Luis Santa’s Passion for Bodybuilding and Service Burns as Bright as Ever – Muscle & Fitness

The NPC Armed Forces Nationals is a contest that recognizes and supports members of the United States military and their families. Many of the athletes that compete on that stage every year are simply looking to improve themselves and perhaps explore a new athletic endeavor. They also want to feel like they belong in a community. That’s why they train and diet so hard to face the judges on that stage.

One of those judges is Luis Santa, a man who is familiar with both commitments the athletes make – as competitors and servicemembers. That’s because Santa is not only a retired IFBB Pro League competitor, he’s also an active member of the United States Air Force. Santa works in the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. His job is to analyze data and artificial intelligence.

“In a sense, I’m your bodybuilding nerd,” Santa joked. Both his passion for service and bodybuilding originated in Puerto Rico, where Santa spent part of his childhood as well as the early years of his adult life. After working at a fast-food restaurant and being robbed at gunpoint, Santa felt he needed to be a part of the solution. So, he joined the local police force.

“By joining the police department, I went into a tactical unit. Almost every single cop in that unit was a member of the Army National Guard,” said Santa. “When we were being trained with new weapons, these guys knew how to use them already, and I had never seen any of these weapons.”

Luis Santa as a puerto rican police officer
Courtesy of Luis Santa

After finding out that his fellow officers were also in the military, and because at the time he was working multiple job to make ends’ meet, Santa decided that he had to join as well. After going to a recruiter’s office with his team members, he decided to join the United States Air Force. After taking the ASVAB test, the recruiter told him that he could qualify for any job he wanted.

“I told him that I was a car mechanic, and I could work on motorcycles as well. I think it’s pretty interesting to work on aircrafts. He said ‘oh, man, I have a guaranteed job. You will go to basic training, and you’ll go straight to tech school for that job, which is tactical aircraft mechanic.’”

Luis Santa in his army gear
Courtesy of Luis Santa

On December 6, 2001, Santa accepted the opportunity, and that decision started a career that he is still involved with over two decades later. After initially wanting to serve as a way to improve his career as a cop, Santa would transition to working in the military full-time. That career would include three deployments. One of those was to serve during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and he considered that the most significant moment of his military career thus far.

“It was a pretty shocking thing that I felt I was going to do, and I also felt like my call for duty was in full effect.”

Another call that he was pursuing at the time was bodybuilding. That side of Santa’s life can be traced back to his childhood as well. His father made sure he played as many sports as possible to stay active. Sports were a part of his childhood through his time in Puerto Rico as well as New York and Connecticutt. Once he grew up, he kept up a regimen of doing pushups and situps every day, which helped him maintain a good physique. His shape caught the eye of a local bodybuilder, who convinced young Luis to compete in a show. His first show was in 1997, and he recalled the experience as if he just walked offstage.

“The good news was that I finished second in my show. The bad news was there were only two guys in my show.”

Nonetheless, Santa was bit by the bodybuilding bug, and he decided to compete again. He would win the welterweight novice class of the Mr. Puerto Rico in 1998, which featured 24 competitors. Fast forward over a decade later, and Santa had earned his IFBB Pro League card by winning the 2011 NPC USA’s Middleweight title. He had actually won his class in years’ past, but due to the few pro cards that were issued at the time, he didn’t get to move up. Once he did attain pro status, he made up for lost time by competing in a show right before a deployment.

“I was already 37 years old, so I needed to get on a pro stage asap. So, I jumped right into the New York Pro. One reason I did that was because I had to go back to the Middle East, and I wanted to make sure I had a show in because I didn’t know if I was coming back.”

Fortunately, Santa did come back and competed several more times. He would eventually win a show, the 2017 Baltimore Classic Masters Pro. He also placed seventh at the Tampa Pro 212 that year. Derek Lunsford would win that contest. Santa called that his most successful season as a pro, but he was actually prouder of his showing in Tampa, even though he won in Maryland.

“I was very happy with what we managed to do with my physique,” he stated. The “we” referred to himself as well as his coach at the time, A.J. Sims, who worked with Santa for the rest of his career. What makes Santa most proud of his career is that like fellow pros Charjo Grant and Olympia 202 champion David Henry, he successfully prepped for contests while maintaining his commitments to his country.

“To prepare while doing shifts in the military and have a family, it’s tough to get it done. I always felt the most rewarded on the day of the show that I made it to the show.”

Santa’s career onstage would conclude in the 2021 Toronto Pro, where he placed sixth in the 212 division. Even though he doesn’t compete anymore, he still trains hard and is still connected to the sport, both as a judge and promoter. In his eyes, it’s a way to give back to the community and sport that has been a strong part of his life.

Luis Santa in military dress

“I am passionate about the sport just like I’m passionate for my (military) career.”

Besides serving his country in the Pentagon, Master Sergeant (E7) Santa still sees himself as an advocate for both fitness and service. He re-upped this year to add three more years of service, and he’s open about encouraging young people to consider a future in the United States Armed Forces because it would mean something far greater than a paycheck alone.

“It’s a different feeling. I really can’t explain the feeling of the love for some people to serve. It’s a very special feeling of accomplishment and gratification. I feel that on the inside. It’s a very strong feeling of satisfaction to be able to serve.”

Follow Luis on Instagram @luissanta1.

RHR: Functional Bodybuilding, with Marcus Filly – Chris Kresser

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Solving health problems through fitness and nutrition
  • Approaches to resistance training that build muscle mass and bone density without contributing to injury
  • How busy people can get great resistance training in a short amount of time
  • The sweet spot between pushing too hard in the gym and not working hard enough
  • What to do in the 23 hours outside the gym to make the most of your health and fitness journey

Show notes:

Hey, everybody, Chris Kresser here. Welcome to another episode of Revolution Health Radio. Over the last few months, I’ve received a lot of requests for more fitness and performance-oriented podcasts, so I’m really excited to welcome Marcus Filly as my guest.

You may have heard of him if you’re in the functional movement space. He’s the creator of Functional Bodybuilding and a former six-time CrossFit Games athlete with decades of experience coaching and designing both individual and group training programs. Marcus was very active in the CrossFit community, but after suffering from burnout and injury, he developed a new type of training that blends bodybuilding with functional movement. I’m really excited to talk to Marcus about this. We’re going to dive into approaches to resistance training that build muscle mass and bone density without contributing to injury, how busy people can [fit] great resistance training workouts in a very short amount of time, the sweet spot between pushing too hard in the gym, which can lead to injury and burnout, and not working hard enough, and what to do in the 23 hours outside of the gym to make the most of your health and fitness journey. I really enjoyed this conversation. I think you will, as well. Let’s dive in.

Chris Kresser:  Marcus, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you.

Marcus Filly:  Thank you very much for having me. I wanted to say that, first and foremost, I’ve been following you for a long time. So to have the opportunity to come and speak to you and share something that I do with your audience, it’s a true pleasure. I really appreciate it.

Chris Kresser:  You’re very welcome. I’m really looking forward to talking to you about this because I’ve never been in CrossFit myself, but I have [had] a lot of patients over the years who’ve been pretty active in CrossFit. I know it can be a powerful and positive experience for so many people, and I also know that there can be a dark side, or things can go wrong, let’s say. I’ve had a number of patients over the years who got into CrossFit for all the right reasons. They wanted to get more exercise and be fit, they love the community aspect of it, and [they love] the challenge. I think CrossFit is so good at that—people pushing each other to their limits and really supporting one another. But they were wrecked. They had severe [hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal] axis dysregulation, [their] cortisol and [dehydroepiandrosterone] (DHEA) were in the tank, [and] they were experiencing a lot of symptoms of overtraining. I know you have your own personal history here. You’re a very accomplished CrossFit athlete. You reached a very high level in that world, and then something happened. Walk us through that, just a little bit about your background and your relationship with CrossFit and that [type] of physical activity.

Marcus Filly:  [I’m] happy to share a little bit about my story. [I’ll] start by saying that I was a CrossFit coach and CrossFit affiliate owner for about eight years, starting in 2009 [or] 2010. That’s what I devoted a lot of my life to. Principally, I was a coach and trying to build a fitness coaching business [and] a career helping people get better. At the same time, I also started to compete in the sport of CrossFit. I think [that in] those early years of coaching and competing, one of the biggest challenges that faced the community was that the two were getting closely linked together—coaching [the] general population and competing in a sport, trying to win points. The intention behind both should be different; however, they were getting overlapped and the lines were very unclear. It was very blurry. If you want to play [recreational] sports, you don’t train like you’re in the NFL, right? And vice versa. You’ve got to have a clear understanding of what physical activity [is], what’s here to get somebody healthy and strong, and then what is here to push the limits of human performance.

