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Plymouth woman ‘worried to go to the gym’ achieves her dream as bodybuilding champion

Plymouth woman 'worried to go to the gym' achieves her dream as bodybuilding champion
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Melissa Worboys has been competing in bodybuilding shows since 2017 and has finally achieved her dream of being named Miss NABBA Universe

An inspiring Plymouth woman has finally achieved her dream after years of intensive work and been crowned the winner of an international amateur bodybuilding competition. Melissa Worboys29, was named Miss NABBA Universe 2022 after wowing the judges at Bradford’s St George’s Hall.

NABBA, which stands for National Amateur Bodybuilders’ Association, has featured competitors from all over the world. Those to have competed in NABBA tournaments in the past include bodybuilding legend Arnold Schwarzenegger and even James Bond star Sean Connery.

Melissa began her bodybuilding journey in 2017 when she joined Revolution Fit, a female-friendly fitness studio. She says weightlifting had always interested her but had initially felt ‘nervous’ because she ‘didn’t have a lot of body confidence at the time’.

“I was also worried the gym wouldn’t be a friendly place to newcomers or inexperienced people,” said Melissa. “I was very wrong and found myself making new friends through the gym and growing in confidence as I began to enjoy my new hobby. Weight lifting nowadays is very open to everyone and their individual goals, it has a lot of health and fitness benefits; but its also excellent at improving your body composition.”

After a few months of training, she began building her confidence and decided to enter my first show, where she met her coach Dennis Phillips. Dennis previously won two Mr Universe titles and was known for being a top amateur bodybuilder.

As soon as the pair agreed to work together, Dennis gave Melissa a strict competition diet and after only 11 weeks of preparation she went on to win the bikini class in the Plymouth show. That first win was what really got Melissa ‘hooked’.

She said: “After winning my first show I ended up really falling in love with the bodybuilding process and it became my passion and hobby. I began training more seriously and also paying closer attention to my diet for optimal muscle growth. Keeping an eye on protein intake and generally cleaning up my diet, as well as eating more regularly and fueling my workouts and my body correctly.”

In 2018, Melissa competed in her first NABBA competition where she came third but most importantly secured her first invite to the NABBA Universe. Top amateur bodybuilders from Mexico, France, Germany, Austria and more came to compete. Unfortunately, she says she didn’t place well but competing at such a high level only fueled her passion for the sport more. In her next year, she placed well in several competitions but was unable to win an invite to the Universe show.



Melissa Worboys and her trainer Dennis Phillips
Melissa Worboys and her trainer Dennis Phillips

After ending 2019 feeling a little deflated she went away and worked even harder. She said: “I took it on the chin. Competitive bodybuilding is not easy! It takes so much of your time, effort and dedication, but nothing is ever for certain and it’s hard to keep going sometimes when you don’t match up to the competition.

“All you can do is bring your best and take the feedback from the judges if things didn’t go your way. I analyzed my physique, the bikini class criteria, took the feedback from the judges, and together with the help of my coach Den, I worked away and made improvements for two years.”

But then Covid hit. The world stopped and with it all the gyms were forced to close. Melissa said: “I started to wonder if I would ever reach my goal and it started to feel so far away, I also worried I was not able to make progress during this time, but Den encouraged me to keep my chin up, keep believing in myself and just do what I could.”

The NABBA competitions also stopped for three years. But fast forward to 2022 and the shows made their return. The 29-year-old said: “I felt that fire and passion in my belly to compete again after Covid taking that opportunity away from many athletes across various sports including bodybuilding, but as it had been so long, I questioned many times if I would be good enough and if my goal was a silly one. Should I just let it go? Am I cut out for this? Maybe I should just be content with what I did previously and leave it at that.

“These thoughts swirled in my head often, but I knew deep down that I couldn’t give up on that Universe dream that I told myself I would achieve all those years ago, life is too short to give up on something I was so passionate about. So after three years of being away from a competitive bodybuilding stage and a very long off-season, I made a decision to make a return and chase my goals once again.”

Dennis put a plan together and with 20 weeks of prep time he and Melissa got to work. It meant strict training and dieting from May -to October.

She went on to become Miss NABBA England, which she described as “an amazing feeling”. It also meant she was able to qualify for the “big one”, the Nabba Universe, the one she’d been dreaming of.



Melissa got involved in bodybuilding in 2017
Melissa got involved in bodybuilding in 2017

“I was absolutely thrilled as I felt like all my hard work and believing in myself over the years had finally paid off and I was so excited to be going to the Universe again,” said Melissa.

Just two weeks after being named Miss NABBA England she traveled up to Bradford where the international NABBA Universe was being held.

Describing the build-up to the show, Melissa said: “Before I knew it, it was time for bed and I felt myself get a little nervous. I told myself that no matter what happened the next morning at the show, I knew I had done my best and brought my best physical show to date, and I had to be proud of that achievement.

“I was also just grateful to be doing something I really enjoy and competing at a high and competitive level. On the day I thoroughly enjoyed myself backstage and on stage showcasing my hard work and competing with the other women who all looked amazing!” great being around other competitors who have the same passion for training and particularly competitive bodybuilding.” But all her hard work was about to pay off as she was announced as Miss NABBA Universe 2022.

She said: “And then it happened, the magic moment where they called us back on stage to announce the results. It was down to me and another lady from France for 2nd and 1st.

“I remember preparing in my head for my name and country to be called out as 2nd, just so I didn’t feel disappointed and I started to think that a Universe runner-up was a great result.

“But then I heard them call France out and that was the moment I knew I had done it – I had won!



Melissa has encouraged any women thinking of getting into lifting weights to give it a try
Melissa has encouraged any women thinking of getting into lifting weights to give it a try

“Moments later, they announced me as the winner and Miss Nabba Universe 2022, bikini champion. I was in total shock and pure happiness. I had finally achieved my goal and I was the most wonderful feeling.”

Discussing her overall bodybuilding journey, Melissa said getting involved in bodybuilding has taught her to never give up and always believe in yourself if you really want to achieve something.

She said: “No matter how long something may take, if you keep working at it and keep going you will get there eventually. This applies to everything in life and bodybuilding can give you a very resilient and championing mindset.”

Melissa says that if any women are thinking about getting involved in bodybuilding or just lifting weights then they should 100% consider it. She said: “Weightlifting is great for women and always worth a go for anyone considering it. You don’t have to be a competitive bodybuilder, you can just go to the gym and do a weights class and there are numerous other sports to consider as well that involve weight lifting if bodybuilding isn’t your thing.”

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