Huntsville Center engineer prepares for third bodybuilding competition

Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville Public Affairs
Published Aug. 12, 2015
Robert Jackson, a Dothan, Alabama, native, now currently a mechanical engineer at the Huntsville Center, he is preparing for his third competition this year: the NPC Alabama State Championship Aug. 29.

Robert Jackson, a Dothan, Alabama, native, now currently a mechanical engineer at the Huntsville Center, is preparing for his third competition this year: the NPC Alabama State Championship Aug. 29.

For about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, Robert Jackson dresses in his workout clothes and hits the gym. He trains to compete in local bodybuilding competitions, and what began as a hobby has turned into a lifestyle.

A Dothan, Alabama, native, now currently a mechanical engineer at the Huntsville Center, he is preparing for his third competition this year: the NPC Alabama State Championship Aug. 29.

“I’ve recently started having some tangible success,” Jackson said.

Jackson placed second at the Rocket City Classic in July and then first in his class at the NPC City of Champions Aug. 1.

Each competition has several categories, and within those categories there are height classes. Jackson competes in the physique category, which is for those who pursue a leaner, fit, aesthetic look, he said.

“The whole goal is really to just be in the best shape that you can be in, be the best you that you can be and be a better you than you were last year – that is the mindset and the focus,” Jackson said.

“It’s not really about winning per se, because you are still being judged by people, which is kind of subjective,” he said. “However, it’s still a competition so you want to do well as a competitor, but you have to keep it in perspective.”


Getting started

Always wanting to be fit, Jackson remembers watching ESPN during his youth.

“I grew up watching Mr. Olympia and bodybuilding shows on ESPN,” Jackson said. “Then when Sportscenter would go off, they would have about three or four workout shows that came on afterwards. I always tried to sit there and do the workouts with those guys.”

He continued to live an active lifestyle.

“I played football, basketball and ran track in high school, so I was always working out to be ready for the season of whatever sport I was preparing to play,” Jackson said.

After being accepted to Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, he no longer played sports competitively but still continued to work out while earning his degree.

“Even after college I stayed with it though, working out at a local gym or on campus,” Jackson said. “But, it was a few years ago when I really took it up to another level and started competing in bodybuilding shows.”

Jackson wanted to maintain a level of fitness that would allow him to play basketball all day if he wanted or throw a football without being out of breath, so he started working out with a friend, he said.

“I really started seeing more gains and made more and more progress in my workouts, so it kept motivating me, which is why I stuck with working out,” Jackson said. “It got to a point where I had been working out and wanted to do something more because I was used to playing sports and being competitive.” 

Needing to find a way to satisfy his competitive nature, Jackson saw an opportunity in bodybuilding.

“I wanted a different challenge, and I heard that one of my friends (Porscha Porter, Energy Savings Performance Contracting program manager) was doing a bodybuilding show,” he said. “I talked to her and said, ‘Show me what your diet is and let me see if I can stick with it and then we will see.’”

After two months of following Porter’s strict diet, Jackson decided to take it to the next level.

“It was a challenge, but it was so much fun,” Jackson said of working with his trainer. “I enjoyed every rep because it took my workout to a level I had never been on before. The results were very rewarding.”


Lessons learned

While Jackson has enjoyed much of his training over the past few years, he has learned that discipline is key.

“I’ve learned that you have to stay disciplined pretty much the whole year as far as your diet goes,” he said. “If you don’t stay somewhat disciplined you will put on more weight, and then you have to work that much harder to get it off when you start preparing for a competition.”

In order to stay disciplined, Jackson varies his routine.

“I hit the weights at least three days a week for 30 minutes straight,” he said. “I teach Insanity twice a week at the University Fitness Center located on the campus of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, and I also do it at home about four or five days a week. I also participate in boot camp classes, so I probably spend 10 to 12 hours a week working out.”

Jackson also tries to eat as clean as possible year round, but especially while training for a competition.

“My diet is very high protein and a lot of good fats like almonds and a lot of green vegetables like green beans, spinach, asparagus and salad,” he said. “The only carbohydrates I get are from an apple I eat in the morning, and very low to no sugar. So, no sugary drinks, no bread, no pastas.”

Jackson also drinks only water. 

“Something that I learned, once I got into bodybuilding was ... your body acts as a sponge,” he said. “In the off season you can have more cheat meals, but you still need to stay within reason, so if you are going to cheat more you need to do more cardio.”

Some of Jackson’s favorite cheat meals include barbecue ribs, peach cobbler, strawberry shortcake, crunch n munch and barbecue potato chips.

“I have to constantly think about what I am eating,” he said.


Workplace encouragement

Jackson, who is the lead engineer for plumbing design and a lead engineer for the DLA fuels program and Centers of Standardization program, often discusses his workout strategies and eating habits with his coworkers. 

“A lot of people will ask me what I do for my workouts or how I eat … so, I talk to them about that and what my suggestions would be,” he said.

One person Jackson has discussed health and fitness with is Tiffany Torres, Huntsville Center’s value engineering officer.

“I expressed to him on one occasion that I needed some help with getting off some of the weight that I had gained because of pregnancy,” Torres said. “Knowing how informed he is about fitness in general, I was happy when he offered to help me reach my goal.”

Torres said Jackson helped her design a workout routine that benefitted her, and he is a continued source of encouragement for his friends and coworkers.

“He's definitely the person I go to whenever I have a fitness related question,” she said. “And his motivation has absolutely helped me make more healthy decisions.”