Curtis Fisher: This is Curtis here with Ironman Magazine blog and we have Mr. Arya Saffaie who will be competing in the 2014 Mr. Olympia this year. How are you doing?
Arya Saffaie: Doing great, feeling ready.
Curtis Fisher: So we wanted to talk to you a little bit about - this is your first Mr. Olympia - so what does it take in your mind to get to the Mr. Olympia?
Arya Saffaie: The first thing my mind thinks when you say that is discipline, dedication and passion. If you don't have any of those then it will be too hard to go through the road it takes in regards to the food that you have to stop eating - start eating. The social life you probably have to put away.
A lot of life changes. I mean your whole life really has to change to get to the level of this high competition because you're life start to revolve around the necessary things you have to do in order to have your body look a certain way. It takes a lot of your time and heart. It takes a lot of discipline, that's the key. The main ingredient.
Curtis Fisher: How long have you been training personally?
Arya Saffaie: Well for me personally, I've been training - to be honest, I'd like to say my whole life. I mean since I was 5 years old, my dad had me doing push-ups and pull-ups. My whole family was very active so for me this is something that I've always done.
Never really had the idea of competing. Even in high school - that's when I started really hitting it hard with weights. Fifteen years old is when I actually started my weight training. And I was really into weight training my whole high school time period.
After that, me and my brother, we've always worked out together. Just kind of continued with it forever. Bodybuilding wasn't something that I was completely into as far as the actual overly developed muscle. I just never had a desire to get too much a huge volume or mass. That's just my personal preference.
I was more into the broad shoulders and small waste and then in 2011 Physique came out as possible category. Then I started to see that and thought that looks like something I could do. it kind of fits my frame. So I saw my brother - he competed and when I saw him do that one day I woke up and I said you know what I'm going to do a show.
I signed up six and a half weeks before my first show. And from then on it's been pretty good.
Curtis Fisher: So what type of weight training do you do in the off season?
Arya Saffaie: Off season - to be honest my off season isn't too much different from than from what I actually do in season. Really it's just maybe trying to go a bit heavier on certain workouts when I'm getting those extra calories. I try to take advantage of those calories and turn them into more mass.
I want to go as heavy as possible because when you're weight goes up you're going to feel stronger just because you have more body weight to push that heavier weight in the gym. So that's what I really what I can take advantage of the most.
When I'm in season, I'm normally pretty light. I'm anywhere from 152 to 158 in season. Off season, not much heavier - you know 162 to 168. So those extra 10 pounds of weight that I have on me is going to help me push more weight in the gym.
So I can use it to get a heavier workout in which is going to ultimately build more muscle and hopefully keep some of the muscle when I diet down. That's pretty much the mind state in the off season just to get as big as you can with the extra weight you have on your body.
Curtis Fisher: So what about your goal? What would you say your goal is going into this Olympia and also in the overall vision of the IFBB in the future?
Arya Saffaie: Well for me - all this came so new, so fast. My goal, obviously, going into the Olympia would be to hopefully score top five spot. If you can get top five, not only does it automatically qualify you for the next year, which would be awesome, but that's just the fifth place - the furthest place where you still get awarded and recognized for somebody that placed in the Olympia.
So, for me, obviously, winning would be amazing but I would be extremely happy with the top five.
Curtis Fisher: So could you tell us what your was your first show and how was the experience?
Arya Saffaie: The first show was a crazy experience. Like I said, one day I woke up and I said you know what I'm going to do a show. And I signed up for a show that was - I was planning originally in signing up for one about 12 weeks from the day I decided to do it.
I was talking to my brother and he was like, "Why don't you just do the next one? It's like six and a half weeks". And I was like I'm not sure that's enough time but I said you know, let's do it - six and a half weeks. So I started. Next thing I knew, I went to Whole Foods, got my food ready. Dieted - the whole deal.
And I ended up taking my body - I've been working out my whole life, I took my body in those six and a half weeks to a physique that I've never seen before. I was extremely impressed with myself and my lifestyle change. I'm a lot healthier, a lot better. And I ended up getting first place, my first show ever.
That was just obviously a great experience.
Curtis Fisher: can you tell us the title of that first show you had?
Arya Saffaie: It was the Grand Prix Muscle Contest in Culver City. It was the Grand Prix, I got first place there. So for that it was just first place at the Grand Prix. I was champ there for that. It was an amateur show.
I didn't win the overall. The overall is what I really wanted. Going into my next show, with this one I was so happy with first place in my category, but I still have a lot of learning to do. Posing - you know, it's so new I didn't really know so much of the sport. But I was definitely happy with first place.
Curtis Fisher: A lot of people they go into shows and obviously it's hard when you're trying to prepare and trying to stay motivated. How is your support group when it comes to training and getting ready for a show?
Arya Saffaie: My family is a huge support particularly my brother Mike Saffaie. He's also an IFBB Pro. And me and him have been into this all of our life. He's been a big inspiration for me to just always stay driven to a certain goals.
My biggest support would be from him because this is our lifestyle. It's something that we pride ourselves around. It's something we've been doing long before competing. Competing has nothing to do with our desire to be the best we can be - the strongest we can be.
Competing was just a way to go to put that out to show what we do and love to a stage and audience. And competing or not we're going to always be doing what we do, but to do it in a competitive manner - I'm a competitive guy, it makes it that much funner.
So that's definitely a big help and my brother would be my number one fan support. My whole family, friends. They're always there as well.
Curtis Fisher: Can you explain in detail the type of training you did to get ready for the NPC because in the past I know that I've spoken with Mike before and he was talking about sort of the unconventional way that he got ready to do shows. Give a little bit more detail for us.
Arya Saffaie: Yes, a lot of what we do - I do is not just iron lifting, weights as far as that goes. I have several sections to my weight training aspect. In the beginning I always go heavy. I want to make sure my muscles feel the heavy weight. Touch that to remember to keep onto this muscle - don't let it go. We need it - we go heavy. That's what I want my muscles to always think.
As I go to the middle and end of my workout a lot of supersets but for a pump. I go for a lot of super sets to get that pump and burn you like. But for the other element that I mix in there is body weight. Calisthenic type workouts.
Every Saturday we generally go to a park in Manhattan Beach and we do a certain type of bar workout. Which is just push-ups, pull-ups, muscle ups, dips. It's actually a fun creative day for us. A day where we can go and use our body weight to get any kind of workout we can possible.
We have a structure. We also kind of play around a little bit and it's like a fun free day. I ended up mixing in basically, the weight training aspect once a week with my body weight exercises. The combination iron and my own body functions and moving around, I feel brought out a different physique in me that really shifted what my body would have looked if I had only stuck to weights.
Curtis Fisher: How long did it take for you to become a pro?
Arya Saffaie: To become a pro, actually for me, considering the industry fairly quickly. At my first show as I mentioned I got first. The second show was in July, three months after my first show. I was like you know I'm going to do that second show and this was the LA Championships. Culver City again.
And I had no idea at this point that this was the show that most people go to before the USA which is just one week after that. And that's where you could go become pro at a national level. I didn't even know any of this. I was very new again to the sport.
As a matter of fact when I found out the LA show was popular and as big as it was, I wasn't sure I wanted to do it. I wanted to hopefully go to overall and I knew it would be challenging to do that because a lot of good competitors to take that win to the USA the week after.
So I went to that show and LA the second show, and I got first place again. I was extremely happy and then for the overall, which was my main goal - I wanted to get one of the cool sword trophies - I ended up going against all those other competitors that got first in all divisions. And I'm in Class A which it goes by height - A. Six divisions that go taller and taller.
I'm the shortest guy so to win the overall is for me is challenging in that sense. But I got the overall trophy there at that second show I did. That gave me all the motivation so I said you know what let's try to go pro.
So a week after that which is a bout three to four months after my first show, I go to the USA and my class was about 43 competitors. And I got first place there as well. Third show, I got first. Third time in a row. That time earning me my pro card.
So about four months I was able to turn pro.
Curtis Fisher: Unprecedented.
Arya Saffaie: But at the same time, I've been working out my whole life so it took my whole life to earn the physique. Competing it took four months.
Curtis Fisher: Wow, that's great. What advice can you give? There's a lot of guys out there trying to go into physique and aspiring competitors - what could you give them to think about when they're just starting out?
Arya Saffaie: Well for one, I think it's a great thing to try and do in the first place because win or lose any show, you always come out on top because you most likely are going to have a healthier lifestyle as long as you're staying natural and not taking any illegal enhancers. You want to stay away from those.
Healthy lifestyle and two you're going to look the best you've ever looked whether you win or whether you lose. As far as actually advice I'd give, it's really got to come from a clean diet, and consistent workouts. a lot of people tend to take off days here - take days there and have cheat meals more often than they should.
But when you're on the podium and you're standing next to the other winner - you're standing next to the guys that have suffered the most. So, you know we all have moments once in our life where we have feelings of glory and usually you get those moments the more you suffer, the more you earn.
So it's going to take a little of that suffering - be prepared for that, but at the end of the day you'll be so happy you did it because not only are you going to look your best, you're going to accomplish your goals and you never know where it can take you.
I signed up for my first show six weeks before. A few months later I'm a pro and less than a year later I'm going to the Olympia. So completely changed my life.
Curtis Fisher: It's been great talking with you Arya. I know you're going to do great out in Vegas. You excited?
Arya Saffaie: Totally excited. One week out from the biggest show in the world. So definitely hard not to be excited for that.
Curtis Fisher: Well thanks talking with us and we'll make sure to follow up with what happens after the show.
Arya Saffaie: Sounds great.
Curtis Fisher: All right take it easy.
Curtis Fisher is a personal trainer, diet consultant and body builder. You can download his FREE ebook Competitive Fitness Secrets at his blog Diet What Nots | Training, Eating, Science.