|BodybuildingPro.com Interview: Justin Harris
BodybuildingPro.com Interviews Justin Harris
Top amateur bodybuilder Justin Harris has been getting some recognition not only for his massive physique, but for his insane gym strengths which almost at the level of the strongest bodybuilders in the world like Ronnie Coleman and Johnnie O. Jackson. In this interview, Justin talks about his career in bodybuilding as well as his ridiculous gym strength and his life outside of the industry. Justin proves to be an intelligent and articulate speaker and crushes a lot of the stereotypes of bodybuilders.
Justin Harris and his "Project Superheavyweight" DVD. Click below for a complete review.
==> Justin Harris "Project Superheavyweight" DVD REVIEW
- Hi Justin. Provide the readers with a little background about yourself.
My name is Justin Harris. I'm 27 years old. I will be celebrating my 5th wedding anniversary this year, and have two young daughters.
I have a degree in Exercise Physiology/kinesiology, and work as an echocardiographer at William Beamont Hospital, a top cardiology center, and the largest in-patient hospital in the country.
I own www.troponinnutrition.com and www.troponinsupplements.com.
I am sponsored by Optimum Nutrition, American Bodybuilding (ABB), and EliteFTS (www.elitefts.com).
You can see some of my photos and writing at Optimum's website, you can ask me questions in the Q and A section of www.elitefts.com, and you can see some of my writing at www.musculardevelopment.com
- What initially attracted you to bodybuilding?
I don't really know. I remember seeing it on TV when I was very young, and being interested. I was always extremely interested in sports, and events that tested merit, strength, and all things physical. I guess I probably thought at that age that since bodybuilders looked how they did, they must be the pinnacle of all physical activities. That's probably not true, but a young male mind is largely visual...and bodybuilders certainly look the part.
- Does your family support your career in bodybuilding?
They support it 100%. My family has always supported me in whatever I've done. I've been great at being mediocre my whole life...and they've been with me the whole time..lol
My parents don't know a ton about bodybuiding, as I didn't compete until long after I had moved out, but they are very proud of me.
My wife supports me in everything I do, and knows that I would never put any selfish pursuits above what is best for our family.
One thing my father always did was make me believe I could do whatever I put my mind to. I know that most parents say that, but for some reason, my parents really made me believe it.
- Do you have any bodybuilding heroes?
I don't really have any "heroes" but I really respect how Jay Cutler is able to hold what seems to be a normal family life, succeed financially, and remain relatively "normal" while also being the best bodybuilder in the world.
- Tell us a little about your contest history?
I won the heavyweight and overall at the Capital City Classic in 2004, I also won the Heavyweight and overall at the Mr. Michigan in 2004. In 2005, I took 15th at the Jr. Nationals, and last year I won the Superheavyweight class at the Jr. USA's.
I plan to compete at the USA's this July, 2007.
- What is your current weight, both offseason and in contest?
My peak offseason weight this year was around 280lbs. I spent most of the offseason around 265lbs though.
I'm not quite sure what my contest weight will be. I've gained almost exactly 15lbs each year I've competed, which would put me at 260lbs on stage this year. That seems really large to me, and I suspect I'll end up around 250lbs or so.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses in bodybuilding?
My strengths are my focus and commitment. Bodybuilding is a slow progression. I'm lucky enough to enjoy the act of progress.
My physique strengths are probably my shape, and my conditioning as a superheavyweight.
I can find plenty of phyique weaknesses, but it doesn't provide much benefit to dwell on them....and if I don't say what they are, perhaps others won't notice either..lol
- You have shown yourself to be highly knowledgeable in areas of all areas of bodybuilding on the message boards and in your DVD (training, nutrition, and supplementation). Do you have an educational background in the subject?
I have a degree in Exercise Physiology, but much of my knowledge was learned in an autodidactic form. Unfortunately, I didn't apply myself as I should have while in school. I guess I always assumed my chance to excel was in a physical arena. It was only recently that I realized I may have actually been better suited to excel in academics..lol.
I am a bit of a research junkie. I really enjoy reading about things that interest me. Nutrition and human physiology happen to be some of those interests. My personal feeling is, the information is out there. Whether a teacher tells you to read on a subject, or you choose to read it yourself, the information is the same. The only thing you miss on your own is any potential personal opinions given by the teacher.
But, if you're highly motivated to learn a subject, you can find the information.
I do wish that I would have had this same interest while I had much more information available to me. But, such is life. There is a reason there are hundreds of phrases such as "hindsight is 20/20," and "if I only knew then, what I know now."
- On getbig.com, you are "Squad Approved" due to your physique, but even moreso due to your immense strength. Do you have a background in powerlifting? What are your personal record lifts in the gym?
I appreciate that. Getbig has always treated me well. I don't know exactly why, but I appreciate it. Getbig gives real feedback...a bit overzealous, but truthful for the most part. It is up to the "public figure" to take from that what they want.
I always trained more like a powerlifter. The first eight years of my training were for football. I always wanted to be a "fat guy that lifted a lot of weight." It wasn't until much later that I became interested in bodybuilding.
