Stu Yellin
How I Went from Competitive Bodybuilding to Being an Experienced Coach


We talked with Stu Yellin in November, 2019. Follow Stu on Instagram and Facebook
Country:
United States
Age:
46 years
Weight:
88 kg
(195 lbs)
Height:
173 cm
(5 '8)


Instagram, @the_mighty_stu

Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training

My name is Stu Yellin and I’m 46 years old at the time of this writing. My day job is being a teacher, but since my competitive days, I’ve moonlighted as a coach, helping people with their nutrition, training, and just anything I can pass on from my own education and experiences. I’m married, and have one son, a dog, and a cat, and currently living in New York.

During my competitive years, I won two pro cards, with seven class wins, and two overalls in Men’s Open Bodybuilding. Outside of bodybuilding, my hobbies include art (I have an MFA and worked as an animator and storyboard artist for over a decade), guitar, film and spending time with my family and friends.

I have had a pretty good relationship with the guys at Biotest since 2009. I was always a fan of their products, and when I started winning shows, and had already been vocal in my writing about liking their products (long before the social media BS you see these days), they reached out and have always been willing to help out in terms of testing out new products or even flying me out to their headquarters for a week of training multiple times.

What I love about bodybuilding/fitness is I believe it’s a great pursuit/lifestyle that can bring people together in search of a common goal. As much as I enjoyed being the young up and coming competitor, finding myself as the more experienced and knowledgeable coach in recent years is rewarding in its own way.

Describe a typical day of training


I’ve trained at countless gyms

My philosophy is fairly simple. Everything has the potential to work so long as other variables support your efforts. That means that you can have the best training approach in the world, but if your nutrition and recovery are garbage, it’s not going to lead you to where you want to be. I’ve personally tried low volume, high volume, abbreviated splits, full “bro” splits, you name it.

The bottom line with me is that plenty of what works was already figured out by the 1950’s, and in today’s world of wanna-be gurus and online coaches, the thing seems to be that if you disparage or discredit the experts of yesteryear, people will see you as the latest and greatest, cutting edge of what works. Sadly, you end up with a ridiculous amount of folks making a name for themselves despite no accomplishments other than “writing articles.”

I’ve trained at countless gyms, from little holes in the wall, to giant commercial set ups. Bev’s, Strong n Shapely, Midtown,.. living on the East Coast you quickly learn the best spots for those who are serious. Of course lately, my competition days well behind me, it’s a matter of convenience raising a son and working full time, so if that means an LA Fitness a few times per week, I’ll take it!

Supplements with me have always been basics. Protein, fish oils, curcumin as the corner stone of well being and health, and then my actual training stuff like Casein Hydrolysate (Mag10 from Biotest), Herbal T-boosters (Alpha Male – I’m getting older, so I find this helps my recovery!), and sometimes an anti-estrogen as well.

Most of what I use I get from Biotest, so my wife keeps her eye out for my usual monthly crate to be sitting outside our door. Some retailers sell some of their line, but anyone interested should definitely go to their actual site for the complete line up.

I was never a big cardio fan despite running track when I was in school, but lately I’ve been trying to jog a few times per week just for general health. During past preps, I was a big fan of high intensity work a few times per week. They were never fun, but short and sweet and then go back to the rest of your day. Who can argue with that logic?

Logs were something I kept early on in my training. During contest preps they were an absolute must. I still have a spiral notebook from every contest I entered, with every single variable tracked from every single day right up to the day after the show.

What I learned over the years though was that “chasing numbers” in the gym – always trying to get stronger – wasn’t the best approach for me. Sure when you start out you need some type of method to track that you’re improving somehow, but strength doesn’t always equate growth, and it ignores so many other variables that play into your day to day gym results.

How rested you are, your repetition cadence, rest between sets, maybe you’re using a different machine because someone else took the bench you wanted,… it’s never just about how much weight you move. Intensity though,.. so long as you’re keeping the intensity up any given day under the weights, it’s going to be productive in the long run.


Instagram, @the_mighty_stu

How do you keep going and push harder?

There’s a fine line between persevering and having that champion mindset and being stupid. Most successful people will tell you that they’ve done what they needed to even when they didn’t feel like it, but they’ll also usually have stories of when they knew they needed to back off.

I think being able to stay in the game for the long run means balancing periods of keeping the pedal down all the way with periods of easing back and just maintaining to avoid burn out.

When I was in full competitor mode, I was continually amazed at how hard I could train day after day after a full day of work and family commitments. These days, I think I’m in a much more balanced place in terms of family and if I have plans to take my son somewhere after I get home from work, hitting the gym is the last priority on my plate.

