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Airman muscles competition

Master Sgt. Troy Saunders, 435th Materiel MaintenanceSquadron, poses in during a competition in Germany.

Master Sgt. Troy Saunders, 435th Materiel MaintenanceSquadron, poses in during a competition in Germany.

Hurlburt Field, Fla. -- When 5-year-old Troy Saunders saw Tom Platz – the man known most for his sculpted legs in the bodybuilding world – his mind was made up. 

“It made me want to have muscles like that,” said Master Sgt. Troy Saunders a transportation specialist with the 435th Materiel Maintenance Squadron. “From then on, I ran, jumped and did pushups – anything to get in shape.” 

More than 30 years after seeing Mr. Platz, Sergeant Saunders has lifted and sculpted his way to countless titles in bodybuilding and the 220-pound class in power lifting. He earned his most recent titles in Europe. 

“During the last eight weeks, I have participated in seven bodybuilding championships in Germany and Switzerland,” Sergeant Saunders said. “The highlight was winning my class and the overall title at the 2005 German bodybuilding championships.” 

Sergeant Saunders’ success lays in his dedication to his sport. He does heavy lifting – squats, bench presses and dead lifts – 90 minutes a day, three times a week to maintain body mass. He does cardio workouts six hours a week. His exercises and times vary according to the competition for which he is gearing up. 

“There are distinctly different goals when I’m competing for bodybuilding as opposed to powerlifting,” Sergeant Saunders said. 

Bodybuilding judges look at the appearance of overall muscle mass, for a minimal amount of body fat – the less fat, the more muscularity, the more “ripped look,” Sergeant Saunders said. 

Powerlifting’s merit is solely in the amount of weight lifted. 

Sergeant Saunder’s muscles mass earned him the German title, despite giving up 40 pounds to the majority of his competitors. 

“I was the most conditioned athlete,” the sergeant from Kingsley, Iowa, said. “That was really my strong point going into the competition.” 

The German win qualified Sergeant Saunders to compete for Mr. Universe. But, that was a competition he passed up in order to compete in the World Championships. 

“The World Championships and Mr. Universe fell on the same weekend. I opted for the World Championships because I knew it would be a challenge,” Sergeant Saunders said. 

In 2005, Sergeant Saunders earned more than 10 titles, including a win in the 220- pound class at the U.S. Forces European Championships. He also earned the 220-pound class and the outstanding lifter award at the 2005 U.S.A. Military National Powerlifting Championships. 

The titles don’t bring Sergeant Saunders to the resolve that he’s reached his peak, but serve to push him forward in his bodybuilding and powerlifting endeavors. 

“I’ve been asking myself: Do I need to keep doing this? This makes me want to strive a little longer – being almost 40 doesn’t seem to be a roadblock at all,” he said.