Slaying the Giants at Mr. Olympia 2015
Olympia Contender Steve Kuclo Outlines His Olympia Prep.
A prominent name to have emerged within elite bodybuilding circles in the past two years is the ever-improving Olympia contender Steve Kuclo. A legitimate heavyweight with a winning combination of proportionate size and freakish muscularity,
Kuclo – a firefighter and medic who juggles full-time work with the demands of a full-time pro bodybuilding lifestyle
– is, in the view of many, a challenger for this year’s Olympia title. And where many an Olympia threat has waited until well into their third decade to take the title, or make the coveted final call-out, Steve, 30, is a relative youngster with time on his side.
A former all-round athlete, who excelled in baseball, football, and hockey, Kuclo has found his ultimate calling in arguably the toughest sport of them all: pro bodybuilding. Unlike many pro bodybuilders who find competitive success late in life, Steve became accustomed to winning early, and by chance. In becoming a firefighter, Kuclo – who currently works for the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department – was required to be fit and strong.
The intensive training he regularly undertook to achieve this aim, however, led him to pursue an additional career-path: bodybuilding. He entered his first contest – the 2004 NPC Capital City Classic – at age 18, won the teen division, placed third in the open class, and immediately developed a passion for the stage.
Following NPC Teen Nationals Heavyweight wins in 2004 and 2005 and a succession of top placements from 2007-2011, Kuclo finally achieved his pro card by winning the superheavyweight and overall titles at the NPC USA Championships in 2011. Since turning pro, the 5’ 11”, 270lb ALLMAX Nutrition athlete has continued his exponential ascent through the rankings.
Winner of two pro titles – the 2013 IFBB Europa Pro Dallas and the 2014 Arnold Classic Brazil – and frequently achieving top-six honors, Kuclo, with his ninth-place finish in 2014, can also add recognition as an Olympia threat to his tally of pro accolades. A physique as impressive as Kuclo’s is not, as a rule, built from low volume training.
While many may claim to benefit from minimal sets, bodybuilders the caliber of Kuclo mostly rely on a high-volume approach to hitting the iron. Though he modifies his rep ranges – going as high as 25 – Kuclo seldom drops below 10. And as is common among his pro peers, Kuclo targets his muscles from every conceivable angle with a variety of movements and maximum intensity. In short, his training is long and hard.
As is to be expected, winning pro shows is a major aim of Kuclo’s bodybuilding mission and when a show is approaching, training and dieting form a big part of his daily lifestyle. However, it would be wrong to assume bodybuilding to be an all-consuming part of Kuclo’s life. In fact, much of his success, he says, is dependent upon balancing bodybuilding with other important pursuits.
With his exhaustive fire-rescue career and close-knit family inner circle of friends and supporters Kuclo is not your typical bodybuilding lone wolf. Refreshingly, he lives a life devoted to others yet, at the same time, is able to channel his boundless energies into the depleting and biologically counter-intuitive process of building muscle while simultaneously achieving a low single-digit body fat percentage.
Indeed, Kuclo believes that to excel in bodybuilding, and life, it is important to seek a quality of life that involves much time spent with people that are positive and supportive and less time focused exclusively on oneself.
This is not to say Kuclo is any less committed than his competition to preparing for bodybuilding’s premier event. In reality, he is working harder than ever and, for the first time in his career, is monitoring his training and making continuous adjustments to ensure the best Steve Kuclo vies for the Olympia title come the 18th and 19th of September, 2015.
He promises his family and his many fans and supporters that the improvements he has made will further place him among bodybuilding’s elite. In the following comprehensive interview Kuclo discloses his 2015 Olympia prep plan and discusses the improvements he has made.
Q: How does it feel to be a top pro competing on the Olympia stage?
When I got into bodybuilding it was a hobby, not necessarily what I planned to do as a career. Then the hobby turned into a career. To be considered one of the top pros is amazing; it’s a blessing. I’m excited and it’s an honor to be an ambassador for the sport, to be looked up to and to inspire people. When a company like ALLMAX posts about you on social media and features you in their ads – that is amazing.
People work their butts off their whole lives for this. I’m very appreciative of it and it’s not something I take for granted. I know it can be taken away at any time but it’s something I work hard for every day. And it takes time. This is not something that was given to me overnight. I’ve been training for the last 12 years of my life and I’ve dedicated a lot of my life to this. To see the rewards of the hard work is what makes it all worthwhile.
Q: How do you mentally prepare for the Olympia and other big Physique events?
One of the biggest preparations is cutting out the stress and focusing on what my ultimate goal is, and that is to become one of the best in the world. But not losing focus of the overall picture, and that’s quality of life and sharing your life with people that are positive and supportive. I don’t become a hermit when I diet. I still like to go out with my wife and visit friends. This helps me to maintain a good life-balance.
