Austin Phillips- National Champion and Successful Bodybuilder – University of Illinois Athletics – Fighting Illini

Former Fighting Illini gymnast Austin Phillips has used his success at the University of Illinois to become a successful professional bodybuilder. A member of the 2012 NCAA National championship team and a 2012 High Bar All-American, Phillips began his journey into bodybuilding thanks to a man suggesting the sport in the gym. Using the 2012 team’s mantra of “Pay the Price for Victory (PTPFV)”, Phillips has gone on to win multiple bodybuilding competitions. Read below for more on his story!      

How did you get into bodybuilding, and what made you want to compete in the sport professionally? 

“I honestly just wanted to stay in shape after training every day at Kenney Gym upon graduating and capping off my gymnastics career. I knew absolutely nothing about lifting weights, but when Justin Spring began to incorporate strength training my senior year, I fell in love with it. Fast forward a year and I began to really dive deep into the anatomy of muscular development and different exercises that would help me enhance my overall physique. One day, an older gentleman in the gym asked me if I ever competed in bodybuilding because of my natural physique. I was always genetically a more muscular person as gymnastics laid the foundation for my muscular development. After a few chats he told me to really think about it and gave me information about a competition that was coming up and to just check it out. I laughed it off thinking to myself ‘I just finished wearing spandex and flipping and flexing for people, I’m for sure not going to do it again…with less spandex on.’ I decided to check out the competition anyway out of curiosity and about an hour in, the natural competitor in me knew I could do this and be a professional one day. I read old school books on training from the Golden Era of bodybuilding to the reign of Ronnie Coleman. And the principles of bodybuilding were the exact same as gymnastics. Dedication, Determination, and Consistency.”

How did your time with Illinois men’s gymnastics help prepare you for a career in professional bodybuilding? 

“Confidence for sure! Being a part of Illinois Men’s Gymnastics brought out the confidence in me that I needed not just to become a bodybuilder but to prepare me for the real world. Sure, you fall at times, but you come back to the next event and next day and hold your head up and salute with a smile. Confidence in bodybuilding is so crucial; How you carry yourself separates you from everyone else. You may have flaws in your physique, but with how you pose and present yourself can sway the judges in your favor. Bodybuilding and Gymnastics at the end of the day are so similar. From doing rounds of routines followed by a brutal strength circuit to being on a week of zero carbs while still deadlifting 500lbs until my nose bled, both sports are for a rare breed of individuals. You viciously train in the dark sweating, bleeding every day to present your artwork to someone who actually has no clue what you have been doing but decides the fate of your placing. It’s wild to think about but it’s the honest truth. You get feedback from your coach, judges and other competitors, take it home and work to perfect your craft for the next battle. Only a few will remember but to this day I have the acronym our team came up with on my phone to remind me that I was built for this. PTPFV.. PAY THE PRICE FOR VICTORY!”

What are the accolades you have garnered during your professional career?

I compete as a natural athlete in both a Natural Organization as well as a non-tested organization. Its unique and not many would do it, but I’ve been blessed to be able to compete and defeat competitors who may have an edge on me. My goal was to hold a professional spot in both organizations, as that’s a tough feat for many. The IFBB organization is the NFL of bodybuilding. There are only 5 competitions a year that provide competitors the opportunity to get their pro card. You have to win your entire weight class in order to secure that IFBB pro status.” 

Austin Phillips Career Highlights

2017- OCB Natural Fredericksburg Championships Bodybuilding -1st Place Lightweight (Won my OCB Pro Card) 

2017- NPC Jr Nationals Championships- Bantamweight 1st Place 

2019- NPC Southern California Championships – Lightweight 1st Place 

2021- NPC California Championships Classic Physique Class A/Lightweight BB – 1st Place 2021- NPC USA Championships – Bantamweight – 1st Place (Won my IFBB pro card winning my class) 

Could you explain what you do in terms of preparation and competition in your career?

“Every preparation is mentally and physically different. What you do to your body isn’t all that normal so it does take time for it to adapt to the changes. The most important thing during preparation is time. It’s something that can make or break you when you train in this sport. I personally feel the more time you give yourself the better you have in making the necessary adjustments and have an overall healthier lifestyle. The thing with bodybuilding is it’s so calculated. You have one goal. Lose as much fat as you can while keeping every ounce of muscle and more. My diets are usually 5-6 months long. Starting from an “off season” peak high weight/body fat composition gradually tapering down to -6% body fat levels. The reason I give myself this much time is to train like this is due to the intense weight lifting I do. I challenge myself in the gym during my preparation to not only keep my strength but to exceed it as I drop calories. If I’m squatting 500lbs at the beginning of my training, my goal is to squat that and or even more at the end of the preparation. The muscle memory and strength have not faded but the body fat has been stripped. It’s like the saying ‘slow and steady wins the race.'” 

My goal is to help people in their fitness journey whether they want to just lose weight to getting ready for a wedding or even training for competitions. My goal for 2022 is to engage with more individuals in the journey and use what I have learned to help people who have goals and are needing assistance in achieving them. Please follow me on Instagram @ausphili_ifbbpro!

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