I recently did my first powerlifting meet, and totaled 2,149lbs. I hit an 876lb squat, a 573lb bench, and a 700lb deadlift. It was an "elite classification" which was very exciting for my first meet. Once again it appears I may have spent too much focus on something (bodybuilding), where my natural gift was on something else (powerlifting)..lol
675lbs for 3 on squats. I did a raw 765lbs squat before my meet, and think I may have been able to get another rep, but with that much weight on a normal gym bar (it is actually all the weight the bar would fit), the "whip" of the bar is really pretty extreme, and throws you out of your groove.
635lbs for 5 on deadlifts, and 675 for 3. Those were done with straps. I've only recently done strapless deadlifts, since I've started powerlifting.
My best bench is around 405lbs for 6. I did 405 for 5 on close grip recently while dieting, so I think I may be able to improve on that bench soon.
- Tell us about your training style.
Most of the year, I train "DC" style, which can be seen at www.intensemuscle.com. It is an abbreviated, high intensity program that focuses on strength improvments to create size improvements.
Even when not training DC, I still train in a similar style. I just love training, and love pushing myself in the gym. I don't know if I get a bigger endorphin rush than most people, but I've always loved training. I've always loved training for a sport more than the actual sport. From baseball, to football, to bodybuiding, and now powerlifting, I enjoy the preparation more than the actual event.
There is something about progressing in the gym that gives me a sensation I don't get anywhere else.
- What do you consider your best muscle group and how do you train it?
My best bodypart is probably shoulders, and I don't really train it much..lol. It is my one "genetic" part, so I don't have to do much for it.
As for advice for other people, I think beginners focus too much on the show muscles.
You won't see a 150lber with 20 inch arms, and you won't find a 300lb bodybuilder without 20 inch arms.
Focus on the basic movements, the movements that work the most muscle groups, and everything will grow.
Unfortunately, the basic movements hurt. You get out of breath, and a good lower back pump from deadlifts, or a good quad pump from squats isn't quite as fun as a good arm pump..lol.
- In your DVD, you proved to have tremendous power in deadlifting, lifting 635 for four reps! What advice would you give to somebody (me) trying to improve on their one rep max for this exercise?
When I deadlift, I don't think about lifting the weight. I try to push my feet through the floor. I think of the bar as stationary, and I try to push the floor down. Once the weight is past my knees, I push my hips forward, and arch my upper back.
When I try to pull the weight, I keep my hips too high, and lean forward. When I think of pushing the floor, everything comes together, and my power base feels so much better.
- Tell us about your DVD "Project Superheavyweight" - what reasons can you provide the readers to purchase this DVD?
I think it is a "true" training DVD. There is no shirtless training, no "you should see how much I lift in the offseason," no cables, or anything like that. It is two up and coming NPC bodybuilders showing exactly what we do in the offseason to try to improve.
You can see our real workouts, our real weights, and my real meals as I try to progress up the NPC ladder.
It also has a free nutritional DVD with approximately one hour of almost non-stop nutritional advice. You can see what I believe works, how I set up diets, where I believe most people fail with nutrition, and where I feel most could improve.
I give a lot of background nutritional base, so that anyone who's interested can get a good understanding of nutritional physiology to better set up their own nutritional program.
- Do you have any future DVDs planned?
I'd like to do a pre-contest DVD in the future. I think I have a fairly unique position in the sport, as I still work full time, run two businesses (Troponin Nutrition and JJH enterprises), have two small children, and a wife in Dental school.
I think it would hold some interest to see how I balance precontest bodybuilding, work, shipping and packaging of our products, medical school, and a full family.
- What is your favourite bodybuilding DVD and why?
Probably "The Unbelievable" or any of Jay Cutler's DVDs. I've seen 100's of people workout. I really like to see how Jay balances life outside of bodybuliding, and how he maintains what seems to be a "normal" world view while being the best bodybulider in the world.
==> CLICK HERE FOR MORE JAY CUTLER DVDs
- Do you still train with Steve Kuclo? How is he doing? Do you feel that you bring out your strengths in one another?
I still train with Steve. He is moving to Texas in a month however, so we won't be full time partners much longer.
Steve recently finished his paramedic program, and finished the fire academy last year, so he's set himself up fine, should bodybulding not workout for him.
We both love training, and have similar strength levels. We're both motivated to improve, and that is all it really takes to make progress. If one of us isn't "into it," the other usually is, and vice versa. So, if I'm down, and Steve is fired up, it forces me to stay with him.
- What do women think of your physique? How about Steve's?
My wife seems to think mine is okay. Lol
You know, I've never once trained with that thought in mind. I don't really know why, but it was never a factor for me. I started for sports, and it was about an eight year transition from sport training to bodybuilding, and by that time I was already married, so I didn't get to see how women would respond to my 'bodybuilding' physique.
For the most part, I think women say bodybuilding physiques are "ugly" almost as a reflex.
- Tell us about how your lifestyle changes are you go from offseason to precontest mode?
