In bodybuilding our legacy isn’t something that can be defined by trophies, fan fare, or accolades. Instead legacy is something that’s earned. It’s carved out set-by-set, rep-by-rep, minute-by painstaking-minute as we grind away and slowly etch out the tales that future generations will tell about us when they reflect back on the blood, sweat, and iron that built the foundation they stand on.
Each and every legacy comes complete with highlights and defining moments that represent a culmination of events as we turn the page to complete one chapter, and begin etching in the words of another. In just over a week at Master Nationals, Jerome Dinh is hoping he can begin to write the next chapter of his bodybuilding legacy and culminate in a moment that has been nearly twenty years in the making, as he attempts walk onto the stage as an amateur for the very last time. I recently had a chance to catch up with the man affectionately known by his fans as “The Other Rock”, and you read all of the details right here, in this Iron Affinity exclusive interview.
Q.) When did you first become interested in bodybuilding?
A.) I seriously became interested in bodybuilding my Junior year of High School circa May 1995. I didn’t necessarily get into it because I wanted to be a bodybuilder, but because I wanted to build muscle. I was diagnosed with Grave Disease (overactive thyroid) when I was 14 years old and lost a lot of weight, so lifting weights seemed like the logical thing to do to build myself back up after I found out what was wrong with me. It was an older classmate who introduced me to the sport by the name of Shawn Barthel, who to this day is one of my best friends. I was training after school and he approached me asking me if I’d like to be his training partner because I have a lot of potential in bodybuilding. I was very flattered and humbled, after all, he was a teenage bodybuilder as well has all around high school sports star.
It wasn’t long after I got bit by the iron bug that I knew I wanted to compete. After all my best friend was a teenage bodybuilder and we lived the sport. We bought every new muscle mag that came out, we watched Pumping Iron every weekend and I helped him prepare for his shows. Thinking back about “what made me decide to do a show”, man that was a long time ago LOL I say it was for the personal experience. I wanted to see how I would look onstage and see what it would be like to be a “bodybuilder”. So it was just over 1 year later that I decided to start my contest prep for the 1996 NPC Ironman Ironmaiden. My best friend and I went head to head in the teenage division, I came out victorious and won the Teenage Overall and took 2nd place in the Men’s Open Lightweight class, edging out a very muscular symmetrical 26 year old with my conditioning. This experience lives with me till this day, I’ll never forget that 1st time on stage and all the feedback from strangers when I got off stage about how great I looked and congratulating me.
Q.) Throughout your competitive career you’ve had to juggle working full time, your responsibilities as a father and husband, and still somehow manage to keep your sanity through the rigors of contest prep. Have their ever been times where you felt totally run down or overwhelmed? How did you deal with the adversity?
A.) I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to juggle family life and bodybuilding. It creates stress in a relationship between you, your partner, your and children. This is a selfish sport, and like anything else, to be successful you have to make sacrifices. There were arguments about me being at the gym, and money I put into the sport for my “glory” if you will. It’s hard taking time away from your family to be the best you can be in this sport and it hurts. Time is priceless and it’s something you can never get back. Luckily my ex-wife was supportive and helpful, though she didn’t like the time and money I put into the sport. She did my cooking and took care of the kids during the week when I was at work or at the gym. I would have been much more overwhelmed if she wasn’t a supportive wife. Unfortunately we divorced over a year ago, in fact the judge signed off on my 35th birthday. We are both very happy and the children are even more spoiled and have two new families in their lives to spoil them. I met a wonderful woman by the name of Nicole Reamon, who is also a successful Bikini competitor. We live together, cook together and workout together, she’s my ideal #swolemate and my best friend.
Q.) You’ve managed to build a tremendous fan base through your ability to be active and promote yourself on the Internet and social media. What advice could you give to young athletes looking to establish themselves as a brand that could help them potentially develop their career in a similar fashion?
A.) EASY ANSWER! Be yourself do not live for others approval! I’m not the best bodybuilder by a long shot but I have an aesthetic physique which helps, but most importantly I AM ME. I don’t bullshit with people, I tell them the truth, no sugar coating because I can’t stand when people lie to me. I rather have people hate me for who I am than love me for who I’m not. To become a sponsored athlete is MORE than just taking 1st place in a contest!! To become successful you have to embrace “WHAT CAN I DO FOR YOU, NOT WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR ME” mentality. Do it because you believe in it and expect nothing in return. Like my sponsors, I do everything I can for them and ask for nothing in return. I truly believe in their product because I actually use it and it actually works! You can’t promote what you don’t believe in because people will see right through you. Believe in yourself, sell yourself as a “PRODUCT”. Never forget when people see you, they see a “PRODUCT”. What would you label on your product, your characteristics, your goals, your ethics, your accomplishments? People like people who are real so be real to you and everyone else and people will follow you. Be ambitious, be crazy, be fun, be whatever you are because that is what sells and EVERYONE has something special about them so embrace it!
Q.) You’ve adopted a number of strategies in your training that tend to scare most bodybuilders off such as training fasted and running miles on a daily basis for cardio during contest prep. Do you think that most athletes take an approach to the sport that’s too rigid and might be scared to go against the grain and do things differently?
A.) I think in the beginning you need to be ridged and have lines draw, they need structure until they know their body. A lot of new people throw around “what works for me doesn’t work for you and vice versa”. Well let me tell you newbies, you don’t know squat about yourself. To know what works you have to experiment! It’s all about trial and error. My methods are absolutely untraditional because it’s instinctive and outside the norm, but it works for me. What I’ve learned is the body is highly adaptive so you have to constantly change things up and…KEEP AN OPEN MIND, A CLOSED MIND IS A TRAP! On the other hand some people just can’t get away with what I do. Most people’s legs would get skinny if they ran as much and as frequently as I do, or on the other hand they’d gain a lot of weight from EPIC CHEATS I devour. You don’t know what works unless you experiment. As for the people who’ve been in the sport and look the same for years, well it’s because they are stubborn and think they know it all and refuse to either get uncomfortable or learn.
