My name is Steven Cao and I am an IFBB Men's Physique professional. I was born on November 21st, 1994, and was raised in Galloway, New Jersey.
Competition has always been a fundamental part of my life. Growing up, I sought opportunities that would bring about my competitive nature and quickly grew an interest in sports.
During my freshman year of high school, I tried out for the basketball team. Unfortunately, my small frame made it difficult for me to succeed. As a result, I was consecutively cut from the team.
At the age of 15, I found myself taking advantage of the alternative gym period that was offered at my high school. This was a period where students were allowed to use the weight room for approximately 45 minutes. My goal at the time was to get bigger and stronger to have a spot on the basketball team. However, I became fascinated as I watched my body develop and become stronger.
I enjoyed being able to push myself physically and mentally. By doing so, I found my passion for weight training. I wasn't able to increase my sessions further than the 45 minutes that was offered by the school because my parents worked long hours during the day and my local gym required parental supervision at my age. I was determined to make every minute count.
It wasn't until the age of 16 that I joined a nearby gym, called Tilton Fitness located in Galloway, New Jersey where I started weight training full time. My starting weight at the age of 16 was 123 pounds. After consistent training and bulking for 2 years, I gained approximately 40 pounds by the time I was 18.
My passion for weight training continued to grow immensely; I enjoyed every second of it. At this point, I faced an injury and found out the news that I needed to get surgery for my inguinal hernia. I suffered watching my progress slowly deteriorate due to an eight week recovery period which led me to constantly consuming unhealthy foods. The obstacle that I had to face was a downfall in my life.
I had two choices to either to be weak and sit there discouraged or overcome that obstacle and come back STRONGER than ever. With the help of my friends, I was encouraged to participate in a Men's Physique Competition; however, I was always doubtful of myself. It was only time until I decided to start a contest prep and hired an online coach from the west coast, Ariel Alberto, coach of Team Cutz.
Coach Ariel and I started an eighteen-week contest prep for my very first competition, the NPC John Kemper Classic one of the first/biggest shows in the tri-state area. After endless strict dieting, cardio, and pushing my body for eighteen weeks, I ended up winning the Overall Men's Physique title. From that point on, a fire was lit inside of me and I specifically remember being backstage thinking to myself I have potential in this sport. This motivated me more than ever to start competing in the NPC Universe National Championships with being 10 weeks out. With over 25 national level competitors, I ended up placing 6th place in my second show ever.
I became more determined after making the first call-out at the national level. I documented the entire contest prep which could be found on my YouTube channel.
At this point, I started growing exponentially throughout social media which allowed me to work with the best companies in the fitness industry. I became an official Gymshark and BPI Sports sponsored athlete. I decided to compete in one of the biggest national shows in the country, NPC National Championships located in Miami, Florida. I gave it my all and managed to place 5th in my class which is a huge accomplishment for me being only 21 years old on that stage. Although I am not finished yet, 2017 I am determined that I will get that pro card. Also, I am willing to push myself like never before.
It's truly humbling to reminisce back and see how far I've come. Being one of the smallest individuals growing up, I was able to compete against the best physiques in the country.
I continue to strive for the pro card and in the summer of 2017 I achieved my pro status, I competed at the Jr. nationals in Chicago and I managed to win the overall title in men's physique.
For me, that was a huge accomplishment due to the fact I've been trying my hardest and I never gave up. You can do whatever you put your mind to as long as you are willing to put in the work.
I always believed that just because you're struggling doesn't mean you're failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.