Interview With Contest Prep Guru Chad Nichols

With the Olympia right around the corner, as you can imagine, my mailbox is full of “what if?” questions…meaning everyone is asking about their favorite scenario. What do I think will happen if Ronnie is right on the money? Can a Melvin Anthony physique win the Olympia? What does Victor need to do to win the Olympia? And the questions go on and on. So this month, I’ll address some of the many scenarios and questions I’ve had thrown at me regarding the Olympia and I’ll give you my take.

Q: Chad, I’ve got a question for you and I want a to-the-point answer: What does Ronnie have to do to win this year- plain and simple?
A: I’ve heard this question quite a bit and have received many, many letters asking this question recently- so to address it and be to the point- here’s what I feel Ronnie must do to win this year. Everyone knows that Ronnie lost last year due to the problem (nerve impingement) with his lat. One side was definitely smaller than the other and it was noticeable and enough of a weakness last year to sway the judges in a different direction. Plain and simple, in order for Ronnie to win this year, he must correct the problem and bring the lat up to where it is at least 95 percent. I admit last year it was a problem and yes it did end up costing him the show, however, it was also a problem that didn’t rear its ugly head until he began leaning out during his diet and at that point, it was too late to do anything about it for that show.

Ever since the day after the Olympia, Ronnie and I have been planning his recovery and the rebuilding of his lat and so far, so good. As long as that lat is up to par come September, I believe Ronnie will win again and I believe this is part of what it will take for him to win and break the record.

In addition to the lat, I do feel there are several other issues that come into play for the Olympia. I also feel that Ronnie must be in his all-time best conditioning and that he must be big…but not overly big…and that he once again brings the complete package to the stage. As well, with this being another two-day event, we must make certain that he holds his peak and doesn’t spill while bringing to the stage all of the elements that allowed Ronnie’s superior physique to capture eight straight Sandows.

Q: I am a huge Victor Martinez fan; he is hands-down my favorite physique in the IFBB today! My question to you is do you feel it is time to move on to a different era like that of a Victor Martinez physique and total package? For the past nine years, we’ve seen Ronnie and Jay dominate the sport, but I think the fans are ready for something different- especially after seeing Jay in action as Mr. Olympia and seeing the public’s response to him as Mr. Olympia. It’s not as though he has changed the sport for the better or has even used his position as Mr. Olympia to do anything for the sport. I just think people are ready for something different and ready for someone who can appeal to everyone and to me, that’s Victor.
A: Let me tell you…in all honesty, Vic has as much momentum going into this year’s Mr. Olympia as anyone else in the lineup and even more momentum than Jay! Even though Jay took home last year’s Sandow many, many fans thought that if it were time for a changing of the guard with physiques, that Victor should have been the obvious choice as the Mr. Olympia successor. Follow up that positive press with the fact that only a few months later, he swept the 2007 Arnold Classic with a perfect score- now you have a definite threat to the Olympia title.

If that isn’t enough evidence to solidify his chances, I’ll add in that Victor possesses a couple of qualities that very few people in today’s competitive field have: constant progression and consistency. At every show since I first began working with Victor in 2006, we have watched Victor not only improve, but consistently show the judges that he can come in to shows in fantastic shape time after time while adding full muscle in all the right areas.

With regard to what Victor needs to do to win the show, I think that for one, we must see the all-time best Victor Martinez onstage. Victor is always willing to go the extra mile and not satisfied to stay with the physique that won his last show; he continuously wants to advance and with that mindset, he will continue to climb the ladder.

In terms of what improvements we plan to make for the Olympia, we have been working diligently on intensifying his quad sweep while also working to construct deeper separation throughout the quad area. By doing this, Victor will be able to walk onto the stage and show a quad that is full, round, lean and deeply separated before ever flexing. This will make his entire physique that much more remarkable.

