An Interview With 2004 Nationals Middleweight Winner Eryk Bui.

In the following interview, Eryk gives an exclusive account of his thoughts on the current state of the sport, his goals, and the training and nutritional approaches he has adopted.
Fans of the symmetrical, balanced, physique should look no further than 2004 Nationals middleweight champion Eryk Bui for inspiration. Having demolished the competition at last years premier amateur bodybuilding event, Eryk sees himself as a protagonist, ideally positioned to help return bodybuilding to the period where classic physiques graced the stage, and fans viewed the champions of the day, as realistic models of physical perfection.

Of Asian ancestry, Eryk, 34, believes he has the potential to garner top placing's in the professional arena - The 2006 Pro Iron-man will be Eryk's first showing as a professional. Blessed with a beautiful physique, and the necessary work ethic and drive needed to survive in today's intensely competitive pro-bodybuilding world, Eryk should have no problem reaching the top. In the following interview, Eryk gives an exclusive account of his thoughts on the current state of the sport, his goals, and the training and nutritional approaches he has adopted.

[ Q ] Hi Eryk. Great showing at the 2004 Nationals. Describe your preparation period leading up to this show. Did you expect to win?

    A: Hello David. The 2004 Nationals in Dallas was awesome. I am honored to have been a part of what many considered the best middleweight line-up in the history of the sport. I was extremely focused and driven for the "big dance" as the 2004 USA's left a very bad taste in my mouth. I recall saying to myself the morning after my defeat, "Nationals here I come... I need to take care of some unfinished business."

    "Nationals Here I Come..."
    Click To Enlarge.

    I thought and I thought about what I needed to do to secure a win at the Nationals. The last time I was at the Nationals, it was in Dallas and I finished a dismal 12th. I knew how political it would be for the Nationals so my game plan had to be flawless... and based on my showing, the game plan was indeed flawless.

    I expected to win because I did everything that I could possibly do to be the best. I did not skip a single beat all the way up to show time. I was hampered by a viral infection just before the USA's and it affected my on stage presentation. My motto coming into the Nationals was simple... "Come Smokin' or Get Smoked!"

[ Q ] What are you current competitive plans?

    A: I am currently in my off-season training and have achieved great gains in my strength and physique. I recently did a photo-shoot with Kevin Horton of Flex Magazine and was able to demonstrate a 700 pound squat without a squat-suit, knee wraps, or even a weight belt. My pro-debut will be at the 2006 Pro Ironman in Pasadena, CA... practically in my backyard. Plan on seeing me at the Arnold Classic as well.

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    Don't I need to qualify or get an invite to do the Arnold Classic. Let's just say that I will let my physique do all of the talking from this point on. My critics are always looking for ways to slow me down, but they just can't. I have always been the underdog. even after posting my first national championship in 2002.

    I distinctly recall telling everyone after the 2002 USA's that I would not be doing the 2002 Nationals as a lightweight and that I was going to take the middleweight crown to earn my pro card. It may have taken two years, but it happened. For many it took countless tries, for others it won't ever happen. I am truly blessed.

[ Q ] What are you training goals? What improvements are you wanting to make, before your next show?

    A: My training goals are to work on my weak points and transform my physique into one that is most complete based on my criteria, not the criteria that is prevalent today. I was elated after reading the news about the new judging criteria. I have decided that my contribution to the sport will be to continue to be the best that I can possibly be and not what others want me to be.

    It offers me an opportunity to be a catalyst to return bodybuilding back to what it once used to be... symmetrical and aesthetically pleasing physiques that are admired by all. The current trend of chemical warfare and freak-shows needs to stop.

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Developing a symmetrical physique entails focusing on all muscle groups equally through the employment of a variety of exercises. In bodybuilding, the emphasis should be placed on developing a balanced physique.
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    More and more guys are falling by the wayside because they were in such a hurry to be the biggest and the baddest. Bodybuilding is a never-ending process that takes time and lots of energy to generate.

    Knowing that, why are the majority of bodybuilders in such a hurry to create the ultimate physique? The old adage "haste makes waste" definitely applies here.

    I want to work on my lower lats to make it balance out with the rest of my physique. Everything else is symmetrically proportional so I don't want to alter the way I train those areas.

    I will be around 186-191 for my pro debut in February. For all of my critics, 186-191 pounds may not sound like a whole lot, but just remember that I was only 173 for the Nationals. Balance will always be the key for me so don't expect me to sacrifice clean lines for bulky size.

[ Q ] Provide some background on yourself Eryk. What is your age, height, current weight, and occupation.

