Instagram, @fitnesspenpal - photo by T-Fizzle Photography
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
I’m Ben Palocko and I run my own online training business from Cleveland, Ohio, USA. I graduated from undergrad in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology and played college hockey.
Two years later, I completed my master’s degree in education/exercise science and dove into my online business full time.
I grew up playing several different sports, but once I discovered hockey, I fell in love with it and ended up playing ice and/or inline year-round. The only issue was that I was a late-bloomer physically. Freshman year of high school I was about 110 pounds of skin and bones.
The seniors in my art class used to literally pick me up and pass me around from one to the other. As you can imagine, this was only kind of cool, but far more embarrassing. By the end of senior year I wasn’t much bigger at 130 lbs. I had no knowledge whatsoever about training and nutrition.
After high school, I tried out for the elite hockey team in my area. I ended up battling hard enough to make the team, but the coaches said if I was going to play and have a chance at being successful, that I had to get stronger and add some muscle size.
I started taking in all the information I could from the internet, books, and magazines like Men’s Health and REPS. I started making gains fast and became “hooked” even faster. The more effort I put forth in the gym, the better I felt and looked, and the results were speaking for themselves on the ice.
Seeing the improvements first hand and especially hearing compliments from family and friends just kept me pushing harder and wanting more. Hockey led me to bodybuilding, and although it will always hold a place in my heart, bodybuilding is my new passion and something I will do for the rest of my life.
I’m currently an ambassador for PROMIX Nutrition because their products and their vibe totally aligns with me and what I do. Check out their stuff and if you want to try something, use my code BENP10 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off your entire order plus free shipping: PROMIX Nutrition.
Aside from running my business, I coach high school hockey, do fitness modeling, and enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and two dogs.
Describe a typical day of training
My training style is dependent on the season. During the winter, I’m focus on adding lean mass and play hockey to stay lean. Come spring, I started going the opposite direction and focus on increased workout frequency to get cut up for summer.
During fall, I do a lot of parkour/freerunning, which is just a ton of fun and keeps me functionally fit. I never get bored and my programs never get stale with this type of variation. No matter what, I always train heavy with weights three days per week year round.
Contrary to popular belief, body part splits are NOT the best way to train for the natural trainee. I’ll switch up between full body routines (three per week), push/pull split (four days per week) or something more custom like what I’m currently following:
- Monday – Roller Hockey
- Tuesday – Weight Training (back/biceps/forearms/core)
- Wednesday – Urban Mushing (roller blading with my husky)
- Thursday – Weight Training (thighs/calves/shoulders/core)
- Friday – rest
- Saturday – Weight Training Weaknesses (biceps, triceps, calves)
- Sunday – Parkour/Freerunning
How do you keep going and push harder?
I am a very intrinsically motivated person. I love that famous quote by Arnold Schwarzenegger about believing life is not simply to exist, but to move forward and achieve great things. As the years go by I’m starting to feel like time is moving faster and faster. Since slowing it down is outside of my control, I’m committed to making the time and opportunity I have count.
On days when I’m not quite feeling up to par, I might re-read some of my old favorite training articles, look up images of my idols, or just close my eyes and focus on how much I love living this lifestyle.
Even on crappy days, I never feel sorry for myself. You have to remember there’s always someone who has it worse, and in the end excuses are excuses.
I’m extremely fortunate to be healthy and physically able to train as consistently as I have. All else fails, I just turn my brain off & get myself to the gym. Once my music is on and I get the blood flowing – it’s on.
Instagram, @fitnesspenpal - photo by Corbin Gold
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Each time I reach the next step, I find the need to keep climbing higher. I want to continue working on a body I’m proud of that is sculpted symmetrical, proportionate, and with classic aesthetic.
Though I’m already extremely fortunate to be my own boss, I’d like to continue to grow my online business to new heights and reach more people. I think I have a message and a way of doing things that could help a lot people struggling to reach their goals.
Additionally, I’d like to move forward in my pursuit of being a fitness cover model, which is a long-term goal of mine that has become more of a medium-term goal. I’m doing my best to make the right contacts and gain exposure. That would be a true full-circle moment for me after picking up the same magazines as an 18 year-old and aspiring to have a body worthy of such spotlight. I know magazines are kind of phasing out so I gotta get on this ASAP!
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I’ve been fortunate not to have any serious injuries, but I’ve always trained smart too. I really never cared about how much I could maximally lift so I never really attempted sets under 5-6 reps. Also, I’ve always paid attention to my training cycles and recovery… taking deload weeks every so often to heal and grow.
I think some people get too focused on numbers and showing off. That mentality will get you in trouble sooner or later. I want to be setting new PRs when I’m in my 40s and 50s, not hobbling into the gym because I trained like a knucklehead in my 20s and 30s.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
Nutrition is so important. Many great bodybuilders and fitness gurus agree that nutrition makes up the majority of the foundation of a great body and I would have to agree. I notice the greatest changes in the way my body looks and perform based on what I’m putting in it, not how I am training at the time.
Since I’m naturally an ectomorph body type with fast metabolism, I’ve mainly followed mainly a high-calorie diet, but of quality clean food. I eat every 3-4 hours from the time I first eat (11:00am) until the time I go to bed for the night (11:00pm).
