Bigger is not always better. In a powerful acknowledgment of that sentiment, the International Federation of BodyBuilders, which governs the competitions that pit the biggest bodybuilders against each other, created the physique division in 2011. Enter Ryan Hughes, who was one of the first recipients of an IFBB pro card in this new class. A trainer, fitness model and competitor, Hughes now finds himself representing one of the most popular nutrition brands on the market and, at 25, has plenty of time to continue building his already-impressive resume.
You used to be long and lean. How and why did you finally start to put on healthy weight?
When I was 16, I started getting into the gym. My initial intent was to get bigger because I was one of the thinner guys in school. As I added size, I started really getting into it. At 19, I competed in my first show. After that, I was hooked on the industry in general and continued down that path.
You got involved originally in bodybuilding, but that doesn’t always favor guys of your build. How did you feel about how far you could take your career in bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding, for me, was just a means to get in photo-shoot-ready shape. I never saw myself being a professional bodybuilder. I never had any aspirations to be a bodybuilder. I always wanted that fitness-model look.
What was running through your mind when you heard about the creation of the physique division?
The first time I thought I could maybe compete as a pro was when I heard about the physique division. I was immediately interested because now I could get onstage and have more of a direction in terms of how I wanted to look. I was excited. That division gave me a new direction in terms of where I wanted to take my career. It was a big opportunity for a lot of guys like me.
Can you summarize what the physique division is?
Since it’s still so early, I’m sure people have different opinions on what it is and what they’re looking for. But what I think it symbolizes is health and fitness as a lifestyle — not just a period of time when you’re prepping for a show. It’s about bodies that are aesthetically pleasing and symmetrical, bodies that they can maintain and live with. It’s about physique symmetry and having a fitness-inspired lifestyle.
How do supplements support your training and recovery?
BSN’s preworkout stuff is great. I alternate between taking Hyper FX and N.O.-Xplode 2.0. Since the style of training I use really pushes my body to the limit, I will also do Amino X, two servings during training. I usually finish those up toward the end of my session, then I have Syntha-6, which is maybe my favorite product because it mixes fast- and slow-digesting proteins.
What is your Blast Training System all about?
People asked how I trained for years, so I just logged my workouts for six months and put it in e-book form. Basically, the workouts combine strength training, volume training and athletics. You get the hypertrophic effects, some CrossFit-type training and some volume. It’s something I use when I’m trying to add size and when I’m cutting down.
BLAST TRAINING: PUSH DAY
A sample day in the system Ryan Hughes uses to build size, strength and stamina.
Birth Date: June 24, 1987
Birthplace: West Chester, Pa.
Current Residence: New York, N.Y.
Contest Weight: 208 pounds
Offseason Weight: 215 pounds
Contest Highlights: 2011: BodySpace Spokesmodel Finalist; NPC Suburban, 4th, Men’s Physique; NPC Junior USA’s, 1st, Men’s Physique Tall (obtained IFBB pro card)