Having broken onto the pro scene in 2004, with his heavyweight class win at the NPC Nationals, Capriese "Mutant Muscle" Murray, is one bodybuilder with a big future.
At the 2004 Nationals, Capriese captivated the audience, and more importantly, the judges, with his freaky musculature and conditioning (including arms and legs that literally amazed those in attendance), too easily win the heavyweight category - his previous two attempts in 2000 and 2002 were at light heavyweight, where he finished 6th and 7th respectively.
In his pro debut at the 2005 New York Pro Show (formerly the Night of Champions), Capriese again stunned the judges with his cutting edge size and conditioning, to secure 5th place, a qualifying spot for the 2005 Olympia. Due to an elbow injury, Capriese chose to sit this Olympia out, feeling that he could not apply the requisite intensity to his training.
Instead, Capriese changed his program with a view to bringing up his weak points and channeled his energies into preparing for the 2006 season, where he promises to bring his famously freaky package to both the Shawn Ray Classic and the New York Pro Show. Should he qualify, the 2006 Mr. Olympia will also be part of Capriese's competitive plans.
I spoke with Capriese recently and he shared his thoughts on professional bodybuilding, in addition to his bodybuilding history, and methods, and the plans he has.
[ Q ] Give me some background on yourself. How did you get started in bodybuilding?
I started bodybuilding when I was 15 and I have been doing it for about 16 years. I turned professional in 2004 and am now pursuing my professional bodybuilding career.
[ Q ] When you turned pro at the 2004 Nationals, did you know at that point you were in your best possible shape and ready to win?
Oh yes. I was definitely ready to win. I was cut up very well and deserved my place.
[ Q ] What kind of improvements did you make to win at the 2004 Nationals?
Definitely I got bigger. I stepped up a class, from light heavy to heavyweight and I think overall I made improvements. I was in better condition than I was in 2002, the last time I had competed at the Nationals. But I was in great condition for that Nationals also.
[ Q ] Is there any one person who influenced you to become a bodybuilding champion?
Honestly, I never really thought about being professional. I just saw it as being a fun sport that I liked, and I never thought about becoming professional until probably 1999. Someone that inspired me was Lee Haney. I used to always see him in the magazines.
[ Q ] Did you ever meet Lee Haney?
Yes, I met him before. He came to one of my old gyms, Johnny Lats Gym in New York City, one time.
[ Q ] In 1999, did you see turning pro as a viable career option for you, or was it something you felt would be a good achievement in itself?
Initially I didn't think it would be a good career option because I'm a shorter guy and a lot of the shorter guys weren't doing that well. Now they are doing a lot better in professional bodybuilding. Now I feel I can make money and pursue it as a sport compared to how I felt five or six years ago.
[ Q ] You are seen as a freaky bodybuilder. Would you say your physique could be considered large for a shorter bodybuilder?
No, I wouldn't say that. Like my mentor Eddie Caro always said,
[ Q ] What advantages do you feel you have over your competition going into 2006?
Right now I feel I am still the underdog. My name is not as big as many of the other names. Your name does mean a lot in bodybuilding. But they do know who I am, so that is always a good thing.
Advantages? I don't think I have any advantages. When you go in, anyone could be out of shape; anyone could be in the best shape of their lives. It's basically like playing Russian roulette.
[ Q ] So what are you competitive plans for this year Capriese?
I will be doing Shawn Ray's show in May and a week later I will do the New York Pro in my city.
[ Q ] Should you qualify at either of these shows; will you do the Mr. Olympia this year?
If I qualify definitely I will do it this year. I qualified last year but sat it out because I had an in jury to my elbow. I thought I wouldn't be able to put 100 percent into preparing for the Olympia.
[ Q ] What kind of changes have you made to your 2006 physique?
My chest and back are a lot better.
[ Q ] What bought about these changes?
I think I'm maturing a little more now. Having to work around my injury I have become a little smarter. I am still training heavy as that is the backbone to any gains - good basic training. But now I warm-up more and do certain exercises before I go to the heavy weight.
[ Q ] All going well, if you do qualify for the Mr. Olympia what do you think the outcome at this show will be for you?
I have to qualify first, but if all goes well I hope to make top ten.
