Steve Kuclo’s Road to the Olympia 2018
Focused and Ready: The New and Improved Steve Kuclo Prepares for Olympia Top Honors.
Such were Team ALLMAX athlete Steve Kuclo’s impressive improvements in size, shape and conditioning when he hit the USA Arnold Classic stage in March that he walked away with a career-best 5th place finish against some of the event’s toughest competition, thus cementing his spot among the IFBB’s elite and kick-starting his campaign for 2018 Olympia success. More importantly, he had achieved his best-ever physique, a culmination of six years of brutal workouts and meticulous eating for the express purpose of clawing his way up the pro ranks.
Four weeks later he did it again, this time trouncing the opposition with first-place-finish at the Indy Pro – in the process displaying a crisper and fuller physique than the one that did damage at the Arnold.
To what does bodybuilding’s Kingsnake credit for such a remarkable transformation? For the most part, he did more of what has always worked: the same tried and true formula of advanced supplementation, precision nutrition and mind-melting training intensity that has kept him battling it out with pro bodybuilding’s best since joining the hallowed ranks in 2011.
Besides continuing to hammer the basics, he’s also made a few key training adjustments (read the following interview to find out more). Perhaps what really separates Kuclo, and indeed his fellow pro contenders from countless pro hopefuls is a “unique” training mindset that Kuclo has continued to hone as he becomes more and more attuned to doing whatever is necessary to outmuscle the competition.
Though he admits to being under pressure as the Olympia approaches, such is the importance of excelling in “Bodybuilding’s Super Bowl”, his overall prep mentality really comes down to “working his hardest and bringing his best” come Olympia day. To be at his best Kuclo must cultivate the bodybuilding mindset – to be, above all things, mentally strong and disciplined, a mindset Kuclo says can be applied to any area of life that requires a successful outcome.
working his hardest and bringing his best
To be at the top of his Olympia game, Kuclo does not believe in making excuses, nor does he complain. Instead, he is 100 percent action-oriented. He does not let his feelings get in the way of achieving his mission. “You can’t be run by your feelings because feelings change constantly,” he says. “There are plenty of times I personally don’t “feel” like doing things but I just do them regardless. Get it done and be merciless when achieving your goals.”
At 5’11” and with an onstage shredded weight of around 270lbs, Kuclo will be one of the larger competitors to contest this year’s Olympia. However, unlike many of his fellow ‘mass monsters’, the fire and rescue service worker has the advantage of symmetry and proportion more befitting a much lighter competitor. And now that he’s perfected his prep, he’s on target to achieving his strongest showing to date.
Get it done and be merciless when achieving your goals.
Poised to contest Olympia number five, Kuclo is aiming for career-best top five placement at this year’s event. He knows he’s done all he can to bring his best combination of size, shape and conditioning.
Should he replicate the physique that brought him success earlier in the year, he’ll certainly be in the running for top honors. If he can go one better, he may even challenge for the top spot. Let’s now take a closer look at how Kuclo supplements, trains, eats and thinks his way to Olympia-level success.
Q: First, congratulations on an impressive 2018. A first place finish at the Indy Pro show following fifth at the Columbus Ohio Arnold Classic has placed you among the IFBB’s best of the best. With this momentum, what can your fans expect to see and where do you expect to land come September 14-15?
A: Top 10 at the Mr. Olympia is always a goal but to be honest, top five is where my sights are set. As a competitor I only train for first place. The Olympia is stacked with such great bodybuilders that I know I only have control of myself and if I give my prep all I got, that will show onstage and I will be rewarded.
Q: This year you achieved what appeared to be a career-best combination of size/conditioning and shape. What changes did you make to your training specifically, to produce these results?
A: This year my training was the biggest change that I applied during my prep. In the past I have always trained very hard but realized I took a lot of time between sets. I started to time my rest between sets and exercises, which allowed me to really turn up the intensity of my training and improve my conditioning.
Q: Are you continuing to make changes to your training as the Olympia approaches, or are you sticking with the same plan of attack? What training modifications, if any, will you be making between now and September 14?
A: Since I have handed off my training to Gina Davis, she changes my training up every 2-3 weeks and sometimes every week, as we get closer to the show. The earlier part of my prep is usually around some heavier compound movements. As my prep progresses I incorporate more drop sets and volume into my workouts, which helps burn more calories and bring in the contest condition.
Q: Outline your current training plan
Monday: Chest, delts, triceps, abs / Tuesday: Legs, glutes, calves / Wednesday: Arms / Thursday: Back, traps, abs / Friday: Chest, biceps, calves / Saturday: Big back blowout day!!! (get the workout pdf below) / Sunday: Off
At this point in my prep I’m utilizing a lot of drop sets and timed rest between sets. I still lift as heavy as I can. Doing drop sets I lift about 85% of what I would do for straight sets. This style of training really helps bring in my condition and creates insane pumps in the gym.
Q: What do you take pre-workout to get you in the zone and enhance your focus and intensity? How specifically does this product give you the edge?
A: ALLMAX IMPACT IGNITER is their newest pre-workout, which I love to use during times of low-energy and deep stages of pre-contest training. I do not take a lot of stimulants on a regular basis but when I use this product I really feel the impact of its ingredients. I only need about a half a scoop and my energy is at 100% for my workout.
Q: What nutrition changes, if any, have you made to enhance your size, shape and conditioning leading in to this year’s Olympia?
