2016 Olympia One on One Interview with Steve Kuclo
Can Bodybuilding’s KingSnake KO the Champ?
Pro bodybuilder Steve Kuclo is ready for war. Come September 16, the 2011 NPC USA champion will again challenge pro bodybuilding’s best when he hits Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena stage for his fourth Olympia appearance in as many years.
The battles are fought in the gym and at the dinner table and the war happens onstage,
says Kuclo of the mindset needed to prepare for the world’s premier bodybuilding battle. And Kuclo is as battle-hardened as they come. The Team ALLMAX Nutrition athlete began his bodybuilding ascent way back in 2004 with an NPC Teen Nationals Heavyweight win. Though his potential for someday garnering Olympia gold was evident from the beginning, his breakout year has been over a decade in the making.
Coming off a big win at this year’s California Pro, the man they call KingSnake has unleashed more his phenomenal pro potential. He promises to be in the best shape of his competitive career come O Day, 2016. He also believes his size (around 280 lbs of shredded beef!) and enviable aesthetics will carry him to the top.
No doubt aided by his decision to commit fully to pro bodybuilding (Steve has up until recently worked fulltime in the rescue services) and to enlist the expertise of contest prep specialist George Farah the devout Christian has finally positioned himself as a top tier Olympia contender.
Winning the Olympia is the most difficult task a bodybuilding pro will ever face. With a full roster of established veterans and many a promising prospect leading the charge in 2016, securing bodybuilding’s biggest prize will be harder than ever. As Steve succinctly states,
The guys on the Olympia stage keep getting bigger and bigger and the conditioning bar continues to be reset.
But if anyone can upset the established order and threaten the current crop of leading contenders it is Steve Kuclo. He’ll certainly be one of the biggest men onstage. When the final placements are awarded he also believes he’ll be the best.
Q: Hi Steve. You looked incredible at this year’s California Pro. What training and nutritional changes do you credit for the way you looked at this show?
Thank you David! I started working with George Farah this year and he has completely transformed my physique. He keeps things very basic and is always changing my diet to make the proper adjustments weekly. My appetite has come back as it was something I struggled with for the last couple years.
I do not do anything drastic the last week before a show. I like to be ready two weeks out. We really like to utilize ALLMAX Carbion+ pre and post workout as well as Isoflex protein post workout. I use a ton of Glutamine and BCAA’s throughout the day as well.
Q: You are known for being one of the bigger guys on the pro scene. Do you think such size will be an asset on Olympia day, 2016? What additional strengths could place you inside the top five?
The guys on the Olympia stage keep getting bigger and bigger and the conditioning bar continues to be reset. Size does help when you are in the comparison round as when you stand next to people you look much larger. But at the end of the day it boils down to who is in the best condition and nails it on the day of the show. Strengths that could land me in top-five contention would be my size as well as my proportion. I’m known to be a very aesthetic bodybuilder and I believe that will carry me to the top.
Q: The final week before a big event such as the Olympia can be a make or break time, depending on how well organized a competitor is. How do you approach the final week to ensure your physique is dialed in to where it needs to be on the day of the contest?
I approach the final week as I would with any week of prep. I avoid excessive stress. I like to be ready about two weeks out so I can make small changes and adjustments without having to do anything drastic to try to get into shape. Minimizing variables and keeping things simple is a formula that has worked for me.
Q: Many people are picking you to be among the last men standing at the 2016 O. Do you agree? Do you have any predictions concerning your placement at this year’s event?
People having Faith in me to be one of the last men standing definitely is a morale booster. I don’t like to make predictions but I am going into the show with my training, nutrition and focus geared toward winning. I’m not going into the show just thinking I am going to be there and maybe place. I am going there to win.
Q: Do you ever get nervous before taking to the Olympia stage. If so, how do you stay calm and focused?
Being the fourth time on the Olympia stage my nerves will be a little less than the years before. But there is always so much that goes into the show that I have to know mentally that I gave it my all. When I do that I am confident in myself, and that overtakes any nerves. But I do still feel my heart pounding out of my chest, just as I am about to hit the stage.
Q: Many fans and spectators believe bodybuilding is more performance art than sport, especially the competition aspect, which includes posing and presenting oneself in a professional manner onstage. However, both free posing and comparisons can be strenuous and physically demanding. You must also win over the judges onstage with how well you pose and present yourself and by demonstrating how badly you want it. Do you believe bodybuilding is more sport than performance art? Just how hard is it competing on the Olympia stage, compared to other arenas?
There is no stage quite like the Olympia stage. With over 10,000 people watching you live, the lights, the heat from the lights, and the adrenaline that is flowing through your body – it’s like a drug. Anyone that knows bodybuilding knows that it is a one-man sport, not a team sport. You have to practice your posing, get your conditioning down, and put together a routine to pose to. Posing while depleted and dehydrated is one of the hardest things you can ever do. Even when you practice posing you never pose [in practice] as hard as you do onstage. It’s a battle. I look at it that way!
Q: Do you believe in incorporating cheat meals/re-feeds pre-contest? If so, how often did you periodically up the calories prior to this year’s Olympia? What is your view on this practice?
I include a cheat meal once a week until about 8 weeks out. Then I go extremely strict the last 8 weeks of prep. I may bump my calories a day or two if I am getting too flat or dropping weight too fast. This is where having a close relationship with your prep coach is helpful so you can make the changes as required during prep. I believe cheat meals are helpful during prep to boost metabolism and prevent your body from dropping weight too fast.
Q: How do you manage your training and nutrition the week following the Olympia? Do you have some time off, or are you back in the gym preparing for the next event?
