Interview With Author Hugo Rivera - Natural Bodybuilding, Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert Interviewed by Courtney Westerdal of CriticalBench.com - January 2008
1. Critical Bench: Give us a brief background about yourself?
My formal education background believe it or not is in Computer Engineering. I graduated from the University of South Florida back in 1998. So the question comes, how did I end up being a competitive bodybuilder and best selling fitness author?
Well, I actually used to be very overweight as I was growing up so at an early age I experienced the feelings of insecurity that come along with obesity as well as the scorn and ridicule from some people. Since I kept hearing that the reason for my weight problems was food and that I had to stop eating, I took the advice to heart being sick and tired of how I looked and felt.
So this resulted in me going anorexic at the age of 13 and losing a total of 70 pounds in less than a year. My family, very concerned took me in an effort to put some sense in me and stop the anorexic cycle.
This nutritionist mentioned one thing that changed my outlook on dieting forever: "Eating food will not make you fat; only abusing the quantities of the bad foods will." After listening to that statement, it all seemed to make sense. I then started following the diet she gave me and started to study the effects of foods on the human physiology.
By the age of fifteen my interest in how food affects the shape and the form of your body naturally led to an interest in the area of exercise. When my mom got me my first copy ever of Muscle and Fitness (the May 1990 edition) and I saw pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Labrada, Lee Haney and other great bodybuilders I knew I had to look like that. This led me to become an avid natural bodybuilder.
After I kept reading countless of books and started getting exposed to absolutely contradicting theories on how to best gain muscle and lose fat, I decided to start recording what worked and what didn't for me and my training partner. After much trial and error, I started finding principles and patterns of training seemed to work on everyone I tried them on. Above all, the most exciting part of my discoveries was the fact that there was no necessity to stay all day at the gym in order to get results! Because I felt that not many people in the industry cared about trainees actually reaching their goals, I decided to create a web site and start conducting personal training during my college years in an effort to spread all of the knowledge that I had acquired. Besides, I needed to create a website in order to satisfy my Senior Project Engineering requirement back at college..haha.
2. Critical Bench: What is the title of your very informative ebook and what is it about? Where can it be found?
What is this e-book about? This e-book in my opinion contains all of the information one needs to get in the shape you'd like. Whether your goal is to lose a few pounds and firm up for the beach or gain muscle weight, I honestly believe you will find this e-book very useful. It is good for men and women and the information will work regardless of genetics.
I wrote it in the manner I would have liked to have read a book back when I started. My ideal book would have included information on goal setting, visualization, training, nutrition, supplementation, rest and recovery, etc. In addition, the writing style would have been such that would be easy to read and above all, practical and easy to follow. One, two, three format so to speak and zero guesswork. If engineering taught me something was to be precise and to logically arrange information. Because of that, it was very easy for me to put a manual together that would meet of all these criteria.
3. Critical Bench: Is Body Re-Engineering for beginners or for the more advanced?
Body Re-Engineering is for everyone really regardless of gender, training experience or goals. A complete neophyte who has never touched a weight or even exercised their whole life will find a step by step beginner program to get them going on the right track. This program will gradually get the beginner to be ready for the advanced program and because of its gradual nature, the body will quickly make gains without overtraining and/or getting injured.
The more advanced on the other hand will find a 21-week fully periodized routine that will get him/her making quicker gains than ever before provided that they follow all other aspects of the program as well (like the nutrition, supplementation and recovery advice).
4. Critical Bench: Is Body Re-Engineering just for bodybuilders?
Well, my definition of a bodybuilder is anyone that uses weights, cardiovascular exercise, and nutrition to re-shape their physique. So by this definition, it is just for bodybuilders. However, if the question refers to the program just exclusively being for people who want to make large gains in muscle and hit low single levels of body fat for competition then the answer is no. Anyone can use this program regardless of what the goals are. If losing fat weight is your goal, then this system will help you achieve that faster than by just dieting alone. If your goal is competitive bodybuilding then this will help you get there as well.
5. Critical Bench: Please explain your cycling philosophy?
A big problem encountered by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts is the fact that they plateau (stop making gains) after a few weeks of using a specific bodybuilding program. The way to do fix that is to make use of the cycling principle, which is the principle that forms the basis of my successful Body Re-Engineering program.
