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Eli Blahut Interview

Eli Blahut was brimming with confidence when I interviewed him in late spring. He had won the welterweight class at the ’09 NPC Excalibur in December and felt that he’d resolved some digestive problems that had plagued him in the past. He predicted victory at the Junior Nationals in June and at the West Coast Classic a week later. I must admit, the 5’5” physique ace, who hit the scale at 162 at the Excalibur, jolted me a bit when he said he was moving up to the light-heavyweight class for his next two shows—and that he’d eventually make his mark as a heavyweight.

Blahut update in early July: He did move up—to the middleweights—at the Juniors, where he won the class at 174 1/2 pounds, and his prediction of being even better as a light heavy came to fruition seven days later at the inaugural West Coast Classic, where with five additional pounds Eli not only bested his class challengers but also toppled all the division winners en route to the overall crown.

Eli’s coming, for sure. Actually, he’s already here.

Eli Blahut File

Age: 22

Birth date: September 30, 1987

Birthplace: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Current residence: Venice, California

Height: 5’5”

Weight: 190 off-season; 165 contest

Contest highlights: ’10 NPC AmiLean West Coast Classic, light heavyweight, 1st, and overall; ’09 NPC Excalibur, welterweight, 1st; ’08 NPC VA/DC Championships, lightweight, 1st.

Factoids: He earned a B.S. in psychology, cum laude, from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009. He’s a PROPTA–certified personal trainer and is the creator of Knead Me Massage.

LT: Most people who decide to enter a contest plan ahead for months. Your story regarding the Excalibur is far from the norm.

EB: My life is far from the norm. About 3 1/2 weeks before the show I made a few changes that helped improve serious digestive issues I had been struggling with. At the same time I found out about the Excalibur and felt chills when I thought about doing the show. I capitalized on my new physical health and from that time frame until the show every choice was a last-minute decision. I even finished creating my posing routine an hour before I stepped onstage. I loved the whole process—it was nuts!

LT: After you won your class, did you think you had a shot at the overall?

EB: Had a shot? There were whispers in the posing room of me being the overall winner, people in the crowd shouting my number before the announcement and a screen overshadowing the audience where the camera man seemed to keep focusing on my physique—hard to believe I didn’t deserve it.

LT: You did a photo shoot with Michael Neveux four days after the contest, but you weren’t that excited about flexing in front of his magical lens. What was up with that?

EB: It was a really awesome experience, and I was very excited to shoot with him. Mike is a great guy; the entire IRON MAN team I really like—yes, even you, Lonnie. But here’s what happened: I was carbing up for the shoot when I decided to try eating maple butter with rice cakes and very quickly found out it was a bad decision. Within moments my digestive system decided to go into crisis mode—I even vomited before the shoot, which didn’t help.

The good news is, though, that as the shoot was taking place, just 10 minutes later, feelings of inspiration were flooding through me. I kept my abs tight, did everything to the best of my ability, and nobody knew what was up. Of course, after the shoot I stopped flexing my abs, and my stomach just distended. Everyone was like “Whoah!”

LT: Have you found the solution to the problem?

EB: Truthfully, what I have found so far is that the solution is changing every day. There are still times that no matter what I do, all the old symptoms come back. I have found things that have helped get me closer to the solution: removing most supplements, soy, wheat, dairy, nuts, seeds, most fruits and herbs and vegetables [from my diet] in conjunction with adding digestive enzymes and a high-dosed freeze-dried probiotic. Many other things have helped, including keeping meals with protein mostly fat or carbs, cooking my food to be as tender as possible, eating slowly and deliberately and drinking hot tea with meals higher in fat and after taking supplements.

LT: You left New Jersey with your brother Mike in January, driving across the country headed for the mecca. You pulled up to Gold’s, Venice, in an ’83 Volkswagen camper three weeks later, and five minutes after that I was doing a video with you for Instant fame! I called it “Eli’s Crib,” as we gave viewers a tour of the auto.

