Jay Shanks - Figure Competitor

I’ve always lifted weights; I started in High School. But, about four years ago, I took it to another level (going more often, lifting heavier, eating a little better) and started seeing amazing results. I remember a few people asking me if I competed…and that put the bug in my ear, so to speak. After contacting a friend’s coach, Jeff Dwelle, and mulling over the information for about a month, I decided to just jump in. My initial hesitation was the diet - I mean, I would be eating like I never had before…not only the healthier choices, but the sheer volume! To take my body to the next level, which I wanted, would require a drastic change. I knew the sacrifice would be worth it…so off I went!

Diet and Training

I’ve now competed in four shows and each prep has been different - it’s like giving birth to a different baby each time! Haha. I owe my meal plan to my coach, a genius in show prep nutrition.

I always eat five full meals a day, plus my post workout protein shake and rice cakes with peanut butter. This never changes. The volume changes, however. I eat carbs (white and sweet potatoes, any rice) with more meals in off-season (you need them for strength and muscle growth!!). My carbs get limited significantly during show prep. The amount of carb cutting depends on how my body’s responding to the process.

Each meal is always measured out, with a certain amount of protein (carbs, if allowed) and cooked greens (normally 4 oz., 4 oz. and 2 oz., respectively). I generally get two cheat meals a week during off-season; one in prep. In prep, even those can be regulated, depending on how my body is dialing down. And, it really, really stinks when coach says your cheat meal is only ‘steak and potato - no dessert’. :(

I’ve never really had a diet plan fail. I think everyone’s first show is somewhat of a ‘learning your body’ process. I may have come in a little flat that first show, but most likely because I was already so lean going in to the process (with only a four month prep time). With a few off-seasons behind me, that’s no longer a problem. Ha! But, as I said earlier, each show prep is different. Your body is always at a different point going in to the process. What worked before, may not necessarily work as effectively the next time. However, if you have a good nutrition coach, who watches you closely, adjustments can be made for quick results.

During off-season, I lift hard and heavy six days a week. I’ll typically do about 20 minutes of cardio 5 times a week after weights. During show prep, I still lift hard and heavy - until the carb cutting starts affecting my strength and energy level. At that point, I still push myself to my limits - but those limits may mean going a little lighter on weight. My cardio naturally increases. I may get up to an hour of HIIT cardio in the morning, then 10-25 minutes more (at a higher intensity) after my weight workout. Show prep is exhausting, both physically AND mentally…and diet is a huge factor. When those carbs get cut, so do the brain cells…I’m convinced! Haha…


A photo posted by Jay Shanks (@jay.shanks) on


On Stage

My confidence comes from three places:

1) Knowing my body is show ready - that I’ve run the race and this is simply the finish line.

2) Being prepared - practicing your posing and/or routine is vital. I learned that hard lesson at my third show. I had a long off-season and didn’t practice once throughout it…and I didn’t want to show up for posing practice until I felt like any and all dimples were gone! Haha! Because I only gave myself about six weeks of practice, I felt insecure and more nervous than I should have. I won’t make that mistake again. I’ll practice often throughout this off-season. I want to be able to walk out on stage knowing I’ll hit every move, that my transitions flow smoothly and that I ooze confidence.

3) Applying my faith - God put me on this course and I know His hand has been with me every step of the way. When stepping on stage, there’s no greater peace than knowing you're right where the God of the Universe wants you. I give Him ALL the glory.

Athlete Check-In: This is always exciting because it’s when things start getting ‘real’. There’s no backing out at this point! At my last show (the Bob Cicherillo Championships), as is the case with every show, I ran in to friends and acquaintances I’ve met since I started competing last year. It’s a fun reunion! This one was made especially personal, because Bob Cicherillo himself was the one handing out the athlete ‘goody bags’. He was even kind enough to let me get a photo with him. He made me a fan for life!

Prejudging: The calm before the storm! That’s how I can best describe the backstage dynamics. My nerves were under control, for the most part, before I stepped on stage. But, once I started walking out, they hit! We only did our comparison poses (a first for me; in the past we’ve always done our model turns, as well), so that actually helped. My model turns aren’t exactly my strong suit at this point! A wave of relief washed over me when I found out they’d be delayed until finals.

As I’m standing out on stage, making my quarter turns in line with the other competitors, it struck me that every woman down the line was shaking just as much as me. I mean…visibly shaking! Strangely, that had a calming effect. I remember thinking, “we’re all in the same boat, we’re all nervous, and we’re all going to get through this just fine.” And we did!

Finals: I was uncharacteristically calm before going on stage for finals…especially since I knew model turns were coming up! EEEk. I think several factors played a part…I was with a group of amazing women who were friendly and encouraging AND I was flat tired and just ready to be finished! This was my second show in two weeks. I was whooped. Because I was more relaxed and had the peace of prejudging being behind me, my model turns were much smoother than my last show. Once I hit that last pose, the relief hit again. I had to cross the stage 3 more times (I competed in 4 classes), but each time got easier. Ultimately, I placed 1st in Novice, 2nd in Open, 2nd in Masters 35+ and 1st in Masters 45+. There’s no greater feeling than hearing your number and name called when placing. It makes all the blood, sweat and tears SO worth it!


A video posted by Jay Shanks (@jay.shanks) on


As of right now, my next show will be Masters Nationals in Pittsburgh next July (2017). I’ll use these next months to put on more size and perfect my stage presence. Furthering my personal training business and obtaining sponsorships will also be a primary focus of mine. And modeling? I’m learning to LOVE it. Maybe more doors will open for that as well?! :)

I can be contacted at:

- JShanks195@aol.com
- 972-365-6865

You can follow me at:
- https://www.facebook.com/JayShanksFitness
- @jay.shanks


Competition Prep e-Books


A photo posted by Jay Shanks (@jay.shanks) on