Big things are in store for new Weider athlete Zack Khan
By Dave Lee
October 23, 2009
2009 British Championships super-heavyweight and overall champion Zack Khan is the latest edition to the IFBB Pro League. On October 21, Khan signed a contract with Weider Publications, becoming the newest member of the AMI family.
The 29-year old Khan, who started bodybuilding to augment his boxing training at the age of seventeen, made rapid progress to enter national level competition by the time he was twenty-five. His combination of massive size and round, full muscle bellies has gained him a cult following on several bodybuilding online forums. Here in an exclusive interview with flexonline.com, Khan speaks about the prep that put him over the top and earned him entry into the IFBB.
BIRTHPLACE: Kashmir, Pakistan
CURRENT RESIDENCE: Sheffield, United Kingdom
CONTEST WEIGHT: 260 pounds
OFFSEASON WEIGHT: 300 pounds
CONTEST HIGHLIGHTS: 2009 British Nationals, heavyweight and overall winner; 2008 British Nationals, heavyweight, 4th; 2005-07 British Nationals, heavyweight, 2nd
FLEX: You placed runner-up at the British Nationals from 2005-07 when a lot of people thought you were the next big thing. Last year, you dropped to fourth place and people pretty much wrote you off. How did you deal with the disappointment?
KHAN: Now I know what Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone must have felt like. You start thinking to yourself, "What else do I need to do?" But all those times, I knew I wasn't bringing my all-time best. Last year, I came in bigger but I overspilled and ended up looking smooth. Plus, my bodyfat wasn't as low as it should have been. People said I should have gotten second or whatever, but second, third, fourth, it really doesn't matter when you're going for first. I knew I shouldn't have won and that's all that mattered.
FLEX: After four years of gunning for your pro card and coming up empty, what was your initial reaction to moving back two steps instead of forward?
KHAN: Honestly, I lost my heart. My dream of becoming a pro seemed to be getting further and further away. I was beginning to think that maybe it just wasn't in the cards for me to win this show. I was gonna take a year off but then I got a phone call from a friend who told me that Neil Hill, the guy who trains Flex Lewis, wanted to talk to me. So we had a chat and got on pretty well. Right off the bat, he said I should have won this show five years ago.
FLEX: What prompted you to work with Neil? What was different about him?
KHAN: When I went to see him, we had a hardcore leg session at his gym and afterwards, I was totally messed up. He's known for his psychotic workouts and he really hammered me. I thought I trained hard but I was just messing around the gym compared to what this guy was doing. He's a bloody madman. And his diet is different from anything I had ever done. We started dieting in June and until about four weeks out, I didn't even feel like I was dieting because Neil has you eating a wide variety of foods. It's not the same old thing day in and day out. I mean, I was eating bread and fruit, which I never did on a contest diet. And he's much more hands on. He's always evaluating and making sure you're right where you need to be.
FLEX: With Neil in your corner, did that take away some of the pressure and let you focus more on preparing for the show?
KHAN: Pressure is good. It can be a driving force. People started saying that I wouldn't win because I couldn't get in shape and I used that as motivation.
FLEX: What was the main goal for this year's show?
KHAN: Condition. Normally I get up to 315-320 pounds, but I didn't go over 300 pounds this year. On the day of the show, I was 260 pounds and in the shape of my life. I've never been so hard and detailed. After I got my first coat of tan on in the morning, Neil said I was the winner without even seeing anybody else. He told me to be confident and go out onstage and shut everyone up. I learned that you should never doubt yourself because the second you start believing that you can lose, you will. The judges will see it in the way you pose, the way you carry yourself. That was valuable advice.
FLEX: Now that you're a pro, what will be the focus for the coming year?
KHAN: We're gonna stick to the game plan and work on bringing up weak areas, mainly hamstring sweep and thickness through the quads.
FLEX: Some amateurs have a tough time transitioning from the amateur ranks to the pros, while others, like Phil Heath, have enjoyed success right out of the gate. What do you think is the key to starting off on the right foot?
KHAN: At the pro level, it's more about lines and details. Your quads need to be feathered, striations need to pop on your triceps, glutes need to be crisscrossed. You have to look like the most conditioned athlete up there. Look at the Olympia; Jay Cutler and Branch Warren got one and two because they were conditioned. They already had the size so when they brought that type of detail, it gave the illusion of greater size and everything popped more. You need to have that finished look and that's only possible if you're dry and hard.
FLEX: When will we see you on the pro stage?
KHAN: I'm still reeling from getting my pro card and signing a contract with Weider. At the moment, it's one step a time. It will definitely be one of the late qualifiers before the Olympia.
FLEX: So the goal is to stand on the Olympia stage in your rookie year?
KHAN: For sure. I'm not making sacrifices just to enter my first pro show; all the training and dieting is done for a reason. At the same time, I'm realistic. I'll be a rookie at the Olympia and very few rookies get top three, like Haney, Gaspari, Phil [Heath], not to mention runner-up like Dorian, Flex and Levrone. Can you imagine that? Your first year in the pros and you're the second best bodybuilder in the world. I want to do well and whether that means top five or top ten, we'll have to wait and see.
MONDAY: Back and biceps
TUESDAY: Chest and triceps
WEDNESDAY: Hamstrings, calves and abdominals
THURSDAY: Shoulders and traps
I thought I had a pretty good shot at bodybuilding when I first started because when I was 18-years old, my arms measured 18 inches. When I was 19, my arms were 19 inches and it stayed that way until I was 21. The biggest I ever got them was 24 inches - but not when I was 24 years old. That took a little longer.
My favorite bodybuilder. When I saw Pumping Iron, that was it. Everything about the guy drew you in. The whole California lifestyle was cool. When he walked into a room people just gravitated towards him. His presence onstage and off was amazing.
I'd never seen that much muscle on a human being! He was bigger than Arnold. This was a totally different level. I thought to myself, where the hell did this monster come from? Of course, once I found out he was from the UK, it was very inspiring. I never thought I'd be training with the beast himself at Temple Gym. He is one hardcore bloke.
As much as I admired Dorian's physique, I never tried to be like him because how can anybody look at that physique and think they can come close to it? I actually liked the more pleasing builds of Levrone, Flex and Shawn [Ray]. Those were physiques that were attainable.