I didn’t really know any of that until much later on, [after] having seen examples of myself and clients pushing too far. My career in the sport of CrossFit was on an upward trajectory for seven years until 2016, when I finished 12th in the worldwide CrossFit Games. [I] had my best season and performance of my life and had reached what I thought was the peak and the pinnacle of my CrossFit career. And I could see going forward that I didn’t have room to keep pushing the limits of this. Because, and many people [who] were in the CrossFit community [can attest to this], a 2016 CrossFit Games athlete [who’s] close to the top 10 in the world is [maybe] going to earn $15,000 total on the year from earnings. You’re not a professional athlete. You’re a recreational athlete [who’s] pushing your body like a professional athlete.

So I had to do all the other things outside of my sport to stay growing as a person [and] in my career. I’m getting married, [I] want to have a family, [and] we want to have kids. I needed to build something else. When you push yourself physically and you’re also pushing yourself in your career and [with] the time constraints, something has to give. And typically, [it’s] the body. The body just starts to shut down. Like you mentioned, people’s hormones [are] out of whack, [and their] energy levels [are] not optimized. Something just starts to feel off. My experience, trying to push as a professional athlete but also build a business and build a family and do a bunch of other things, was very similar to that of my clients who came to me already overstressed with a poor nutrition profile [and] not in a good movement practice. Maybe they had kids in the last two to five years and they’re adjusting to being parents, [or] they work very demanding jobs, the list goes on. Then we hit them with, “Hey, go high intensity four or five days a week with your physical movement; that’s going to solve all your problems.” Well, it solved some things, but it [also] added to their stress profile and compounded certain problems, six months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months later for them.

This was the awakening for me where it was like, “Okay, I love this sport, I love this community, I love these movements, [and] I love this way of training. And I don’t want to go back to doing something totally different and less interesting and less functional.” I couldn’t see myself regressing back to the way I trained a decade earlier, where it was three sets of 10, biceps, triceps, elliptical. No way. This is way more interesting, way more compelling, and way more motivating and inspiring. And there’s something about the way I’m approaching it from, “I want to be the best and push myself and always win the time trial.” There’s something about that approach that’s clearly not conducive to long-term wellness, especially with a movement practice like this. So how do I navigate away from that without losing the essence of, “I want to move functionally, I want to build strength, [and] I want to challenge myself.” These are things that have to be central to any movement practice. Otherwise, you will not get stronger and feel better. You will, over time, feel worse, get weaker, [and] have atrophy—things that we don’t want.

This was what inspired the change in how I was going to approach being a coach and an athlete and what spawned the next phase of my career, which was moving away from [the] CrossFit brand [and] starting my own business in what is now called Functional Bodybuilding. That’s the way we train, to solve this question that was there.

Chris Kresser:  Great. I definitely want to dive in more to what Functional Bodybuilding is and get into the details of what that looks like. Before we do that, I want to linger a little bit on some of the challenges that you faced personally, and also saw your clients facing as a CrossFit coach and a CrossFit athlete. [I’m] not here to bash CrossFit. Like I said, I have a ton of respect for it. I think it helps a lot of people, and there’s a lot of positive things about it. I’ve spoken to many, many CrossFit gym owners and people I know who were heavily involved in the CrossFit community, [and] their views of how that should be approached have evolved over time. If we take the standard CrossFit programming, maybe we could say the old-school CrossFit way, what’s the problem with that? What are the risks for people who are just getting into that, and what should people watch out for?

Marcus Filly:  Yeah, that’s a good starting place for the discussion. I also want to say that I have the same feelings about CrossFit. I have a tremendous amount of love and respect and appreciation for what [it] did for me and my career and getting me started, and I still see there’s a lot of value to that community and what people are building in their gyms. One of the main challenges that people face when they’re starting an exercise program, or training, or learning about proper training, is teaching themselves how to push their effort sufficiently [enough] that they start to see change. There [are] more people out there in the world [who] are exercising and not really working that hard, and I want to applaud them for getting in movement and just moving, but they expect to see all these benefits and they’re afraid to go and push themselves hard. It’s fearful, it’s scary, and it’s just flat-out difficult to go in and lift weights and push close to failure. Not failure, but to push yourself. It doesn’t feel great to do interval sprints on a bike. You don’t love it right away. Most people do not love it right away.

You’ve got a lot of people exercising and not getting results. They’re like, “What’s going on?” It’s like, “Well, you need to work a little harder.” And it’s hard to teach people that. CrossFit kind of had this new tool. It’s like, “I can’t seem to get this nail to go in with this really flimsy hammer.” “Oh, well here’s a powerful hammer that can hammer hundreds of nails in two seconds. Here’s this new tool. Go ahead.” That’s what CrossFit was to people. They [showed] up, and it packed a powerful amount of intensity into a short amount of time, [and] people learned very quickly how to overcome this challenge of not working hard enough. We put people through one of the most straightforward CrossFit workouts on their first day. You row 500 meters, you do 40 squats, you do 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups, and 10 pull-ups. You’re told [to] do this as fast as you can, but you’ve got to hit your range of motion, [and] you’ve got to do the full reps. And this put 85 percent of people flat on their back. They would stand [up], and the thought that went through [their] minds was, “Holy crap, I’ve never done anything this hard in my life, and that took seven minutes. Whoa.”

CrossFit brought a lot of intensity in its essence [and] its original form. And [it] used some very simple principles to get there—choose the right movements, choose the right weights that allow people to move with a decent amount of power but quickly, and organize the workout structure, the repetitions, the sets, the reps, in a way where people don’t have to slow down and take long breaks. They can just keep going, and they build this massive momentum of intensity without knowing it. Now, when people get exposed to this, they’re like, “Great, I’ve got the solution. I can work hard in 10 minutes and get all these results.” They start to see change. Their bodies are like, “Whoa, this was a massive stress. I have to adapt to this.” We’re resilient humans, so initially, people’s bodies start to get stronger, [they] lose weight, [they] feel more energetic, [they] do whatever it takes because tomorrow, [they’ve] got to show up and do this crazy thing at the gym again. [They think,] “I better make some changes. I better upregulate whatever metabolic pathway is helping me utilize energy better for this sprint, [or] this attack that I’m going through.” So this is good on the front end.

But as people start to develop a bit more fitness and they’re able to push more through these workouts, we start to add in some complexity of movement. And people don’t have these physical positions, or they don’t have the requisite time and energy and knowledge to recover from those events, or they don’t have the space in their life to recover from it. If you go to battle for 15 minutes, what should you do for the next four hours? You should go and [lie] underneath [a] tree and just recover. But they don’t do that. They jump in their car, they commute to their job, they’re drinking a bunch of coffee to keep them going because they’re tired but they’ve got meetings, they skip lunch, they didn’t get a good night’s sleep, [and] they’re not doing any of the things that are required to keep them healthy and recovering from these acute bouts of stress. Not to mention that now we’re starting to exercise or train at a level of intensity where there’s not a lot of room for error anymore. If you move incorrectly going 100 miles per hour, your knees are going to tweak out. If you move incorrectly at five miles per hour, you just have a little wobble and you can course correct.

Chris Kresser:  And there’s another factor all along here, which is both a pro and a con of CrossFit, that there are a bunch of people around cheering you on, watching, [and] supporting you. As human beings, we are competitive by nature, and we don’t want to fall short in front of our peers. So that’s a whole other influence that’s operating during this time.

Marcus Filly:  Yeah, absolutely. And, hey, I want to be in a room of people cheering for me when I’m on the assault bike and trying to push myself and the room for error is pretty big. I’m not going to get hurt by pedaling too hard. But if I’ve got a roomful of people cheering me on for a maximum snatch, which is a very complex Olympic weightlifting movement, I’m gonna drum up some extra energy [and] lift [the] extra 10 pounds that I would have never lifted [if] I didn’t have this room in front of me. But I didn’t catch it well, the bar fell on my head, and now I’ve got this contusion. I’ve maybe tweaked my C4 [or] C5 disc. That was not the situation [where] I wanted to be pumped up and cheered for. It’s just a Tuesday at the local gym. I’ve got to go to work. That wasn’t what I was looking for.

So [like] you said, the pros also became the cons. We have this way of delivering a lot of intensity to get people to do hard work that they otherwise [would] have shied away from or never were able to access. That’s a good thing. But at the same time, that intensity potentially introduced risk that we have never encountered in the gym. Most people who are looking for general fitness don’t need to be encountering that kind of risk.

