Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
I started weight training when I was 15 years old and had a 10 year run at it. As an adult, I found it difficult to work fitness into my life in a balanced way and I also continued to struggle with body image issues.
Career, relationships, and other normal life stressors took control. Historically I had always been an all or nothing kind of person and that led to some exceptional achievements but they always came at a cost.
I’d do one thing really well and other things would fall apart and it was only after I realized that balance was the answer, that I was able to commit to doing amazing things long term without suffering unnecessarily.
After doing a whole lot of mental work, I was able to get back into fitness and am proud to say that I am currently in the best shape of my life, by a landslide.
By learning how to love my body and to also program fitness into my life in a balanced way, I can honestly say that I am quite sure I will now continue to be training and eating well consistently for the rest of my life.
It’s been seven years back in the game in at and I’ve never felt better.
Describe a typical day of training
Currently, I train for about 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
In addition to bodybuilding, I also compete in Powerlifting. When it’s time to train for a powerlifting competition, my sessions are a little longer and run anywhere from 2 – 2 ½ hours.
That’s mainly because of rest times in between sets being longer when training primarily for strength.
During long rest times, I visualize going through my next set in my head before performing the lift. I feel this helps my stay focused and it also gets me fired up to execute the next working set without fail.
While my wife is my training partner, we follow our own protocols as our goals differ. I am mostly a lone wolf when it comes to my training. My training varies depending on which sport I am focused on at the time.
Being a competitive athlete in their advanced stages of training, I do de-load regularly anywhere from every 5-8 weeks so that I can continue to effectively manage fatigue accumulation.
I like to get in a good chunk of carbs, keep fat low, and get in a reasonable amount of protein for both pre and post-workout meals.
Keeping fat low surrounding a training session ensures that my food digests fast so it’s ready to use as fuel and getting in a moderate amount of protein is helpful for muscle protein synthesis.
When I am on the gym floor, my phone stays in a locker and I log my training in a notebook. This ensures that I have no distractions so that I can truly focus on my fitness when in the gym. It also makes sure that my workouts don’t drag on.
I like to get in, get it done, and get out.
Typically I do not do any kind of formal cardio training protocol for physique conditioning purposes as that is best to be dialed in through proper nutrition habits. I do recommend getting in 2-3 sessions of low intensity steady state cardio a week at 10-15 min a session, for your heart health.
I suggest going at 65-70% of your max heart rate. Incorporating a sensible amount of cardio will not take away from your gains. It will however help to lower your resting heart rate which is good for your health and consequently good for your performance in the gym.
Having a healthy level of cardiovascular endurance has shown to be beneficial even when performing a double or triple with heavy weight on the bar.
Instagram, @musclesbybrussels - photo by Shoot the Eye
How do you keep going and push harder?
It all boils down to habits and the knowledge that truly exceptional results happen when we are able to be consistent over a long period of time.
Life is fulls of highs and lows and motivation never lasts. There is never an ideal time to get started and plenty of reasons to stop. I used to go the gym to feel good and honestly, sometimes I am not in the mood to train, and even after a training session is over I wind up leaving feeling just as crappy after the fact.
I know though that those sessions are the most important ones. If I can get through those sessions, it makes me feel like I can get through anything.
There are certain things I do to ensure that my training and nutrition habits will not be compromised. I spend a good amount of time over the weekend planning out my training and food journal for the week and getting things prepared such as leaving my gym bag out and workout clothes out.
Having physical cues around the house that I put effort into, remind me of what I have to do. If I took the time to set a gym bag and clothes by the door to leave the house, I’ll look at it and remember that I have no choice but to follow through.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Over the past 1 ½ years, I have transitioned out of powerlifting competition mode to prepare for the stage.
I am getting ready to start a bodybuilding competition prep over the next month or two and plan on hitting the stage in 2020. I believe that I am poised to place alright in the natural bodybuilding world this time around but have no expectations.
I believe that should I have another 5-15 year of consistency training for this sport, that going pro in bodybuilding will not be a matter of if, but when.
This sport is not a sprint, it is a marathon. I hope to continue to put the time in for the long haul, to get the results and the outcome I’m looking for out there.
Mainly though, I just truly love the process. If you don’t there is just no reason to put yourself through so much for so little. There are a tiny handful of people who recognize this fringe sport and for the amount of work put in, there is very little stage time and glory.
You have to love what you do, not the thought of crossing the finish line or you’ll never get there.
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Injuries are almost unavoidable. I do recommend focusing on technical mastery in the gym above all else.
