When the youngest active IFBB pro bodybuilder Dan Hill first began weight training at the age of 14 in his native Neustadt Weinstrabe, Germany, his initial goal was to lose a small amount of body fat, a process that was not without its complications.
In fact it could be said that the 23-year-old's early misguided training efforts led him directly to the iron-forged path he has taken for the past nine years of his life: that of eating, sleeping and training with a view to becoming a professional bodybuilder and to make a mark on the bodybuilding industry while forging a career as a top pro athlete.
In line with his early efforts to "lose some body fat" Dan focused on cardio... and proceeded to shed 21 kilograms, much of it valuable muscle, taking his bodyweight from a healthy 74 kilos to a painfully skinny 53 at around 5'11".
Needing to rapidly gain back that which he so quickly lost, Hill began a practice that he was told would add a significant amount quality muscle to his physique: bodybuilding. Since then he has been on a quest to add as much of this 'muscle' to his tall frame as he possibly can, a trial and error process that has culminated in his now 260-pound-physique, complete with a formidable melding of good proportions, ultra-wide dimensions and quality mass.
Two years after he performed his first biceps curl Hill tipped the scales at 120 kilos and had packed on sufficient muscle mass interspersed with a liberal accumulation of fat to consider dieting down. After several months of eating clean - during which he lost 35 kilograms - he had unearthed a most spectacular physique, found his calling and decided to compete.
After yet another off-season - this time his weight soared to an earth shattering 122 kilos - Hill began his first bodybuilding preparation in 2004. Fourteen weeks later he won his first two junior events: the Int. Deutscher Newcomer Pokal Gernsheim and Baden-Württemberg Meisterschaft Schorndorf contests.
Having won a succession of amateur events, including several German national titles all before the age of 20, Hill finally reached the pinnacle of the non-pro game and convincingly made his claim on amateur glory by reigning victorious at the 2007 IFBB Junior World Championships. He turned pro shortly after.
Now, with a further 20 pounds of solid muscle cloaking his symmetrical physique, Hill is ready to show at his pro debut - the Phoenix Pro - what he has worked hard for: respect among his peers as a legitimate pro competitor.
Though lacking experience and a few good years away from reaching his peak - most of his fellow pros have ten to 15 years on him - Hill has the necessary enthusiasm and drive that creates champions. With an intelligent mind and will to win, his future looks very bright indeed.
In the following interview Dan Hill recounts his bodybuilding journey and explains what he has planned for his competition come February 20th.
Dan Hill Interview
[ Q ] How are you looking right now, three weeks out from the Phoenix Pro? How do you expect to look come show time?
I always prefer to be ready for the stage some weeks out so I can work on details in the last weeks only and not need to stress about losing weight. I am traveling to America today (Jan 31) and I have just kept a few extra pounds of water, so the stressful flight and my photo shoots in the next weeks won't cause me to risk flattening out. Everything went just as planned and I am right on track. I am excited about competing at the 2010 Phoenix Pro.
[ Q ] How old are you now? What specific challenges do you face as the youngest IFBB male pro bodybuilder currently competing?
I am just 23 years old right now and it is a great pleasure to have the honor of competing with the best of the best already at such a young age. I am more than 10 years younger than most pros in the Phoenix show so I have nothing to lose and I will be a winner however I place.
The biggest challenge for me right now is rather to earn the respect of cooperation partners in the business of bodybuilding. I sometimes get the feeling I am not taken for real because of my young age, although I am willing to work hard on all of my projects.
[ Q ] How did you get started in bodybuilding and what attracted you to becoming a pro bodybuilder in the first place?
My father once had an injury on his knee and needed to do some rehabilitation training. I used this chance and followed him to the gym. That's how the weights got into my life and became part of every day for me since I age 14.
After winning the IFBB Junior World Championship in 2007 I was invited to the US by former co-owner of Gold's Gym, Ed Connors. He introduced me to the business and recommended I turn pro as soon as possible.
With my being the most successful Junior competitor in Germany ever (as a three-time IFBB National overall winner and reigning IFBB World Champion), Albert Busek supported my plans and sent out my petition to turn pro to Jim Manion. That is how it normally happens in Europe, as we don't have any pro qualifiers there.
[ Q ] The 2010 Phoenix Pro line-up is quite strong. How do you feel you will stack up in this show? Do you have any predictions at this point?
I had always planned to first compete at the Ironman, which would have also beem a very tough contest. I personally prefer a good show with a lot of media-interest instead of competing somewhere at a small show nobody really cares about.
In the event I can place ahead of only one single big name I will have already achieved something special. It's something new for me, but I like the role of being the underdog right now.
[ Q ] What will you weigh onstage at the Phoenix Pro and how tall are you?
I think I will compete at around 245-250lbs and I am 5'11" tall. This means I have gained 25 lbs of muscle in two years and I am excited to see the final result myself.
Click To Enlarge.
I Have Gained 25 lbs Of Muscle In Two Years
And I Am Excited To See The Final Result.
[ Q ] Could you provide an outline of the training program you have used to prepare for the Phoenix Pro?
I train quite similar whether on and off-season. Pretty similar to the Yates workout you see in "Blood and Guts". It's a common way to train in Europe. Americans are more about pumping the muscles and making them blow up through nutrition, while Europeans most often build their muscles with the principle of heavy training: destroying muscle fibers in order to activate their growth.
