We recently had the great opportunity to sit down and chat with 6-time Irish Bodybuilding Champion Brian Bullman, who is making his name on the international bodybuilding scene, judging pro shows, winning world championships in powerlifting, and currently preparing for this years IFBB European Bodybuilding Championships. And all this while getting his BSc. in Sports & Exercise Science, is somewhat of an experience to say the least.
The man seems to have an answer for everything, and his passion for the sport of bodybuilding is almost contagious. Training for a pro qualifier is an achievement in itself, training for one with a broken foot, is sheer determination. Here is what Brian had to say when we caught up with him.
[ BB.com ] Brian, you have become a familiar face on the IFBB scene in recent years, tell us, how did you (being from Ireland) get into the sport to begin with?
[ Brian ] I was lucky enough to be born into the sport so to speak; my dad is the president of the Rep. of Ireland Bodybuilding Federation (RIBBF), my mother (RIP) was a
personal trainer and RIBBF Judge, and my Uncle Sean was a 21-time Irish National Champion and IFBB Pro.
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[ BB.com ] Wow, that's a serious family history in the sport! Is all your family involved in bodybuilding?
[ Brian ] No, I have two brothers and a sister, none of who are into the sport, but have thrown themselves as deeply into their own interests as I have mine. My younger brother owns his own trucking company, my older brother is a world renowned tattoo artist (
www.myspace.com/dannybullman) and my sister is a proud mom of three great kids.
[ BB.com ] Well it sounds like you are all serious about whatever you do. What inspired you to get involved in the sport to the extent that you are?
[ Brian ] Well, I shared a room with my Uncle Sean for many years and grew up watching him get ready for the IFBB Mr. Universe and other major competitions. I think I was 10 months old when I went to my first show in 1978, and after traveling with Sean to the IFBB European Championships back in 1993 I decided this is it, no more reading about bodybuilders in
magazines, it's time to be one and see what all the fuss is about.
[ BB.com ] 10 months old eh, that's crazy. So I take it that your uncle was your inspiration for becoming a competitor, what else inspires you?
[ Brian ] Well I can put my hand on my heart and say if it wasn't for Sean I would not be bodybuilding, he is truly a great inspiration to me. Both my parents were and are a great inspiration to me always in everything I do. They came from a rough neighborhood and raised us in one of the more affluent sides of the city. I pretty much look at what they have done with their lives and try to emulate them by achieving each of my
goals and dreams one step at a time.
[ BB.com ] You seem to have a busy schedule: judging pro shows, writing articles for various publications, and you are getting ready for a show. Where do you get the motivation to keep competing?
[ Brian ] My
motivation stems from within, bodybuilding is not just a sport, it's a way of life, and I love both. I will always be a bodybuilder, and I will compete as long as I keep enjoying it! I love the feeling of stepping on stage and going to battle with the guys. It's the whole experience really, the smell of the
pro tan and deep heat, the oil, the pump-up room, filled with an air of tension, it's awesome. I love it! That's what keeps me going.
[ BB.com ] So what do you prefer to judge or compete?
[ Brian ] I love competing. It's what fuels me as an athlete. It keeps me
motivated in the gym. I also love judging; I've been doing it for a while now and I see it as my way of giving back to the sport.
[ BB.com ] So how long have you been a judge?
[ Brian ] I have been judging contests since I was 17 years old back in Ireland. I finally became an IFBB judge in 2007 - sitting my papers at the
Arnold - which was awesome and officially judging the Colorado Pro. I'm not too sure but I think I'm the youngest judge within the IFBB. Regardless, I still carry my own opinions and I'm a 100% stickler for the IFBB guidelines. I don't care who you are, if you are not ready on game day you will not get my vote.
[ BB.com ] Now that you are an IFBB judge is that the end of your competitive career?
[ Brian ] No, no, no, not at all, quite the opposite in fact. I am currently preparing for the IFBB European Championships in Spain which I'm totally excited about.
[ BB.com ] Awesome, and how has your preparations been going for you?
[ Brian ] You know this is the best I have ever been and it aught to be, it's the biggest contest of my life. I had some setbacks along the way, but I am soldiering on.
[ BB.com ] Setbacks? What kind of setbacks?
[ Brian ] Well about 10 weeks ago I was
leg pressing and hurt my knee, or at least that's what I thought it was, after about a week the knee felt great but my right foot was getting really sore and swollen. So I visited the doc and he informed me that I had 4 fractures in the metatarsal bones, probably due to the stress caused by the leg press.
[ BB.com ] WOW, how much weight did you have on there?
[ Brian ] 1,400 lbs, but that's neither here nor there. Next question!
[ BB.com ] Tell me, how did you manage to train for a contest with a broken foot?
[ Brian ] The doc put an open brace on so I could work around it, I could still do
leg extensions and
leg presses with the left leg and
calf raises with the left leg. I remembered doing some research while in University about proprioceptive response to training; basically, if you
injure one limb train the other and the atrophy will be minimal as well as
recovery time being minimized.
