FLEX: Darrem, you . . .

DARREM CHARLES: Excuse me, Mr. McGough, but I have to bring something up that’s been bothering me.

Go ahead, just don’t keep calling me Mr. McGough.

In the September issue of FLEX, in the report on the Toronto show [which Charles won], Shawn Perine, who I’ve always got along with, wrote that now that I was heavier, “it’s debatable whether or not his physique — compared to those of the other athletes — best matched the IFBB’s new criteria.”

I won the show, and not by a small margin. And not because the judges like me or think I’m a good guy or whatever. They placed me first because I was the best conditioned and the best athlete on that particular day. If Shawn said he thought I should have been second or third, that’s fine — that’s an opinion.

But to say I don’t fit the IFBB’s new criteria [affirming that shape and proportion should be highlighted and distended stomachs penalized], that’s a problem to me. Because if I don’t fit the criteria, who does?

For years, people have told me that I have the shape and symmetry that should be rewarded, but that maybe I could use a little more mass. So I put on some mass and thickness and now the word is I’ve distorted my physique. My waistline is still the same size, my stomach isn’t bloated, my legs are striated — what I’ve put on is quality muscle.

I think the conjecture is that now that you’re bigger, you’re not as sharp as you were.

I may not be as striated as I was five years ago when I was 20 pounds lighter. When I was that weight, I wasn’t winning contests, but, as I got heavier and thicker, I started winning — six contests in the last three years [2002 through 2005].

Although you’ve gradually improved, you seemed to take a giant jump in extra bodyweight from finishing sixth at the Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic in March to first at May’s New York Pro. Shawn’s thought may have been it was too much too quickly. How much did you gain between the Arnold and the New York Pro?

About five pounds, but it was quality. The reason I’m making these gains, and I will be even bigger at the Olympia, is that this year, starting on January 1, for the first time I put my bodybuilding training first. Before, my business [personal training] came first. Previously, I couldn’t rely on my bodybuilding for financial security; I had to concentrate on my business. Now I’m at a stage where I can cut back on my clientele a little and go all out on bodybuilding. With this new focus, the gains early in the year were just the tip of the iceberg. Over the next couple of years, you’ll see a different and improved Darrem Charles, because now bodybuilding is first.

For more of this captivating interview about Darrem and his long, hard road to success, pick up a copy of the November issue of FLEX on sale now.