Introducing Hugo Rivera
I’m not impressed easily, but Hugo Rivera is one damn impressive bodybuilder, as you can see in the photos below (his back double bicep shot is insane!) It’s quite an achievement to take top 5 in your class at the Team Universe – the pinnacle of natural amateur bodybuilding in the National Physique Committe – but that’s not what got my attention the most. When I heard Hugo had gone on to compete in the NPC USA and took 4th place there as well, I was blown away. What’s the big deal about a 4th place finish? Well, if you follow NPC bodybuilding, then you know that the USA is not drug tested. Hugo is natural for life. I don’t know about you, but when I see a natural holding his own in open competition, I’m cheering, and I want to know more. That’s why I was very pleased to get this interview with Hugo. When you finish reading this one, stay tuned, because Hugo promised me another a “Part 2″ which will be even more personal and revealing.
1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My formal education background believe it or not is in Computer Engineering. I graduated from the University of South Florida back in 1998. So the question is: how did I end up from engineering to being a competitive bodybuilder and best selling fitness author?
Well, I actually used to be very overweight as I was growing up so at an early age I experienced the feelings of insecurity that come along with obesity as well as the scorn and ridicule from some people. Since I kept hearing that the reason for my weight problems was food and that I had to stop eating, I took the advice to heart being sick and tired of how I looked and felt.
So this resulted in me going anorexic at the age of 13 and losing a total of 70 pounds in less than a year. My family, very concerned about my health, took me to a nutritionist in an effort to put some sense in me and stop the anorexic cycle.
This nutritionist mentioned one thing that changed my outlook on dieting forever: “Eating food will not make you fat; only the abuse of the wrong sort of foods will.” After listening to that statement, it all seemed to make sense. I then began following the diet she gave me and started to study the effects of foods on the human physiology.
By the age of fifteen my interest in how food affects the shape and the form of your body naturally led to an interest in the area of exercise.
2. So how did you get started with bodybuilding and what led you to become a fitness author with a website?
The reason I started bodybuilding is because a girl that I really liked back then told me that I would look better if I had some muscle on me. She said that though I looked good, I was too skinny. Keep in mind that anorexia left me weighing a bit less than 100-lbs.
So I asked my mom to get me a muscle magazine, the May 1990 Muscle & Fitness (which I still have to this day) so that I could educate myself on the subject. After I saw an article called: “How To Get BIG” written by the one and only, Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was hooked! To me, Arnold just looked perfect so I chose him as the role model to follow. I also got inspired by the physiques of Lee Labrada, Shawn Ray, and Francis Benfatto who were competing extremely successfully back then. To me, all of these guys exemplified perfection, real works of art. They all ate 6 times a day and trained hard day in and day out.
So I simply started with following the training program and diet laid out by Arnold on his article. As I was so underweight and skinny at the time, even with Arnold’s training, which was pretty much overtraining, I still gained 40lbs during the summer. A proper six meal a day diet and regular training with me being very underweight really pushed on the muscle mass even if I did gain a little fat as well, but it was amazing to me and all my friends thought I was on steroids! Yet, I did not even have a clue of what steroids where at that time!
Come to think of it, I guess that I was “on steroids” due to the fact that I was a teenager back then producing tons of hormones (yes guys, if you are teenagers then you are on the most powerful stack of anabolic steroids; the one produced by your own body! This, in conjunction with the fact that once I started to feed myself 6 times eating around 3,500-4,000 calories a day, made me grow beyond belief on a daily basis and I guess this is what got me really hooked and led me to become an avid natural bodybuilder.
After, gaining all that mass, I reached a plateau unfortunately; a sticking point I could not get past. As much as I loved Arnold I realized a natural bodybuilder like me could not keep up with the routines of professional bodybuilders who were taking drugs and so I took to reading countless books in my quest to find a perfect system.
The frustrating problem was that I started getting exposed to absolutely contradicting theories on how to best gain muscle and lose fat. Upset at the fact that no one could give me a straight answer I decided to take matters in my own hand and use myself as well as my training partner as guinea pigs in order to find out what worked. This was the first time I really knew that I was going to create my own system as I was going to test everything on myself, my training partner and friends in order to find out what worked and what didn’t so that I could then throw out the bad and keep the good.
I started my quest by recording everything I did down to the last detail. I’m quite analytical as a person, which is I guess why I became an engineer years later, but even early It showed as I read every book and article everywhere I could get my hands on. I was like a sponge for information, reading stuff from trainers from all over the world. I started to put together training routines and diet programs, and while some failed miserably some worked!