Chris Kresser:  What were the typical responses that you saw? I think one of the things that can happen, [and] this is not just true for starting an exercise or fitness program, it’s also true when people start special diets or new supplements or things like that, there’s an initial period of feeling better and then, over time, feeling worse [happens] gradually. Sometimes so gradually that it’s difficult for people to even track what’s happening. And when that person starts to reflect on why [they’re] feeling so much worse now, they don’t think about whatever it was that they started six months ago, because when they started it, they felt better. There’s now an association in their mind between whatever that thing was and feeling better, and they therefore don’t become aware that [the] same thing that initially made them feel better [is now making them] feel worse. One thing that I’ve found can be helpful with my patients is just [telling] them some of the things that can happen in that situation. What are some of the symptoms [and] the signs? As a coach, what did you look out for in your clients or in people who are coming to you from other situations? What were the typical symptoms or responses, other than the obvious injury or something like that, that you saw in people who were overtraining?

Marcus Filly:  Well, it’s a good question. When I was in the mix of it all, I was not proactively looking at and seeing the signs and thinking of solutions. I was very reactive. I was like, “Hey, you’ve been here for two years, and suddenly, things aren’t going well. You were the perfect client. I don’t know what’s happening.” I just saw that enough times to really be like, “Hey, I’m scratching my head. This doesn’t make sense. What’s going on?” I had some mentors at the time [who] were further along in their careers as coaches [who] could make sense of it from a scientific and physiological perspective and helped me understand a little bit of what was happening. I think when I arrived at the tail end of my career and started to transition to coaching in a different way, because I was speaking about it and welcoming a lot of people to come into my circle and say, “Hey, I have the same problems. I lost a tremendous amount of drive and energy to come to the gym and perform. I can’t bring myself to do the thing that you’re asking me to do,” this was a thread that I [heard from] so many customers. After a couple [of] years, I just didn’t want to race against the clock anymore. I just didn’t have it in me. I just wanted to go to the gym and lift weights. I didn’t want to go and do the metcon. That’s the super hard, fast, classic CrossFit conditioning workout that’s got running and kettlebell swings and burpees and all the things. So there’s this physical shutdown. My body’s just not feeling up for it.

The second part was [that] people [were] having a really hard time following basic nutritional prescriptions and programs. They didn’t have a good appetite control mechanism; the feedback loop on satiety [and] the decisions around what foods appeal to them started to get really out of whack. They were feeling like, “Man, I’ve been doing this thing, and I’m seeing negative changes in my body composition and how my body looks and feels as a result of [not being] able to bring a level of energy into my training. Therefore, my movement is suffering overall, I’m not moving as much, and I’m not moving with as much intention as I used to. I’m so depleted and my stress profile is so swayed toward overstressed that I can’t seem to navigate these sugar cravings that I’m having. I’m basically wanting to eat processed carbs and fat all the time. That’s hyperpalatable.” That combination was what I saw in a lot of people. What that looked like was, “I don’t feel energetic, and my body doesn’t look as good as I want it to look,” which is [why] people showed up at the gym originally. They came and they said, “I want to look better, [and] I want to [have] more energy.” So when the opposite is happening, people start to question their fitness program. “Why am I doing this? I look worse than I did last year. I had those initial six months of things getting better, but now, things are worse, and I don’t understand it.”

Chris Kresser:  Yeah. That’s pretty similar to what I saw in patients. I would add [that] disrupted sleep and circadian rhythms was a major factor for most of them. They had big imbalances in cortisol and DHEA. I would see, in men, declines in testosterone or increases in sex hormone-binding globulin. So, a decrease in free testosterone. In women, I would see sex hormone imbalances, as well, [and] sometimes digestive issues because of the chronic activation of the sympathetic nervous system. So I think we’re tuning into a lot of the same issues.

Marcus Filly:  By the way, those were my blood markers to a T when I wrapped up my competitive career.

Chris Kresser:  Right. So you became aware of this, and it was impossible to ignore, at some point. And despite the fact that you’d invested a ton of time and energy and achieved a very high level in CrossFit, you decided to step away from that. [It] sounds like [you] tried to retain the best parts of it, the things that were most inspiring for you and most attractive for people who are drawn to CrossFit, in general, [like] the more dynamic and functional movements rather than just, like you said, three sets of 10 and [the] more traditional approach to weightlifting and strength training, [and] to do that in a way that would not only prevent, or at least greatly reduce, the risk of injury and mitigate some of the potential downsides of all of that overtraining, but in a way that people would still meet their original goals [of] getting stronger, getting fitter, [and] looking better, which is what drew them to [CrossFit] in the first place. How did you approach [the] process of thinking about it [and] designing it? I imagine [there was] a lot of experimentation and trial and error until you landed on what you’re doing now.

Marcus Filly:  I think there were probably two main things that helped and [were] what I leaned on the most. The beauty that I saw in CrossFit, even from the early days, [and] what inspired me to join that community and get my start as a fitness coach in CrossFit, as opposed to any other avenues that I could have taken to coach fitness, was that for about a decade from when I was 15 to 25, I trained in gyms a lot. I was a gym guy, and I also played a lot of high-level sports. I was [always] doing things that were, to most people, obscure and [limited to] a very small group. I did power cleans, I back squatted, I liked to deadlift, I did all this stuff, and nobody ever wanted to do any of that. But suddenly, CrossFit made that stuff sexy. It made it cool. I go to this example just because when it started to happen, I was like, “This is the last group of people I ever thought would come to the gym and want to power clean and deadlift,” but it was my soccer moms that I was working with. These women are showing up at 9:30 a.m. after dropping [off] their kids, and they want to deadlift, and they’re learning power cleans, and they want to do this. They’re fired up about it.

Something [that] I knew for a decade before I ever got into CrossFit was that weight training is the recipe for most people to achieve the look and feel that they want in their bodies and their fitness. Yeah, cardiorespiratory fitness is important. I want people to do cardio, but I want people to get strong, and I want people to lift weights. I want people to do resistance training. You’re not going to get the same value from doing yoga or pilates. Those are valuable tools of fitness, [but] I want people to lift weights. The vast majority of people I know [who] lift weights with intention, before CrossFit, but they bodybuil[t] or did some type of strength training, they usually looked pretty darn good and they move well, and they could do a lot of stuff. Those of us who came into CrossFit and were in the first couple [of] years the best CrossFitters, ask any of them what they were doing, it’s like, “I was just bodybuilding [and] doing strength training for the last 10 years. And on day one, I could do all the fancy stuff.” So what is the best part of this whole thing? The best part of this whole thing is [that] it got people lifting weights. It took Olympic style weightlifting, which was an obscure sport, and made it mainstream. Not that we need everyone to clean and jerk and snatch. But it got people picking up weights off the ground. It got my mom to start doing resistance training. You’ve got people doing this stuff [who] would have otherwise never done it. Okay, cool; we got you weightlifting. Now let me tell you that if we keep weightlifting but we turn the volume down on the intensity and the burpees and the cardio while you’re doing the weight training, you can still get a ton of benefit. People who just resistance train with [a] good prescription feel and look amazing. So let’s keep that. Let’s keep that going. So number one was, we got people lifting weights. Let’s keep them lifting weights, but now, let’s implement some control around the intensity lever that we’ve been hammering for the last couple of years.

What if the secret to staying athletic and feeling good is not by stressing your body out with one punishing workout after the next, but rather knowing exactly when to push and when to pull back? Marcus Filly explains how you can use Functional Bodybuilding workouts to get confident and fit—and still have energy left over for the other things you love in life. #chriskresser #functionalbodybuilding

Marcus Filly:  The second thing was, with that specific community, to teach this principle of “less is more.” There was a period, which I think about it differently these days, but back then, I had people come into my gym who were like, “Marcus, how do I do a double day? I want to start doing double days.” I’m like, “Jesse, you’re 42 and you’ve got two kids. I love that you want to move, but maybe double days is not what we need to be doing right now. What else is going on in your life where you feel like you need to get to the gym twice a day? Why aren’t you stoked to go out and do [another] activity?” Or, I don’t know, not to make judgments, but the body that you want, the feeling that you want, the athletic pursuit that you have, we can find that in less time, and you need to actually [do] a few less of those hard conditioning workouts. You need to tone it down a little bit, and then you’re going to succeed. And what was that about? Well, we had this phenomenon happening where people were like, “Okay, I did a little bit and I saw some results, and then I plateaued. So I’m going to do some more, and I’m going to see some results, but then I [will] plateau. The only way to get better is to do more.” What they weren’t realizing was that, in this effort to do more and more and more, they were not addressing other important health pursuits and markers and tools that they can change and mitigate in their life to see results. The more they trained, the crappier their diet got because they were like, “I just need to eat all this food, and I’m going to eat processed food. I need to get calories, and I need to get protein, [and] I need to get carbs.” The quality of their food choices [was] going down and down and down as they got more and more competitive and [started] training more and more and more. This was the case for me. At the end of my career, I [was] eating pints of ice cream on a daily basis next to my meat and vegetables and all the good things I was eating. I needed to supplement with a lot of sugar and a lot of processed food to get sufficient energy. So my food profile was not as good as it could have been, [or] as it is now when I train a third or a quarter of the amount.

