To be the best you have to learn from the best! When it comes to learning about training, nutrition and supplementation there is rarely anyone better to learn from than an IFBB Pro bodybuilder. This isn’t to say you have to be a ‘bodybuilder.’ There are many aspects which are very similar for any athlete. Today FitMag readers you are going to be learning from one of the very best 202 IFBB Pros of all time, John Hodgson!
John thank you so much for joining us today, it is always a pleasure to learn from somebody so experienced and respected as yourself!
It is my pleasure Adam.
To start with can you explain to us what inspired you to begin competing John?
It is a similar story to so many other bodybuilders. Frank Bruno, Sylvester Stallone and of course Arnold all inspired me! I used to love watching films like Rocky, Rambo and Commando. From there I would read muscle magazines where guys like Lee Labrada, Lee Haney, Gary Strydom and the likes of really influenced me. As I looked at them I was just fixated by their physiques, they looked like cartoon characters. Little did I know at the time I would eventually achieve a physique similar to these guys – a shorter version though!!!
Shorter maybe, but not smaller that’s for sure! Since you began competing what is the most valuable lesson you have learned which you could pass on to our readers?
Being consistent is the number one rule! Train really hard with real intensity making every workout count. Eating the right foods at the right time on a consistent basis is just as important, if not more important! Of course you also need to be on top of your supplementation. To sum it up, being consistent and dedicated to all three aspects is the best lesson I learned along the way!
After the British GP you decided to retire, what made you make this decision?
That’s a good question. As silly as it may sound when I competed in the British GP the placing I achieved and the money wasn’t really a motivating factor for me. Basically I wanted to show my support to the show because a very good friend of mine, Neil Hill, was behind organising it all. Neil and his colleagues had put a huge amount of time and money into the show. After finishing second to Flex, and after 18 years of competing I just felt I had really achieved what I wanted to at the age of 42. If you had told me a few years ago when if I qualified for the Mr O I wouldn’t compete, I would have said you’re crazy. However, it just felt right for me to retire at this point in my career and focus on having more time with my daughter. Sometimes people don’t realise the dark places you have to go when you are preparing for a show.
OK – moving on to your training. How did your training change throughout your career?
My training has always remained the same. I like to use HIT training because it is a logical approach to training. I have always pushed my muscles hard, even 1 week before the British GP I was doing 3 plates on bent over rows and 3 ½ plats a side on deadlifts for 15-20 reps. My form always remained good though!
What are the top 3 training mistakes you see in the gym you run, Evolution?
- Poor form
- Trying to lift too heavy
- Lack of intensity
How long should people rest between sets?
You can’t really put a figure on it, I believe it is down to the individual and depends what they are training. If they are training legs, an all out super heavy set on the leg press will almost certainly take it out of you more than the shoulder press would! Resting between sets is really important from a mental point of view; you have got to be prepared before you go into the next set. As a rough guide, around 2 minutes is about right most of the time!
Great advice! What would your single piece of advice be to beginners in regards to training more muscle mass?
Learn good form! Without good form you cannot target the specific muscle groups very effectively. Go as heavy as you can with good form, and make your training progressive all of the time. If you don’t make the training more challenging the muscle has no reason to adapt!
John what nutrition principles have you used throughout your career?
Since I began training I have always stuck to a basic balanced diet. My protein intake would be 1.5g of protein per pound of lean body weight, or just sometimes of complete body weight depending how lean I am. In terms of protein sources, you need to be eating poultry, lean red meats, oily fish, eggs and of course protein powders.
My complex carbohydrate intake would be 2-3g per pound of body weight, and then I would eat as many fibrous vegetables as I liked. It is important you get your fibre, minerals and antioxidants from your vegetables. Personally I was a broccoli man myself. Carbohydrates sources include rice, pasta, potato, sweet potato, wholegrain bread and oats. People go on about the difference in glycemic index between regular potato and sweet potato for example, but sticking to the basic principles and being consistent with them never failed the old school.
Fats were never measured out, I just made sure I had between 2-4 egg yolks a day, some lean red meat and oily fish and perhaps some nuts or peanut butter. This would have you pretty close to where you need to be.
Nice to see someone with your profile promoting a good, solid and hearty balanced diet mate. Do you believe in calorie counting?
I always weighed out my food in order to know how many grams of each nutrient I was having. Calories never bothered me though because I felt knowing how many nutrients I was eating is much more important. In regards to people concentrating purely on calories opposed to nutrients I think this is a mistake because you can have a ‘low calorie’ diet with all the wrong calories.
What are the top 3 biggest mistakes you see people make with their diet?
- Lack of education on the basics of food
- Lack of understanding which foods contain what nutrients
- Consistency with their diet
A lot of people really struggle with their diets because they find it bland. Do you have any tips on how to make your food taste better, yet avoid scuppering progress?
Eating healthily doesn’t have to be boring! I am known for eating relatively bland food because that’s how I personally eat some of the time. However, you should season your meat, have a bit of ketchup, add curry spices and utilise natural ingredients to make sauces. For example, if you want chilli con carne get some tinned tomatoes, kidney beans, chopped onions, chilli powder and make it yourself. This way you can eliminate any hidden sugar or fats you don’t want in there.
Nice! Do you believe in cheat meals?
Yes I do. If you are eating for example 50 odd meals a week and 48-49 of them are clean I don’t think 1 or 2 treats really hurts. It depends what you have as the cheat meal, for example I wouldn’t eat a 2,000 calorie binge on junk. If you fancy something like a Chinese then have it, if you want a chocolate bar then have it. Just make sure it is a treat, you are not doing it every day. This way I think it helps keep you sane and can in fact help keep you on track. It makes it a lifestyle rather than a short term ‘diet.’
In regards to supplementation, how important do you feel it is?
I’m a huge believer in supplementation, massive! Nowadays the supplement industry is so advanced and they really do work. Any athlete needs to be taking supplements in my opinion. Protein powders also help you break up the day a bit, having a nice tasting shake opposed to another solid meal when maybe you don’t fancy one.
OK – what would your top 5 ‘must have’ supplements for beginners?
- Multi blend protein – having a high quality multi-blend covers all the bases really. You get a combination of fast and slow proteins which will help keep a constant feed of muscle building nutrients going into the muscle. Personally I have used Reflex, CNP, PhD and Gaspari and they are all great products.
- Post-workout recovery – Recovering properly is essential, because without proper recovery you cannot gain muscle. Therefore I would highly recommend CNP Pro-Recover.
- Multi-vitamin – It is really important to stay healthy and keep your body going. Using a Multi-vitamin will help you do this. I personally like Animal Pak!
- BCAAs powder – to promote recovery you really need BCAAs. Once I started using BCAAs I really noticed the difference in my recovery and growth. For the British GP I was using my own brand of BCAA which I will be releasing soon enough. I believe you need a powder form because you get a better dosage opposed to capsules.
- Mass gainer – every beginner will want to gain muscle mass, so it makes sense to start with a mass gainer to use as a meal replacement. This way it isn’t so hard to get in your 6 or so meals a day, with 1 or 2 of them being from powders.
That is great advice John, thank you so much for joining us and sharing your experience and wisdom!
That, FitMag readers concludes the interview. Every time you get the opportunity to learn from somebody as experience and as knowledgeable as John you should cherish it! Remember, to build a competitive IFBB Pro physique you really need to know your stuff! Take heed guys, take heed!