Tim Belknap

Tim Belknap was an IFBB professional bodybuilder from Illinois, USA. He was well-known as a professional level competitor, who also battled diabetes throughout his life.

Growing up, Tim was very active and always had a passion for weightlifting and showing off his body. He was also diagnosed with diabetes very young, which meant that he would spend the rest of his life taking insulin shots.

As Tim developed his physique and read about proper nutrition and lifting technique, he also became fascinated by the idea of competing. He would start competing in the early 80’s; entering the bodybuilding scene with a well-researched nutritional plan and highly developed lower body.

This preparation paid off for Tim. He won 2 of his first 3 competitions and came 2nd in the 3rd. He joined the IFBB in 1981, winning another 4 shows before retiring. This is his story:


 

Tim Belknap standing next to a competitions trophy, tensing his bicep and showing his muscular body

Athlete Statistics

Full Name: Tim Belknap
WeightHeightAgeDate of Birth
245 - 255lbs (111.1 - 115.7kg)5'4" (162.5cm)60September 2, 1958
NationalityProfessionEra
AmericanIFBB Professional Bodybuilder1980, 1990
Weight245 - 255lbs (111.1 - 115.7kg)
Height5'4" (162.5cm)
Age60
Date of BirthSeptember 2, 1958
NationalityAmerican
ProfessionIFBB Professional Bodybuilder
Era1980, 1990

 

Tim Belknap posing in a professional shot, showing his large biceps, arms and legs

Accomplishments

Competitions

  • 1981 AAU Mr. America Light-HeavyWeight & Overall, 1st
  • 1981 AAU Mr. Midwest Short & Overall, 1st
  • 1981 IFBB World Amateur Championships Light-HeavyWeight, 2nd
  • 1982 NPC Nationals HeavyWeight, 3rd
  • 1983 IFBB Grand Prix Las Vegas 10th
  • 1984 NABBA Mr. Universe Short, 1st
  • 1984 NABBA World Championships Short & Overall, 1st
  • 1985 NABBA Mr. Universe Short & Overall, 1st
  • 1985 NABBA World Championships Short & Overall, 1st
  • 1991 IFBB Niagara Falls Pro Invitational, 10th
  • 1991 IFBB San Jose Pro Invitational, 7th
  • 1992 IFBB Ironman Pro Invitational, 14th

 

Tim Belknap standing on the beach showing his full ripped, toned and lean physique

Biography

Early Years

Tim Belknap was born in Rockford, Illinois, USA in 1958. Growing up, he was extremely active, but he always gravitated towards sports where he could use his strength and size.

As he developed himself as a weight lifter, he also used his nutritional knowledge gained as a diabetic, to plan meals for muscle gain. He began to attend the gym almost everyday with the intention of becoming bigger.

While he wanted to become bigger more than anything else, he also suffered from adverse reactions to his insulin injections occasionally. These injections would occasionally leave him without any appetite, which would mean that he couldn’t eat properly.

Deciding To Build Muscle

Because of this, at 18 years old he decided that he would simply have to eat as much as possible when he could.  He faithfully followed advice in Muscle magazine and began to build size and strength, recalling that he realized that he had “some serious genetic potential.”

After a few years spent following this approach, Tim weighed 230 pounds in the off-season. He had gained a large amount of muscle mass across his body and decided that he would try and compete.


 

Tim Belknap completing a leg raise, showing his large quads, arms and calves


Competing

Tim decided that he would start to compete in bodybuilding shows in 1980. By 1981, he was posing on the stage at the AAU Mr. America Light-HeavyWeight & Overall, and had managed to cut down below 200lbs.

At 5’4″, this aesthetic was extremely impressive and he managed to take a 1st and overall at this show. He also managed to qualify for the AAU Mr Midwest show, which he also won quite easily, taking the trophy in the short category.

For Tim, this was just the beginning. He would go on to win the 1984 NABBA Mr. Universe, the 1985 NABBA Mr. Universe and the 1985 NABBA World Championships. He also qualified for, and competed with the IFBB during his decade-long career.

Heart Disease

His career came to a close when he began to suffer with serious heart problems. Heart disease was prevalent in his family, so Tim was always aware that it may be an issue, but he pushed it to the back of his mind.

One April in the early 90’s, he noticed a shortness of breath and chest pains (symptoms of a mild heart attack.) He was 37 years old at the time and could not believe that his heart was in any way unhealthy.

He says when reflecting on this period that all he could think about was “doing the right thing.” A month later, he underwent open-heart surgery which meant that he would have to lower the intensity of his workouts permanently.


