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Welcome back. We’ve been here before: On the heels of Phil Heath winning a Mr. Olympia title. It’s been six years in a row, which ties Heath with Dorian Yates for Sandow trophies. The chatter among bodybuilding fans, followers, and reporters is that it’s starting to get boring, just as it did during the prolonged reigns of Schwarzenegger, Haney, Yates, and Coleman. Fortunately, Phil Heath speaks his mind at Arnold-like proportions, so it never gets that boring when Mr. Olympia is in the room. Less than a month after his 2016 win in Las Vegas, we caught up with the champ to get his thoughts on arguably his most dominating win to date. Same time, same place next year? Quite possibly, yes.
"I’M ONLY GOING TO BE COMPARED AGAINST LEGENDS. I’VE BEEN COMPARED WITH LEGENDS FROM THE BEGINNING."
FLEX: You won another Olympia in convincing fashion. But I know you're your own toughest critic, so tell me, did you bring the physique you wanted to bring?
PHIL HEATH: Absolutely, 100%. Ultimately, I just showed the world that these other guys don’t have what I have. They just don’t. Those critics who have gone against me, they can just sit back and be quiet for a while. The competition wasn’t close. I came in there and beat everyone’s ass. I know it, and they know it, so much so that I haven’t received any congratulating texts from anyone other than William Bonac. They all were praying for my downfall, they were all hoping to win, and I understand that. It was really a letdown for all of them. And it wasn’t about them being off; it was about me being that good. And there was nothing they could do. And I’m only going to get better. People need to start acknowledging what the hell I just did. Because I’m not going to be around that much longer. I’m not going to be around here for 10-plus years, competing at 46 like Dexter [Jackson]. They need to appreciate what they just saw.
So it’s safe to say this was a statement win for you?
Definitely. I just tied Dorian Yates [with six Olympia wins]. I’m only going to be compared against legends. I’ve been compared with legends from the beginning. Honestly, I’m not going to let anyone steal this one from me by being negative, because that’s what people were doing in previous years. They were just so unable to say, “Hey, he did his job. Was he the greatest ever? No, but he did his job and got the win.” This year? Just crickets. No one’s saying anything.
Guys are so negative these days, and they’re unable to acknowledge how cool this sport has become. People have the nerve to say that bodybuilding is declining. How is that possible when there’s a packed house at the Olympia every year and guys like The Rock actually want to get involved? That brand right there is a billion-dollar brand. Why would The Rock want to associate himself with trash and something on the decline? He doesn’t, obviously. And we were doing fine before him, too.
"I WASN’T TRYING TO PLAY HEAD GAMES. I WAS TRYING TO KEEP IT AS CALM AND COOL AS EVER BECAUSE I KNEW I HAD IT WON."
How do you look at other competitors during a show, either backstage or while competing? Are you sizing them up or just worrying about yourself?
I try to get a friendly barometer of what’s going on, so I’ll look at guys, sure. Thing is, I’m still a fan of a lot of these guys, so I just want to see what they look like. I’ll look at all of them, then I’ll start looking at guys who are going to be my main competition. And I’ll think, “Oh, gosh, I really hope this person doesn’t think he has a shot, because he’s going to get embarrassed tonight.” And that’s what I told myself. Guys are going to get their feelings hurt. I looked at all of them, and I knew right away that they just did not have what I was about to present. I wasn’t trying to play any head games. I was just trying to keep it as calm and cool as ever this year because I just knew I had it won. I had it won backstage. I had it won at the press conference. When I finally peeled down backstage, I could see the reaction of everybody. They were trying really hard not to concede victory at that point, but they knew in their hearts that I wasn’t playing.
Shawn Rhoden and Heath are all smiles onstage during a break in the action.
Speaking of other competitors, who’s your rival right now? Do you even have one? Or has it become a “Phil Heath vs. the Field” situation like it used to be in golf with Tiger Woods?
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Honestly, a lot of people think it’s boring because there’s no rivalry. Who are you going to stack up against me? No one. Shawn Rhoden [who finished second to Heath at the Olympia] couldn’t even win a show after the Olympia. So you can’t really use him as a rival going into 2017. There was barely even a rivalry between Kai Greene and myself, because I beat Kai more than he beat me. Now it’s more me against the field. They’re all praying for my downfall, no different than they were for Tiger Woods. I’m sure people are jumping for joy now that Tiger can’t play anymore, because we all know if he comes out doing his job, it’s a wrap. Same thing with me. No one’s going to say, “I want to see Phil at his best, and my best is going to be better than his.” Not one person is going to say that, because they know better. They all said the same thing going in: “If Phil slips, I’m right there.” That’s not a competitor. That’s like saying, “If Mike Tyson doesn’t show up in the ring, I have a chance.” But I still train knowing anything is possible. I train knowing that I could potentially get hurt. It’s just me against myself at this point. I may sound arrogant, but I know I made this boring, because no one can even talk s— anymore.
Heath doubled-up on leg workouts every week to improve from last year (left). Pinpointing specific areas has kept him on top.
Your legs were noticeably bigger this year. That was a point of emphasis coming in for you, right? What did you do specifically for the lower body in the off-season?
It was pretty simple. I trained legs twice a week and made them a bigger priority. I also did cardio earlier in my precontest prep, which normally I thought would make them smaller—but it actually made them bigger and harder. On my type of physique, the harder I get, the more 3-D I get. So even if I drop weight, I look better.
As far as legs go, the guy who had the biggest legs there was Ramy, right? Everyone talks about his legs. So what’s the biggest kick in the balls to somebody? It’s to take their best punch and not even move. I neutralized Ramy’s strength. I neutralized everyone who had good quads by improving mine. Now what are you going to say? Because everything else was on point.
"I JUST SHOWED THE WORLD THAT THESE OTHER GUYS DON’T HAVE WHAT I HAVE."
You were 246 pounds onstage at the Olympia this year, up five pounds from 2015. Do you go up from here in weight, like, say, to 250?
We could have hit that number this year if we wanted to. I could have been more 3-D and even been 252, but maybe I wouldn’t have been as hard or as dry. I think next year 250 to 252 is in reach. Hany [Rambod] and I learned a lot this time around. I think it’s very possible to hit that number, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I can’t just get bigger at the risk of losing balance.
"IT’S FUN KNOWING THAT IF I TRAIN HARD AND HEAVY, I CAN GET THAT GRAINY LOOK AND NOT HAVE TO KILL MYSELF WITH THE DIET."
What’s next? Rinse and repeat and do it all over again for 2017? Or is there going to be a new game plan for next year?
Hany and I spoke about a game plan, and we’re really trying to fine-tune it already going into next year. But Ronnie Coleman told us this: “You have to go hard. You have to take advantage of the genetics and the area that you’re in. You’re able to build dense muscle and all this other stuff, but if you can’t maximize it because of your work ethic, you may still win, but you’ll have regrets.” I’m really just taking advantage of the muscle maturity I have at this point. It’s fun. It’s fun knowing that if I train hard and heavy, I can get that grainy look and not have to kill myself with the diet. Here’s some history for you: No Mr. Olympia has ever really peaked twice in back-to-back years. Maybe Ronnie in ’98 and ’99, but that was it. So that’s my goal, to peak for the remainder of my career. – FLEX