What sparked your interest in fitness and bodybuilding?
SH: Around Jr. High I started lifting for sports and to be stronger than my big brother, mostly to be stronger than my brother. I loved the way working made me feel and my body responded very well to weight training. As I watched my body grow and new muscles develop I became more and more hooked on lifting on working out. As soon as I was done with college football I could finally focus all of my training primarily on physique development. Not long after college I got into fitness modeling and that also drove my interest and motivation.
You recently got first place at NPC Junior Nationals in Atlanta last year. What was this experience like and how is it paving the way for the future?
SH: The Jr. Nats in Atlanta was an amazing experience! There was around 175 guys in Men’s Physique so to win my division was truly exhilarating. I stepped on stage at about 177lbs and 3.5% bodyfat, which was the lightest I’d been in probably 8 years. Everything in my prep came together perfectly and I peaked right on schedule. I also had the opportunity to meet a ton new people and make some great connections. I’m really looking forward to competing more in the IFBB and looking to add a few more trophies to the shelf. I’ve been plagued with a few minor injuries this year and have been focusing most of my attention on my business’s so I’m hoping to get all healed up and get back on the IFBB stage in 2014.
You were fitness modeling since 2004, appearing on multiple magazine covers and spreads all over the world. What has been your favorite aspect of fitness modeling?
SH: One thing that I love about shooting magazines is hearing from fans all over the world when they see my pictures on a magazine rack. It’s pretty cool hearing from people in places like Finland, Spain, and Australia who take pictures of my work that is published in different languages. It also gives me the opportunity to work with a lot of these individuals on my online personal training site ithinkfit.com. Because of what I have done in modeling I now have the chance to talk to and work with people all over the world on a daily basis.
You were also the first Bodybuilding.com BodySpace spokesmodel in 2009. What did this mean to you?
SH: Being the first Bodybuiling.com Bodyspace spokes model was an amazing life experience and a big boost in my fitness career. Beating out thousands of competitors and landing that Ironman cover was quite a rush. For me it really marked my exit from the commercial modeling world that I dabbled with while living in LA and focus purely on fitness, which is my passion. I was always told that I was too muscular for commercial anyways, so now I didn’t have to hold back. This position also gave me the opportunity to work with a truly inspiring company. I now had the opportunity to go all the major fitness expos and work side by side with fitness pros and bodybuilding icons that I looked up. I also got to spend a lot of time at the Bodybuilding.com headquarters in Boise to shoot a lot of vides and photography. They are such an inspiring company to work with because everyone there, from the owner to the interns, truly enjoyed their work and believed in the company that they were growing.
As a former collegiate football player, what has football done for your life and career?
SH: Football really helped to teach me a lot about self discipline and how to push myself past my perceived limits. I learned to work through pure exhaustion and to raise my pain threshold. It made me realize that other team doesn’t care that my muscles are sore and that I’m worried about an exam on Monday. You’re forced to throw all of your excuses out the window and dig deep to find the strength to keep pushing hard. This takes as much mental strength as it does physical. There’s nothing like a couple of 300 lb d-linemen who want to crush you to force you to rise up and give all you have. These are lessons I carry with me today in business and the weight room. I also bonded with many friends with whom I will remain close to for life. My business partner, Heath Murray, and I actually first met on the practice field my freshman year while trying to take each others heads off during running back drills.
You are quite the entrepreneur. Describe some of your companies that you own and why you think people should consider using your website and products.
SH: After spending years as a GNC franchisee, learning about the supplement industry, I wanted to create a line of products that uses scientifically proven ingredients and avoided fads and gimmick ingredients. In return, we created Rock Solid Nutrition. These products work and we sell them with 100% confidence that we are safely and effectively helping to reach their goals faster. We’ve also been told repeatedly that we have some of the best tasting protein on the market with our Whey Isolate. Try the Cinnabun or Cake Batter flavors. You won’t be disappointed! You can see the full line at www.rocksolidsupps.com. My online training website is www.ithinkfit.com. We created this website to serve the increasing demand of a worldwide audience who wanted our help with training and nutrition. We currently have clients from over 30 different countries that we work with on a daily basis, instructing their fitness programs and answering all of their questions. This is all done for a relatively very low monthly fee and allows self-motivated people to have access to all the knowledge of a fitness pro with out having to pay a lot for a personal trainer.
In Omaha I own a gym called iThinkFit Gym. It’s a full size gym that we took over to make a unique personal training and group workout facility. We teach over 30 hours of group workouts a week there. All of the classes are fun, unique, and constantly throw something new at the members to keep them from getting bored and their bodies from adapting. Our most popular class is the “Fit Camp” where campers use a variety of unique equipment to go through a circuit style workout following HIIT principles and while hitting every different bodypart. We also teach bodybuilding muscle-isolation workouts in our “Olympius” class. Here campers learn how to correctly develop each individual muscle and add lean mass. Finally we have an advanced functional training class called “Rock Solid Training”. This class is a lot of fun and I even jump in with them once in a while. In this workout we follow a variety of different protocols and utilize not only Olympic lifts but we’re also flipping tires, pushing sleds, and swinging sledge hammers! That class will make you sweat like you’ve never sweated before! In addition to the group workouts, we’re running personal training with myself and a team of intelligent personal trainers in there all day. In addition to a lot of general population people looking to get in better shape or just get healthy we also train a lot of athletes (from kids to pros) and fitness competitors as well.
