discipline to do so. Also, I felt that at my age, I had truly missed the opportunity. This has taught me that It’s never too late for someone to go chase a dream or to make a change in their life, and that you never know what you are really capable of doing until you put yourself out there.

Q. What advice do you have for anyone looking to start competing? 

A. If you want to compete, I would suggest you go to a local show to see what it entails. Also, talk to others that compete. It really is a great community of individuals that have similar goals, and are very willing to help out. From the coaching side, I do think it helps to have assistance from someone that understands the business, but it is not necessary. There is a wealth of information regarding competing that is extremely easy to get a hold of. Also, make sure you research the organizations. I compete in NPC, however there are others out there that could suit you better.

Many people use time as an excuse (work, kids, etc.). Many people that compete in the NPC (or even professionally) have another profession that pays the bills. Personally, I have children that I take to school every day and a job that is not related to bodybuilding or personal training. Main point here is that competitions may not be your goal, but as long as you place fitness as a priority in your life, you can accomplish your whatever fitness aspirations you have. Lastly, set a date, and just do it. You can have goals, or you can have excuses. It’s all about what you want the most!

Q. How people can find out more about you?

Facebook –
website –
Instagram – dbrick11

Do you want to share your health and fitness journey with us or know someone who does? Submit your information to be featured on our website! For more information click here.

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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World’s Youngest IFBB PRO, Shanique Grant, Discusses Her Successful Rise in Figure Division

Ilen Bell, MS, CSCS, Co-Founder of Black Fitness Today



Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

Shanique Grant may only be 19 years old but she is already making a name for herself in the world of professional bodybuilding. As a figure competitor, Grant has quickly climbed the ranks. Starting in November 2013, Grant, in just one year’s time has turned her budding interest in fitness into a profession, earning one of bodybuilding’s most coveted titles – IFBB Pro. Given that many athletes compete for years and never achieve pro status, Grant’s accomplishment is nothing short of amazing, and now she has no plans on turning back. Check out our interview with IFBB Pro Shanique Grant as she discusses her journey from 18 year-old novice to 19-year-old professional figure competitor!

BFT: When did you start your journey?

SG: I started my fitness journey this time last year November 2013, I was so new at the “eating clean, training mean” lifestyle but I was determined to make a change and step outside of the crowd…to stand out.

BFT: Did you play any sports growing up? If so, do you think this helped prepare you for the sport of bodybuilding?

SG: I ran track & field (sprinter and high jumper) since I was in 3rd grade racing in town track events and then throughout high school, earning three varsity letters and a total of 70 medals. I wouldn’t say that specifically prepared me, but the ability to have such a focus for all these years (whilst running track) has prepared me for such a big jump into this sport of bodybuilding.

BFT: How did your nutrition and training change once you decided to commit to changing your body?

SG: I changed my eating habits drastically cutting all junk foods, no more soda; more water…I was even surprised at myself how disciplined I became. I trained seven days a week for 3-4 hours and it became a daily regimen, a part of each day had to consist of me attending the gym.

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: Often times, getting started on a new plan is easy, but it’s sticking to the plan that can be the most difficult when the results don’t come immediately. How did your mentality change once you started to see results?

SG: It became a passion, a very strong passion! People started noticing me, asking if I competed — which I had no idea what that was at the time — so I looked it up and found out myself.  I was never the type to be center of attention and so outgoing so I was hesitant about it. A couple months passed and I was contacted by my now prep coach JohnnyDiezel. He told me he saw potential and a very strong future for me as figure competitor so I listened.

BFT: What did it feel like to hit the stage for the first time?

SG: My first competition was August 9th, 2014 in West Long Branch, NJ (NPC Muscle Beach Championships). As soon as I hit that stage my mind completely went blank, the lights were SO bright and I was so nervous. But once I heard the crowd cheering me on, I said to myself “make an impression, you’ve worked so hard, own it” and with that being said at my very first competition I won first place in my class and first place overall for Figure Division.

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: How soon after your first show did you start prepare for your second?

SG: My coach started me up with my diet and training prep a week after my first show for NPC East Coast Championships (November 15, 2014 in Wayne, NJ) and also NPC Nationals (November 21-22, 2014 in Miami, FL). My coach and I were hesitant about prepping me for two shows so very close to each other but we went for it. I won first place at NPC East Coast Championships and the following weekend I took 2nd Place at NPC Nationals earning my pro card, I am now the World’s youngest IFBB Figure Pro at 19 years old!!

BFT: How does it feel to be the world’s youngest IFBB Pro? What’s next for you?

SG: It has to be one of the best feelings of my life, I feel accomplished but it doesn’t stop there. Next year, I will be competing at a pro level show, New York Pro. With five months of training and dieting, I have high hopes on what greater improvements I can make by then!

