Big Cat's Building A Pro Series - Part Two!

This time I would like to take the time to tell you the story of our first mutual endeavour. This will give you some background on how we started working together and how we decided that he had the ability to become a pro.
Note: This is part 2 of a series, click here for the main page!

The first installment of this new series gave you a look at a man you will get to know well (well, if you plan on following this experiment anyway), and hopefully you know him well enough now. This time I would like to take the time to tell you the story of our first mutual endeavour. Granted, to those seeking to learn not the most interesting of stories (although some tips for competitors), but an essential one, I feel, to comprehend this story. But you have my word that as of next week I will start detailing the progress since we started the 14-month journey (now 7 months ago) and plenty of useful info from my training archive that will benefit many trainers, including my trusted "abdominal re-education" technique, which holds the secret to aesthetically pleasing competitors despite the enormous size. So bear with me, sit back and enjoy the story.

Is Competing More Important Than Winning?

Well, if you are a trainer or a competitor, then no. Attitude is everything and a lot of the success in judged sports is achieved mentally. Hence winning is more important than, well, anything. For a competitor to demonstrate his full potential, he needs to feel he is a winner, act like a winner and exude that in everything he does. Ration needs to be well-dosed and there is no such thing as a moderate goal. As I explained last week, Philiep first contacted me to solicit my aid in his preparation for the European championships. His plea was that he wanted to place in the top 3. And I basically told him that I wouldn't do it for less than first place. He immediately agreed. That's when I realized his potential. He possesses what I refer to as "the switch". He can shift the balance from being Philiep, the bodybuilding enthusiast and all-around nice guy to Philiep, the bodybuilder. Turning on your work ethic. That's what makes an athlete.

I've always told people that genetic limitations are basically bullshit. You and you alone control the size and shape of your body. And while genetics will hamper you from judge to judge and can make the difference between winning or losing, it will not make the difference in the level you can compete at. I train lots of athletes. And I can tell you, it's a rough job. Work ethic is scarce, more so among those that have talent. And the two things you need for a successful relationship with the client is willingness to learn and understand, and a work ethic that does not let up. And those things are few and far between. But if these two are present, I will gladly work with the athlete, regardless of talent, ability or level of progression.

Check Out The "Intensity Or Insanity" Articles
About TRUE Hardcore Work Ethic Here.

I guess its about knowing what you want, and accepting what you have to sacrifice. I regret to say I'm definitely not one of those people. I'm extremely smart and talented, and I know my abilities. Unfortunately I'm lazy as hell, jump from one project to another and only work well when under stress. That's why I have never and never will succeed as a competitor. But luckily these traits have made me one of the best trainers. The reason I'm telling you this is to once again emphasize that the client has to be willing to learn and be more focused. I'm not attentive enough to play the babysitter or the daddy that pushes his kid day in and day out, and seeing how I can't even keep it together myself, I'm definitely not the man to check up and see if you ate what you were supposed to eat and so forth.

Anyway, back to the competition. He was then 5 months out, which left relatively little time to change much in terms of size and proportion. I knew that at best I could bring him in his best possible shape with the weight he had. But even then I had my eye on future cooperation, in which many more possibilities would surface, and giving me enormous latitude to demonstrate what a good trainer can do for an athlete.

Now me, I'm not one to second guess. I'm sure of what I know and can do, and I realize that if I do what I have to do and Philiep follows that advice, then nothing can go wrong. Except mentally. I consider this the larger part of my job, keeping an athlete motivated and fresh... especially pre-contest. Now keep in mind that neither of us had any clue about the competition. All we knew was that Philiep had to qualify nationally (which would have been a breeze regardless for a two time national champion) and then had to be at his best in Napels, Italy, the next weekend.

His diet was very basic... lower calories, lower carbs. This is something that will be a tad too simplistic for the future, for which I will employ more drastic professional techniques. The weekend of the selection was still a week out from the show, and I had my doubts. My doubts were not about him qualifying, but about the reactions. Those among you who compete know quite well that a physique one week out is far from a completed masterpiece. But things could not have gone better. He stood out over the other athletes, and instead of critique (which can be useful, but somewhat demotivating before a contest) he received nothing but compliments. From that moment on I knew it was in the bag. With that much praise it's not so hard to keep an athlete well motivated.

Then Monday he dropped to his lowest carb count, and I told him straight out the way it was: Practice your posing and learn to love your physique. In one week you will easily improve 15-20% or more. If you can love your physique and accept it the way it is, and practice showing your best, then you already know you can present a physique that is 15-20% better with relative ease. That is not to mention the enormous boost of seeing the daily improvement in a body you already consider to be the best. And with that, I honestly tell you, and I told him this as well, the outcome of that contest was basically sealed. He was brimming with confidence.

