When her heart stopped, the 777 was cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet. Three hours prior, she’d suffered severe abdominal pain. Then, when an announcement asked if there were any emergency personnel on the flight from Rio de Janeiro to Miami, it was Dallas firefighter-paramedic Steve Kuclo who responded to assist the Brazilian woman. She seemingly recovered. But later, her husband noticed she wasn’t breathing. A worried flight attendant retrieved Kuclo again. He carried the woman to the back of the plane. There, for 40 minutes until the jet emergency landed in Costa Rica, he did all he could with the available medical equipment to save her life. She couldn’t be revived. Death is a familiar aspect in one of Kuclo’s jobs. What made this valiant lifesaving attempt unique was its stark proximity to his other, more celebrated job. He was returning from Rio, having won the Arnold Classic Brazil the day before.
Born an only child in suburban Detroit on Aug. 15, 1985, Steve Kuclo grew up playing hockey and football. When the 17-year-old attended the 2003 Arnold Classic, he was awed by the immensity of winner Jay Cutler and third-place finisher Markus Rühl. “I was seeing the guys from the magazines in person, and it made me want to be up there one day,” he remembers. The following year, working with training partner Justin Harris, 212-pound Kuclo entered and won a local teen contest, the Michigan teen title, and the Teen Nationals heavyweight class. (Light-heavy Jason Huh won the overall.) He was thick for an 18-year-old. And after turning 19, he let his weight balloon to what he calls a “puffy” 270—the sort of off-season tally his idols hit.
In 2005, 5'11" Kuclo was the prohibitive favorite for the Teen Nationals overall. It wasn’t to be. He repeated as heavy victor but couldn’t haul home the heaviest hardware. (Cutler did the same thing in 1993, losing the overall to Branch Warren.) “It was frustrating but not discouraging,” he states. “You want to win it all. But winning your class is a big achievement, too.” When asked to describe his training in his late teens and early 20s, Kuclo answers, “It was just real heavy. I did a lot of basic movements. I trained heavier than I do now because I didn’t realize how strong I was then.”
I can attest to his strength then. In July 2007, I was at a FLEX workout photo shoot with 21-year-old Kuclo and Harris in which the former squatted 585 for a deep double and leg-pressed 1,030 (all the plates the machine would hold, plus a 220-pound dumbbell along for the ride) for a deep eight. And that was in pre-contest mode.
He was doing modified Doggcrapp (DC). “I kind of hate to bring that up, because whenever there’s an article with me mentioning DC, I get 20 e-mails from guys asking if I still do DC and what they should do. I’m not the DC guy,” he says with a laugh. “That was a long time ago now, but we did a lot of HIT-style training back then, including DC. Lots of low-volume, rest-pause stuff.”
Click "Next Page" to continue >>