An interview with UKDFBA bodybuilding champion Damian Lees
Exclusive to Natural Muscle
Interview by Jon Harris, photography by Fivos Averkiou and Jordan Chabinsky

Many congratulations on your UKDFBA British win this year and your recent runner-up spot at the WNBF & INBF worlds. First off, how did it feel to be announced the British lightweight champion?

Many thanks Jon. I set my goals and achieved them, so I'm really happy with my performance this year, especially the standard of physiques displayed at the Worlds. My goal was a top 3 finish so I was very pleased with 2nd.

In regards to the British, I suppose it was sense of relief being honest. As I won the title in 2011 and then took a year off in 2012, in my own mind I knew I had to win the title again to prove to myself that I was good enough and the first time winning the title wasn't a one off or a fluke.

Talk me through your decision to compete this year. Was it something you've been planning for a while?

I have always wanted to compete at the Worlds but in previous years always thought my physique wasn't quite at the standard to be competitive i.e. a top 3 placing. At the beginning of the year I actually didn't intend to compete at all, as I was planning my stag do (getting married this December) in Vegas for around September time, however as it turned out the majority of my friends, including best man didn't have the funds for it, so I thought I might as well compete and have a holiday afterwards instead!

What changes do you think you've made to your physique this year?

Definitely a more thicker-fuller physique all over this time in comparison to 2011, with improvements also in condition, especially in the glutes.

Ok, let's give our readers a bit of background info. How long have you been training Damian, and how old are you know?

I'm 36 now and have been training now for 21 years. Started at the age of 15 after an older friend of mine took me to the gym, and from that moment I was hooked. Decided to compete in a teenage class - the Mr Bury. Couldn't hack the diet and was still having my Mum's Potato Hash for tea! Needless to say I came last, didn't have the muscle or condition but loved every minute of being onstage. I never had the best genetics for the sport at all and continued to train and compete in a few shows i.e. Latham's Gym shows (NABBA), when I met Lee Kemp.

Once I got my diet in check and was consistent day in, day out is when I finally improved a lot quicker, and then at the age of 21 I managed to place second at an EFBB qualifier (now the UKBFF) and then placed 6th at the finals at Wembley.

A year later in 1999, and my last year as a Junior, I competed with the EPF and placed second. A week later I competed at the WPF Mr Wales, won my class and the promoter invited me on the team to compete in Germany at the Worlds. The guys there were monsters as you can imagine. I didn't place, not enough muscle or condition but enjoyed the experience.

After 1999 I lost my passion and drive for bodybuilding completely and endeavoured other sports such as Thai Boxing and football. However in 2007 I went to watch my best mate Chris Bolger compete at a BNBF show and that was it, I was hooked again and made a comeback on stage in 2009, winning the BNBF Northern Qualifier and placing 2nd at the British in the Novice class.

What do you do for a living? Any hobbies or interests outside the sport?

My full-time job is an I.T. Consultant for a well known bank. I also have a Personal Training Business (

Due to working two jobs, I don't have as much free-time as I'd like, but I do enjoy the cinema, movies, eating out and going for walks with my fiancÚ and our dog Mollie. Also I enjoy occasionally playing snooker with my Dad which gives us chance for some quality time together. Family time is really important so I enjoy spending as much time as possible with them when I can.

Let's talk about contest prep. Most readers probably wont be aware that we worked together this year for your assault on the WNBF worlds. It was certainly a pleasure for me to work with such a good bodybuilder as yourself. I know it's been a long road for you, but can you summarise for our readers the key ingredients that worked for you this year in attaining the shredded look you achieved at the worlds?

My prep was very long this time round totalling 26 weeks for the UK show and 32 weeks for the Worlds. Carbs were also higher, and by slowly dropping bodyfat each week this enabled me to hold onto the majority of my strength and also keep the muscles full.

Training also changed. Typically I used to train each muscle every 7 days taking each set to failure, where this time round I used a 3 days on, 1 day off split and repeat that looked something like this - Day 1 - Push, Day 2 - Pull, Day 3 - Legs, Days 4 and 5 - Rest, Day 6 repeat Day 1 and so forth.

Each muscle group was hit twice a week and volume was reduced. At first I was a bit concerned about overtraining, however I really enjoyed this approach and the varied exercises rotated on each workout.

It was a privilege having your help Jon for the last 6 weeks of prep leading up to the Worlds. Having your help and guidance in the final stages of prep raised my game and physique in terms of condition and fullness that enabled me to present my best package to date at the Worlds.

Never would I imagine that for the last 3 weeks I would be doing zero cardio and then eating a little bit more coming into the show! Your simplistic approach obviously worked. No fancy Carb Ups or magic tricks. It was a great feeling to be told that I'm shredded contest ready with 2 weeks to go, so a massive thank you for all your help Jon!

