Welcome to part 2 of my interview with natural bodybuilding national champion Skip La Cour.
In this second part of the series, you'll learn more about what it takes to be champion, including the truth about the role of genetics versus outright hard work and dedication. You'll hear Skip's thoughts on how you need to approach customizing your training style and what it takes to stay in shape and looking young years after a successful competitive career is over. Plus, you'll get the latest scoop on what Skip (age 49) is up to these days after retirement from competitive bodybuilding. What's "life after bodybuilding" like for one of the top athletes in the sport? Get the inside scoop right here...
- Tom Venuto.
Continued from Part One
Tom: I've noticed that sometimes people say, "That guy has great genetics" but it's not a compliment - they mean to take away some of your credit as if to say, "He looks like that only because of his genetics." I'm curious about how you would describe your own genetics and I'm wondering what you think happens when you take someone with world class genetics AND a world class hard work ethic and put the two together, compared to the guy with world class genetics who doesn't give 100%.
Skip: One year at the Team Universe when my weight class was walking on stage, one of the competitors behind me yelled "Genetics don't get you up out of bed to train at 5 o'clock in the morning." That was a line from an article I had written for Iron Man Magazine. Great genetics certainly are not what made me use my abilities to their fullest for such a long period of time.
The truth of the matter is, if I didn't have both great genetics AND an exceptional work ethic, you wouldn't even be communicating me with right now. My perspective wouldn't matter to you or anyone else. You wouldn't even know who I am unless I trained in your gym at the same time as you did. One without the other doesn't make you known all over the world for what you do.
All of the people who started on their bodybuilding and training journeys over the last 20 years who had great genetics without an exceptional work ethic are simply unknowns right now. At least in the bodybuilding and fitness world they are unknowns.
People should only be concerned about how much they are taking advantage of their own genetic abilities and becoming the best they can be. Control all of the factors that I've mentioned that you can control - and don't worry about your genetics that you can't control. This is all about being the best YOU can be - not yourself compared to me or anyone else. Most people fall way short of maximizing their own genetic potential.
My genetics can only be accurately measured when they are compared to somebody else's. Compared to the vast majority of people in the world, my genetics are indeed great. But when you compare my genetics to elite, successful bodybuilders, they are just pretty good. There were many people at the Team Universe every year who had better shape, flow, and symmetry to their physiques than I did. I simply outworked them with my conditioning and stage presentation.
I've had several people during my career volunteer their belief that, even if I took steroids, I wouldn't be a Mr. Olympia level competitor because of my lack of great genetics. As with everything in life, nothing has any value unless it is compared with something else.
I will say that I am certainly genetically gifted to have to trained so heavily and for so long without any damage to my body. I had no serious injuries that caused me to miss a single workout in 15 years of competitive bodybuilding.
Tom: You've always been known for your muscle size. Correct me if I'm mistaken but you're 5' 10" I believe, and you've competed in the 220 range? At one point you even reported gaining 16 lbs of muscle in one year. I know you could give a whole clinic on this - and in fact, you have - but very briefly what do you feel are the most important factors for gaining mass steroid-free?
Skip: I'm closer to 5' 11" and my actual weight on stage in my most shredded condition was 205 pounds. I, myself, didn't even realize how little I weighed on stage until my final two years of competing. My weight at the Thursday night Weigh-ins was about 216 to 220 when I was in my best condition.
During my last two years, I wanted to get really detailed about the entire process. I wanted to get as much information as possible about what I did so I could be a better teacher when I stopped competing. That's when I brought a bathroom scale on my trip with me and learned exactly how much water weight my sodium loading/depleting/potassium loading process caused me to drop in just a couple of days.
Sometimes when you go from being in "off-the-charts incredible" shape one year to just being in "okay" shape the year afterward, it can cause what appears to be impressive gains in muscle.
