John Robert Cardillo

How John Cardillo Trained To Win The Eastern America Classic Bodybuilding Championship

*Reprinted from Bodybuilding Monthly Magazine*

In superb condition John Cardillo, of Ontario Canada, overwhelmed a strong field of contestants to win the USBF Open Eastern America Classic Bodybuilding Championship. Much had been written in the local newspapers of the contest and especially of Cardillo competing. The residents of Berwick, Pennsylvania and Tony DeFrancisco, the promoter, anticipated a great contest and got one indeed.

From the first round of judging it was apparent that Cardillo was the man to beat. Greg Golden of Fairmont, West Virginia, with a superbly thick upper body was the only contestant who came close to matching Cardillo’s huge size. Golden, at 5’8”, weighed 205 while Cardillo, at 5’10” weighed 228. Third place went to an ageless American  champion, Claude Rigon of Surf City, New Jersey.

After the competition, I had a chance to talk to John Cardillo. I found John to be a very interesting person. At the age of 23 this young man has accomplished a great deal in life. He has been in the gym business for 5 years, having opened his first gym before he turned 19. At the time I met him he was in the process of opening his fifth gym. John operates one gym himself while the others are run by qualified managers. Although he says he enjoys business a great deal, nothing compares to the enjoyment he gets from bodybuilding.

In preparation for this competition  John told me that he has followed the same diet all year and has no reason to change it. On days he doesn’t train eats only 2 meals a day. A large meal at 7:00 pm and a smaller meal at 9:00 pm. He fasts 22 hours a day because he doesn’t eat breakfast or lunch. On days that he does train (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) he does have a breakfast consisting of 6 egg whites and no lunch and the 2 meals in the evening.  He only drinks water and coffee all day long. When he started his present diet he weighed 233 pounds with his bodyfat measuring 10 percent. By intensifying his workouts and following his new diet, John gained muscle while losing bodyfat.

John’s diet consisted of 2500 calories daily. His protein intake is very low compared with most bodybuilders we read about. John only eats 50 to 70 grams of protein a day while consuming at least 400 grams of carbohydrates. He believes that most bodybuilders eat far too much protein in the belief that it will build more muscle. He went on to say that carbohydrates are of greater importance in order for him to train as intense as possible to stimulate growth. Since switching to this diet 2 years ago, John Cardillo has gained 30 pounds of muscle. (That’s 15 pounds a year!)

John’s training philosophy is also unlike most bodybuilders. He totally believes in high intensity, short duration workouts. He seldom ever performs more than 2 sets in succession of any particular exercise (heavy weight to failure followed with no rest, by a lighter drop set, again to failure) and never does more than 2 exercises for a small body part (biceps, triceps, traps, calves)  and 4 to 6 exercises for a larger  bodypart (Thighs, back, delts, chest) Every set of every exercise is performed  until complete momentary failure is reached.

As John described his training to me, his facial expressions grew more intense. I could almost envision him going through a torturous workout. He explained that in order for him to make constant gains he must continually increase his intensity by employing forced reps, negative reps, drop sets or pre-exhaustion. He is able to tolerate so much pain that at times a particular muscle he is working will actually turn blue from the great amount of blood being gorged in it.

Another interesting thing about John is that he has been using the same routine for the past 2 years. He only varies the order of the exercises and at times the repetition scheme. He has made superb progress with this routine and possibly you also could. John’s training routine is as follows:



  1. Wide chins to chest (with 150 pounds on waist to failure + drop set)
  2. Nautilus Behind Neck Machine  (1set to failure + drop set)
  3. Cable Row (1 set to failure + drop set)
  4. Nautilus Pullover (1 set to failure+ drop set)
  5. Close Grip Pulldown (1 set to failure with 400 pounds + drop set) 


  1. Barbell High Pulls (1 set to failure)
  2. Nautilus shrug machine (1 set to failure + drop set)
  3. Dumbell Shrugs (1 set to failure + drop set)


  1. Nautilus Curl (1set to failure + drop set)
  2. Incline Dumbbell Curl (1 set to failure + drop set)
  3. Barbell Curl (1 set to failure+ drop set)


 1.Reverse Wrist Curls (1 set to failure +drop set)

  1. Standing Reverse Curls (1 set to failure + drop set)
  2. Wrist Curls (1set to failure + drop set)


Low Back

  1. Nautilus Low Back Machine (1 set to failure)
  2. 45 Degree Hyperextension (1 set to failure)
  3. Stiff Leg Deadlift (1 set to failure + drop set) 

Nautilus Leg Press 2×15

Hack Squat 1×20

Leg Curl 2×10. 

Hamstrings and Quadriceps 

  1. Prone Leg Curl (1set to failure + drop set)
  2. 90 Degree Leg Press 1 set to failure
  3. Nautilus Leg Extension (1 set to failure + drop set)
  4. Full Squats (1set to failure + drop set)
  5. Adductor (1 set to failure +drop set)
  6. Abductor (1set to failure + drop set)  
  7. Hip Thrust (1set to failure + drop set) 



  1. Seated Calf Raise (1set to failure +drop set)
  2. Nautilus Donkey Calf Raise (1 set to failure + drop set) 3. Standing Calf Raise (1 st to failure + drop set)  



  1. Nautilus Pec Fly (1 set to failure)
  2. Nautilus Decline Press (1 set to failure)
  3. Incline Flys (1 set to failure)
  4. Incline Dumbell Press (1 set to failure + drop)
  5. Crossover Cables (1set to failure + drop set ) 


  1. Front Dumbell Raises (1 set to failure)
  2. Barbell Front press (1set to failure + drop set)
  3. Dumbell Side Lateral (1 set to failure)
  4. Barbell Press behind Neck (1 set to failure + drop set) 5. Nautilus Rear Delt machine (1 set to failure + drop set) 6. Dumbell Bentover Laterals (1 set to failure + drop set) 


  1. Nautilus Tricep (1 set to failure + drop set)
  2. Tricep Pushdown (1 set to failure + drop set)
  3.  Dumbell French Press (1set to failure-+ drop set) 
  4. Dips (with 150 pounds on waist to failure + drop set). 
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John Robert Cardillo

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A Canadian champion who went on to win many bodybuilding competitions including the Junior Ontario and Junior Canadian Championships.

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