Terrell Duncan

Bodybuilder Terrell Duncan poses for a portrait Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022, in the home gym of his Hermiston residence.

HERMISTON — Bodybuilder Terrell Duncan is less than 15 weeks from taking the stage in his next competition.

Duncan is preparing for a couple of Washington shows. The first is The Empire Classic, April 22 in Spokane, and the next is The Emerald Cup Bodybuilding & Fitness Expo, which will take place April 29-30 in Bellevue.

“I live for this stuff,” he said. “I love going to the gym and training all year round.”

Both shows are National Physique Committee national qualifiers. As such, top placers of these shows will be eligible for competition at the 2022 NPC National Championships in Las Vegas. If Duncan can win at Nationals, he will achieve one of his biggest goals — becoming a pro in the International Federation of BodyBuilding and Fitness.

At 5 feet, 9 inches tall and 210 pounds, Duncan is working to get down to 190 pounds, which will make him eligible for the classic physique division, where competitors display bodies with plenty of muscle but with a focus on symmetry and balance, reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he competed in the 1970s, rather than the more heavily muscled bodies in the men’s bodybuilding division. The look of classic physique bodybuilders makes it a popular division with many competitors and fans.

At about four months out, Duncan said he is in a fun stage of training and diet. This is when he said he starts “cleaning up” his food intake, eating food that is more nutritious and less fatty. And he has a lot of energy and continues training hard.

That changes as he nears the competition date. At four weeks out, he begins to “dial it in,” he said, reducing his calories and increasing cardio. His body takes peak shape, he said, as muscles become most visible, most defined. By the day of the show, he will be lean, vascular and in the parlance of the sport “shredded,” with little fat or water between his skin and the muscles underneath.

Getting into bodybuilding

Duncan said he was skinny and stressed in 2012 and realized he would have to do something different. Of all the things he could have done to alter his life, he picked bodybuilding. It was, he said, something he could do to change his energy level, his health and his confidence.

And it’s working out, he said.

He said he was fit enough to begin competing in 2015. He, then, put on as much size as he could. Also, he began studying nutrition, as he discovered he would need to gain “quality muscle and not just mass” if he were to look his best, he said.

Duncan has competed in nine shows, including Nationals. He also has become a fixture throughout the region, competing in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Duncan said his physique was pretty good, and he was placing high at contests to prove it. He has won shows, including first place in the 2020 Idaho Cup, that qualified him for national-level competitions.

Last year, Duncan competed at Nationals in Arizona. He did not win, or even place very high, but he called his appearance at Nationals a good experience. There, he was able to see top amateurs from all around the country.

“I will go wherever it takes to become a professional,” he said, as he has set his eyes on obtaining the highly valued “pro card,” the stamp of approval that can lead to making an income as a bodybuilder.

Looking at the greats

Duncan said he has a lot of respect for people who have already obtained their pro cards. Right now, the pro schedule is starting to take off, as elite athletes ready themselves for the 2022 Arnold Classic, March 3-6, in Columbus, Ohio.

Duncan said he is looking forward to seeing how competitors face off in this show, which in terms of prestigious professional bodybuilding shows is second only to Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend.

Last year, Duncan met the winner of the 2021 Arnold, Hunter Labrada, son of bodybuilding great Lee Labrada. It was an honor, Duncan said, and he was happy to have received advice from the young champ, who told him to put on more muscle. Hunter Labrada, 29, outweighs Duncan by around 100 pounds and is one of the world’s top competitors. Even so, Labrada is a nice guy, Duncan said.

Bodybuilding as a life-changer

Duncan said he is a strong believer in his sport’s transformative nature.

“You have more control over your life and your body than most people think,” he said.

Bodybuilding can turn an underweight, overstressed individual into a better version of himself. Likewise, it can transform people who are overweight, weak or otherwise troubled into someone with fewer problems.

After he started bodybuilding, he said, he got married, felt more confident and obtained a better job. Now a mechanic for Lamb Weston, he said his life is good.

“I can’t complain,” he said.

Competitive bodybuilding, though, will not put protein on the table, he said. Only a handful of people at the top of the profession make enough money to live, he said. For this reason, Duncan stated that he may not even compete as a pro when he achieves his pro card. Instead, he said, he will start a business. By becoming an IFBB pro, he will gain credibility and notoriety that will allow him to begin his own dietary supplement line and a food prep business.

He said he likes helping people, and he hopes he will be able to assist others once he starts his business. In the meantime, he said, he has been able to help other people by passing his bodybuilding knowledge onto them.

“I see a lot coming up in the next five years, and I feel very excited about the way things are going,” he said. “I think I can help others by showing them what I have done, and I can continue to meet some of my other goals. I’m going to take some classes, learn more about fitness and pass this onto others. I feel good about this.”

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