An interview with WNBF Pro World Champion Richard Gozdecki
by Jon Harris
Photo by Jordan Chabinsky
Hi Rich, many thanks for taking the time out to do this interview for Natural Muscle. Let's begin if we may with talking about your Big Win last year - the WNBF Pro World Championships in NYC. So, how did it feel to topple the awesome reigning champ Martin Daniels from the USA on a 1-point margin, and capture arguably the biggest and most prestigious title in natural bodybuilding, at your first attempt?
Hi Jon, thanks for the opportunity to take part in the interview.
If Iím honest, it still hasnít really sunk in. Iíve been living on cloud 9 for the past 10 months. Itís a really strange feeling to think that I could have achieved something so huge. It almost doesnít seem real, or feels like I fluked it somehow. I still feel like I have got lots more to improve on and that my physique has nowhere near reached its full potential yet. Nobody expected me to beat Daniels, including myself, so I had already set my sights on top 3. It just goes to show, itís all in the judgeís hands on the day. That being said, it could all change the next time we meet. The response Iíve had from other bodybuilders (especially naturals) since the worlds has probably been the best part of the whole experience. I feel very proud to be a World Champion, to have represented my country and to have been part of a very successful team in 2011 at the INBF/WNBF Worlds.
Did you feel any pressure of expectation to bring the title back home onto British soil, considering it has enjoyed something of a tradition of been held by British bodybuilders in the past, such as Nigel Davis, Rob Hope, myself, Brandon Greenwood, plus of course the magnificent Cheryl Myers in the women's division?
I felt no pressure for winning the title last year at all. It was a big decision whether to take my Pro card or not, so winning the worlds was a bit of a dream! I knew it was possible, but wasnít sure until I had stood next to the other guys on stage. I still look at the names you have mentioned above as some of the best that have ever competed and find it strange to be mentioned alongside them. Iím sure one day Iíll be able to look back and realise what I have achieved, but for now I am still eager to prove myself and hungry for more success.
Ok, let's get a bit of background info for our readers. Where are you from Rich, and what do you do for a living?
Iím from Coventry. Despite what some people may think due to my surname, Iím 100% British Beef. My grandparents were from Poland. They came to the UK after the war, as the gym facilities are better here!
I grew up in the Midlands and went to school in Rugby. I now live with my wife Rebecca just on the outskirts of Coventry. I train out of a few gyms around the Coventry area. Mainly; Future Fitness, the Sports Connexion and the Workout Mill.
I work for Rolls-Rolls, and have worked there since I left school at the age of 16. I served my apprentaship with Rolls and work mainly on the EJ200 (Eurofighter engine) and RTM233 (Apache engine).
Can we have a few stats? How old are you, what's your height, and offseason / contest weight?
I have just turned 30 in August 2012, even though I donít look a day over 24! Iím dead on 6ft tall, but would love to be 6ft, 6Ē. My contest weight had changed every year I have competed. Always in good condition, this was my stage weights:
2008 - 92kg (SLICED)
2009 - 95kg (BLURY)
2010 - 100kg (SHREDDED AND FLAT)
2011 - 103kg (SLICED AND FULL)
2012 - ??? (I hope to be 103kg again but HARDER!)
Off season weight has also varied for me since 2008. I really enjoy my off seasons, as I enjoy my food. Iíve been up to 125kg in the OS before and had great results. It just requires a longer, harder diet to get it all off. This year size is not the aim, I want to be harder, so only went up to 118kg (plus my Mrs said I wasnít allowed to be too fat for our wedding in April).
I'd imagine that to maintain that kind of bodyweight you must plough through a fair bit of food. Can you describe a typical day's eating in the offseason?
06.00 - 200g oats, 10 egg whites, 2 scoops 100% whey
09.00 - 6 whole eggs, 3 slices wholemeal bread
12.00 - 300g chicken, 2 large potatoes, green veg (usually broccoli)
15.00 - 250g minced beef, tomato sauce, 1 potato
17.30 - Turkey, jam and cheese sandwich (on the way home from the gym)
19.00 - Half a roast chicken, rice, mixed veg
21.00 - Peanut butter on rice cakes or 300g cottage cheese
If I can fit anything else in I will. I really do put the volume through the roof in the off season. The harder you train, the harder you need to recover. So putting this much food in only reflects how much my body needs to be fed.
I believe you used to be a competitive swimmer before taking up the iron game. Can you tell us a little more about that chapter of your life, and at what point did you decide to switch over to bodybuilding, and why?