For instance, I will never forget what happened when I went from training 2-3 hours a day to training for 45 minutes. I went through a growth spurt again! So through endless training routines and diet combinations I started to really understand what worked and what didn’t for me and my training partners. I started finding principles and patterns of training that seemed to work on everyone I tried them on. Above all, the most exciting part of my discoveries was the fact that there was no necessity to stay all day at the gym in order to get results! Because I felt that not many people in the industry cared about trainees actually reaching their goals, I decided to create a web site and start conducting personal training during my college years in an effort to spread all of the knowledge that I had acquired.
Once I had dialed in the timing, frequency and the important details of training and nutrition cycling, that is when I decided to come up with the Body Re-Engineering System. It was at this point that I became passionate about sharing my knowledge with people as I fully understood I could help to double everyone’s results at the gym in half the time if they would employ my training and nutrition cycling principles.
Because I needed to put together a website in order to graduate from Engineering school (that was my Senior Project) that is how I started to post my first few fitness articles, and not much later have the first version of my Body Re-Engineering System. Notice that it took me from the time I was 14 years old to after I graduated from college to learn all the secrets to muscle building and fat loss on my own. However, with my Body Re-Engineering System, I am confident that I can save anyone from all the troubles.
3. What is it about bodybuilding that you love so much?
The fact that bodybuilding can instill in you an amount of discipline that can be applied to all other aspects of your life and thus make you successful. In addition, I love the fact that bodybuilding allows you to completely take control of your image and achieve a sculpted look that enables you to feel better about yourself and thus be more confident. This added confidence will serve to help you in achieving any goal you set for yourself. It will also help to improve your relationships and your career as well.
In addition, the health benefits derived from practicing bodybuilding such as higher energy levels, low blood pressure, good cholesterol and a better love life, just to name a few, make it all worth it. And of course, who cannot enjoy the feeling of a good pump at the gym???!!!
4. Tell us about your Body Re-Engineering System? What is this e-book about?
Body Re-Engineering is the culmination of over 15 years of trial and error of different training and nutrition strategies.
With the principles presented in Body Re-engineering, not only will bodybuilders double their results from each workout and cut their supplement bill, but they’ll also get to greatly accelerate results in terms of massive muscle gains and fat loss.
The key to Body Re-engineering is the cycling principle. Body Re-Engineering uses this principle in both the nutrition and the workout elements of the program.
Workouts are cycled in such a way that through the use of the right exercises and the manipulation of training volume, intensity, and rest in between sets, you create a unique metabolic situation whereby the body has to over compensate in order to adapt to the unique training phases. As a result, muscle mass gains and fat loss are accelerated dramatically.
The diet in the Body Re-Engineering program cycles calories, carbohydrates, and even protein to trick the body into releasing body fat while pushing nutrients into the muscle cell in order to increase size and strength. The diet is based on your individual metabolism and what your fitness goals are.
Body Re-Engineering is versatile as not only can it be used by those looking to gain muscle size and weight but also by the more casual lifter simply looking to lose fat, harden up and tone to look good for the beach. And best of all, it works equally well for men and women of any age and results are guaranteed regardless of genetics.
As you can see from the pictures of me as a kid on my losefatandgainmuscle.com site, I had terrible genetics; I was overweight and then very skinny, but despite bad genetics, if you have the determination to consistently apply body re-engineering, I guarantee you will achieve great results.
I wrote Body Re-Engineering in the manner I would have liked to have read a book back when I started. My ideal book would have included information on goal setting, visualization, training, nutrition, supplementation, rest and recovery, etc. In addition, the writing style would have been such that would be easy to read and above all, practical and easy to follow. One, two, three format so to speak and zero guesswork. If engineering taught me something was to be precise and to logically arrange information. Because of that, it was very easy for me to put a manual together that would meet of all these criteria.
5. Is Body Re-Engineering just for bodybuilders?
Well, my definition of a bodybuilder is anyone that uses weights, cardiovascular exercise, and nutrition to re-shape their physique. So by this definition, it is just for bodybuilders. However, if the question refers to the program just exclusively being for people who want to make large gains in muscle and hit low single levels of body fat for competition then the answer is no. Anyone can use this program regardless of what the goals are. If losing fat weight is your goal, then this system will help you achieve that faster than by just dieting alone. If your goal is competitive bodybuilding then this will help you get there as well.
