Darren Burns

What’s the biggest mistake you made in your training and dieting as a young, up-and- coming bodybuilder? If you could go back and do it all over again, what would you change, knowing what you do now?

I wish I’d have read up a lot more on basic nutrition. Of course, back when I first started training as a teenager, we didn’t have Internet message boards or Google searches. I wasted a lot of years lifing intensely but not eating properly. I’d do a two-hour arm workout after eating a couple bowls of cereal. But I didn’t really know any better back then. I figured all that counted was how much time I spent in the gym.

I also overtrained because of that mentality. I’d spend half my Saturday in the gym doing a back workout, trying to hit every single exercise I could from the Arnold Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding . I’d make up these crazy workouts just to challenge myself. If I could do it over again I’d have an actual training and nutrition plan that made sense!

Do you incorporate a lot of powerlifting-style training into your routine? If so, do you do it only during your off-season, or year-round, even leading up to a show?

I’m a big believer in using powerlifing movements. I’ve always done squats and deadlifs right up to my shows because those are the two mass builders you absolutely have to do. Don’t listen to anyone who says not to squat because it’ll hurt your knees. That’s a bunch of crap. Squatting—below parallel, none of this quarter-squat stuff I see guys doing—is the only way to build your legs. And if you deadlift properly, you’ll work not only your back but also your glutes, hams, and traps. Of course, in the off-season, I go much heavier on those exercises, but I never drop them from my routine.

You must travel a lot in your work for Universal Nutrition. Do you enjoy all the travel? What are the best and worst places you’ve visited? And is it hard to diet and train when you’re on the road so much?

I travel a ton and I usually enjoy it—except when I’m dieting for a show, because packing food and lugging it with me is not fun. I think the best place I’ve visited is Brazil. I wasn’t dieting, so I was able to eat the great food and hang out on the beach when I wasn’t working. The people there are superfriendly and are huge bodybuilding fans, so I got treated very well. I don’t think there’s been any place I really hated visiting. I didn’t like the food much in India, but the people were really cool to me and the gyms were more hardcore than I’d anticipated. It’s hard to get good workouts in when you travel because the equipment is never the same as you’re used to at home; but I get creative and make do. – FLEX