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Amateur Bodybuilder of the Week: Ilya Merlin

Amateur Bodybuilder of the Week: Ilya Merlin! - Pics and info and more!

  • Name: Ilya Merlin
  • E-mail:
  • Age: 21
  • Where: Charleston, SC
  • Height: 5'3"
  • Weight: 154 Lbs Contest 175 Lbs Off
  • Years Bodybuilding :2
  • Favorite Bodypart: Quads
  • Favorite Exercise: Seated Dumbbell Military Press
  • Favorite Supplements: ZMA, Whey, Casein,

How Did You Get Started?

When I was younger, I was a trouble maker. Due to some choices I made, I ended up in a reform school at the age of sixteen weighing about 80lbs. Lifting weights was a way that I found to stay out of trouble and feel good about myself. Since then, I have moved on to college where I am continuing to stay out of trouble by focusing on training and helping my friends and family get in the gym as well. Not to be corny, but in a way, this (beautiful) sport has saved my life and introduced me to some of the best friends I have ever had. The more I get to know elite athletes in both the NPC, IFBB, and other leagues, the more I find out that my story isn't so unique in this sport.

Ilya Merlin.
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Ilya Merlin.

What Workout Plan Worked Best For You?

Both during competition season and the offseason I am big on a five day split. The only difference between offseason and on season is the amount of cardio that gets added into the mix. Off season my training looks like:

Failure - That point in an exercise at which you have so fully fatigued your working muscles that they can no longer complete an additional repetition of a movement with strict biomechanics. You should always take your post-warm-up sets at least to the point of momentary muscular failure, and frequently past that point.
Drop Sets - Also known as strip sets, drop sets involve the immediate reduction of weight between sets with no rest. This will thoroughly burn out a muscle.
Negative Reps - One or two partners help you lift a weight up to 10-50% heavier than you would normally lift to finish point of movement. Then you slowly lower weight on your own.

Day 1: Chest/Abs

Day 2: Rest

Day 3: Back/Calves

Day 4: Legs/Abs

Day 5: Shoulders/Calves

Day 6: Arms/Abs

Day 7: Rest

When I am prepping for a show, the difference is that I will add 4, 45 minute LISS cardio sessions in the AM on every training day except for legs day

Ilya Merlin.
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Ilya Merlin.

What Nutrition Plan Has Worked Best For You?

I have tried typical 6-7 meals a day, 6-8 oz of chicken/fish per meal...blah blah blah diet before, and personally, I respond best to macro-nutrient adjustments and more liberal eating options when dieting.

For example and to clarify what the heck I am talking about, during a contest prep diet I make sure to get in 320g protein, 200g carbs, and 35g fat throughout the day by mostly bodybuilding staple foods. But if I want some snack food I can certainly have it as long as it fits in to the allotted daily macros. A BodySpace member 'Buzzlightyear' and his friend 'Baftub' showed me how to do this and I got leaner than I ever imagined I could for my 2nd show while eating pasta and chex mix every day! I believe in having a reefed day every week while dieting where carb intake is doubled and other macros remain the same. It all boils down to; regardless of someone's genetics or training style, calories in vs. calories out.

Meal 1: 7 AM

Meal 2: 10 AM

Meal 3: 1 PM

Meal 4: Post Workout 4 PM

Meal 5: 6 PM

Meal 6: 8 PM

Meal 7: 10 PM

With snacks like beef jerky, and Chex mix in-between to make up for the macros. But honestly this would change daily as long as I carry around a piece of paper and track my macros. One day it might be rice, the next day potatoes, and on re-feed day, pasta.

Ilya Merlin.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Ilya Merlin.

What Supplements Have Given You The Greatest Gains?

Optimum's Pro-Complex Gainer is awesome and has helped me pack on size in the offseason and as a convenient way to get a meal in, in-between classes. NOW's Testojack100, and their multivitamin ADAM has also been great. I like Optimum's Casein and Scivation's whey (chocolate). And for days that I feel too tired and need a pick-me-up, I am a big fan of USP Labs Jack3d or Muscle Pharm's Assault (best tasting pre-workout drink ever!)

