Over the past couple of years a select few men have carved out reputations on the Internet as being remarkably effective at helping bodybuilders reach new levels in size, strength and condition. Those gurus of the World Wide Web build loyal followings on message boards, and aspiring physique competitors the world over seek out their expertise. One such man is Eric Broser, whose name you know from his many training articles in IRON MAN, which have been highly rated by the readers. Still more people know him by his e-mail handle “BodyFX2” and consider him to be one of the industry’s top training authorities. His mission is to help bodybuilders, particularly those who have decided to go the drug-free route, reach and even exceed their genetic limits. Let’s go behind the myth and meet the man.
RH: Take me back to the early days. When did you first develop an interest in weight training? Was it originally for the purpose of bodybuilding or simply to help you in another sport?
EB: Actually, I developed an interest in the human form very early in life. As a young kid I was always incredibly impressed with the physiques of many of the comic book characters I would see. Superman, Batman, The Incredible Hulk, etc., looked so strong and powerful to me—and I wanted to look just like them (although I had no clue how that would ever happen). I was truly fascinated by the shape, lines and aesthetics of highly developed musculature.
My father eventually learned of my interest in building muscles and brought home a weight set when I was 11 or so. I played around with it a little bit but didn’t really take up bodybuilding until I was 16 years old. I was heavily involved in tae kwan do at the time, and one of my instructors was a serious bodybuilder. He probably weighed only about 200 pounds, but to me he looked huge. My closest friend, Mitchell, and I would ask him questions all the time about training and nutrition, attempting to gather as much info as we could before we got started.
Finally, in January of 1986, we decided that it was time to begin our “journey.” We even wrote up a “contract,” stating that we would train hard, eat right and do whatever it took to reach our goals (I actually had it framed and have kept it to this day). We made excellent partners, as he was a bit overweight and I was painfully thin, weighing 125 pounds at a height of 5’11”. We set up a home gym in my basement that we called the lion’s den, and we’d train down there for hours almost every day after school. With Van Halen, Genesis, Kansas, Boston, Yes, Queen, Foreigner and others blasting from my little stereo, we did some pretty intense, albeit crazy, workouts down there. Those were the days.
RH: Sounds a lot like my early days, just add in some Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and swap the basement for an attic. Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
EB: I was born in Brooklyn but moved to Long Island shortly before my fifth birthday. That’s where I remained until 1996, when I moved to San Diego for a year and a half. I then returned to Long Island to open a small gym but again left for a warmer climate in 2003, when I moved to South Florida, where I currently reside.
RH: Who were some of the bodybuilders you looked up to as a newbie? Were you a fan of the sport?
EB: In the very beginning it was all about Arnold and Lou. I saw the movie “Pumping Iron” long before I started training, and out of everyone in the film, they were the ones who truly grabbed my attention—mostly because of their raw size. However, once I discovered the magazines, I became a huge fan of the sport, and almost every bodybuilder who graced their pages: Rich Gaspari, Mike Christian, Berry DeMey, Albert Beckles, Bob Paris, Matt Mendenhall, Rory Leidelmeyer, Lee Labrada, Lee Haney, Tom Platz, Casey Viator, Samir Bannout. However, nobody influenced me more in the early days than Bertil Fox. To me he was the ultimate. Nobody had more pure size, density and thickness than Bertil. He definitely should have won the 1983 Mr. Olympia. The man was the first true “freak,” in my opinion. I used to watch his video, “Brutal Fox in Training,” before every workout. Too bad he made some stupid decisions later in life and became “brutal” in another way. Sad.
RH: Where did you get your training and nutrition information when you started out? What kind of results did you see with your physique over the first couple of years?
EB: When it came to bodybuilding, my brain was like a sponge, and I read everything I could get my hands on that pertained to training or nutrition—Arnold’s Education of a Bodybuilder multiple times. I scoured texts on anatomy, physiology and kinesiology. I also read all the bodybuilding books. In the beginning I didn’t belong to a gym, so I wasn’t able to ask questions of more experienced bodybuilders. I truly became self-taught. I was very analytical about everything. I kept detailed journals of how different training programs and dietary regimens affected my physique, mood, energy levels, etc. I treated bodybuilding like a science very early on.
