Kevin English knows that people are obsessed with his weight. Which is pretty funny, considering that he pays so little attention to it. The week before he began dieting for the 2014 Olympia 212 Showdown, he hadn’t weighed himself in months. That’s one of the many changes English has made this year.
So what exactly does he weigh off-season the week before his diet begins? English skirts my question by saying that he used to get up to 260 or 270 pounds, which made for a lot of cardio and a grueling contest diet but didn’t result in big muscle gains. He realized that staying lighter off-season led to better conditioning, so he now controls his calories by simply looking in the mirror. “If I felt like I was too fat I’d cut calories. If I saw I put on quality muscle I’d continue what I’d been doing,” English says.
He’s a huge proponent of ignoring the scale because he thinks too many bodybuilders get caught up in numbers. “Doing it this way depends on your goals and metabolism and how you absorb carbs and fats. You see a lot of nutritionists putting people on a standard contest diet, but everyone reacts differently to foods and the scheduling of those foods,” English says, “so you have to constantly assess your own physique.” His cardinal rule for dieting is eating a meal every 2.5 hours, paying particular attention to the one eaten post-workout, a time when your body is in an anabolic state. Off-season, however, his rules are very fluid. He eats only four meals a day with a couple of not-so-healthy snacks in between. With a laugh, he admits that he sometimes eats half a coffee cake for one snack and saves the other for later.
A NEW TEAM
A team who would be the envy of any bodybuilder surrounds English. The legendary Bev Francis trains him twice a week at her famous Powerhouse Gym, which English manages during the early-morning hours. The other three days he trains alongside IFBB pro bodybuilder Juan “Diesel” Morel and amateur Nic Medici. Oscar Arden offers nutrition advice, motivation, and critique of his physique.
English values the fact that his trainers and workout partners don’t lie to him. “Bev is like my older sister—I listen to everything she says. My training is in her hands. I respect everything she went through as a bodybuilder, so I listen to every word. Oscar Arden is another good set of eyes. He won’t b.s. me. At this level, the last thing I need are a bunch of ‘yes’ men.” Never one to turn down advice, English also relies on his massage therapist, Tim Mangano, to suggest exercises he’s never seen before to target specific areas. He credits the changes to his physique to Mangano’s massages as well as the stretches he’s taught him.
Ultimately, though, English is in charge of his own success. He unabashedly says, “No one knows your body better than you. In the past, I let my nutritionists be in charge. There were things I was told to do, but in the back of my mind I knew it wouldn’t work for me. This time around—off-season as well as contest prep—I’m doing my own thing. If I want to take in an insane amount of carbs or have a cheat day, that’s what I do. I know my body.”
NO TWO WORKOUTS ARE THE SAME
Much as he skirted my question about weight, English can’t give me a formulaic answer when I ask about his sets and reps of each exercise. Every arm workout is different—that’s just how he trains. “I try to vary the angles on the same exercise from week to week. I’ll go light one week but heavy the next. I might do a lot of supersets or dropsets with short rest intervals. I vary the intensity of the workout depending on how I feel that day.” But don’t think that he does his workout on a whim. Since he’s up at 2 a.m. every day and works until noon at Powerhouse Gym, English has plenty of time to visualize the day’s workout. He tells me, “I have the workout planned in my head. It’s set in my mind beforehand. Nick and Juan go along with the day’s plan and motivate me.”
I can’t imagine pushing yourself through a hard workout when you’re in the throes of dieting, but English has years of wrestling experience behind him, which helps. “You have to be mentally focused. I can be tired, but I muster all my energy for the workout. With Nick and Juan beside me, we feed off one another’s energy,” he says.
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