Instagram, @helms3dmj - photo by @jeffnippard
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi! My name is Eric Helms, I’m 36, originally from the USA but my wife and I now live in New Zealand. My goal is to support lifters through the various things I do professionally. I’m a multi-discipline sport scientist/practitioner.
I am the co-founder and chief science officer for Team 3D Muscle Journey, chief author of the Muscle and Strength Pyramid books, co-founder and contributor to Monthly Applications in Strength Sport research review, co-host of Iron Culture Podcast, and a Strength & Conditioning Research Fellow in the Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, at Auckland University of Technology.
I have a PhD in strength and conditioning, and two master’s degrees, one in exercise science and the other in sports nutrition. I’ve had the privilege of coaching a ton of lifters, from novice to world champion, and I regularly publish peer-reviewed articles on physique and strength sport.
I’ve authored book chapters for strength and conditioning, nutrition, and personal training professionals. I started lifting in 2004, and today, I’m a PNBA pro qualified natural bodybuilder and I also compete in powerlifting, weightlifting, and strongman.
Describe a typical day of training
As a multi-sport strength/physique athlete my training changes based on what competitions I do or don’t have on the horizon. When I’m within a couple years of a natural bodybuilding show, my training includes less of the big three, weightlifting (snatch and clean and jerk) and strongman specific training and is much more dominated by less fatiguing exercises designed to build muscle everywhere, in a proportionate fashion.
When focused on bodybuilding, I typically use a five-day split between, which I divide my volume for all my muscle groups, so I don’t have a chest/back, or legs day per se, but rather do some work for most muscle groups on most days.
My upper body seems to need more work to progress than my lower body, so I often do one to three lower body exercises, and then a handful of upper body movements. Generally, in a purer bodybuilding phase of training my sessions take an hour each, sometimes a bit longer.
However, I only compete in bodybuilding every few years at most (I had competitive seasons in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2019). In the “off-season” I have more of a strength focus, with hypertrophy work as my “accessories”. This is what my current training outline looks like (see page 2 of post) when I’m not specifically within a few months of a competition.
I train at a number of gyms given I have needs for four different lifting disciplines. You can follow my training on my Gravitus log.
Instagram, @helms3dmj - photo by @betteraestheticsbb
How do you keep going and push harder?
The key for me is to really know why I lift. As a researcher, coach, athlete, and also someone who enjoys the philosophy behind, and history of lifting, I have a deeper connection to lifting weights than simply to hit PRs or look better.
I love lifting, and I have a physical culture lifestyle. I express myself creatively, find meaning in life, and help others through fitness. With a deep connection, and maybe even a “purpose” related to lifting, I find it much easier to push hard even when I might be in a slump in terms of performance, injured, etc.
I also have goals, which keep me motivated across multiple disciplines. So, I have the ability to switch my focus if I’m struggling due to injury from one discipline to another.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I’m absolutely in love with my training at the moment. My 2020 goals are to compete in a weightlifting, strongman, and powerlifting competition in the same year, and stay healthy.
I’ve competed in 17 powerlifting meets, three weightlifting meets, and two strongman competitions, but I’ve never done all three in the same year. So, I’m enjoying the programming challenge!
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I schedule deload weeks where I reduce volume and/or load based on how my body is holding up, how subjectively fatigued I feel, my motivation to train, my sleep quality/quantity, whether I’m dieting or not, and how my performance is or isn’t progressing.
I try to get on average eight hours of sleep per day, per week, and I am getting pretty close to that goal these days, which helps tremendously.
I also get a massage on a weekly basis after my last training session of the week from a sports masseuse, ensure I consume adequate protein, get a baseline level of activity (7k steps per day goal), consume plenty of fruits and vegetables, and I take a handful of evidence-based supplements.
If I do sustain an injury, I of course seek medical advice from a professional, and then do what I can, that doesn’t cause pain while rehabbing.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I compete in the 90kg, 93kg, and 96kg classes in Strongman, Powerlifting, and Weightlifting respectively. My shredded stage weight as a bodybuilder is ~80kg, so generally my off-season consists of me bouncing around the 90-100kg range as I go through gaining or mini cut phases or cut weight for competition.
Given I’m a natural athlete who has been lifting since 2004, when I try to gain weight I do so slowly, or I just gain a lot of body fat, so I typically target about a 1% gain in bodyweight per month at most.
When it comes time to diet for a show, I try to lose 0.5-1% of my bodyweight per week over average, but use cyclical diet breaks and refeeds, such that it may take six months to go from 90 to 80kg.
I take in at least a gram per pound of protein, and generally eat pescatarian most of the time (mostly for ethical reasons). I don’t do much traditional cardio, but I maintain a higher step count when dieting.
I get my whey protein from Legion Athletics, and I take the Ouroboros multi and pre-workout, which contains caffeine, creatine monohydrate, beta-alanine, and citrulline malate.
Instagram, @helms3dmj - photo by @brandonblurts
What has inspired and motivated you?
I love the history of the iron game, so the feats and history of the lifters from the 1800’s to the mid 1950’s I find very cool as this was an era before anabolics, and also when bodybuilding, weightlifting, and powerlifting were much more united in terms of practice, culture, and sharing of information.
I’m also motivated by following my fellow coaches, and our athletes @team3dmj on Instagram!
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
To do a little bit of shameless self-promotion, I really wish I had the right mindset of understanding how to assess the quality of fitness information and understood the basic principles of training and nutrition.
Back in 2016 my coauthors and I wrote the Muscle and Strength Pyramids books, which cover the fundamental principles of both, which we just updated in 2019 with the latest scientific data.
My advice to anyone who is serious about lifting is to take a look so that they can avoid spinning their wheels initially.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I act as the Chief Science Officer for our coaching company 3DMJ, and only work with the current athletes I have, but the main coaches at 3D Muscle Journey are! You can find out about our coaching here
Where can we learn more about you?
You can find all my content, my YouTube videos, blog posts, the 3DMJ podcasts I’ve been on, a link to MASS my research review, my books and my full bio at 3dmusclejourney.com.
You can also follow me @helms3dmj on Instagram. Lastly, if you’d like to listen to my Podcast with Omar Isuf Iron Culture, you can find us on iTunes, Spotify and YouTube.