6. Can you expand further on the topic of the Cycling Principle?
Absolutely.A big problem encountered by bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts is the fact that they plateau (stop making gains) after a few weeks of using a specific bodybuilding program. The way to do fix that is to make use of the cycling principle, which is the principle that forms the basis of my successful Body Re-Engineering program.
The routines of my Body Re-Engineering program change in an orderly manner that takes the body to the brink of overtraining and then allows it to recover, and thus, overcompensate (grow) in response to the stress. These changes are what the cycling principle is all about.
The Cycling Principle is the key to consistent and rapid increases in muscle mass and strength for the bodybuilder. This principle states that in order for the body to respond optimally, it cannot be trained in the same manner all the time and that the best way to make the body respond is through the correct variation of exercises, volume (number of sets times number of reps), intensity (how heavy the weight is), and rest periods between sets.
Workout parameters are going to be determined by the phase of the program you are in. There are going to be three phases that we will be repeating over and over again. The first week will be an “Active Recovery Phase”. In this phase you will only train with weights twice a week on a full body routine before you start the next phase which will be called the “Loading Phase”. The “Loading Phase”, which is three weeks in duration, is going to be a high volume phase with short rest between sets. Training volume gradually increases over the course of the three weeks in order to stress the body almost to the point of overtraining.
Then the next three weeks are going to be a higher intensity/lower volume phase (heavier weights) with longer periods of rest between sets. This phase is called the “Growth Phase”, as volume is reduced but weights are increased in order to let the body catch up and super compensate (grow muscle size and strength).
The Active Recovery Phase
The Active Recovery Phase has three main functions:
- First, according to leading strength expert Tudor Bompa, Ph.D., “you are trying to adapt the anatomy of the body to the upcoming training so that you can create, or produce an injury free environment”. Essentially, your tendons and ligaments should be strong enough to support the stressful periods that will follow.
- Second, this phase is a great time to address any strength imbalance that your body might have. This is the reason why mostly dumbbell work will be used during this phase.
- Finally, this phase will act as a great time in which the body will re-charge its energy stores and allow for complete physical and mental recuperation.
The Loading Phase
During the Loading Phase the body is stressed with an increasing high volume of work that if kept for too long will eventually result in overtraining and injury. During this phase, three things will happen:
- The growth hormone output goes through the roof due to the short rest interval between sets and the high volume.
- Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs by the body increasing the levels of creatine, water and carbohydrates inside the muscle cell. This phenomenon is called muscle voluminization.
- The body’s recuperation capabilities are upgraded in response to the stress imposed by the increasing volume of work coupled with short rest intervals.
The Growth Phase
During the Growth Phase the body is not stressed by volume. This time the stimuli are heavy weights. If this phase would be kept for too long eventually the body would stop making strength gains and you would plateau. This is the reason why you always need to go back to a Loading Phase. During this phase the following three things will happen:
- The testosterone levels go through the roof in response to the longer rest in between sets and the heavier weights.
- Hypertrophy (muscle growth) occurs by the body increasing the actual diameter of the myofiber (the muscle fiber size) through increased protein synthesis (Note: protein synthesis is creating protein strands through DNA and RNA and it takes place in the cytoplasm of the cell.)
- Since your body’s recuperation abilities were built up to the maximum by the previous phase and the volume has gone down dramatically, these extra recuperation abilities are used to increase strength and build more muscle mass. The reason the body does this is in order to be prepared for another stressful period like the one it just went through. This adaptation mechanism is the one that ensures the survival of the species.
Even if you are training for fat loss, your main goal should always be to stimulate growth. Otherwise, if you were to drastically reduce training poundage in order to perform a lot of high reps, there would be no reason for the body to keep the muscle around. Because of this, you should always train with muscle growth in mind and let the nutrition and the cardiovascular exercise take care of reducing your body fat levels.
Hugo A. Rivera, CFT, SPN, BSCE. is a lifetime natural bodybuilder, multi certified personal trainer, industry consultant and fitness expert who not only knows training and nutrition theory, but also applies it on a daily basis as evidenced by the fact that he’s always in shape and by his awards and high placings at numerous national level bodybuilding competitions. He is also an internationally known best selling fitness author with a very successful franchise of books called “The Body Sculpting Bibles” which collectively have sold over a million copies. Hugo is also the author of the very popular “Body Re-Engineering” e-book, which teaches you how to gain lean muscle mass and get lean without drugs, or fancy expensive supplements, using the secrets he devised after many years of weight problems as a child.
To learn more about Hugo’s cycle training principles and Body Re-Engineering Program visit: www.losefatandgainmuscle.com