John Robert Cardillo

Canada’s John Cardillo Moving Up Fast!

*Reprinted From Muscular Development Magazine*

It is fascinating to see so many bodybuilders winning top honors in physique competition today. Ten years ago there was a vast difference between the teenage bodybuilder and a seasoned competitor; today, they are very hard to tell apart. The great evolution of bodybuilding has inspired youths to train harder and use the many new scientific methods needed to become a physique champion. Young bodybuilders of today take bodybuilding very seriously, and it is this serious attitude that produces such great physiques at an early age. Physical, emotional and intellectual maturity of teenagers is greatly exhilarated due to bodybuilding. In order to become a great bodybuilder a teenager must learn very early how to discipline himself and put forth 100% effort into his rigorous training.


One individual with all the above qualities, whose bodybuilding career I have followed throughout his teen years is John Cardillo of St.Catharines, Ontario. At the age of 21, John could be considered a veteran in Canada’s bodybuilding circles. By the age of 18, John had already won the Jr. Mr. Ontario, Mr. Niagara, Jr. Mr. Atlantis, Mr. Ontario and the Jr. Mr. Canada titles. Shortly after winning the jr. Mr. Canada title, John embarked into a business venture and opened his first Fitness Centre. In less than a year later, John opened his second Fitness Centre. Both gyms were so successful from day one that they left John very little time or energy to tend to his own training, John decided to take a year off competing.

By the end of the second year of operation, both of John’s Fitness Centres had grown to be viable and stable businesses. With more employees and fewer working hours, John felt he could once again resume training with new enthusiasm. John’s new goal was to get in the best shape possible and win more bodybuilding competitions.  After being away from competing for 18 months, the task ahead was challenging. John’s enthusiasm to restart training with very heavy weights was too proving to be too much for his joints. His knees, elbows and wrists ached so much during the first month of training that he could barely sleep at night. Nonetheless he persevered. 

After 6 months of grueling workouts having reached a muscular bodyweight of 215 pounds (at 5’9” tall), John felt he was ready to try a competition. He traveled to New Brunswick and won the heavyweight division in the Eastern Canadian Bodybuilding competition. This win inspired John to train harder and watch his diet closer. Three weeks later, having dropped his bodyweight to 203, John entered the Northern Ontario Competition. People who had seen him in New Brunswick could not believe the transformation that took place in three weeks. Every body part was sharper and looked bigger at this lower bodyweight. John easily won his class and the overall title to everyone’s delight.


After comparing pictures of both competitions he had won, John was pleased with his improvement. Yet he felt that he could get even more ripped and bigger while weighing less. Cutting his diet down even more, John reduced his bodyweight further to 197 for his next competition the Ontario Championships.

Competing in the heavyweight division John faced fierce competition. Some contestants outweighed him by as much as 30 pounds. However, the weight difference wasn’t too apparent due to John’s good symmetry, extraordinary muscularity and perfect tan. Once again John walked away a winner and deservedly so. Putting these victories behind him, John knew that the real battle was forthcoming at the Canadian Championships in mid-August.

While most bodybuilders increase their training prior to a major competition, John did the complete opposite. He reduces his training time to 45 minutes a workout. An average lower body workout (lower back, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves) only lasted 45 minutes. John would work his upper body one day and his lower body the next, consecutively, then rest for 2 to 3 days to recuperate. John’s training philosophy is based on his scientific knowledge of muscle physiology. As John explains it, “The body’s major muscle groups contract through a specific range of movement. A bodybuilder’s objective is to understand how each particular muscle works and to select one or several exercises which best works each muscle through a full range movement.”


While working a certain muscle, John always uses very strict, controlled form, and as heavy a weight as possible so that he can involve as many muscle fibers as possible from full extension to full contraction. John adds, “Once a person cheats the slightest bit, he will not be using as many muscle fibers  to lift the weight and momentum carries the weight to the ‘finished’ position. This results in a poorer contraction than could have been had through the use of strict form.”