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[ BB.com ] Oh that's right you have a BSc. in exercise science, the pain must have been excruciating. How did you stay motivated enough to compete?
[ Brian ] You know it wasn't easy! I spent many a night sitting awake at the edge of the bed with my face in my hands, in agony, asking myself why I am putting myself through this. You know I had already put myself through a lot to get where I was and I sure as h-ll wasn't about to give up now. I was only 10 weeks out and 8,000 miles from home so I had to finish what I had started.
[ BB.com ] Sounds like you have the blood-and-guts spirit in you. What are your competitive plans after this show?
[ Brian ] Well I have put in the hard work, so hopefully what I bring to the stage in Spain will be enough to impress the judges, after all this is a pro qualifier so the standard of athlete is right up there. Each athlete in each of the classes will be a National Champions, but I'm ready and can't wait to get up there and battle it out. When the show is over, I will have a better idea of my plans, but for now I'm just focusing on this show!
[ BB.com ] So you are gunning for a pro card? Do you think you have got what it takes?
[ Brian ] You know what, I used to dream of being on stage at the
Mr. Olympia when I was a kid, watching guys like
Shawn Ray and
Dorian Yates. This is what fueled my dreams and inspired me to become a bodybuilder, but as I got older the size game was becoming too much and after Shawn retired everyone else was just huge. Too huge for me to able to stand up there.
This year they are introducing the 202 lb class at the NY Pro, which allows guys like me to still have an attainable dream of becoming a pro bodybuilder. That is my long-term plan I guess, but baby steps, let's get this show out of the way first.
[ BB.com ] I have just realized something, if you get your pro card, this will be the second generation of your family to turn pro within the IFBB, which is a first, how does that make you feel?
[ Brian ] I will be ecstatic if I qualify for a pro card this year, or even next year because I will be fulfilling a lifelong dream. I also think having two of us as pros would be a great honor for my family.
However, I was corrected when discussing this with Shawn Ray the other day, the honor of being the first family to have two generations has already been bestowed to the Gaubert family. James Gaubert turned pro by winning the NPC Nationals as a lightweight, and his son Roddy Gaubert won the same class at the same show in 1998, so I'm 10 years too late. Bodybuilding fact confirmed via text message by Bob Chic!
[ BB.com ] Ha-ha, good ole Bob! It would still be an amazing honor to have. Have you been getting advice from anyone while getting ready for this show?
[ Brian ] Yeah. I have had some great help from both Shawn Ray and
Kevin Levrone. It's tough enough being out here in California away from everyone at home, especially when carrying an
injury, but those guys have been great! Shawn is like an adopted uncle at this stage. Since I started coming out here to California (in '04) I have made a lot of good friends, all of whom do their thing to help me out. I am eternally grateful to them.
[ BB.com ] What's your workout schedule like coming into the show?
[ Brian ] Right now I am only a couple of weeks out and I have kept it pretty much the same as I always do. I train everyday and only take a day off if I really need to. I don't believe that you can
overtrain. I think it is more of a case of under
recovering. I hit each muscle group on their own to allow for maximum recovery and I like to stick to heavy sessions at a fast pace.
[ BB.com ] Do you have a training partner?
[ Brian ] No. They can be a detriment; waiting on them and having to put up with their problems when you are trying to get ready for a show can interfere with how I mentally prepare for each workout. I like to start focusing the night before on what I'm going to do. I like to visualize each exercise, focusing on how I want each muscle group to look. And besides, if I need a spot I will just grab someone at the gym.
[ BB.com ] Are you a big believer in supplements?
[ Brian ] H-ll yeah! I've gotta have them! I use a
creatine ethyl ester (CEE), and a
testosterone booster. Whether it is the placebo effect or not, I love using them.
[ BB.com ] Tell me, where do you see yourself in 5 years?
[ Brian ] The same place I always do, in the mirror (laughing). Seriously, I'm not 100% sure, and 5 years is a long time. Whatever I will be doing will involve the sport in some capacity; either as a judge or competitor.
As it stands I am the only Irish IFBB judge and if I get a pro card as an athlete this year I will be only the second Irish guy ever, my Uncle Sean was the first. I would also like to put my degree to more use, either as a writer or creating my own strength and conditioning consulting business.
[ BB.com ] All very achievable and realistic goals. Do you want to thank anyone in particular for your success?
[ Brian ] Yeah. I want to thank my uncle, for getting me involved in the sport in the first place; my father Mike for supporting me so much throughout University and in achieving my bodybuilding
goals; and of course
Kevin, without whom I don't think I would be able to train out here in the States.
[ BB.com ] Any final thoughts?
[ Brian ] Who do you think I am Jerry Springer (laughing)! Ok here goes: take care of yourselves and each other (laughing)!
[ BB.com ] (laughing) Always the smart mouth! Best of luck from all here at Bodybuilding.com for your show.