Tom: Sorry, I didn't mean to dock you an inch of height! I've noticed the same thing about stage weight - it's mind blowing how light you come in on that one day of the show especially if you pull back water. I've weighed 182 or so the week before the show knowing I was stage-ready lean, but by the night show on Saturday, after cutting back water and sweating so much, I weighed more like 172. I'm lifetime natural and I got accused of steroid use all the time even though my heaviest stage weight in peak condition was 175-176 at 5' 8". Since your competition size was huge compared to other naturals, you must have heard the steroid accusations even more than the rest of us. How did you deal with it or respond to it?
Skip: I really don't agree that I was so much more "huge" compared to other naturals - especially for my height.
Without a doubt, I was the most successful competitive natural bodybuilder on stage who racked up the most wins in the most highly-publicized contests; who competed in the most highly-publicized shows; who competed for the longest period of time consecutively in those high-profile contests (10 straight years); who has the most coverage in the international muscle magazines for the longest period of time (whereas most of the other natural bodybuilders received virtually none), had the best supplement company sponsors featuring me in their ads for so many years; and collectively has probably had the most visits to my web site since 1997 than any other competitive natural bodybuilder.
But that's because of how hard I worked on the business side of things and how well I marketed myself - not because of reality. Trust me, there were many natural bodybuilders over the years who were pound-for-pound as big or bigger than me.
My belief in who I am and what I'm all about is what helped me deal with the steroid allegations. And, as I mentioned earlier, you get used to it after the first million or so times you've heard them.
Tom: Yeah there are some other pretty big heavyweights in the natural ranks, but at least from the perspective of a "little" middleweight like me - I've always considered you pretty damn big! Anyway, on the note of training to get big, over the years I've had a lot of people ask me what I thought of your workouts or of Max OT training with 4-6 rep sets. So now I finally get a chance to ask the man himself.
You're strong as an ox and you had amazing success staying in the 4-6 rep range. My experience has been that in the 4-6 rep range I got superb strength gains but not as much the size gains and my joints started to hurt if I didn't de-load. I got better size gains and joint relief with a periodized program that alternated the strength and hypertrophy (8-12) range every other workout or went through several weeks of lower reps and then alternated with several weeks of higher reps. I've responded really well to high rep leg training too, which I picked up from Tom Platz years ago. I have a theory about this. I think people with a high proportion of fast twitch fibers will get strength AND better muscle size results on 4-6 reps and those with mixed fiber types will do better with both rep ranges. Do you have any thoughts on "different strokes for different folks" with regard to rep ranges?
Skip: I believe all training strategies can be effective in one way, shape, or form. If it isn't because it is the ideal strategy to give you optimal physical gains, it's because some component of the strategy helps you with the extremely important mental aspect of bodybuilding and training.
Everyone's goal is to find out what they feel works best for their body. The only way you can truly do that is through experimentation. Too many people "theorize" about what the best strategy for them is without experimentation. It may be "good" but it may not be the "best".
I always remind people that even if it turns out that your current strategy isn't the "best" for you, it doesn't mean it is totally ineffective. In other words, if the best training strategy for your body is a "10" (on a scale from "1" to "10" and "10" is the very best) that does not mean everything else is a "zero" on scale from 1 to 10. Executing an "8" strategy for a long enough period of time until you find that perfect "10" for will lead to some impressive gains.
Tom: In the "freaky" body part category, there's the side view of your legs. In the side poses, you blew the competition away. Not only did you show ridiculous width, when you dialed in your conditioning, I don't think I've ever seen so many lines separating the outer quads, hams and glute-ham tie ins as you had. I have to believe that's not just a genetic gift and that you focused and worked hard on that look very intentionally. Am I right? And if so, how did you train to get that kind of size plus detail?
Skip: To truly know what is genetic and what is not when it comes to conditioning (degree of leanness) is impossible. It's like you would have to live two different lives executing the same level of discipline in each year of each life.
I didn't learn what it took to look that way and work that hard until 1998. I had won many contests before then. I didn't repeat that ultra-shredded look until 2002 and 2003. If it was due to genetics, I should have been able to look that way in 1999 (which I came in second place in my class), 2000 (which I won my class but didn't win the overall), and 2001 (which I came in second place in my class).
