Written by Hany Rambod
23 September 2007
The Announcement
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On June 28th, Phil Heath issued a statement in which he formally withdrew from this year�s Mr. Olympia contest, which he had qualified for by virtue of his fifth place at the Arnold Classic. Despite the fact that he clearly listed the reasons behind his decision, rumors and gossip began to fly. This is to be expected. I mean, what would bodybuilding be without gossip to keep things interesting? As his nutritionist and friend, many e-mails and phone calls were directed to me in hopes that I could confirm or deny these. The rumors ran the gamut, from Phil being injured and not wanting anyone to know about it, to his being afraid of competing against the top men in the sport. This month, I will set the record straight with the actual reasons Phil decided to sit out this year�s Olympia. In the end, you will see that it was actually a very wise and well thought-out move.

It�s All About Longevity

Phil Heath is both very methodical and realistic, especially when it comes to the sport of bodybuilding. The one concept that he constantly bears in mind is that bodybuilding is a marathon, not a sprint. �The Gift� wants a long career in this game. He loves the sport, he loves to compete and he appreciates all of his fans. Pushing his body too far, too fast could very well jeopardize his longevity in the sport that he loves. Phil wants to stick around and have a great career, rather than one that�s cut short by making the wrong decisions. We have all seen examples of �flash in the pan� bodybuilders who bowed to pressure from various sources such as sponsors, fans, advisors or the media, and got caught up in trying to put on too much size in too short of a time period. You have seen many of these guys come and go, and sadly, you have probably already forgotten about many of them. The fact of the matter is that their bodies couldn�t handle the stress they imposed on them. They wound up either getting injured, mentally burnt out, or both. Not to single anybody out, but Richard Jones comes to mind when you talk about this group of athletes. This was a man with a phenomenal physique and all the potential in the world. Richard won the 2003 USA hands-down, and was instantly touted as the next Shawn Ray and a future Mr. Olympia. He was hyped up so much that it became almost impossible to live up to his own press. I don�t know the whole story, but Rich made a strong debut with a third place at the 2004 Night of Champions, proceeded to take next-to-last at that year�s Mr. Olympia, then seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, at least as far as our sport is concerned. He�s not alone. I�m sure you can think of other guys who were put on covers and touted as the next big thing, only to burn out like shooting stars. The key in this game is to pace yourself, and that�s what Phil Heath decided to do.

Improvement: Take Your Time And Do It Right

After winning his first two pro shows in the spring of 2006, Phil went into off-season training mode and proceeded to add new mass and muscle maturity, which we all saw at the Arnold Classic earlier this year. Had he competed in last year�s Olympia, he would have been dieting for about half that time and would never have been able to make those improvements. Some guys try to cram a whole off-season into just a couple months, which rarely succeeds. Even if it does, the stress put upon the body by attempting to rush the growth process is not worth the risks involved. Phil�s master plan is simple: to make the best gains while putting the least amount of stress on his body. Preparing for a contest in itself is very stressful to the various systems of the body. Think about it: the combination of heavy weight training, lower calories and increased cardio definitely is asking your body to put up with quite a bit. But more importantly, you just don�t grow and make improvements when you�re dieting. Phil�s sponsors agreed wholeheartedly with the logic of his plan, and are being totally supportive of his decision. That leads us to the next silly rumor, or perhaps it�s an assumption�that this was not really Phil�s decision at all.

Heath Calls All His Own Shots

Before making his final decision, Phil Heath talked it over with a lot of people, including his wife, his sponsors, myself and various other friends in the industry. In the end, only one man decided not to compete in the Olympia, and that was Phil. He�s a grown man, and nobody tells him what to do with his career. Many agreed that it�s clearly the best choice at this time, including his good friends Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. The consensus is that the only thing Phil needs is time, and that�s one thing you can�t buy in a bottle. We all have the same 365 days in a year to work with.

Did Phil Know All Along He Wasn�t Doing The Olympia?

