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Cutler. Wilkins. Heath. Buendia. The names sound like a list of future IFBB Hall-of-Famers, the type of athletes whose physiques will be the benchmark of comparison for years to come. These future legends have more in common than you might think. For one, they all have Hany Rambod to thank.
Most everyone in the fitness world has heard of Hany Rambod at this point, the guy with the catchy name who coaches high-level IFBB pros. Fans might know him as the brain behind the uber-popular FST-7 training program, or as the creator of Evogen supplements. But few people have actually connected the dots between Rambod’s influence and a succession of historic victories and industry-defining moments. The winningest coach in the history of the Olympia, Rambod’s scoreboard currently shows 19 Olympia wins across four different divisions.
And he’s not done yet.
Rambod spent his formative years geeking out over the muscle-building process, seeking out peer-reviewed studies about how arginine can boost growth hormone while his peers reached for comic books. It’s a fascination that has not diminished over time.
“I always look towards chasing perfection,” says Rambod. “That’s my whole thing. You chase perfection and then on the day of a competition you think could you be a little drier or a little fuller, but you’re still so far ahead of everyone else that you’ve won.”
After shepherding two of the IFBB’s marquee stars — seven time Mr. Olympia champion Phil Heath and four-time Men’s Physique winner Jeremy Buendia — to victory at the 2017 Mr. Olympia, Rambod is shifting into the next phase of his career. In 2008, he launched Evogen Nutrition with a single product. Over the last 10 years he has released an average of one new product a year, slowly and quietly building a brand based on quality and consistency. Since 2015, Rambod (who is the CEO as well as chief formulator) has winnowed down his training clientele in order to devote more time to Evogen. The supplement line has grown exponentially with his increased attention.
“I don’t believe you can do too many things at once at a high level. That’s the reason why I never had 300 clients like some of these guys,” says Rambod. “I believe in quality over quantity, whether that’s my products or my coaching services. It’s always one of the other. You can’t build a ton of mass-produced Lamborghinis and think they are going to be better than the few built by hand.”
FLEX: Your nickname is the “Pro-Creator.” Who was your first IFBB pro?
Hany Rambod: My first pro was Quincy Taylor. The first time I worked with him he won the overall at the USAs in 2001. Back then, everyone in the industry knew who the new pros were because there were so few of them. That’s what put me on the map: Bringing someone who is 6’4” and 275 pounds in at their all-time best. It was a defining moment. Then, in 2002, my athlete Idrise Ward-El won the overall and I got the nickname “The Pro-Creator.”
FLEX: How many shows have your athletes won?
HR: I stopped counting. Around 2005 and 2006, the goal went from trying to win the overalls in the USAs to taking the people to the Olympia stage and moving them up the ranks in the Olympia.
FLEX: How many athletes did you have in the 2017 Olympia?
HR: I had Phil Heath who won and I had Jeremy Buendia who won. Those are my two winners. I had Nicole [Wilkins] who placed 5th, but had previously won twice before with me. Then I had my Evogen athlete, Fiona Harris, who took 6th in Fitness.
FLEX: How many clients do you currently have?
HR: I have less than a dozen. And they are not all athletes. I have some businessmen and some celebrities.
FLEX: How does an athlete get to have you as his trainer?
HR: Number one, they have to request to work with me. I don’t request to work with them. I have never solicited a client. If I chase someone and say, ‘You have great potential, let me come train you,” that doesn’t work. You have to come to me. Because then I have buy-in. Then, I know you have skin in the game.
I’ve never had a ton of clients. Some trainers have 400 clients and they are like a revolving door. For me, even at my peak, I would never do more than 30 clients. And that’s at my peak. I’ve never been a “number” guy. I was always about quality over quantity.
FLEX: What do you think makes you a good trainer?
HR: I don’t call myself a trainer. I call myself a coach. There is a big difference between being a trainer and a coach. I take it holistically. I know what it takes to turn someone from good to legendary. You have to be multifaceted. I go in the gym with them. I make sure their diet is dialed. I make sure their cardio and prep is dialed in. I make sure they cross the T’s and dot the I’s in all aspects of bodybuilding on and off the stage. I know that to reduce stress, money has to be coming in to be able to pay for all the food and all the travel and all the things that go along with it. I think of all of those things when I put together a program for somebody. I think of every aspect on and off the stage of what it takes to become a champion.
FLEX: It sounds like you get incredibly close with your athletes.
HR: Absolutely! Athletes have a lot of emotional things going on with their relationships, they have a lot of financial things going on with their sponsors. You have to be there for them. That is why a lot of these guys were at my wedding. Phil Heath was in my wedding. You get to be super close to them because it is one of those things where you get to be almost like family.
FLEX: Your training program, FST-7 [Fascia Stretch Training-7], is over a decade old but just seems to get more popular. Why is that?
HR: FST-7 is a system I created to make sure my clients abroad could increase the intensity of their training. I first figured it out when I was training Quincy Taylor. Just because a client is big and a bodybuilder doesn’t mean they are optimizing their training. So, I created the whole FST-7 training system and it has become immensely popular. When I started working with Jeremy, I put tweaks on it to make it more for Men’s Physique, things that weren’t originally dialed in for Phil or Jay.
FLEX: Is that why FST-7 remains relevant, because you continue to improve upon it?
HR: That’s exactly why. It has evolved. I’ve taken some of the theories and tweaked them because I’ve seen that the time under tension and flexing are more important than stretching. The trigger points to make all that growth and all that graininess were really coming more from the pump than the actual physical application of a stretch. In the past, we would flex a little bit, and then we would stretch. But in some cases, stretching has proven to decrease performance. We want to create more time under tension so when you’re doing an FST-7 set with shorter rest periods, you are flexing between sets to create more time under tension. Those are the things that have really evolved. And that’s why it has kept getting better and why people keep getting results, even people who are beginners who just do it once a week let alone people who are doing it three or four times a week who are professional competitors.
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FLEX: What do you have planned for 2018?
HR: Jeremy is talking about going back for number five, and obviously Phil is talking about going back for number eight. I’m letting all the noise settle on those guys. Right now, my biggest thing is Evogen. I have slowly transitioned from being a “bodybuilding guru” to the CEO of Evogen. I am like Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant all rolled into one. I am the player and the coach. I have to get out there and be the face but I also have to run all the day-to-day stuff as the CEO.
FLEX: The supplement market is incredibly competitive. How has Evogen not only survived but thrived?
HR: We focus on quality and nothing else: quality of service, quality of product, quality across the board. But to answer your question, it is about slowly and steadily chipping away because there are a lot of competitors. I heard that there were 1,600 new supplement brands in 2016. A lot of them come and go, so our whole thing is making sure we stick to quality and giving the customer results. We are a physique transformation brand. Our supplements are designed for contest prep. I am very proud of my brand.
FLEX: Any plans to celebrate Evogen’s 10th Anniversary?
HR: We are holding a contest for people who are following my journey (which you can enter here). You get to win a training session with me and Jeremy Buendia and hang out with us at the L.A. FitExpo. This is the first time I’ve ever given away a training session in my life, even though people have asked for years. This is for a broader audience. People just write in and say “I want to work out with Hany and Jeremy because…”.
FLEX: You talk about the elusiveness of “chasing perfection.” Is there something unfulfilling about never being satisfied, even when you win?
HR: Yes, but that’s the way I am wired. That’s what makes Hany Rambod Hany Rambod. Some people can’t deal with that. The people who can, benefit from it tremendously. I am not a guy who is all perfume and roses and who tells you that you look amazing. I’m the opposite. When you get a compliment out of me, you know it is a tried-and-true compliment because I don’t blow sunshine up anyone’s ass. It hurts feelings, but that’s what has gotten me to where I’m at and I’m not changing my formula.
Hany Rambod has brought a winner to the Mr. Olympia every year since 2009. In 2014, he had three Olympia champions. It’s a staggering accomplishment considering how much the talent improves year over year.
THE RAMBOD FILES