Anyone who has ever met Dave Palumbo knows that he's anything but shallow. Having made that statement, let me qualify it by saying that Dave is one of the deepest, most soulful and thought-provoking, guys you'll ever meet. He's got a fantastic sense of humor and he's extremely intelligent. Knowing all this, I had quite a bit of self-inflicted pressure to ask him all the right questions and to discuss key topics that would, ultimately, paint an accurate picture of the man behind the legend.
So, in between answering emails, talking on his cell phone, text messaging, checking in on his clients who were competing at the Tampa Pro Show, and uploading contest pictures to the Rx Muscle website, Dave was gracious enough to answer some of the annoying queries I hurled in his direction. I'm honored to bring you the following interview with Rx Muscle Boss, Dave Palumbo!
Allie: Dave, how the hell did you get the Rx Muscle website up and running so quickly?
Dave: I'm good at what I do. (chuckles) And I don't like to lose! I already knew the formula and I'm not afraid to act on something or to work 18 hours a day to accomplish it.
Allie: You weren't expecting this to happen, were you? I mean you didn't already have this underway before you were fired from Muscular Development, did you?
Dave: No. I didn't have anything in the works. I didn't even have anyone on board, really; except Sean, who already worked for me personally and Jeff, who was doing the radio shows with us at MD. I think it was a little easier to get the radio show going so quickly because I had already ordered radio equipment to do a possible second MD show from my home. I thought it would save them a little money. The equipment had just come in so we were ready to go with our own show when everything went down.
Allie: How would you describe yourself?
Dave: I am the type of person who likes to immerse myself in whatever I do and I like to be the best at it. It doesn't matter what it is, whether it's breeding Persian cats...
Allie: Wait, are you being serious? You've really bred Persian cats?
Dave: Yup. For a long time.
Allie: When and how did you first meet John Romano?
Dave: I think I first met him backstage at a show when Shelley Beattie was competing. We became friends when I started working for MD and going to shows.
Allie: Have you always gotten along?
Allie: Do you guys ever throw down? Argue? Disagree?
Dave: Amazingly, no.
Allie: Why did you go to prison?
Dave: Distribution of growth hormone. I was sentenced to 10 months: 5 months at Morgantown, WV and 5 months house arrest.
Allie: What's the worst thing you ever experienced in prison?
Dave: Nothing, really. It was like being at an all-guys sleep-away camp. It was a prison for white collar crimes. It's like the place Martha Stewart went to. Having said that, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone looking for a vacation.
Allie: Would you consider ever competing again?
Dave: Nope. I have nothing to prove. I've accomplished what I wanted to already. At this point it would be counterproductive. Plus, I told all my friends long ago that if I was still competing at 40, to kill me!
Allie: What was your job when you were competing?
Dave: Let's see....I've always been one of those guys with multiple streams of income. I never really worked for somebody else, you know, punching a time clock. I trained people, bounced a little, I had several supplement contracts, I did contest prep, guest posings and appearances. I was in the first XM Satellite Radio commercials, I appeared in one of the older Batman movies, I've had lots of TV/Movie/ Commercial work, and I had at least 13 appearances on the Conan O'Brien show as the Incredible Hulk. Too bad the Conan show moved to out to L.A. - that was a fun gig. I've always pretty much worked for myself.
Allie: Who was your first contest prep client?
Dave: I absolutely couldn't tell you! Probably some local guy that no one else believe in.
Allie: Would you stop a client from doing a show if you didn't think they were ready?
Dave: Yes. I've been known to tell a client they weren't ready. I've recommended that they push for a show that's a little later. But I've also been known to support someone, especially at a local-level show, who may not be as ready as I would have liked, but they'd worked hard and come a long way. You have to assess a person's goal. Many of my clients aren't looking for a pro card, they're just trying to be the best they've ever been and they're thrilled to be in the best shape of their life.
Allie: How do you eat McDonalds all the time and still manage to stay so lean?
Dave: What people don't realize is that 95% of the food I eat is clean. We joke about McDonalds because when I was competing, I never really had a taste for junk food, but I would go to McDonalds for the extra calories. I was a long distance runner for five years in college and my metabolism is still pretty crazy. You can't forget, I'm still 260 lbs and that's a lot of muscle mass to feed.
Allie: Have you ever taken anything that you regret?
Dave: Hmmm...Actually, yes. Someone once talked me into taking ketamine (Special K). It's a popular veterinary anesthetic. This guy who talked me into it was an addict and he was injecting 2cc's of the stuff at a time, so I figured I'd do half of what he was doing. It sent me to another world! I had a definite out of body experience and then became violently nauseous. It was the worst experience with drugs I've ever had!
Allie: Are there any girls you've interviewed who've made you nervous?
Dave: I would say no to 99% of them. There's something about that microphone that can intimidate even the most confident people when you interview them. People have a tendency to become slightly more restrained when they talk in to a microphone. There's also a certain amount of power that the person holding the mic has. I remember that I wanted to interview Maria Shriver at the Arnold Classic one time, and she did not want to be interviewed. I knew I had to get that interview and I'd probably have to be pretty aggressive in order to get it. I was a little nervous, but I thought to myself: what's the worst she can say, "No"? And when I asked her, she told me no, but I said, c'mon, you have to. This is the Arnold Classic! You gotta talk a little bit. She was reluctant, but she agreed. That interview was slightly unnerving, but that microphone is pretty empowering.