As far as results go, as I mentioned, I weighed a paltry 125 pounds when I started at age 16, and I could barely bench-press a standard Olympic bar with no weight. After my first full year of training I had increased my bodyweight to about 168 pounds and could bench-press about the same. Three years later, after taking in an incredible number of calories, I managed to break the 200-pound bodyweight barrier, which was a magical number to me. A lot of it was bodyfat, however, so I decided to see what was truly underneath and began dieting for my first show. That year I won the Natural Mr. Eastern USA title in the middleweight division. At 5’11 1/2” and 170 pounds I wasn’t very big, but my conditioning and symmetry carried me. Winning that show was one of the most satisfying and memorable moments of my life.
ALLRH: I understand you’re a lifetime natural bodybuilder. Were you ever offered steroids, and how did you resist the temptation?
EB: Yes, I was offered steroids on more than one occasion. Many of my friends and gym mates used them, and in fact, one of my longtime training partners was heavy into steroids. It was very difficult at times to watch others around me make such swift and significant progress while I grew slowly but steadily. Training with a partner on steroids was extremely difficult as well. When he was “on cycle,” he would turn into a literal training machine, and trying to keep up with him would almost kill me. He’d always say, “You have such potential. Just go for it.”
At one point I almost gave in. I had him get some “stuff” for me, and when I brought it home, I stared at it for hours upon hours, asking myself if I really wanted to go down that road. I knew that from the very first pill (or injection) I could never call myself natural again. I truly struggled with the decision for weeks before just throwing the stuff away. From day one I decided I wanted to see just how far I could take my body through training, nutrition and natural supplements only, and by taking steroids I’d be completely violating that decision. My feeling has always been that if I took steroids, I’d never be forced to truly learn the most efficient strategies for inducing extreme muscle growth and fat loss, because steroids (and other drugs) make the process so much easier. By never relying on steroids, I’ve become a far more effective teacher, trainer and coach to others.
Let me point out that I have nothing against competitive athletes or bodybuilders who use steroids. That’s their decision to make, and I totally respect it.
RH: I feel the same way. You did well as a competitive bodybuilder. Why did you stop competing, and do you ever plan to get back onstage?
EB: I did pretty well, yes. I won the natural Mr. Eastern USA title a couple of times and even earned my pro card in a drug-tested organization called the ANPPC, which unfortunately shut down years ago. I’ve competed sporadically since then, but have been “retired” since 2000. For these past years I’ve been focusing my energy on helping others achieve their goals, as well as on my writing and business ventures. I’m starting to feel the “fever” to get back onstage again, however, and there’s a good chance I’ll compete again. If I’m able to get the rest of my life organized enough to put 100 percent concentration into contest training and dieting, then I will look to target a show perhaps in the late summer or early fall. I miss being up there in front of an audience, and I’m a competitor at heart.
RH: How did you evolve from simply being a bodybuilder to coaching and training other bodybuilders?
EB: After I won my first show, a lot of guys at my gym started coming to me for advice about nutrition, training and especially posing. The latter is something that came very naturally to me. My posing style and stage presence were very similar to that of Bob Paris, Lee Labrada and Shawn Ray—highly artistic. Nobody taught me how to pose. I just picked it up from watching videos and seeing pictures of the pros. At first I would just help the guys out for a few minutes in the locker room—you know, fixing their stances and/or helping with their transitions. However, soon after, I became very much in demand for creating others’ posing routines and perfecting their quarter turns and mandatories. Very quickly that became a small side business for me.
As time went by, I made personal training my occupation. I had greatly expanded my knowledge base in the areas of nutrition and supplementation and how to implement them for drastic changes in body composition. I entered a contest in 1992 and was absolutely ripped to the bone. I think that was the hardest condition I’ve ever achieved. Well, many other local bodybuilders attended that show and later told me they were in awe of how shredded I was, especially for a drug-free athlete. That’s when I first started getting requests for contest prep coaching. Several of my clients started winning shows, and through word of mouth I kind of became a local contest prep guru. It didn’t take me long to realize that I loved the satisfaction of helping others reach their goals.