Some people have suggested that Phil�s plan all along for this year was to only compete in the Arnold Classic, or at the least that he decided immediately after Columbus that he would take a pass on the 2007 Olympia. In reality, Phil was torn about what to do for many months, and only made his final decision shortly before he made the formal announcement. Standing on the Mr. Olympia stage is something that every pro bodybuilder dreams of, and Phil is no different. In many ways, not competing was one of the toughest decisions he has ever had to make.

Is Phil Heath Scared To Stand Next To The Top Guys?

Although Phil is a humble and very respectful young man, he is definitely not afraid of anybody. He wants to compete against Jay, Ronnie, Victor and the rest of them, but only when he is truly ready. The fact is that he can�t wait to compete in the Mr. Olympia, but he knows that it needs to be on his terms. Phil knows he needs to bring his top game to compete with the very best bodybuilders alive. Of course, if the judging had gone somewhat differently at the Arnold and he had placed in the top three (which he very well could have), he probably would have decided to compete in the Olympia. But his symmetry and conditioning didn�t carry him up against the bigger guys. The judges Phil spoke to all had the same advice to offer: that all he needs is time and to get bigger. Certainly, he could have attempted to accelerate that process and repeated the mistakes of many bodybuilders before him. Others have gotten themselves hurt, either in the case of a muscle tear or otherwise harming their bodies in their haste to put of mass. Another fact is that Phil is getting paid by his sponsors whether he competes this year or waits until 2008. Why wouldn�t he wait and cash a bigger check by placing better in his next show? The only pressure on Phil is the pressure that he puts on himself to improve. The results will become evident soon enough.

Is Phil Dissing The O?
One completely ludicrous comment I have heard through the grapevine is that by foregoing the Olympia two years in a row, Phil is somehow disrespecting our sport�s biggest event. I can�t speak for Phil, but I think he feels the opposite is true. By waiting until he is closer to his potential, he will bring a much more formidable package to the Mr. Olympia and be a much more serious contender for the title. Personally, I think it shows more respect than merely rushing into the contest just because you happen to be qualified. You can mark my words� barring any unforeseen circumstances� Phil Heath will be on the Mr. Olympia stage in 2008, and he will be a force for the other men to reckon with.

Wedding Bells

First, let me say congratulations to Phil on his June wedding to Jen Laxson in Arvada, Colorado. This is another factor that influenced his decision. The first half of this year was spent preparing for the biggest day of Phil�s life. Any of you who have ever been involved in planning a wedding know that there are myriad details that range from the caterer, table centerpieces, florists, the music for the reception, invitations, guest lists, etc. The logistics of putting on a wedding can make your head spin. Not to mention that if Phil had decided to do the Olympia, he would have had to put his honeymoon on hold. Can you imagine having to eat diet food, train and do cardio and not be able to have a single drink when you and your new wife are off in some tropical paradise? Now at least he can enjoy this special time the way it�s meant to be spent� focusing 100 percent on relaxing with his bride.

What To Expect From Phil

As I said before, Phil did successfully add a significant amount of lean muscle following the 2006 spring season, but now he needs to mature and season that new mass. As he ages and continues to train, that�s a foregone conclusion. People tend to forget that Heath is only 27 years old and has been training just five years. The average Mr. Olympia competitor these days is in his mid-to-late 30s and has been training for 15 to 20 years. Phil is unique in that even though he�s been training for such a short time, he is still able to come in with that rare, �grainy� detailed look to his muscles that usually takes well over a decade of hard training to acquire, if one ever gets it at all. But as gifted as Phil most definitely is, he must still adhere to the rules of human physiology. Quality muscle mass takes time to put on, no matter who you are and how hard you train. You can�t slap it on in a few weeks. Those who try will ruin their physiques and often put their health in jeopardy. While the rest of the guys are dieting for the Mr. Olympia, Phil will be gaining new muscle mass and seasoning and refining his existing size. Improvements he will be making include a thicker upper chest, wider and thicker lats and more shoulder width. He will also continue to work on making his thigh sweep and hamstrings even better. And of course, Phil will be growing overall. A bigger, better Phil Heath will be unveiled next spring, but for the time being, consider him under construction.