Bodybuilding Training Article from

Training With Mr. Genetics Steve McCloud
and the Advantage of Genetics in Bodybuilding Competition
by Greg Zulak -- 1993

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Steve Mc Cloud is a hell of a nice guy, but you're gong to hate him. Maybe hate is too strong a word, but, at the very least, you're going to envy the lucky son of gun. How could you not? This guy has the kind of genetics people would kill for, with the metabolism of a humming bird, so he readily admits he can eat whatever he wants and still get easily cut. How would you like to be competing against Steve in an upcoming show, killing yourself dieting on egg whites, chicken breasts and rice, only to find out that Steve is eating pizza and burgers? And that, he says, is what he eats year round.

I eat between 8000 and 9500 calories a day during the off-season," says Steve, "with two or three meals a day being the usual baked potatoes, rice, chicken, egg whites, and the other three or four meals being pizza or burgers." He states this very matter-of-fact, without guilt or regret. After all, it's not his fault that most people aren't so fortunate.

Whereas most bodybuilders allow themselves one cheat day a week when they can eat anything they want -- pizza, burgers, etc. -- every day is a cheat day for Steve. I told you that you were gong to hate him.

Not only that, but his arms grow so fast that he has to limit the number of sets he does for his biceps and triceps to about six each: otherwise, they get too big and out of proportion with his other muscle groups. And -- yes, there is more -- he got his waist down to 26-1/4" when he dieted down for his last show, while weighting over 190 pounds. He says that, even when he competes as a heavyweight, he never expects his waist to get bigger than 29 inches. He has a waist and V-taper like Brian Buchanan's -- just something he was born with. It seems that when God was giving out genetic ability Steve got in line twice. Is it any wonder other people silently curse him and think, "That lucky S.O.B.!"

Says Steve, "For a man of my height and weight, I have very tiny ankles, knees, and joints, so my muscles appear bigger than they really are. My waist is just so small. The chiropractor I go to says from the X-rays he has taken of my my pelvis, it looks like that of a boy because it's just so small and narrow. This gives me a very pronounced V-taper and wide shoulder." All together now: "That lucky S.O.B.!"

Maybe it's the strong Protestant ethic instilled in most of us, but bodybuilders feel that they should have to work and suffer to succeed, and those who don't are viewed with envy, suspicion (is he on some wonder drug the rest of us don't know about?), and even scorn. You know; "Why should he be so lucky and not me? It's not fair." But nobody ever said life was fair.

Fortunately, for amateur bodybuilders everywhere, Steve is a relative newcomer to competitive bodybuilding, having competed only twice in his career, both in the last year. He won at the Castilian Championships in Spain in the spring of 1991, and a month later took both the light heavyweight class and the overall title at the Niagara Falls amateur show. (He lived in Spain for six months, and when most of his opponents see Steve they're going to wish he has stayed there.).

That's the good news. the bad news is that this guy is just getting started, and he' set his sights on becoming a professional bodybuilder. With that goal in mind he is entering the 1992 NPC Junior Nationals and the NPC Nationals. He is fully confident that he will earn his pro card no later than 1993. I predict that Steve will have a lot of less talented guys eating his dust as he rises to the top.

He's not being cocky when he says he is sure he will make it to the pro ranks, because he realizes what a gift his genetics are. All those people who feel that genetics don't matter, that it is only how hard you work in the gym and how badly you want it, really don't know what the heck they are talking about. Genetics is 90 percent of the game as far as making it to the pro level is concerned, especially when it comes to shape, structure and symmetry. It's a god-given talent, something that can't be trained for . If it were simply a matter of training, everybody would have the shape and symmetry of Labrada, Benfatto and Ray. There wouldn't be any people with think, blocky physiques. Everyone would have a tiny wait like Brian Buchanan, mass like Haney, arms and pecs like Arnold, legs like Platz, delts like Strydom and a back like Pearson. Since that isn't the case, and since all pros train hard, the only other factor must be their individual genetic ability, and genetics are like a pretty face -- either you have it or you don't. Steve McCloud has it.