What is the hardest aspect of your life in regards to sticking with and maintaining the fitness/bodybuilding lifestyle?
SH: Two things come to mind for that. The first is just the time it takes. Like most people, I’m extremely busy. I work a lot, and it requires getting up early and getting home late. It can be hard to squeeze a workout in when your working all day. Sometimes the last thing you want to do after a long day is cook meals for the next day and do dishes. I’ve just had to make it a priority in my life because without I think I would go crazy from all the pent up energy. I love feeling good and looking good so the reward for me is well worth the effort. The other challenge I face is that I’m not getting any younger. After years of putting hundreds of pounds on my back week after week it can start to take a toll my body and result in more injuries. I’m not as invincible as I was in my 20’s and so I now put more focus on recovery and injury prevention than I used. Since I train for physique development I’ve learned to drop my ego in the gym and really focus on truly isolating target muscles using less weight than I used to while still getting impressive results.
Take us through your typical day in the gym. What time do you usually get to the gym and finish your workout. What types of training philosophies do you live by?
SH: I usually get my get my workout in sometime in the mid-afternoon. I like this time because it gives me a chance to get a few meals in me and it’s also the time of day that I have the most energy. Luckily this is also the best time for me to get away from work for a while. I follow a couple of different training protocols to periodize my training. Typically, I’m hitting one or two body parts a workout and working each muscle once a week in a 5 day split. I will also go through periods where I’m hitting two muscle groups a day on a 6 day split. Either way, the focus is on isolating the target muscle and using that muscle to move the weight while decreasing assistance from any secondary muscles as much as possible. I’ll usually start the workout with 2-3 compound lifts so that I can use a heavier weight while I’ve still got all my strength. After those I hit 2-3 accessory lifts to really isolate the muscle. Most of the time I’m doing 3-4 sets and 6-10 reps on most exercises. However, I do like to finish some exercises with a run-the-rack set, burnout, or heavy set for 5-6 reps to really blast the muscle. I also like to use slow negatives (usually around 4 seconds) on some exercises. Perfect form is key to getting the best gains with muscle isolation lifts so I always choose quality (of form) over quantity (of weight).
Any advice to weight trainers and athletes looking to increase muscle mass without adding body fat?
SH: You’ll add more mass faster if you allow yourself to put on a couple extra lbs fat because you’ll need to be in a caloric surplus. Similarly, you’ll drop fat faster by being in a caloric deficit but that’ll make almost impossible to add any significant amount of muscle mass. However, it is certainly possible to both at the same time, it’s just that it will take a little longer. This can be done primarily through following some well-established nutritent timing principles. If you take in the right types of macro nutrients at the right times, they will work for you and not against you. Protein is the constant through out the day and should be divided out amongst the days meals. Getting a protein meal down every three hours or so is going to help with protein synthesis so those muscles can grow. Carbs are great energy source and we’re going to use them to fuel your muscles when it needs it and hold back them at other times. Your first carb meal comes first thing in the morning after you’ve just had a 6-8 hour long fast. The next carb meal should be a low glycemic carb, like sweet potatoes, taken 1.5-2 hours before your workout. Third carb meal comes right after your workout when you’ve just gotten done depleting your muscles. If your workout is first thing in the morning than just combine your pre-workout carbs with your breakfast. All of the other meals that aren’t one of those three can be a combination of protein and good fats. It’s also ok to throw in some healthy green veges with these meals. Your good fats can come from a variety sources like almonds, avocados, fish oils, and mct oil. The main point here is to not combine fats and carbs in the same meal in order to decrease the likelihood of those calories being stored as body fat while utilizing the carbohydrates at times when they are going to your muscles perform and recover.
As someone who owns a supplement company, which types of supplements do you believe are most ideal for aspiring bodybuilders and fitness competitors? What about for casual workout enthusiasts?
SH: I always recommend nutrition first so the supplement that I tell almost anyone (whose looking to build a good physique) to start off with is quality whey isolate. I almost consider whey more of a food source than a supplement. In addition to that, adding in a good BCAA product during your workout or when you have to wait a while for you next meal will be beneficial as well. I use our Muscle Punch on a daily basis. For serious athletes, supplementing with beta alanine can really help you get over a plateau and push harder in you workouts. Also, in a pre-workout formula, I’m a big fan of the combination of citrulline malate and creatine such as Rock Soli’s Pre-Pump.
What are your future goals both personally and professionally?
SH: We’ll be looking to expand locations for gym in the near future. We plan starting with a second location here in Omaha and then taking the iThinkFit name and model to other major cities in the Midwest and beyond. We plan on continuing the steady growth of Rock Solid and to expand our reach to more retail stores as well online. Personally, now that I’ve met my goal of becoming an IFBB Pro the next logical goal is to win a Pro show! I was plagued with injuries this year and didn’t get to do as many shows as I was hoping so I plan on hitting the circuit hard next year and earning a spot at the Olympia! Grabbing a couple more magazine covers along the way will just be icing on the cake.
continue to next page for Sean Harley’s workout routine