If Victor makes these improvements while showing improvement upon his overall presentation, he could very easily win the show. Not only is Victor an extremely balanced athlete- not just in terms of balance in his muscularity- but with regard to his entire package, his degree of conditioning is symmetrical, his physique is symmetrical and when you put all of these qualities together, they are all comparatively balanced. No single attribute is more noticeable than another and at the same time Victor has the peculiar ability to cater to everyone, whether you are a fan of sheer muscle or a fan of symmetrical physiques.

As far as Ronnie and Jay are concerned- you know how I feel about Ronnie and Jay is a great athlete- if either one of them is off their game plan or Victor brings all of these qualities and improvements to the stage: LIGHTS OUT!

Q: Chad, I was just wondering if you think we’ll ever see the day when they allow a Melvin Anthony or that type of physique to win the Olympia? Hopefully this doesn’t show my age too much! I have had a love for the sport ever since the days of Frank Zane and I have always enjoyed the physiques of Lee Labrada, Bob Paris, Flex Wheeler…the truly beautiful and gifted physiques of the sport. It just seems that the sport is rewarding sheer muscle and throwing the “total package” to the wayside. Don’t get me wrong- I have a huge respect for what Ronnie and Jay have accomplished and all the hard work that goes into building that type of muscle- but I just feel that something is missing. Last year was the first time I had been to the Mr. Olympia in 10 years and I couldn’t stop going back to Melvin’s physique, which in my opinion is perfect. So, I guess another question would be what is wrong with Melvin’s physique? I mean, is it really that important that a Mr. Olympia have shredded, striated glutes when the rest of him seems to be perfect and ideal?
A: This is a really good question and one that I feel is important to address. I’ve seen about every type of physique imaginable throughout my career in the industry and Melvin’s physique is simply unbelievable. Structurally, Melvin is perfection and the epitome of the “cartoon character physique.” He sports a 28-inch waist- which is almost unheard of in today’s sport- teamed with wide shoulders and full, round muscle bellies. He’s just a great physique to watch and he does possess all the tools to win and to be an Olympia winner, so what will it take for him to win?

Unfortunately, everyone has one flaw. Melvin’s kryptonite is his glutes and hamstrings. This is what we focus on each outing…working to get his glutes and hamstrings as tight and conditioned as possible without sacrificing fullness and burning up precious muscle to get to that point. One crucial element when working with Melvin is that the longer or harder I diet him does not necessarily mean the leaner his glutes and hamstrings will become. From past experience, if Melvin’s body is ready, but his glutes and hamstrings still have not come in, trying to diet down another 10-15 pounds to reach striations in that area would only diet away 10 pounds of muscle, while his glutes would only tighten up another 5 percent- not a good gamble. So, last year what we tried was to keep him full, but lean, and hope that when we carb or super load him that when we filled the skin back out, it would give him a harder look in the problem area and it worked.
From this point on, we will keep him heavier- but just as lean- in the 240-pound range while continuously etching away at the glutes and hamstrings. If we continue to do this, eventually we will reach our goal as each time out, they become a little harder and tighter. However, does he have to possess ripped glutes to win? I would really like to say no, but the hard truth is probably yes, he does need to have this in order to win. I say this because when you get to that level (I am speaking of the top five physiques in the world), the nitpicking really begins and in some cases, a contest may be so close that it comes down to nothing more than a single body part or the conditioning of a certain body part in order to make the decision of who wins the show. In this day and age, the top-tier group has striated glutes; however, Melvin has made it to this group without them, but for him to grab the top spot, he’ll probably need to have this element.
So to sum up my answer, yes, I do feel that Melvin’s physique is a physique that could win a Mr. Olympia title. However, I also feel that he will have to continuously improve his glutes and hamstrings to the point that eventually he will show striation in that area to win the Olympia title. This is what we will continue to work on and hope that he will be rewarded for this work.