Some people say that type of conditioning is the results of all of the consecutive years of serious dieting for contest. I would not know that for sure unless I lived two different lives.
I'm sure every accomplishment in life has a genetic component to it to some extent - even intelligence (which is defined as the ability to pick up patterns more quickly than others). Figuring what patterns work is definitely a sign of intelligence.
Tom: Bodybuilders are well-known for comebacks - even famous ones like Arnold's return to the stage in 1980 after announcing his retirement in 1975. So are you really retired from competitive bodybuilding or is there a return to the stage in store for you as well?
Skip: I am retired from competitive bodybuilding. I have gotten everything I wanted from competing many times over. In fact, I sometimes think I competed too long and made achieving some of my other goals in life a little more challenging.
Right now, I'm using the same passion, focus, and work ethic that made me an outstanding, international-recognized bodybuilder to make my supplement company, Skip La Cour's Mass Machine Nutrition, the best one on the planet!
Tom: As a bodybuilder who no longer competes, but who is obviously still living the bodybuilding lifestyle, what kind of condition do you like to stay in year round these days in terms of the look and the weight and the strength, and what kind of training and nutrition does it take to achieve that?
Skip: If you consider all the "daily disciplines" in all the different facets of bodybuilding (weight training, cardiovascular training, nutrition, mental focus and motivation, and lifestyle organization), let's just say I was a "10" when I was competing at the highest level ("10" being incredibly disciplined and "0" being a total slacker who can't follow through). I can maintain my current level of fitness with about a 6.5 effort.
Bodybuilding is still a big part of my identity. My appearance and accomplishments are what makes my supplement company what it is - Skip La Cour's Mass Machine Nutrition. It's my brand. So, I can't let myself go. I don't miss workouts and I always have some degree of abs showing.
Tom: Speaking of still looking good, I've watched some of your new videos from this past year and you don't look like you've aged a day in a decade. Is natural bodybuilding the fountain of youth or do you have some other anti-aging secret to share with us?
Skip: I appreciate that comment. I want to believe my sacrifice and dedication for so many years still has some benefits.
I am positive that eating properly and exercise has helped me to some degree remain healthy and look younger. I am positive that never doing steroids prevented me from doing any harm to myself.
When I really look closely, however, I believe that stress is what causes a person to become unhealthy and age more than any other factor besides genetics.
It sounds strange but the demanding bodybuilding lifestyle was not stressful because of its predictability. At any time in my 15 year competitive bodybuilding career, I could have told you what I was doing at a certain time and day two years earlier - and two years into the future. Sure, the heavy training, strict eating, limited lifestyle, and traveling were challenging at times - but not "stressful" per se. For the most part, my life was extremely predictable.
Starting my supplement company has been the most stressful and most challenging endeavor I've tackled in my life so far. It was like waking up in the morning and trying to figure out a different 2,000 piece jig-saw puzzle with your financial future depending on your performance every single day for over two years. That's stress - and that's what ages a person!
Tom: When you look back on your bodybuilding career, what are you most proud of and how would you like to be remembered by the next generations in the bodybuilding community?
Skip: What I'm most proud of is coming back to convincingly win the overall title at the 1998 Team Universe after coming in a disappointing 5th place in the heavyweight class the year before. Until now with my supplement company, I had never worked harder for anything in my life before.
Tom: You've always been a successful entrepreneur - you even turned bodybuilding into a career for yourself in a sport where many people say you can't make a decent living. I always found that impressive and I'm wondering what's new and what's next for skip the businessman?
Skip: I planned to make Skip La Cour's Mass Machine Nutrition the best and most effective supplement company in the world. I have 20 years of expert bodybuilding and mental strength information that I plan to share with the world on a larger scale than I have ever before.
I also have a passion for helping men become better leaders. Through my studies and my own experiences, I have developed the MANformation personal development program for men. It teaches men Alpha Male leadership strategies. MANformation teaches a man how to lead his own life more effectively - and then learn how to lead others. I have audio seminar programs and other learning material that I offer at my MANformation.com web site.