RH: I’m sure you’ve coached both natural and drug-using athletes. What are the unique challenges each kind presents?
EB: It’s far easier preparing a drug-using athlete for a show than a natural one. Steroids, GH, clenbuterol, thyroid and so on are very powerful physique-altering compounds, and when a client is using them, positive changes come about so much more easily and efficiently. One of the biggest challenges of preparing a natural athlete for a show is having him or her hold on to muscle tissue while losing bodyfat. That’s rarely the case with an athlete who’s “using.” In fact, many drug-taking bodybuilders I work with actually gain muscle while preparing for a show.
Of course, there’s also a flip side when it comes to drugs. First, in today’s climate there are a lot of fake and/or mislabeled steroids out there. A competitor thinking he’s taking one compound could in fact be taking another. It can be a big problem if we’re expecting the results that Anavar tabs bring about, and instead we get Dianabol-like water-weight gain. I need to figure out what’s going on. That takes a lot of troubleshooting. Also, many steroids contain no active compound at all. That can certainly throw a wrench into things. Another problem with drugs is that they sometimes can make a person lazy. I obviously can’t be with clients 24 hours a day (although I tell them all I can see them wherever they are, ha ha), and some guys (rarely a problem with girls) feel that drugs can make up for a cheat meal here, a lazy set there, or a few missed hours of sleep. Interestingly, in a way, they can. If you want to be the best of the best, however, you can’t have that attitude. If you want 110 percent from me, you must promise to give it back.
As for natural bodybuilders, preparing them for shows today is much different from what it was like just five to 10 years ago. There are so many more effective supplements on the market now. Testosterone boosters, estrogen antagonists, specialized fat burners, creatine, cell volumizers, NO2 inducers. Those things most certainly make it a bit easier. Still, it’s truly the training and diet that make or break tested athletes. As a coach, you must be very careful to balance everything so that you avoid overtraining and underrecovering. Between intense training, low calories, cardio and posing, it’s very easy to shut down the metabolism and/or begin to eat up lean tissue. That’s why I’m extremely precise about everything that I do with natural bodybuilders. I make changes very gradually and observe results carefully. I’m meticulous about every aspect of contest preparation, right down to every morsel of food, moment of rest and time spent in the gym.
Basically, I prepare all of my athletes, drug using or natural, just as carefully and meticulously. The difference is that pharmaceuticals make the process quicker and more efficient, without a doubt. But my goal is to attempt to prepare natural athletes so well that they look like they must be “on something.”
RH: That’s a lofty standard, I must say. You have also done some strength coaching. Which types of athletes have you worked with, and how is that approach different from the training that bodybuilders do?
EB: I’ve worked with football, tennis, baseball, golf, soccer and basketball players, as well as wrestlers. The approach I take with athletes is definitely different from what it is with bodybuilders. With athletes you’re not just worried about muscle mass and specific bodyfat levels but about speed, stamina, balance, flexibility, muscular endurance and agility. You must study the dynamics of each sport—and in some cases the specific position an athlete may play—and gear the program toward exactly what improvements need to be made. You also have to look at which muscles are used the most and in what respect. Some athletes need explosive leg power, like a defensive lineman. Other athletes need side-to-side agility and tremendous balance, like a soccer player, for example. Baseball players need to improve bat speed and throwing strength.
RH: Where did you get the handle BodyFX2, and what does it mean?
EB: Actually, Body FX is the name I gave my first personal-training business and then later was the name of the gym that I owned on Long Island. I used to have a saying on my business cards and in advertisements: “Exercise has wonderful FX on your body.” I always thought that had a nice ring to it. The Body FX Personal Training sign that hung above my gym was truly the coolest-looking sign of any business in my area. I designed it myself and had it custom-made to almost look like graffiti of sorts. When I sold the business, my parents wanted the sign for themselves as a memento, and so they have this huge Body FX sign sitting in their backyard.