In pursuing more and more and more and more, other factors [were] getting thrown way off. So that was the other thing, was teaching people, “Hey, if we do a little bit less, [but] we do it with a lot of great intention and we reserve that energy you would have spent going and doing another hour of cardio, let’s spend that hour planning out a good week of food choices. Let’s go and shop and be intentional about what you’re going to put into your kitchen, and maybe spend an hour prepping out a couple [of] key meals that fall at times of [the] day where you’re really strapped for time and you might otherwise reach for something that is of lower quality.” That hour that you didn’t do cardio just made a huge impact on your wellness and your health going forward for months and months and months. [I] started to lean into [this] a lot with the approach to training that we brought forward. While sticking to, “I’m still going to do some of the movements; I’m still going to own some of those really fun and engaging parts of CrossFit.” We’re going to get away from the time on the whiteboard being the most important thing, to instead [the most important thing] being the quality of the movement and reserving enough energy that you can dedicate to the other factors that influence your health every day, 24/7.

Chris Kresser:  That’s interesting. I’ve been a huge fan of outdoor sports for my whole life. I grew up on the beach in Southern California, so I was surfing from a very early age. I would get up and surf before school and surf after school. Then later, [there] was also skiing and mountain biking, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, etc. And again, there’s no right or wrong way to do things. People have different interests. I’m not saying that way is the best way. But for me, those were the activities that brought me so much joy and satisfaction, not only because of the activities themselves, but because that was [how] I connected with nature and got sun exposure, I often did them with other people, [and] they’re super fun. They satisfy so many different needs above and beyond just fitness and being in the gym. I’ve always approached training, strength training, things like that, as something that I do for my health but [also] something that I do to improve my athletic performance in these other areas and reduce the risk of injury, stay strong, etc.

I’ve sometimes [thought] that this is true with anything, where we can become hyper-focused, almost myopically focused, on one particular thing, and leave out a lot of other things that can be beneficial and helpful for us. I’ve often wondered in that context, when I’ve had a patient who’s like, “Yeah, let’s do two-a-days in the gym.” I’m like, “Maybe you could take a bike ride outside instead of that second one, or maybe [pick] up a new hobby or a sport,” because there are ways [in which] that stimulates the brain, learning different kinds of movements [and] different kinds of motor activity. I think that supports neuroplasticity in the brain, helps us slow down the aging process, and keep our brains sharp. I’m curious how you think about that with your clients, because it sounds like you have moved toward trying to shorten the time [commitment in the gym and] maximize the [return on investment]. Less time in the gym [and] more time for other things outside of the gym.

Marcus Filly:  Well, as somebody who went through a phase of life where the gym was life and I wanted to be in there three [or] four hours a day, I got a tremendous amount of value out of that period of time. I grew as a person in ways that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I don’t know if I could have ever found and fostered other activities. So I hesitate to tell somebody, “Hey, you shouldn’t be in the gym [for] more hours, if that’s what you really want to do. But it’s more getting people to ask the question, “Is this really where [I] want to be?” What if I told you that in [one] hour, three or four days a week, you could have the body of your dreams and you could feel great and you could have great sex drive, and you could find a partner and love life? They’d be like, “Yeah, I’ll do that over 12 hours in the gym,” or they’re like, “No, I want to go to the gym, and I want to keep doing this thing because it’s super fun for me.”

Chris Kresser:  Nothing wrong with that. That’s their choice.

Marcus Filly:  That’s totally their choice. So it’s about asking that question [and] getting people to really evaluate the purpose and the goal of this thing. I’ve tried to pare the training back to less than what I do today, and I found that there is a threshold where I was like, “I just want to be at the gym. I don’t really want to go for a walk or a hike or a bike ride. I want to just lift some weights, so I’m going to add another day back to the gym.” And I fluctuate depending on the time of year and what’s going on. But I also think that there are people who are a little misguided. They think that the only way to achieve a certain look and feel in their bodies is through X number of hours [and] X number of days in the gym. The goal is to really show people, “Hey, that’s an unrealistic expectation for your lifestyle, and it’s not true.” We can do it [in] other ways. And we could probably find ways that are much more interesting and fun and engaging for you, based upon your personality type and what you like to do. You like to be outdoors, [and] you like to do sports. Why don’t we make that a central focus and then make training simply a complement to that to keep you being able to enjoy it as much as you want to enjoy it?

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, that makes sense to me. And again, I really do appreciate that there are people [like that], and I was, at one time, [one of them]. I spent a lot of time in the gym, and that was great at that time. Some people just love that experience, like you’re saying. But for those who are in the gym because they think they have to be [there] for 12 hours in order to get the results, that’s what we’re addressing here.

Marcus Filly:  Exactly.

Chris Kresser:  And some people might be more motivated to go to the gym if they love tennis or skiing and they want to push that to the next level. Having that goal and using training as a way of not only meeting the basic needs like building muscle, or maintaining muscle mass at the very least, but also helping them achieve a different level of movement and attainment in something that they’re really interested in could help with motivation a lot.

Marcus Filly:  Oh, yeah, certainly. Finding a way to connect what you’re doing in the gym to what the actual outcomes that you want in life are [is] central to this. Don’t just blindly go to the gym and follow a generic [prescription] that’s out there that might not even really apply to what you want. “You’ve got to go 90 minutes, five days a week.” No, you don’t. You don’t have to. Let’s look at a bunch of different ways that we can do this. I think what we were seeing toward [the] tail end of when I was coaching a lot of individuals in CrossFit was that there’s all this time and dedication to the gym, and I think it got way out of hand for a lot of people. They hit a wall, and they’re like, “What am I doing? Why am I spending so much time here?” That happens when people start doing anything without intention and thinking about the big picture [and] what they want out of it. They’re just following the herd.

Chris Kresser:  Yeah, [that’s] often not a good strategy in life for anything, much less exercise. So, walk me through a typical workout. What that might look like in your approach, in terms of the types of exercises that are done [and the] rest periods. What does it actually look like?

Marcus Filly:  I really believe firmly [that] the most important 10 minutes in the gym [is] how you start. The warm-ups that we coach people through put a lot of thought and intention into getting people to arrive into the gym space in a purposeful way. You’re transitioning from whatever you’re doing before the gym, to the gym. A lot of people [go to the gym] at the end of their workday, or even before they start their workday, [and] they [have] a bunch of things on their mind. So we always start with a 10-minute focused warm-up that gets blood flowing, gets [the] respiratory rate up, and works on stability or mobility-type movements. Things that are going to put some attention to your joints, joint health, and range of motion prior to training. I like to say [that] if you’re going to commit to one thing today, just go into your warm-up. By the end of your warm-up, you’ll probably want to do the next part. You’ll be ready.

Then we always have a strength training component. I bias toward a lot of timed strength training formats, like every minute, you’re going to do five back squats or you’re going to do 10 strict presses. And you do that for a certain number of minutes. Or maybe you superset that with another strength training exercise. A lot of the strength training that I write in our programs is about efficiency and keeping people focused when they’re in the gym. I think one of the challenges a lot of people face with weight training is that it’s less engaging [than] a bootcamp style or cardio class or something like that, where it’s like, “Hey, the clock’s going; I’ve got to keep going.” It brings some of those elements into weight training so that people feel like they’ve got time motivation. They’re not wasting minutes getting pulled into their phone on social media while they’re resting for their next set of bench presses, or whatever exercise they might be doing.

So [there’s] a big strength training component of each session, and for that, I like to stick to a lot of the traditional compound exercises. We have options for people at different levels of training. That [might] be power cleans for somebody, but it could be a split squat or weighted lunge [or] something [else so] that, for whatever skill level you’re at, you can give a lot of intensity and a lot of effort, but be working in a safe environment. Going back to the original CrossFit, what was so great [is that] it got people weight training, but in a class of 20 people, [only] four people could safely do power cleans at an intensity level that would make positive change in their body, [and] the other 16 were either having to do really, really light weights because they needed to work on technique and skill, or they were using weights that were too heavy for their technique and were at risk of injury. So how do we take the best of that and create the right environment so that somebody can come and lift weights, push against resistance hard enough to make change, but [the] skill is well within their wheelhouse and their repertoire, and they’re not going to get injured and be at risk? That’s always part two of training.

Chris Kresser:  So Marcus, how long would that take? [There’s a] 10-minute warm-up, and then how long would that strength training component be?

Marcus Filly:  Probably in the 15-minute range.

Chris Kresser:  Okay, so it’s pretty concentrated.