John considers the speed of a workout to be of great significance. Once a muscle is sufficiently warmed up by doing one light warmup set, he likes to push that body part to the limit by using the best, full range exercises and as heavy a weight as possible to exhaustion. “I like to chase the pain. By that I mean that the first few reps of a set, that don’t hurt,don’t really count. The  set really starts when the pain starts! I like to reach the pain zone during the first set of an exercise by going to absolute failure. Then immediately going to another exercise for the same body part, taking that set to failure also. Without resting in between the exercises and using heavy poundages, it really works a muscle. Breaking down more muscle fibers than any other form of training I’ve done”

John likes to pre-exhaust every body part to achieve greater workout intensity. However pre-exhaustion on all body parts, every workout could lead to overtraining. Additionally, he strongly believes in shocking his system every workout with something extraordinary. “Some days I might even do more sets for a large body part (like back) by adding a few exercises that I had not done in a long time while most of the time I’ll only one set to failure of 4 or 5 exercises” John believes bodybuilding is a learning experience and trying new training ideas broadens his understanding of his own body. John feels that following a proper diet should be a major concern of all bodybuilders. Having studied nutrition and biology at a university, John has learned a great deal about dieting for contests and also for formulating diets for his gym members. His knowledge of body chemistry has taught him he proper balances of foods to eat for maximum nutritional benefit. He believes that most bodybuilders follow very unbalanced diets by ingesting too much protein and not enough carbohydrates. As John explains it, “A  bodybuilder should never reduce his carbohydrate level to the point that he lacks energy to work out hard. Carbohydrates are essential for grueling workouts and maximum muscle contractions.” John’s contest diet is comprised of 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 15% fat. He eats only fish and egg whites for protein, fruits and vegetables for carbohydrates and oil on salads for his fat intake. He rarely eats more than 1800 calories a day and often drops as low as 800 calories on some days prior to contests. John does not take any form of supplement because he feels he receives sufficient nutrients from his daily diet.

The combination of super intense workouts and high carbohydrate Intake caused an incredible transformation of John’s physique. Bringing his bodyweight down to 193, John was ripped to shreds for the competitions.  His body fat measured less than four percent, bringing out a multitude of striations and vascularity. At the age of 21, John reached a level of conditioning very uncommon for someone so young. This was apparent as John stood among Canada’s top bodybuilders in the highly contested Mr.Canada competition. Although he was the best conditioned of all the contestants, John placed a disappointing fourth. This defeat has motivated John to train relentlessly for the future competitions. In seven months of training John made great strides towards his goal and should be the best bet to win more titles.

John Cardillo’s Training Routine



1. Wide Chin 1 Set : to failure with  (150 lbs on waist)
2. Nautilus Behind-Neck :to failure  (total stack)
3. Behind neck Pulldown: to failure (250 lbs)
4.Cable Row 1 set to failure(350 lbs)
5. Close Grip Pulldown: to failure (350 lbs)


1. Nautilus Fly 1 x 12  240 lbs.
2. Incline Press  1 set to failure (375lbs with drops)
3. Dumbell Fly 1 x 12  65 lbs.
4. Cable crossovers (one set to failure with stack)


1. Upright Row:1 set to failure (185 lbs)
2. Nautilus Shoulder Press:(stack time failure with weight drops)
3. Nautilus Side Laterals: (one set to failure with weight drops with stack)
4. Bent-over Lateral: one set to failure with 3 weight drops
5. Shrugs : one set to failure with 3 weight drops (395 lbs)


1. Nuatilus Curl: 1 set to failure (150lbs)
2. Barbell Curl: 1 set to failure with 2 weight drops (225 lbs)


1.Nautilus tricep: 1 set to failure (stack)
2. Dips:1 set failure(150lbs)
3.Pushdown  1 Set with 2 weight drops (180 lbs)

DAY 2                                       


1. Leg Extension 1 set to failure (250lbs)         
2. Nautilus Leg Press: 1 set to failure  (stack)
3. Barbell Squats:1 set time failure (405 lbs)
4. Hack Squats: 1 set to failure (220lbs)
5. Leg Curl: 1 set to failure (140 lbs)
6. Stiff leg Deadlift : 1 set to failure (315lbs)


1. Standing Calf Raise 2 x 15  (400 lbs)
2. Seated Calf Raise 2 x 12 (400 lbs)


1. Decline Sit-up  1 set to failure (75 lbs)
2. Leg Raise  1 set to failure

Lower Back

1. 45 degree Hyperextension: 1 set to failure (150 lbs)
2. 90 degree Hypertension’s: 1 set to failure (45lbs)

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