EB: Yes, it has been an awesome adventure, and that was funny when we finally got here. You were standing there looking at the van like, “What is this?”—laughing and ready to do the interview. I was like, let’s see what happens. Definitely a cool memory, and our first intro in person, L.T. !

LT: That was four months ago. What has transpired since then?

EB: Some of the highlights include my awesome exposure in IRON MAN, being highlighted in your News & Views column and being honored as one of your Rising Stars a few issues back. I got a cover with Exercise for Men Only magazine and got some articles published in various magazines.

Speaking of articles, writing is another one of my passions that I would love to pursue. There are many aspects of this sport—and health and fitness in general—that I would like to share with people. I have also been doing some work with photo guru Bill Comstock, who is just an all-around great guy, and have done a few reality-TV casting calls. I would like to get more involved with commercial and acting work.

I’m also working on copyrighting my personal-training style, which involves working with people on a physical, mental and spiritual level, helping them to both realize and actualize their goals. I have discovered the tremendous benefit that practicing yoga gives. And let’s not forget about the many nights sleeping in my van, hearing the bums outside yelling at themselves. One guy was shouting, “Where is my snake? I need my snake!”

LT: How does training in Gold’s, Venice, compare to your workouts back at VCU?

EB: This Gold’s gym contains a very magnetizing and motivating atmosphere. I will train intensely wherever I go, but it’s really great being here, and I definitely would choose training here over the other gyms I have been to. It contains a constant reminder of where I am and what I have set out to create.

The pictures on the wall give me constant comparisons of symmetry, proportion and development of some top-notch athletes. They also have some of the old, old machines, which I really like. And, you know, it just feels good to be around people that have such similar goals.

About my old gym, the only thing I really miss there is training around my friends and my training partner, Aaron. Sorry, VCU, but the old Siegal Center just doesn’t match up to the mecca!

LT: How did you get into weight training?

EB: I was actually born holding a five-pound dumbbell in an eight-inch arm, which, if you didn’t know, is a big arm for a baby!

Okay, really, as the stories like this usually go, I’ve been an athlete almost all my life. At five years old, thanks to my father’s involvement, I was winning wrestling tournaments and scoring goals as a forward playing soccer. As time progressed and a few very stressful events happened in my life, neither of those sports could let me feel a release as much as I needed. I had developed some muscularity through wrestling, and every time I lost weight to get down to a class, I loved how my body transformed.

Coincidentally, my cousin was a natural pro bodybuilder at the time, and our conversations helped me have a nice foundation starting out when I was 13. He gave me some useful tips on how to train and to focus on consuming protein and creatine. I realized I needed a curl bar if I wanted to grow my arms more, and thus I began bodybuilding!

I have vivid memories of curling, watching my arms grow and how good it felt to feel my muscles fail no matter how hard I tried. To feel blood pump through my veins as my body became warm and enlivened; then, to become stronger each time? Forget about it! Right from the start the entire experience was spiritual, and I wanted to see just how far I could take this thing.

LT: Anyone in particular inspire you to get onstage?

EB: How I got into doing my first show started with getting ready for a “hot-body contest” one of the bars I was working in was promoting. I wanted to look at that as a practice show and took three weeks to get ready for it. While I was at the contest, a bodybuilder showed up to do it, IFBB Pro Curtis Bryant. Everyone was like, WTF? Afterward he took me aside and told me how great my symmetry and proportions were and said there was a show coming up in two weeks that he was guest posing at and that I should compete. Immediately I knew this was the perfect time and said, “Hell yeah!” He helped me learn what the poses were, and I ended up winning my class.

LT: What contests are on your agenda next?

EB: The plan is to head for the upcoming Junior Nationals, then a week later your West Coast Classic. The rest for now will remain a mystery, so stay tuned!

LT: Has your training style changed much since you moved out here?

EB: I develop a new routine whenever my gains seem to slow, or if I want to focus on another muscle group to keep symmetry flowing. Specifically, I have created two new routines since I’ve been here, and I’m starting a third one now, which most likely will change again closer to the shows.

