His Time Has Come
Ageless Danny Hester, 47, takes aim at the Inaugural Pro Classic Physique title at the 2016 Olympia.
By Lonnie Teper
Danny Thai Hester strolled gingerly down Rose Avenue in Venice, California, on a warm, breezy late June afternoon. He was headed for the celebrated eatery the Firehouse, not only to down meal number five for the day, but to do a sit-down interview with a magazine reporter.
Born in Thailand to a Thai mother and German/Cherokee father (thus, the middle name), Hester’s family moved to Ventura, California, after his dad, a member of the CIA, died in a plane crash during the Vietnam War. His grandfather on his mother’s side was the police chief of Bangkok.
A star on the wrestling mat during his high school and college days, Hester was given the moniker “Hester the Jester” by a reporter for his antics around Gold’s Gym over the years. But he was in a more subdued mood for this summit.
Easy to understand why: The 47-year-old, who has placed a “stop” sign on the aging highway, was leaving for Memphis, Tennessee, in a couple of days for the Dexter Jackson Classic, where he was looking to make it two wins in a row in the newly formed IFBB Pro Men’s Classic Physique division.
To refresh your memory, the 5’6”, 170-pounder became the first-ever winner in the category when he topped a field of 21 at Veterans Auditorium in Culver City, California, last March. With only three weeks prep and hampered by a neck injury for the previous few months, Hester was actually talked into doing the show by Iron Man Publisher Binais Begovic. Good call.
Hester outpointed noted vets Darrem Charles and Stan McQuay, second and third, respectively, to qualify for a trip to Las Vegas in September as Classic Physique makes its Olympia debut. Both Charles and McQuay qualified soon after to earn a rematch with Hester, among other standouts who will be onstage in Sin City.
Hester feels Classic Physique will flourish sooner than later in the industry, and he is confident he will be wearing the inaugural Classic Physique crown when the judges’ votes are tallied at the Olympia. Considered by many as the poster child for Classic Physique with nearly flawless symmetry, Hester is thankful for the birth of the new category, but isn’t afraid to speak up when discussing ways to improve the young division.
Lonnie Teper: Before we get into the Classic Physique, where are you living these days? Still dividing time between Ventura and Venice?
Danny Hester: Not so much. I have a house in Newport Beach and just rented a place in Sherman Oaks. I like the Valley, it’s centrally located, and my wife’s a singer, so it’s a good place for her to be as well. Monique is also a great cook—she’s Italian—so she helps my nutrition!
LT: About the Classic Physique division. Suggestions?
DH: Change the trunks. The rules for the trunks were vague to me, and I thought the old-school posing trunks were allowed. The trunks had to be black with no company logo on the material. I bought some diving shorts from a sports store last year—bigger than Speedos. A bit wider and looked, as I said, like the old-school trunks. I actually guest-posed in those trunks at the 2015 NPC West Coast Classic.
I didn’t break any rules. The criterion talked about the length, but not how short they could be. There were some complaints, but some of the other guys had their IFBB shorts tailored to look similar to mine. Jim [Manion] saw the trunks I wore in a photo shoot, sent me a letter telling me about some of the concerns, and asked me not to wear the same trunks again. Jim cares about the athletes and was kind enough to send me some official IFBB trunks to use at Dexter’s contest.
LT: Your dinner has arrived: steak and a yam, just water to drink. I’ve never seen you in bad shape since the first time I saw you at the 1992 USA 26 years ago.
DH: Pretty much. I like being in shape, especially at my age. It’s my business card. There’s plenty of time to get out of shape when you get older [smiles].
LT: You’ve barely aged, facially, over the years as well. What’s in the water?
DH: Actually, I do drink a lot of water, so much in fact that I’m constantly having to go to the bathroom. I go so often people think I have a prostate problem. I checked—I don’t [laughs]. I try to keep my stress levels low as well; I laugh at silly things, even at myself. Stress ages you.
When I worry, I exercise and it makes me feel productive and in control. When I’m mad, I try to be around pets, or animals in nature, especially moving water, like a stream or the ocean. It’s calming and gives me such peace and centering to my soul. That’s why we all need to adopt a pet from a shelter. There are so many animals in need of good, loving homes.
LT: You’re at a seminar. One of the fans asks you to explain the difference between bodybuilding and Classic Physique. Your reply?
DH: In recent years it’s come down to having shredded glutes or not having shredded glutes. I lost several shows because my glutes were not as shredded as the guy who beat me, even though I had a much better overall physique.
In pro bodybuilding it’s about size and shredded glutes. And getting bodyfat levels down that low to have shredded glutes isn’t very healthy. That became more important than symmetry. Hopefully, things will reverse in Classic Physique, with symmetry being much more important than big, freaky muscles with huge veins popping out all over.
LT: Has your training changed since you’ve switched divisions?