You're welcome Damian, and I was really impressed with the commitment you showed to the plan, the physique you brought to the stage and also delighted with the result you got for your worlds debut! Anyway, what was your experience like at the show? I can imagine it was a fierce battle in your class. How do you feel about the end result?

The excitement started when we (fiancÚ and I) began our flight from Manchester airport and then later met up with Team UK at Heathrow before heading to Boston, USA. It was a proud moment to be given a Team UK hoody and T-shirt that I put on straight away! There was a lot of camaraderie in the team and everyone was supporting each other. We made some new friends and shared some laughs along the way. It was also good to spend some time with some of the team the day after the show too, exploring Boston.

Regarding the show and my class, there were 7 athletes in total from Australia, Switzerland, USA, Canada and of course the UK, so it felt great to be in a truly international line-up so to speak.

My toughest competition was Joel Ramintas from Australia (under the guidance of last year's overall Pro winner Hayzer Cayli) and Patrick Reiser from Switzerland. I saw pictures of Joel on facebook a couple of days prior to the comp and he looked freaky! Having previously won the Amateur Overall at MuscleMania, Mr Australia and Natural Mr Olympia I believe. I thought Joel would have competed as a Pro, having gained his Pro Card, however I think Pro shows are scarce in Australia so it's understandable why he stayed Amateur. Patrick also had size and condition with full muscle bellies and huge arms too, so I knew I had my work cut out.

At the start of pre-judging I was right at the end of the line-up, however when the callouts started I was moved right into the centre and stayed there with more comparisons being made with the others shuffling around me, so obviously my confidence grew and I had a good feeling going into the evening show. As the evening show commenced the judges were only placing the top 5 in each class, so we were told to check the board, and I was pleased to see my name there.

The routines soon followed but were conducted in competitor number order, rather than class order so that threw me out a little bit, and I recall Lee Kemp and Gordy Adam rushing to tan me up! When I returned back from my routine, my 2 pots of Dreamtan had gone missing and we later found them right next to the bag of one of my competitors! I knew they were mine due to the markings. We're not sure whether the tan was stolen or taken 'Pumping Iron' movie style to throw me off, as Lee Kemp also mentioned that the same competitor tried to swipe some tan off my back prior, which I hadn't noticed! Also a day prior my fellow team mates Chris, Gordy and Ennis were in a shopping mall and mentioned that the very same competitor was giving them dirty looks and laughing to his friends and pointing at their Team UK hoodies. Nothing like a bit of drama eh!

Anyway back to the stage and the results from 5th to 1st were quickly announced by the Head Judge. My goal was always top 3, however based on the callouts from Pre-Judging I was really hoping for the win as you can imagine. When my name was announced as second though, I was really pleased and content, especially given the standard of competition.

I later found out that it was a tie-break between Joel and myself, so it's good to know I was very close and pushed him. Joel later went on to win the Overall in the Amateur classes.

Team UK did fantastic. Earning top 3 placings in each class we entered and many trophies. The whole experience was fantastic and it is something I was honoured to be a part of and will never forget.

Are you tempted to come back next year to try and win the class and pro card?

Yes, absolutely! For those who know me well, I did plan on retiring from competition (or at least for a long time). However, coming so close to winning a World Title and a Pro Card I simply can't give up now when I'm so close.

There is a 'but' though, and our priority next year is to start a family. Another top priority is to grow my Personal Training Business, build a PT studio at the side of our house and then hopefully be in a position to reduce my days of work in my current full-time job to focus on the business. So as for competing we'll see but if the circumstances are right then 'yes!' My family have even said they want to join us for a trip to the Worlds whenever that next time is.

Being a Personal Trainer and Natural Bodybuilder is my passion, so if I can follow my dream and do something I love for a living that would be fantastic. Life's too short for regrets and what if's.

What changes shall you be looking to make to your physique between now and then?

Firstly I'm aiming to stay reasonably lean and not going above 84 kgs in the Off Season. If I can stay within 14 pounds of contest condition that would be great and there will be less prep time. In the past I usually go up to 92kgs. I'm not fat at this weight, just very bulky! I'm going to be working on adding more width and flare to my lats, especially in the front double biceps pose. A little bit more on the side delts to improve taper, and also more ab thickness is needed. Other than that, more thickness in the upper body overall would be great.

Anyone you'd like to thank or give a 'Shout Out' to?

Firstly a massive thanks goes to my fiancÚ Nicola. I really couldn't do this without her support. I'm very lucky to have her and can't wait until we're married next month! My family (both my side and Nicola's side) also show me a massive amount of support and are always behind me 100%. Last but not least a big shout out to my best mate Chris. Lee & Amy Kemp. My clients, guys and girls from the gym, Facebook/Natty Muscle Forum friends and Team UK. I'm truly grateful for all your support!