A total of 21 athletes booked trips to the IFBB European Championships at last weekend's UK Nationals in Leicester. But only one person tasted success in two categories.
Men's physique star Isaac Francis, 21, won his height class and the juniors. He and the other 20 winners are now looking forward to trips to Santa Susanna in Spain with the cost of their flights and hotels funded by the UKBFF.
Here Isaac discusses his success, Irish upbringing and training.
What does it mean to win the UK NationaIs?
It means a great deal, especially because I prepped myself for this show. It was a challenge I placed upon myself and I’m overwhelmed by the result. The primary goal was to use this show to get selected to represent the UK at the European championships. Doing two categories was to prove that juniors can hold themselves amongst the seniors.
How does bodybuilding in Africa differ from Europe?
I left Nigeria at the age of three and moved to Ireland so I wasn’t really aware of much but from what I know now there is a high standard of competitors there. The muscle mass and genetics is just unreal. When I last went over for a holiday I saw guys who had never been to the gym with phenomenal physiques. I reckon in a few years we’ll be seeing a lot more athletes from Africa on the big stages.
How did you get into training?
I got into training at a young age in Ireland and played a lot of rugby, hurling, Gaelic football, basketball and athletics. I played to high levels and the sports planted in me high standards of training. I incurred an injury to my Achilles tendon and I stopped all sports at the age of 17 as I was in too much pain. In my first year of uni in the UK I decided to get back to doing some kind of training to stay fit so I got my first gym membership in 2014 and it has been a crazy journey since then.
What have been your contest highlights so far?
One of the highlights, funnily enough, was not placing at my first competition. I thought I would compete once and that would be it but not placing at that show humbled me and has made me work even harder at every show since. Then placing second at my first Arnolds in the men's category despite being the youngest guy was amazing. Later on last year I placed 10th at the men’s world championships.
Why do you think you've been so successful?
I’d like to think it's because of the way I present myself on stage. During prep I practice my posing every single day for an hour at least to ensure it's second nature on stage. There's no point having a good physique if you can’t showcase it.
How does a training week break down?
I took a different approach to training during my offseason to bring up some parts I thought could be better.
Monday: Biceps and triceps
Tuesday: Legs (quads and calves)
Wednesday: Chest and shoulders
Thursday: Accessory day (calves, forearms and abs)
Friday: Back and shoulders
Saturday: Legs (hamstrings and glutes)
What changes do you want to make to your physique?
Get better calves!
How difficult is presentation in men's physique?
It's hard to balance the fullness with the right amount of conditioning. Posing will help make the physique stand out even more. In my opinion it can really determine first and second place.
Best form of cardio
I like to do low-intensity steady state on the cross-trainer or incline walks on the treadmill.
How long do you diet for and how often do you have cheat meals?
I’m known to do really short preps. The longest prep I’ve ever done is 10 weeks, I have one cheat meal a week to keep sane.
What food do you miss most when dieting?
I love my carrot cakes.
HEIGHT: 173 cm / 5 ft 8
CONTEST WEIGHT: 79 kg / 174 lbs
STATUS: 2018 UK Nationals men's physique champion in up to 163 cm height class and junior category.
SPONSOR: Dymatize, Fortitude Fitness in Ipswich and Bladeattire