The routines of my Body Re-Engineering program change in an orderly manner that takes the body to the brink of overtraining and then allows it to recover, and thus, overcompensate (grow) in response to the stress. These changes are what the cycling principle is all about.
The Cycling Principle is the key to consistent and rapid increases in muscle mass and strength for the bodybuilder. This principle states that in order for the body to respond optimally, it cannot be trained in the same manner all the time and that the best way to make the body respond is through the correct variation of exercises, volume (number of sets times number of reps), intensity (how heavy the weight is), and rest periods between sets.
Workout parameters are going to be determined by the phase of the program you are in. There are going to be three phases that we will be repeating over and over again. The first week will be an "Active Recovery Phase". In this phase you will only train with weights twice a week on a full body routine before you start the next phase which will be called the "Loading Phase". The "Loading Phase", which is three weeks in duration, is going to be a high volume phase with short rest between sets. Training volume gradually increases over the course of the three weeks in order to stress the body almost to the point of overtraining.
Then the next three weeks are going to be a higher intensity/lower volume phase (heavier weights) with longer periods of rest between sets. This phase is called the "Growth Phase", as volume is reduced but weights are increased in order to let the body catch up and super compensate (grow muscle size and strength).
The Active Recovery Phase
The Active Recovery Phase has three main functions:
· First, according to leading strength expert Tudor Bompa, Ph.D., "you are trying to adapt the anatomy of the body to the upcoming training so that you can create, or produce an injury free environment". Essentially, your tendons and ligaments should be strong enough to support the stressful periods that will follow.
· Second, this phase is a great time to address any strength imbalance that your body might have. This is the reason why mostly dumbbell work will be used during this phase.
· Finally, this phase will act as a great time in which the body will re-charge its energy stores and allow for complete physical and mental recuperation.
The Loading Phase
During the Loading Phase the body is stressed with an increasing high volume of work that if kept for too long will eventually result in overtraining and injury. During this phase, three things will happen:
· The growth hormone output goes through the roof due to the short rest interval between sets and the high volume.
· Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs by the body increasing the levels of creatine, water and carbohydrates inside the muscle cell. This phenomenon is called muscle voluminization.
· The body's recuperation capabilities are upgraded in response to the stress imposed by the increasing volume of work coupled with short rest intervals.
The Growth Phase
During the Growth Phase the body is not stressed by volume. This time the stimuli are heavy weights. If this phase would be kept for too long eventually the body would cease to stop making strength gains and you would plateau. This is the reason why you always need to go back to a Loading Phase. During this phase the following three things will happen:
· The testosterone levels go through the roof in response to the longer rest in between sets and the heavier weights.
· Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs by the body increasing the actual diameter of the myofiber (the muscle fiber size) through increased protein synthesis (Note: protein synthesis is creating protein strands through DNA and RNA and it takes place in the cytoplasm of the cell.)
· Since your body's recuperation abilities were built up to the maximum by the previous phase and the volume has gone down dramatically, these extra recuperation abilities are used to increase strength and build more muscle mass. The reason the body does this is in order to be prepared for another stressful period like the one it just went through. This adaptation mechanism is the one that ensures the survival of the species.
Even if you are training for fat loss, your main goal should always be to stimulate growth. Otherwise, if you were to drastically reduce training poundage in order to perform a lot of high reps, there would be no reason for the body to keep the muscle around. Because of this, you should always train with muscle growth in mind and let the nutrition and the cardiovascular exercise take care of reducing your body fat levels.
6. Critical Bench: Is your ebook intended just for those looking to make a breakthrough body transformation?
Realistically speaking, I designed it for those looking to radically alter their physique. I'm someone who has limited time so I always like to do things in the most efficient and expedient manner.
However, there is advice for tweaking the system for any purpose the trainee would like. Maintenance training, for instance, is easily accomplished by reducing the amount of weight training needed and using a diet that reflects that goal. Everything is spelled out in the e-book and whatever is not then can be asked in the member's forum (Note: Anyone who purchases has free access to the forum and other free materials such as exercise description videos, charts, other free e-books, etc.)
7. Critical Bench: How has your past made you who you are today?
Funny you ask that because many people have asked me if I would change anything from the past and my answer is always a re-sounding 'NO' as any little change will alter the outcome.
The past has EVERYTHING to do with who I am today. It has made me a strong person, as well as someone who understands how it feels to be too fat or too skinny. It has also made me be someone who is really passionate about sharing my knowledge and saving people out there years of frustration.
