IPL Pro Champ: Rob Meindl’s Triumph

“I have permanent nerve damage in my right leg from the knee down. So I have little to no feeling, specifically in my right foot.”

Two years after Rob Meindl last touched down on the IPL stage he was back, with noticeable improvements! And at the Grand Prix it was quite the ride for Rob! Starting with Men’s Athletic Masters 40+, Rob would convincingly earn his IPL Masters Pro Card. Then it was on to the Open. In the Open it was a repeat performance with Pro Card number two.

     This contest was a Super Pro Qualifier, meaning new Pros have the opportunity to jump in with current Pros, and Rob was up for the challenge! In Pro Masters Men’s Athletic Rob would face off with two seasoned Pros. And in convincing fashion propel himself to the top, earning his first IPL Pro title! Three 1st place wins, two Pro Cards and a Pro title, all in the same show!

What’s even more impressive is Rob’s incredible journey to the stage.

“These photos were taken in August of 2018. My weight was 210 pounds. I knew I had to make a change. That is when I began my transformation. Here I am wearing my brace, also known as a ‘Richie Brace.’ The brace provides medial and lateral support to the lower leg as I have drop foot, muscle atrophy and instability due to nerve damage.”

BEN YOSEF: Congrats on an amazing showing at the Grand Prix! And what a comeback! Now that the dust has settled in the three months since the show, how are you feeling about it?

ROB MEINDL: Thanks! It was an amazing feeling to be back up on stage again. Even though it’s been a few months since the show, it is still kind of surreal to think about successfully competing in the different divisions and obtaining my Pro Cards. I also think about how I could have been better that day as well. In my prep, were there any missed opportunities? I also consider where I need to improve and have started planning that out and what it will take. I am looking forward to 2022 and hopefully competing again!

BEN: You were awesome at that show! And yes, the Pro Cards. Then you made your Pro Debut in the same show and won it! What was it like going up against the Pros?

ROB: Thank you again! I cannot take all the credit for how well I did at that show. I had an amazing team of people who helped me achieve that goal. My trainer Pat Raquet, my coach Johnny Casalena, both of whom kept me focused and on the task. Tavish and Faith Steele are my posing coaches and the owners of Steele House Nutrition, where I purchase my supplements. Lastly, Nisha Meyer, a physical therapist who helped keep me healthy and with my recovery between training sessions. All of them are experts in their respective fields and amazing people!

     I felt very fortunate to be able to compete against John and Marc that day. I had been keeping tabs on the IPL since I competed last in May of 2019. When I saw John and Marc on the promo for the show, the idea of earning my Pro Card to compete with them became the focus. Not going to lie, I was very nervous when I first went on stage, knowing I had to earn the necessary points to obtain the Pro Card. When I was asked if I wanted to compete that same day as a Pro I couldn’t have been more excited.

     Funny side story…I first saw John on stage in October of 2018, when Elli Nichole (IPL Legend), first broached the idea with me to compete.  When I saw John on stage I thought there is no way! He was and still is in amazing shape. I told Elli immediately that I had no interest. Two weeks later I changed my mind and asked her to help me prep.

     As you can imagine, going up against John and Marc was exciting! I achieved the goal and now I was getting the chance to see if all the work, time, effort and energy measured up to two gentleman who have been competing for years. Both of whom had been in magazines and have been main stays in the IPL Masters division. 

     There were so many thoughts going through my head when I walked out on stage with John and Marc. Mostly I just felt blessed and thankful that day. I overcame quite a few obstacles to be there. Even had I not won, it was an amazing experience and I completed the goals I set out to accomplish.

     Being selected as the winner that day was so unexpected. When they called my number as 1st  place I actually thought it was a mistake! [laughs]  John and Marc were gracious and generous in their congratulations and I was very humbled by it all.

BEN: Great story! In addition to your weight loss and physique transformation, you also overcame a physical ailment with your leg. You and I got a chance to chat one on one a few days after the show and you described this to me. I had no idea! What can you tell us about this challenge and your journey to overcome it in order to train and compete?

