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.
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.
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.
MONDAY – Shoulders & triceps
|Standing military press||2 x warm-up sets of 10-12 reps until I reach my working weight
4 x 8-10 reps
|Bent over rear lateral raises||4 x 12 reps|
|Standing cable lateral raises||4 x 10-12 reps|
|Face pulls||4 x 10 reps|
|Behind-the-neck-presses||4 x 8-10 reps|
|Dips||3 x 15 reps with body weight to warm my triceps up|
|Cable extensions||4 x 10 reps|
|Machine pressdowns||4 x 10-12 reps|
|Overhead dumbell extensions||4 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 raises||6 x 10-12 reps|
|Seated calf raises||4 x 10-12 reps|
|Lying leg curl||6 x 20 reps/20 reps/15 reps/15 reps/12 reps/10 reps|
|Straight leg deadlifts||4 x 12 reps|
|Wide walking lunges||4 x 20 reps (10 reps per leg)|
|Seated hamstring curls||3 x 12 reps|
WEDNESDAY – Rest
THURSDAY – Chest & biceps
|Flat bench press||2 x warm-up sets
4 x 8-10 reps
|Incline press||4 x 10-12 reps|
|Crossover cable flyes||5 x 12 reps|
|Decline bench||4 x 10 reps|
|E-Z bar curl||2 x warm-up sets
4 x 10 reps
|Single arm hammer curls||4 x 10-12 reps|
|Cable curls||4 x 8-10 reps|
FRIDAY – Quads
|Squats||3 x warm-up sets until
I reach my working weight
4 x 12-15 reps
|Leg press||6-8 x 10-15 reps|
|Single leg leg extensions||4 x 10-12 reps|
SATURDAY – Rest
SUNDAY – Back
|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 row||2 warm-up sets until I hit my working weight
4 x 10 reps
|Lat pulldown||1 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 rows||4 x 10 reps|
|Straight arm pulldowns||4 x 12 reps|
|Bent over dumbbell rows||4 x 10 reps|