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What it Takes to Become a Professional Bodybuilder, According to Steve Kuclo

Do you dream of getting paid to train and pose onstage? If so, you’ll want to heed IFBB pro Steve Kuclo’s advice.

Preacher curl
Per Bernal / M+F Magazine

As a kid growing up in St. Clair Shores, MI, Steve Kuclo would flip through the pages of FLEX and Muscle & Fitness magazines looking for workout programs and lifting tips to help him gain strength and size. “I’ve always loved competing, and I played a lot of sports growing up,” says Kuclo, who after two years of studying at the University of Michigan decided to change directions and become a full-time firefighter. About this time Kuclo also developed an itch to get onstage as a bodybuilder. After a few years of competing as an amateur, Kuclo, then 25, turned pro in 2011 at the NPC USAs. But he still had financial responsibilities, which meant he had to continue to juggle being a firefighter with his career as an IFBB pro—until last year.

Like many top names in the industry, Kuclo uses the name recognition, income from sponsorships (he’s currently sponsored by AllMax Nutrition), and earnings from bodybuilding competitions as a platform to pursue other things. His biggest venture right now is a clothing company, Booty Queen Apparel, which he runs with his wife, IFBB bikini pro Amanda Latona-Kuclo. And being a body- builder, entrepreneur, and a dutiful husband means he “pretty much has three full-time jobs,” he says.

We’ll focus on one—being an IFBB pro bodybuilder. Think you have what it takes?

ON THE JOBThe lifestyle of an IFBB pro is a 24/7 grind—your training, nutrition, and sleep quality all have to be on point. Otherwise, your odds of flexing your way to glory are dismal at best. If you’re up for it, here’s what you can expect, according to Kuclo (Instagram: @stevekuclo).

THE DAILY GRIND“Monday through Friday, Amanda and I wake up early and take care of business for Booty Queen Apparel—answering emails, making sure we’re coming out with new products, and planning out appearances at expos. As for the gym, I’m lucky to have a training partner who is flexible, so I go either in the morning or at night for a couple of hours.”To remain nourished, Kuclo cooks at home and take his meals on the road with him.

SKILLS NEEDED“The one big factor is genetics. If you’re, like, 5'4" and 140 pounds, and you want to compete in the Mr. Olympia, especially against the big guys who are 275 pounds or more, you may need to rethink your goals. If you’re a big-framed guy, with big joints and muscle bellies, who sees quick results in the gym, then you got it,” Kuclo says.

BEST PART OF THE JOB“Meeting and greeting fans,” he says. “At the 2017 Mr. O expo, a guy said, ‘I had cancer, and watching your videos helped get me through some dark times.’ Meeting people like that is the most rewarding thing about what I do.”

WORST PART OF THE JOBAlong with the wear and tear of training, doing promotions for Booty Queen, and traveling to competitions, Kuclo says there’s another downside to the job: Your sex drive can plummet close to showtime. “If you put an apple pie and my wife in front of me, naked, two weeks out from a show, I know I’m in shape when I’d rather pick the apple pie...though I still may take my wife.”

The "IT" Factor: Anyone can be fit, but being a professional bodybuilder requires superior genetics, says Kuclo. If you don’t have them, reconsider your goals.

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