FLEX: When did you start weight training?
MIKE ERGAS: I started training when I was in college, at 18 or 19 years old.
How did that lead to bodybuilding?
It actually didnÂt. I was cheerleading at the time and we were required to lift weights. When I started putting on size, and after I moved to Florida, a few friends told me I should do a show. Eventually I built up the courage to do a show, but was scared to death that I would embarrass the s**t out of myself.
What is the difference in weight you now possess from the first time you stood on stage to the last time you competed?
In my first show I competed at 187. In my most recent competition, the 2005 Nationals, I weighed in at 211 pounds, but itÂs a much different condition and package that I display now in comparison to back then.
What are the main exercises that helped you pack on your mass?
ItÂs not that any certain exercises gave me a massive amount of size, I think itÂs just that I have stayed consistent for an extended amount of time. I have always worked out, never taking time off.
Are there any bodybuilders you have tried to emulate in terms of muscle shape, proportions, etc.?
I really looked up to people like Lee Labrada and Lee Priest because I could identify with them and they gave me the inspiration. It proved to me that the shorter guy can do well in bodybuilding. I wouldnÂt say IÂve tried to evaluate any certain person because thereÂs no way that you can turn your muscle shape into the look that another individual possesses.
YouÂre well known for coming into shows shredded. What does your typical contest prep day look like?
I wake up at 5 a.m. and take my dog for a walk. I fix up 4 or 5 meals, take a shower, eat and then start training clients by about 6 or 7 a.m. When I find a period of time in the morning to do cardio, IÂll do my first session, which is usually an hour. Around midday I go home to fix the rest of my meals before going to the gym to work out and do another hour of cardio. I train some more clients before eating my last meal around 11 p.m.
You narrowly missed out on your pro card to Kris Dim in 2002 and have recently come off a very controversial second place to Jonathan Rowe at the 2005 Nationals. Do you feel you had any apparent weaknesses at these two shows that justified your second place relegation?
No. All I can say is that in 2002 I was the best I had ever looked up until that point. As a light-heavyweight thereÂs no way I could have got any bigger in that class, so I decided to jump up to the heavyweights. In 2005 at the Nationals, it was the best I had ever looked, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it at that point because itÂs then out of your hands -- itÂs up to the judges.
Everybody I spoke with who was in attendance was absolutely blown away by your size and conditioning. Was there anything different you did with your diet?
I didnÂt do anything drastic this time round in order to show up in the condition that I did. Every year I make tiny changes depending where IÂm at in the diet because IÂm trying to make improvements whilst keeping the muscle mass, but I have been getting in shape a little earlier each year I compete.
Do you sodium load/deplete and do you carb and water deplete? If so, when?
I donÂt even worry about my sodium. I do carb load. If the show is on the Friday evening I will carb load from the Wednesday onwards, and I drink as much water as I possibly can.
When is your last training day before the show?
What is the biggest mistake you believe bodybuilders make in the last week of preparation before a show?
As much as it is physical to get ready for a show, itÂs just as much mental, which gets the best of some people and causes them to second-guess the way that they look instead of doing what they know is right, resulting in rash decisions. At this time prior to a contest, it can be good to have someone objective that you trust; if not, you have to be objective yourself because you donÂt want to make any big changes at the last second.
How confident were you going into the 2005 Nationals?
As confident as someone could possibly be because it was the best that I had ever looked. I had brought my waist in, my upper body was bigger and my posing was better.
What were your feelings after prejudging?
I was called out first in my class, and from the feedback and attention I received from the journalists and fans there, I felt great. Flexonline even headed their report, ÂMike Ergas and Bill Wilmore Shine In Atlanta,Â so after prejudging I felt great and very confident.
It seemed obvious to all but the judging panel that you had clearly won your class, only to come up short. What are your views?
ItÂs over and done with and whatever happened happened, so all I can do is move forward. Hey, things donÂt always work out.
What is it that attract you to the lifestyle of bodybuilding and competition?
First and foremost, I love training and pushing myself as far as I can go to see what I can get out of myself, because IÂm a very competitive person. The aspect of competing drives me, giving me something to look forward to.
In your opinion, what is it that the majority of society finds hard to grasp and relate with in terms of bodybuilding?
Society finds it hard to grasp because they donÂt live the same lifestyle. The majority of Americans donÂt work out or stick to a healthy diet. If you donÂt have the knowledge on something, you donÂt understand it.
After the 2005 Nationals you were considering retirement; have you reconsidered?
I have to sit down with my friends and family to see whatÂs best for me, but I have gained so much support that itÂs making me reconsider. Jay Cutler called me, which was incredibly nice on his part. He didnÂt have to go out of his way to give words of encouragement to someone he has never spoken to before. Charles Glass has been incredible and told me I have to do the USA. He is a great guy and I canÂt say enough nice words about him as well as Bob Cicherillo and Chris Cook. I donÂt want to name any more names because I donÂt want to leave anyone out.
For more on Mike Ergas, visit www.mikeergas.com