The Last Week

Along with dropping his carbs, I told him to keep drinking, preferably liters and liters of Diet Coke. This is an old competition trick, but less known than I assumed. This works because Diet Coke is still rich in caffeine, which is an excellent diuretic, especially if you aren't used to having a lot of coffee and cola, but contains no sugar. The calorie count is lower, and the sweetener is based on amino acids, hence no chance of adding fat (especially at this point in the diet). That Thursday I instructed him to start carbing up with 50 g of dextrose and 5 g of creatine, twice a day. Again, a very standard protocol, but I was amazed at the number of athletes who are unaware of such simple things.

I didn't even see Philiep that week, and due to cost and time problems, I would not be able to join him in Italy. He travelled there on Friday with the entire Belgian delegation, and Pierre de Bont, who, if you remember, owns the gym Philiep trains at, was his first real coach and sort of a father-figure. Since I was not there, I figured it was wisest to let Philiep relate the story of the competition to you in his own words (once again, translated as literally as possible and to the best of my abilities).

The Competition

Philiep: It was pretty hot backstage, so Pierre and I decided to go outside to put on my tan to a parking lot behind the building which is only accessible from backstage, in the shadow of a truck. A good idea, so it later seemed, because it was less humid than inside, which made the tan dry better. It was pretty much deserted, safe for one or two athletes coming out to smoke a cigarette. A few minutes into the tanning, a few athletes who were also in this contest walked by, and their looks quickly turned to me. They quickly turned around, but a few minutes later a few others came out to take a look and that is how it went on for a while. By the time we had finished putting on my tan, quite a few athletes had gathered in the parking lot. Some of them had even decided to follow suit and tan outside as well.

Click to enlarge all pics on this page.

We took it as a good sign, which was later confirmed by the number of pictures photographers took while I was warming up. I understood it was my moment, and that this was the time to take it to the max. At that point my drive and confidence were so high we overheard the French coach tell his athletes "This is the guy that is going to win tonight, and there isn't much to do about it", knowing there were French athletes in my class.

During the comparisons, which started at 2 PM for me, I gave it my all. For thirty minutes I didn't relax a single muscle, not even when I was in the back line as they compared other athletes. I got a single call-out, the last one, to give me the chance to strut my stuff. After all, that is what I came for. But what this meant is that this was pretty much a unanimous decision from the start of the line-up. This was confirmed to me after the show. Still, I was the most exhausted from the continuous tensing. People spoke of my fighter's mentality. Odd since I was the only one that only got one call-out. When I left the stage Pierre had to massage my legs, because they wouldn't relax.

This was the time most athletes took to give themselves a little treat for the hard work... ice cream, cookies, pizza. But I refused to give in. I wanted to be as sharp or sharper for the evening show, because I knew I would win now. I wanted to show everyone, myself, the audience and the photographers, the shape I was in.

As all the athletes stood on-stage after the free posing round, the final countdown started. I was sure of a place in the top three, and strangly, even more sure of a place in the top two. So there we stood, me and my French colleague, hand in hand. I felt the stress in his body, as sure as he felt the fire in my veins. He knew the outcome as well as I do, even though he hadn't accepted it yet.

And then it came out of the speakers: European champion Light heavyweight 2002, Philiep van Nuffel! And it rang in everyone's ears. What was going through my mind? I was meant for greater things. For the first time I truly believed that. And that's partly thanks to you, Peter."

The Aftermath

It seemed to happen so fast, from the call of his victory to the time life went back to normal. He went to Spain on a two week vacation shortly after and for a moment it was like it had never happened. I guess if you look at victory as the most normal thing in the world, the downside is that you never truly appreciate the win. But the next time I saw him, he brought me his selection medal, with a nice inscription on the back. It's on my wall, along with a picture of Philiep with some other members of the Belgian delegation. I think that was the moment I savoured most.

What he had said about greater things, started sinking in for me as well. The simple changes I had made had turned a talented athlete into a champion, head and shoulders above the closest competition. What if I really gave it my all? What if I could apply everything that I knew? And that's how, late August we got to talking about him taking some time off, a year, with the sole purpose of bulking up and seeing how far we could take this. And the rest of that story, well, you are reading it here.

Philiep was back at his normal bulking weight around 92-93 kg, and that's where our story begins. In the next article you will see how the first 5-6 months have been treating us. Including some of the changes I made, and the difficulties.

Note: This is part 2 of a series, click here for the main page!