The casein I take at night, the whey I take several times throughout the day, especially after training. The multi I take in the morning and evening, PWO supp I take PWO, the gainer I take mostly in the offseason when it is convenient to do so, and the NOW ZMA I take at night, & NOW Testojack I take in the morning with breakfast.

Why do you love Bodybuilding?

In the words of my fiancé, "Modern bodybuilding is ritual, religion, sport, art, and science, awash in Western chemistry and mathematics. Defying nature, it surpasses it." To me, the process of dieting and getting on stage is that of catharsis, it is a way to see what you are really made of.

In soccer or most other sports you can blame somebody else for messing up a pass, or not blocking well, etc. In bodybuilding it is just you and a posing suit on stage in front of a packed venue. If you aren't lean enough, it's on you. If you're not symmetric enough, it's on you.

I enjoy the challenge of pushing my body to new levels, competing keeps me disciplined, keeps my school grades high (if I'm up at 5am to cook 3lbs of chicken, I might as well be studying!) and keeps me happy with who I am both physically and with my character. In college, most of your peers will be out partying all the time, so if you are a bodybuilder you are staying in to study so that you can go hit cardio the next morning and when summer time rolls around, you won't have a beer-belly on the beach.

What Motivates You To Follow A Healthy Lifestyle?

The discipline involved radically improves my character for every degree of magnitude that I step up my game. It is a process that perpetuates itself; very few other aspects of life are as tangible as your physical appearance and health. What else can you work at for only a few weeks and see life-improving results with? Also I have an area where I keep my trophies, and I will not be satisfied until it is full of first-place and overall winner trophies.

What Made You Want To Achieve Your Goals?

All my local bodybuilding heroes and pros that have inspired me keep my training intense and keep my aspirations high. There is an AWESOME group of people who compete in my home-town, and the atmosphere of the South Carolina NPC is nothing but camaraderie. I started out training to stay out of trouble, and I keep training to improve who I am. Also, setting a goal of even getting on stage and following through with it is one of the best highs one can ever experience. If you get on stage once, you WILL want to get on stage again and continue improving.

Ilya Merlin.
+ Click To Enlarge.
Ilya Merlin.

What Are Your Future Bodybuilding Plans?

I plan on saving up next semester at school to hit a national show in the spring and hopefully win my weight-class at that show. In the meantime I am helping a few friends prep for contests, and enjoying the satisfaction that this sport has brought them. I would like to continue on with this sport and hopefully go pro one day, all the while supporting my local bodybuilding community and encouraging other newcomers to keep the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of iron strong. One day I want to be like one of the home-town heroes of bodybuilding who initially inspired me to get on stage to another aspiring athlete.

What One Tip Would You Give Other Bodybuilders?

Keep competing, keep improving. Don't get caught up in the politics that sometimes occur in bodybuilding communities. Listen to criticism that anyone has to offer, but take it all with a grain of salt. Know the difference between injured and hurt, and respect your body accordingly. Trust the mirror, not the scale, and don't get caught up in the mass game. Remember that it is an individual sport/hobby and that personal improvement is the name of the game, and "if you love something, give it away" (help out whoever you can, and let them also experience the joy that competing has brought you)

Who Are Your Favorite Bodybuilders?

Past: Samir Bannout, Sergio Olivia, Tom Platz, Arnold, Franco, Dorian Yates, Kevin Levrone
Present: Markus Ruhl, Branch Warren, Phil Heath, Lee Priest, Victor Martinez, Roelly Winklarr
Local: My friends Ron, Melissa, Zach, Emily, Erin, Lizz, April, Peewee, Robbie, Bill, the SC NPC representatives and all the other low-country heroes of South Carolina, especially those who were all dieting at the same time as I was for the 2010 season! Actually, if I were to list all of my favorite amateurs it would take several pages.

What Features Do You Use On

I utilize the forums on a daily basis to be aware of current pro politics, supplement reviews, contest results, and of course the Misc section. Also I use the store for all the supplements I've needed for the last 5 years.