How did you get started with bodybuilding?
I had been working at a gym for a few years and was making some pretty impressive gains. I had no aspirations to be a model or had ever wanted to step on stage up until that point, but one day when I was on my break reading a copy of Men’s Health, I saw a guy in an advert that looked uncannily like me – but just in better shape. It was though I was looking at myself from a few years from now, and it really motivated me to want to take my training further. I found out that this guy was called Paul Amos, and was sponsored by a UK supplement company called LA Muscle, which I proceeded to write to. I figured with a similar look, and a few more months of hard training and watching what I ate, I could be doing what he was doing – winning competitions and appearing in magazines.
This was the first time when I wanted to step on stage and appear in a fitness magazine with my name next to me.
So I decided to send in a picture to the supplement company (It was just of me in my kitchen in my shorts, squeezing my abs with my hands over my head – a pose that somehow later became one of my signature poses that I’ve done ever since on stage and in shoots). Barely a week had passed before I received an email from the supplement company inviting me to their London head office to meet with the director.
After speaking for about 30 minutes, I was signed as a sponsored athlete and had my eye on my first show 4 months from there.
It was the BNBF (British Natural Bodybuilding Federation), in London, England, and with no prior experience of competing, except for watching hours of videos in the run up to my debut show, and a lot of seemingly conflicting advice from everyone who felt as though they had something valuable to contribute to me, I stepped on stage on July 22nd 2006 in the novice category, and won, and up against some pretty big guys. My time spent doing cardio, being constant with what I ate, and making sure I knew all the poses to display everything that I had been working towards, had paid off. That was my first taste of competing, and the winning was the icing on the cake that kept me coming back for me. 5 years later and I’ve competed 21 times.
Not all have resulted in a win, but the feeling of stepping on stage has always been the same: A rewarding feeling for months of dieting and training to get into the best shape of my life.
Where does your motivation come from?
It started out with the usual hopes and dreams of wanting to be that guy in the magazine, or the one on stage being awarded first place. That was the drive in my early years because it was all new, and it was a place that I’ve never been to before. It was this feeling that every workout I would complete, and every clean meal I ate, I was getting closer and closer to achieving what first got me interested in training. I wanted to be the best. But I was going at it blindly and blissfully unaware of how to actually achieve my dreams. I didn’t know how to get in the magazine, or how I was ever going to the win these big shows that I was reading about each month in the magazines. All I knew was that if I focused on what I had control over – my choices as to whether I lift with good form, to go heavy and strict, to always go for the clean, healthy food every meal, then I was heading in the right direction!
That’s what kept me motivated back then; The hope that if I kept making what I thought to be the right choices, I would one day get the chance to be in the magazines, and win the competitions.
This blissful belief kept me hungry for knowledge, and so I would always be researching and asking more questions than there were answers (certainly from the people I was asking at the time), so that I could make more of the right choices. I must have been doing something right, because fast forward several years (of hard work and not always making the right choices, having to backtrack sometimes. “The road to success is always under construction”), and I found myself achieving the very goals that I had set myself from the beginning. So what was my motivation now? This was a tick in the box for me, and although I still wanted to be the guy in the magazines and winning the shows, (it’s somewhat easier after being first published to get your foot in the door and build from there), but now I found my attention (and time), turning to something else that wasn’t really there before, and that was a growing following. Having everyone from younger guys eager to learn how to train properly and gain muscle – without the use of drugs, (of which I saw a little of myself in many of them), to middle-aged men who had never worked out in their lives, beginning to take an interest in their health, and their families, after having seen a few of my videos online, (more often than not, shown to them by their sons). This was something that was so rewarding to read messages and stories of how they’ve literally transformed their lives from the little pieces of information I had been putting out through videos, articles, and at the fitness expos when I was working at them for my sponsors. It really made me appreciate the position I was in, and made me rethink why I was doing what I was doing. I had achieved my goals, and could now turn it around and play a part in helping others do the same. This level of motivation I found to be far more rewarding and pushed me to want to do even more, through better explained videos on training and nutrition, and more time spent on my social networks and websites to answer questions and post more recipes and new exercises to try.