[ Q ] What changes, if any, have you made to your training program from previous years? Why is this?
Since 2006 I have made no more changes except for placing a bit more focus on my chest and biceps. I started to train my arms twice a week, for example. Once with the European method and once in the American style and the combination worked quite well in the last year, even if my arms are still the weakest part of my body.
Click To Enlarge.
I Have Made No More Changes Except For Placing
A Bit More Focus On My Chest & Biceps.
[ Q ] Could you provide an outline of the nutrition plan you have used for the 2010 Phoenix Pro?
I try to keep my carbohydrates as high as possible and try to speed up my metabolism with the training only. In this way I was able to stay on 800 carbohydrate grams throughout my whole diet. For me, going low carbohydrates is the biggest mistake.
I have to add that I have been dieting already for 26 weeks. To get ripped with that amount of carbohydrates requires such a long time. But the "walk through h#ll" is worth it. 800 grams of carbohydrates sounds great, but having a reigning fire as a metabolism makes every day a starving nightmare. Low carbohydrate dieting is much more comfortable and brings faster results (without losing your fullness).
Click To Enlarge.
I Try To Keep My Carbohydrates As High As Possible
And Try To Speed Up My Metabolism With The Training Only.
[ Q ] How do you ensure you achieve an ultra defined physique the final week before a show?
I don't go for any fancy techniques. I just slowly replace protein with carbohydrates over the final days and stop drinking the day before the show. It's a very safe and healthy way to go and it has also brought me satisfying results so far.
[ Q ] Were you a so-called easy gainer when you began bodybuilding? How did you make your initial bodybuilding progress?
I was always a good eater. Let's put it that way. I started to eat three pounds of rice (uncooked weight) plus as much meat and shakes as I was able to get into myself every day. I became really fat, quite fast. But still it was part of my learning process and it was good to also have such a learning time.
[ Q ] Have you worked with anyone for your Phoenix Pro prep? If so, how have they helped you?
As in 2006 and 2007 I worked again with my trainer and mentor, Francisco Guerrero. We are a great team and over the years he analyzed and learned how my body reacts. But when going to the US permanently in the near future I have to consider changing my trainer.
It is definitely necessary to have a second person watching your progress. As an athlete you lose the view of reality when checking yourself in a mirror in the last weeks of your diet, and you might start to mess things up.
[ Q ] What aspects of you physique will capture the judge's attention and give you an edge come February the 20th?
With my presentation I hope I can bring back the classical look of bodybuilding on the pro stage. Many people still misinterpret the meaning of bodybuilding and rather think it is all about "muscle-mass-building" only. We need more focus again on beautiful lines, a non-extended stomach and criteria that make bodybuilding more presentable again. Getting more sponsors into the sport would also benefit the athletes a great deal.
[ Q ] You touched what has worked for you over recent years but what has your basic training philosophy always been and how has this approach benefited you through the years?
As mentioned above I focus on training as heavy as possible while still using good form. Just as Dorian, I believe in explosive starting movements and full contractions in the end. I believe this will burn the cuts into the muscle and by that time your muscles will look much more mature more early on.
In my past contests I have always been ahead of the other contenders especially in this point and it has made me win all of my contests so far.
[ Q ] What are your immediate bodybuilding goals?
I need to arrive in America first of all. This year I am planning to move to Las Vegas and bringing my face into magazines and getting some exposure with the contests of course. Especially with my business partners, I want to prove my reliability and my German efficiency and show them that I am willing to work hard for all of my goals on and off stage.
[ Q ] What are your long-term bodybuilding goals?
Bodybuilding somehow became the biggest influence in my life as I consider it to be my deepest passion. Life is about reaching self-fulfillment, and in my case I just love the whole lifestyle. Bodybuilding gives me so many possibilities and experiences I would have never been able to see without it, thinking about the traveling, photo shoots, videos or meeting great personalities who enrich my life.
I am enjoying every day right now even if the hunger is a small drawback. Life is good to me right now and I think that's the true meaning of bodybuilding: to improve your life. This, to me, means much more than just winning contests.
[ Q ] Is there anyone - including sponsors - you would like to thank for having helped you to reach this stage in your journey?
Since I turned professional I never really had a supportive sponsorship... so far. Basically I learned over this difficult period to become more independent and I guess it is good in some ways; having a hard time right at the beginning. I am looking for cooperation partners of course.
I have many plans in mind that I would like to promote even better with a company and/or magazine in support. But no matter if someone will believe in me or not, I learned to go my way alone and even being totally on my own, I know I can reach all my dreams.
More likely I would like to thank all the positive people around me. In a world full of negativity and people driven by jealousy and hate, it is hard sometimes to keep yourself in a positive mood. So I want to thank everyone who cares about me and supports me in this way.
Also, my big thanks goes to Ed Connors who showed me the US and taught me how to do well in many things regarding bodybuilding and life. And, of course, my parents who have been there for me when times got hard and it sometimes seemed like I couldn't continue living my dream.
[ Q ] How can people get in touch with you and where will they get more information about you?
I will also have a new video website going online: www.bigdanhill.tv
During the next few weeks I will film some impressions of my every day life, as a professional, and I would like to show people the real world of pro bodybuilding. Many might think it only means training, eating and sleeping and receiving big money from sponsors, but there is so much more behind it.