The worst thing is to not feel good about how you look, having a huge desire and all the determination in the world to change that, but not knowing how to do it. At the end of the day, it was my lack of education on the subject matter that made me become an anorexic. If I had access to a good book on the subject back then that would not have happened to me. That is why I am passionate about sharing my knowledge through articles, e-books, published books, podcasts, seminars, and any other way that I can share it. I really do not want anyone to put their health at risk like I did in order to achieve the way they want to look.
8. Critical Bench: What is your advice to those who are currently suffering from insecurity due to obesity?
Basically this advice not only goes to those suffering from obesity but just to anyone who is not happy with the way they look.
My advice is that if you are unhappy because of the way you look, then you need to do something about it. This will require some sacrifice and that you get out of your comfort zone and change your lifestyle. You may also have to deal with some ridicule at first from negative people who rather have you stay the way you are. Hey, even I went through this. At first many people would laugh at me when I started carrying a cooler with my meals and my protein shakes on one hand and my gallon jug on the other. However, no one laughs anymore. Now, I simply get compliments and questions on how they too can achieve bodybuilding success (keeping in mind that my definition of what a bodybuilder is does not imply competition; simply getting in better shape through weights, cardio and nutrition).
So I urge you that if you want to change bad enough, you put blinders on, make some goals, follow a good program, and apply it day after day no matter what obstacle comes your way! And believe me, you will encounter obstacles. Your determination (which will be valuable to overcome obstacles) and your consistency of execution will be your biggest allies in addition to your conviction that you CAN actually do this. This is of utmost importance as I've noticed that many people who give up do so because deep inside they do not believe that they can accomplish their goals. Believe me, I have accomplished way more than I thought I could so I am here to tell you that YOU CAN TOO! Only if you truly believe are you able to achieve.
9. Critical Bench: You achieved many titles in the past! Which is your most memorable and why?
Thank you. This is an easy question. My most memorable title is the 2001 NPC Lifetime Natural Typhoon Bay Championships. You see, I never really had any intentions of competing; I just wanted to look good. But my friends at work at the time and everyone else really urged me to compete. I was happy being 10% body fat and really did not want to go much below that but then I thought it was a bit hypocritical to tell others to get out of their comfort zone when I was not willing to take myself all the way to my best absolute shape ever.
When I had the blessing from my awesome boss back in my engineering days, my family support and that of my friends I decided to go for it. The Typhoon Bay was 11 weeks away so I figured that was a good one to choose besides the fact that it was a tested show. Now, I had no clue on the competition aspect of things so I hired a good friend of mine who is also a top bodybuilding coach in the nation, Tim Gardner, to show me the ropes. Turns out that he was also the promoter for the show. However, imagine my surprise when he tells me that the show was a Statewide level show that if I won, would qualify me to compete at the Team Universe in New York where only the BEST natural bodybuilders from the nation get to battle against each other! To top it off, Tim's face was priceless…he said: "you have a lot of good mass but we also have a lot of work ahead of us".
I implemented his diet and started doing the cardio which at first I though was just two sessions of 45 minutes of cardio a week but Tim wanted me to do two a day! After two weeks of me mis-reading the instructions, Tim tightened my diet further and I started to do the daily doubles seven days a week! For the weight training part of things, I did his training split but implemented my Body Re-Engineering Training Principles on it.
Believe me when I tell you that at 8 weeks out from the show life was pretty grim for me. I really had no clue what I was signing up for! I was doing cardio in the morning before breakfast, weights at noon time and more cardio at 5:30pm! This was done 7 days a week, rain or shine. Add to that 8 meals a day and tons of water. Oh, and let's not forget at the amount of supplements I was taking, supplements that at the time I had to pay for. Even my brother was helping me with contest expenses and supplement shops giving me extra discounts. I was on creatine, caffeine, ephedrine, glutamine, tons of Branched Chained Aminos, Tribulus Terrestris, Yohimbe, Multi Paks, extra calcium/magnesium/potassium, 5 grams of vitamin c, chromium picolinate, alpha lipoic acid, flax oil, liver tabs, choline, inositol, lecithin, glutamine, whey protein, and whatever else I don't remember now. No pro-hormones though.
Add to that, 30 minutes of posing practice a day, tanning over the weekends, posing practice with Tim and the rest of his athletes every week also, and suddenly I realized I was a full time bodybuilder.
