Dave Cunningham’s gym journey not only took him from skinny to stacked, but taught him never to deviate en route to his goal of becoming a fitness model.

My transformation started when I was a skinny 16-year-old kid. It never really bothered me at the time because I was tall, which was seen as dominant especially as I was a basketball player in school. As I got older, I started to feel inadequate with my skinny frame. Developing into a man in my late teens, I wanted to feel more masculine and grew up watching action heroes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Stallone, Van Damme and idolized their physiques – I really wanted to strive for a body like theirs. I tried my hand at lifting weights and although I felt intimidated at first, it was exciting to be in an environment to make the gains I’d been dreaming of. After six months of training, I noticed some amazing changes to my body which spurred me on to keep working harder.

james cunningham topless


Fast forward many years and the principles needed to make gains in the gym, are helping me progress in life as well. Skills like discipline, work ethic and never quitting after a failure, are things I’ll never forget. This was never more evident to me when I got into physique competitions. I always wanted to turn pro, but kept placing agonizingly close across many years.
I just kept coming back. I had that unwavering belief that I could do it and I wanted it, so nobody was going to stop me in my mind. Finally, my hard work and bouncing back from defeats paid off when I turned pro with the WBFF as a fitness model.

Eating for success

My diet protocols and principles change depending on what goals I have, but regardless of the goal they need structure otherwise you’re shooting blindfolded. To gain lean mass, I tend to up my calories gradually and find a high carb diet helps me as the intensity of my workouts increase,
I have more fuel to build and recover.

When cutting I tend to go for maybe 16-20 weeks so it’s not so hard on my body. It can be a gradual process so I can get into shape healthily rather than crash dieting. For meals, I mix up my sources and keep everything flexible. I’ll incorporate treats into my diet if my macros and calories allow to maintain a level of normality. Enjoying a balance of fitness goals and downtime with family and friends is so important.

muscular man flexing muscles in mirror

Supplements for success

As I’ve gotten older I’ve really found great benefit in utilizing certain supplements into my regime to help me maximize my efforts. I tend to use the brand BPI supplements and use:

ISO HD – 32g scoop (once or twice daily)

I consider whey protein a staple part of my diet as it’s quick absorbing and cost effective for the amount of protein you get per scoop.

Best BCAAs – 5-10g daily

BCAAs help me with strength endurance so I’m able to sustain maximum effort in every workout.

Best Creatine – 5g daily

Creatine Monohydrate has been a key factor in helping me to increase size and strength.

Training Regimen

MONDAY – Shoulders & triceps


Standing military press2 x warm-up sets of 10-12 reps until I reach my working weight

4 x 8-10 reps
Bent over rear lateral raises4 x 12 reps
Standing cable lateral raises4 x 10-12 reps
Face pulls4 x 10 reps
Behind-the-neck-presses4 x 8-10 reps


Dips3 x 15 reps with body weight to warm my triceps up
Cable extensions4 x 10 reps
Machine pressdowns4 x 10-12 reps
Overhead dumbell extensions4 x 10-12 reps

TUESDAY – Calves & hamstrings

Calves are an aesthetic weakness for me, so I train them first while I’m fresh and energized


Standing calf raises6 x 10-12 reps
Seated calf raises4 x 10-12 reps


Lying leg curl6 x 20 reps/20 reps/15 reps/15 reps/12 reps/10 reps
Straight leg deadlifts4 x 12 reps
Wide walking lunges4 x 20 reps (10 reps per leg)
Seated hamstring curls3 x 12 reps


THURSDAY – Chest & biceps


Flat bench press2 x warm-up sets
4 x 8-10 reps
Incline press4 x 10-12 reps
Crossover cable flyes5 x 12 reps
Decline bench4 x 10 reps


E-Z bar curl2 x warm-up sets
4 x 10 reps
Single arm hammer curls4 x 10-12 reps
Cable curls4 x 8-10 reps

FRIDAY – Quads

Squats3 x warm-up sets until
I reach my working weight

4 x 12-15 reps
Leg press6-8 x 10-15 reps
Single leg leg extensions4 x 10-12 reps



Deadlift/rack pulls (Alternate each week)3 x warm-up sets of 10 reps until I reach my working weight

4 x 10 reps
T-bar row2 warm-up sets until I hit my working weight

4 x 10 reps
Lat pulldown1 x warm-up set

4 x 10-12 reps (normally starting on 12 in the first couple of sets and then finishing around 10 reps in the heavier sets)
Strict cable rows4 x 10 reps
Straight arm pulldowns4 x 12 reps
Bent over dumbbell rows4 x 10 reps

Vital stats


Age: 18

Weight: 136lb

Height: 5’7″


Age: 30

Weight: 177lb

Height: 5’7″