 

Tim Belknap completing a leg raise in ripped vest, showing his large quads, delts and chest

Training

Heavy Back Approach

When Tim trained his back, he worked very hard and used mind-muscle connection. After his back workout, he could be found doing 10 sets of tension posing. He always followed each set with stretching exercises, such as hanging from a pull up bar or pulling against a stationary upright.

It took him about 40 minutes to complete a back workout. He always combined this session with a chest workout, to make use of the popular double-split training principle.

Tim’s back used to be considered his weak point, but after hard work it became his prized feature. He was told that his back was “spectacular” when he won the Mr. America contest.

Back Exercises

He started his back routine with five very heavy sets of Seated Rows, done on a special rowing machine in Gold’s Gym. After this, he would perform each rep to full peak contraction.

This would always be followed up with 4 heavy pulldowns to the chest, using a semi-wide grip. Before a contest, this may be dropped to 2 sets due to low energy levels while eating 900 calories a day.

The pulldowns wouldn’t stop there. Tim would continue with a close-grip Pulldown to the chest, using a reverse grip. After 3 or 4 sets of these, the exercise burns the lower lats.

For his final pulldown exercise, Tim chose wide-grip Chins behind the neck for 3 or 4 sets. He would pause at the bottom of each rep, forcing the muscle to contract fully. Heavy dumb­bell Pullovers would follow this exercise to finish.

Famous Arms

Tim had 18 inch arms that looked twice that size on his small frame while competing. He would regularly train them in a split routine twice a week and his favorite movement for his biceps was the standing cable curls.

His biceps were particularly impressive, but his triceps were also extremely well-built. These muscles were developed while completing a close-grip bench-press. Tim said that this was the best movement to isolate all three heads of the triceps.


 

Tim Belknap showing his lrge tricep and bicep at the gym

Nutrition

Changing His Diet After His Heart Attack

For most of his life, Tim says that he would often eat foods high in fat. He believed that, while bulking, this wasn’t a huge issue. As he began to suffer from heart issues, he developed a suitably balanced, low-fat diet that excluded red meat and cheese.

Competition Diet

In order to maintain and build his mass during his competition days, Tim would always eat high-protein foods. He loved to eat eggs, chicken and cheese every 3-1/2 hours. Through doing this, he managed to gain a large amount of muscle mass.

During some cutting seasons, Tim would lose as much as 32 pounds in a few weeks. He said that he was “often asked” how he could lose so much weight so quickly, but he told them that a lot of it was water weight.


 

Tim Belknap tsnsing his bicep at a competition, showing his large biceps, abs, arms and chest

What we can learn from Tim Belknap

Tim battled against diabetes from an early age and had serious heart problems which ended his career. While these problems were severe, however, they never once affected his love for the sport or his willingness to compete.

If you are struggling with health issues, it may be useful to look at Tim as an example of someone who never quit. He followed his dreams throughout his career and always saw the positive.

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6 comments

  1. Mike

    June 18, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    your one of my favorites.I remember seeing you in muscle builder power or muscle and fitness if I remember correctly. You had just won Mr. America. Mike Lufkin,Tx.

  2. Ted

    September 3, 2018 at 3:41 am

    In 1979 I trained at Gold’s and World gym in Venice. Then I returned to school at NIU. That’s when I saw the most impressive bodybuilder in my life. Tim was so big he looked like a real life cartoon

  3. Craig Bennett

    October 9, 2018 at 8:18 am

    I went to Body Building seminar in the 1980’s Tim conducted at the Koala Motor Inn, Oxford Street, Sydney Australia. Tim showed up in condition had hadn’t seen before, nothing he was over for seminars, not competition.

    For a short bloke, he was massive, legs back in the 80’s unrivalled to Tom Platz a short time later. Both Tim n Tom we’re similar in many ways and both in my view trial blazers well ahead of there time.

    Tim was very generous with his time, and very sincere and genuine with his advice. He pressed the importance of leg and in particular calf training. He was the first person
    that really pressed the issue and he was correct, his wuote was you can’t get around with out wheels, (meaning Calves) his thighs were massive and striated, separated utterly shredded. In fact shredded to the point of paper-thin skin and it appeared you could see the fibres.. I’m pretty sure he along with his endocrinologist pionerred the anabolic and catabolic effects if. Insulin and blood sugar, regulation of. IGF in the pre peptide erra.

    I was more or less saying the same thing on a Body Building forum and was under the impression he had died of a heart related illness years ago, so I tried googling when he passed away, only to find scant confusion of what had happened. So glad to find out he’s still alive, had to go back and amend my post that he was taken far too young.

    He was unrivalled in leg development till Platz stamped his mark a short time later.
    Seen both pose live, and chatted with them so very similar.