The one I created upon my arrival involved two to four exercises per muscle group, utilizing a full range of movement for each exercise. The muscle being trained was contracted as explosively as possible, squeezed at the peak of contraction, and I resisted the weight for a one-to-two-second negative. I performed one set to what I call “first failure.” That involves the muscle being unable to complete the concentric range of the movement with proper form.

I would then continue performing the exercise to what I call “second failure,” where I used a spotter to assist me in the concentric portion of the movement. I controlled the negative portion for as many reps as possible without losing my ability to stabilize the weight or do one full-second negative. Workouts were brief—30 to 45 minutes, focusing on one major muscle group and an auxiliary muscle, such as quads and calves, or chest and biceps.

Workouts were spaced apart so that on the days I had the most energy, I prioritized the muscle groups that needed the most development. I started my training for a given muscle group with the same compound movement for two workouts in a row and then either changed the order of the remaining exercises or replaced them to keep supplying new stimulus.

Time between sets was kept to two to three minutes. I had massive muscle gains and strength increases; however, I found my central nervous system and joints, tendons and ligaments could only support that type of brutal training for six weeks. I wanted gains to continue coming without having general fatigue or a serious injury set in. I took a week off at that point to recuperate and to give the muscles time to resensitize with a new training program.

I have been using the new program that followed the week off for about five weeks. Since I’ve moved out here, I have developed more quickly than I ever have before, outside of when I started training. I’m learning how to manipulate my diet and training to rebound after a show. The new routine is outlined below. (The third routine, which I will be starting soon, is more than I can go into here.)

LT: You weighed 162 when you took your class at the Excalibur. As you mature over the years, what do you think your weight will be eventually?

EB: Tough question. Only time will really tell, but, honestly, I’m interested in seeing what I would look like competing at around 250 pounds. Is that possible? Call me crazy like everyone else, but you know what? It’s worth trying. The real question is, Will my health allow me to reach that goal? More realistically, the first step is a competition weight of around 200; then I will decide where I will go from there.

LT: What are your short- and long-term goals in the sport?

EB: My short-term goal: Compete at the 202-and-under Olympia. Long term: Be a good representative for bodybuilding and connect with the general public. I also see myself developing a food, supplement and exercise equipment line.

LT: What would people be surprised the most to learn about you?

EB: I can wiggle my ears one at a time and pause at different points within their full range of movement. [Laughs] I also have not lost a staring contest in a very long time and prefer to handle minor disputes between people with rocks-paper-scissors.

LT: Why am I not surprised at your response? Okay, outline your training and diet for me.

EB: Here goes:

Eli’s Blahut’s Rest-Ravage-and-Restore Training Protocol

This workout was designed as a transitioning phase between a strenuous and productive off-season phase and a precontest phase. It was performed from approximately 11 weeks before my upcoming show to seven weeks out.

I train every other day. That gives my tendons and ligaments a rest before I move on to a more-frequent precontest training regimen, and more rest allows me to generate a greater level of intensity for each muscle group.

I use no forced reps in this program, as opposed to the off-season program, and instead usually stick with two sets to first failure. That creates a new stimulus to adjust to and also allows my muscles to re-sensitize to the forced failure reps, which I will include again in the precontest phase.

I do the two first failure sets for each exercise for six to 12 reps, usually with a two-second negative and A two-second positive. However, during any set if my intuition guides me to something, I may change the intensity to include techniques like slow reps, drop sets, pump sets or partial reps.