[ Q ] So you see yourself stacking up well against the competition at the Olympia?
Yes, definitely. I'm not ready for the top five but top ten I think I could manage. Like I said, your name is a big thing.
[ Q ] How long do you think it will take before your name is established?
I don't know. It all depends on the way I come in and the way they like me. I mean, they know who I am for sure, but you have to pay your dues in this sport. For me, the main thing is condition. I have to come in well conditioned. The main thing you have to do in the Olympia is focus on condition, condition, condition.
[ Q ] What do you plan to do to achieve your best conditioning for the 2006 season?
I eat good all year round. My off-season diet is basically the same as when I get ready for a show - it's just tweaked a little bit when preparing for competition. Pre-contest, the calories are a little lower, the carbs are a little lower, but it's pretty much the same as the off-season.
[ Q ] What is your nutritional approach to the last week before competition?
It all depends on the way I am looking. I don't want to do carb depleting but I will either lower them or keep them high depending on the way I look. If I'm ahead I can definitely keep my carbs higher. If I keep them high I'm ready to rock and roll.
[ Q ] What has been your greatest competitive moment?
The Nationals and the New York Pro Show. I placed top five first time out in the New York show. Overall, I would say the New York Pro Show has been my best moment.
[ Q ] At the New York Pro, did you know you would place as high as top five?
I was definitely in the best shape of my life at both the Nationals and the New York Pro Show, without a doubt. I came in a little heavier at the New York Show, which made a big difference, because I think I'm still maturing my muscles. As you mature, you look more dense and more muscular.
[ Q ] So you still think you have some growing to do?
Yes, but more like maturing. I'm not trying to get too big because I am trying to keep my symmetry - I am a smaller guy. If you try to get too big you mess up your lines.
[ Q ] What did you weigh at the New York Pro Show, and what is your current weight?
I was 208 at the New York show. I'm 231 right now.
[ Q ] Are you looking to come in heavier this year.
If it happens, it happens. The main thing is condition at this point.
[ Q ] We discussed your strengths earlier. Are there any weak points you need to work on?
Well, I thought my back needed some work and I definitely pounded that out this year, and it has gotten better. That is one body part I think I needed to refine more.
[ Q ] Can you tell me about your current training program?
I train two on, one off, right now. I keep to the basic movements. One week it will be very intense - the next week it will be a little easier. If you train at a higher intensity level all the time you will hurt yourself. I'm still training balls to the wall, but keeping everything safe and smart.
[ Q ] Do you have training partners?
Yes, I have a few training partners.
[ Q ] What is the advantage of having these training partners?
Of course having a spot is important, and when you are doing legs you don't have to take off all the weight by yourself (laughs). Having someone behind you when you exercise telling you can do two more is also a good thing. It definitely makes you push harder, compared to when you are doing it by yourself.
[ Q ] Have you ever had a problem motivating yourself?
No, but I definitely prefer to have a training partner.
[ Q ] Do you find the routine "day to day" life as a pro bodybuilder hard sometimes?
It is a hard lifestyle because you have to keep focused. It is a job. This is my job, it is what I do. I happen to love what I do, but at times it does get hard, especially when you are getting ready for a show.
[ Q ] Do you find the dieting hard?
I guess it could be the dieting. I'm always pretty good when it comes to dieting. At the end is when it is the hardest - you feel weaker and you get more depleted. You get grumpier.
[ Q ] We discussed this briefly earlier but I would like to expand on it more. In the off-season do you try to eat more to try to add more bodyweight overall?
I don't eat a lot more. Just on the weekends I cheat. During the week it is pretty much the same. During the weekend I can cheat. I am married so I go out and have dinner with my wife and stuff like that.
[ Q ] What kind of impact does being married have on your professional bodybuilding career?
It is good because you have that moral support in the home. Also, my wife will take a look at me and she will be ultra critical - she will tell me the truth. If anyone will tell me the truth about how I look, it will be her. If my *ss doesn't look good, she will say,
it's not hard enough."
Sometimes it hurts, but you know what? It's going to make you go in there and bust your *ss. Having someone that understands, who will go through it with you, definitely makes it easier at times.