Lifters tend to focus on total pounds moved more so than moving well. By focusing our efforts on moving well, we will get more out of the time we spend in the gym and also lessen the risk of getting dinged up.
That being said, getting dinged up does come with the territory when one is working on advancing themselves as a lifter. When I feel pain, I immediately stop and assess.
For the first 72 hours, I focus on bringing the inflammation down by way of ibuprofen, ice, and rest. I also remind myself that muscles spasm around the injured area to protect it and those spasmed muscles can make one feel like they are more hurt than they actually are.
After 72 hours, I begin testing the injured area by stretching it and by going through my usual movements in the gym at 50% intensity. I increase intensity from there with each workout following until I am hopefully back at 100% inside of 2 weeks.
This formula works for most muscle and connective tissue strains. If you are seriously injured past this point, seek professional help.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I have been vegan for 15 years and with that my food choices are all plant-based.
I do follow the same nutrition principles for bodybuilding that any evidence-based athlete would. The only difference is that I choose not to consume animal-based foods.
Not only is veganism not hurting my gains, I feel that it only serves to bolster performance and recovery. A vegan bodybuilder tends to gravitate to more nutritionally dense foods which is an obvious win for both their health and their athletic endeavors.
This also ensures that I do not consume dietary cholesterol, which keeps my risk of heart disease very very low.
The healthier I am as I age, the greater of a chance that I will continue to be able to continue this marathon. Those who can stay at it consistently for the long haul, get the best results.
While I tend to maintain an athletic body composition year-round consuming roughly 17-20 calories per pound of bodyweight, I find my metabolism is above average (from my experience the average is around 13-15 calories per pound of bodyweight) which is why I don’t suggest following another person’s plan as every individual has different needs.
Find your caloric baseline by tracking your food for a week and adjust accordingly from there. While I do like to use protein powders like this vegan protein, I consider them a convenience food not a supplement.
They aren’t necessary as you can get all the proteins and aminos you need in the right proportions, from food.
Also, I feel that supplements may help improve performance by maybe 3%, at best. And to reach that mark you have to spend a lot of money every month.
Focus on doing everything right and doing everything well for at least 1-3 years before even considering a regular supplementation protocol for the purpose of being a competitive athlete.
Both B12 and D3 are no longer readily available in our food supply no matter what your food preferences are and should you go deficient in either you risk permanent brain damage and also severe depression. I’m not trying to scare you, it’s just the reality of taking the risk of not supplementing with these two vitamins.
Don’t shoot yourself in the food by being a purist, as it’s just not worth it. On the microalgae oil, it has been proven to reduce your risk of heart disease. Microalgae oil also helps with both performance and recovery making it one of the only supplements that can do both.
Finally, creatine monohydrate. This should actually be the first thing you should consider supplementing with. It’s dirt cheap and it is also by far the most effective supplement one can take. It helps your increase your ATP stores meaning that you can push longer and harder before failure.
For example: If you were to fail at rep 8, when supplementing regularly with creatine monohydrate you will be able to squeeze out rep 9 and 10.
What has inspired and motivated you?
Bodybuilding by nature is an incredibly selfish sport when it is done in a competitive fashion. Primarily when one is in competition prep If I did not have a valid reason for carrying on this path, I would have been out of the game a long time ago. I continue on for two reasons.
I want to lead by example to show what someone choosing to live a compassionate lifestyle is capable of.
My goal is to inspire others to take control of their health by teaching them how to incorporate fitness into their lifestyle in a balanced way.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
As the saying goes, greatness is the result of a lot of small things done well. Take your time getting started and don’t try to do everything at once. Create small sensible habits for yourself that are reasonable and build upon them over time.
My suggestion would be to start with a commitment to get to the gym 3 times a week. Train your upper body one day, your lower body the next day, and then on the third day do some cardio. Keep training sessions to 30-45 min to start.
For your nutrition focus on getting in a healthy serving of vegetables 2x a day and also focus on getting in some protein with every meal. Make sure you are focusing on your sleep hygiene and also your hydration above and beyond anything else.
For advanced athletes, consider increasing the frequency in which you are training different body parts you want to grow more by breaking the same volume up over multiple days. Then build from there.
Are you taking on clients right now?
While our one on one roster is almost always full, don’t be afraid to reach out. Occasionally we will be able to offer the chance to interview with us.
If it is a best fit we are happy to invite you to join our team and be your coach. And even if our roster is completely full, we have other services that we can offer you that will help you reach your fitness goals.
You can apply for a spot on our roster here.
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I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.
Here on Bulk Hackers we interview bodybuilders, personal trainers and fitness heroes. We ask them to share their stories and all their greatest hacks!
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