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Two-time Arnold Classic champ and 2019 Mr. Olympia runner-up William Bonac has been in the bodybuilding game for close to a decade now, and he’s built a reputation for being one of the most humble guys around.
In a recent Instagram Live interview with the Olympia’s Cayden Riley, “The Conqueror” shared some insight into his off-season in quarantine, his hopes for the 2020 Olympia, and some useful tips for aspiring pro bodybuilders.
Here are some highlights from Bonac’s Olympia interview—you can check out the full video here.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench into many bodybuilders’ off-seasons, and Bonac is no exception. But fortunately for him, he was in a place where he could train daily—Ghana. After clinching a win at the 2020 Arnold Classic, Bonac headed to Ghana, where he was born and lived until his early teens, to open up a gym.
“I always wanted to open a gym in Ghana to give something back, with quality equipment,” he said. In his early teens, he and other fitness enthusiasts would train in backyards, using things like concrete and car engines for weights. Now he’s achieved his goal of creating a space with quality equipment where people can train.
In the end, it also worked out for him personally when the pandemic made getting back to the U.S. impossible for about six weeks. The new gym was just a minute away, so Bonac kept up with his off-season training three to four days a week there.
Bonac’s prep for the 2020 Olympia, which is slated for December 17-20 at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, won’t kick in until September—and for him, that’s an early start.
In the off-season, Bonac still makes sure to train at least three or four times a week. Here’s what a typical split looks like for him:
During prep, he makes sure to eat at least four meals before training in the evening to avoid losing size.
When it comes to abs, Bonac only focuses on them during his actual prep about twice a week after morning cardio. “Most exercises you do, you’re using your abs anyway to stabilize your core,” Bonac explained.
Although Bonac stays fairly lean year-round, he doesn’t incorporate cardio into his off-season because it’s difficult enough for him to put on size.
“I can’t afford to do cardio, because I’ll lose a lot of muscle,” he says. But he stays in shape throughout the year so he’s always ready for guest posing or appearances. And even while he’s prepping, he sometimes nixes cardio.
“In my prep time, if I see I’m losing some muscle, I’ll quit cardio and start adding more carbs in my meals,” Bonac says.
He starts his prep with about 20 minutes of cardio a day for five to six days a week to see how it goes. He either increases or decreases depending on how he’s looking along the way, but he never does more than 40-45 minutes a day. It’s the first thing he does in the morning, and it helps get his appetite stimulated.
When it comes to off-season eating, there’s no exact science for Bonac. He eats whatever he wants whenever he’s hungry. And don’t think that means plain chicken breast.
“When I’m not in prep, I don’t wanna see chicken breast, I don’t wanna see salmon or steak, nothing I see in my prep,” he says. He doesn’t even track portion sizes or how much protein he’s getting.
During prep, of course, that changes. He starts off his prep with a max of about 4,700 calories over the course of six meals—which is “not that much” for him. As his prep goes on, his coach tweaks his calories and macros based on how he looks. He also only has one cheat meal a week while he’s getting show-ready.
In this off-season and prep, the focus is legs. He struggled with a hernia that affected the nerves in one leg ahead of the 2019 Olympia, and he’s still working to make sure his legs are on point this year.
“If I fix my legs, the upper body will come along as well,” Bonac says.
What he’s most looking forward to is simply stepping on stage. “I’m grateful that everything’s turned out the way it turned out, because I have a lot going on right now. I’m glad it’s been moved to December. And with me, I prefer to prep in the winter instead of the summer.”
Why winter? For Bonac, shorter days in the winter make prep go by faster.
This isn’t Bonac’s first rodeo, and he’s got plenty of advice for bodybuilders just getting their start who find the process overwhelming. As a father of three, it’s no surprise that his main concern is keeping a healthy relationship with his family and finding balance between fun with the kids and prepping for the Olympia stage.
“My advice is try to bring your family along,” Bonac said. “People think bodybuilders have to be selfish, but that’s old-school thinking. You can combine it with family, kids, and everything.”
Considering it takes three or four months of serious work to get stage-ready, that’s a long time to leave your family out of a huge aspect of your life. And Bonac suggests paying special attention to those who matter most, including significant others or spouses.
“For your wife or your partner, always involve them in it, because you can’t do it alone,” he said. “And it helps them understand you more. If you don’t understand each other and pick each other up, it won’t work.”
He also suggests keeping life normal, even while prepping for a show. Things like getting meals ready in the morning and taking them with you when you’re on a strict schedule can give you the freedom to go places with your kids. Plus, it’ll make prep go by way faster.
“They always say don’t make yourself too comfortable, but you should make yourself as comfortable as possible,” Bonac explained. “Then you can focus on your sport, your family, and everything as one. Then when the show comes, you won’t stress yourself at home. You don’t have to wait until after the show to do activities with your family.”
Follow the Olympia on Instagram at @mrolympiallc for more updates and athlete interviews, and buy tickets to the 2020 Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend HERE.