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Getting ripped

McMillan blowing up in world body building circles

Posted: May 29, 2012 2:52 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Seated in front of his locker at Atlas Gym, Staff Sgt. Cedric McMillan dried beads of sweat from his face after a grueling workout regimen. And, the weightlifting part of his day had not even started.
For the better part of two hours, the newly crowned champion of the New York Pro International Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation (IBFF) Show stuck a variety of poses for a cameraman who was shooting the Heath Springs resident for an upcoming feature in a body building magazine.
The 6-foot-1, 275-pound McMillan spent the morning flexing various parts of his massive body for the camera; many of the poses required exerting his body’s core. No model who ever strode the catwalk in front of flashing bulbs ever put so much effort into making a shot come out just right.
“It’s tough to hold those poses,” McMillan said with a smile as he prepared to change for the morning’s second round of photos before the session went into the facility’s vast weight room for more time in front of the camera lens.
This is hardly the norm for McMillan, who found Atlas Gym the perfect distance between his home in Lancaster County and his job as the Warrior Leader Course Instructor at Fort Jackson’s McGrady Training Center in Eastover. A veteran of the Iraq War, McMillan has been training America’s Warriors in support of the War on Terror since 2006. The program at McGrady is the first step in the mobilization and deployment process for members of the U.S. Army stationed at Fort Jackson.
To look at the 34-year-old McMillan today, you would think that he was a standout athlete at Andrew Jackson High School in Kershaw. Ironically, the manwho looks like he could take on an entire high school front line and dispose of its members never played a down of football. In fact, he never played organized sports.
“I didn’t play sports in school,” he said. “I was always working when I went to school, but I was always working out. That was my little thing; I lifted weights.”
As a youngster, McMillan would draw his own comic book characters and use muscle magazines for help when it came to giving the superhero bulging muscles. By the time he became a teenager, body building had consumed him as he watched the sport on television while reading everything he could about it in magazines.
For McMillan, a fortuitous day in what is now his second career came when he walked into a nutrition store in Columbia, which was owned by an amateur body builder. “I was real impressed by his build and physique,” McMillan said of the chance encounter.
“As a young guy wanting some muscles, I asked him for some advice. He helped me out and showed me a couple things about diet and nutrition. By following his advice, my body started responding real quickly. Once he saw my body was responding, he suggested that I should think about competing. I said, ‘Cool. Let’s try it.’”
In 2003, the 25-year-old took to the stage for a body building show for the first time and won the novice division at the Palmetto Cup event in Florence. A year later, he made it 2-for-2, winning in his second show in an amateur career in which he did not lose an event that he entered.
A member of the National Guard, McMillan and his company were deployed to Iraq in 2004 and were stationed there for more than a year. Once back home, McMillan returned to doing what he loved best and by 2007, he was back on the body building show circuit.
Still competing as an amateur, McMillan won the South Carolina championship as a super heavyweight in 2007. In 2008, in the Junior USA Show in Charleston, he racked up another first place trophy. The following year, he flexed his way to a national championship at the 2009 show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It would be McMillan’s final showing as an amateur.
McMillan’s pro debut came in 2010 at the IFBB Europa Supershow in Dallas, in which he finished fourth in the open (213 pounds and over) division. Then, last spring, he went to the New York Pro Championships and, in his words, “got my butt kicked” in a career-worst 11th place finish. He would redeem himself later in the year by finishing first overall in the 2011 Orlando Show of Champions and then, avenging his showing in New York by winning that show earlier this month.
The latest victory qualified him for a spot in the prestigious Arnold Classic.
While taking pride in his bounce-back performance in the Big Apple, McMillan hardly went out and did the town after earning the event’s biggest prize.
“It seemed like it was a bigger win for everybody else than it was for me,” he said of the reaction to the New York win. “One thing I can say, is that it felt good that, after going to that place last year and coming in 11th, to go back to the very same show and win the overall. That part of it feels good.
“For me, whenever I go to a competition and win, it’s like, ‘OK, job well done. That’s what was supposed to happen.’ Then, I start thinking about the next challenge. I never take time to celebrate or relish in the moment.”
More than the trophy and the money which came with the title in New York, McMillan said what he took from the show was what still needed tweaking on his body. “It’s time to look at my physique, revamp some things and go back to the drawing board and work on the things that I need to fix for the next competition,” he said.
“If this body part needs to be bigger or, that body part needs to be leaner, in my mind, that’s what I start working on in the off-season and up to the next show.”