Marcus Filly:  Yeah, it’s concentrated, and this is also not going to be the only resistance training we do for the day. But this is the concentrated lifting of the day, where I want you to actually get close to failure. I want to push you to a place that feels a little uncomfortable with your weight training. That’s where we’re going to see change.

The next section of training is what a lot of people would think of as accessory weight training [or] accessory lifting. We like to call it strength-balanced training. This is where, rather than going to this set of split squats or single-leg [Romanian deadlifts] with the intention of [wanting] to push [yourself] as hard as [you] can, instead, I want you to think of this as your quality movement sets of the day. How can you extend your range of motion? How can you work on your coordination [and] your balance? How can we get into positions that enhance your mobility? I think that a common misconception is that weight training makes you get tighter and lose flexibility. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Proper resistance training is the best way to enhance range of motion and mobility. All the best protocols for getting you more flexible involve resistance. It could be isometric resistance, but it’s still resistance. [If you look at] the functional range conditioning people of the world, they’re expanding [the] range of motion in [their] joints through isometric contractions. Look at high-level gymnasts. When they are improving range of motion and flexibility for their sport, [they’re doing] tons of bodyweight resistance, compression drills, [and] extreme levels of isometric contractions, as well.

[The] same can be said for lifting weights. Ben Patrick, who’s the knees-over-toes guy [and has] gotten a lot of attention over the past couple of years, [is] using resistance training to expand joint range of motion tremendously. That’s how we approach this second tier of resistance training in our programs—[using] weight training to enhance range of motion, build better mobility [and] coordination, things like that. And that happens at submaximal weights. When you push maximally with weight training, your brain will purposefully close off [the] end [of your] range of motion because that’s where you’re at most risk of injury. But if I take 50 percent of my max and really focus on getting a deep stretch at the bottom of my squat or exploring a different position, that’s where you can see lots of change to the tissue quality and length. So there we are. One, two, three. That’s the third section. That’s another 15 minutes of training before we move into the final part of training, [which is] the functional conditioning stuff that most mimics what CrossFit introduced to my life [and] will stay with me forever, which is the concept of mixed-mobile conditioning, where you take weights, gymnastics, calisthenics, [and] cardio, and you put it all together in a circuit. We have hundreds of different formats that this looks like, but we’ll spend 15, maybe 20, minutes at the end of the training session including that [type] of conditioning.

Now, I [am biased] toward the aerobic spectrum of training. I tell people [that] aerobic training is sustainable training, [and] anaerobic training is unsustainable. With CrossFit, it was, “Go as hard and as fast as you can, [and] get the best time possible.” I’m saying [that] if you go 80 [to] 85 percent of that [and] you stay in much more control, you still work super hard, but you don’t have the thought in your brain of, “I’m going to die. I can’t do this anymore.” [Instead], you are thinking, “This is hard work, I’m doing well, I’m going to finish, and I’m going to end my training session.” And within five minutes of my training session being over, I have my wits about me and can walk out [of] the gym and not want to go take a nap for the rest of the day. So that’s how we construct our conditioning workouts. That’s just from years of practice, and trial and error. Knowing this works, that doesn’t work. If we do it this way, it’s going to push way too hard. If we put in this rest period or interval, or we inject this control point or scenario, [it’s] going to keep people safer [and] moving with better quality, [while still] keeping their aerobic system high. We educate people [on] how to do that.

So [those are the] four pillars of a good Functional Bodybuilding training session, the intention behind each one, and how I arrived at [them]. “Why are we doing that?” Well, because we want to keep people’s joints strong and healthy because [we] want to use the efficacy of lifting heavy weights, [and] because the conditioning lessons that I learned from CrossFit were so engaging and so efficacious for people when they learn how to not push to the red line. It all has gone into constructing this model that seems to work really well for a lot of people. We try [to] use a wide variety of [movements in there] because that’s what keeps people engaged and feeling like they’re learning constantly and not [feeling] like [they] do the same 10 exercises all the time.

Chris Kresser:  That sounds amazing. I know a lot of people who listen to the show have a background in strength training, and they know how to do the basic movements. But they might not have someone [who] they’re working with on programming. One of the things I love about your work and your website is [that] there [are] lots of different entry points for people. There [are] eBooks on things like dealing with knee pain, functional body composition, conditioning, kettlebells, etc. You [also] have a membership program called Persist. Tell us a little bit about how that works.

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Marcus Filly:  Well, you mentioned a few of the entry points for people to come into the Functional Bodybuilding universe. The Persist subscription was something that was born out of the pandemic and started in 2020, [when] most people didn’t have access to gyms. I created a training program that was built on the foundations of what we’ve been teaching for years, designed for people at home. So if you had a set of dumbbells, if you had a couple [of] resistance bands, [or even] if you [just] had your body weight, you could do Functional Bodybuilding in the way I just discussed. It became a place to bring our community together during a time of crisis. At that point, people weren’t buying eBooks to go to the gym because the gyms were closed. So, once we transitioned out of the severe lockdowns and gyms started to open around the world and around the country, we decided, “Okay, you know what? We’re going to take this central community, the Persist members, and reintroduce [them to] some of the other options for training.” We brought back [a] conventional gym or CrossFit-style gym equipment training program, where it’s like, “Hey, if you have access to this, this is how you can do Functional Bodybuilding.”

Then we added to that. It’s like,”Hey, if you want to do Functional Bodybuilding with more of an aesthetics focus on building muscle and really building your body composition, then [here’s] a new training track to offer.” And then a year later, it was, “Hey, if you have less than 60 minutes and you just need to get in and do the pillars of Functional Bodybuilding, we have an option for you within this subscription.” So Persist became a place where it’s like, “Hey, I want to be part of [the] Functional Bodybuilding ecosystem. I love what you’re about.” We’re going to deliver you a training option inside of [there] that will satisfy most of the buckets of what people are looking for. For our members, we offer training and a ton of free nutrition and lifestyle resources to help people pair optimal training with the things that will support that training for the other 23 hours of your day, most days of the week.

Chris Kresser:  What would you recommend for someone who is relatively new to strength training? Maybe they don’t know how to do a proper squat or deadlift, they don’t have any history [with strength training], and maybe they don’t have access to that [type] of equipment. What would you recommend for them as a starting place?

Marcus Filly:  When it comes to people [who] have very limited or no experience with training, it starts with just a willingness. Do you want to try? If you are open to learning and you’re patient, then learning how to go and move your body in functional ways is no different than learning how to roller skate or rollerblade. One day, you’re going to put on the rollerblades, you’re going to be wobbly, and you might fall over. But if you want to learn it and you see the value of it in your life, then [you’ve] got to give it a shot. An entry point for somebody like that with us might be the original Persist minimalist program, where it’s just with a dumbbell, or bodyweight, [or] maybe a couple of resistance bands, [and you] come and do the movements that we tell you to do each day. You’re going to learn how to squat, you’re going to learn how to lunge, [and] we’re going to ask you to do push-ups. If you have a pull-up bar at home, we might ask you to hang from a pull-up bar. Maybe you need to jump rope or run in place. But we’re not asking you to do an Olympic-style snatch in your program.

After you build a little consistency and prove to yourself that you want to learn this, then the ascension from there is easy. Now you’re going to grab the dumbbells. Now you’re going to grab a barbell. Are you ready for that? Do you want it? Okay, here’s a cheap way to buy a barbell and get it in your house, and we’re going to start teaching you how to do some squats. Nobody knows how to squat with a barbell on their back naturally. You’ve got to learn at some point, just like [you’ve] got to learn how to slap on the roller skates and get moving. We can do it in a very slow, gradual way. So Persist is still a place that we can funnel people in, but that initial question I ask [is], “Are you ready to learn? Do you want to learn?” Then you can navigate [from there]. If somebody’s like, “This needs to be so easy and just spoon fed to me,” then you’re probably best suited to find a personal trainer to work with. If you’re in that category of somebody who’s like, “I don’t trust myself to do this on my own,” [then] an online training program might not be the best place for you to start. Maybe you need to hire a personal coach. That could be somebody in person at your local fitness facility or [at] Functional Bodybuilding. We have seven FBB master coaches [who] consult with people online one-to-one. “Hey, Chris, let me write you a personal training program. We’re going to get on a call every two weeks [and] talk about it. I’m going to message you each day.” We have that level of service available in our company, if people are looking for that higher touch point to really get them going from zero to something.

Chris Kresser:  Well, this has been a fascinating interview, Marcus. I’m really glad you were able to join me. I think people will get a ton out of this. Where can they learn more about Functional Bodybuilding and your work?

