Top-ranked pro competitor Kai Greene stepped onstage at the New York Pro in May with renewed confidence and self-belief. His victory, his gargantuan presence signaled to all his fellow elite bodybuilders that he would be the man to beat at the 2011 Mr. Olympia September 16. Kai is shredded beyond belief, carrying a degree of muscle that would appear excessive and unwieldy on any other man of his height. Winning the 2011 New York Pro proved that Kai is at the top of his game.
Since his breakthrough in 2007, when he dominated the Colorado Pro field to secure his first win, Kai has grown accustomed to competitive success. He placed third in his first Arnold Classic in 2008. He followed this impressive performance with a resounding victory at the New York Pro two months later. The early wins positioned Greene for top honors at the '09 Arnold.
Following the 2009 Arnold Classic win, Kai rolled. He secured another pro victory at the Australian Pro Grand Prix before devoting his total energy to beating the world's best at the 2009 Mr. Olympia. Alas, he did not reign victorious in his first attempt to attain the crown jewel of bodybuilding. He landed in fourth place. Many felt he should have placed as high as second, but a top-six placement in his first Olympia was nevertheless a respectable achievement.
Kai felt humbled by his first taste of Olympian grapes and dejected over the result. Greene (5-8, 256) turned his attention to presenting a career-best physique in 2010, which he duly did. He tallied back-to-back wins at the Arnold Classic and Australian Pro Grand Prix to kick his season off in style. Only one major pro event evades him. He spent the remainder of 2010 preparing for his second Olympia appearance with one goal in mind: to win. He placed seventh; a mis-timed peak sabotaged his case. Greene was far from finished.
Kai is one of few pro bodybuilders, from top to bottom, who does not appear to have any physical flaws. When he nails his form, he is extremely difficult to defeat. Since his first competition as a pro in 2005 (he placed 14th at the New York Pro) Greene has shown spectacular improvements every season. He rose exponentially through the ranks and is considered one of very few men capable of winning the prestigious Mr. Olympia title.
Assess the Kai Greene physique for strengths and weaknesses and one thing becomes blindingly obvious: his proportions, size and overall shape are as perfect as are likely to be found on any pro stage. Other pro competitors, great as they may be, have obvious physical flaws, which are routinely discussed on message boards and in the bodybuilding media. Kai enjoys the kind of development few can fault.
Greene is also an accomplished artist with works featured in exhibitions in and around New York City, his stomping grounds. Kai's artist-eye for detail applies also to the living canvas of his physique. His broad brush strokes with barbells accomplished in his physique a body of work, both monolithic in its sheerness and resonant in the symmetry and beauty it portrays.
In the following interview Kai, who is sponsored by the cutting-edge supplement company MuscleMeds, explains how he developed his greatest masterpiece, and outlines what he has in store for fellow challengers at the 2011 Mr. Olympia.
Q: We are a little more than three weeks out from the Olympia. How are you feeling at this stage?
I'm feeling great.
Q: And your preparation is going well?
Q: In the minds of many, you are the man to beat at this year's Olympia. Do you think you have the tools needed to beat the other top contenders?
Q: What do you think will give you the edge over your nearest competition?
I don't want to look at it as a competition. We are all working very hard; I think everyone who comes in there to compete is coming in with the expectation of showing their best, which is their life's work. I'm very excited to unveil what I have prepared on the day of what others call a competition.
Q: If you do not consider the Mr. Olympia a competition, what then do you consider it to be?
I really just see it as an opportunity to graduate; to grow beyond old ideas. It's a celebration for me of actually getting it right; getting it together. I have been training for more than 20 years now and I have learned a lot of lessons during this time.
This year's Olympia is an opportunity to unveil this body of a lifetime's work and it also gives me an opportunity to move beyond some old thoughts, limitations and doubts from other times of my life.
Q: The goal of winning the Olympia has, in other words, provided you with an opportunity to transcend your current physical state to take your bodybuilding career to another level.
Well said sir.
Q: What changes have you made to the physique you will present onstage at the 2011 Mr. Olympia?
I guess I could lessen the work overall by trying to talk about things other people may think are obvious, looking at the surface. I think the most significant changes I have made this year are the changes in my mindset; really holding myself a lot more accountable; really becoming the success that I dream about.