ROB: Well, it is something of a story. I have permanent nerve damage in my right leg from the knee down. So I have little to no feeling, specifically in my right foot. I have been diagnosed with AFO Drop Foot and muscle atrophy. I wear a prosthetic brace to provide me the lateral and medial support I no longer have due to the damage. 

     I have had two major back surgeries. The first surgery was June of 2000 while serving in the Air Force as Security Forces. I had the second surgery in June of 2016. It was as a result of the injury prior to the second surgery that I suffered the permanent nerve damage to my right leg. The nerves never fully healed. 


     As you can imagine, I was told by doctors that I shouldn’t work out anymore. Don’t do squats or deadlifts and numerous other things. In August of 2018 I weighed 210 pounds. It was then I met Elli and she helped me begin my transformation. With her help I lost close to 50 pounds and went on stage in May of 2019 at 160. 

     For my first show I had to learn how to train all over again. I modified a lot of exercises to accommodate my injuries. And to be honest, I had quite a bit of fear, because I did not want to get hurt again. I avoided a lot of compound exercises.

     Fast forward to 2021. I decided I wanted to compete again before turning 50. I wanted to prove to myself that I could get back on stage. When I met Pat I asked him to be my trainer. He was very candid and said, “You’re ripped, but you have no density.” He took me back to basics and helped me put on about 10 pounds of muscle. Along with Nisha, they helped me overcome my fears and showed me better ways to train hard without putting myself at risk. They got me back to doing squats, deadlift and rack pulls, all exercises I avoided for years.

     I had to learn how to train and just move without a brace. Carrying that over to posing, finding the right placement of my legs and feet. All without showing there was a problem with my leg. More than anything, I had to be even more disciplined with meal plans because I was limited in what cardio I could do during prep.  Most people run or bike, or use stair masters for cardio. I had to be more creative. I spent a lot of time hitting heavy bags, swinging a sledge hammer, using battle ropes or an exercise skier. 

     I have a renewed sense of confidence and mental toughness. Because of this journey I now know myself better than ever and have realized there is nothing that I cannot overcome. I am humbled as well. There are people out there who have overcome much more than I have. I was/am very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible team of people and to have an amazing support system in my family. All of which led to me being on the stage in September of 2021.


BEN: Wow, this is pretty powerful stuff! So inspirational. And it goes to show, once again, that you just never know what someone’s story is. You never know what journey athletes are on or what triumphs they may have had in order to make it to the stage. Thank you so much for sharing. What additional words of encouragement can you offer to people who are dealing with challenges…athletes, people who may be considering competing or even to those who may not be looking to compete?

ROB: I’m not sure I have inspirational words. This is probably cliché, but surround yourself with the right people that will support you in whatever endeavor you wish to pursue. I can’t stress enough, the right people. Those that tell you the hard truth, those that encourage and inspire you. 

Find the right environment that fits your personality and goals. I found Tucson Strength to be that place for me. A facility that has a no nonsense sort of atmosphere, with supportive members and staff!

     Be fearless, take the chances, take the risks. Put yourself out there. Don’t be afraid of failure. You grow as a person through failure. You can learn to overcome any obstacle by failing. 

     Lastly, be patient. It takes time to make changes in your life. Whether it is with fitness goals or in other areas of your life. Stick to the plan and do the work. Eventually you will achieve your goals.

     I just want to say thank you again to you Ben and the IPL for giving me a chance to compete and for the opportunity to share my story and thoughts.

BEN: Well, those are certainly inspirational words if I ever heard any! The thanks goes to you for being a part of the league and for sharing your amazing story. I am exited for the release of this issue, which should be this coming weekend. I really feel your story will inspire all who read it. Thank you again and I hope to see you back on that stage soon!

ROB: Thank you so much again!

About the interviewer:

Picture of Ben Yosef

Ben Yosef

Ben is the Publisher of ATHLETIC Magazine and the President & Founder of the International Physique League.

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