There is nothing glamorous, "Rockyesque," or even exciting about my transition. I eat clean all year, and my meals don't change when dieting. I manipulate quantities of macronutrients, and that's pretty much it.
I've been dieting for six weeks, and my co-workers have no idea. My life is largely the same. It is all about hard work, and consistency. I don't get out of shape, so it doesn't take a ton for me to get in shape.
- What do you feel are the most important variables to getting in contest shape>?
Sticking to a diet, and not worrying about being "big," or what you weigh.
The reason most local competitors don't get into shape is because they get too fat in the offseason, trying to look big, and because they're unrealistic about how big they actually are.
Ronnie Coleman won his first Olympia at 245lbs....but you have local guys thinking they'll compete at 245lbs. If anyone doing a state show thinks they're as big as Ronnie, they're only hurting themselves.
It takes dilligence and total commitment to get in shape. Many people don't possess those attributes in enough quantity to get in true contest shape.
- What do you feel about Jay Cutler's upset over Ronnie in 2006? Do you think Ronnie will win the Mr. Olympia again?
Unless Ronnie improves on what lost him the title, he won't regain the title in my opinion. If anyone can overcome his faults, it will be Ronnie.
I was happy that Jay won. I think Jay is a great representative for the sport. He may be a bit boring, but perhaps boring and collected is what bodybuilding needs from its competitive figurehead. The rest of the world doesn't have the greatest view of bodybuilders. So, a calm, well spoken business man is a good representative.
Jay worked for the title, does what others don't want, and works hard. He's a deserving champ in my mind.
- What do you think of getbig.com?
Unfortunately, or fortunately, probably the most true assesment you will get on your physique and actions if you're a "public figure" in the sport.
Much of what is said leans more on the side of hyperbole than absolute truth, but if you wonder what bodypart you need to improve on, you'll get that information at getbig. It will be laregly overstated, but it is up to you how you take that information.
I've been lucky at getbig, I've been given a pretty fair pass there. I think if you're truthful, and honest about yourself and your "fame" in this niche 'sport' you'll be treated fairly.
- Do you agree with Nasser El Sonbaty's comments on Pro Bodybuilding Weekly that 95% of bodybuilders in the industry use synthol?
I just can't imagine the use being that high. Perhaps it is a bit of niavete on my part, but I hope it isn't that high.
- What do you think about drugs in bodybuilding?
I believe in bodily sovereignty for the most part. I think drugs should be available from medical professionals, those people who've devoted their life to the understanding of the human body, and the action of pharmaceuticals on the human body.
I think they should be taxed, and the tax revenues be used to benefit other important causes.
But, my opinion doesn't hold much weight. I think too much emphasis is placed on drugs in bodybuilding, and for the majority of people are largely used as an excuse for why they haven't achieved their goals.
- Aside from performance enhancing agents, what do you think of the use of recreational drugs in bodybuilding?
I think it is a natural progression, both from the use of performance enhancing drugs (ie: a drug is a drug...), extreme personalities, and the desire to "enjoy a party" without the calories from alcohol.
I think it destroys bodybuilding, and is something I really wish wasn't associated with the sport.
I think it is a driving force in pushing people who could present a positive view of bodybuilding on the world out of the sport.
- Do you have any wild stories that you witnessed at any after parties? Have you ever seen a pro all coked out at such a party?
My kids get up at 6:30 am, so if I'm competing, and they're with us, there is no afterparty for me. Lol.
When I'm working with Optimum, they will usually have a VIP section at an afterparty, but we have to be up around 6-7am each morning, so I don't stay long.
Perhaps I'm a bit of a bore, but I don't really see much of those parties.
- What do you feel about the health problems which happened to some of bodybuilding's superstars of the 1990s?
I think they largely arose from a mix of ignorance, arrogance, and obession. All things that can come from excelling in any sport.
- What do you think about the bodybuilding dead pool lists found on the internet?
I think they can be misleading, and probably a bit unfair to some of the people on the lists. Many of those people have families, and in that sitation, it can be hard to even think about death, especially death resulting from pursuing your dreams.
But, maybe in some cases it should be a wake up call, and an opportunity to re-think some things.
It is, of course, pure speculation, and that is what level of merit it should be given.
- What advice would you give a beginner in either bodybuilding or powerlifting?
Learn to enjoy the process of whichever you choose to do. Most likely, you'll never actually reach your "goals." So, you really have to enjoy working towards them, because in the end, that is where pretty much all you're time will be spent.
- What hobbies and interests do you have outside of bodybuilding?
I have quite a few. I play the guitar. I'm a bit of a hack, as I'm self taught, but I can play enough to entertain my daughters. I love reading, magazines especially. I'm also a bit of a wikipedia junkie lately. I love brief bits of information. We haven't had much time lately, but my wife and I enjoy movies.
I used to draw quite a bit as well, but haven't had much time for that.
My life has been very hectic as of late, but when my wife graduates from school, and we're able to relax a bit, I'm sure I'll remember some of my old hobbies.
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