Q: Describe your training approach for this year’s Olympia? And what is your training style?
My training is really on-point I feel. This year I’m working with Neil Hill and one of the biggest things we are doing is training with a lot of volume and reps. I’ve always used a lot of volume – the FST-7 and the Y3T stuff. And the crazy eights I’ve done – a lot of crazy stuff, a lot of drop sets also. I think this is the best thing for muscle shaping and size.
My strength has always been good, but strength and size don’t really correlate.
I know guys who can lift more than me, who weigh less than me and are maybe half my size. I think the biggest thing is consistency in my training and the volume-style approach that I use. Training is one of the keys to determining how you will look onstage.
So this year I have really focused on my training versus other years where I have just trained and gotten a few tips here and there. This time training has been well monitored every day. There are regular adjustments. One day might be lower reps, say 10-12 or 10-15, and the other day it might be 15-25 reps – it constantly changes. So it’s switching it up, keeping the body guessing, and using a lot of volume.
Q: Describe your Crazy 8s training method.
This is an extremely high-volume approach to training. I usually notice best results when using it to train arms and legs (quads). You pick eight exercises for each body part and do three rounds of the eight exercises, all super sets. So its 24 total sets for the body part but done across three sets. It’s very intense and the pump is outrageous.
Q: And what are some of your heaviest lifts/gym records? Does your strength decrease pre-contest?
My strength typically increases pre-contest, which is kind of opposite to what you might expect. There are days that my energy levels are low and the diet is really getting the best of me, but for the most part I feel that my training intensity is at its max when I’m in pre-contest mode.
Now I’m not trying to set records every workout but I may occasionally feel really good and surprise myself. Best lifts to date are 500lbs on the incline bench for five reps, 200lbs for incline dumbbell presses for 10, and 405lbs for 30 reps on squats – these are some of my most memorable lifts.
Q: How have you monitored your progress to ensure you are on point at this year’s Olympia?
By keeping a diary or a log of what I’m eating and the supplements I’m taking, my training style and weight I’m able to see the changing variables. Is it increased cardio that is helping me to lose fat or is it more dietary [in terms of] cutting carbs and fats, and increasing protein?
These things are always being monitored.
Every few days, if my weight drops, I may have a cheat meal, or a higher carb day, or a re-feed. All these things play a role; it’s a 24/7, 365 thing. That’s what makes bodybuilding difficult: the amount of time, consistency and dedication that goes into it.
Q: How will you diet for the final six weeks before this year’s Olympia?
My dieting is spot on; I’m eating more than has been typical in the past. It’s not a super-restricted diet. I’d say the last six weeks will involve more cutting of carbs and calories; whatever adjustments I have to make to dial in. I stay fairly lean year-round and I’m not putting on 50lbs of excess body weight [in the off-season].
I only drop maybe 15lbs going into a show so it’s not like I have to lose all this size or be too restrictive. I think this is a healthier way to go. But the last six weeks are the key for me. I monitor my food intake and know what I’m eating every day.
I make sure I’m feeding my body with the proper supplements and nutrition.
That’s huge. I must be able to perform in the gym with a good pre-workout and post-workout recovery using the ALLMAX Nutrition products and good proteins. I use a lot of good isolate proteins post-workout and before bed.
I use the ALLMAX AMINOCUTS pre-cardio and pre-workout: I’m not a big stimulant guy but that’s a perfect amount for me. HVOL is a product I love and I use it all the time. And the AMINOCORE – I go through a bottle every few days it feels like because I’m constantly taking my aminos and water before my workouts.
Q: Compare training with a good pre-workout versus training without one?
I am a mild to no stimulant guy so the pre-workouts I take are mainly focused on increasing blood volume and pump. If I’m really dragging, I will take a pre-workout to get me some energy but using an amino-acid-based pre-workout like HVOL and AMINOCUTS mixed with extra BCAAs gives me the essentials for the workout I need.
Q: What supplements do you believe to be essential pre-contest, and why?
- BCAA’s (AMINOCORE) – 10g helps keep you from becoming catabolic.
- Glutamine – 10g helps strengthen the immune system and boost recovery. It also helps my GI tract function efficiently.
- ISOFLEX (whey isolate protein) maintains a positive nitrogen balance. It is a rapidly digestible protein for post-workout recovery and initiates protein synthesis.
- HVOL (Pre-workout) non-stim pre-workout, which helps with volume and pump.
- AMINOCUTS – a pre-workout which is taken before my cardio to help burn fat and give me a boost of energy.
- CLA– I take 3g a day to help with fat loss.
- Omega 3 – I take 5-10g a day to help counter inflammation and increase fat loss.
- Yohimbine HCL – 5g a day to help with fat loss.
