Arnold Classic Competitor Interview: Marcus Haley Looks To Take The Leap

IFBB pro Marcus Haley is done being an also-ran. He’s dialed in his diet and posing and is aiming to join the top tier at this year's Arnold!

If bodybuilding titles were awarded for heart, courage, and persistent effort, Marcus Haley would have won the Arnold and Mr. Olympia titles several times over. Throughout his seven year pro bodybuilding career, "The Comet" has had to push through adversity that would have defeated a lesser man—and this after growing up in a succession of foster homes. He's someone who knows what real strength is, so when he told me he's in the best shape of his life, I didn't take it lightly.

Haley participated in his first Olympia and Arnold Classics in 2007, then found himself on the shelf for all of 2008 after suffering a serious quadriceps tendon injury. Following a promising 2011 season, he found himself torn, on the outside looking in for all of 2012 due to a right biceps tendon tear. The 40-year-old Haley says he is totally healed and ready to arrive from the expanse of outer space to shine on the brightest of stages.

Can Haley's Comet splash down into the fountain of youth and join the IFBB superstars? What a story that would be! This late bloomer says he's finally figured it out and his best years are ahead of him.

After competing at the 2011 Olympia you took 2012 off from bodybuilding competition due to a biceps injury. What were the circumstances surrounding your most recent injury, and how has your body responded?

We were training for [the 2012 IFBB Chicago Pro], and I felt a little twinge, but just ignored it. I didn't think it was a big deal. That night, to get away from training, I went bowling. I went to throw a ball and heard a popping sound. I think the arm wasn't used to having that kind of torque on it, and it was just ready to go.

I avulsed my biceps tendon from the bone. I've been working on getting it to respond again. My last two injuries have been big. I got back into training and my body responded; I got lucky. I recovered in half the [expected] time, just like my quad tendon injury. My arms have always been my strong point, so they came back well. I have mostly been focusing on refining what I have and bringing my back up.

Do you feel this injury will detract from your physique?

No. When the bottom part of the tendon tore, it didn't retract all the way up the arm. I had surgery two days later and was told there was no retraction whatsoever. The biceps is still round and full and more than 20 inches.

I think this is the best I've looked. I've been training with Dennis James, who has done all my prep. I've also been implementing Rage Training, which I put together myself. I can't say too much about it right now; I have a DVD coming out about it after the Arnold.

For more on Marcus's Rage Training system, go here: Rage Training

What can you share about your current style of training?

I was hungry to get back to competing again after a year off and I've been meticulous with my prep—almost OCD. Small components have made a big difference. My Rage Training includes lots of volume and training to failure. This taxes the central nervous system, which forces oxygen and red blood cells into the muscles. My muscles are now a lot rounder and fuller. My back has come up; this has been the biggest improvement.

Dennis is also good at timing meal scheduling and supplementation to ensure body fat is gradually reduced while the muscles stay full. My current nutrition is much different than how it was in the past.

Is the Rage Training system a more intensive style of training than you are used to? If so, how do you schedule recovery time and nutrition?

Yes it is, and my muscles definitely have to recover more from training. I've noticed now that I am older my body requires a lot more rest. Relaxing throughout the day helps.

Also, I'm getting all my meals in on time so I'm not eating at, like, midnight, or 1 a.m. In the past I would get them all in, but often it wasn't as strict as it is now. When I was supposed to eat at 8 p.m., it would end up being 8:30. Now I'm on the dot with it. I've been consistent and simplified my life.

It's been weird. Some athletes are late bloomers and hit their peak at an older age. I feel like now is my time and I'm getting that turn.

You're sponsored by MET-Rx. How have its products factored into your preparation?

I'm using a lot of the new active meal replacements, and these have helped my training a lot. We also have Tribulus Terrestris and HMB, and those work well.

It's just now, late in my competitive career, that I'm learning how to manipulate supplementation in my training regimen to maximize my growth and recovery. I've had intestinal inflammation problems, and proper supplementation and meal timing has helped me to work on this problem from the inside out. Taking Tribulus in the offseason helped me overcome plateaus.

Previously, I didn't know that despite eating all of my whole foods, I still was not getting all the vitamins my body needed. I got some work done and found I was deficient in many areas. Since I've been taking multivitamins I have noticed a major improvement and sense of well-being. I want to look healthy and feel healthy.

Considering you are now 40 years old, do you feel you have more incentive to make the most of the time you have left in pro bodybuilding?

In the past I've entered shows and have never been a factor. They have this unspoken system in the bodybuilding community: first, second, and third-tier bodybuilders. It is tough to hear yourself described as a third-tier bodybuilder. That's been my drive, just hearing those words.

People don't consider me a threat. Mention my name along with the other competitors and just because it is so competitive, and I haven't been placing so well, I'm considered out of the running. I want to climb higher and be a better bodybuilder than I have been. That's all I can do.

Where do you realistically feel you will place in this year's Arnold lineup?

With the lineup the way it is I have a good chance of placing in the top five. I believe that. I don't go into a show just to place; I go in to win. Of course I will be in there with Dexter and those guys, but as an athlete you have to train to win. Everybody's beatable. That's the mindset I need to have.

There is more to me than meets the eye, and I train like that—with a positive chip on my shoulder. It's been a whole year since anybody's seen me, so to be able to deliver something different will be nice. I don't want to be the same Marcus. When I come out onstage I want jaws to drop. I want them saying, "He controlled his abs and his breathing, his posing is polished, and he's in shape."

You mentioned your back and biceps. What other areas will have fans' jaws dropping at the 2013 Arnold Classic?

My legs! They looked strong when I first brought them back after those injuries [in 2008], but it has been an uphill battle trying to get them back. I still trained them hard, but I did so from different angles. I had to go back and re-build a base before fine-tuning it. This time I went old school: deep squats and leg presses. I just went back to basics, and it's been paying off.

I know bodybuilding is about the illusion of having a smaller waist, so I've worked hard on my core, kept my waist tight, my legs squared, and built my shoulders larger. I've also been learning how to pose so as to hide my weaknesses and show my strengths. I've put together a good game-plan. You must have a plan rather than just going out there and outmuscling people.

I'm training to come in big, full and vascular. The Arnold Classic will be a tough show. Right now I'm about 255 pounds, and I'd say I look like I'm about two weeks out, so we are ahead of schedule.

What do you expect to weigh onstage at this year's Arnold?

I couldn't tell you. Dennis doesn't go by weight. We are just trying to get as conditioned as possible.

You have had your share of ups and downs, but you're still improving yourself. To what do you attribute your great persistence and determination?

I've always been a scrapper, and I'm just kind of stubborn. With the kinds of injuries I've had in the past I'm used to obstacles, and I think when my back is against the wall is when I'm most dangerous.

What do you like most about competing?

I like the journey: the diet and the prep. I like the isolation of it all. When you are with the weights you're left there with your thoughts. As an athlete you discover exactly who you are as a person and how much you have in the gas tank. Sometimes you may not like who you are, but with bodybuilding you have the opportunity to change it.

Who would you like to thank for helping you become a pro champ Marcus?

I would like to thank my sponsor MET-Rx for being with me for the past nine years. They have been there for me through these last two injuries, and I couldn't have done it without them. And to all of the fans who have supported me and stood by my side, I will deliver at the Arnold Classic!