Mr. America, bodybuilding during a pandemic

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Pandemic bodybuilding with Mr. America Physique winner Capt. Johnny Dotson


During a pandemic with difficult challenges, COVID-19 has uniquely impacted bodybuilding's culture.

Capt. Johnny Dotson, a social worker intern with the Department of Social Work at William Beaumont Army Medical Center began his journey into bodybuilding nearly six years ago.

“Initially, I did not know about competing. I thought bodybuilding was a hobby, and for some, it is. While I was familiar with Arnold Schwarzenegger, a bodybuilding legend, I only saw him as a buff movie star. I never knew he was an actual competitor. After the suggestion of a stranger, I began to research the sport. Bodybuilding and physique became appealing, and I immediately committed to competing. I began to train, and within three months, I competed and placed third in my first physique competition,” said Dotson.

Two years later, Dotson earned the title of Mr. America.

In the days before the COVID-19 lockdown, Dotson sought out numerous types of workout equipment. These became useful tools as COVID-19 safety protocols came into play.

“I purchased free weights, bands and strength training equipment. As more people began to gather in the local park for recreation, I had to creatively and safely think of ways of conducting cardiovascular training. Therefore, I wake up early to exercise in the park when very few people will be there,” said Dotson.

Dotson incorporated plyometrics into his training regimen. Like all competitors in this sport, nutrition and a balanced diet are essential to optimal performance, according to Dotson. During the shopping restrictions at grocery stores early in the pandemic, he had to sacrifice fresh produce and meats for frozen goods. He continued to meal prep and stayed the course in hopes that one day he would be able to compete again.

Dotson competed in male physique competitions, emphasizing an austere look. Competitors in this category traditionally are judged on three elements; muscularity, symmetry and presentation.

Dotson shared his emotion about his victory.

“Winning my division in the 2020 Mr. America competition is bananas. After training and dieting for eight long months, dealing with shows being postponed or canceled while trying to stay motivated as the outside world seemed to be closing in is nothing short of remarkable. The Mr. America competition was my first show of 2020. This was my first time competing in this federation, so some of the poses and judging criteria were different and unfamiliar. To overcome all of that and earn such a coveted title is amazing! Above all, I am proud that I did not give up and I pushed to overcome adversity,” he said.

Dotson believes his training will also help him prepare for the next competition, the Mr. America title, in October 2021.

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