So who is this guy, and how did he get into bodybuilding? Born in Washington, D.C., the 23-year-old McCloud was raised in Maryland and has lived most of this life there. Growing up he played all the sports, laying the foundation for his physique when he eventually took up bodybuilding. Need I point out that he was a natural athlete, good in whatever sport he played?

He started out swimming competitively, and even competed in the junior Olympics. Then he played tennis, and was good enough to be ranked in the top five in Maryland. In high school he played some football, and started lifting weights to put on size. "By nature," Steve explained, "I was a very skinny but very muscular guy, with a fast metabolism. It was always hard for me to keep my weight up, as I was very lean." That wouldn't be the case for long.

In his senior year at high school Steve got serious about weight-training, and, of course, considerable changes started happening to his physique almost immediately. Pleased with the results, Steve keep training hard in college (he attended Syracuse University in New York), and his body continued to respond well and grow larger and more muscular, but symmetrically as well. That's a sure sign of a budding champion, when a young bodybuilder adds muscle equally all over his physique, not just to his arms or pecs or things or a few bodyparts.

One interesting sidebar to Steve's story is the fact that he always had a fascination and love for the Spanish language, so he studied it in college and graduated last May with a degree in Spanish. He plans to attend law school eventually, but he always felt an almost mystical attraction to Spanish. "It came to me easily," shrugged Steve, "which is unusual for an American because most Americans don't seem to like foreign languages."

To improve his fluency in Spanish, Steve recently lived as an exchange student with an all-Spanish family near Madrid. In those circumstances you either speak the language or starve.

While in Spain Steve continued to train very hard, and competed for the first time, winning the Castilian Championships. He found that the Spanish bodybuilders were not as big or as advanced as the bodybuilders in America, but they were very curious about American bodybuilding, and wanted to know how American bodybuilders eat and train. "I met a Spanish bodybuilder / gym owner by the name of Pedro Poza," related Steve, "with whom I trained and who is still one of my good friends. Pedro is one of the better bodybuilders in Spain. You should see him on the international scene in about two years, but most of the Spanish bodybuilders weren't as good as Pedro."

Steve also found the Spanish women very friendly and especially curious about America and American women. "They wanted to know what American women like to do and wear -- the latest styles and that kind of thing," said Steve. "Since most of the people in Spain are white and with me being black and relatively taller than most Spanish men, I was seen as a bit of an oddity and stood out in a crowd. I was treated like some kind of personality, and I got a lot of stares."

Now back in the States ii Baltimore, Steve is training his butt off to get ready for the Junior Nationals. For the Niagara Falls show in April'91 he competed as a light heavyweight, but he assures me that he will be a heavyweight for his shows this year. Currently (early February as I write this), the 5'10" Mc Cloud weighs over 250 pounds, and expects to weigh 215-220 for the Junior Nationals. Because of his small waist, tiny joints and beautiful shape and symmetry, Steve looks bigger and more massive than he really is. When you are blessed with small joints, as he is, the muscle just swells off the bone, giving the illusion of larger than actual size, while those who are cursed with large, thick joints will appear smaller that they really are.


During the off-season Steve splits his body over four days but trains on a two-day-on / one day off routine. with an extra day's rest after two days for more recovery. Steve has found that the more rest he takes, the better he recovers, and the easier it is to grow, Steve feels, as I do, that the large majority of bodybuilders overtrain and would do better to take more time off. "Sometimes," says Steve, "you're overtrained but don't know it. The muscle doesn't feel sore, so you think you're not overtraining, but you often are. The training you do may not be too much for the muscle, but it is for the nervous system and your recovery ability. a lot of guys hate taking days off, but the more rest I get, the faster I find I grow."

Here is Steve's current split:

  • Day 1: chest, biceps and calves
  • Day 2: back, triceps and calves
  • Day 3: rest, maybe abs and ride the bike
  • Day 4: quads
  • Day 5: shoulders and hamstrings

(Note: Steve also likes to train his hamstrings every other day. He trains them for four sets on his "off" hamstring days, and then 12 sets on shoulder-hamstring day. Perhaps this is why his hamstrings are so outstanding.)