I was swimming from the age of 8. By 10 years old I was training 7 days per week in the pool. By 12, I was up to 11 sessions per week in the pool with competitions at the weekends. Iíd also do 3 circuit sessions per week and flexibility too. I loved it. Training was hard and long hours, but I made some really good friends and have some great memories. At age 12 I placed second in the U13ís National final. By the time I was 16 I had won the U18ís British Junior title in the 200m Breaststroke.
Once I started working at Rolls-Royce full time, it became a logistical and financial nightmare. I regrettably quit swimming soon after winning the British title; this is when I discovered the Iron! I basically then spent 3 years hitting the Bench press as much as possible and began to enjoy shifting weights!
What is your contest history to date?
British Junior Champion 200m breaststroke
NPA North West, Novice/Overall winner
NPA British Final, Novice runner up
Raised £600 for diabetes (1 metric tonne leg press in 1 hour)
Raised £750 for Cancer research (strong man event)
NPA Yorkshire Menís HW & Overall Champion (Best Presentation)
NPA British Menís HW & Overall Champion (Best presentation)
UIBBN World/European Runner up
NPA Pro/Am Winner
UKDFBA Menís HW & Overall Champion (Best Presentation), WNBF Pro Card
WNBF Worlds New York (Pro Debut), Menís HW & Overall Pro Champion
2012 Menís Open HW British and European Bronze medallist
Can you tell us about your preferred training style?
Most of my sessions are done and dusted in 90 minutes. I usually hit between 5 and 6 exercises per body part and 4 sets per exercise. My sessions are always fast, hard and intense. I take short rest periods and include many drop sets in the workout. I'm a massive fan of pre exhaust, triple drop sets and high reps, whilst maintaining as heavy a weight as possible. Iíve done a 1000 rep leg session before and a 500 rep back session. Iíve done 140kg x 20 reps for 25 sets before, just for fun (I had the squits for 2 days after that!) Iíll have a go at anything if it sounds hard, or if someone lays down a good challenge!
Have you made any changes to your training this year, or is just a case of more of the same?
I have actually dropped some of the volume out of my leg session. Especially on quads. Even though it pains me to not do drop sets, I have been keeping to heavy, straight sets on quads for the whole of my contest prep. The aim is to recover better from the session and bring a harder look to the stage. I have also started doing full deadlifts in 2012, so Iím hoping my back will look slightly thicker this year too. Who knows? Iím enjoying my training and thatís all that matters!
You've got a very well balanced physique Rich, but are there any areas you're prioritising this year?
I switched my shoulders to Mondayís priority workout this year, as I wanted to bring those out a bit more. Chest is now performed on a Wednesday as that is lower priority. Quads are now hit on a Thursday, so I can rest my upper body to hit arms harder on Friday. Calves still get 2 workouts per week as I love training them and canít break the habit. I still train 6 days per week, with 1 complete day of rest, which looks like this:
Wednesday: Chest and calves
Sunday: Hamstrings and calves
How long do you take to prepare for a competition and what kind of changes do you make to your training and diet to get in shape?
This year I have only done a 14 week diet, which is quite short for me. I have been up to as much as 20 weeks before, but I was clinically obese at the starting point. I try to keep my weights as heavy as possible when entering my contest phase. I rarely lose any strength and I think this is key for giving my body a reason to hang onto the muscle Iíve gained. I introduce cardio from the start of the diet and hope to cut this back leading up to the show, but usually keep it in just to get super conditioned. Nobody likes a fat bum on stage!
Given the impressive size you carry, have you ever been tempted to compete as a natural in the untested federations?
I have competed twice in 2010 in the UKBFF and NABBA. I placed second both times. Both guys who beat me went on to win the British finals in their respective federations. I was pleased with both placings and enjoyed the experience. Iíve got no plans to do it again just yet, but I think more naturals should have a go. Itís great experience and BIG doesnít always win shows, GOOD wins shows, so donít be afraid to test the water! A lot of untested guys are very unbalanced and have a very forced look about their physiques. Nice clean lines, a small waist and shredded detail can be a VERY powerful tool on an untested stage.
In natural bodybuilding it seems the bigger and better you become, the more people will be suspicious of your natural status, irrespective of the drugs tests youíve passed. Have you had to deal with much of this, and what can you say to those detractors?
I guess it probably goes on behind my back, but I generally get the feeling most people know Iím 100% natural. There is always going to be the odd guy walk into the gym, take one look at me and say ďHeís on gear.Ē I can handle that, Iíd probably think the same thing if I walked into a gym, saw a guy benching 4 plates a side, with striated chest and shredded abs!
Those involved in the natural side of the sport that still have their doubts about me, and others, should really think about a change in sports. Their inability to accept what can be achieved naturally only reflects in their own personality and will only hold back their own development to be the best they can be.
THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO NATURAL BODYBUILDING!