While you know me as bodyfx2 on the MuscleMayhem.com discussion board, I have several other handles that I go by on the Net—“The One,” “Gopro” and “Sixthsense.” Each of them has a meaning to me, and besides, I get bored just having one name.
RH: What are some of the most common mistakes you see bodybuilders making in their quest to improve their physiques?
EB: How much space do we have? I must admit that I spend most of my time between sets of my own workouts watching others train. Unfortunately, what I observe for the most part is very poor form. I see a lot of heaving, throwing, bouncing and cheating, all obviously in an effort to simply move more weight. That’s such a costly mistake to make, as it truly robs your muscles of the stimulation that they should be receiving from a given exercise. In addition, poor form is bound to cause an injury at some point. It may not occur immediately, but over time the damage will rear its ugly head.
Another mistake that I know so many are making is overtraining. Yes, it’s a very real condition, and it’s probably robbing people of more precious muscle than anything else. Our recovery abilities aren’t infinite. Many people still feel that more is better, and that’s just not the case. We’re in the gym to stimulate our body’s anabolic machinery, setting in motion the processes necessary to induce our body to add more muscle tissue. That takes proper high-intensity training, not large volume and duration. I’m not suggesting a Mentzer-esque one-set-to-failure-per-bodypart routine, but if you can’t tackle a large muscle group in eight to 10 sets and a smaller muscle in six or seven, you’re doing something wrong.
My favorite way to explain it is this: Every time we work out, it’s like digging a large hole. That hole represents a loss in muscle. When we’re not in the gym, we need to recover through rest and precise nutrition and supplementation. Recovery enables us to fill the hole with dirt. If filling the hole is all we do, we remain in homeostasis, which means taking one step back and one step forward—no new muscle. As bodybuilders, however, our goal is overcompensation, which is like filling the hole and piling more dirt, or muscle, on top.
If you overtrain and outrun your recovery ability, you will at best remain the same, or in some cases, regress. If you work just hard enough to stimulate the growth process so that you can recover successfully, with some extra physiological energy left over, your body will then have the ability to construct new muscle tissue.
Finally, another huge mistake that many trainees make is to do the same things in the gym for months, even years, on end—the same exercises, sets, reps, tempos, bodypart splits, training techniques and so on. That’s an almost certain route to failure, as the body is way too smart for that. As a beginner, all you really need to do to simulate growth is progressively overload your muscles. After a period of time, however, that no longer works for two reasons: 1) You can’t continue to get stronger forever, and 2) the muscles and central nervous system will go stale and no longer respond the way they once did to the same basic training program. In order to reach your full genetic potential, you must present a unique stimulus to your body rather frequently by using different training techniques and methodologies. That lets you approach the muscle-building equation from every physiological angle, which in turn will give you the best opportunity to make positive changes to your physique.
RH: Very well put. When you work with people, do you handle all aspects of their bodybuilding—training, diet, supplements and rest?
EB: That varies from person to person. Yes, most of my clients work with me on all aspects of their bodybuilding. Some, though, only wish to have me assist them with training and rest or diet and supplementation. It’s not uncommon for bodybuilders to tell me that they truly feel they’ve found a training or diet regimen that works extremely well for them, and that they just need me to help with a specific aspect of their overall program. If that’s the case, I have no problem with it. My goal is to simply help all clients be their best and reach their goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get them there.
RH: What gives you more satisfaction, helping an off-season bodybuilder achieve new gains in size and strength or helping a precontest bodybuilder get in the best shape of his or her life?
EB: That’s a tough call, but if I had to pick, I would have to say helping a precontest bodybuilder get in the best shape of his or her life is more satisfying. I feel this way for two reasons: 1) As a coach, I like a challenge, and there are few things more challenging than peaking a bodybuilder, fitness or figure competitor for a show. Those who don’t compete have no clue just how much goes into reaching that final “product” that people see onstage. It’s a complex and very meticulous process when done right. 2) While it’s cool to watch a client get big and strong, it’s no comparison to creating and viewing a living piece of art, which is what I consider a contest-ready physique to be. What a great feeling it is for me on contest day as I watch my client onstage, showing off all of the hard work he or she put in under my guidance.