Because of the lack of time I had to start allof the process full bore with no increments. As a result, 3 weeks prior to the show I was really sore, lethargic, had zero energy whatsoever, but yet, I had an insatiable drive to persevere. I would visualize myself being the Terminator who would accomplish his mission no matter what. Besides, my wife told so many people about the contest that I had over 35 friends coming to see me including all of my fellow co-workers so I did not want to let all of these people down. At 2 weeks out I checked my blood and was badly anemic (I have a genetic propensity for that from my mom's side). At this time I could hardly even move my legs and was adviced by my Medical Doctor at the time to stop. My thoughts were, I will die first before I stop (not something I recommend, but I do want to give you a clear image of my state of mind). The last week was even harder as I had to carb deplete, follow what is called a high volume depletion routine, then carb load and water deplete. But at that point, nothing mattered. I just wanted to get everything over and done with and keep executing till the end regardless of pain or any other feeling I would encounter.
The show was on Saturday and the training stopped at 12 noon on the Wednesday before that. I was so conditioned (shredded) that Tim allowed me to just do 1 session of cardio on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. By Friday I felt much better health-wise.
Saturday came and I really thought I was not good enough to compete at a State level. I thought about how dumb I was to have my first show be a statewide level (a Level IV) one. When I went backstage I waited for all competitors to take their clothes off first and after I checked everyone out I took off mine. I knew it was going to be a good day after the whole backstage freezes once I strip down and started to pose. Competitors were talking that I was going to take the whole thing and the camera guy covering the event started to solely focus on me. That is when my confidence soared and it showed on stage. Looking at the video of the event, it looked as if I had done that all of my life. I felt very comfortable up there and the people's applause would pump me up to do even better. All the posing practice gave me such good control over my body that I did not even break a sweat. All the cardiovascular work also created such an endurance that there was no fatigue whatsoever as I went from pose to pose. I could have posed all night really.
Long story short, I won my class unanimously and then won the whole competition as well beating the heavyweight champion. My contest weight was 162-lbs but I looked around 200-lbs. I was also the shortest competitor in the show too, which I thought was funny.
Honestly, that night to me was a dream come true that I will never forget but it was not the fact that I won so decisively what makes it so special, but the journey and all of the sacrifice that it required to get there. Looking back, I have no clue how I was able to live feeling so ill…I guess that is a true testament as to what determination will allow you to accomplish.
10. Critical Bench: Why choose Body Re-Engineering over any other ebook?
A few reasons:
1) Its versatility: the information inside can be used by anyone and for any fitness goal. In addition, Body Re-Engineering takes into account individual body type and adjusts the diet to match the person's unique metabolism and goals.
2) Easy to understand and follow: this is a compliment that I have gotten from many readers out there. All of the information is logically arranged in a very easy to understand format. There is no guesswork and everything is spelled out for you.
3) It's proven: Countless of people, including me of course, have used it with good results so it is not an untested program.
11. Critical Bench: What are your future goals in bodybuilding?
On the career end, I want to continue inspiring others and publishing the best information I can come up with in order to help as many people as I can with my knowledge. In my imaginary world, everyone is in the shape that they want to be, and thus are happy with who they are. This does not mean that everyone is single digit body fat…it just means that everyone has achieved a physique that they are happy with. My job is to provide the maps on how everyone can get there.
On the competitive end, the part that I do just for fun, I am working on adding more size to my legs as I keep my upper body pretty much the same except for more shoulders and triceps. Then on 2010 I'll go back to the USAs (in which I took a solid 4th this year) with the package that the judges asked me to come up with. That will guarantee a victory from what they told me. So wish me luck!
Hugo Rivera CFT, SPN, BSCE. is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, multi certified personal trainer, industry consultant and fitness expert who not only knows training and nutrition theory, but also applies it on a daily basis as evidenced by the fact that he's always in shape and by his awards and high placings at numerous national level bodybuilding competitions.
He is also an internationally known best selling fitness author with a very successful franchise of books called "The Body Sculpting Bibles" which collectively have sold over a million copies. Hugo is also author of the very popular “Body Re-Engineering” e-book, which teaches you how to gain lean muscle mass and get lean without drugs, or fancy expensive supplements, using the secrets he devised after many years of weight problems as a child. For more information on Hugo’s Muscle Building / Fat Loss Program please click on the link: www.losefatandgainmuscle.com