Shanique Grant, World's Younget IFBB Pro

BFT: What advice do you have for young women looking to get started in the sport of bodybuilding?

SG: Honestly…Go for it! With the right mindset and discipline, your achievements are endless. Just stay on course and never give up.

BFT: How can people find out more about you and stay connected with you on your fitness journey

Facebook: Shanique K Grant IFBB Pro
Instagram: _Fitnessbeauty


Photos courtesy of


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Interview with Team JBM Elite Bikini Competitors Of Cincinnati, Ohio



BFT: What inspires you to strive for greatness?

Courtnea: It’s all about purpose. God placed me here for a reason and it is nothing short of greatness. I’m just operating  according to His will and striving to live out His purpose that He has for me.

Krishawnda: What inspires me to strive for greatness is my belief that everything I do should require my full effort. I never want to involved myself in anything that I can’t fully dedicate myself to. I believe that God blessed me with many talents and abilities in order to help others. In order to do this, I must work daily to perfect that skill.

Angel: In this sport I feel that failure is not an option. God gave me this body and what God gives me is GREAT! I strive to keep that greatness going in all aspects — physically, spiritually, and mentally.

BFT: What have you learned about yourself while on your fitness journey?

Krishawnda: On this fitness journey, I’ve learned that the tomboy in me never left lol! After high school, I drifted away from my athletic talents. But it’s great to be back into it. I feel that at an older age, I am stronger and a better athlete than I was in high school. More importantly, I learned that I have a higher sense of self-control that I knew. I’ve always been a small girl, but I love food and would eat anything. Competing has become such a serious part of my life that I have the ability to control what I put into my body. My ability to do all things through Christ has manifested itself in my fitness journey.  These who ladies and I have all competed and done well in shows. But we see the challenges in competing as well. One can easily question themselves and their “look” by placing low in a show, leading to self-esteem issues or the desire to give up.

Angel: I’ve learned that I’m a fighter. I had a full blown stroke at a young age and was told I’d never be able to do any type of physical activity. I fought to prove doctors wrong! I started lifting,  gained a love for it and competing and never looked back. GOD is so amazing.

Courtnea: Quitting is never an option and that I can go through the fire and come out a gold. Let’s just say I’ve experienced a lot of life in a short period of time while simultaneously trying to reach a fitness goal of mine – going pro as a bikini athlete. I’ve learned that no matter what was thrown my way, there was never a reason for me to give up. I pressed through even when I didn’t want to but I know what I need to do to reach my goals. I sucked it up and lifted it out in the weight room.

BFT: It’s often said that Black women take the time to build one another up – how do you keep each other accountable so that each of you reach your personal goals?

Angel: I use encouragement as a tool to lift us up and stay on track in reaching our goals. People often try to bring female bodybuilders down with negativity; we need that encouragement to give us that spark to keep going.

Courtnea: This brings me back to purpose. I remind myself and others to remember that there is a reason for every obstacle, victory, what may seem at the time as a defeat, there is a reason for all of it. Don’t be discouraged, keep your eyes set on your goals and weather the storm. God will provide. It may not be when we want it or how we want it but if it’s attached to your purpose it WILL happen, flat out. I just speak life back into them. Well, God speaks through me, I’m just a vessel.

Krishawnda: We train together at least once a week. We keep each other informed about fitness events that surround us. We recognize that we are a team. We want to move upward together because we share a love for training and goals to become pros. And it any personal issues arise, we do all we can to better that situation and ensure that it doesn’t affect training.  Angel, Cournea and I hope to impact women, especially women of color, encouraging them to take care of their bodies and to support other women with fitness goals. Having muscle and definition as a woman does not make you less feminine than another. We hope people see that when they see us.

Follow Angel, Courtnea, and Krishawnda on Instagram at @angelicarms83, @blaq_beauty0487, and @kjalle2.

Professional photo credit: @the_artist_imagery



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Road to Competition

Former Transformation Story Ray Holmes Places 4th As Physique Competitor



“It’s crazy to think that people who haven’t seen me since college remember me as that 305 pound guy on the left. I remember waking up with random aches and pains and being told by doctors I need to gain control of my cholesterol and blood pressure. I remember going into stores and having to goto the Big & tall section to find my size 4XL shirts and size 46 waist jeans. However, I also remember the day I decided to change all of that. Thank God for my will power, desire  to change, and support from friends & family, bc that’s what got me to where I am today. I haven’t looked back since and I can’t imagine ever doing so. If I can do it…ANYONE can” – Ray Holmes

Check out Ray’s transformation story where he covers how he got started on his fitness journey and what kept him on track!

Follow Ray on Instagram @holmboyray!

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