RH: I dare-say you’re best known for developing your own training system, Power/Rep Range/Shock. First, what made you come up with it, or should I say, how does it address a fundamental problem that keeps bodybuilders from making the gains they are capable of?
EB: I came up with the basic premise behind P/RR/S training because I’d reached a plateau in development, even though I hadn’t reached one in strength. I found myself pushing harder and harder in the gym, but I was getting a diminishing return on my efforts. At the time I was only about 30 years old, and although I’d already been training for 14 years, I didn’t believe that I’d reached my genetic potential. I took a long, hard look at everything I was doing—my nutritional regimen, supplementation program, rest and sleep patterns and, of course, my training journals. I was confident that my diet was sound, my supplements were solid and I was ensuring recovery by getting ample rest and sleep. I felt that it had to be my training that was holding me back from further gains in size.
One of the things that I noticed in looking over my journals was that my training had remained rather static over the years. Sure, I’d change some exercises now and again, switch up my bodypart splits, or increase or decrease volume, but overall my program hadn’t changed dramatically since I’d started working out.
That led me to begin experimenting with new and unique training methods and protocols in an organized manner, in order to see what effects they would have on my physique. I did the same with many of my intermediate and advanced clients, which made my gym somewhat of a laboratory.
It didn’t take me long to notice a pattern developing. My clients and I began to show dramatic and rapid gains in size by making very frequent changes in our training programs. I began to realize that getting bigger wasn’t simply a function of adding weight to the bar or getting another rep with the same weight. While progressive overload is something that works very well in the beginning stages of training, the body needs to be presented with more than just increased poundage as one continues on with training. The human body is an adaptive machine. So if you don’t force your muscles and CNS to deal with unique stressors rather frequently, then you’re bound to stagnate. P/RR/S was designed not to let that happen.
RH: Obviously it takes a full article to explain P/RR/S, but could you summarize the basic principles very briefly?
EB: Sure. It’s a cyclical approach to working out that has you using a different training methodology each week, with the various protocols collectively tapping into all of the body’s mechanisms for growth. As I’ve mentioned, one-dimensional training programs eventually lead to diminishing returns and finally stagnation. With P/RR/S the idea is to keep the body from ever completely adapting to your training so that it is instead forced to keep up with the constantly progressive and novel demands that you continue to place upon it—and by keep up, I mean that the body will greatly and consistently increase the size of its muscles in order to survive. You must remember that the muscles become larger through pathways other than simple hypertrophy of type 2 muscle fibers.
The principle behind P/RR/S training is to induce hypertrophy in all muscle fibers along the continuum, from the fastest of the fast to the slowest of the slow. That helps ensure complete development. In addition, by using training techniques such as superheavy training, medium- and high-rep training, stretch overload, supersets, drop sets, lifting tempo changes, rest-period changes, stage reps, 1 1/2 reps, X Reps and so on, all in controlled cycles, you successfully induce myriad physiological adaptations, all of which contribute to your getting bigger. I’m speaking of things like increases in mitochondrial enzymes, increases in stored ATP, creatine, glycogen and triglycerides, as well as the laying down of additional capillary beds—perhaps even hyperplasia. Each of the different training weeks in the P/RR/S program will also affect the release of all of the body’s various anabolic hormones, like testosterone, GH and IGF-1, giving you the ability to take advantage of the unique properties of each.
RH: Have you successfully used Power/Rep Range/Shock yourself? What types of gains have you made, and what are some notable examples of gains your clients have made using it?