Workout 1: Quads, calves
Hack squats (heels in, toes out)
45 degree leg presses (heels high and wide on pad)
or vertical leg presses(alternate weeks)
Leg extensions (using a different machine at every workout)
Standing calf raises
Seated calf raises

Workout 2: Chest, traps
Incline-bench presses
Incline dumbbell presses
Hammer Strength incline presses
Cable crossovers
Dumbbell shrugs

Workout 3: Hamstrings, biceps, abs
The exercise order changes at every workout to prevent adaptation
Lying leg curls (on an angled bench)
Seated leg curls
Dumbbell hamstring curls (on an incline bench)

Workout 4: Back
All grips are switched at every other workout
Deadlifts (alternate heavy explosive deads for 1 x 5 and 1 x 3 to failure with controlled squeezing reps, 1 x 10-12, stopping one to two reps before failure)
Barbell rows (overhand grip)
Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral high rows (underhand grip)
Cable rows (overhand grip)
Machine pullovers

Workout 5: Shoulders, triceps
Smith-machine military presses
or seated dumbbell military presses (alternate weeks)
Standing lateral raises
Dumbbell bent-over lateral raises
Weighted dips (elbows in with waist angled 30 degrees to the floor)
Underhand-grip pressdowns (with EZ-curl-bar attachment)
Seated overhead cable extensions (with straight bar)

I don’t train abs directly because they get activation from deadlifts and from many other exercises. I pay close attention to keeping them contracted on every movement for proper spinal structure and to generate maximum power. I did work my abs in the off-season once weekly with heavy power incline crunches, leg raises and cable crunches for just five sets total. Now I’m giving them a break to resensitize them in preparation for an intense three-times-per-week training protocol in my precontest phase.

Eli’s Training-Day Rest-Ravage-and-Restore Nutritional Program

All rice, fruits, meat and fish are organic and wild caught and are listed in uncooked measurements. I drink only purified water for optimum nutrient intake and to prevent the accumulation of toxins. The digestive enzymes must be taken with each meal.

On nontraining days I eat half the amount of rice and fruit to give my stomach a break.

8 a.m.
500 billion CFU probiotics
1 grapefruit
1/2 cup white rice
10 ounces orange roughy
1 cup decaf green or white tea

9 a.m.
1/2 cup white rice
8 ounces 85/15 ground beef
Supplements: vitamin C, 2,000 milligrams; B-complex vitamins, 100 milligrams; alpha lipoic acid (ALA), 600 milligrams, N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), 1,200 milligrams; S-adenosyl methionine (Sam-E), 400 milligrams

11 a.m.
1 cup white rice
8 ounces fat-free chicken tenderloins
1 cup decaf green or white tea
Supplements: caffeine, 300 milligrams; 7-keto, 100 milligrams (on leg and back days only)

11:40 a.m.
Vitamin C, 1,000 milligrams; B-complex vitamins, 50 milligrams; micronized glutamine, 10 grams

12–1 p.m.
Train insane!

1 p.m.
Micronized glutamine, 10 grams, with 60 grams castor sugar

1:30 p.m.
2 kiwifruits
1 cup white rice
10 ounces Dover sole
1 cup decaf green or white tea
Supplements: vitamin C, 1,000 millilgrams; B-complex vitamins, 50 milligrams; ALA, 600 milligrams

2:30–3 p.m.
Meditation or nap

3:30 p.m.
1 cup white rice
10 ounces skirt steak

6:30 p.m.
1/2 cup white rice
8 ounces 90/10 ground turkey or 10 ounces chicken thigh
1 cup decaf green or white tea

9:30 P.M.
1/4 cup white rice
8 ounces fat-free chicken tenderloins
Supplements: ALA, 600 milligrams; NAC, 1,200 milligrams; SAM-e, 400 milligrams; methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), 2,000 milligrams; glucosamine and chondroitin, 2,000 milligrams; chromium, 400 microgams; selenium, 400 micrograms; zinc, 200 milligrams; magnesium citrate, 4,000 milligrams*; calcium citrate, 1,500 milligrams
*This is enough magnesium to be a laxative for most people, but for me it keeps me regular on most days in addition to the high-dose probiotic and vitamin C

10:30 p.m.
500 billion CFU probiotics; melatonin, 40 milligrams

11:00 p.m.

LT: Any final words of wisdom?

EB: Thank you, L.T. and the crew, for giving me a chance to share my story, practice and passion with your readers. And thank you to readers for taking an interest. It is my desire to help inspire you and aid you in realizing your goals.

Editor’s note: To contact Eli Blahut, write to [email protected]. IM

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