Q.) You’re known for always being incredibly conditioned, even during the offseason. Do you believe that staying leaner and keeping such low levels of body fat has limited any potential gains?
A.) I prefer to stay relatively lean during offseason for a number of reasons. 1) I hate looking fat, when I’m bulked up I don’t look impressive at all. I’m not a huge guy so when I have more body fat the “illusion” of being big goes away when my lines do HAHA 2) When you diet down you are less susceptible to losing hard earned muscle. When you diet you are at a calorie deficiency and that means you’re are susceptible to become CATABOLIC, which is the devil! LOL… so the less fat you have to lose the less time you have to diet. You can diet for longer periods of time so you slowly lose body fat to ensure you keep all the muscle you’ve acquired during the offseason and 3) I HATE BEING FAT 😉
Q.) Could you give us some insight into your offseason nutritional and training approaches that have allowed you to continously progress while staying incredibly lean year round?
A.) My diet is exactly the same onvseason and offseason the only difference is the frequency in which I have epic cheats or if I feel like a cookie… by God I will have one or two or three or…well you get the picture. You should always eat clean for every meal and if you require more then eat more only after you’ve eaten your clean meal. This way you will not eat as much “junk food” and you will ensure you’re getting quality calories. Training is no different on or offseason the only difference is my #fastedcardio
Q.) As of right now you’re just over a week out of Master’s Nationals where you could potentially earn your pro card. Do you find any aspect of training or dieting more difficult as you age?
A.) You know what, age isn’t a factor at all because what works for you one year may not work for you the next year. The only difference I’ve noticed as a con is staying motivated to compete. I love bodybuilding but as I’ve grown older I’ve learned to embrace life experiences outside the gym and competing. I enjoy taking trips, eating bad foods, doing activities outside, etc. In fact at my ripe at of 36 I’m in my prime physically, mentally and all around. I’m in much better shape now than ever before because I live a healthy lifestyle consistently. NO EXCUSES. In life you can always find an excuse why or why not to do this or that, if you have a goal in life to be healthy then be healthy and do it. Even though I’ve been competing for 18 years and training for over 19years I’m still far from my prime and relatively new. Crazy right but there’s so much I’m still learning and experimenting with for example, a KETO DIET! I’ve never had one day without carbs in my life until I started this diet two weeks and five days out from the NPC Minnesota. It was an amazing experience and it worked. So for this show I’m doing more experimenting.
Q.) Let’s say that hypothetically the judges announce your name as the winner and you do earn your IFBB pro card. What’s next for you from a competitive standpoint? More importantly, what’s the first thing you’re going to eat?
A.) If I win my pro card I will without a doubt cry onstage like a little girl! LOL it’s a dream I had when I was a teenager but as I got older I came to the realization that it probably wasn’t a reality given the sacrifices you have to make to get to that level. I have no idea what I will do competitively. I would get smoked by the other pros so if anything id compete in the master divisions but for fun I’d give it a run in open IFBB show but I’d have to grow much more before then. But I know I will be a great ambassador for the sport. As an IFBB professional I will promote the sport as much as possible and give back as much as I can. I’m not a huge fan of IFBB physiques of today but I respect the hard work they put into their physiques. I still embrace the classic look of the 80s when you had Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada and Tom Platz going toe to toe with each other. THAT is bodybuilding and that’s when I try to project onstage. As far as eating, oh man, I think me, my bro LOGAN BARNHART, who’s working with me at the Muscle Egg booth are undecided but I would like to grab a pizza, burger and fries. Unfortunately my girlfriend Nicole Reamon won’t be there to celebrate with me because of work, but when I get home we are going to our favorite place – CHEESECAKE FACTORY! We’ve already decided that we are getting two slices of cheesecake each of different flavors to satisfy our taste buds!
Q.) If you could hop into a time machine and give a younger version of yourself one piece of advice what would it be?
A.) TRAIN LEGS AND BE PATIENT! I didn’t train legs until my ex-wife was pregnant with our 1st born when I was 50lbs overweight , day we invaded Iraq March 2003 (which I did a transformation contest with Sportpharma Pepti-lean Transformation Contest and was announced the Grand Prize winner just weeks before Xmas 2003 ,I ended up losing 50lbs in 12 weeks)
Q.) Is there anyone you’d like to thank for helping you reach this point?
A.) Yes I’d like to thank SHAWN BARTHEL for befriending me that day after school in the gym and being my best friend – introducing me to this sport. My EX-WIFE Natalie for helping with the kids and cooking, my sponsors MUSCLE EGG, FORCE FACTOR, ULTRA TAN, TAINTED INDUSTRY CLOTHING & FITMARK BAGS for supporting me and CONRAD TORRES, ANDREW SMITH CICARELLA, ANNE LOMICA BURST, TOM BERNIER, DAN KLAWITTER, JOE ALIPERTO, MIKE GRITTI & JOSE MENDIETA as well as my love my girlfriend NICOLE REAMON for all their help and support!
They say that history defines how we’ll be remember, and that the details of our legacy are written by the historians. But the true master of his craft is his own author. He leaves nothing to chance, and writes his own autobiography for the historians to pass on. In a few short days Jerome will have the chance to author what could potentially be the next chapter of his bodybuilding legacy and define how history will remember him. The only question left to ask – is he ready to pick up the pen? Or will his final chapter remain incomplete?