When it comes competition time, Cedric McMillan usually tips the scales at or near 270 pounds. To arrive at that figure and to make sure his muscles are toned to the point which they need to be for shows, he has bulked up to the 305- to 310-pound figure in the off-season.
This year, McMillan figures to stay in the 280- to 290-pound range and will work from there to get his body competition-ready. “That’s in the off-season when I have to eat cupcakes and all kind of stuff,” he said of his diet between competitions.
“When I’m in a competition diet, I get in about 500 grams of protein a day, maybe 400 or 500 grams of carbs (carbohydrates) a day and depending on how much body fat I need to lose, I’ll take away the carbs, all the way down to no carbs, and keep the protein at around 500 grams.
“In the off-season, when I’m really trying to grow muscle, I eat about 500 grams of protein and my carbohydrates will get to about 1,000 grams a day. That’s all I measure; proteins and carbs. I don’t really measure fat and things like that.”
After having packed on the pounds needed to grow muscle, McMillan starts getting serious about a show which he selects to compete some 12 to 16 weeks before hitting the stage. His routine during that time includes cardio work, cleaning up his diet and ridding his body of as much fat as possible while maintaining the muscle.
Making this even tougher for McMillan is the fact that he balances his show appearances – either one or two per year -- with his full-time job at Fort Jackson. He said that at no time does body building take precedence over his demanding job with the U.S. Military.
One thing which McMillan does not stray from is making sure he hits the gym every day. While that may seem like a chore to some, for McMillan, it has become routine … a way of life.
 “It doesn’t take much discipline to come to the gym because that’s something that I love,” he said. “My discipline kicks in when I have to eat, but I don’t want to. For example, in the off-season when I want to gain as much muscle as I can, a may not want to eat six or seven or eight times a day, but I have to because in order to make that muscle grow, I have to have the calories in my body. So, I have to push that food in.
“Also, when it’s competition time, I might not want to eat fish all day, every day. And broccoli; I may want to have macaroni and cheese, but I can’t have that. I have to stay away from the food that I might want just to make sure that I’m ready come show time.”
Like any person, McMillan admits to giving into temptation at times. He said he has snuck in eating a candy bar or a slice of cake when prepping for a competition. For each slip-up of that nature, he said he will put in an extra hour of cardio training at the gym.
“The key is to stay away from the stuff that you’re not supposed to eat. The mindset that you have to have is, ‘Hey, if you can’t avoid this piece of food which you are not supposed to have, then you don’t deserve to be a champion, anyway,’” he said of his training philosophy.
“It takes that type of discipline in order to accomplish anything in life. If it’s something that you’re supposed to or, not do, you have to stick with it in order to get the results you want. To make it anywhere in this world, it takes discipline. Period.”
 Using a combination of machines and free weights, McMillan said that once he hits the weight room, he sticks with the exercises which feel good to him rather than experimenting with different sets of weights and machinery.
“If I don’t like an exercise,” he said, “if it’s uncomfortable or, if it doesn’t feel good then, mentally, I won’t be into it. If you don’t have the positive energy behind what you’re doing, it won’t help and so, I won’t do it.”
In a sport in which centers around an athletes’ muscles and body development, competitors’ are not measured at the shows. In fact, as cut as his body is, McMillan said part of the event is built around illusion.
“A lot of times, it’s just an illusion,” he said. “You might be standing next to a guy and, depending on his shape and how his body parts look, he may look bigger or smaller than you. Your weight doesn’t matter. I’ve seen guys whose weight is a lot more than what they actually look like. Then, I’ve seen guys whose weight is a lot less than what they look like.”
While already having qualified for the Mr. Olympia competition, the Super Bowl of bodybuilding competitions, McMillan said he is in no hurry to measure himself against the world’s most prolific body builders. Instead, he has his sights set on competing in next year’s Arnold Classic, named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, and held in Columbus, Ohio. It is the second most prestigious show in the world of body building.
For a competitor like Cedric McMillan, whose career to the top of the sport has been on the fast track, this is one opportunity which he is not ready to rush into. Making sure he goes about things the right way and at the right time is more important than entering an international show just for the sake of telling people that you competed in a particular event.
 “I think I have a pretty good chance of doing well at that show, if everything goes right,” McMillan said of the Arnold Classic.
“I qualified for Mr. Olympia, I’m not going to go, though, because I don’t want to skip a rung in the ladder. I want to work my way up the ladder properly. If I go to the Arnold Classic and do real well then, maybe I’ll go to the Mr. Olympia. But if I don’t do well there, I’ll stay there and keep trying to accomplish that goal before I move on to the next goal.”
Spoken like a man whose ego has not gotten the best of him. Then again, it all goes back to discipline, which Cedric McMillan has learned and continues to preach in balancing both his professional careers.

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