In this new series I will be detailing the training of a promising athlete, as I guide him to getting his pro card. It's a daring experience, because it's not about getting a fat guy in shape, or making a skinny kid muscular, but about bringing a successful bodybuilder and current European champion from his best shape ever, to an even better shape, but 25-40 lbs heavier in 14 months in preparation for the 2 IFBB Grand Prixs that will allow him to earn his pro card. This is not a supplement ad, This is not about something we are selling with doctored pictures. You will watch a man who was in the best shape of his life, get fat and huge and come into an even better shape with serious poundage added to his frame and, barring illness, become one of the next batch of IFBB professionals.
Before I do so, it is imperative that you get to know the incredible individual who will be undertaking this endeavor. My reputation stands, I have no one left to convince of my ability in training and my training knowledge, but that doesn't mean that just anyone can pull this off. It takes a very dedicated and skilled athlete. A hardened competitor. That person is Philiep Van Nuffel. And before I go any further, I want to take this first article and tell you how we met, and who this extraordinary man is.
A Meeting Of Fate
It must have been some 10 months ago now, right after the holidays. It's no odd thing to find me in front of a computer. I moderate the message boards, write articles and answer 50 to 100 emails every single day. Why? Well I've asked myself that question a lot as well and haven't figured it out. Partially because I love to help people, partially because it's a waste to have this gift and not to use it and partially because I can't help myself so I help others. I'd love to say it was altruistic, but I'm not an altruistic person. Truth is I don't know.
So as I'm answering my mails, there is one from a man typing very poor English asking me for some advice. Said he found the Bodybuilding.com website while surfing the web in his spare time and could I help him with a few questions. He was from Belgium. Apparently he was not aware that I was too, so I took the liberty of informing him, in Dutch, which was a big relief for him apparently. As we got to talk I realized he was no ordinary competitor like the type I hear from every day, the dedication in his words was moving, really. Turned out we had a few things in common as well apart from our love of the sport. His girlfriend had left him a while ago, and I was just coming out of a very bad break-up as well, and we have both been plagued by these hurtful situations and sought our refuge in the thing we loved most. It looked like too much of a coincidence. It was fate.
After a few weeks we finally met. He was very willing and eager to drive down from Brussels. Not every person would freely offer to spend time and money to come see someone they had recently met. I was immediately taken by his charm. A short fellow in stature, compared to me, but a physique that protruded any type of clothing (and it was winter then). An amazing presence. He was down to earth and very respectful, despite being almost 10 years my senior. That put me so much at ease that by the time he left, it was like we had been friends since childhood.
Philiep was working towards the European championships that summer and wondered if I could assist him, because he desperately wanted to place top 3. I said I wouldn't do it for less than first place, and instead of being baffled by that comment, that I would demand so much, he agreed like it was the most normal thing of the world for him to up the stakes two notches. That basically sums up the dedication this man has. The result, as many may now know was an overwhelming, large-margin victory at the European Championships, a ton of praise and interest from several other companies and websites, local television interviews and proper credit in the Dutch version of FLEX magazine. What better way to start a partnership I ask you? Over these past months I got to know Philiep very well, and it's about time you met this individual too, so I interviewed him (and attempted to be as literal as I could in the translation) â€¦
Meet The Champion
How tall are you?
169 cm (approx 5'6 and Â½). I personally feel that is a little short for a competitive bodybuilder. The perfect height to do a proportionate physique justice is 175 cm (5'10) in my opinion
How much do you weigh now?
At my last showing at the European Championships I came in at 83.5 kg (185.5 lbs) drier than I had ever been. In the mean while I'm back at my normal off-season weight of 92-93 kg (206.5 lbs). When I did my first competition back in '94 I barely weighed 68 kg (151 lbs) and my off-season weight was 79 kg (175.5 kg).
When did you pick up bodybuilding and how did you start?
I've played sports since I was 8, mostly soccer. When I was 14 I took up karate and about 2 years later I became more and more interested in power training as I watched my father work out at home with homemade weights. So once in a while I'd have a go at it too. Since the age of 12 I had secretly been sipping my dad's shakes as well and checking in the mirror if my muscle mass had increased. My dad knew this and had bragged to his friends " My son will be a bodybuilder some day, I'm sure of it". Though he never pushed me to take it up. I think its genes, just like the talent for drawing my brother inherited, but I did not.