It wasn’t like I felt I had ‘made it’, it was more that others were starting to notice what I was doing and wanted to know how they could do the same. I was simply showing them the ropes to climb higher.
What workout routine has worked best for you?
While I’ve tried most styles of training over the years, mainly for the video work that I do, or just from curiosity towards if it would work better for me than what I was used to, (I keep detailed notes of everything, so that I can see of any changes and try to understand why and how it happened), but my preferred workout routine, and one that has seemed to deliver the best results over the years, is that of the Weider Principle. I basically train like a bodybuilder, (even though I don’t consider myself as one – mainly because if I did, I’d always be struggling to put on more size, and that is no longer a top priority for me these days), which means straight sets, and increasing the weight for each set, (although I do try to always hit 10 reps, so as to keep my rep-range constant, forcing my body to have to adapt to an increase in weight only, and not a drop in reps). I usually train one large muscle group followed by a small group, and spend no longer than about 80 minutes in the gym, from the time I walk in, to the time I leave. I’ve recently switched to fewer exercises but with higher sets, and really feel the pump by the time I leave, after having giving my all in the gym.
I train like this 5 times a week, with one additional day spent focusing entirely again on smaller muscle groups like forearms and calves (sort of like a half rest day). One day a week is usually spent away from the gym, although I might throw some cardio and abs in on that day, so it’s never really a full rest day.
Monday: Quads & Calves
- Squats 8×10 (3 warm up sets of 20-15 reps)
- Leg Press 5×10
- Seated Leg Extensions 5×10
- Calf Press (Performed on Leg Press) 6×20
- Seated Calf Press 4×20
Tuesday: Back & Forearms
- Lat Pulldown 3×20-15 (warm up sets)
- Weighted Pull Ups 4×10
- V-Bar Rows 5×10
- Barbell Rows (Wide Grip) 4×10
- Close Grip Pulldown 3×10
- Reverse EZ Bar Curl 4×15
- Seated Wrist Curls 4×15
Wednesday: Shoulders & Calves
- Seated Dumbbell Press 3×20-15 (warm up sets)
- Clean & Press (Explosive Movement) 5×10
- Rear Delt Dumbbell Raises/Rear Delt Cable Flys (Alt. each week) 4×10
- Seated Military Smith Press (Back of Head) 3×10
- Standing Lateral Raises 3×10
- Calf Press (Performed on Leg Press) 6×20
- Seated Calf Press 4×20
Thursday: Cardio & Abs
Cardio: Usually 40-60 minutes on a stationary bike, at a moderate to high – causing a sweat after 20 minutes, increasing the resistance every 5-10 minutes. (I usually do this 2-4 times a week in the morning before breakfast, as I reply to emails and answer questions on my social pages).
- Hanging Leg Raises/or Lying Leg Raises 3×30
- Seated Dumbbell Twists/ or Lying Side bends 3×30/50
- High Cable Pulldowns/ or weighted crunches 3×30
Friday: Hamstrings & Lower Back
- Lying Hamstring Curl 5×10 (2 warm up sets)
- Stiff Legged Deadlift 5×10
- High-Foot Leg Press/ or Long Step Lunges 4×15-10
- Good Mornings 3×10
- Seated Leg Curl 4×10
- Incline Dumbbell Chest Press 6×15-10 (2 warm up sets)
- Incline Dumbbell Flys 4×10
- Cable Flys 3×10
- Decline Barbell Press 5×10
- Dumbbell Pullover 4×10
- Rope Pulldown 3×20-15 (warm up sets)
- Weighted Dips 4×10
- Lying EZ Tricep Extensions 4×10
- Reverse EZ Bar Pulldown 4×10
- Olympic Barbell Curls 5×10
- Dumbbell Curls/ or Hammer Curls 4×10
If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?
- Squats. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with Squats over the years, but as of right now, I love doing squats – going through a full range of motion, and stretching out my quads on the floor between sets. I don’t go as heavy as I have done in the past, but really feel like I’m adding some good thickness to my legs from focusing on the range rather than the resistance.
- Olympic Bar Curls. Biceps have always been a favorite muscle group of mine to train, but since I’ve started using the Olympic bar to curl with, I’m noticing my arms start to thicken out, where as before they had good size from the side view, but when viewed from straight on, I felt as though they lacked the width I should have in them.