Q: And this change in mindset has manifested in physical improvements?
Absolutely. The change in mindset has made many other changes occur as a result of my actions, which in turn are reflected in my physique.
Q: Going into this year's Olympia, will you be heavier or lighter than you were when you won the New York Pro earlier in the year?
I don't think the Olympia is just a question of who is the bigger man onstage, as much as it is a quest to find the combination of all of the important facets needed to win at this level: size, shape, muscularity all come into play. This time I have acknowledged that my thoughts have served me in a special way, where I can fully concentrate on all of the right things that will yield a positive impact on the amount of size, conditioning and improvements I will bring to the stage.
Q: You came into the 2010 Olympia off your usually top form and subsequently dropped to seventh place. As a result, do you feel you have experienced more pressure than usual going into this year's event?
I can't say that there has been more pressure. I think with all athletes wanting to be their best on a given day, a certain amount of pressure can come from that. I think in my mind I have tried to turn this pressure into what I feel is an opportunity to show my masterpiece, my body of a lifetime's work. And I'm accepted and judged on the merits of that and as a result of that the rewards will accordingly come.
Q: You are obviously more focused on your capabilities rather than what your competition is doing, therefore lessening the impact any pressure might bring?
Yes, because the reality is that I can't really control anything that is outside of myself. There is no point trying to focus on things that I have no power over; I need to take advantage of and work on the things that I can control.
Q: And of those factors you can control - training and nutrition being the major two - what changes, if any, have you made in preparation for this year's Olympia?
I really think a lot of times you can make things more complicated than they need to be. And, conversely, sometimes you can make things that are complicated a little too simple, so much so that the true weight of what I am doing becomes lost in an effort to try and oversimplify the process.
Basically, what I'm trying to do this year as opposed to other years is keep my mind focused on applying the right mindset. I think that somehow I've been fortunate enough to tap into what I believe is a blueprint for personal success. And I believe that success comes from having the right mindset and applying it when necessary.
Q: How would you describe your mindset at this stage of the game?
My mindset now is about working deliberately, not just for the sake of volume or because I heard that somebody else did something. My mindset now is about being a lot more responsible to myself and accountable for what goes into the planning behind the scenes.
I have been fortunate enough to have great coaching staff working with me now. I have George Farrah who has been of great assistance.
Q: I understand you are also sponsored by the leading-edge supplement company MuscleMeds. Tell me more about your involvement with MuscleMeds.
MuscleMeds has been a very strong sponsor for the past 3-4 years. They helped me in areas where in the past I have failed by including me in their troubleshooting nutritionally behind the scenes. They have been providing me with the new formulations that they have been releasing, including a new amino decanate supplement.
Q: How, further, have MuscleMeds assisted your Olympia preparation?
They have been helping me to properly supplement my nutrition in order to give me an advantage going into this year's Olympia. So as well as having a stronger mindset, this year I have also been able to receive the combined help of my supplement company and coach and this has, I feel, made a great difference.
Q: What additional MuscleMeds supplements are you using?
Well the amino decanate has unique delivery system. The science behind this product is really cool, but I don't have to worry about this so long as the results are coming [laughs]. And of course carnivore is a permanent fixture in my dietary strategy; it keeps me growing both on and off season. I've needed to do a lot of growing over the years in order to experience the success that I have been fortunate enough to know at this stage of the game. And a lot of this has come down to taking products that work.
Q: You are known for your brutal workouts, as documented on your DVD series. Have you adopted a similar style of training to prepare for the 2011 Olympia?
Honestly, if you were to interview most bodybuilders you would find that most have a lot of things in common when it comes to training. You are at this level not going to see a lot of huge variations. Again, for me the difference has been the mindset, and I'm very grateful and fortunate to be graced at this time with a strong mindset and a great support team, which should allow me to do very well.
Q: What motivates you to apply yourself year after year to the task of winning the Olympia?
The thing that motivates me most is that I have identified a specific means to go beyond and the aim to be more, to make the most of myself. I believe that I can do it and it is something that I want to do and because it is a desire of mine. It is almost something that I have to do. What motivates me is becoming the success that I dream of. Success at the Olympia represents the success that I have dreamed of as a result of not being afraid to work hard to manifest that blessing.