Skipping a day here and there hits people more mentally than physically in my opinion. No one has ever lost a contest because of skipping a single gym session. Of course, if “getting it in” means waking at 4 a.m. on a weekend so I can get home and cleaned up before my wife and son are even awake, then that’s what I do.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

I’m doing well. Obviously being over 40 with a few injuries and surgeries under my belt changes the game a bit, but adapting is part of the game. If I have any goals for the short term, it’s simply to stay as active as I can, but within reason.

I never would have thought that my future goals involved a bit of cardio each week, but general health isn’t a bad thing when you’re not planning on “donning the speedo” again anytime soon.

Future non-bodybuilding plans for me revolve around my family, eventually retiring from my day job, and hopefully getting more into my personal art work.

If I could start over again, I’d probably be as confused as most people just starting out these days seem to be. There’s way too much information available, and most of it is contradictory from less than great sources.

There’s too much of a social media, wanna be a guru angle to things for my personal taste. I’d love to start over and just keep things as simple as I could. In hindsight, just like most young guys starting out, I spun my wheels way too much just from lack of any real direction.


Instagram, @the_mighty_stu

How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?


I think the ability to be objective and not ego-driven is a key way to not put yourself in a bad situation.

Injuries and set backs are going to occur no matter how careful you are. If you’re lucky though, you can certainly do your best to keep them to a minimum. Aside from my two shoulder surgeries (which both of my brothers also had as well), I very rarely suffered gym related set backs.

I think the ability to be objective and not ego-driven is a key way to not put yourself in a bad situation. No one ever expects something bad to happen, but weighing the returns on putting yourself in harm’s way doesn’t really yield any appreciable benefit that you can use to justify such a risk.

Able to bench 400 lbs 1 -3 times? Great, is it really going to give you any added hypertrophy that you wouldn’t get using 350 for 6 – 8 reps? Highly doubtful. Again, risk to benefits should be a consideration of anyone hoping for longevity in this game.

I probably spent way more time warming up than most people in the gym. A little dynamic warm up, stretching areas that feel a little tight or off, warm up sets of increasing intensity before I actually push the envelop on any given training day, this was my usual approach to keep the machine in proper working order.

Sleep wise, I wish I got more, but when you’re a parent, working a full time job with commute time, and still trying to maintain family and friend relationships, something usually takes a bit of a hit.

I guess that’s probably a common issue among any employed adult -lol. My morning commute is pretty rough, so I’m up at 4:30 each morning, and I TRY to be in bed by 9:00, 10:00 at the absolute latest, but with a 5 year old, well, he’s not always accommodating.

When traveling, I usually try to plan out a local gym, or in worst case scenarios, I’ve actually found myself alternating a few hundred pushups one night with a few hundred pullups the next for the duration of my get away.

For recovery, my current regimen includes Biotest’s Flameout (high dose fish oils), curcumin, Alpha Male (T-booster), Rev-Z (anti-E), and Superfood (anti-oxidant blend). Maybe a bit more than most people would rely on month to month, but obviously this is something I’m serious about and committed to.

How is your diet and what supplements do you use?

These days I don’t track much anymore. I am quite aware of whether a meal is more carb heavy, or protein and fats heavy helps me roughly keep tabs on what my daily eating looks like. Of course, I still have journals for every contest I entered detailing every single macro eaten, weight lifted, energy levels, you name it.

When you’re putting yourself in the situation of pushing the limit and achieving a high level goal, you can’t just wing it. Knowing what’s going on, or in the case of eating, what’s going in, enables you to assess and make necessary adjustments.

I never really had a thing for cheat days, but, I did have at least a once weekly day where I would really push the cals and carbs. There are benefits to this of course, but I can’t ever justify a totally unregulated, unknown binge where the potential to set yourself back.

I don’t understand why anyone would ever risk something so ridiculous after working so hard for weeks, and months on end. If you’re not mentally strong enough to gut out a contest prep diet, then you’re not. It doesn’t make you a bad person or anything, but champions don’t get into winning condition by mistake.

When I was competing, I would usually go about 25 lbs over my stage weight and still feel comfortable. It was soft enough that my strength was good, recovery good, able to cheat a little in terms of not adhering to a strict plan every day, but still lean enough that my insulin sensitivity was good and I still looked every bit the bodybuilder if I took my shirt off.

My usual approach was some type of cyclical diet when cutting. The amounts varied from year to year though. No two preps were ever the same, which is something I’ve seen with countless clients as well. This is why I’m always so detailed about tracking variables with myself as well as my clients.