EB: I’ve used it successfully for the past six years. When I first started putting the P/RR/S program together, I’d reached a plateau in size. I weighed about 235 pounds at the time, but I’d been stuck at that weight for quite a while. I could see I was just not gaining any more muscle. The first year that I began using P/RR/S, I shot up to 251 pounds and was a bit harder. A 16-pound increase in a year’s time might not sound like much to some, but when you’ve been training for 14 years, and especially being natural, that’s a major, major gain. I eventually reached a bodyweight of 273 while using P/RR/S, although now I stay at 240 to 245 pounds, as I prefer to remain leaner. Over the past few years I’ve been more focused on business than training, but I still used the P/RR/S methodology throughout that time.
The amazing thing is that I’ve continued to gain quality muscle even though my commitment to bodybuilding has been less than 100 percent. As I am planning on ending my competitive retirement, I’m excited to see what P/RR/S will do for me at full intensity. I’m betting that I’ll be holding about 25 more solid pounds of muscle onstage this year than I ever have before—and with better shape, hardness, density and detail.
As for my clients, they’ve all made remarkable progress with P/RR/S. Many have broken size and strength plateaus they’d been sitting at for years. One of my clients recently told me that after just two months of using P/RR/S, he had gained more muscle than in the previous two years. I regularly have clients gain five to 10 pounds of muscle in three three-week cycles using the method while making no other changes to their program.
Some of the best progress I’ve ever seen was with a training partner whom I helped prepare for a natural show several years ago. He’d just competed at the very bottom of the middleweight class, at just 160 pounds, in reasonable condition. He had a nice structure but was severely lacking in chest and biceps thickness, as well as overall density. He asked if he could train with me in hopes that he could compete in the same show the following year, much bigger and better. I told him that I’d be happy to train with him but that he had to follow my unique training program, no questions asked. He agreed.
The next year, at the same show, he weighed in at the top of the middleweight class, which was 174 for this organization, and had brought up his chest and bi’s to match the rest of his physique. He was also far harder and grainier, and by the night show was carbed up to about 179 pounds. The promoter of the show accused him of taking steroids, but he passed his polygraph and had to take a urine test because he won the whole damn show. Oh, and he passed that too. I would venture to guess that he added about 20 pounds of pure, natural muscle that year.
RH: That’s seriously impressive. I also understand that you’ve recently written a book with Author L. Rea. How did that come about? Can you tell me a little about the book?
EB: The name of the book is Building the Perfect Beast Naturally, and I’m very excited about the project. Author came to me in the beginning of 2006 and asked me if I’d be interested in contributing to a book he was writing that was about halfway done. He warned me that the deadline was only about 60 days away and that he needed about 100 pages of material from me. Although I knew the only way I could do that was to basically give up sleep for two months, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to work on such a project with Author. I have a world of respect for ALR and all he’s contributed to our industry, so to be asked by him to help write this book was just a mind-blowing honor for me.
It’s going to be one of the most complete manuals on training, diet and supplementation ever produced. It’s filled to the brim with cutting-edge information on how to truly maximize your genetic potential for size, strength and pure muscularity. The text is definitely serious reading for serious bodybuilders. And I feel it’s just as valuable to “enhanced” athletes as it is to natural ones. If you really want to be a beast, buy this book. [Laughs]
RH: With all of this going on, are you still available for personal consultations?
EB: Yes, I am. I get tremendous satisfaction from helping others reach their goals, so I keep a limited number of online and one-on-one clients at all times. I actually wish I had time to take on even more personal clients, but I don’t allow myself to go beyond a certain number because I like to give each person the time and attention that they need and deserve.
Everything I do with my clientele is very personalized—there is nothing “cookie cutter” about my programs. Each person is different, with unique needs and circumstances, and I take a lot of time considering that when I develop a physical-transformation strategy. It’s funny: I believe that I’m actually more concerned about the progress of my clients than with my own progress. Anyone who wants to learn more about my services can check out my Web site.
RH: Finally, with steroids and pro-hormones all being demonized and much harder to obtain than in previous years, do you see bodybuilders starting to look more to their training and nutrition to make gains rather than depending so much on chemical assistance?
EB: I certainly hope so. This is always whe