Q: Chad, I know you don’t work with this athlete, but I was just wondering if you think that Dexter Jackson at his size- he’s around 235- could win the Mr. Olympia. I think he’s the best bodybuilder out there and I don’t think he gets his due. It seems that because he doesn’t weight 270 pounds, he gets the short end of the stick every time and I just plain think it sucks! Why do you think this is and do you think he could win the Olympia this year?
A: In my opinion, I don’t feel Dexter has ever really gotten the shaft. We are talking about an athlete who has won the Arnold Classic twice; he’s beaten Jay Cutler at the GNC Show of Strength and he’s placing in the top five of the Mr. Olympia. I think Dexter has done a fantastic job with his career- especially when you think of how far he has come since first turning pro. He turned pro at the North American as a light-heavyweight. He was in the 180s at that show and let’s be realistic…I know the human physique and its capabilities very well. I think 235 is a stretch as a competitive weight for Dexter and actually if he would list his real weight- which is probably closer to 215- what he has accomplished in the sport would seem even more impressive!

In my honest opinion, I don’t know if Dexter will ever win the Mr. Olympia because although he is impressive for his size and consistently in great shape, when you stand Dexter (a smaller, great athlete) next to an athlete who has everything that Dexter possesses, but is larger and has more of everything, the larger athlete will win almost every time. Now, that being said, Dexter also possesses the gift of consistent conditioning and the ability to come in to a show in ultra-ripped conditioning, so when Dexter is 100 percent, he is a sight to behold. But Dexter even at 85 percent is still more shredded than most and he’s still competitive. With this in mind, if one of these guys is off and Dexter is 100 percent on the money…you never know what could happen. Although the odds are against him, on any given day, you just never know what could happen.

Q: Chad, I may be reaching, but what are the odds of Toney Freeman winning the Olympia this year? I think he’s really gotten the screw the last couple of shows, even though he is moving up the ladder. Do you think he is our next Mr. Olympia?
A: Toney has really jumped into the elite group of athletes after winning a few shows and placing top three at the Arnold Classic. Up until now, Toney had really lacked the front-to-back size and thickness needed to put him into the mix of things. Now that he has the size, he needs to work on conditioning, because it is not symmetrical. Not only has he not taken his conditioning to the next level, but when I say that his conditioning is not symmetrical, I am referring to the fact that from the front, his conditioning looks good, but when he turns around, he loses it in the back- that area doesn’t match the rest of his conditioning and I believe this will hurt him once he gets onstage with Ronnie, Jay, Victor and other athletes with fantastic back conditioning and size. What I would like to see Toney do to move him up a few spots in the Olympia is to maintain his size and bring his Arnold Classic muscularity to the stage- but step up his conditioning and bring it up about four notches while also balancing his conditioning and making it symmetrical from front to back. In my opinion, he needs to increase his conditioning about 25 percent to really bring in the intricate detail, especially when he turns to the back. Until he can do this, I think he will lack that fully detailed and “polished” look and that will be the only thing to keep him from hitting the top spots in the big shows.

Q: What’s up with Gustavo? He was right there at the top and now he never places worth a shit! I mean, how come it seems like some athletes, no matter how they look, always stay at the top while others come in bad once or twice and they penalize them forever?
A: I believe that at the 2007 Arnold Classic, not only was Gustavo judged fairly, but I think this was a case of showing just how good the judges are at what they do. I say this because those of you who were at the 2007 Arnold know just how far off Gustavo was when he first stepped onto the stage. Then, as the show went on, he basically posed himself into a higher placement- the harder he posed, the more water he excreted from his body and the tighter he became. The judges picked up on this. Because the judges were aware of this and because they literally watched him improve before their eyes and look better than when he first came out onstage as the prejudging went on, Gustavo was rewarded for this and continued to get better comparisons and in my opinion, was placed where he should have been placed.

