Achieving A Dream: An Exclusive Interview With IFBB Pro Dan Decker
Achieving our dreams is a lot like climbing a mountain. Standing at the base we look to the summit imagining how we’ll feel when we finally get there. Unfortunately the climb is littered with obstacles. Each doing their best to slow us down, or worse yet, make us lose our footing and slip back to the bottom. But, for those who are strong enough to persevere, greatness is never out of reach. At the 2012 North American Championships Dan Decker came one step closer to reaching the top of his mountain. Dan earned his pro card winning the Men’s Masters 35+ Overall title. For Dan, the journey isn’t quite over yet though. He still plans on continuing to climb until he reaches his peak.
What initially made you want to become a competitive bodybuilder?
I had noticed that I had really nice muscle shape when lifting weights in my early stages of high school. Then I was introduced to bodybuilding magazines around grade 10. I thought someday I could be like that. I did my first show right after my senior year of high school.
You're known for having great arms, but, what would you say has been a stubborn bodypart for you?
I would have to say my upper pecs have been my most stubborn bodypart. I have improved it a lot over the last couple years where I'd say it's not that bad of a weakness anymore. Now I think I need more back width and upper back thickness.
Could you give an example of a routine that you used to help bring it up?
I'm now a firm believer in the reverse grip bench press to build the upper chest. I have not regular bench pressed in two years.
3 sets of reverse bench press 6-8 reps
3 sets of incline dumbbell presses 8-10 reps
3 sets of incline reverse incline smith machine presses 8-12 reps
3 sets wide grip hammer strength presses 10-15 reps
3 sets of flat dumbbell flys 10-15 reps
How would you classify your training style? High Volume? HIT? Mix of both?
I would say a combo of both. Most sets I train pretty close to failure.
Have you always trained that way or has your training style evolved over the years?
I use to lift less through the week and as I got more advanced I trained 5 days a week vs. 3 days a week.
At this year’s USAs you came in 4th in the Super Heavies. Why did you decide to diet straight through to the North Americans instead of giving your body a rest and waiting for nationals?
I knew I could be much harder. I also knew the class was very tight and they were splitting hairs. I was 1 point away from 3rd place. I knew it was all just a matter of opinion there. I noticed Dave had me in first in the play by play. No one I had talked to had me any less than 3rd. I was honestly shocked at placing 4th. I also knew I had a good chance at the new 35 masters class at the North American.
For many bodybuilders earning their pro card symbolizes reaching the top of the mountain. What would you have to accomplish to consider your pro career a success? I would like to go on and win one of the bigger Pro shows like the New York Pro then qualify for the Olympia and be a top 10 or higher finisher there.
A few years ago you overcame some personal tragedy with the passing of your father. How do you think overcoming that changed you as a person and a bodybuilder? I went in to the USA that year, my first year as a super, and placed a disappointing 10th. I wanted to do well in memory of my father but I think I was just caught up in too much stress that year. I just kept in mind that I knew he wouldn't want me to give up on my dream and I've always known this was what I was meant to do and that I could do it.
During that time did you ever consider quitting bodybuilding?
Not just that time, but a lot of times. I think it's mostly the effort we put in to it and there really isn't much financial reward. But when it's in your blood you do it because you love it and it's a self fulfillment.
What advice would you give aspiring bodybuilders who look to you as an inspiration?
It's flattering but keep in mind everyone has different genetics. Some may have the ability to compete and turn pro but the majority may not ever come close to that level. You just have to be the best you can be and hopefully that makes you happy. All I can really say is just be the best that you can be. Follow your dream as far as you can take it but don't jeopardize your health in trying to become a pro bodybuilder.
Bodybuilding is a team sport. Is there anyone who you'd like to thank for helping or supporting you along the way?
Yes, my Mom has stuck behind me every time even though she's wanted me to hang it up a lot of times. My good friend Ron Stone who has helped me promote myself. Also my buddy John King who has helped sponsor me this past year helping out with some of the expenses in my shows. My girlfriend Inez Ramirez has also been so supportive of me this year in my last two shows. I also got a lot of positive support from all my friends at my gym, Met-Rx Fitness, in Costa Mesa California. My friends I grew up with and went to school with back home in Indiana.
If someone wants to contact you for guest posing or training how do they reach you?
What the future holds for Dan in life and bodybuilding has yet to be decided. As he continues the journey to the top of his mountain he may once again find himself faced with a rocky path. And, once again, Dan will use those same rocks as stepping stones to forge ahead. Ultimately Dan will look down from the summit at all he’s accomplished and come to a realization. It was never about the destination, it was about the journey.