Enter any gym on Fort Bragg and you will see Soldiers pumping iron, maxing out on pushups and getting their fitness on. Dante Jones isn’t one of these regular Soldiers. He is an International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Professional Bodybuilder who has his sights set on the Mr. Olympia elite bodybuilding competition in September.

Jones said he never set out to become a professional bodybuilder. One of his friends was on a local team and invited him to take part. He said he was initially reticent, but after thinking it over during a deployment, he decided to do one competition just for fun.

After receiving an assessment from the team coach, Jones started on a new workout and diet plan and took posing lessons. His first competition was in September 2015, and Jones took first place in all four categories in which he competed. He was just as shocked as others at his immediate success.

“I went from being kind of on the edge, to do I really want to do this, to ‘well maybe I just need to do it one more time just to make sure this wasn’t a fluke,’” said Jones.

In November 2015, Jones competed in his second bodybuilding competition and again took first place in all four categories he entered. After this success, Jones said his mind was set on going pro. He deployed to Columbia soon after his second competition and trained the entire time to ensure he would be ready for a nationals competition 10 days after his return to the States.

“I went to Pitt Nationals in August 2016,” said Jones. “I placed first place in master’s division overall and I placed second in open class. I got my pro card in open class because the top two get their pro card.”

Jones said it is very rare for a bodybuilder to become professional as quickly as he has and that it usually takes most people at least two years to get their pro card.

“So when I went (to Nationals), there were guys who had been competing for 17 years, some had been competing for 4, 5, 6 years,” said Jones. “I had the least amount of experience other than one other person at the whole show.”

Pro cards are given to only the top 1 percent of bodybuilding competitors, said Jones. Having a pro card means a bodybuilder doesn’t have to pay to enter competitions, can have sponsors and receive money if he places in the top three at a show. It also gives bodybuilders a chance to compete at Mr. Olympia, which is the biggest bodybuilding show on the professional circuit.

Prepping for one of these shows is no joke. Jones begins an intense diet 14 weeks before a show to get his body in appropriate shape. The diet is measured out and requires him to eat six meals a day plus a snack in two and a half to three hour intervals.

“I calculate out my macros and it depends on (the) protein to fat to carbs ratio,” Jones said. “Depending on where I am in my training cycles depends what my macros say, and that determines my portion size of ... food.”

Jones also hits the gym to get his body in top form for a show. He said he likes to do muscle isolation workouts as opposed to super sets to maximize his time.

“I attack each muscle group individually because I feel like that’s the way you get the best bang for your buck and you don’t have to spend long hours in the gym,” said Jones. “Since I’m a single dad, I don’t have a lot of time to be spending two, three hours in the gym, so I spend one hour in the gym and I just push one muscle group really hard to make that hour count.”

This nutrition and workout plan has helped Jones perform better at both bodybuilding and his job as a Soldier in the 98th Civil Affairs Battalion, he said.

Jones hopes his story will inspire other Soldiers to get involved in bodybuilding.

“We have a large sports, or body-building crowd on Fort Bragg, but I don’t think that a lot of them know that … it’s possible to be active-duty Army and still become an IFBB pro,” he said. “But it definitely is — it’s attainable. You’ve just got to put in a lot of work, and the right work.”