- Calf Press (on Leg Sled). Like with squats and legs, training calves has always been a last thought for me when it comes to getting them done at the end of the workout. Since focusing on calves like I would with any other muscle group, I’ve given them priority with their own day of training, using higher sets and reps, and keeping the weight heavy. I use the leg press (sled) at least 3 times a week to train calves, and have been seeing improvement in both their size and overall development.
What is your diet like?
I focus on three things when it comes to my diet: Food Type, Portion Size, and Timing. By consistently eating wholesome, nutrient-dense food, balancing my macronutrient ratios (which are currently split as 45:35:20 for protein’s, carbs, and fats, at a daily calorie intake of around 16 calories per pound of bodyweight, which is just shy of 3000 calories a day, at 330 grams of protein (55g every 3 hours), 256 grams of carbs, with 50% split between breakfast and post-workout (65g each), and the rest distributed evenly across the other meals (42g in 3 more meals), except for my final night time meal), and 65 grams of fat, split evenly throughout the day, (11g in every meal).
- Meal 1: Gluten-free oats cooked with water on the stove, with a teaspoon of RAW honey and some stevia extract and cinnamon for some sweet and spice, plus a 2-scoop serving of chocolate Hydrowhey, made in my bullet blender with water, ice, stevia extract, coffee beans, and a teaspoon of raw almond butter.
- Meal 2: (Meals 2, 3 and 4 are usually the same as this makes it easier to prepare them all, plus they all contain the same amount of calories and macronutrient ratios). Poached Swai fillet (meaty white fish cooked in a pan with just water to boil it), with yam or brown rice for my carbs, and a heavy dose of green vegetables (for both the fiber and nutrients, and also to make it seem like I’m eating more, as I count these as a free-food, meaning I don’t count the calories from the veg, so add it as a sort of clean, bulk food). For fats, I’ll either have a handful of raw almonds (about 10), Flaxseed oil, or even a third of an avocado (depending if I can find the ripe ones when I’m shopping).
- Meal 5: (Post-workout) 1 scoop of chocolate hydrowhey with two scoops of glycomaize (a waxy maize starch). 30 minutes later I’ll have another smaller meal that usually consists of either fish of chicken (recently I’ve been BBQ’ing a lot of Turkey tenders as we have a big BBQ at the studio I run in Downtown Los Angeles, so I like to make use of it as often as I can), and some more yam with a small salad.
- Meal 6: Besides breakfast, my final meal of the day has to be one of my favorite things to eat. It consists of a scoop of chocolate Casein (Optimum Nutrition), mixed in with 6 egg whites, some stevia extract and cinnamon, microwaved for a minute, then a teaspoon of raw almond butter stirred in and put back in the microwave for a further 40-60 seconds. Once cooled, it’s like some kind of chocolate soufflé that I can enjoy, knowing that I haven’t strayed from my nutrition plan, plus it’s a slow releasing protein – from the casein and fats from the almond butter, helping to keep me anabolic throughout the night.
When trying to cut down do you prefer to use HIIT or just normal cardio?
I tend to stick to steady pace cardio, switching between the stationary bike, cross-trainer, and incline treadmill, either doing up to an hour on one machine alone, or spending 20-30 minutes a time on 3 or 2 different machine respectively.
Every now and then I’ll throw a HITT session in there, but whenever I do that, my metabolism is spiked for several hours after I’m finished, which leaves me feeling even more hungry throughout the day. Not what I want to be feeling when I’m already cutting calories to burn fat.
What is your supplementation like?
I tend to stick to the basic stacks of a good whey protein ( being a TEAM Optimum Nutrition sponsored athlete, I use their Hydrowhey and Gold Standard proteins), a casein protein for night time (Gold Standard), glutamine and BCAA’s, L-Carnitine, CLA, creatine (ON’s micronized, monohydrate – but only when I’m not cutting for a show or a photo shoot), and Glycomaize – a fast acting waxy maize starch, that I add to my post-workout shake for rapid glycogen replenishment.
Besides those mentioned, I also take a daily multi-vitamin, digestive enzymes, ALA, and ZMA for at night.
Don’t just count the reps, make every rep count.