When I was 18 I decided to do a little power training in a power lifting gym in Merchtem, a village close to where I lived at the time, and where a lot of national and international power lifters trained. That's where I learned to squat, dead lift and bench and built myself a program around these core exercises (Note from the author: How many rookies do you know have the common sense to do this?). That is probably also the reason I can really do something with these lifts as well. In the year 1989, when I was 20, my dad took me to a gym in the neighborhood managed by Marc Stroobant, an international bodybuilder who made a name for him in the early 1980's.
Among other things he finished 6th in the heavyweight division at the Universe. During that year Marc taught me the basics of bodybuilding and suggested I should think about entering a competition. When Marc's gym closed in '91 as a result of his divorce, he advised me to go to Jette, where there was a hardcore gym managed by Pierre De Bont who used to train with Pierre Van Der Steen, a close friend of Arnold's. I never met Pierre himself until 1993 because I trained in the afternoon when the gym was under the care of a monitor. Then, due to circumstances I had to start working out at night and Pierre soon saw I had a talent, and proceeded to teach me all about competitive training and dieting. Since that time Pierre has become like a second father to me and I can't think of training anywhere else in the world. I've made most all of my progress there.
When and where were you born?
I was born in Asse, about 9 km (6 miles) outside of Brussels on July 29th of 1969.
Summer of '69? Sounds familiar. What do you personally feel is your best body-part?
Actually I find the term "best body-part" a poor expression. I just consider all my other body-parts less developed. I think that's the perfect thing to base your training around. Always aim to get your other muscles to the level of your "best" muscle. Some seem to think that you need to train a body-part less, but that makes no sense. You should always strive to train your other body-parts harder and more intense so they can attain that level as well. Training a muscle less is not what bodybuilding is about, it's still a sport with the aim of improving musculature, not halting or slowing it down.
What is your favorite exercise?
I don't have one. I like to squat I guess, but I enjoy performing all my exercises for every muscle, no matter how much it hurts. Well, I like most exercises; there are only a few I don't like. The ones I like the least are those that constrict me in my motion or make me go through unnatural motion and hurts my joints, tendons and ligaments. If I have to choose I will say squat, even if it isn't my best exercise.
What is your weakest body-part?
My right shoulder. Even though they are equal in strength, as the result of a muscle-tear, when I train shoulders, the right one always hurts more. As far as development my calves are my weakest part because they attach very high and are very short, I need to work on mass mostly. It's genetic so there is little I can do about it.
What is your least favorite exercise?
The vertical leg press. Because it makes me feel like my head is about to explode because of all the blood that rushes toward it. I stopped doing this exercise because it often gave me headaches afterwards.
What do you like to eat most?
Ice cream, ice cream, ice cream. I was once so addicted to ice cream they had to take me to the hospital because my stomach got irritated from all the cold. I also like horse-steak and red wine. I love a good glass of wine; don't like beer though (Note from the author: this is strange for someone living in a country with 200 varieties of beer and not a single vineyard). And I love the milkshakes at Mickey D's.
What are your current measurements?
My latest measurements, cold, were 46 cm for my arms (18.5 inches), 68 cm (27.2 inches) for legs, waist 78 cm (31.5 inches), my chest measures 123 cm (50 inches) and my calves 42 cm (16.8 inches). Oh, and my forearms are 35.5 cm (14.2 inches).
Who are the bodybuilders you admire most?
First of all - Dorian Yates! Because of his charisma, simplicity and mass. I also like his training philosophies (Note from the author: Nobody is perfect). I've never seen anyone train with such intensity. And I'm not talking about weight either, just sheer intensity. Dorian is my example. No bull about other pro's, that wasn't his game. And that he didn't show any emotion when he won the Olympia? That's simply because he knew he would win it in advance, because he had prepped so well. A few years ago, when I had hit a plateau, I changed my training to match Yates's and I made good improvements. I must have watched his video 100 times.
Frank Zane. Because despite his limitations in mass, he could manipulate his body for a competition and bring it in a way that allowed him to beat heavier opponents with relative ease. I've seen better bodybuilders lose competitions on several occasions because they couldn't bring "it" on stage. Zane was a master at that. His posing as well: I've never witnessed anyone posing with more feeling and mind-muscle awareness than Zane.
Casey Viator and Sergio Oliva. Because they were so far ahead of their time in muscle mass.
Paco Bautista. Phenomenal! When he is dry, he is an animal. Hard and heavy. And his legs, wow. Keep an eye on this boy, he is going to make it.
What advice would you give beginning bodybuilders? (I know, it's a corny question, but the readers seem to like it.)