Marcus Filly:  I encourage everybody to head over to and get our newsletter. Get on our email list, where every week, I’m sending out [a message]. This week, we’re writing about bridging the gap from a high-stress period to getting back in the gym. “I was sick for a week. How do I get back into the gym?” Or, “My sleep has been disrupted for a month because we have a newborn. How do I get back into the gym?” Just giving people real, practical, useful tips and education every single week on training, nutrition, [and] lifestyle to keep living and breathing the Functional Bodybuilding lifestyle for years and years. So that’s a great place to start. And there [are] lots of free nutrition and training resources that you’ll get right away if you sign up.

Chris Kresser:  Great. Well, thanks again, Marcus. [I] appreciate all the work you’ve done, and I encourage everybody to go check it out. [There are] lots of great resources there. And this approach to training just makes so much more sense to me, especially for the vast majority of people who are just trying to meet their goals of staying fit, building muscle mass, feeling good, increasing their performance in other activities, and avoiding injury. As I get older, that’s one of the number one goals that I have. I’m approaching 50, and I don’t recover quite as quickly as I did when I was 20 and 25. Whether I’m skiing, mountain biking, or lifting weights, that’s [always] in the back of my mind—wanting to do it in a way that is going to lower the risk of injury so I can keep doing it. Because I’m super impatient with being injured. I want to be able to get out there and do that every day. So I think this [type] of approach makes so much more sense for most people. So, thanks again for joining me and sharing your experience. And everybody, thanks for listening. Keep sending your questions to, and we’ll see you next time.

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WWE’s Bianca Belair Competes in WBFF Bodybuilding Competition –

WWE’s Bianca Belair took to Instagram on Sunday to reveal she had been quietly training over the past 10 weeks to compete in the 2022 WBFF Pro Atlantic City Pro-Am bodybuilding competition. The reigning Raw Women’s Champion was able to train for the show on top of defending her title at Crown Jewel in Saudi Arabia and be on the winning team of the Women’s WarGames match at Survivor Series last month.

“For the past 10 weeks I have been training for the @wbffentertainment Pro Atlantic City Pro Am, & this weekend all of that hardwork got to play out on stage!” Belair wrote. I’ll be posting more photos throughout the day with results! -Bikini- Made by ME.”

“This journey has taught me so much about myself & how much I have grown and evolved from that little girl in High School and College who was obsessed with being the best but took it too far and over trained constantly. The little girl who had such an unhealthy relationship with food and struggled with eating disorders that even years later as an adult I couldn’t even hear the word ‘diet’ without being triggered,” she continued. “I wanted to push myself, test myself… see if I could commit without taking it too far, see if I had learned to listen to my body, see if I could diet again and have self control without going off on the deep end. I truly faced my fears with this one. I invested these 10 weeks to relearn myself and it took me on a self discovery journey of self love, commitment, and dedication to myself. It was physically challenging with finding time to train consistently between my WWE schedule of being on the road for live events, TV’s, traveling internationally to Mexico & Saudi Arabia, having historical matches like the Ladder Match, Last Woman Standing Match, & 45 minutes in a War Games match the WEEK BEFORE the competition! It was so hard but I gave it my all… sometimes after my matches and shows I was right there in the gym late at night getting my workouts in and constant travel with meal prep food to stick to my diet… but just as much as it was physically challenging it was more so mental!


Belair went on to write, “I have evolved. I have matured. I do have self control. I have learned the importance of balance and I do listen to my body now! I have completely fallen in love with who I have become and I will be forever grateful for this journey. Thank you @wbffentertainment for welcoming me with open arms into your world and providing a space where I could also show up unapologetically me and a space I could use to navigate this personal journey! I felt right at home! Fitness + FASHION!!!! I’m in 😍! And thank you to my amazing coach @n8fitness!!!”

When is the Mr Olympia 2022 bodybuilding competition?… – The US Sun

EXPECT bulging biceps, sharp six-packs and lean legs on your screens – as Mr Olympia 2022 is just around the corner.

The prestigious competition, previously won by Arnold Schwarzenegger, will put contestants’ strength to the ultimate test.

Mr Olympia 2022 is due to take place in the next few weeks


Mr Olympia 2022 is due to take place in the next few weeksCredit: YouTube

When is Mr Olympia 2022?

The world’s most renowned professional men’s bodybuilding contest is due to begin on December 15, 2022.

The three-day event will wrap up on December 18, 2022, after a contestant has been crowned the winner.

Mr Olympia was first founded in 1965 by brothers Joe and Ben Weider, who launched the challenge to find the best bodybuilder in the world.

Since then, it has been regarded as the most important title in the world to musclemen desperate to take home the glory.

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The 2022 top prize is also a tidy $750,000 – meaning winning can bolster your bank balance and your profile too.

Where is Mr Olympia 2022 taking place?

This year’s Mr Olympia Finals will be held at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The 58th edition of the highly-anticipated event will return to its first home, hosted by Planet Hollywood.

Competitors will be staying at the hotel and resort for the duration of the competition.

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36 athletes have qualified – making it one of the largest line-ups in Mr Olympia history.

The 2022 Olympia World Fitness Expo will be held at the Venetian Expo inside the Venetian Resort.

Who won Mr Olympia 2021?

In 2021, Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay was crowned the winner of Mr Olympia.

The Egyptian IFBB professional bodybuilder also scooped the win the previous year in 2020.

Weighing a whopping 337lbs, the hulking champion is looking to defend his title in 2022, and wants his third win.

He has been intensely training his huge shoulders and slim waist to ensure his physique is on point for Mr Olympia.

But he has fierce competition to beat – including Hadi Choopan, Hunter Labdrada and Nick Walker.

What happens at Mr Olympia?

Various competitions take place over the weekend, with both men and women participating in a string of fitness and figure events.

As well as a Ms Olympia being crowned, the men will battle it out to earn the title of Mr Olympia.

They take to the stage to flex their muscles and are scored on a points system, before being ranked in order of their different tiers.

Competitors are critiqued on their mass, symmetry, definition, proportion and stage presence.

In the event of a tie, the bodybuilder with the most points in the highest-tiered show is granted the win.

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The main event is the Mr Olympia (Men’s Open), which is spread across two nights.

The prejudging for this category takes place on December 16, 2022, before the finals are held the following day on December 17.

2022 Mr. Olympia Bodybuilding Show Preview – BarBend

The biggest bodybuilding weekend of the year is upon us. The 2022 Olympia Weekend is scheduled to take place on the weekend of Dec. 16-18, 2022, at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas, NV. Eleven pro divisions will determine their world champions for 2022 throughout that weekend.

The main event is the 58th Mr. Olympia (Men’s Open), which will take place over two nights. The prejudging will be on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. The finals will be held on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022.

[Related: Breon Ansley Maximizes His Leg Sessions by Attacking Them With High Energy]

Thirty-six athletes are qualified for the 2022 Mr. Olympia contest, making it one of the largest lineups in the contest’s history. The roster of athletes that are qualified according to the Mr. Olympia website is below in alphabetical order:

2022 Mr. Olympia Roster | Men’s Open

Who Will Not Compete

As of this article’s writing, Shaun Clarida, who qualified for the Men’s Open and 212 division Olympia contests, has opted to compete in the Olympia 212 instead of the Mr. Olympia. Nathan De Asha bowed out of the Olympia due to a biceps injury. Regan Grimes also decided to watch this year’s competition instead of competing for personal reasons. Steve Kuclo, who qualified on points, is out as well because of his desire to start a family.

Champions Competing

This year, two past winners will seek to win another title. Of course, the two-time defending champion is Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay, who looks to become the ninth man to win three titles. He is considered the favorite to win in the eyes of many fans and experts. Elssbiay has been training with Dennis James in the U.S. for the past two months, and his occasional social media posts have kept fans interested.

The 2019 Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry aims to make his own form of history in two ways. If the 2022 Arnold Classic winner wins the 2022 Mr. Olympia, he would be the second man to regain the title after losing it. Jay Cutler accomplished that feat in 2009.

Curry would also become the only bodybuilder to win the Arnold and Olympia in the same year twice. Curry hasn’t offered many progress updates from Kuwait, but he shouldn’t be ignored. He is the Mr. Olympia runner-up the past two years and expects to be one of the final two standing at the end of this year as well.

[Related: Four-Time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler Crushes an 11-Exercise Shoulder and Triceps Workout at 49 Years Old]

Top Contenders

The third through fifth-place finishers from last year’s contest are back and looking to move up the standings. Last year’s third-place finisher and two-time People’s Choice winner Hadi Choopan has been in America working with coach Hany Rambod for several weeks, so travel won’t be an issue for him this year. Choopan’s conditioning in 2022 was second to none. If he can bring that again with a little more size, his chances of hearing “and new” will be much higher.

