For someone Ryan Terry's age, the idea of combining sports and weight training was hardly new. What was new, though, was how quickly he rose once he hit the world stage. In 2010, when Terry was 22, a friend nominated him for the "Mister Great Britain" competition. In short order, he went on to win the title of Mister International, then launch his career as a professional fitness model for magazines and leading brands.
A few years later, Terry decided to step back from modeling and focus on fitness competition. He placed in the top five at the 2015 Olympia, placed second in 2016, and was named the Arnold Classic Men's Physique Champion in 2017.
We caught up with Terry, a USN athlete and IFBB pro, and asked him to tell us how he prepared for the Arnold.
What did you do differently during your prep for the Arnold?
When my coach and I sat down to talk about the Arnold, we agreed that I should try bringing a fuller, bigger package than I had in previous shows, like Olympia 2016. This time my nutrition would be very different, with fattier food sources like steak, salmon, and canned tuna—and lots of calories.
When I prepped for Olympia 2016, I cut out red meat and dropped my calories quite early on. This time we kept the red meat in and the calories high. I increased my carb intake and kept a lot of volume in training, using a lot of heavy weights. I also cut down the amount of cardio I was doing.
What was your biggest physical change?
The biggest difference for me was more mental than physical—more about building my confidence than my musculature. For me, it's a matter of trying to own the stage without seeming arrogant. But based on comments from the judges at last year's Olympia, my coach and I focused on getting me that bigger, fuller look on stage.
What was your peak week strategy?
I don't do anything too drastic during peak week. I've tried all that in previous shows, but I've found that it doesn't work well for me to do anything drastic or introduce things I wasn't doing for the 12 weeks of prep leading up to the show. In the weeks leading up to a show, I feel like I'm in the best shape I can be. So why change my routine?
I do make sure to keep my sodium level in the right place, and increase my carbs so my muscle cells can absorb them all and look a lot bigger on stage. I cut my water too, but not by much. I just make a few little changes to be at my very best when I hit the stage.
What would your advice be to a new competitor?
Figure out which direction you want to go in. Compare your height and physique to what wins in men's league, classic bodybuilding, and open-class bodybuilding. Figure out which competitions would be best for you, then go to the shows.
Put a plan together so that you're prepared to step on stage as a real contender, not just another number. There's no point in stepping on stage just to show up. If you're going to compete, compete to win.
What are your thoughts on working with a coach?
I've worked with a coach ever since I started my pro career. You need someone to rely on when you're putting so much stress on yourself. All the intense dieting and fatigue can really play games with your mind, so you want someone you trust to keep you on the right path. But finding the right coach doesn't always happen overnight. It can take years to find someone whose values match yours and who knows how to help you reach your goals.
If you're not in a position to have a coach, you can still do it on your own. I started out modeling on my own and was able to get in really good shape. But, when I got to the pro level I needed someone who could help me make those little tweaks and changes that can make such a huge difference in your success.
What's your number one diet tip?
Dieting is all about consistency. It's finding that nutrition plan that can sustain you for the long term. Bodybuilding is a lifestyle, not a four-week prep. If you want to compete in the men's physique division, you have to stay lean all year. You have to find a nutrition plan that helps you reach your goals, and that won't make you miserable a few months into it.
Having said that, I think my number one training tip is to listen to your body every time you go to the gym. That doesn't mean if you're not feeling 100 percent you stay home. It just means that if you're nursing an injury or are running low on energy, don't go to the gym intending to hit your personal best or trying to shift mass weight.
When you pay attention to your body, you can create sensible programs that enable you to adjust your workout to how you're feeling each day. If you fail to pay attention, that's when injuries happen and your training goes off the rails.
How important is it to have a support network?
My family and friends have been absolutely amazing. I've got a brother, a sister, and my mum and dad. They're very close to me and have supported me from the very start. I have had to miss way too many family events because of all my travel to competitions, and my family understands.
There's usually at least a five-hour time difference between my home in the UK and my competitions in the U.S. But, every time I compete, my family and friends have these big events where they stay up all night just to support me.
What's next for you?
Over the next eight months, my coach and I are going back to the drawing board, looking at the pictures from the Arnold Classic to see how I can continue to improve my physique. I still feel like I have lots of room for growth. I already know that I'm going to be working hard to build up my arms.
My other big news is that my girlfriend and I moved to the U.S. just before I started my 2017 Olympia prep. The move made me nervous, because my girlfriend and I are so far away from our families and friends, but in terms of my career and new opportunities, I have to be in the U.S. right now. The window to really excel at this sport is very narrow, and I want to make the very best of it while I can!