Finding a training partner who was bigger, stronger and more knowledgable than me transformed my physique by teaching me a better way to train, eat and recover, says Ryan Terry
Ryan Terry is an IFBB pro men’s physique model, Arnold Classic men’s physique champion 2017 and a USN sponsored athlete. He is based in Doncaster, South Yorkshire.
In 2011 I started training with pro bodybuilder and current Mr Pro Universe Dave Titterton, having spent the previous seven years training by myself. It’s no exaggeration to say that he completely transformed my approach both physically and mentally to training, nutrition and recovery.
I was no stranger to the gym or exercise at all, but I had a such a poor level of knowledge. Dave educated me not only on how to build muscle, but more importantly, how to maintain it. I had been gaining muscle but was losing it just as quickly because I wasn’t feeding it with the right nutrition and was expending energy all the time with so much cardio.
I was obsessed with having a six-pack, so I’d do every abs move under the sun, a lot of bodyweight moves, and a huge amount of endurance-based cardio. Before Dave I was always taking one step forward then two steps back.
Head in the game
Dave not only showed me the right way to build and maintain muscle mass with compound lifts of heavy weights and low-rep sets, he also taught me how to think like a bodybuilder and how to start sculpting my physique. He stood me in front of a mirror and talked me through the ideal X-shape physique and those aspects that the judges are looking out for when you’re on stage, such as the broad shoulders, thick back and tapered waist. He made me realise bodybuilding is all about the complete package, not just having shredded abs.
He identified my faults and then started educating me on the best ways to fix them. There were a lot more weakness than I realised and it was a little bit hard to hear, but I needed to hear it. It’s always best to work with people who speak blunt because they often have your best interests at heart.
Taking an objective view
My approach to nutrition before meeting Dave was horrific. When I first met Ken RoscoeI, now my nutritionist, he asked me to write down what I’d eaten the day before. It was a takeaway steak bake pasty and a tin of tuna. You should have seen his face! I thought all the carbs, protein and fats I needed was in there. That’s how little I knew about nutrition when I first met him. I was on maybe 50g of protein per day, which overnight went up to nearer 200g.
The reason I never ate very well and did crazy amounts of cardio is that I always had it in my head that I was a bit chunky and carrying too much fat around. It stems back from when I was a kid and always playing sport. But I snapped both Achilles’ tendons and had to spend some time in a wheelchair and I subsequently put on weight. This is why when I recovered I started training because I never wanted to be fat again. I wanted to be ripped.
I couldn’t appreciate how skinny I actually was. It was only when I started training with Dave that he made me realise I was skinny-ripped and what I actually needed to do was start adding some proper muscle mass. He told me that adding a stone of muscle to my physique would make a tremendous difference to how I looked, and he helped me switch my focus from an obsession of trying to get and stay shredded, to a more healthy and balanced approach of building lean muscle through better training and nutrition.
It was really hard to adjust to cramming in six meals a day of really clean, dry food. I’d never eaten cold turkey breast before. But seeing how quickly I changed kept me going. In the first couple of months of training with Dave and eating the right way the changes to my physique were astonishing. I filled out more than I thought was possible. It was the biggest growth spurt I’ve ever had, because I was suddenly doing everything right.
Upping my game
Training with Dave is always very intense and the foot never comes off the gas so I always need to be prepared mentally before every session.
I’m more used to it by now, although I still always get to the gym half an hour before him to get in the mood, both physically and mentally. If I don’t and Dave realises my effort is only half-assed then I’ll get beasted for it. And I need that time to get by body ready because if it’s not I am increasing the chances of an injury because of the intensive and heavy way we train.
When you train with someone like Dave it’s hard but amazing because he’ll push you to your absolute limit. I’ll try and lift what he’s lifting and it’s why I am always smashing through plateaus because my muscles are constantly being pushed harder and harder to do more work than they want to.
He’s brilliant at telling me when I can be pushing harder and when I need to ease off and back down so I don’t come unstuck. Even if he’s on fire and screaming at me to do a few extra reps, I get a lot of confidence knowing there’s a 22-stone giant spotting me to lift the weight off if I reach failure. So I will hit failure an awful lot because I am safe in the knowledge I can push it to the extremes. I’m never at risk when he’s spotting me.
When I am in the middle of a set and he’s screaming at me to get it done by asking me about Olympia qualification or whether my competitors are training this hard, it really, really fires me up. It is the difference between completing the set or falling short. But it’s always embarrassing to finish it and look around and see the entire rest of the gym staring at us. So far no one has ever come over to Dave and told him to keep his voice down!
At the end of last year we trained separately for a month because Dave was cutting down for Mr Pro Universe and I was trying to bulk. Training on my own was so much harder. It’s so easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are going at 100%, when deep down you know it’s probably closer to 80%. I was lifting lighter and lighter weights because it was easier, and I didn’t have the confidence to go as heavy as I would with Dave there breathing down my neck.
Once you find a good training partner, training by yourself is never the same again.