    I think Tim being a diabetic bodybuilder really opened the door on the importance, danger and befits of the once. Under rated insulin.

    So very glad to hear Tim is. Still with us, he deserves more recognition for his achievements, the politics in BB have sadly skewed results. Tim was in my view under rated, as were the Metnzner Bros. I think now with social media, the record is being to honour these pioneers. Respect for Tim Belknap in old school Body Building forums, is high because he treated people well even when the unfair administration of was ripping pros off financially with bias towards compliant competitors.

    Tim Belknap, old school hardcore champion, a decade ahead of his time on how to get in shape, redifing the meaning of shredded in the early years. 👍🏆champion bloke.

  4. Tim Belknap

    December 26, 2018 at 12:24 am

    So glad to hear you saw with your own eyes! Im alive and well and healthy. Just turned 60 on 12/24/18. I was born in 1958. Im lean and not trying to be big, but I fo train daily. Kinda tired of hearing how I died, but fact is God calls the shots on my time table.
    Thanks…….
    Tim Belknap

  5. Brian Smith

    April 10, 2019 at 4:59 pm

    Hi Tim,
    I left a comment on here a month or so ago.
    Not sure if it went through or not?…
    So glad to hear you’re alive & well ! You were such a Huge Inspiration to me and so many in the Midwest in 1980 & 1981 when you burst upon the scene and won all the major competitions in IL , Jr. Mr. IL,
    MR. IL, MR. MIDWEST ( which I was there to see ) and the last “official” Mr. America.
    That accomplishment has never been done again since you did it and never be done again. I was in the 2nd row for your MR. Midwest victory. I was sitting right behind Sergio Oliva , who couldn’t believe how incredible you looked that night ! Sergio got out of his seat, walked up to the stage & just stared with his mouth open, I’ll never forget that or you. I became friends with Kevin Noble later on in 1988 after I started competing and winning competitions in IL.
    I would ask him all the time about you, you made quite the impression on me in 1981 watching you Win the Midwest & America!
    I never got the chance to meet you, I would’ve really liked to. . I was in CA in 1985 for the Teenage Mr. America and stayed in Santa Monica for a week after placing 3rd in the competition. I saw you training in Golds Gym one day, doing legs of all things ( my favorite body part to train & what I admired most about your great physique. I wanted to say something to you but outta respect didn’t want to interrupt your workout.
    I watched ( along with everyone in Golds who stopped what they were doing) as you were squatting with about 500 lbs for reps!
    There were only 2 people back then who had Leg development like that, YOU & Tom Platz
    You guys were in a league of your own when it came to leg size, shape & condition.
    Like you, I went through some serious health issues also after turning Pro some years later. I still train daily too & just focus on staying lean & healthy. I’m not sure if it’s possible but I would still love to meet you. My girlfriend feels like she knows you lol, by how much I’ve talked about you when bodybuilding comes up. If you’re ever back in the Midwest or you’d be willing to talk or connect through email it would mean a lot to me.
    All The Best Tim, you deserve it and will be remembered forever by many you inspired.

    Respectfully,
    Brian

  6. Brian Smith

    May 4, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    Tim,

    Great to see you got my “comment” 👍🏻
    Even better to know you’re alive & well !
    While I understand your preference to stay outta the lime light these days ( after being at the level you were and on top of that mountain, I understand completely about just wanting to “be” these days… while not accomplishing what you did, after 30 plus years in the Industry & becoming an IFBB pro myself , I tend to keep to myself these days also when it comes to BB. A good friend of mine is IFBB pro Porter Cottrell – retired
    and we both agree the “Golden Years/ Era” of BB was the best ! Nowadays these kids post what they’re eating & video themselves working out and post it all over social media
    They’re there own Super Hero! Back in our day, especially in the Midwest, if you got an magazine coverage or articles it was only bcuz it was WELL DESERVED & Warranted.
    As I mentioned in my first comment to you,
    It would really mean a great deal if we could communicate, in any way you feel best or most comfortable with …email, phone, text, whatever you prefer. I’m very much a loaner these days as I’m waiting to have a kidney transplant & require 4 dialysis treatments a wk that run 4.5 hr’s each./ where I’m at right now. I know it might sound silly or stupid as I’m not a kid but like I mentioned before, you being such a Huge factor & motivator in my life all these years, I’ve always hoped to get the chance to meet / talk with you someday. If you ever decide that would be possible you can reach me @ my phone number is+16304503866 & my personal email is [email protected]. It would mean a great deal to me ☝🏻
    I hope whatever you’re up to these days you’re healthy, happy & blessed my friend👊🏻 ..
    Respectfully ,
    Brian Smith

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