Second-generation superstar Hunter Labrada plans to show up in Las Vegas bigger and better than ever. He’s been open about his training and nutrition on his social media, which has been entertaining and insightful for his followers. When the fans see him for prejudging on Friday, Dec. 17, 2022, they will know how he achieved the look he will present. Listen for a lot of crowd support in his favor on both nights of competition.

Another fan favorite is the 2021 Arnold Classic champ, Nick Walker. He’s had a busy year since we last saw him onstage. He moved from one part of Florida to another, then relocated to Las Vegas, where he’s made moves on the business side of the sport. “The Mutant” finished fifth in the 2021 Olympia (his debut) but has repeatedly said his only goal this year is to win the title. After reuniting with his coach, Matt Jansen, earlier this year, he’s a lot more confident in his chances.

No one should forget “The Conqueror.” William Bonac is a two-time Arnold Classic champion and former Mr. Olympia runner-up. He has said that we will see the biggest and best version of him at this year’s contest. He finished sixth in 2021. Somebody has to get knocked down to the second callout, but Bonac is confident it won’t be him in 2022.

New Blood

The 2022 season has seen a lot of new competitors make an immediate impact on the IFBB Pro League. The Men’s Open lineup at the Olympia will look different than it has in years past. The first standout is special invite recipient, 2021 Olympia 212 champion Derek Lunsford. After a guest posing appearance in Pittsburgh, PA, in May 2022, fans were vocal about their desire to see him move up to the Open. Some were even concerned that Lunsford wouldn’t be able to make the 212-pound cutoff for his division because of the muscle he added in the offseason.

Olympia promoters granted Lunsford the special invite if he committed to competing, and the reigning 212 champ is now in the Open. The question is where will Lunsford will fit in the shuffle.

Arnold Classic UK and Texas Pro winner Andrew Jacked is also a new star entering the fray. His size, height, shape, and symmetry have had the bodybuilding world on the edge of its seat. The only kink in Jacked’s armor has been his definition and conditioning. We have yet to see what he calls “100 percent.” The Olympia is the time to bring one’s best, and Jacked’s team, which includes coach George Farah and Flex Wheeler, intends to make that happen.

Another champion bodybuilder will make his Olympia debut in 2022 — IFBB Elite Pro world champion Michal “Krizo” Krizanek. He went from NPC competitor to Olympia qualified in less than one month. He’s been on big stages before, but never in the Pro League. His overall mass and structure will make his presence felt immediately. It will be interesting to see him next to Bonac, Curry, and possibly Elssbiay.

[Related: Brett Wilkin Wins 2022 Big Man Weekend Pro Bodybuilding Show]

Another interesting matchup for Krizanek will be against Samson Dauda, also making his Olympia debut. Dauda could be among the biggest men in the lineup. At one point in his offseason, Dauda weighed 330 pounds and still retained exquisite symmetry. A ripped version of that physique could make an impact on the rest of the field. The only question is if Dauda can keep the nerves from being on the big stage from affecting the final days of his prep.

Other Notable Names

Other familiar names in the lineup should be considered, such as Iain ValliereAkim WilliamsJustin RodriguezHassan Mostafa, and James Hollingshead. The aforementioned names above can likely be in the top 15 after prejudging is over on the first night of competition. The rest of the lineup will be considered among the best bodybuilders in the world, but it could take one of the top-tier athletes off the mark for them to sneak in.

Fans who won’t be in Las Vegas can still see all the action as it happens. Both nights of the Olympia will be streamed on pay-per-view at the Olympia productions website for a pre-order price of $59.99.

Featured image: @mrolympiallc on Instagram

The Real Reason You Will Never Win A Bodybuilding Show | U-Natty States Of America Podcast – Generation Iron Fitness Network

Brandon Lirio attempts to answer why it seems so many bodybuilders and fans believe that “politics” are ruining bodybuilding

Unlike many sports that rely on points and goals, competitive bodybuilding is a sport that has a core level of subjectivity. It’s more akin to a beauty pageant than something like football. A criteria is set for the physiques but judges have to use their own taste in applying that criteria to how they score the athletes. Due to this, many have worried or made claims that “politics” corrupt the competitions. That judges will favor higher scores for certain athletes regardless of criteria. In our latest episode of the U-Natty States Of America podcast, Brandon Lirio breaks down the reality of corruption claims, myth busts popular theories, and explores the psychology as to why athletes (and fans) might believe that politics affect competition results.

You’ve seen it before. A much hyped pro bodybuilder loses just short of the Olympia Sandow trophy. Suddenly, fans scour the internet and make side by side video and photo comparisons. It becomes a clear narrative – the pro bodybuilder had a better physique but still lost. Why? Politics most likely. The person who did end up winning was favored due to relationships with the judges, or perhaps having paid dues in the past, or maybe he is just a better ambassador for the sport.

In today’s day and age of online media, fans and athletes alike are able to scrutinize the results of a bodybuilding competition. There are now hundreds of photographs and live stream video to play and replay. Sometimes if you look at the same thing long enough – you start to see connections that aren’t really there. Maybe you start to believe that corruption was involved. Most of the time – that’s far from the case.

Brandon Lirio has been an NPC bodybuilder, and a pro natural bodybuilder in the INBA/PNBA for most of his adult life. He’s also been a personal trainer for bodybuilders. He’s even judged a few competitions. With his expertise both behind the scenes, as an athlete, and as a fan – Lirio decided to focus this week’s podcast towards politics and corruption in bodybuilding. And explain why it’s so easy for fans and even athletes to believe a loss came from politics rather than simply being bested. Let’s jump into it.

What do we mean when we talk about politics in bodybuilding?

Before Brandon Lirio jumps into the topic – he wants us all to have an understanding about what we mean when we say “politics in bodybuilding.” Ultimately, politics in bodybuilding is a nice way of saying there is corruption in bodybuilding. This could be because of purposeful nefarious desires… or simply because of personal relationships between judges and athletes that cloud fair scoring.

The basic analogy Brandon Lirio uses is this: Persona A has an objectively better physique than Person B. But Person B ultimately wins the bodybuilding show because the judges felt it was the “right time” for Person B to shine. The judges, therefore, favor a gut feeling, business decision, or personal relationship over the objectively better physique.

Now that we have the definition out of the way – let’s jump into Brandon Lirio’s analysis about politics in bodybuilding.

Politics (or corruption) are not deciding the results of bodybuilding shows… most of the time

Based on Brandon Lirio’s definition of politics in bodybuilding, you might already see some cracks as to the validity of these claims. For example, how is it possible to truly determine an objectively better physique? Yes, there is a set of criteria – but ultimately it is subjective to determine if one person’s small details are better than another. This is especially true in the biggest pro shows of the year – where most athletes are so close in skill level that only the smallest details determine the score.

Brandon Lirio also points out that it’s nearly impossible to not forge relationships with judges or other people of note in a federation. If you are a bodybuilder who competes in the industry for years – you will get to know the judges and the promoters. So it’s completely normal to say hello to a promoter, laugh a little and crack some jokes.

However, it’s only after an athlete loses, that those small relationships start to get questioned. Did that bodybuilder say hello to a judge in order to gain favor and win the show?

Brandon Lirio believes the answer to that question is almost always no. But for athletes and fans, it’s always more comforting to believe that a person lost due to a specific reason. Rather than the athlete simply not being good enough – even at their best.

Brandon Lirio points out that when a bodybuilder brings their best package to the stage. When deep down they know this is the best they can do – losing becomes more than a letdown. It can become an identity crisis. So athletes will look for other excuses that take the blame off of themselves. “I didn’t lose because of being worse than my competitor. I lost because of politics and corruption.”

Lirio uses his training background as an example of this. Over 12 years of training competitive bodybuilders, he has seen one trend time and time again. In the final week of contest prep, the athlete makes a mistake. Throws off their planned diet. Why does this happen? And why so consistently in the final week?

This is the very question Brandon Lirio asks his clients. What he’s come to realize is that the athlete is self sabotaging. In essence, it’s easier to know why you lose than to bring your best with no error and still lose anyway. It’s the difference between that one mistake being the reason you lose vs the very essence of who you are.

Brandon Lirio believes this same mentality goes into conspiratorial thinking. This is true of the larger world as well as the debate of politics in bodybuilding. Add on top of that a subjective aspect at the core of the judging – and it’s near impossible to prove right or wrong.

Wrap Up

With all of this in mind, what can be done to make fans and athletes more confident in bodybuilding federations? Brandon Lirio thinks that a more transparent look at how judging criteria is scored will do wonders. He also thinks that having a transparent and clear set of rules and guidelines on how judges get certified helps as well.