Coffee was something I truly enjoy and especially leaned on the little caffeine boost it provides on those rough diet days mid prep. Diet soda, diet Snapple, you name it. I don’t understand people who don’t make use of such simple methods of taking the edge off when the going gets rough.

What has inspired and motivated you?


Honestly, I can’t train hard without music.

The books I have on bodybuilding, training science and nutrition would topple most people’s book cases. I definitely have an addiction to reading and learning, but at the end of the day, I’ve found that you can get away with just a few if they continually keep you inspired and moving forward.

As I got more into the sport, I found Bill Pearl’s books very useful. Not just in their stories of yesteryear, but in their view of training and diet. I see so many people trying to make names for themselves nowadays by contradicting old school thinking, and yet guys like Pearl had it all figured out back then.

Muscle Wars by Rick Wayne is continually a great read, as is Franco Columbu’s Coming On Strong biography. When I was in grad school, I stumbled upon Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder, and it really struck a chord with me being someone no one would ever expect to end up onstage flexing his head off.

When I started getting into the science of nutrition, like most guys my age, I picked up Aceto’s books. In hindsight, they were good at the time, but once you really get deep science you realize that Chris was off base with a bunch of things. Still, I don’t regret starting there before delving into grad level nutrition text books.

I’m not really much into podcasts for bodybuilding. I may occasionally listen to one here or there, and I’m certainly all ears if someone wants to suggest something to listen to.

Honestly, I can’t train hard without music. I may listen to soundtracks and background music at work, but the gym requires hard and heavy tunes in my opinion.

Best advice I’ve ever received? I’ll throw two things at you that I find myself repeating pretty often:

  1. Everything works, but nothing works forever.
  2. Step outside of yourself and ask if the you from five years in the future showed up right now, would he be proud of what you’re about to do?

  3. Instagram, @the_mighty_stu

    Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?


    Accept that some days you may be strong, other days you may be weak.

    Starting off today, I’d probably still read too much, but, hopefully I’d be lucky enough to find someone who had achieved what I’m trying to do, and latch onto them. Experience is huge, and information may be more readily available these days, but applying that information is where you can really learn from others.

    I don’t know if this is a life-hack or anything, but my recommendation to anyone is to accept that some days you may be strong, other days you may be weak. Some days you may be full of energy, others you may feel run down. Give what you’ve got on that given day and move on. One or two bad training days will not be the downfall of your bodybuilding success.

    Outside of the gym, my best advice to anyone is to keep things in perspective. It’s too easy to get caught up in silly details or minor inconveniences when you’re overly focused on them. Big picture!

    Are you taking on clients right now?

    I do take clients, but I limit them to under 10. I have a day job, and a family, and as much as I do love helping people, and the whole training/nutrition focused lifestyle I’m only willing to take so much time away from them each week.

    Why hire me? -lol Wow, I hate to sound like I’m shilling for business here, so feel free to hire anyone you want. I will say that these days anyone with a PT certificate or who competed once seems to fancy themselves a coach, so just remember that you get what you pay for. I like to think my actual educational background, combined with my successes as a competitor as well as having coached many bodybuilding pros in addition to professional athletes says all I need to say about my qualifications.

    I won’t guarantee you winning a show, I won’t guarantee you amazing results if you don’t put in the work, and I won’t lie to you, continually praising mediocre efforts on your part.

    I will always be straight, I will explain all my thinking and decisions, and I will consider our working together as a partnership where you can freely offer any thoughts or suggestions or even disagreements with what I may want to do going forward.

    If, however, you want someone to constantly commend lack of work and to lie to you so you always feel good and keep paying them, you’ve got a long list of no-names to pick from on social media.

    Over the years, I’ve had plenty of real life clients, but the Internet has afforded me to work with people in England, Australia, Tokyo, you name it, so I certainly won’t disparage the online aspect of coaching.

    Where can we learn more about you?

    I have a website that’s been around without updates for years now StrategicPhysique.com. But my social media stuff tends to be non-bodybuilding stuff these days. When I was doing videos and blogs, social media wasn’t what it is now, so while I suppose you could track down old contest blogs, or videos of my preps, they’re nowhere near the production value people expect these days.

    Social media wise, I fell off keeping up with my bodybuilding and anything fitness related a while back. Except for the occasional Throwback or Flashback, finding me on IG @The_Mighty_Stu or FB @TheMightyStu will usually end up showcasing my art work these days.


    Ready to get really fit and inspired?

    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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