Olympia Legend: Phil Heath

The Gift's strategy for winning in bodybuilding – and life.


Per Bernal


Before preparing Heath’s meals in their Las Vegas hotel suite in the final days before the most recent Olympia, Heath’s fiance, Shurie Cremona, scrubbed down the kitchen counters and sink with bleach.

This might seem like bacterial overkill, but a bodybuilder’s immune system is stressed precontest, and Heath got sick before the ’09 Olympia, likely from food poisoning, and slipped to fifth place. At an earlier show, his food didn’t arrive, and he had to scramble to get his meals prepared. Ever since, he’s anticipated anything that could derail him, even if it only appears under a microscope. Be proactive. Strategize to stave off every potential problem, and have a contingency plan just in case something slips through. 

Ian Spanier


Not long after Heath hoisted his first Sandow in 2011, he started talking about collecting nine more. The record, held jointly by Lee Haney and Ronnie Coleman, is eight. And only 13 men in 53 contests have earned one.

But having become No. 13 at the relatively young age of 31, Heath needed a new and grand motivation. Why shoot for three or five or even eight— as tremendous as any of those tallies would be?

No, the ultimate bodybuilding number is nine, and for good measure, he tacked on one more—10. As the poet Robert Browning wrote, “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” It seemed ludicrous at first—10!— but year after year, Heath could quote another poet, DJ Khaled: “All I do is win.” Now it appears as if the Gift’s celestial goal might just be within his grasp in 2020. Aim high. Set a goal that challenges you to be great. 


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