Years ago, I had enjoyed competitive bodybuilding; in 2000 I decided to retire from the stage and focus on other endeavors. In 2005, I contracted a disease called Necrotizing Fasciitis, commonly known as "flesh-eating bacteria". True to its name, the disease caused quite a bit of damage to my leg. After undergoing 15 surgeries during my 6-week hospital stay, the experts informed me that I would never again regain the use of my foot and ankle. In December of 2006, I made the difficult decision to have my right leg amputated below the knee.
Right before the amputation, I made a promise to myself: I would one day return to competitive bodybuilding. This commitment helped me to redefine myself; I was now able to shift my focus from what I had lost, to what I still had. This drive propelled me to earn a 5th Place trophy in Baltimore's Silver Cup Bodybuilding competition in May of 2007. The reaction from the crowd, as well as the outpouring of support from my fellow athletes, instilled in me the confidence to continue improving my physique and become even more competitive.
Since that time, I have entered many shows and have always placed in the Top 4 in every Division. By the end of 2008, however, I faced yet another setback. The pain in my stump had become unbearable due to the lack of muscle and tissue covering the bone at the end of my amputated leg. I underwent more surgery and a further amputation in April of 2009. Sadly, this one was not successful; I was now left with a leg on which I would never be able to walk.
Faced now with the decision to amputate the rest of the leg above the knee, I had to draw upon my courage and the confidence that I had conquered this before and would do it again. In July of 2009 I had the surgery. Infections put me in and out of the hospital over the ensuing 4 months, but finally I was fitted with a new prosthetic leg. Once again I am embarking upon a new journey, that of learning to walk.
My favorite place to practice this is in the gym, where I am getting around slowly but surely, and carving out that competitive physique once more. I am keenly aware that I have been fortunate enough to have achieved my personal goals…..but I have not yet completed my mission, which includes a lifetime of inspiring others to believe that Nothing Is Impossible! Look for me on the competitive bodybuilding stage in 2012!
Over 40 Amateur Of The Week Richard Herskovitz
Richard Herskovitz Fox New Cover Story Flesh Eating Bacteria (04:38) This video is a copy of WBFF TV Fox News Cover Story "Super Bugs" about Richard Herskovitz Amputee Bodybuilder. The story aired on February 10, 2010. It was produced by Patrice Harris.
I train 7 days a week, at home alone. I love training first thing in the morning. It is a great way to start my day. I usually get up at 5 am, get my meals ready for the day and then start my training. I am usually in the gym for 45-60 minutes and then I do my cardio. Axle my Belgian Malinois dog is my faithful training partner. Intensity is the most important element in my workouts. Because of my leg loss I am not able to handle heavy weights, so with the exception of my warm-up sets I do every set to failure.
A very important, but never talked about, aspect of a weight training workout is the rest interval between sets. Since I workout by myself I am able to do my sets at my own pace instead of waiting for my workout partner to do their set. I usually rest 45 seconds between sets. If I wanted to change a workout without changing my exercises or weights all I would need to do was to change my rest interval. Resting 90 or 120 seconds instead of 30 or 45 seconds between set would make a huge difference in the working set.
Day 1: Legs
Because of my amputation I have to remove my prosthetic leg for my leg workouts.
First and foremost, bodybuilding affords me the opportunity to demonstrate to my children that they have a father who can rise above a tragic situation and move forward to an even greater place. It also fills me with a sense of empowerment over my amputation; I am back in the driver's seat, and the lack of a healthy limb neither defines me nor holds me back in any way.
Globally, I feel this is a perfect arena for me to reach out to others who may be experiencing similar situations in their lives, and offer them inspiration and education.
What Motivates You To Follow A Healthy Lifestyle?
The usual things motivate me to follow a healthy lifestyle: knowledge that this is the best format for longevity, a desire to instill good decision-making in my children, and the ever-present goal of returning to the stage.
What Made You Want To Achieve Your Goals?
Given my history with the amputations, my goals are now even more important to me, because I feel they are larger than just mine...I hope to touch other lives simply by doing what I love, that being demonstrating that nothing is impossible where there is a strong enough will.
What Are Your Future Bodybuilding Plans?
Having turned 50 this year, I want to remain in the best shape possible so that, when I return to competitive bodybuilding, it will be my physique that people notice first and not my leg! I am currently training hard, and look forward to the 2012 competitive season and maybe earning a Masters Pro Card!
What One Tip Would You Give Other Bodybuilders?
There is no magic pill. Building muscle requires hard work and a strict nutrition program.
I've received many messages from others that have read my story and here is one:
My name is Joseph Brown and I am an AK amputee as well. I lost my leg in a Motocross Racing accident back in 2003 when I was 19. Since the accident I have struggled with self image despite making great gains in the gym. After my accident I weighed 128 pounds at 6' 1" ... I couldn't stand the way I felt and looked. So I hit the gym and within three years of training I was over 200 pounds.
Ever since then I have been obsessed with bodybuilding. I was able to run a 10 minute mile, go hiking, along with many other activities. I have had difficulties with getting proper prosthetic care, but I am finally getting new leg and feel great about it.
I have recently had a large interest in doing a show and that is how I came upon your site. Among the many things that I would like to talk to you about, I just want to thank you for paving the way for me. Your story has motivated me to act on my ambitions. I am apprehensive about getting on stage with my leg but I know it is something that I have to do.
I would love to talk with you on your general thoughts, ideas, tips, etc. on taking on such a venture. I hope that this can be a possibility! Feel free to contact me at any time...I'm hoping to compete sometime this year or early next year.
Hope this finds you well and still competing!