Division creep is a very real thing. The Men’s Physique division looks very different than it did when it first started. The athletes are larger with more muscle than the division ever envisioned. But has the criteria on paper changed? Judges will adjust their personal scoring and criteria simply by seeing how a competitor looks compared to the other athletes. So if everyone is looking bigger in Men’s Physique – that becomes the standard. That might not be stated on paper but it’s true.

You can watch Brandon Lirio go into even more depth on politics in bodybuilding in our latest episode of the U-Natty States Of America above. Make sure to check back every Wednesday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

295 Lbs Bodybuilding Giant Stands Out as Veterans Deliver Their Verdict Mr.Olympia 2022 – EssentiallySports

Mr. Olympia, 2022, is just around the corner. On December 15th, 2022, the most prestigious contest in bodybuilding will begin. This year seasoned veterans like Hadi Choopan, Brandon Curry, William Bonac, and reigning champion Big Ramy will face off against newcomers like Samson Dauda, Andrew Jacked, and more.


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This week on Denis James’ The Menace Podcast, five former bodybuilders turned coaches, including Denis James, picked their top six contenders for the upcoming Mr. Olympia contest. However, only one name was at the top of everyone’s list. 


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Bodybuilding legends name their champion

Former “mass monster” Markus Ruhl went first. “Let’s start with the winner. It’s Big Ramy,” said Markus, without wasting a breath. He also didn’t hesitate to name the next four. Ruhl placed William Bonac in second place, Hadi Choopan in third, Hunter Labrada in fourth, and Derek Lunsford in fifth. However, he struggled to name his sixth contender, finally settling on Andrew Jacked.

James turned to Ronnie Coleman’s Chad Nicholls. “I truly believe (my guys, Big Ramy and William Bonac) are going to be first and second.” After putting Hadi in third, he said the judges might put Brandon Curry in fourth. However, he thought Nick Walker deserved fourth place, Hunter Labrada fifth, and Samson Dauda sixth. Dauda’s coach, Milos Sarcev, was up next.

However, Sarcev also picked Big Ramy. “Hadi second. William third. Samson fourth,” said Milos. He agreed with Nicholls about the judges not placing Brandon below fourth. However, according to his “Vision of bodybuilding,” Brandon should be sixth while Derek takes fifth place.

Unsurprisingly Chris Cormier also put Big Ramy in first. He put Brandon in second place, William in third, and Nick in fourth, and moved Hadi down to fifth place. He also agreed with Chad about Samson taking sixth. While the bodybuilders turned coaches didn’t agree on all points, one name resonated throughout the conversation: Big Ramy winning Mr. Olympia 2022.

A former Mr. Olympia didn’t make the cut


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All five coaches unanimously agreed Ramy winning his third title in December. However, Milos, Markus, Denis, and Chad were unsure about former Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry. Brandon won the 2019 Mr. Olympia contest. Their opinion of Brandon might surprise many fans since Brandon clinched 2nd place in 2020 and 2021. The American also won this year’s Arnold Classic.

However, four out of five in the group agreed Brandon hasn’t addressed his weak links. James and Chad think Brandon’s legs continue to be his weak points. Milos said his conditioning could be an issue on stage.


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Watch this story – 8x Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman Disclosed the Amount of Money He Spent on Bodybuilding Competitions During His Career

Do you agree with the bodybuilding veterans? Or do you think newcomers like Samson Dauda have the potential to shock the bodybuilding world?

Brett Wilkin Wins 2022 Big Man Weekend Pro Bodybuilding Show – BarBend

IFBB Pro League Men’s Open bodybuilder Brett Wilkin missed out on qualifying for the 2022 Mr. Olympia. However, he will be known as the first bodybuilder to qualify for the 2023 Mr. Olympia, thanks to his victory at the 2022 Bigman Weekend Pro bodybuilding contest in Alicante, Spain.

Wilkin placed first in a lineup that featured 25 professional bodybuilders from 17 countries. The top 10 from the competition are below, as reflected on the scorecards from the IFBB Pro League website:

2022 Big Man Weekend Pro Results

  1. Brett Wilkin
  2. Andrea Presti
  3. Theo Leguerrier
  4. Mohamed Shaaban
  5. Roman Fritz
  6. Andrea Muzi
  7. Sibusiso Kotelo
  8. Milan Sadek
  9. Pablo Llopis Munoz
  10. Dani Kaganovich

Check out a recap of the podium finishers below:

[Related: Jim Lorimer, Co-Founder of the Arnold Sports Festival, Dies at Age 96]

Winner — Brett Wilkin

This is Wilkin’s first professional victory, but it didn’t come easy. His coach, Matt Jansen, wasn’t with him in Spain, so they prepared through video and feedback from others. Wilkin was also coming off a disappointing second-place finish at the Romania Muscle Fest Pro, which cost Wilken his chance at a 2022 Mr. Olympia qualification.

In spite of all that, Wilkin was the leanest man on stage and appeared the most confident. Even though he was outsized by second-place finisher Andrea Presti, the judges gave Wilkin straight first-place votes. Wilkin has the freedom to take 2023 to prepare for the 2023 Olympia, or he can compete in more shows to earn extra titles.

Second Place — Andrea Presti

Presti had height and size on Wilkin, which he displayed prominently throughout both rounds of the competition. However, Wilkin’s structure and definition in all poses were too much to overcome. Presti is in preparation for the 2022 Mr. Olympia, and this show may have been a way for him to gauge his progress. 

Third Place — Theo Leguerrier

The France native sought his second career victory and momentum going into the 2022 Olympia, scheduled for Dec. 16-18, 2022, in Las Vegas, NV. However, he didn’t appear to be quite as sharp as he was when he won the Europa Pro in early November 2022. However, he was still solid enough to take a top-three finish.

[Related: What Does Classic Physique Competitor Terrence Ruffin Eat One Month Before the 2022 Olympia?]

Bikini Top 10

The Bikini division also held a contest in Spain. Fifteen competitors took the stage for their chance to move on to the 2023 Olympia. Ivanna Escander took first place and the qualification. It’s her fourth victory of 2022, and she’s already qualified for the 2022 Olympia.

Shantal Barros finished as the runner-up, and third place went to Klaudia Ignasiak. The top 10 for that division are below:

  1. Ivanna Escander
  2. Shantal Barros
  3. Klaudia Ignasiak
  4. Angela Valenzuela Martinez
  5. Claudia Clemente
  6. Anastasia Horosceva
  7. Tatiana Lanovenko
  8. Sarah Neuheisel
  9. Giuditta Taccani
  10. Irene Iravedra Cunarro

Featured Image: @brett_wilkin on Instagram

“This Isn’t a Lifelong Occupation”: 80-Year-Old Veteran Bodybuilder Strictly Advised Against Pursuing Bodybuilding in 2021 – EssentiallySports

Since bodybuilding became popular as a sport, many bodybuilders have tasted success. Icons like Ronnie Coleman, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Frank Zane have made their names in the industry. While some bodybuilders choose to retire early and enter Hollywood, some establish their own businesses. Therefore, fame is temporary unless you have a backup.


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Veteran bodybuilder Frank Zane once sat down to talk about bodybuilding as a career. Zane, now 80 years old, is a 3-time Mr. Olympia winner. His rivals claimed he had the most aesthetically pleasing physique of all time. During the interview, he encouraged aspiring bodybuilders to take up the sport. But there was a catch.


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For Frank Zane, bodybuilding is a hobby

While speaking about the sport, the legend revealed that bodybuilding does not last long. Physical limitations and age get in the way, and one might not be able to succeed every time. He quoted“Even if you do make it in bodybuilding to some extent, this isn’t a lifelong occupation.” He stressed that the sport should be taken strictly as a hobby, not a career.

So what should a bodybuilding enthusiast do? The veteran suggested building a career in another line of work. It could act as a backup while one could pursue their passion. Although Frank was one of the most successful bodybuilders, he still chose a career in training as a backup. It worked well, as he could continue to do what he loved while also taking certain limits into account.


Bodybuilding Veteran Frank Zane, Who is Going Strong at 80, Once Revealed How
His Workout Regime Changed With Age: “It’s Essential as You Get Older”

19 days ago

Post-retirement, Zane entered the training industry with his gym, Zane Heaven. He also endorses supplements, has published a book and continues to maintain his figure. Although he retired from the sport in 1983, he still lifts, trains, and meditates to keep up with his body shape.


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Zane’s secret to staying fit after 80

While one might think it is difficult to maintain a good physique after a certain age, Frank Zane has proved otherwise. The veteran has adopted a special lifestyle in order to stay fit even at the age of 80. What is his secret? The king of aesthetics revealed that he adopted machine-based workouts over lifting weights.


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He added that the treadmill was an old man’s best friend. Walking on the treadmill helped with adequate warm-up and energized an individual. While one should always be mindful of their body’s needs, training in old age is possible.

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