- CYTOGREENS – taken first thing in the morning.
Q: Could you describe a typical day’s eating based on your current pre-contest pre schedule?
I am sponsored by ICON meals based here in Dallas. I eat about 90% of my food from them.
- M1: 1 cup of egg whites, 8oz lean turkey, spinach, 1.5c of oats.
- M2: 10oz chicken, 10 sweet potatoes with broccoli, 1/3 avocado.
- M3: 10oz tilapia (fish), 10 sweet potatoes with broccoli, 1/3 avocado.
- M4: 10oz chicken, 1 cup of white rice.
- M5: 10oz beef filet, 1.5 cup of rice.
- M6: .5C Greek yogurt, 6oz turkey, 1tblspn of almond butter.
Occasional cheat meal based on my progress. My favorite is two double cheeseburgers with sweet potato fries.
Q: What do you weigh now and what do you expect to weigh onstage come Olympia day 2015?
I am currently sitting in the high 270s (lbs). My weight floats between 275 and 278 and I expect to be around 270-272 onstage.
Q: What do you consider to be most important when preparing for bodybuilding events: training or nutrition? Please elaborate?
Both play a vital role. I usually explain it to be part of an equation. They both hold equal weight: 50/50. The nutrition fuels the workout and maintains your muscle mass when dropping bodyfat. The training is work you are putting into your body to burn the calories and obtain your fitness goals.
Q: You have stated that spirituality provides the foundation for your daily life. How do you feel your faith helps you when preparing for the biggest bodybuilding event of them all, the Olympia?
My faith is my number one – everything is done under grace. When I enter any show I pray to win but I also ask for grace to accept whatever happens. I pray for protection and strength in every area, from diet to training. My wife and I hold our faith as the center of our marriage; it’s the foundation we follow for a marriage which can only be described as heaven on earth.
Q: Compare the physique you will be bringing to the Olympia stage this year with the one that impressed fans in 2014?
If I’m going to be critical about myself, I’ve always had a bit of an imbalance between my chest and back. Now my chest is a good body part, not a weakness. My back has improved and is still improving. As I come into my prep for the 2015 Olympia it will keep improving. I’m very excited to bring what I can to the stage at the 2015 Mr. Olympia. You will be seeing the best Steve Kuclo yet.
Q: What are your biggest competitive strengths?
I’ve not only increased my muscle size as I’m getting older but I’m also increasing my muscle maturity and muscle density. I’m starting to get that 3D look, the more classical physique, which a lot of people like, and which I think is what the sport is going back to.
When Cutler got in it and Phil Heath and when you see Dexter…a bit more the clean-line physique versus the mass monster.
Ronnie was probably one of the best Mr. Olympia’s ever but he got so big that people were like ‘that’s freaky’.
You are seeing the clean lines; people want a complete physique rather than a one body-part massive freak. I think that is probably my competitive advantage.
This sport is very much a single-person sport because it’s all on you, how hard you work out, how determined you are, how much willpower you have and how mentally strong you are; how much pain you can take. But a big part of it for me is the team aspect. For me, family is huge and they are my biggest support. Having my family at every contest and having people there for me every day. I always thank my family and the fans that come to every show. It’s amazing the support I get. And that level of support is almost an advantage for me; it makes a big difference. I’m going to say that is my biggest competitive strength.
Q: Who would you like to thank for helping you to get to where you are today?
I’m thankful for these big opportunities like working for an amazing company like ALLMAX Nutrition; so that’s a huge thank you. My sponsors: you guys are the ones who make it possible. My wife is my biggest support. She gives me a whole new aspect and outlook on life.
I always tell her I feel like the most blessed and happy man alive. My family are an amazing support; from my mom, dad, aunt and cousins. They are at every contest I’m at, no matter where it is, they are there. They are the people you can depend on, if it’s three in the morning or you need 3000 dollars, they will sell their car just to help me out.
I’ve got friends who are the same way. Big Al, Dan my training partner – these guys are amazing to be with. And my food sponsor ICON Meals, and I work with VIP Supplement Warehouse who sell all the
ALLMAX products and they offer me a ton of support.
It’s all the support I get from these people…without this support and the fans, none of this is possible. Being a FLEX AMI athlete is an amazing accomplishment and I’m honored to be part of that, so that’s a huge thanks. The list goes on. I’m sure I’ve missed some people but they are all super vital and important in my life and I want to send a huge thanks out to them.
Q: What can fans expect from Steve Kuclo come September 18, 2015?
Well this September 18th and 19th in Las Vegas Nevada you will see me make history on the 2015 Mr. Olympia stage.
If you are going to be in Las Vegas make sure you check me out at the ALLMAX Nutrition booth. I will be there and on that stage. So come on out!