    A: My name is Eryk Bui. I am 34 years young, 5'5", 215 pounds @ 9% bodyfat. I run my own personal training business in Orange County, CA out of a health club at overlooks all of Southern California.

    Click To Enlarge.

    If you are in the area for business or pleasure and need an interim personal trainer, shoot me an email and leave a contact number. I would love to work with you.

[ Q ] What do you feel is the most important aspect of your personal training job, in terms of giving your client the best possible service?

    A: The most important aspect of personal training in terms of giving my clients the best possible service is to make sure that our personalities match up.

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    I am very adamant about choosing only clients that will work as hard as I expect them to. I am NOT, and I repeat, I am NOT a glorified adult-sitter. I don't mind hearing your problems or concerns, but you had better work!

    I have been highly successful in bodybuilding because of my strong dedication and determination. It has been a working formula in all aspects of my life so I always expect my clients to have the same kind of will.

[ Q ] What are the attributes a good personal trainer needs, in your opinion?

A: The attributes that constitute a good personal trainer are:

  • A representative physique - you cannot expect people to achieve great things when the first thing you show them is your mediocrity.

  • Strong knowledge of mechanics and safety - proper mechanics will not only keep your clients safe and you out of legal trouble, but will also help them achieve their fitness goals more efficiently.

  • Punctuality - always be on time for your sessions; it is already a difficult decision to commit to personal training so you must motivate them with your motivation.

  • Basic knowledge of nutrition - you must at least understand the importance of eating regularly and be able to offer healthy alternatives.

[ Q ] When did you begin bodybuilding, and what motivated you to do so?

    A: I started bodybuilding a year after graduating from the University of Saint Thomas in 1994. Until then, I had no idea what bodybuilding was about and really had no interest in pursuing the sport. I befriended a professional bodybuilder (John "Tank" Sherman) who helped me get started with the fundamentals of the sport.

    The training is entirely different from what I was used to seeing with powerlifting. Bodybuilding movements are specific to each body part versus powerlifting, where the movements collectively incorporate muscle groups.

    The physical and psychological challenges that encompass the sport made a lasting impact on me. It taught me how to take complete control of my life. I would not be the successful business man that I am today if it was not for bodybuilding.

[ Q ] What do you intend to ultimately achieve, as a bodybuilder?

    A: My ultimate goal as a bodybuilder was initially to sign with a supplement company and endorse their products. My goal has since shifted to returning the sport of bodybuilding back to its grass roots of clean lines and symmetrical proportions.

    Do You Believe That The Current Look Of Bodybuilding Is Admired By The Mainstream?
    Yes, But They Won't Admit It.

    I don't like the current look of bodybuilding. I don't believe it sells, and I certainly don't believe mainstream people admire it.

    There was once a time when the general public truly admired the dedication and hard work involved with bodybuilding. I want to help facilitate the necessary changes to make the sport a thriving sport as it once was.

    I am very confident that my physique is viable in the sport and I am hopeful that "my look" will once again be dominant with the new rule changes within the IFBB.

    Be on the lookout for me in 2006 at the Pro Ironman in Pasadena, CA. I will be on stage at around 185-191 pounds... rock hard and peeled.

[ Q ] During you bodybuilding career, what has given you the most satisfaction? Has there been a "defining moment". Any disappointing moments?

    A: The thing that has brought me the most satisfaction as a bodybuilder is the fact that I have done it my way. I don't owe anyone anything.

    It is very important to me that I ultimately control my training and my dieting. Sure I have good friends like John Noonan and Dr. Saman Bakhtiar of Corona, CA to help guide me, but it is still the fruit of my labor.

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    My "defining moment" was winning my first national championship at the 2002 USA's. I was told time and time again that the politics was too thick at the national level to overcome but I did it! That win taught me that there is always a way no matter how unevenly the odds are stacked up against you.

    Every time I lose, it is a disappointment. I am very competitive so I would be lying if I said that I just want to do my best. I know deep down inside that if I "BRING IT", I can't be beat. My critics keep talking and I just keep on doing it, and doing it, and doing it well.

[ Q ] Describe your current diet, and training program. In terms of both training, and diet, what have you found to have worked best for you?

    A: My Current Diet Is As Follows:

      Monday Thru Friday:

        7AM 6-8 egg whites, 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

        10AM Instone IntakePerformance meal replacement shake
        Triple-decker peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich
        and a Instone IntakeLean protein shake (one scoop)

        1PM 8 oz chicken breast, 1 cup white rice

        4PM 8 oz chicken breast, 1 cup white rice

        6PM Instone IntakePerformance meal replacement shake

        9PM 8 egg whites, Garden salad (optional)

      Saturday & Sunday:

        7AM 6-8 egg whites, 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal

        10AM Instone IntakePerformance meal replacement shake
        Triple-decker peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich
        and a Instone IntakeLean protein shake

        1PM 8 oz new york or ribeye steak (medium-rare), fist-size yam or potato

        4PM 8 oz New York or rib eye steak (medium-rare), fist-size yam or potato

        6PM Instone IntakePerformance meal replacement shake mixed with Instone Intensity pre-workout blend.