A: Going into the Olympia prep in a better spot condition-wise versus coming off a year rest going into the Arnold, has allowed me to eat more food. I’ve been able to maintain higher calories while bringing down my body fat and this is ideal when it comes to bodybuilding and bringing the freakiest physique to stage. I’ve also increased my cardio during this prep. The last few preps I have done only about 20 to 25 minutes a day but now I am doing 40 to 45 minutes right now, six weeks out.
Q: What foods do you always keep in your diet (both off-season and pre-contest) and why?
A: I eat very similar to my contest diet year-round, which makes it easier for me when I prep. With that said, I stick to the basics. My protein sources are chicken, steak, egg whites, and whey protein. My carb sources are white rice, sweet potatoes, and oats. I find these foods digest the best with me and I feel it’s the ideal fuel for my training. Now in the off-season I enjoy my burger and fries that I don’t get to eat but every once in a while when I am dieting.
Q: How has bodybuilding nutrition changed across the board and for you since turning pro in 2011?
A: I would say my nutrition has changed quite a bit since turning pro. I believe your body is always changing so you have to adapt and make the changes to fit it. I’ve noticed I’ve become sensitive to certain foods (like acidic fruits and vegetables) that either don’t agree with me or give me acid reflux. I avoid those foods all together.
I also noticed that I don’t need as much protein in my diet. I used to eat 8 to 10 ounces of protein (cooked weight) per meal but I now eat around 7 to 8 ounces of protein cooked. This has not only helped with digestion but I’m also able to use more calories from other macros, like carbs and fats, which are much more enjoyable to eat (laughs).
Q: You recently had some time away from the stage. How did you approach your training during this time and how did this time away benefit your physique?
A: I always train hard year-round, but during this last off-season I really focused on improving my training style and form. I wasn’t focused on just moving weight as much as I was improving my physique. I knew this would take time and that’s why I gave myself a year to make the needed improvements.
Q: You are known for bringing a new and improved version of Steve Kuclo with each Olympia outing. What will be your major strengths onstage at this year’s Olympia?
A: My major strengths on stage at this year’s Olympia will be improved size along with the condition that I usually bring. I am one of the taller bodybuilders and also very symmetrical so being one of the bigger guys on stage allows me to showcase size and strength of symmetry.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a pro bodybuilder? How challenging is your job and how do you keep your life balanced when focusing on a competition?
A: What I enjoy most about being a pro bodybuilder is being paid for something I love to do. Fitness is a passion of mine and being able to do it with my wife, travel with the same supplement company we endorse, and meet so many amazing people around the world that either you inspire or are fans of yours makes all the hard work and sacrifice worth it.
Q: What do you feel has been your best pro showing to date? What further improvements do you think you can make to your physique?
A: I feel this year I took my physique to another level. After evaluating many years of contest prep there is only so much you can do with nutrition and supplements when dieting. I felt the biggest factor that I could change is my training in the gym. That’s when I hired Gina Davis to give me my training programs and completely transform the way I trained and the intensity of my workouts. This year at the Arnold Classic and the Indy Pro I brought a physique that not only showcased condition, but also a degree of fullness that I had not previously shown onstage.
Q: How does competing on the Olympia stage compare to competing in other pro events? Is there more pressure to be at your very best come Olympia day?
A: The Olympia is our Super Bowl in bodybuilding. You leave nothing on the table and there is definitely more pressure to be your very best at the Olympia. Being in such a subjective and judgmental sport I try not to think about that portion and just focus on bringing my best and working my hardest. Ultimately that is the only thing I have control over when it comes to the Olympia.
Q: Describe the mindset of a top-level pro bodybuilder. What mental strategies give you the winning edge?
A: There is definitely a unique mindset you have to have to be a top level pro bodybuilder. You have to be very mentally strong and disciplined to be a top-level pro bodybuilder. This mindset applies to many areas in your life as well which will help you make successful.
The strategy I have is not to have any excuses and I don’t like to complain. You have to be an action-oriented, not a feelings-oriented, person. You can’t be run by your feelings because feelings change constantly and there are plenty of times I personally don’t “feel” like doing things but I just do them regardless. Get it done and be merciless when achieving your goals.
Q: With experience comes wisdom. What have you learned about yourself since your began your bodybuilding career?
A: Bodybuilding has taught me many life lessons. A couple of lessons that I feel are most import are patience, work ethic, and integrity. You cannot train a few weeks or even a year or two and expect to be on the Olympia stage battling it out for a top spot. You have to be patient with you body and progress and trust the process.
If you are in the gym day in and day out you have a great work ethic but to keep yourself accountable and pushing yourself to be the best in the world you have to have a killer work ethic. It cannot really be taught but it can enhance your progress by keying in on the strong points we all have.
The integrity portion is beyond just being an honest person here…it’s really about possessing firm principles and keeping yourself accountable when no one is looking. It’s easy to cheat on your diet or submit to cravings but you have to have very strong will power and mental prowess to be one of the best.
Q: What are your bodybuilding plans beyond your inclusion in this year’s Olympia?
A: This has been a long year competing, given that I began contest prep last Christmas for the Arnold Classic. After the Olympia I will most likely be taking some time off to recharge, spend time with my wife, and get ready for the 2019 Arnold Classic.
Q: Thank you for this interview Steve. All the very best for this year’s Olympia. Who would you like to thank for helping you to achieve one of the best physiques in the game?
A: First of all I would like to thank God for giving me the strength and grace to get through all these grueling years of dieting and training. I want to thank my wife for her unwavering love and support. My mom and dad for the genetics and drive to be best I can be! And my trainer Gina Davis, who has taken my training to the next level and helped to transform my physique over the last year. I also want to thank ALLMAX Nutrition for the sponsorship and for providing my body with the best supplements on the market.