Steve Kuclo’s Road to the Olympia 2019
How Bodybuilding’s Breakthrough Athlete Preps for the Big One.
Entering pro bodybuilding’s upper echelons is no easy task. With a steady number of ‘next big thing’ phenoms consistently emerging and an ever-expanding talent pool of increasing depth and quality challenging for the big titles, the old guard are gradually relegated to the minor placements, eventually to be phased-out for good.
One perennial pro contender to have bucked this trend is the ever-improving Steve Kuclo.
In the pro game for almost a decade, Steve has been up against the best of the best, year after year, and, despite the rigours of high-level competition, has never lost sight of his long-standing mission and major incentive for ‘suffering’ through prep after gruelling prep: to win an Olympia title of his own.
With a plethora of high placements dotting his impressive pro resume, including a succession of firsts and multiple top-ten finishes, bodybuilding’s Kingsnake has continued to challenge for the big titles, never once faltering in his commitment to presenting his best physique come stage time.
Arguably the breakthrough athlete of 2018,
Steve brought his best ever look to the 2018 Indy Pro stage, emerging the victor and setting himself up for a top-ten Olympia placement and a career-best six place finish at the 2019 Columbus Ohio Arnold Classic. Continuing his ascent, Steve this year took his second Indy Pro title with even greater gains in size and conditioning, and, with several top names out of the picture, is now in the running for his best Olympia placement to date.
In the following interview, Steve gives the inside word on how he has prepped for this year’s O, what his fans can expect to see from him come September 13, and why he believes bodybuilding is becoming great again.
The  Indy Pro was one of my best looks and packages to date. It was a little bit more refined from the Arnold, so I think the Olympia is going to be a combo of the size I brought to the Arnold and the refinement I brought to the Indy Pro stage. The combo of those two, really bringing in the condition with the fullness, makes my physique pop and I feel this combination will really make an impact on the Olympia stage. My legs have come up more. I think my back has improved as well. It’s always said back and legs win shows and that is what we are going there to do.
I’m like slow and steady wins the race. I focus on not rushing things and doing things right, letting my body grow and mature. As I’m aging and hitting that muscle maturity into my mid-30s, I feel that my body is taking on a different look with thinner skin, rounder muscle and more condition, all of which comes with the graininess of muscle maturity.
I felt that I started at a better spot for my Olympia prep this year. My weight was up more than it has been in the past, kind of riding out the post-show rebound from the Indy Pro and staying fuller. I went into the [Olympia] prep a little leaner so I was able to eat more through the prep, which allowed me to keep a fuller look while upping the training intensity and having more strength than normal. All of these things combined have made this prep a really good one.
Yes, there are certain factors. I think number one is genetics. I think guys who are smaller and get bigger – say, those who turn pro at 210 pounds and get up to around 240 – kind of max out their physiques. And it’s genetics. For me, I feel that I’ve been able to continue growing as I’ve always been a bigger person and have a bigger frame to fill out. And it’s just taken time and also doing things right through training, nutrition and supplementation. Keeping the body guessing, eating the right foods. Being a bodybuilder year-round. That’s the key.
Just seeing the quality of competitors, the level of conditioning and the size of the guys ensures that you bring your best package each time. You are not going against any slouches or C-League competitors. You are going against the best of the best. So, it definitely motivates you to be at your best and ultimately only you have control over that.
I train to win, so I go there with the mindset of giving my all. I leave it all on the table and ultimately won’t be happy unless I win. But if I place top five, that will be an achievement in itself and then it’ll be back to the drawing board and back to working hard for next year. But obviously we are going there to win.
As I prep, I find that certain times of the day help to increase my intensity. Increasing calories at certain times also helps, as well as having some good music to train to. Also, a good pre-workout helps. When I’m dragging butt in the last few weeks of prep knowing that my intensity has to be up, a good pre-workout such as IMPACT IGNITER, which has a good amount of stimulant for a good energy boost, works well. That’s enough to get you through a good workout, knowing that every training session counts.
Yes, my mind/muscle connection is huge, especially when training body parts like back. This is an area you don’t see so it’s all about the feel. I think people love training parts like arms and chest because you can see these areas, you can squeeze them and watch them contract in the mirror. But with back, it’s really important to feel what you are doing versus just moving the weight. I feel it’s a big part of training that may people miss out on, but it’s very important.
Training for the Olympia, but also competing against the guys who are best in the world, makes you train to the max. Again, I don’t leave anything on the table or have any regrets. When I leave the gym, I know I have nothing left. I’ve done that my whole career and it’s helped me to achieve what I have achieved. By keeping that good positive mindset of a hungry competitor. So, the competition aspect is really what pushes me to train hard and bring my best.
The make bodybuilding great again was a play on words based on the political landscape in the United States at the time, but also, I think people were seeing athletes not doing the things that made bodybuilding great. Veering away from the more streamlined physiques that were so beautiful.