[ Q ] Switching topics for a moment. I heard you were a good break-dancer back in the early days?
Yes, everybody did that in the neighborhood. I wasn't a professional, but did mess around with it.
[ Q ] Do you incorporate any of these moves into your posing?
No, not at all. Everybody does that now so it is like faded. It's so over.
[ Q ] Would you describe your posing style as more classical?
Yes and I design all my posing routines. I think it out way ahead of time, before I start dieting. Right now I'm thinking about the music I want to use - whether it will be one song or a combination of songs.
[ Q ] What are some of the important things a bodybuilder should focus on when planning their posing routine?
Basically pick the music that fits your body. You might pick a song that is too fast for you and it won't work.
[ Q ] What other things do you need to focus on the final weeks before a contest?
I don't really have to worry about a weight class any more so that makes it a lot easier for me. I don't really worry about anybody else. I might increase my cardio depending on how I look - I go by the mirror, not by the scale. The mirror won't lie to you.
[ Q ] Do you test for body fat?
[ Q ] What would be your biggest bodybuilding goal? What would you like to achieve ultimately?
Definitely to win a pro show. Without a doubt. Before I retire, I would love to win a pro show.
[ Q ] How long would you like to pursue professional bodybuilding as a career?
I'm not the youngest guy (Capriese is 31) but I would like to continue bodybuilding for some time yet. Professional bodybuilding is a long lasting lifestyle that is very hard on your body. If I can make a decent amount of money and do something with it, it will be perfect for me. It's not something I want to do until I'm 40. I want to concentrate on the business side of it.
[ Q ] Anything specific?
I will work hard and see what happens. If the opportunity arises, I will take it.
[ Q ] I understand you work as a personal trainer?
Yes, I do a lot of personal training. This is doing damn good.
[ Q ] What are some of the key things you do to ensure your personal training business is successful?
The majority of my clients are corporate people so they don't really want to be big. This means a different type of training for them. I do more circuit training, push-up type exercises and aerobic stuff. You just need to respect what your client wants.
[ Q ] Does being a professional bodybuilding enhance your profile as a personal trainer? Does what you have accomplished motivate your clients to achieve their personal goals?
With being a personal trainer it's always by recommendation. I don't think I get clients because I am a professional bodybuilder. A lot of people just see a big guy and they automatically think you want to make them look like you.
Bodybuilders are extreme due to the way they look. We are not ordinary guys. I think clients just like your professionalism or they hear that you do well, or they see someone that you have trained and that person looks good.
[ Q ] Obviously you have a lot of experience in training yourself. Does this extensive experience alone qualify you as a professional personal trainer?
Yes, definitely. You don't really need a lot of years experience though. To be honest with you, there are a lot of real clowns out there who are personal trainers. They don't even work out.
They read a book and then they want to be a personal trainer because they know there is good money in personal training. They are telling people that this feels this way, and that feels that way. And I think to myself you don't even workout, how can you tell somebody how something feels if you never did it before. Clients don't really know because you come off as a professional.
[ Q ] Any other business interests Capriese?
In New York City you can't own a gym because it is way too expensive and there are too many gyms from one block to the next block.
Yes, I want to do my own DVD. Last year I was approached by Muscletime and they wanted me to do a DVD for them. They thought I might be doing the Arnold, but I'm not so this didn't happen. But I would love to do a DVD. People ask me about this all the time.
[ Q ] How is your column in Muscular Development going?
It was good, but I'm not with them any more. We had a good run and they treated me very well.
[ Q ] What is your educational background?
I was going to be a paramedic but I found this wasn't for me. I finished high school of course. I was doing bodybuilding as a teenager and my pro career came from this.
[ Q ] Were you much of an athlete in your younger days?
Oh yes. I played football and ran track and field. In football I was really good. I have people telling me, you should have stayed playing football; you would have made a lot of money. I love football to this day.
[ Q ] So what is your favorite team?
The Giants, that's my team. The New York Giants.
[ Q ] Awesome. Would you like to mention any sponsors or thank anyone before we finish?
On my web site, which is www.capriesemurray.com, I have some t-shirts for sale. I would also like to let all the pro bodybuilders know that I'm coming. Don't sleep because Capriese Murray is ready.