Allie: From my own experience with you, I've always noticed you have this uncanny ability to give very straightforward, one sentence or one word responses to your emails and questions people ask you. It can very easily make a person feel intimidated or stupid. Yet, I've also seen you be a very sensitive, positive, motivating coach. Do you get this feedback from people much?
Dave: I'm proud to say that I answer all my emails, myself. Every single one of them - and I easily get 500 emails a day. Many of them are repetitive, and I keep my answers pretty short so that I can get to all of them. Most of the time, people understand my answers, but if they don't, I usually get another one with follow-up questions or clarifications. I think most people get it and understand.
Allie: You are a very deep and spiritually driven person. Anyone around you can experience a strong sense of calm. Have you always been this way and what keeps you grounded and moving forward?
Dave: No. I haven't always been this way. I would say not until I was 30 did I become a spiritual person. I was pretty immature in my 20's - my ego told me I knew everything, even though intuitively I knew I didn't. I think spiritually, I got bored and thought: "...there's got to be more." So, I immersed myself in learning everything I could about the universe and spirituality. I'd say that put me at peace. Dr. Wayne Dyer had a huge influence on me. I learned not to take myself so seriously. Dr. Wayne Dyer says: "If you can find the absurdity in life - you can be at peace and enjoy yourself." He also says: "I've never seen a barrel full of anxiety." In other words, if you can't fill a barrel with it - whatever it is - then it can't possibly exist. People create stuff like stress and anxiety. It's an imaginary human creation. I'm good at letting go of things now because of this thought process. I think that's the sense of peace that people get around me.
Allie: What's the story behind med school? You didn't finish?
Dave: No - I went for 3 years and I loved the classroom side of it; but when I got out of the classroom and in to the hospital/practical side of it, I hated it! I was around all these sick, unhappy people who were miserable for 12 to 18 hours a day. I couldnt work out, couldn't sleep, and was sick all the time. I, intuitively, knew that nothing that was "right" for me could feel this "wrong". So, I decided to take a year off and if I missed it, I'd go back and finish. Needless to say, I never went back.
Allie: That's a lot of time and money invested in something to just stop.
Dave: I extracted from it what I needed. I was empowered with the knowledge. I learned a lot and this was all before I really started bodybuilding. I had an interest in bodybuilding, and always liked to help people with bodybuilding, but no one really wanted to listen. I didn't look the part. With my knowledge, I was able to make myself look like a bodybuilder. This gave me a sense of credibility in other peoples' eyes. They didn't really listen to me before, even though I had some very good, practical, things to say. But when I took the knowledge I had and actually started packing on slabs of muscle, I gained the respect of my bodybuilding peers. I was finally able to use this information I had rammed into my head in med school. Most bodybuilders don't have much in the way of formal education. I took the science I learned in school and broke it down and made it understandable for anyone to grasp. I essentially started empowering others by helping them to understand "why" they should be following the things I was telling them to do. In that sense, I'm very happy with what I took away from Med School.
Allie: Who do you most respect in body building?
Dave: As far as competitors go? I like Kai Greene's physique. He's a freak. You know, this is a very selfish sport. I don't know of anyone who embodies what bodybuilding is supposed to be about. All bodybuilders have a narcissistic side. Actually, Ronnie Coleman and possibly Lee Haney; they represent what the sport is all about. I think they both live the lifestyle for the mere enjoyment and love of it.
Allie: Who first influenced you to become involved in bodybuilding?
Dave: I guess I'd have to say it was one of the older kids in High School. I played soccer and I always played up with the older kids. One of them told me I should start working out, and I did. Then in college I cut back because I was a long distance runner and the excess muscle became counterproductive. I think my friend Michael Popkin would say he influenced me to work out because he beat me, once, in arm wrestling. I used to beat him all the time and when my weight dropped down in the 140's he actually beat me at one of our yearly matches.
Allie: You are often criticized for taking a "one size fits all" approach to contest prep. People say that you blanket everyone under the same rules and say that the same diet works for everyone. I believe I've even heard the term "cookie cutter approach" used. What is your response to this?
Dave: The universe is easy-- the most complex problems have the simplest solutions. It's the same with diet. It is a cookie cutter approach. You can find my diets posted all over the internet. There's no secret formula to my diets. I give my knowledge away for free. People don't pay me for my diets. People pay me for my coaching. My coaching is catered to the individual. I apply the same principals to all my clients, tweaking and making adjustments for each individual throughout their prep. It's how I manipulate the diet and keep it "working" that makes it special and makes it work at 100% efficacy.
Allie: Dave, I'm certain I speak for all the Rx members when I say thank you for your time and for selflessly sharing your knowledge with us. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, a lot of us depend on you and the experiences you share. Thanks again for your time.