You know, people always look to Arnold Schwarzenegger as being the pinnacle of what a bodybuilder should look like. That was the 70s and 80s and he looked absolutely amazing. Physiques today are more impressive with the amount of mass the guys are holding, but it was getting a little out of control with people displaying what many called bubble guts [stomach distention].
Also, there were some freaky body parts, but stuff was missing. Now you look at the top guys going into this year’s Olympia and there are many good physiques – the Brandon Currys and William Bonacs; those physiques are very pleasing to the eye. Then there’s Dexter Jackson, who’s been doing it forever. Those physiques, including mine, are, to me, what bodybuilding should be (laughs).
Yes, being an Olympia competitor, and a bodybuilder in general, has made me better. There are a lot of bodybuilding aspects that are compatible with life, including discipline, hard work and persistence even when you don’t necessarily achieve your goal. I always take the positive out of things and don’t let the negative bring me down. If I don’t win, I look at what I can change or do better for next time. When you get knocked down in life there are lessons to be learned. It’s these times that I believe make you grow and become better.
I have a winner’s mindset, so I always train and compete with a view toward winning. But I think people internalize things differently. For me, I’ve always enjoyed making my family proud and doing good for them. That drives me big. Competitive bodybuilding is very hard, mentally and physically. But knowing that’s it is what I do for my family and to provide the life I do for my wife, that itself is what really drives and motivates me to be my best.
Absolutely. I think the knowledge we have today regarding supplements and nutrition, and different training methods, has helped athletes achieve another level of conditioning and size. The science behind bodybuilding is ultimately at another level compared to what it was 10-20 years ago. It’s helped me to develop the physique I have today.
I’m a little more on the basic side and don’t like to go crazy. To me, nutrition throughout the day, is key. Making sure I get my meals in and train consistently. I train about an hour after a meal and this helps fuel my training. I think pre-workouts are good to use and do work well. A good vasodilation product, a good pump product.
IMPACT PUMP has been one of my favorites because I don’t really like to use stimulants unless I’m really kind of dragging butt and need some energy. But with IMPACT PUMP you get a good pump along with the neuro enhancers for improved focus when training.
Intra-workout, I just make sure I drink enough water. Post-workout is key for me as well. I like to take ISOFLEX – I prepare 2-3 scoops of chocolate-peanut butter ISOFLEX with ice before I start training. That is a freaking dessert for me, pre-contest. The timing of things I think people get a little OCD about. As long as you are eating throughout the day, you are good. It’s okay to drink your ISOFLEX five minutes after the workout; it doesn’t have to be 10 seconds. Just make sure you are doing the right things every day and good things will happen.
- 10g glutamine
- 10g AMINOCORE,
- 1 scoop IMPACT PUMP (and 1/2 a scoop of IMPACT IGNITER if in need of an energy boost).
- 2 scoops CASIEN-FX in water. Steve makes this his nightly “pudding” treat by using only a small amount of water.
- 1 serving of ZMX
Note: Steve takes ALLMAX Digestive Enzymes with all protein-heavy meals (“pretty much each meal”) to allow for the efficient processing of the mammoth amounts of protein his physique requires.
I don’t think any prep is necessarily easier than the one before it. Sometimes they go smoother or faster. This year has gone by really fast. But I just take one day at a time. As we get into the latter part of prep, it does get a lot harder. It’s a mental game at that point where you’re very tired and hungry and that’s when you really need to dig deep and train with the kind of intensity you would with a few buffets in you. But you have to have the mindset of training your hardest every time, and that’s why I try to be at my best in every prep.
Again, I think the main consideration of all factors is genetics. Number two, I think a lot of the guys at the top have a very strong will and a very strong mind. These guys are the very best for a reason. It’s not necessarily all about training, supplements and nutrition. It’s all these factors put together along with a willingness to suffer. We know that we have to suffer and sacrifice and we’re willing to put ourselves through that. That’s the mindset of willing to feel like crap to look great.
I keep on saying that as long as I have gas in the tank and the body feels good, I am going to continue. If I get to a point where my body starts to fall apart and I’m forcing things, I’m going to take a step back. I don’t want to hurt myself for the rest of my life. But I’m still one of the younger guys onstage so you’ll be seeing me at the 2020 Olympia. Ultimately, my goal is to win the Olympia and hoist the Sandow trophy.
Obviously, my wife, who has been my rock throughout my preps. She makes my life easier and the love she gives me pushes me on. My family, who is at every show and supports me greatly through everything.
My sponsor ALLMAX Nutrition. They have been great, the way they travel us, my wife and I, to appearances, and pull back a little before shows to allow me to train and prep. And, of course, my fans who are absolutely awesome.
Everyone who comments on posts and gives me good feedback and is supportive of me as a competitor. I’ve got an amazing network and core of people around me and that is really what drives me on a daily basis to be at my best. And thank you David for bringing me on and doing this interview with me.