by Tiffany Hyman
Bodybuilder, actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once said, "Bodybuilding is much like any other sport. To be successful, you must dedicate yourself 100 percent to your training, diet and mental approach." Grand Island native fitness expert, Blast Fitness personal trainer and construction inspector Michael Del Zoppo, could not agree with this statement more.
"A lot of people think I'm crazy," said Del Zoppo, a 2006 Grand Island High School alumnus. "I have learned nothing worthwhile comes easy, and it is important to do things you are passionate about because it makes things more enjoyable."
Del Zoppo, pictured, has earned some recent success in physique competitions and has won the right to compete in Pittsburgh Aug. 31 for one of the most prestigious titles in his field.
"Most people don't have the time or dedication to do what Mike does," said Niagara Falls native, Jeff Linton, award-winning power lifter and friend of Del Zoppo. "They don't have that drive and ambition."
And nothing does come easy. Thanks to his hard work, dedication and numerous hours in the gym, Del Zoppo has achieved many awards and self-satisfying accomplishments in bodybuilding, powerlifting and physique. The 24-year-old is a celeb in the fitness world. In the six years he has been training, he has set records: the New York state record of 325 pounds with a pause at the bottom (adding an additional 30 pounds) and the American deadlifting record of 535 pounds.
"Mike is one of the strongest guys I've ever met," said Town of Niagara native Blast Fitness trainer Matthew Daniels, power lifter extraordinaire and Del Zoppo's workout partner. "Mike usually wins all the time in his weight class. He has set New York state records and American records. That is an amazing accomplishment."
Additionally, the GI native placed second in the 2011 Mr. Buffalo competition in the bantamweight class. But the accomplishments do not stop there ...not even close.
In March, Del Zoppo competed in a new division of the National Physique Committee, Men's Physique. The Arnold Classic, run by the one and only Schwarzenegger, is one of the most recognizable shows in the world. The competition is invite-only, and background checks are run on the contenders to ensure they are qualified to do the show.
"There were so many people from Vegas, Hollywood, all the big cities, and then there was me from little Grand Island," joked Del Zoppo. "It was very nerve-wracking at first, but once I hit the stage, all the nerves went away."
Del Zoppo overall placed fourth out of 16 in the show nationwide, which means great things to come. The top five are qualified to turn pro. On Aug. 31, he will be competing at the North American Championships in Pittsburgh. The judges from the show will pick just one winner and award them the title of "professional." According to Del Zoppo, turning pro is the highest achievement in the competition world and leads to sponsorships and cash prizes. In the show, judges look for size, symmetry and marketability for future poses in magazines. The GI native will have to wear board shorts and strike a natural pose with his hands placed on his hips.
"I like to call it the pretty boy contest," said Del Zoppo. "Everyone who competes dreams about becoming a pro. It proves you have what it takes to compete with the best of the best."
But Del Zoppo's preparation for the show does not occur just in the gym. In order to maintain his physique, he has to follow a very strict diet, consisting of chicken, fish, lean ground turkey, very few carbs and lots of water. He eats six meals a day, with each meal measured, weighed, packed and ready to eat every two to three hours.
"I've been prepping since my last show," said Del Zoppo. "I'm constantly doing this. I never really come off my diet."
"It takes a lot of time out of your relationships," said Linton. "To do an hour of gym and cardio is a lot, and most people do not have the time and dedication to do something like that. You have to make that kind of time. You have to plan your days out."
With little time left, Del Zoppo continues to push hard. In addition to prepping meals, working out for the show, and working full-time in construction, he also works nights and weekends at Blast Fitness in Amherst. Even though he has a hectic schedule, he remains optimistic and enthusiastic.
"Mike has the full package," said Daniels. I wouldn't trade my workout partner ... he's always trying to do better than before and improve. I'm always pushing him, and he's always pushing me. He has strength, size and the whole nutritional background. He's an all-around gym rat. He doesn't settle. That's a really good characteristic to have."
"He is a very determined individual," said Linton. "You don't see that in young kids anymore. I don't think people realize the time and effort it takes with what he is doing. He is one of the most dedicated people I've ever met."
For more information on Del Zoppo's personal training, call 716-691-4292 or 716-598-9707. Blast Fitness is located at 3880 E. Robinson Road in Amherst.