Derek Dolgner worked at elitefts™ as an intern earlier this year. He impressed me as being very knowledgeable about training and nutrition, as well as being hungry to continually learn more. Most of all, he showed that he is very goal-driven with an exceptional work ethic.

When I saw the amazing progress he has made working towards his goal of winning at Team Universe (the top drug-tested bodybuilding contest in the USA), I asked him to share his strategy with our readers. This ongoing monthly column provides practical strategies that you can adapt to your program. Enjoy!

- Steve Colescott

Everyone’s got a story to tell, a past that has made them who they are today and a future they yearn for. Some pasts are dark and painful while others appear to have had the path paved for them, almost as if every step was perfectly aligned, waiting for them to take their next step. Regardless of your past and who you were, it has molded you into who you are today. I believe that in order to understand anyone’s future goals and dreams, you need to appreciate their past. You need to appreciate who they were and how they got there, for this is the driving force that makes them who they are today and who they strive to be tomorrow. I am Derek Dolgner; a bodybuilder aiming to be the best bodybuilder.

My past? I was the sensitive kid growing up. Being bullied wasn’t uncommon and I’d be lying if I said this didn’t have an impact on my self-esteem and therefor lack of confidence. I was thirteen when I picked up my first set of weights and I have yet to set them down. Lifting gave me confidence that I lacked in a multitude of areas. It’s fair to say training was never just for the exercise. Training ran deeper and as the years have gone on it’s the one thing that has never failed me. Training has always given me strength, even on my weakest days. Little did I know, training would be more than a release, it would soon become my dream.

DDolgner022715bEveryone has a dream as a child. Many dream to be a doctor, a firefighter, a princess, the president, or a teacher. For as long as I can remember, mine was to be a bodybuilder. Growing up I was allowed to get a magazine every week to encourage a reading habit. Every week I picked out a Flex or Muscular Development Magazine without hesitation. I vividly remember at fourteen showing my mom a BSN ad with Ronnie Coleman, the current Mr. Olympia at the time. This ad sparked my dream to become a bodybuilder.

Growing up, I was a “spirited” kid that made a lot of mistakes. During my junior year I transferred high schools. Unable to participate in sports I needed something to fill the void. Gold’s Gym was it; the filler, the game changer that would prove to be a life-changing choice. I began to push my training longer and harder with each day I was able to find pleasure within the pain, and calm within the storm. This was where I found peace within a day of stress. The feeling of accomplishment and reward from my hard work was prevalent as I could see my physique changing with each passing day.

While in Gold’s Gym I saw a flyer on the wall for a local bodybuilding show. In that moment I set the goal to compete. This goal/dream would cost me time, money, sleep, friendships, but at that moment — I set that goal — I started making sacrifices and committed to becoming who I truly wanted and needed to be, and haven’t looked back since.

DDolgner022715dIn hindsight, everyone appears as though they want you to achieve your goal, but in reality, at the end of every day you are the one, who has to believe that. The truth is if you don’t no one else will, no matter how badly you want it. I wanted to be a bodybuilder and I believed I could be and that is what has made the difference. At age seventeen, I began bodybuilding and within the last seven years I have spent countless hours in the weight room. Carefully monitoring the food I eat, practicing self-discipline, and strengthening my willpower overtime have molded me into who I am today. My gym life has directly translated into my everyday life. It has given me the skills and knowledge I need to be successful in so many different endeavors.

A textbook doesn’t teach the most important lessons in life — the most important lessons in life won’t be found in a classroom. The hardest, most valued lessons, the ones without the simple equations, the ones whose answers can’t be double checked or verified are taught when you’re least prepared. Mine is still being taught. The day in, day out, sometimes-monotonous lifestyle of bodybuilding has been my best teacher and hardest lesson. Print

As anyone knows, any goal worth having doesn’t come easily, but thankfully I have had a support system in the beginning of my journey, which made a world of a difference. My support system was my backbone. From my mom and dad, the gym manager, personal trainer, show promoter, and posing coach I was given an opportunity from the very beginning that many can only dream of. Despite being totally new to the bodybuilding world, it only took one show and I was hooked. I became hungrier for more than I ever thought possible. The feeling of success, for even those brief moments at my first show has never left the forefront of my mind, in fact I can feel it more today than I could years ago.