        9PM 8 oz New York or rib eye steak (medium-rare) garden salad (optional)

    My Current Training Program Is As Follows:

      Alternating Weekly Programs:
      Day Week X Week Y
      Monday Chest & Biceps Off
      Tuesday Shoulders & Triceps Chest & Biceps
      Wednesday Back/Calves Off
      Thursday Quads/Hamstrings Shoulders, Triceps
      Friday Chest & Bicpes Off
      Saturday Shoulders & Triceps Back, Calves
      Sunday Back/Calves Off

[ Q ] How heavily do you rely on supplements, both in the off-season and pre-contest, to develop your physique? Which ones would you recommend?

    A: I rely on supplements equally in the off-season and pre-contest. Bodybuilding is a very demanding sport that requires being sensitive to many factors that are responsible for not only cellular recovery but also muscular growth.

    Prior to winning the 2002 USA National Championship, I relied heavily on my solid meals for my nutritional requirements. Being a college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Biology I should know better than to believe that my nutritional requirements were being met. In fact, I know with utmost certainty that there are amino acids that my body just does not produce on its own and has to rely on an outside source to facilitate.

    Prior to signing any endorsement deals, I had the opportunity to tryout numerous product lines from just about every single supplement company in existence. Two companies come to mind that really impressed me: Sprayflex and Instone Nutrition.

    I was also impressed with the fact that they were so confident in their product line that they allowed me to conduct my own independent studies. I tried out each product for a minimum 8- week period and can say without a doubt that the products are legitimate about their claims.

[ Q ] What do you do to relax? Any hobbies and interests?

    A: I enjoy spending quality time with my family. I also enjoy tranquil walks on the beach to gather my thoughts and sort them out prior to engaging in my hustle-and-bustle work environment.

    I enjoy reading, writing... basically anything that affords me the opportunity to learn something new. My life centers around being just happy. Everything in my life has a place and I try not to disrupt the order. Just like my physique, everything in my life is in perfect balance.

[ Q ] What are your views on the future of bodybuilding? Are we going to see more competitors emphasizing extreme mass, or will the Lee Labrada, balanced, type physique make a comeback?

    A: I recently received a letterhead from the IFBB. It contained the organization's concerns about the growing trend of 'distended abdominals' in the IFBB circuit. Anyone that knows me has heard my personal concerns about the direction that the professional circuit is heading into.

    In fact, my reservations about accepting my pro card are directly linked to the fact that I don't feel that aesthetics are all that important any longer. I am frustrated with the fact that, time and time again, guys with distended guts are being rewarded with higher placing's than guys without them.

    Click To Enlarge.

    The biggest problem is that supplement sales are on a rapid decline. Sure it's the economy, but we still have to eat. There was a time when supplement store owners did very little advertising and still made a "killing" by the end of the workday. I would be surprised if their sales these days even tops a third of what they are used to seeing.

    Until the FDA stops their "witch-hunt" in the midst of the steroid scandals in professional sports, supplement sales will continue to stagnate. Additionally, it will take some time for supplement vendors to win back the trust of consumers. People are simply too afraid to put anything in their bodies right now. The steroid scandals that are being publicized in the media have been blown so out of proportion that people just don't know what is safe and what is not.

    Last but not least, supplement companies need to really step back and re-assess their advertising strategy. Consumers are all driven by instant gratification. However, they are also into reality. Their goals are to become fit not freaky. They want to lift heavier weights, not necessarily cars and trucks.

    It is unfortunate but the message that they are sending with huge ads depicting freaky physiques and distended guts are making people afraid to buy and try products. Let us not all forget that there was a time when the general public admired bodybuilding physiques. How can you possibly be a role model when all you do is make yourself less attainable?

    From a marketing standpoint, I strongly believe that the current freaky, distended gut look actually does more harm than good for nutritional supplement sales. I conducted my own survey not to long ago and asked about 100 people to participate. I had two photos of two different types of physiques (Ronnie Coleman VS David Henry).

