Olympia Legend: Phil Heath

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


Per Bernal


In the summer of 2006, coming off victories in his first two pro shows, a year after his one-and-done win at the USA, Heath was flying high. Then, in a happening destined not to stay in Vegas, he trained back with his friend, Jay Cutler. A photographer and I chronicled the event for FLEX readers.

There was no sugarcoating it. Heath got buried by the pace and the poundages of Cutler’s back barrage. It only magnified the fact that he was a rookie and still a puppy, while Cutler was an alpha dog who just two months later would win his first of four Olympia titles.

The Gift came back down to earth, but, more importantly, he discovered firsthand what it would take to build Olympia-worthy muscle. And he’s never stopped discovering. No matter how high you rise, chances are there is someone who has risen higher, perhaps someone who took a completely different route up the mountain. Life is a never-ending seminar. Even when you’re a teacher, you need to remain a student, too, because there’s always something more to be learned. 

Per Bernal


Let’s jump ahead to the fall of 2015. Heath had collected his fifth consecutive Sandow. But, as always, he and trainer Hany Rambod assessed the contest photos and discussed what to improve. The answer was legs.

Considering the monster truck wheels of Big Ramy and Shawn Rhoden, top contenders could potentially exploit an advantage over the reigning king. So he and Rambod developed a routine to prioritize legs, hitting them twice weekly with greater volume and intensity.

As a result, his wheels were markedly inflated at the most recent Olympia. There’s always something to improve. You need to be honest with yourself and/or listen to the assessment of someone knowledgeable to determine your greatest weaknesses. If not, you’ll likely improve your strengths and neglect your flaws, only exacerbating the problem.


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