"Natural Mezza" Andrew Merrifield is a true bodybuilding champion. In 22 contests between 1998 and 2006, Andrew took home 16 first place finishes, and never placed outside on the top 3! As a child, Natural Mezza was drawn to the sport of bodybuilding by the TV show, The Incredible Hulk. For more on Andrew Merrifield, visit www.ultimate-natural.com.
Muscle & Strength: Andrew you are ripped to shreds! Has dieting and staying lean always been easy for you, or was it a gradual learning process?
Andrew Merrifield: My contest diet is not easy to do, with some days harder then others. It's a mental thing. If your mind is strong you will succeed. If not, you will find it much harder.
There is no point in training hard and building muscle, then eating high fat and sugar food. Too much of this food, and your muscles will just be hidden under your fat. Simple as that. I knew from day one that a clean diet is very important. It's about how the body looks. And for sure I have days when I nail a full trifle.
Muscle & Strength: To be a successful natural bodybuilder, do you need to be more mentally or physically disciplined?
Andrew Merrifield: You need both.
Muscle & Strength: Give us a little background. When did you start lifting, and what style of routine did you do in the early years?
Andrew Merrifield: I started bodybuilding around 12 years old. My mother bought me a second hand Weider multi-gym. At 14 I went to a hardcore gym, and was training four times a week with lots of volume. In fact, I was training far too hard. I was also training with too much intensity - drop sets and forced reps. I did that for about 7 years. Crazy, eh?
Muscle & Strength: What caused you to move away from that crazy combination of volume and intensity training, and what does your routine look like now?
Andrew Merrifield: I still train each body part once a week. No drop sets. If I do forced rep sets, it's on the last exercise and set of the body part I am training - no forced reps on legs at all. I use a full range of reps in my workouts, for example: 20 reps on my 1st set, increasing the weight with each set. No more than 3 sets per exercise for a regular workout. My style of workouts do change. I like to mix things up. For example, 20 reps for barbell curls followed buy 20 rep tricep skullcrushers. I may repeat that 3 times but change the weight and rep range.
Muscle & Strength: Tell us about your DVD...
Andrew Merrifield: It's a triple disc set. 4 hours and 47 minutes total running time.
I could see a huge gap in the DVD market, as there are so many bodybuilding DVDs out there, but hardly any of them give the viewer any great advice on what they are doing in the gym. So apart from me doing my full body workout split over 4 days, I give you all the advice I have on natural bodybuilding and nutrition.
There are lots of my contest routines on the DVDs, as well as some back stage pumping footage, and an interview with me.
It's not your regular boring bodybuilding DVD. It took 8 months to produce. The production company who put it together for me had no idea how much of a perfectionist I was, so I had to re-edit the whole thing with them, until it was just right. Lots of stress and extra cost, but in the end it was worth it. It's selling like crazy over here, and was selling ok across the pond until the £ and $ messed up.
For your readers, I can sell it at a discounted cost off £18.00 in p&p. It sells on my website for £30.00 pounds. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if any one is wanting a signed copy. Also, have a look on my website for more info on the DVD... www.ultimate-natural.com.
Muscle & Strength: Your website features your supplement plan. Can you tell us which supplements you take, and when...
Andrew Merrifield: My supplement schedule is:
- Morning - Reflex Nexgen, AOC, krill oil. All 3 have massive healthy benefits. Remember, we have to take care of the body parts we can't see, not just the body parts we can. I also take Peptide Fusion with some MicroWhey protein, and Reflex Bulgarian Tribulus.
- Mid-Morning - Depending on things, maybe a Progen meal replacement.
- Pre-Training - Before I train I have NOS Fusion mixed with Tri-Matrix.
- Workout - During my workout I have big handfuls of BCAAs, and some glutamine.
- Post-Workout - After I train I have Grown Matrix with some ALA, and more amino acids.
- Night - During the night I will have 2 protein shakes - a good blend of slow, medium and fast proteins.
Muscle & Strength: What's the worst piece of bodybuilding and/or diet advice you've ever been given?
Andrew Merrifield: It was the first workout I was given by the gym owner when I started training in a bodybuilding gym at age 14. Too many sets, too many exercises for a body part - for example, I was over-training for a good 7 years. Crazy, but true. No wonder I was not responding to my workouts, and my body parts were so sore it was terrible.
As for diet advice, far two low carbs and not adding any fats - big mistake. But I did that for years...welcome to the catabolic state, and feeling like you almost haven't got the energy to think, never mind walk during a contest diet.
Muscle & Strength: You've had an amazing string of 1st and 2nd place contest placings. What's the hardest thing about contest preparation ...and what's the most enjoyable aspect about preparing for a contest?
Andrew Merrifield: The amount of bland food I eat. The cooking, all the cardio, the lack of energy sometimes, the commitment. I have sometimes almost become a mole in a hole, so to speak. The stress levels, feeling down. Oh, the list goes on.
I don't have a enjoyable part other than watching my body harden up, simple as that.
Muscle & Strength: Do you follow the drug-using side of bodybuilding, and what are your thoughts on the current state of the sport in general?
Andrew Merrifield: Well without the people that were my inspiration back in the day, bodybuilders that were in Flex, etc., when I was growing up, I guess there would be no bodybuilding mags.
I would say that in the late 80's and 90's, I used to marvel at the bodybuilders in those days. I would think, wow. And to be fair it looked achievable. I mean, take the female side just for a moment. They had Cory Everson, Tonya Knight, etc. They look very fit and had super bodies. What happened after them...you tell me? It was apparent to me what started to happen. The freakier some of the new women on the block got, the more the judges went with it.
And now it's crazy, and how many of these girls get the reward they deserve? I bet just a small handful. They are no longer in the mags here in the UK. Wonder why? Perhaps the powers that be didn't want them on the front cover of a magazine. Hmm... wonder why? Perhaps they think they won't sell as many copies. Well go back to the late 80's and 90's. You could find Tonya Knight on the cover with Shawn Ray. It looks now that the Miss Olympia - they're coming in less muscular. But it's two late, I feel. The damage is done. Either way I think they look remarkable. Some will be making money, but I'm sure it's not many of them.
As for the men... what can I say? Let's say around 10 of them are at the top of the tree. They have superhuman genetics, and again look almost inhuman. Any young lad looking at these men - I have no idea what they must think, and am sure so many think that if they train hard, eat their eggs and steak, take a good protein, and dedicate their lives to the sport of bodybuilding, that one day they too will look like these bodybuilders. Remember, I once thought this. Again, some of them look amazing.
Muscle & Strength: What has been the driving force behind your success as a natural bodybuilding, and what motivates you to keep pushing every day?
Andrew Merrifield: I had the willpower, the drive, the dedication. For me - bodybuilding from a very young age - bodybuilding became a part of me. I became bodybuilding. As for the driving force in competitive bodybuilding, I would say the will to succeed. To stand on stage and show everybody what I have achieved through hard work, dedication and total commitment. I represent what can be achieved naturally.