Bodybuilding is a sport I love, it is where I started. It helped me build a true foundation of dedication that flowed into the rest of my life. From time to time I hear negativity surrounding this fantastic sport, so I took great pleasure in doing the following interview.
John Martini is now the new NABBA Northern Ireland Champ, but on top of that a true gentleman and a family man.
1) Hi John, congratulations on your victory, how does it feel to be the new Mr Northern Ireland champ?
I am absolutely over the moon Mark. I was in a state of shock when I won on Saturday night. I was going in with no expectations other than to bring my best physique possible. I was shocked to win class 2, never mind the overall Mr NI title. I have always dreamed of someday winning it, ever since I was a junior. It just goes to show that if you keep plugging away consistently, day in day out, anything is possible.
2) John, tell me about how you got started in the world of bodybuilding.
I was always obsessed with muscle as a teenager, be it wrestling or my real idol Arnold Schwarzenegger. I remember watching his movies as a child and thinking I’d love to look like that. I started doing some push ups and sit ups in the house at about 15. It quickly grew into an obsession and I wouldn’t go into bed till I had done 100 push ups and 500 sit ups every night. I knew I was onto something. I was always lean and muscular. I remember in school my legs were bigger than our P.E. teachers. At 17 I joined the local leisure centre and it really took off from there. Another bodybuilder, Vinty Johnston trained there and it all started from there really.
3) Let’s cover your training, are you a high volume trainer or what is your philosophy when it comes to training?
This is where I differ from most. Last march I met Graeme McConkey, he said I had so much potential and was going down the same path as him. Anybody who doesn’t know Graeme, he was tipped as a future pro in his early 20's but never felt good enough so never competed again for over 20 years in his mid 40's. He has a different way of training than most, so since last march we got together. I trained a total of 4 days a week. Each workout is maybe 40 minutes tops. The workouts are low in volume (biceps for example is maybe 3 total sets) but the intensity is through the roof, very similar to the way Dorian Yates trained, with intensity techniques forced reps, rest pause, negatives, static holds all used. Exercise form is paramount, everything must be precise. Slow, negative, explosive, positive and good contractions. No swinging or lifting a weight for egos sake. Remember we have 3 phases of strength negative (lowering the weight), positive (lifting the weight) and static (holding the weight in contracted phase). Negative is the strongest, followed by static with positive being the weakest phase. So if you are doing barbell rows for example and you can’t contract your lats in the static (contracted phase) something other than muscle power got the weight there. You need to use less weight and do the exercise right and get that contraction. In my opinion most people spend too long in the gym, rest too long between sets, don’t train hard enough and do too many sets with too little intensity. Come down to my gym Vahalla and be put through a workout and you won’t be able to go for longer than 30 minutes when you are actually training hard! Less time in the gym means less cortisol production, more family time and more growth. Remember you don’t grow in the gym, get in hit it hard and get the hell out and grow! My short intense workouts and the fact I didn’t do any cardio or believe in doing cardio also improved my work life balance. I know many bodybuilders spend 3-4 hours a day in the gym pre contest, training and doing cardio. I am just throwing it out there that this isn’t necessary or indeed the most productive way of doing things.
4) Fantastic training method’s, now nutrition, does your off season nutrition vary a lot when its comp time?
I have a very fast metabolism and I am naturally lean. I really do need to eat to grow. Off season I would be a very big carb eater 800-1000g of carbs and I don’t get too fat on this. Carbs come from oats, basmati rice and vitargo post workout. If I feel like a little treat off season I will have it as I say I have the metabolism to get away with it. My protein intake isn’t too excessive only about 1g per pound of bodyweight, carbs are protein sparing so with me eating so many carbs I don’t have a need for any more than this. I do take in a lot of healthy fats coconut oil, good oil and lots of oily fish, salmon or mackerel usually once a day. Pre contest the carbs do drop but I am far from keto or low carb. My body seems to do well on carbs. I was still eating 400g of carbs a day up to 4 weeks out. At this point I was having trouble getting my back as tight as the rest of me, so my good friend David Mccolum (professor of muscle as we call him) advised me to start cycling my carbs on a 3day rotation, day one was 350g carbs, day two 250g and day three 150g of carbs. I would repeat this cycle for another 3 days and on the 7th day have a re-feed day of about 600g. This seemed to work a charm and I immediately started to tighten up while staying full, and not going flat. Protein was a bit higher pre contest 1.5g per pound of bodyweight to preserve muscle and plenty of healthy fats as well. I kept my fats higher on my low carb days to keep my calories up. Supplements I feel are essential are BCAAs, whey protein, vitargo, omega 3's and a good multi vitamin/multi mineral. Also I should note I didn’t do any cardio at all my entire pre contest diet, not a fan of cardio especially the low intensity, long endurance stuff, any science you read on it tells you it raises cortisol and slows metabolism for all the calories you actually burn doing it you would be best not bothering in fact I feel its counter-productive. I was able to get a lot harder and leaner without it. The HIIT cardio is different it is actually science backed and I wouldn’t rule out trying it in future, but I was able to get into great condition without any cardio whatsoever.
5) John I know you have a young family and you work pretty long hours, how do you balance your life as a bodybuilder around your personal life?
Balancing life as a bodybuilder with a family and work commitments can be difficult but family must come first. I have two kids one aged 3 and one aged 8 so they are both still very dependent on me and my wife. I also work 60 hours a week, in a not very well paid job I may add and I have a 60 mile commute to and from the gym I train, valhalla in Carrickfergus 4 days a week. Combining these commitments with bodybuilding has its challenges, but it really comes down to planning and just how badly you want it some people find excuses for why they can’t do something and others find ways they can do it. My wife is a massive help, and helps me prepare all my meals. I cook my food in bulk for the day, and my food goes everywhere with me, be it off season or pre-contest. I also try and train on the days I am working this means my days off work I can spend more time with my wife and kids. I don’t get as much sleep as I would like, and me and my wife get virtually no free time together, but what time we do get to spend together we make the most of. To be honest I feel having a family and work commitments helps me as a bodybuilder, keeps me more grounded and not obsessed with solely bodybuilding 24/7 as long as you are eating your meals and doing your training the rest will take care of itself. Constantly obsessing about bodybuilding 24/7 is counter-productive in my opinion. I have always made my best gains when I am in a good place mentally and happy with my home life. I know a few bodybuilders who can’t hold down a job or don’t want to work. I find it pathetic to be honest, Ronnie Coleman won 4 Mr Olympias while working full time as a police officer. If you can’t hold down a job and even win an amateur show maybe they are in the wrong sport. Bottom line is where there is a will there is always a way, hard work always pays off in the end!
6) So what’s next in line for the new NABBA N.Ireland champ?
My next step is the Nabba Universe in October I had thought about doing the Nabba Britains, but financially it would have being difficult with us moving house. Also doing the universe in October gives me time to make some improvements I feel I need, back and pecs mainly. Every time I compete I want to be better than last time.
7) John thank you so much for a fantastic interview, it was a true pleasure.
Many thanks for the interview mark, really appreciate it. I would like to thank Graeme Mc Conkey who believed in me and gave me the confidence to do this show. I owe this win to him. Danny Brown for being there from day one and a great friend and also to David Mc Colum. I hope this interview shed some light on my training philosophy. I am starting my own training business in a few weeks so if anyone is interested add me on Facebook.