If someone could offer you one piece of advice, the direct guide to obtain your goal, every step of the way, would you take it? If you truly knew the sacrifices you would have to make to get from point A to point B, would you still pursue your goal? Or what if you were told it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and there will be days so dark you may not see the sun for days, would you still want that particular dream? Most of us say yes and somewhere in the midst of planning to achieve our dream, life happens, and our dream becomes just that — a dream. Our dreams seem somewhat feasible on paper. Dreams are known to be hard, difficult, frightening, yet the glimmer of hope to achieve that dream and make it a reality is what keeps us going. For many lifters this glimmer of hope dims over time and we somehow justify to ourselves that this is okay. My dream to be a bodybuilder has had its dark days, but the flicker of light that was ignited when I first picked up weights at age of thirteen, has yet to dim. In fact, it seems to burn brighter as time goes on.


Fast forward a few years, I became an NSCA Certified Personal Trainer during college while pursuing my Exercise Science Degree from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse. During my final years of college, I began working with John Meadows, a high-level contest prep coach. As I neared completion of my Exercise Science program in the spring of 2014, the final requirement was to secure an internship in my area of interest, which was bodybuilding. I took a shot and contacted John Meadows about the possibility of arranging an internship. He kindly accepted my proposal and as an added bonus expanded my internship experience to include elitefts, and I made the temporary move from Wisconsin to Ohio. While working with John, my passion for the sport began to grow in every direction. I knew this was the path I wanted to pursue. The internship during the summer of 2014 was eye opening. I was fortunate enough to spend a considerable amount of one-on-one time with Dave Tate and John Meadows. Conversing with these two, I began to truly grasp the reality of how dedicated they are to their craft and business. Seeing their passion, made my desire and will to become a bodybuilder grow deeper than I had ever imagined.

DDolgner022715aThe passion of two individuals along with my now burning desire to become the best pushed me far, but what really keeps me going is my nutrition and training. Having the means to be what you want to become is one thing but having the knowledge is absolutely necessary (if not vital) to make your success go from a dream to reality. Thankfully, I have both. Currently I am prepping for the NPC Team Universe.

I have been designing my own training program for the duration of this contest prep leading into Team Universe. My training is structured into a three-day split. On the first day I perform all pushing movements. The muscle groups this consists of are chest, shoulders, triceps, and quads. The following day I will perform all pulling movements. The muscle groups consist of the back, biceps, and hamstrings. I feel training the antagonist muscle group the following day aids in recovery because as you are contracting the muscle group you are training you are stretching the muscle group you trained the preceding day all while promoting blood flow to the area, which should facilitate recovery. The third day I refer to as my accessory day because these muscle groups often get neglected in standard bodybuilding programming. These muscle groups consist of the traps, glutes, calves, and abs.

I use a form of undulating periodization, where loads and rep ranges are changed on a three-day basis. The first three days I will structure most of my training in rest-pause fashion. I prefer to use DC training here and vary my rest periods from 10-30 seconds based on the size of the muscle being trained. Rest pause training will stimulate muscle growth with a combination of high mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and progressive overload.

DDolgner022715cThe next three days are based off of the Mountain Dog programming I receive from John Meadows. The majority of the Mountain Dog training falls within the 6-12 rep range which research suggests is the optimal rep range for muscle growth. Throw in some of John’s high intensity techniques and you have a recipe for muscle growth.

The last three days of the phase are comprised of supersets, tri-sets, and giant sets. This training is performed to create as much metabolic stress as possible. I structure my training for six days a week allowing me to train each muscle group twice per week. My training program combines large upper and lower body muscle groups in each training session. This exercise sequence forces the heart to pump blood back-and-forth between your upper and lower extremities causing the heart to beat faster to meet the increased demand for oxygen. I only have anecdotal evidence, however, since structuring my training this way my abdominal pinch test has gone from 9mm down to 4.5mm and I have been able to increase my daily caloric intake by over 1,200 calories, proving something, if not everything is working at the most optimal, efficient way possible. Training and diet go hand-in-hand. The proper diet and training, along with years of hard work and sacrifice will be proven on July 4th in Teaneck, New Jersey, as I am awarded the overall trophy.

For a complete Excel File of my diet plan, click here: Derek Dolgner- 4.2014 -7