People have their opinions and they are always going to cheer for their favorite athlete and unless that athlete wins, the fans are always going to feel that the athlete was “screwed,” but the bottom line is Gustavo has not had the look of 2004 since 2004. This was his best overall appearance and he was rewarded for that. Since then, I don’t know if he’s trying to play the size game or what, but he will forever be haunted by 2004 and the judges will always look for him to bring that physique, if not a better physique, to the stage. Until he does this, I’m afraid he will be relegated to placements such as those of the 2007 Arnold Classic. Gustavo is an athlete who displays impressive muscularity and size, but he is also structurally flawed and because of this, he is an athlete who cannot get away with being any less than 100 percent every time he steps onstage. If he is any less than 100 percent, you notice the lack of separation in his muscles, you notice the problem with controlling the waistline…this is when you truly notice his imperfections and when his placements begin to fall. Bottom line: Gustavo needs to go back to the drawing board and go back to the plan that worked for 2004- the plan that had him in crisp, shredded conditioning and enabled him to control his midsection.

Q: I’m from Texas and a HUGE Ronnie Coleman fan and I have worked out at Metroflex and watched Ronnie’s rise to greatness. However, I’m also a Branch Warren fan, as I just really like the ultra-muscular look. Anyway, Branch is the type of guy who takes his workouts seriously and busts his ass every time he’s in the gym and I’d like to see him start placing better. What do you think Branch needs to do to take him back to when he placed second at the Arnold? Or, better yet, what would he need to do to place in the top five of the Olympia?
A: Branch is an athlete who has been up and down over the last few shows. Since placing second at the Arnold, he’s tried a couple of different routes that seemed to backfire on him. He tried to come in big and he ended up looking bloated and out of shape. Then he tried to come in shredded and he came down too much and was flat and overly depleted.

For Branch to be in the mix, especially in an important show such as the Olympia, he has to find a happy medium…he cannot come in big and soft, but he cannot come in overly depleted and flat. Again, Branch needs to go back to the drawing board and put together a plan like that which helped turn him pro, only modify it to fit the amount of muscle he currently possesses. I think that is the hardest thing for most athletes to do, especially those who do their own nutrition. They need to stick with what worked, but also modify it to fit the constant changes in their bodies.

To achieve the results he wants, Branch needs to rework his program to bring him into conditioning that is good enough to show off his trademark legs and trim his midsection, while keeping it under control so that he doesn’t continue to come down and lose weight to the point that he thins out his back. Once he hits that nail on the head, I really think he could throw himself back into the mix.

Q: I know you must be swamped with questions about the Olympia, but I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know what’s going on with my boy, Chris Cormier! Do you think he can make a comeback, or is he done? I’d really like to see him get back onstage and bring it! Is that going to happen?
A: Chris is still the one question mark who could mess things up for a lot of guys in Vegas and someone who everyone seems to completely discount when it comes to possible threats. We haven’t come to an official agreement as of yet regarding working together for the Olympia, so as of now, it is up in the air; however, from what I have gathered during our conversations, Chris really and truly has made a change for the better and realizes that this is his final chance to get it right. I could very easily take over his prep for the show. I have seen him and he’s about 285 right now and for the time he has been out of the sport, he looks pretty damn good. Once he gets a goal in mind and plans to attack a show, I think he could really surprise a lot of people.

I’ve known Chris for a long time and I’ve worked with him over the last 10 years and I can honestly say this is the most motivated I’ve seen Chris and I believe that his head and his heart are into making a legitimate comeback. With Chris’ structure and size, he is definitely one who could throw a monkey wrench into the game plan of many- if he takes his training seriously and puts his head into it! He’s very determined and focused; I can see him competing right around 250 come contest time. It looks as though he will hit Atlantic City to catch his Olympia qualification, then hopefully right to Vegas. If everything works the way it should and Chris takes this chance seriously, I could easily see Chris as a first callout athlete. With this in mind, he’ll be ready to once again take his place in the sport as a threat in any show he competes in.

With all the questions about this person and that person, the best “what if?” scenario is this: What if all of the guys in the top five of the Olympia come to the show 100 percent right on the money and with no injuries or flaws? If this happens, it will be the Olympia to end all Olympias and definitely one not to miss! I’ll see you there!

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