In general, Steve tries to train each major muscle group with 12 to 14 sets, although, as mentioned earlier, he finds he can get away with only six sets each for the biceps and triceps. He prefers to start light, do a warmup set or two, and then pyramid up in weight each set, using his heaviest weights on his last sets. He cycles his training in a heavy-light format used by many champions, and helps to prevent staleness and overtraining. It also helps to shock the muscle and prevent the muscles from adapting to any one workload.

Steve likes to take plenty of rest between sets, especially on his heavy day, to ensure that he is fully recovered and strong for each set. He allows his heart rate to come down and his breathing to normalize before he begins his next set. Of course, how long he rests will depend on which exercise he is doing. If he is squatting, he might rest as long as four minutes between sets. If he is doing laterals., it might be only two minutes between sets. If he is doing laterals, it might be only two minutes. But on average he likes to rest about three minutes between sets so he can train heavier. The longer he rests, without cooling off, the stronger he is and the heavier he can train, this means more strength, mass and size.

As for the way Steve likes to move the weight, he prefers shorter, three-quarters, constant tension style training, as opposed to locking out on each rep. He finds this type of training more intense, and it gives the muscle a harder workout. Of course, his objectives change according to whether it's a light day, when he's doing higher reps,. he'll rest a little less and go for a pump in the muscle and more of a muscle burn. On the heaver day, when he's training slower and doing lower reps, he doesn't worry about pump or burn, he just goes as heavy as he can in good form and tries to fatigue the muscle and work it thoroughly. But types of training are needed for complete development of a muscle group, as the slower, heavier training thickens the muscle fibers, while the faster, higher-rep training builds capillaries and blood vessels and increases blood flow to the muscle. Bodybuilders who do both types of training show more complete development than those who train exclusively heavy or light all the time.


Steve's diet definitely falls into the do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do category for most bodybuilders. It's safe to say that, if most bodybuilders ate the way Steve does, they'd be fat as pigs in no time. Steve is blessed with and extremely fast metabolism and a fair ability to digest and convert fats to fatty acids easier than most people. Says Steve matter-of-factly, "Except for the pre contest phase, which starts about 14 weeks out, I eat anything I want during the off-season I have a very, very fast metabolism, so have to eat a lot just to maintain my bodyweight. I estimate I eat between 8000 and 9000 calories a day during the off-season, and in order to get that many calories, I eat many calorie-dense or high-calorie foods, such a pizza, burgers and that type of thing. When I say I eat anything, I don't mean to say I eat cake or pies or candy, but I do eat a lot of burgers and pizza and fajitas. I eat burgers and pizza and fajitas every day during the off-season.

I'll have two or three meals of chicken and rice and three or four meals of pizza and fajitas, or burgers at McDonald's. Definitely." The high fat content of these foods had no deleterious effects on Steve's physique. In fact, he thrives on this kind of diet because he is one of those rare gifted types that grows best on a high-fat diet, and who can stay hard and relatively cut eating lots of fats. In fact, he finds that when he tries to eat "properly" -- that is, low fat and lots of rice, egg whites, baked potatoes, chicken breasts, etc. -- it's difficult to gain size and muscle because he can't consume enough calories.

"People are always telling me," muses Steve, "to try to keep my diet clean year round but that doesn't work for me, And as hard as I train, sometimes it's just too tough to come home and cook. I'll stop at McDonald's and just wolf down three or four burgers or whatever. My girlfriend and my mom cook a lot of my food, but I eat so often that they get sick of it, so I head out to McDonalds' or a pizza joint and eat there instead. I've been told I make a lot of people sick or green with envy." Steve laughed abashedly at his good fortune.

Predictably, Steve doesn't take any supplements at all during the off-season. "(Genetic freaks don't need to ). He takes in so many calories and so much protein during the off-season that he doesn't worry about protein drinks or amino acids or vitamin-mineral packs. Prior to a show, however, when he drops his calories and protein intake, he takes aminos to get extra protein, and vitamin-mineral packs to ensure he's getting all the nutrients he needs. And although he doesn't need to do aerobics to lose fat or to get cut, he does it prior to a show -- 30 minutes a day -- just to speed up fat-burning a bit, an so he can eat more food while still dropping bodyweight.