Q: You are among the top contenders for this year's Mr. Olympia title. At what point in your bodybuilding career did you feel you had the potential to win the Olympia crown?
I think honestly long before anybody else felt that I could or encouraged me or felt I had the potential. Before potential can be seen, I think there comes the desire of the individual, the spirit that seeks expression through actions. I think if people see the manifestation of that action maybe they will then provide encouragement.
Before I even knew what bodybuilding was, I believed that there were things alive in the expression of my spirit that revealed that there was something that I could excel at, something I could use to express myself. Desire is the expression of potential.
With desire you can learn skills and when you master those skills you can learn to do something well. So I really feel that my spirit was able to take a certain amount of release from this experience that we call bodybuilding. The training and the mental side go together hand in hand, I think to control the expression of what I have been able to do, as my spirit has revealed itself through my actions.
Q: Was there a particular year in which you felt you were worthy of someday winning the Mr. Olympia title?
No, this is long before we got to this place. During my early days that was what the dream was about, what the vision was. There is the initial thought in your mind that compels you to do whatever is necessary and to work hard enough so as to be propelled forward with the belief that your efforts are not in vain.
Q: So as far back as 1990, when you entered your first bodybuilding show, you knew that big things were ahead for you on the basis of your strong sense of self-belief and your vision of how you expected your journey to transpire?
Q: How mentally strong do you have to be to prepare for an event as big as the Olympia?
This is incredibly important. In order for a person to aim for higher achievement they need to be able to recruit the presence and power of the mind to focus their thoughts. So a strong mind in this game is priceless.
Q: Perhaps the most important aspect?
Yes, the most [important aspect].
Q: Looking at your physique, it appears that you have more than enough muscle mass to win the Olympia. What do you think the final decision will come down to this year?
We have all been working for this for a long time. I think it comes down to the ability to work and for that body of work to be recognized. These kinds of decisions [Olympia outcomes] are not determined by what you say with your mouth, but by what you say with your thoughts.
Your thoughts are what govern your actions. Actions are a manifestation of body and the thing that leads this process is the mind. I stopped counting the years I have been training when I reached age 20. Those kinds of things will be counted on the day the competition is held. Your body of work is what speaks for itself, and that's why I'm talking about unveiling this body of work and expressing the end result to be as a product of that work. So, very simply, what it comes down to is being able to produce a body of work that is worthy of the highest honor on that day.
Q: Many people speculate that Phil Heath will win this year's Olympia and you cannot count current champion Jay Cutler out either. To my mind you have the edge over both of these guys. With all three of you competitors at the top of your game, what do you think will give you a definitive edge?
I could turn around and try to point out this or that but the truth is this event will not be won on the smoothness of my tongue or by the swiftness of my ability to give an interview. As I said before, when it comes time to stand and be counted and when my work is assessed for success or failure the only thing that matters is how good I am on the day and how well I have presented my body of work. Every man will say with their mouth what they want to do.
We could even pray, but I believe a prayer is an action. A request is an action. And this action is most efficiently done though work, not words. Even in scripture it says, "Let not the words of my mouth but the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord my redeemer." In truth, it is not what I say with my mouth, but what I say with the product of my heart. Not the heart that beats, but my mind; my thinking center.
The thinking center of a man is what speaks of his actions. When you are working efficiently and dutifully for a certain amount of time, that speaks of your physique. Your physique is the product of these thoughts which govern your actions. On that day, what is being judged is your actions and the impact they have had of your physique.
Q: You are known for your excellent presentation skills. How long do you usually spend preparing your posing routines?
All my life that I have considered myself a bodybuilder. When you are in the gym training you are not just picking weights up and putting them back down. You are gaining control and command over neurological muscle connections; all of which connect your mind to muscles.
When you get onstage it is your job to be able to reveal these muscles, but doing so by moving gracefully. You are working this aspect all of the time, whether or not you recognize it.
Q: Do you also work directly on your posing skills? Dancing classes perhaps?
It is your responsibility to develop your tools, however that's done. Whether it's dance class or practicing movements on your own or from studying hours of videos. However you choose to do it, it's still work that must be done. I have done all of these things.
Q: And we are now seeing the culmination of all of these areas coming together for you.
Q: Will we see a career-best Kai Greene on September 16?
Yes sir. That is the expectation.