Justin Dees in bodybuilding competition

Justin Dees

I was first introduced to the fitness industry and the amazing sport of bodybuilding on my 8th birthday.  My uncle, Gary Smyth, made me a birthday card out of the pages of a bodybuilding magazine.  It was the coolest birthday card I had ever seen! I can remember looking at the pictures of the bodybuilders and wondering how someone’s body could look like that!  I just couldn’t believe that it was real. I had never seen someone look like that before. I thought it was the coolest thing ever!  I started looking at bodybuilding magazines and realized that this was a sport where people built, sculpted and perfected their bodies by lifting weights, following a very strict diet and taking nutritional supplements. Ever since my uncle gave me that birthday card I have been fascinated by the human body and what it can achieve and look like through the most amazing sport in the world, Bodybuilding!

I grew up in Tucson, AZ and I played baseball, football, soccer, and wrestled during my youth and then I got into skateboarding when I was 12.  I continued to play all the traditional sports but eventually dedicated myself 100% to competitive skateboarding.  I competed as a sponsored amateur and was close to turning pro when an accident on a half pipe shattered my left ankle in 5 places. I was 16 at the time. The doctors first told me that I probably would never walk normal again and that I could pretty much forget about skateboarding or any other sport for that matter.  By God’s grace and a very skilled orthopedic surgeon named Dr. Wang, who was the team doctor for the University of Arizona, I recovered completely after two surgeries and 9 months on crutches. During that time I had nothing to do but play Nintendo and watch skateboarding videos.  I got really bored so I decided to sign up at Powerhouse gym in Tucson.  I started training my upper body since I was still in a cast and I started to put on muscle. After my ankle was fully rehabilitated I began to train my legs as well.  I responded very well and one day a local bodybuilder and personal trainer at the gym, named Jesus Lamb (pronounced “Hey-Seuss”), told me that I should compete. “Compete?” ….. “In what?” I said.  Jesus replied “Bodybuilding!”  I said “you mean on stage in a speedo?  Hell no! No way will you get me in a speedo in front of a bunch of people!”  Jesus told me that he thought I had a lot of potential and he would train me for free under two conditions. one, if in a year he thought that I could win the teen division in the local bodybuilding competition, that I would compete in the show….and two, that I had to be at the gym at 4:45am every morning ready to work my butt off.  I don’t know why I said yes to his proposal but something inside me told me to do it even though it seemed completely nuts at the time.  So a year went by. It was 1992 and I was 19 years old and Jesus and I had been training at 4:45am every day except Sundays. The local show was coming up and he told me that I would win the teen division so I agreed I would compete.  He taught me how to pose and helped me with my routine and all my pre-contest prep.  I was amazed at how my body looked and I was actually excited to step on stage.  I ended up winning the teen division and I was hooked!!!!

After competing in my first show I just wanted to continue to improve my physique and compete at the highest level possible.  I started studying exercise physiology in college and continued to learn about the human body and its response to exercise and nutrition. In 1995 I ran the training and nutrition department for a Power House gym in the Salt Lake City area of Utah.  Then in 1998 I returned to the bodybuilding stage and won the lightweight division in the NGA Utah State Championships.  I then moved to Tempe AZ to work for the Apex Fitness Group and the National Academy of Sports Medicine.  I worked with some very brilliant people such as Michael Clark, John McDermott, Rodney Corn and Lenny Parracino and the founder of Apex Fitness, Neal Spruce.  While I worked for Apex and NASM I continued to study exercise physiology at A.S.U which was the #1 undergrad program country at the time. In 2000 I competed in the NPC Iron Magazine Naturals in Culver City, CA. I won the Men’s Open Light Weight division and the Men’s Overall title.  I was very excited to compete at such a big show and walk away with the overall title!!!!

In 2003 I moved back to the Salt Lake City area and transferred to the University of Utah.  I became a partner in a supplement store venture inside the Gold’s gyms in Utah and worked on growing my personal training business as well.  In 2005 I competed in the NPC Utah State Championships and won the Men’s Open Light Heavy Weight Division and The Men’s Overall Title.  After winning a National Qualifier I decided to compete on a National Level and I set my sights on the 2006 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships.  Pro bodybuilder Dexter Jackson put me in touch with his trainer Joe McNeal who had trained many bodybuilding greats such as Flex Wheeler, Paul Demayo, Paul Dillett, Chris Duffy, and Marcus Haley to name a few.  Joe and I put a game plan together and placed 12th out of 39 competitors in the Light Heavy Weight division. Placing in the top 15 was my goal my first time competing at a national level and even though I hate to lose I was happy with a 12th place finish.

Heather Dees competing in bodybuilding

Heather Dees

2007 was a very difficult year for me.  I was preparing for the NPC Nationals but was going through a divorce from my wife of 12 years.  We had four beautiful children . . . Aubree, Gage, Zane, and Maximus but we were at a point where we realized the best decision for us was to move on.  The divorce really impeded my training due to all the stress involved.  I ended up competing at Nationals anyway but did not make the cut of the top 15.  It was the lowest point of my life but things would soon take a turn for the best!  In Aug of 2007 I started training Heather Udy for her first figure show.  We quickly became good friends and started dating in January of 2008.  We have never been apart since and on September 9th of 2009 I had the honor of marrying Heather Udy and I have never been happier! She is the love of my life and is the most amazing friend, wife and stepmother that I have ever seen!  Some people believe there is no such thing as soul mates but if there ever was one Heather is mine!  Now Heather is a top IFBB Pro Figure competitor having competed in 14 professional shows during the last three years including the prestigious Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic (she placed 2nd in 2013) and the Mr. Olympia 3 times, taking 4th place in the Olympia in 2012 and 2013 making her 4th in the world in her sport! It has been an incredible journey taking Heather from never competing, to a top pro in the world!

During the past eighteen years that I have worked in the fitness industry I have had the honor of training every possible type of person and helped them achieve goals achieve their goals covering the entire spectrum from fat loss or muscle gain to competitive bodybuilding, from children’s fitness to the elderly, from sports performance at the novice all the way to the NFL, NBA, MLB, IFBB, IOC, and NHL levels. So as I think back to that first day I discovered the sport of bodybuilding as I looked at that homemade birthday card made of bodybuilding magazine pages that my uncle Gary Smyth made for me…..I feel so blessed and grateful for all of the experiences that have led me to this point in my life and I can enthusiastically say the future has never been brighter!

I am currently pursuing my IFBB Pro card in Bodybuilding and I am training for the 2014 USA Bodybuilding Championships. I love helping people become the very best that they possibly can no matter what their respective fitness goals may be! That is why I love what I do so much and I am so blessed to be a part of the heath and fitness industry.  Always remember that every winner was once a beginner and the only disability in life is a bad attitude!

“Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” ~Michael Jordan

“You don’t have to be great to get started but you have to get started to be great.” ~Les Brown

All the best in health,

Justin Dees