Each meal generally consists of at least 35-40 grams of protein and quality carbohydrates like fruits, vegetables, and starches. Two or three times every day I’ll have a protein shake in place of whole food because it’s fast and convenient (not to mention cheap) and every now and then I’ll “cheat” and eat something that’s viewed as traditionally unhealthy if I’m with family makes it or it’s my only option.
My current diet –stylistically– is a combination of intermittent fasting, flexitarian, and simplicity. As a true minimalist, I look to be efficient in everything I do and that’s definitely shown in my nutritional practices. In fact, I recently published an ebook called, Simplify–It “Diet”, which is available on Apple Books, Amazon, and via my website.
I first got into intermittent fasting because I was super hungry in the evenings during cut cycles. Eating every 2-3 hours from the time you wake up becomes a game to control blood sugar and by the time you get to dinner, macros only allow for a very strict meal and no more (or very little) food after dinner.
I started delaying my first meal of the day to 11:00AM and it has made sticking to my diet plan so much easier. Really. My dinner is now my biggest meal of the day and then I’ll do a shake with something sweet a little bit later, my last calories of the day being consumed around 9:00PM.
Therefore, I’m eating for 12 hours and “fasting” for 12 hours. It’s more so time-restricted feeding if you want to get technical. I don’t like longer more extreme fasts like entire days; that’s simply not practical and would cause training to suffer if done regularly.
The ‘flexitarian’ suggest that I eat primarily a plant-based diet with the occasional high quality animal products. Honestly… my girlfriend is vegan and got me thinking more about the composition of my diet. I don’t believe plant-based is superior to a carnivorous diet like many of the current popular documentary films will make you believe, however, I do think it helps to eat more healthy.
I grew up on meat and still love to have a quality grass-fed steak or piece of wild salmon for dinner every now and then.
My current supplementation regimen is as follows:
- Multivitamin/mineral – 1 tablet per day with a meal
- Omega 3 Fish Oil – 2 soft gels daily with meals (1,000mg each)
- Vitamin C – 1 tablet daily (1,000mg)
- Vitamin D – 1 soft gel per day with a meal (5,000 IU)
- Caffeine – 1 tablet first thing in the morning (200mg)
- Quality Protein Powder – post-workout & on the go in place of a whole food protein source
- When cutting, I’ll add BCAAs intra-workout. When gaining, I’ll add creatine monohydrate in my post workout shake and ZMA before bed. I don’t use or believe much in the efficacy of test-boosters or fat-burners.
Instagram, @fitnesspenpal - photo by T-Fizzle Photography
What has inspired and motivated you?
I do get great inspiration from both other human beings and music.
Frank Zane and Bob Paris are two of my all-time favorite bodybuilders, not only out of admiration of their physiques, but also for their personalities and philosophy on the sport. They’ve both written a lot of literature about their bodybuilding practices and the mental side of training. Gorilla Suit by Bob Paris is a really enjoyable read.
My Air Pods are must have unless I’m training with someone. I’m very passionate about music and listen to a broad range of styles, but when I’m working out its time to go heavy (music AND weights)! I’m not real big on classifying by genre, but to give people an idea: metalcore, post-hardcore, rock, pop-punk.
My favorite bands to train to are: The Ghost Inside, August Burns Red, Born of Osiris, Life on Repeat, Knocked Loose, Architects, and Counterparts, … I could go on forever. Hit me up if you ever want to talk about any of these bands or music in general.
Believe it or not, I even select my music based on which body part I’m training. The heavier the training session (back, legs), the heavier the tunes need to be. I’ll go with faster-tempo stuff during workouts where I need reminder to keep the pace up.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to training, but I’ve learned from them and have used those mistakes to really improve my knowledge of creating exercise programs and efficiency in the gym.
When I was younger, I used to pull programs directly from the magazines and other people with no real thought on my body’s tendencies or recovery ability. For that reason, I found myself doing way more than I needed to and actually inhibiting my ability to grow.
I also spent way too much time early on using cables and machines (the finesse stuff), when I should have been performing all the basic compound free weight meat-and-potato movements like squats, deads, and presses. Lastly, I fell into the trap of lifting lighter for higher repetitions to get cut. That’s a myth!
It’s so important to realize that nothing great happens over night, but that if you really believe you can achieve something and put your mind to it, you can. No doubt. Surround yourself with positive people, ignore the negative, and most of all, learn your body!
Every person is different and unique. What works for your friend or neighbor may not work for you, and vice-versa. Learn forever and you will never stop growing.
Are you taking on clients right now?
YES, I am currently accepting new clients but probably only a couple. I never take on more than I give the quality time and attention necessary. I offer super in-depth monthly coaching, individual plans, and live consultation.
Whether you hire me or someone else, do your due diligence. There are a lot of uneducated and unaccredited trainers out there.
When you’re dealing with your health and your safety, it’s important to make absolute sure you’re dealing with a true professional. Nowadays, anyone can make a website and say they’re a trainer. Looking good doesn’t mean you know how to safely and effectively make someone else look and feel good.
Where can we learn more about you?
I’m always eager to connect with people and make new friends. Hit me up at any of the following: