The Diesel Way

A Brief Interview with Juan Morel


In the documentary film Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock did an experiment where he ate nothing but fast food for an extended period of time and ended up with elevated liver enzymes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high blood pressure. Some people would say that you are jeopardizing your health by eating as much fast food as you do. Do you visit a doctor on a regular basis to ensure that you’re not?

Now that you are in contest prep mode and have cut back on a lot of the junk food you had been eating, don’t you feel better? Even though you wanted to put on a lot of off-season size and accomplished that, can you see yourself eventually curtailing that part of your diet and eating cleaner year-round?

First, I’m guessing that the guy in the movie didn’t work out. Second, we are all different genetically. I see my doc- tor all the time—my blood work comes out fine and I have excellent blood pressure. Plus, I don’t eat McDonald’s at every meal, only once or twice a day in the off-season (or once a week during prep) and mix it in with other cleaner foods. I believe that the fast food definitely helped me grow in the off-season. My onstage body weight increased from 192 pounds back in 2007 when I began bodybuilding to 240 last year [at the NPC USA], and I was in better condition at the heavier weight. I’m not saying it was because of the fast food, but it had a major role in my fast progress.

As for eating cleaner now, sure, I do feel better and had more energy once I lessened the amount of junk food I was eating every day. This is something that I intend on continuing in the future, and I haven’t been eating any sweets during my first few weeks of prep this year. No sugar at all—not even ice cream, which is one of my favorites.

I’ve been doing it by eating only clean meals from Monday through Saturday and then using Sunday as my cheat day, eating as much junk food in one day as I can handle! Some people may find it hard to believe, but eating too much junk food is far from enjoyable. All of that stuff made me feel real lethargic, and I was looking forward to some clean eating for a change. I was able to accomplish what I set out to do and get up to 280 pounds during the off-season. Eating as much as I did, including the junk food, was important to getting up that high. I put on a lot of mass and added another half an inch to my biceps in the process.

You mentioned online
 that you stayed away 
from performing dead-
lifts for a while because 
they bothered your 
back and caused pain 
and discomfort. How 
much total weight
were you lifting?

Before taking a break for a few weeks from deadlifts, I was doing seven plates on each side (675 pounds). With anything in the sport of bodybuilding, you have to listen to your body. I was doing just that and realized that taking some time off from them would be beneficial and possibly prevent a serious injury down the road.

I started doing deadlifts again (one time per week) in February, and so far, so good with everything. I’ve been going up to approximately 600 pounds, but if I feel up to it, I’ll pack on the seven plates once a month.

In your leg-training video, your trainer mentions that he needed to modify the routine to compensate for some injuries that you had suffered. How have your legs responded since the therapy has been performed? Any new muscle growth, or just pain relief? What other areas did you have to worry about besides your legs due to injury?

Modified squats were incorporated into the routine when we took the time off from deadlifts. With my lower back feeling tight, we didn’t want to aggravate it further, but at the same time, we didn’t want to lose too much from eliminating an important exercise. So we did the next best thing and substituted that power movement for another one.

It worked out fine, because I received a productive and positive response from my muscles for optimal growth doing the modified squats. Eventually the pain went away and that allowed me to return to doing deadlifts.

Another good thing that came out of that was my form when doing squats got much better when I wasn’t doing deadlifts. I suppose the pain relief transcended into other areas. Besides the back, I’ve also had some tendinitis in my 
left elbow. I am not too concerned with it and just modify my workout when it’s bothering me. It’s more of a nuisance, not something that will cause any permanent injury, so I just push through the pain.

In your Squat, Drop, and Roll leg-training video found on, you take it to another level and are literally floored by the workout. What exactly was in that routine? You also mentioned that you needed to bring up you legs to match your dominant upper body. Do you feel that you have accomplished this for the upcoming New York Pro?

That leg workout was intense! Here’s what it looked like:

Leg Press 3 sets warmup.

■ Squat 4 sets of 10 reps each (start at 135 pounds and add a 45-pound plate to each side every set until finishing up with 405 pounds).

Leg Press 4 sets (start with six plates on each side and add a plate every set for a maximum of nine plates) with the last being a dropset of 50 reps.

Vertical Hack Squat 3 sets (start with five plates on each side for 2 sets and six plates for the last set) with the last being a dropset of 50 reps.

My legs have been responding to all of my workouts and growing 
at an impressive pace. They’re at the size that I need them to be at now and are thicker and fuller than they have ever been. The higher reps have definitely helped, but I also began to get stretched out in between each leg workout. Wow, my muscles burned!

My favorite place to do legs is Bev Francis Powerhouse Gym in Syosset, NY. Steve Weinberger and Bev run a phenomenal place. I can spend my whole day there and feel like a kid in a candy shop.

Plus when I’m at Bev’s gym, I
get to see so many people I know, including a bunch of other IFBB pros who train there regularly. There are times in this sport when you are
in your zone and it can get a little lonely, so it’s cool when you can catch up with some friends.