Tom: You're all over the internet now, You Tube, Facebook and you have more than one website - what are the best places for bodybuilding fans to look you up online?
SkipLaCour.com for bodybuilding and training information.
www.MassMachineNutrition.com for Skip La Cour's Mass Machine Nutrition sports nutrition and bodybuilding supplement line.
www.MANformation.com for Alpha Male Leadership Strategies.
"For social Networking, you can find me on:"
Tom: One more thing Skip - If I'm not mistaken, all of your classic bodybuilding courses - even those ones I mentioned that I've had since the late 90's - are still available on your site, along with a lot of new stuff, like audio MP3s, training DVDs and personal development products. If so, then where specifically can our readers get more info and do you have any sales or good deals going on right now that you can hook my readers and members with?
Skip: Tom, so much of what we talked about in this interview is about the mental and emotional ingredients for success. I know that I'm the best person to come to when explaining those concepts - and having them apply them to the bodybuilding, training, and fitness efforts.
Your students have picked a great teacher in you for the specific training and eating strategies. I'd like to help bolster everything they've learned from you with what I'm known for best.
My MANformation Alpha Leadership Strategies audio courses have "struck a nerve" (in a good way) in thousands of bodybuilders at every level - from beginners all the way up to advanced competitive bodybuilders. Whether they subscribe to my training and eating philosophies or not, I've made a special connection with them because of these leadership courses.
I believe the success of this course among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts is because the same people who want to improve their bodies understand how important it is to improve their attitudes as well.
In many ways, MANformation is my personal story striving for success in life. It's culmination of what I learned from the great peak performance coaches and motivational speakers I studied under - and then translated those lessons into my own life. It's my journey figuring out how to effectively deal with the up and downs; good and bad; high and lows; and everything else that life inevitably put in your path.
We talked about a lot of non-bodybuilding topics during this interview that all factored into my success as a bodybuilder: Self-confidence; Believing in who I was, what I was all about, and my message; How I dealt with this challenging situation or that challenging situation; How I developed such high standards, discipline, focus, consistency; How I avoided the opinions of other people who believe the details aren't important; How I handled the negative opinions of others, and much more.
Those are the character qualities, characteristics, and actions of a true leader - and that's what you learn from my MANformation program.
And, Tom, what's been a very pleasant surprise is all the WOMEN who discovered value in this "MANformation" material!
These perceptive women gained an awareness of how things really work within human interactions - and they've used that new-found awareness to take control over any situation. The insights they learned in the MANformation material was like giving them a "sneak peak in to the other team's playbook".
Many of the women who appreciated the value in these leadership strategies not only used it themselves, they turned their husbands, boyfriends, and brothers onto them!
As for special deals for your members and subscribers, sure I'd be happy to do that: I'm offering my 11-hour MANformation audio course with workbooks, "The Mindset and Actions of a Powerful Alpha Male Leader" at a 20% discount. All they'll need to do is type in the coupon code - inner - when they check out.
I'll also throw in three free bonuses: First, a one-hour audio seminar titled "The Top 10 Qualities, Characteristics, and Actions of a Powerful Alpha Male Leader," and that's a $24.99 value.
And I'll also include two free ebooks: "Disarming the Alpha Male of the Group": 33 Effective Techniques That Will Put You Back In Control." And "Skip La Cour's Daily Training Journal", that's the same ebook that made an impression on you many years ago. It's a $24.99 value and I'll throw that in free as well.
To get the discount and the free bonus ebooks, don't go to the public home page, go to the special discount page I set up for you at this link:
Tom: Thanks for the offer Skip, we appreciate it. Your contest training journal was a real eye opener for me about what goes into contest prep at the national and world-class level. I'm going to check out your new leadership course myself too as soon as I get the chance. Also, thanks for taking the time do do such a detailed interview. We all appreciate you sharing the advice not just on bodybuilding, but on being successful in life and on being leaders and role models to those around us. Hope to talk to you again soon!
Disclosure: Tom Venuto and Tom Venuto.com have no affiliation with Skip Lacour mass machine nutrition supplements.