In 2016, David Henderson became the first bodybuilder from Northern Ireland to win the UKBFF British Championships. He took the under-80 kg division with an impressively peeled and balanced physique.

That win earned him a place at last year's Arnold Classic Europe, where he didn't manage to come in quite as tight.

David, who is now preparing for his 2018 seasonal debut, reflects on his highs and lows and his old school approach to training.


David Henderson

AGE: 31

HEIGHT: 165 cm / 5 ft 5

CONTEST WEIGHT: 78 kg / 172 lbs

BEST CONTEST RESULT: 2016 UKBFF British Championships, 1st in under-80kg bodybuilding

AMBITION: Tp become a top professional international competitor.

SPONSOR: Avenches Biotech


What does it mean to be the only Irishman to win the national championships?

It is pretty cool to win the British Championships so I was delighted. We do have a lot of great bodybuilders here in Northern Ireland.

How did you nail your condition so well that year?

I started my prep a bit earlier and didn't get too fat in the offseason, which meant I didn't rush things. I feel if you try to drop fat quickly you also drop muscle at the same time. Slow and steady wins the race, bit by bit.

Winning the under-80 kg British title in 2016. PHOTO: Simon Howard.

Winning the under-80 kg British title in 2016. PHOTO: Simon Howard.


What support did you receive from the UKBFF after becoming British champion?

Winning the British title means that I don't need to qualify for the British Championships again. I can just turn up. It also means I can request to do international competitions. I took advantage of this last year when I competed at the Arnold Classic Europe in Barcelona where the UKBFF paid for my registration fee (€200) as well as the cost of my IFBB international passport.

What was it like competing at the Arnold Classic Europe?

Although I didn't get the placing I wanted – I came in too soft – I enjoyed the whole experience. The expo was huge and the atmosphere was electric.

What are your goals for 2018?

To compete at the English Grand Prix next month, the Arnold Classic Europe in September and the British Championships in October. My head is in a better place this year whereas last year a lot of personal issues held me back.

Describe your training style

I pyramid up each set of 10 reps until I hit my final set where I hit total failure to get between 6-10 reps. The last set includes dropsets, forced reps and rest pause sets. I do more supersets, trisets and giant sets closer to competition

Give an overview of a week's training

I usually train five days and have two rest days each week.

Monday: Shoulders

Tuesday: Biceps and triceps

Wednesday: Chest

Thursday: Rest

Friday: Legs

Saturday: Back

Sunday: Rest

What's your approach to dieting?

It's fairly straightforward: off-season I have a calorie surplus and on-season I have a calorie deficit. I respond a lot better with carbs than fats. When I take fats in place of carbs I can barely get a pump and look flat and deflated. During contest prep I keep my carbs in around the workout and the last two meals are usually a protein source with vegetables.

What's more effective – high intensity or steady-state cardio?

It doesn't really matter as both burn the same amount of calories. For me, during contest prep I'd rather do steady state because I just don't have the energy for HIIT. My nervous system is under enough strain from weight training, especially when I'm doing supersets, trisets amd giant sets, which are a form of HIIT.

What mistake do you see most often in the gym?

That's easy: ego lifting – going too heavy to perform the exercise properly, usually using momentum and bringing other muscle groups into play. Also, I see too many half reps. Half reps and partial reps are fine at the very end of an exercise but not at the start. I believe in training with heavy weight and good form and lowering the weight when necessary. Do it right and focus on the muscle that you intend to train.