DH: Yes. I don’t have to put on more size, which is good, because I have small joints—not having to go so heavy is better for my joints and I want to look good as long as I can. Taking things to the limit, or past it, all the time has taken its toll on so many competitors. I concentrate on my weak points, with hopes of obtaining as balanced a physique as possible.
LT: Were you a muscular kid?
DH: Yes, I was. I wrestled in high school and college, did gymnastics and martial arts. All of my sports were individual. There’s way too much politics in team sports. My first poster up on my wall at home was of Bruce Lee, who was totally shredded. I wanted that look. Then when I saw Pumping Iron I started lifting weights. I remember taking down the poster of Bruce Lee and putting one up of Arnold. That was my transition [laughs].
LT: What do you think about the future of Classic Physique?
DH: It’s here to stay, but I think, in addition to changing the style of the trunks, the name should be changed to Classic Bodybuilding and the weight classes should be raised a bit. My limit is 170; I think 175 would be better. Maybe follow the same weight classes as the NPC follows now at the Nationals.
I think they kept the weight down because they hope that a lot of the more muscular Men’s Physique competitors will make the switch. Sadik Hadzovic, second in the Olympia Men’s Physique, is switching to Classic Physique. There are several others as well, and I think that number will grow. Then again, what would that be saying about bodybuilding, that it’s not about classic type physiques? Despite the emphasis on size and striations, there are still some beautiful physiques in bodybuilding, like Dexter and Shawn Rhoden to name a couple.
LT: What do you do, training wise, that’s different from most bodybuilders?
DH: I don’t take time off like a lot of them do. I try to stay in good shape—photo shoot shape—all year round. I’m unconventional compared to most competitors in that I don’t count calories, fats, protein, or carbs. I do keep my carbs low as much as possible. I have to have more protein than carbs.
LT: Does being 47 have as much to do with training lighter these days as your lower weight limit?
DH: Yes, it does. I have to be more careful about preventing injuries. However, forced to not go over 170 gives me the chance to concentrate on improving certain areas of my body without risking injury. If I do feel an impingement, by going too heavy, for example, I will take that day off and double up on the bodypart I missed when I feel better. There are days when I miss the gym due to business obligations, so I’ll make it up. I’m going to hit arms three times today.
LT: Do you do less cardio now that you weigh less?
DH: I probably do more cardio. Prior to a contest, I do the treadmill at medium speed at the 30 percent incline an hour a day, five days a week. It really hits my glutes, hams, and calves as well.
LT: What is your workout schedule like these days?
DH: I try to train every day, but, as I said, I will miss days here and there if something comes up that becomes my day or days off. Then I’ll try to make it up with two, sometimes three, workouts on the same bodypart on the same day. I really don’t have a set program, I train what I think is necessary at that time. I guess saying I hit a bodypart every five days would be accurate most of the time, but nothing is set in stone when I go to the gym.
LT: Okay, then what is your favorite exercise for each bodypart?
DH: Legs: single leg press, knees outward. Hams: seated leg curls. Calves: calf raises off of leg press. Biceps: hammer curls and triceps, triple overhead cable extensions. Rear delts and shoulders: reverse peck deck. Chest: dips leaning in. Abs: seated leg lifts, feet together knees apart. Abs and obliques: twists, 35 reps.
LT: Most people don’t know of your impressive, varied background: Registered nurse, where you worked in a state mental institution; correction officer in the state prison system; entrepreneur, creating G Flex [a portable complete body workout system] among other projects; celebrity trainer; and former gym owner. Anything else you’d like to share?
DH: I come from a large family, with three brothers and two sisters. I don’t like bullies. If you’re mean, I gravitate towards the underdog. For some reason, successful people seem to gravitate towards me. I love animals, as you know, and when I lost Elvis, my mini-Doberman pinscher, a year to the day from my Classic Physique victory, I felt like I’d lost a son since I don’t have any children.
LT: Sounds like you have a heart that matches the size of your muscles. Does that mean you won’t mind where you place at the Olympia?
DH: No way! That contest is mine to lose! I have the symmetry to win if I come in the way I’m capable of. I’m only 170 pounds, but I look bigger because of having small joints. When I saw the photos of my shoot with Binais, I thought I looked about 185 to 190 pounds. Especially the cover shot. I’m very confident I’m going to win it.
LT: Speaking of that shoot with Binais, how was it?
DH: First off, I want to thank Binais for being so supportive of me through his magazine. The shoot took place early morning in Manhattan Beach [California]. I like shooting with Iron Man because Binais is a good photographer, knows what he wants, and is fast. He lets me try different ideas that I feel comfortable doing. We were done in three hours, while most other photographers would take all day. I didn’t even eat or get a pump—he wanted me to look relaxed and enjoy the process. The weather and water were warm. Bodybuilding in sunny Southern California is a great combination!
LT: Any advice for up-and-coming competitors?
DH: Be patient. Enjoy the journey and don’t worry about your placings in contests. Your time will come, just like mine did. IM