    Ronnie Coleman VS David Henry
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    I asked the participants this question: "Which physique would you want to emulate?" Invariably, they all pointed to David Henry's photo. What does this tell me? My survey, even though limited, tells me that the sport is definitely heading in the wrong direction since the guys at the top of the bodybuilding world all share similar attributes... freaky mass and distended guts.

Which Physique Would You Like To Emulate?

Ronnie Coleman.
David Henry.

    I don't see anything wrong with having freaky mass. I believe the problem is that professional bodybuilding males are starting to look pregnant. What is causing this look? I really don't know because I don't have a gut that distends, but it has to stop in order for the sport to thrive.

    There are actually guys with these guts that are convinced that it stems from over-eating. If that were true then I would definitely have a distended gut since I absolutely love to eat. The current look is negative and it sends the wrong message about the sport. Articles are popping up everywhere about how the sport of bodybuilding is dying or near death. The IFBB needed to take this stance to resuscitate and save the sport.

    I am very pleased with the fact that the IFBB is finally taking a stand for the future of the sport. Perhaps in a couple of years the sport will return to normalcy and supplement sales will thrive again as it once did. Nothing is a guarantee. However, at least the IFBB has finally stopped the insanity. The working definition of "insanity" is doing the same exact thing over and over again with hopes of a different outcome.

    It just does not work that way. My dad once told me this, "How can you possibly finish building your house when you keep taking materials from the bottom to build the top with?" The IFBB can learn a valuable lesson from that old saying. Try a different approach and you will achieve a different outcome.

[ Q ] If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring bodybuilder, what would it be?

    A: It's amazing what you can do when you just relax and have some fun. If there is any advice I can give young teens out there about weight lifting, it is this: Wait until you are 16 or until your bones have ossified and stopped growing before engaging in heavy lifting.

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    Learn proper lifting techniques and practice them each and every time. In order to have a shot at lifting the weight, you must be in the best or safest possible position. I call this giving yourself a fighting chance.

    Learn to meditate or see yourself doing the weight. It is not enough to set goals. Actually being able to see yourself successfully lifting the weight is about as good as doing the weight.

    Maintain a good attitude no matter what. Don't be afraid to fail. Every time you fail at something, you are that much closer to accomplishing it. It is really how you choose to look at it. As the old adage goes, your cup is either half full or half empty. Mine is always half full.

    My keys to success in bodybuilding are as follows:

    1. Always believe in yourself and never give up.

    2. Train heavy but train smart... always utilize proper technique.

    3. Formulate a game plan and stick to it... never second guess yourself or your abilities.

    4. Keep bodybuilding a sport... don't rely on it for your living.

    Of all the keys to success that I just mentioned above, 4 is the most important. It is tough enough to be on a strict diet and train hard to prepare for a contest. The added pressure of having to win for a paycheck or sponsorship takes all the fun out of competing. I have been successful because I simply have a life outside of the sport.

[ Q ] Where do you see yourself in 10 years Eryk?

    A: In 10 years I will still be active in the sport of bodybuilding but probably as a consultant or company head. The sport of bodybuilding will once again thrive and people will once again look up to bodybuilders as true fitness professionals. On a competitive level I plan on winning at least five professional shows and become the first Asian Mr. Olympia.

    I am sure my critics will think that winning the Mr. Olympia at 5'5" is a tall order but so was winning two national championships in two years. On a personal level I will be married and have two more children; preferably a boy and a girl.

[ Q ] Thanks you for your time. Is there anything you would like to add Eryk?

    A: I want everyone to know that I am first and foremost a devoted family man. Anyone that knows me on personal or professional knows that I am actively involved in my son's life. I take him everywhere I go whether it is for a guest appearance or just a leisurely walk in the park. I am highly approachable so please stop by to say hello the next time you see me out and about. If I am at the gym, please wait until I am done before you ask me any questions about lifting or nutrition. I am a very intense lifter so tuning out any distractions is a must. I am a bodybuilder, but bodybuilding is not my life!

    I will be shooting and producing my second workout DVD this summer so look for it in the fall. On it you will find tips on posing not just on the competitive stage but also for fit modeling. I will also include a section on how to prepare healthy meals... the Eryk Bui way. The main draw on the DVD will be me pounding heavy weights for reps. I am a "no frills, no bullshit" type of bodybuilder so let me show you how I pack on the size and shape my body the old-fashioned way.

    "No Frills, No Bullshit"
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    Expect to see my custom designed shirts for sale in the next few weeks. They are made for casual wear but you can definitely wear them to the gym to soak up some serious sweat. My line is called "PROBUI" so look for it initially on my website.

    Please visit my website at for more extensive information about me. I write all of my articles and do my absolute best to keep it updated with new pertinent information.

    E-mail Eryk at: