Ryan Terry, the first international Men’s Physique pro, has created a beachhead for European athletes to take over American IFBB stages.
By Mike Carlson
In cutthroat competitive sports, it’s hard to believe that fourth place counts for much anymore. Can anyone name the guy who was three spots behind gold medalist Usain Bolt in the 100 meters? Doubtful. There is one sport where fourth place still means a whole hell of a lot. If you don’t believe us, just ask Ryan Terry, who is currently basking in the luster of a fourth -place finish at the 2015 Mr. Olympia. For Terry, capturing fourth place practically changed his life.
“Over the Olympia weekend I got an extra 50,000 followers in the space of three or four days. I have to give credit to the Olympia for that boost.” says Terry, who recently returned from FIBO, the massive fitness festival and trade show in Germany. “Last year at FIBO, I went from a couple hundred fans to thousands queuing up over four days just to have a chat about the previous Olympia and to wish me luck for this year. It has been absolutely amazing. And I have to say, it’s mostly from doing better at the Olympia last year.”
The first British athlete to get his pro card for Men’s Physique, Terry has his sights set on invading American soil. He plans to move to the US this year and focus his considerable energies on placing even higher at the 2016. If he spun fourth place into a worldwide fan base, imagine what he can do with a top-three spot.
Mike Carlson: Now that you are a true international fitness celebrity, do you notice a difference between how you’re received in the US and in Europe?
Ryan Terry: To be honest, it has been a mixed bag. When I first went over in 2014, it was quite hard because I was very much an outsider. That is not to blame anybody—I just wasn’t known. It was quite hard, but after a good year last year, coming in second in Miami and winning in Pittsburgh and then the Olympia, my following from America has been brilliant. They have really gotten behind me and showed me a lot of respect—and even the competitors as well.
MC: The UK has a long history of hardcore bodybuilding, but the Physique scene is a bit behind the US. Do you think we can expect more UK competitors soon?
RT: I’m hoping we will. It is just very hard to get a pro card in the UK. I was the first and only pro for two years. I think there are only four of us now. My fear is that the amateur judges in the UK are looking for a slightly smaller, softer look, and if anyone gets a pro card at that level, they’ve got to make a huge jump to get to the dense muscular look of what Men’s Physique is like in America. That was my struggle. When I became a pro, I was the smallest onstage in most of my shows in America. I took a year to gain some size, and I’m still one of the smallest.
MC: Jeremy Buendia is smaller than you are.
RT: He is, but I’m a lot taller than Jeremy, and his arms are like double mine! I can’t believe the size of his arms. I was absolutely gobsmacked after I saw him. I went back to the drawing board and thought, “I’ve got to sort mine out.”
MC: How did you get into working out?
RT: My stepdad owned an old-school bodybuilding gym. When I was 14, I had a bad injury to my Achilles tendons, which put me out of sports for about six months. I gained some weight, which gave me a complex about being fat. That was when I decided to hit the gym and I got addicted. I would go to school and then straight to the gym. It wasn't about adding muscle, it was just about getting abs. I was obsessed with six-pack abs. In the first few years I was probably going backwards rather than forwards. It’s only been six or seven years where my whole outlook has changed, and I’ve tried to put on muscle and go for aesthetics instead of just a six-pack.
MC: How did you get started on the road to competing in Physique shows?
RT: I was working as a plumber, and one of my friends took a picture of me with my shirt off and sent it in to a radio station that was having a competition. I won and it got me into commercial modeling and on TV. I did a lot of Calvin Klein ads. I got to the point where I was growing muscle naturally and they were always warning me that I needed to lose weight. I was fighting with them all the time. My passion has always been bodybuilding, so in 2012 I decided to focus on the fitness side rather than the modeling.
MC: How were you doing financially with the commercial modeling?
RT: Good, but it was hit and miss. I prefer this because I make more money and I have a lot more stability. I have a contract and a regular wage from my sponsors, so it was definitely the right thing to do. It was hard to get a mortgage and buy a house with the money from commercial modeling.
MC: Where does your revenue come from now?
RT: It is mainly my supplement sponsor, USN. Then I have my own clothing line, RT Pro Wear, which is doing phenomenally well, and I have my own website, which has a membership page. So I have three businesses running, and then I have a few houses which I rent out. So I am a busy guy!
MC: How did your relationship with USN come about?
RT: They’ve sponsored me from the very start. When I won the Mr. International in 2010 they offered me a contract which was literally four or five tubs of protein a month, but they always supported me and pushed me in the right direction. And in the six years I’ve been with them I’ve grown with the company and they have helped me every step of the way. There are not many companies that can say they have supported an athlete for this long, so I feel very lucky to have been with them.
MC: What’s your go-to product from USN?
RT: For me it’s probably the 1-Way Pure-100 Hydrolysate protein powder. I typically take it first thing in the morning and then also post-workout, as it has a very fast absorption rate, which is essential when you’ve fasted over eight hours whilst you sleep and also to replenish and start the repair of broken-down muscle tissue after a workout. I like the Wheytella Chocolate Hazelnut favor. It’s great when you’re dieting and you get those sugar cravings.
MC: Do you get a lot of questions from fans about your abs?
RT: Yes. When people come up to me at the expos, it’s always, “How did you get your crazy abs?” When I was younger, I was obsessed with abs. I used to train them every day after my session. There was no fat on them, but they weren’t getting 3D and blocky. So I went back to basics. I train them twice a week, and I give them three to four days’ rest between training. I do one session quite heavy, eight to 10 reps with good form. I hit upper and lower abdominals and then a lot of core stability work like planks and then core work. And then the second workout is higher reps and it’s reversed, so I’ll focus on the core and then stability and then go to lower and upper abs.
MC: Do you have a favorite abs exercise?
RT: Hanging leg raises are my favorite exercise for the midsection. They engage every part of the midsection. They hit your V—your lower abdominals—and then obviously your core to hold yourself steady to keep still, and as you crunch at the top, it hits your upper and lower abdominals. That is the exercise I always promote to people.
MC: How do you split up your daily macronutrients?
RT: I normally go for 450 grams of carbs per day. I aim for about 200 grams of protein and 60 grams of fat. I would call that a high-carb/low-fat diet. I do that because of how fast my metabolism is. I need the carbs to hold my weight. I have tried a high-fat/low-carb diet, and I just don’t feel right on it.
MC: What did a high-fat low-carb diet do to you?
RT: I just felt very flat. I didn’t pump up as much. I have always been obsessed with the volume of food. I like to feel full as a house when I’m done eating, and when I eat high fat I just don’t feel like that. My energy was okay, but my stomach just never felt full and I didn’t enjoy it as much. I love the carbs. I love sweet potatoes, white rice, and white potatoes. Oats are my absolute favorite thing. So my preference is high carbs.
MC: What are your meals like?
RT: I eat six meals a day. Most of them have carbs in them and all of them have protein. In the morning I have my ultimate favorite breakfast: a big bowl of oatmeal, blueberries, almonds, and whey protein all mixed together. And I eat it cold. Don’t ask [laughs]. Throughout the day would be white rice, white potatoes, pasta, white fish, turkey, chicken, and lots of mixed vegetables or salads. In the evening, I change my protein to salmon, mackerel, or steak for high-fat sources so I am not overloading myself with carbs. And the high fat slows the protein down as I eat. My last meal will be a salmon filet and vegetables, with no carbs. My body is shutting down and is not going to cope with a vast amount of carbs. At that point, I get a nice protein source in and it can drip-feed while I’m sleeping.
MC: Competitively, what does 2016 look like for you?
RT: I’m having a little rest right now for the first time since 2013. I have a couple little injuries I want to get right. I have a niggling shoulder problem, and if I ignore it any longer, it’s going to become a hindrance and it will start showing aesthetically as. In the next two months I’m going to do some rehab and range-of-motion training to get my body set. Then I’m doing a 12-week prep for the Olympia so I can be the best I can be.
MC: What can we expect from you on the Olympia stage this year?
RT: I want to focus on my arm size. In America, they like the oversize look of full arms. Anyone in the class has big impressive arms. That’s what I’m working on in my little off-season. Hopefully, I will make some improvements this year. IM
Name: Ryan Terry
Weight: 195 pounds
Lives: United Kingdom
Profession: Full-time athlete and brand ambassador
Favorite Drink: Diet Coke or Oreo milkshake
Go-To Website: ironmanmagazine.com
Desert Island Exercises: Deadlift, squat, and bench press
Binge TV Show: Homes Under the Hammer
Ultimate Vacation: Bora Bora, Tahiti
Favorite Charity or Cause: GE UK
Sponsors: USN and RT Pro Wear