KIS. Keep it Simple. For years I've tried so many training styles and supplements. From collostrum to inosine. From training twice every day, to training just once a week. From weight gainers, to raw eggs. Some things worked, others didn't. But one thing remained: Stick to the basics! That goes for training, nutrition and supplementation. Use basic movements and build your program up from there. Briefly, but intensely. That's the issue. A good leading line throughout, in my opinion is Peter Van Mol's I.C.E. principles (Note from the author: its nice to be appreciated.). I recommend it for both beginning and advanced bodybuilders. Don't copy others, try to feel what works best for you. Don't mirror yourself to others. I've never wanted to look like anyone else, build your own body and your own personality. With your own traits.
Use the mirror as your guide for building muscle, not the commentaries of others. They will only see your good points (at least those whose advice you'd value). Listen to criticism, it may not always be just, but you can learn from it. I have no use for compliments like "you have great arms", I can't learn from that. It's really nice to get a compliment, but it doesn't help your training.
Warm-ups and stretching are two very important things that are often overlooked. They can avoid a lot of grief with injuries and, so I've noticed, can increase flexibility, mass, separation and hardness. Learn to find your mind-muscle connection. You won't properly build your muscles without it. All too often I see people working out, and they are going through the motions for the sake of the motions. They never make that link. It's hard to learn, and it takes a while. But the more you get the hang of it, the more it pays off.
Observe. Steal with your eyes and ears! For years I analyzed training techniques and diets of others, and I still do. I learn a lot from this (although it takes a critical mind to weed the bull from the good stuff).
Tell us a little bit about your competitive record.
March of '94. My first competition was for the NABBA. I competed in the under 70 kg and I could have won had I been a little dryer. I placed third at a weight of 67.8 kg (150.5 lbs).
October of '96. IFBB finals in the under 75 kg category. I finished 3rd and was very disappointed. I was in my best shape two days out, but the day of the competition I started retaining water for some inexplicable reason. I then also got some comments about not dieting hard enough, which was a heavy blow.
June of '98 I placed first at the WABBA semi-finals and got a selection for the European championships, which I forfeited at the advice of my coach who deemed I didn't weigh enough. I was bone dry. I had taken '97 off to bulk up as well.
November of '98 I did the finals of the WABBA in the small division at a weight of 77 kg (171 lbs). I placed second but should have finished first. A former international decided to do one last show and stole first place, much to the disapproval of the audience.
June of '99 I did the selections for the WABBA European championships in the small division, and 2 weeks after that I did the actual European championships where I finished 10th in a field of 17 competitors. I turned up a little too light for this level of competition.
October of '99. Again the finals of the WABBA in the small division and still weighing 77 kg, but in much better shape. This time I took first and won my first Belgian championship and pocketed a selection for the world championships in Alzey, Germany the next month, where I would finish 12th in a field of 20.
October of 2000 was my third time doing the WABBA finals in the small division. I won again and thus earned my second Belgian championship and also took first in the WABBA open category. Again I was selected for the world championships that would be held in Cuxhaven, Germany. In November of that year I competed in the BPF Olympia Cup prior to the world championships, where I finished first in the under 85 kg category weighing 78 kg (173.5 lbs) and got a first place among the internationals. And then that same month did the world championships in the small division in the WABBA. I jumped six places that year and finished 6th in a field of 18! Going from 12 to 6, if I could improve in a linear phase I should win in 2001!
In October of 2001, because of disputes in the Belgian WABBA, I decided to forego qualifications for the world championships and do two Grand prixs instead. One in Luxemburg and the Jubilee Serge Nubret in Paris, where I placed first and second respectively (but many felt I should have taken first in Paris as well)
The year is 2002 and because of the remaining disputes in the WABBA I decided to switch federations to BPF. For six months, under the guidance of Peter "Big Cat" Van Mol I prepared for the European championships. I passed the qualification with flying colors in the under 85 kg category with a weight of 84 kg, and one week later I became the unanimous European Champion in Napels Italy at a weight of 83 rockhard and razorsharp kilos! THANKS AGAIN PETER! (For more details about these European championships in my words and those of Philiep, be sure to check the second installment of this series).
That concludes my preliminary interview with Philiep Van Nuffel, and I hope it gave you all a chance to get some insight into this very talented individual. I hope you enjoyed this article and the interview and I also hope nothing was lost in the translation (the interview was conducted in Dutch). The next installment will be a detailed description of the European championships and the road that lead to that point in time. Its also the real start of this series, because it shows you how Philiep got into the best shape of his life, a shape you should commit to memory, because in his 14-month transformation it will be the before picture.
Part 2: Our First Endeavour. Go!
Note: This is part 1 of a series, click here for the main page!