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The Insane Mr. Olympia Regimen of Phil Heath

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Phil Heath during a media call ahead of the 2012 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XIII (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Phil Heath during a media call ahead of the 2012 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XIII (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

What does it take to be Mr. Olympia six years in a row? If bodybuilding phenom Phil Heath is any indication, nothing short of insane devotion will get you there.

Heath, who has 22-inch arms and thighs larger than his waist, landed his first Mr. Olympia trophy in 2011, and has won every year since. Part of his appeal is genetic luck; Heath is eerily symmetrical, with the narrow joints and long limbs that are a sought-after aesthetic in competition. Even his narrow shoulders help his deltoids and traps stand out.

“Some athletes have huge legs or a great pair of biceps,” said Robin Chang, vp for events, American Media, explaining that Heath’s entire body is his calling card. “Phil beats you not with one pose, but with every single pose.”

Indeed, Phil looks like a Marvel superhero illustration come to life, with muscles bulging from other muscles. The topography of his chest and back seems almost unreal.

A winning record like Phil’s, which rivals Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, doesn’t stop at lifting weights. To sculpt his body, Phil operates it like a specialized machine (he often compares himself to a race car) that can resist the effects of constant travel, inconsistent food, and other threats to his routine.

Food is a big part of Phil’s regimen. He eats six or seven meals a day; five to six pounds of protein-rich meats, 75 grams of carbs, 16 ounces of scrambled egg whites in the morning, and he tries to drink two gallons of water a day. Not surprisingly, his weekly food budget is around $1,000.

Phil Heath during a media call ahead of the 2012 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XIII (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)
Phil Heath during a media call ahead of the 2012 IFBB Australian Pro Grand Prix XIII (Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

 

When Phil is preparing for Mr. Olympia, his meat intake narrows down to mostly tilapia, which he dislikes. He also stops drinking water, which shrink-wraps his skin onto his muscles.

Even though bodybuilding is more about appearances than functional strength, Phil obsesses over his workouts, and films himself from multiple angles to find areas that need improving. His routine rarely wavers: back on Monday, chest on Tuesday, Thursday is leg day.

If it sounds like Phil Heath has multiple body image issues, it’s because he does. He’s very open about them, and keeps tight control over his public appearances and social media accounts to minimize unflattering portrayals of his body. His goal is to become the most celebrated bodybuilder of all time, and if he must endure some trials along the way—anxiety, body stress, tilapia—then so be it.