Many congratulations on winning the UKDFBA British Middleweight title, Ben. A well deserved win and in the shape of your life! How did it feel to lift that trophy?
Thanks Jon, I'd imagined lifting that trophy in my head many times over the years, but to be honest, didn't think I was anywhere near hitting that goal. Top 3 in the UK would have been progression and success this year. It was a great feeling to win the UK title with my family present in my own backyard, a moment I'll always remember and cherish.
Also, congratulations are in order for picking up the WNBF World Amateur title. What were your thoughts going into that show and what was the experience like for you?
Pure excitement is an understatement. Making the UK team, going to LA and competing on the biggest stage in natural bodybuilding is a dream come true. The 5 weeks between the UK win and the worlds was tough. I had 4 days off work in that period and my contest prep stretched from 24 weeks to 29, but the excitement and the fact I may never get the chance again spurred me on. The worlds trip was fantastic, Lee and Amy looked after everyone from the moment we arrived at Heathrow to the moment we left. The show itself was as I imagined, the standard simply doesn't get any higher in natural bodybuilding. Although it was a highlight to watch each member of team UK onstage (or backstage) doing what we do, and what a year we had! Personally for me, competing at the worlds and winning my WNBF pro card is so far the pinnacle of my bodybuilding "career", and everyone in the audience could see how much that meant to me. A goal I set 10 years prior.
Now that you have won a WNBF pro card, what are your future competitive plans?
On the way back from LA I set goals for the future, personal and competitive. My next show will be the 2018 UK pro international and my goal is to make top 3 in that contest, in my pro debut. I expect to make huge progress from now to then, and I'm going to need to!
Can you give our readers a little background on how you got interested in the sport and how long you've been training?
I actually found natural bodybuilding through the Natural Muscle forum. When I was 16 I saw pictures of yourself and as the current WNBF pro world champion was totally inspired, and knew that's what I wanted to achieve one day. I started training at 15 with a pair of dumbbells in my bedroom at home, having no idea what I was doing. That progressed to joining my first gym on my 16th birthday (a gym I currently still work in as a GP referral Specialist). At 18 I joined Richard Gozdecki's gym, the Workout Mill, where I've been training for the last 8 years. I was lucky enough to meet Lee Kemp when I was 17 years old as a spectator at my first bodybuilding contest. From then Lee showed me the ropes, everything from posing at 19 years old before my first contest, to putting my tan on and helping me pump up before winning my pro card 7 years later. Without Lee's help and guidance I doubt I would have had the confidence to step onstage.
Are there any particular areas you're looking to improve?
Overall mass to compete with the big boys! But really bringing my chest, shoulders, arms and calves up more so. I'm also looking to bring world level conditioning to the stage in 2018. I plan on taking my training to the next level over the next 18 months.
Regarding training, can you outline your general workout strategy?
I'm a firm believer in keeping it simple. I work with only a select few exercises like squats, deadlifts, presses and pulls, with a few isolation exercises. I find getting stronger at those basics is all I need to keep making progress each year. I train 3-4 days per week maximum and employ HIIT cardio for health and conditioning. I have used full body workouts, upper, lower and body part splits in the past all with great success. The key is to keep striving for progress on the basics. Outside that just enjoy your training, not much else matters.
What did your diet look like in the run up to competition this year?
Like training, I like to keep my diet simple and stress free. 3 balanced healthy meals per day, i.e. steak, baked potato and vegetables, and 2-3 snacks (typically fruit, protein shakes, nuts, or yoghurt). I enjoy the foods I eat and rarely change things for the sake of variety. My diet began 29 weeks before the worlds at 3000kcals and at the lowest point my calories were around 2000 per day. I typically eat 180-200g protein and 80-90g fat and make up the rest with carbs.
What supplements (if any) do you use and why?
I've used a few staple supplements for nearly a decade now, although I've used different supplements over the years. These ones I find most beneficial:
Protein Powder - I like to supplement with a good quality protein blend post workout and between meals.
Creatine Monohydrate - 5-10g daily. Been doing this for years and does make me slightly stronger.
Multivitamin and Fish Oil - for the obvious health benefits and insurance that the body is getting all it needs.
Omega Oil - a good quality oil blend for EFA's is essential for health, especially when dieting.
I exclusively use BulkPowders supplements, and have done so for years. I believe they are the best quality and value around. The variety of their products is fantastic and they're a good honest company.
What advice would you give to others who want to achieve success in natural bodybuilding?
I would suggest starting with the basics and don't get caught up in fads. Find a good role model and learn all you can from them. There are no secrets. Prepare to put the work in because success in natural bodybuilding takes years if not decades, and of course enjoy the journey!
Finally Ben, is there anyone you want to mention or thank?
I'd like to thank yourself Jon, not only for putting together this interview, but for creating that initial spark for me over a decade ago, showing what can be done naturally with hard work, and total commitment. Also for creating a place where like minded people can share views and ideas to help better one another. I'd like to thank everyone on the Natural Muscle forum, as over the years their input has shaped the way I see natural bodybuilding and my own approach to it, which has led to my success this year. Lee and Amy Kemp who I can happily call close friends. Genuinely the loveliest couple I've ever met, who work relentlessly to make this sport what it is in the UK, and the sport has never been greater! Finally my amazing other half, Becky, who puts up with more than anyone ever should. Hugely supportive and always positive, without her this all means nothing.
You're welcome, Ben. Many thanks for giving up your time for this interview, and may I wish you the best of luck with your competitive plans for the future!