Let's move on to the topic of international competition. Some might say natural bodybuilding at this level is getting too fragmented, with too many federations diluting the talent pool of athletes, thereby damaging progression. As a world champion in the sport, what's your take on this Rich? Do you feel the sport would be better off if the feds were make a real effort to unify, or given the clash of personalities and politics at organisational level, is this an unrealistic goal?
I really donít care if Iím completely honest. In an ideal world there would be one Natural World Championships, so whoever is crowned the winner is the very best. I just canít see this happening any time soon. Being a subjective sport, the winner would change from judging panel to judging panel anyway. Not every top athlete would be prepared to travel to certain destinations to compete, and some may not compete every year, so the winner is only a snapshot in time given certain conditions. For these reasons it doesnít really matter where you compete. What matters is that you compete where you feel you are testing yourself the most, in a credible federation and turn up in the nick of your life!
Let's talk about the UKDFBA, the United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association, set up by Lee Kemp in 2011. As the first overall winner and male pro to come out of the federation, what was your experience like competing there?
The UKDFBA is without a doubt the hottest ticket in town. It was a huge success in its first year, which was down to Lee Kemp, due to all of the hard work he puts into the sport. I consider myself very lucky to be the first WNBF Pro crowned from this show. The UKDFBA is only going to get bigger, and that elusive Pro Card will get harder and harder to win. I loved the show last year, bigger crowds and more competitors will see this show go from strength to strength.
What was it like being part of the team that went to New York?
Absolutely amazing. Iíve had some great international experiences in the past few years. Every time Iíve been away Iíve had the time of my life, Iíve been happy with my results and improved my physique. You form special bonds on these trips with the athletes, who earlier in the year were your direct competition. There is a massive amount of respect for one another as you find yourself in amongst your peers.
Bodybuilding is such an individual sport, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. When you travel as a TEAM, Iíve always found that you always do much better and get more out of it if you support each other 100%. All the hard work is done, months of diet are behind you and it feels like youíre all going to cross the finish line together.
New York was the icing on the cake Ė literally! There is no better place to finish a competitive season, which made my first trip to the US even more memorable.
I hear you're competing in the WNBF Europeans this year and also defending your world title for the first time. Obviously these are two shows you'll be focussed on winning. What are your thoughts going into these events and are there any names you're looking out for in particular?
Yes Jon, Iím going to defend my title and have a stab at the Europeans on the way. This was going to be my year out as I have competed 4 years on the bounce now. There was a piece on the WNBF website listing the names of 12 top athletes and previous winners set to compete this year. You have to take your chances when you can and this was an opportunity not to be missed. I would prefer to come 5th in the best line up ever, than win an easy show. Having said that, I think Martin Daniels is still my main competition.
I truly believe in just concentrating on yourself. I canít change what anyone else is doing. I canít make Kurt Weidner less conditioned, or Martins Danielsí leg sweep any less impressive. I just have to be the very best I can be, then win lose or draw Iíll be 100% happy at the end of the day. I FEAR NO MAN!
Now you've won the 'Big One', what are your future goals in the sport and is there anyone else you want to compete against?
Iím just taking it year by year for now and have no definite plans for the future.
I need to pay a visit to a certain French guy at some point (Johnny Yirius). I want to compete in the NABBA Universe as a Natural. I want to compete against my training partner and best mate Max OíConnor. I swear I can beat him. It would be an awesome battle!
Iíd like to win the British indoor rowing championships next year. I placed 3rd this year in the British and European Championships with only 2 months training, which I was very happy with (2000m in 6 minutes 11 seconds, just in case anyone fancied a challenge).
Iíd also like to do a bit of powerlifting, just for a change.
Basically, Iím 30 now and Iím going to have a go at anything I can in the next few years whilst I am fit and able. SEE YOU RIO 2016!
Well, thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions Rich. Best of luck at the Europeans in October in Switzerland, and also with your first defence of the world title. Before we wrap this up is there anyone you'd like to mention or thank?
Iím not going to do my usual thanks here, to my wife, parents and brother. Iím giving this one to the boys! To all my training partners, gym buddies and spotters over the years. To all the lads that have travelled to train with me for a hard session, to see what itís all about, thank you. To Dave Mercer for getting me to the Worlds last year, what a massive journey that was, thank you. All the Emerton boys, Max OíConnor and Vit Bohac, thank you. Steve Howarth, Gavin Gibson and Lewis Rossi for travelling so far to train with me, thank you.
There are loads more people involved in my training, too many to list. Iíd like to thank you all for making training so much fun and helping me get to where I have in the sport. As long as you keep spotting me, Iíll keep shouting at you! THANKS!