The photographs that Bob Kennedy has of Steve are of him training leg biceps or hamstrings, so Bob asks me to make sure I got the goods on how he trains them. As mentioned earlier,. Steve trains his hamstrings every other day, for four sets and then once every five-day cycle blasts them for a hard 12 sets.

Usually on the light hamstring day Steve does four medium-heavy sets of standing leg curls, keeping the reps at 15 for all sets, but adding weight each set. This means that his first set is a warmup set, the second and third sets are for less than 100 percent intensity, but the last set of 15 reps is an all-out effort. He might need this training partner to help him do a few forced reps in order to get 15 reps.

I asked Steve why he trains his hamstrings so often. He replied, "I feel certain muscle groups can be trained frequently, to their benefit. For instance, the shoulders get hit on chest day, back day, and shoulder day, and still grow well. The hamstrings are like that. If you look at sprinter, they run all day long, working their hamstrings every day, and their hamstrings are so much bigger than their quads. I started doing them every other day, and they responded so well that I just kept training that way."

One thing that Steve does a lot of for his hamstrings is stretching. He stretches his hamstrings before his workout, during the workout after each set, after the workout, and before bed at night. "I have to," explained Steve, "because every single time I train hamstrings, they cramp up on me at night. Every time. I end lying on the floor in agony, with my feet stuck to my ass, and I can't move. I have to get my girlfriend to pull my legs down for me. It's so painful, but if I didn't stretch, to would be even worse."

For his 12-set workout on day five (after shoulders), Steve trains heavier and for lower reps than on the four-set day. He begins the workout with some hamstring stretching. Then he moves to the lying leg curl. After a light warmup set in the 15-20 range, he moves to a heavy weight that limits him to no more than 10 hard reps. For the second working set he increases the weight to the point where he can get only about six reps. For he third se he increases the weight even more, to where he can only do there or four reps at most on his own. His training partner then helps him get two or three forced reps. For the final set he uses even more weight. This time he might only get two or three reps on his own, and another two or three reps with the help of his partner.

I should remind you that he does stretching exercises after all sets to stretch the hamstrings out and to keep them loose and flexible. What Steve does is put his leg up on a high bench, lean over until his chest is resting on his extended leg and then hold that position for -- get this -- 60 seconds! And he does that 12 times among the 12 sets. That adds up to holding his hamstrings in the stretched position for 12 minutes. Wow! (And I find 10-second hamstring stretches painful!) "I think it's very important to stretch the muscle out," says Steve. "I really think it helps with growth, as well as reducing the risk of injury."

For his second exercise he does seated leg curls on the new Body Masters seated leg curl machine. Steve says the new line of Body Masters equipment is awesome, and he prefers the Body Masters seated curl machine to either the Flex or David seated curl machine because the weight stacks are heavier and the machine is also smoother.

Again he does four sets, but because he is already warmed up, he starts heavy from set one. "I go really as heavy as possible on these," says Steve with enthusiasm. "I don't go any higher than six reps a set, and usually that is three or four reps on my own and two or three reps with the help of my partner." Again, he stretches after every set.

His third and final exercise is the stiff-leg deadlift. Steve says he prefers to do it off a high block to get extra stretch. "On these ," explained Steve, " I do three half-reps followed by one full rep. On the full rep I come up and kind of hyperextend. I squeeze my hams and my butt together hard, as I hold briefly. Then I go down again and do three more half-reps again, and then come all the way up and do one full one. I normally do 12 total reps in this fashion. It works out to three half reps and one full rep done three times. I do this for four sets."

With the kind of stretching and training Steve does for his hamstrings, combined with his awesome genetic ability, Is it any wonder he has such fantastic hamstrings? If you need more hamstring development, you would do well to copy Steve's methods.


Great genetic ability is no guarantee that you will build a great physique or that you can make it to the professional ranks. You must also have great desire and work your butt off in the gym to fulfill your genetic potential. Steve not only has the raw physical talent to become a great bodybuilder, but he also has the desire, intelligence and work ethic to fulfill his promise and become one of the few people good enough to make it to the professional level. He feels that he just needs to add a bit more mass and he'll be where he wants to be. If all goes according to plan, he should make it to the pro ranks in one to two years. I, for one, am not going to doubt him.

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