In regards to post Olympia training and nutrition, I like to slowly come off my diet and training regimen. So I will in essence keep training like I would for the show and eat just about the same with the exception of a few cheat meals here and there to allow my body to adjust without shocking my system. After the show it is a crucial to ensure you don’t over-consume food or do anything that will cause your body to rebound in any way.
Q: No pro bodybuilding athlete has a perfect competition record. Do you have a particular strategy for when you don’t achieve your goals? How do you stay focused on the next show following a poor result?
I believe everything happens for a reason and the outcome, whether winning or losing, is a test to see how you come back, pick yourself up, and drive yourself to become better, to improve from your last showing. The judges want to see you improve show to show. When you do this you are rewarded. Knowing that keeps me working hard to better my physique show to show.
Q: Do you believe there is a specific mindset each Olympia athlete must have to make it to the world’s biggest bodybuilding stage?
I believe every athlete has a different mindset or zone they have to get into. I look at it like a war. The battles are fought in the gym and at the dinner table and the war happens onstage.
Q: Do you have any training superstitions, for example a certain item of clothing you wear to the gym, or a specific phrase you repeat to yourself before a heavy set? Something that you feel will enhance your performance.
I don’t have any superstitions per se… I don’t believe in them. I do believe that I look better in certain colors on stage so I stick to those colors. And there are those shirts you feel bigger or stronger in when you train certain body parts so I usually wear those shirts etc during certain training sessions.
Q: On September 16, you will be competing in your fourth Olympia. Do you believe the competition has gotten tougher since you began competing at Olympia level? How do increasingly tougher competition standards influence your personal preparation?
I think the Olympia competition gets deeper every year and the line up gets stronger and stronger. The weight and condition of the competitors keeps increasing every year and the competitors are truly pushing their bodies to their genetic limits.
Q: What training techniques have you always implemented, both pre-contest and offseason? Why do you feel these techniques are so effective?
I have developed a few of my own training methods over the years that I have found work for me. I have worked with some of the best trainers in the industry and my most recent program, called the “KingSize” routine, is my favorite as it combines with both volume and heavy weight. I train the same as far as heavy weight and intensity goes, whether offseason or pre-contest.
Q: What do you enjoy doing outside of training, to take your mind off the gym and mentally re-charge?
Outside the gym I love spending time and doing life with my beautiful wife. We love to go out to dinners, movies, and just spend time at home. In traveling so much, home is our favorite place to be. I also love going to rock concerts and of course am a big car enthusiast. I own a Mustang Cobra (Hence the nickname “KingSnake”) and love everything about going fast and racing.
Q: How much of your success is reliant upon having the right support network? Who has helped you to grow as an athlete?
My wife and I have a strong faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. He gives us our strength and we believe with God on my side, whom shall I fear? My family is the biggest support network I have… they are probably known as the biggest in the sport. They never miss a show and are known for having a good time and for partying it up after the show!
- Age: 31
- Height: 6’0’’
- Offseason weight: 280-300lbs
- Pre-contest weight: 280lbs
- Favorite exercise: barbell squat.
- Favorite protein supplement: ISOFLEX: Strawberry or cookies and cream are my two current favorite, but I go in phases.
- Favorite ‘cheat’ foods: I am a burger guy! Nothing better than throwing down some double cheese burgers and fries! Close second is a good pizza, Italian food, and BBQ. Really, anything that tastes good to me and fills me up is my favorite [laughs].
- Best competitive moment: Most memorable or best is close between winning the USA Championships and turning pro [in 2011] and winning the California Pro this year to qualify for the Olympia. Hearing my wife in the audience yell for me and seeing her excitement when I won made it so special for me.
Olympian Supplement Strategies – Pre-contest Supplement Stack
As with my diet, I love to keep my supplements simple and of all the high quality essentials and perfect blends from ALLMAX Nutrition, the following are my staples.
- First thing in the morning I throw down a mixture of 1 scoop of A-Cuts, 1 scoop AMINOCORE, 5g GLUTAMINE, and 2g L-CARNITINE right before I do cardio.
- From there I eat breakfast and get in all my vitamins with VITASTACK and CLA.
- Next is my pre-workout which I take about 20 minutes before I train. This consists of 1 scoop A:CUTS, 1 scoop H:VOL, 1 scoop AMINOCORE,, and 5g GLUTAMINE.
- My post workout is 1 scoop C:VOL, 1 scoop AMINOCORE, 2 scoops CARBION+, followed up by 2.5 scoops of ISOFLEX protein.
- Before bed I take 2g OMEGA3’s, CLA and ZMA to help me sleep.
*Note: Steve uses ALLMAX Nutrition products exclusively.
Top Supplement Tips
- Make sure you consume enough protein. Most people have to supplement with whey protein, myself included. Whey isolate is my preference as it is the cleanest protein.
- It’s often overlooked but a multi vitamin is very important for body functions and VITASTACK is the most complete multi vitamin I have taken.
- My favorite supplement is AMINOCORE which is an ALLMAX BCAA product that tastes great, helps preserve muscle, and fuels my workouts.
2016 Olympia Prediction
With his superior form and size, as displayed at this year’s California Pro, it is a safe bet that Steve Kuclo will make the final placements come Olympia day, 2016. It is also a safe bet that the perennial favorites will show up at their respective best. This means Kuclo will be fighting hard to secure the Sandow. Top three is possible. Top five is probable.
Unfortunately, for a new top contender such as Steve to make the coveted final three he must be so much better than the established elite. And the champ himself, Phil Heath, must be metaphorically KO’ed in order to pry open the stranglehold he has on the title. It remains to be seen whether Kuclo has that knockout punch.
Verdict: fourth place