Alphonso Cromartie’s four-year hiatus ended with a pair of awards on Sept. 22.
All it took to get Alphonso Cromartie back into the amateur bodybuilding world was a look in the mirror.
What Cromartie, 35, considered his “dad bod” is probably something many men would have to live in the gym to get. But it was different enough from his competition look for the soon-to-be father of two to get back at it four years later, and Cromartie picked up where he left off: on top.
Cromartie entered the 2018 National Physique Committee (NPC) Hurricane Bay Championships in September after many months of rigorous training and dieting and ended up winning first place in the men’s super heavyweight division. He was also named Overall Bodybuilding Champion for the competition and learned he qualified to compete nationally if he wishes to.
Especially considering he wasn’t sure if he even looked competition-ready until he walked onstage, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Plant City native.
“I had no expectations coming in,” Cromartie said. “I didn’t impress myself, but from the point of being backstage with the other competitors, the feedback I was getting from them and even when I first stepped on stage, I heard the crowd. All of a sudden I heard my wife yell, ‘That’s my husband!’ She told me that everybody was talking about me.”
Though Cromartie hails from the “itty bitty Plant City,” there was never anything “itty bitty” about him. He weighed between 185 and 225 pounds while at Plant City High School, where he played basketball and started weightlifting, and added even more muscle after ramping up his workout intensity in college at the University of South Florida. Bodybuilding wasn’t a goal of his, though — Cromartie just really liked the gym.
While working out at Power Shop Fitness in 2012, manager Milton Tigue approached him out of the blue to ask if he’d ever considered giving it a shot. That conversation at the seated row machine was the spark Cromartie needed.
“I thought he was crazy,” Cromartie said. “I used to get the bodybuilding magazines all the time and didn’t realize that they were pros and there were amateur ranks you could compete in.”
He hired coach Ken Baker three weeks later to help with his diet and fitness regimens. Bodily symmetry and muscle definition are crucial to any bodybuilder’s success, so Cromartie had to switch to a strict diet and work even harder at Power Shop for five to six days each week.
“I had been training, so the foundation was there,” Cromartie said. “But bodybuilding, when you’re actually competing, it takes it to another level.”
He entered NPC events and won several competitions in heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions between 2012 and 2014 when he was most active, and even met his wife, Naomi, at a St. Pete event where she was also competing.
Cromartie said he took a break from competing after the wedding to enjoy married life and fatherhood. The couple's first son was born in 2017 and their second son is due in November. In September 2017, Cromartie was surfing Facebook and saw an old post of his where he said he’d just trained for six consecutive days for the first time in years. Since that day, he’s hit the gym at least five days a week. He began feeling more confident about his body after a couple of months and then set a goal to compete in late 2018.
Cromartie’s plan is to wait until 2019 to compete again, mostly because he’s about to welcome another child into the family and partly because he likes to eat on Thanksgiving and Christmas. He does plan on finding and entering his first national competition later next year and, from there, he’ll play it by ear. No matter where his bodybuilding career takes him from here, whether national or more local, Cromartie loves having that outlet for his passion for the gym.
“The working out and the training part is my favorite part,” Cromartie said. “It’s a challenge. It’s a goal that you set and you have to achieve.”