Interview With Pro Bodybuilding Phenom Victor Egonu

Victor Egonu
Quick Stats
  • Victor Egonu
  • Bodybuilding
  • 5'8"
  • 217
  • 11%
  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • 17.5"
  • Back
  • Bench Press
  • ON 100% Whey & Casein, NO Xplode
Victor became a pro natural bodybuilder at the age of only 19. He shares he nutritional secrets, as well as his 5 favorite mass building exercises!

Victor Egonu was bit by the iron bug in 2004 at the age of 14. A mere three years later he hit the stage at the 2007 NGA Potomac Cup Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships, taking home a 1st place finish in the Men's Novice Lightweight class. At the age of 19, Victor Egonu won his pro card. Now, nearly seven years after first picking up a barbell, Victor is a bodybuilding phenom, a natural beast and competing in the prestigious IFPA Yorton Cup against some of the biggest names in the sport.

Muscle & Strength: At 21, your physique is well beyond your years. Can you tell us when and why you first started lifting, and how your training has evolved to maximize results?

Victor Egonu: Well it sort of happened in a progressive manner. In the spring of 2004, a friend from church asked me if I would like to come and workout with him at his home gym. At first I was hesitant, due to the fact that I was a measly 135lbs and had never touched a weight before, let alone perform a real workout. So I swallowed my fear of looking foolish while working out and just went for it. It turned out that although I couldn’t bench press more than 115 lbs for 2 reps or do more than 3 pull-ups in a row, it wasn’t all that bad. I mean, even though my chest was sore for over a week after that initial workout, something inside of me wanted more, I wanted to go back and do it again. And I did just that, 2-3 days a week for about a year or so.

Then in 2005, I upgraded my training grounds and started training at the local YMCA which lasted for about a year as well. I was on the high school track and field team from 2004-2006 and although I noticed my performance was increasing, I noticed that I wasn’t making the gains in size that I wanted. I was only around 145lbs most likely due to the excessive running and poor eating habits. So in the summer of 2006, my family bought an Olympic weightlifting set for our basement which was kind of nice, knowing that I could workout whenever I wanted.

Pro bodybuilder Victor EgonuThis is also when I felt I needed to start training for something again now that I stopped track, I needed to keep my competitive spark alive if you will. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted a superhero-like physique with big proportioned muscles, and the one thing that could give me that was bodybuilding. So I started reading muscle magazines and doing hours of research on the Internet to find out more about this sport, or should I say lifestyle. So I guess my official start in bodybuilding was in the fall of 2006, not yet knowing I would be competing in my first natural bodybuilding contest in July of 2007.

Since I’ve started up until now my training has changed drastically, all for the better. For example, I, like many beginners, fell victim to the idea that more training equaled better results. What a fool I was, I mean I was training each body part 2-3x a week over a 6 day period for 2-3 hours a day. And this was without having sufficient knowledge of how to eat properly. Over the years I’ve learned my lesson that more is not always better and that I needed to give my body proper nutrition and rest in order to make gains.

So currently, I am training each body part once a week (twice for smaller muscle groups: calves, abs) over a 5 day period for about 1-1.5 hours a day, and have my nutrition down pat. To give you an idea of how well I learned over the years, from fall of 2008 to spring of 2010, I gained 25lbs of solid muscle. So this shows how important knowledge is in every aspect of life. Kids stay in school.

Muscle & Strength: Why have you decided to stay on the natural side of the sport, and what do you feel are reasonable expectations for a natural lifter to have?

Victor Egonu: Why have I decided to remain natural? Because my parents would disown me, lol! No, but I guess my logical reasoning is that I believe bodybuilding is an art as well as a lifestyle. I think true art comes from within oneself and I know that performance enhancing substances don’t originate from within; therefore I choose not to use them. I also think it is interesting to see what the body’s natural limits are without being blurred by artificial substances.

I was very naive when I started lifting as I looked into the magazines and would see pictures of these human hulks and a certain product they were sponsoring. Then in my mind I thought, ‘if I just took that supplement I could be just like them.’ Later I found out that these guys weren’t just using the supplements they sponsored, and to be honest, it was hard to accept at first. I thought, ‘so what do I do now, I don’t want to use steroids to help me achieve my goals,’ and shortly after this is when I stumbled upon something called natural bodybuilding.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against bodybuilders who use such substances, and I’m definitely not saying they don’t train hard or eat right. By no means am I saying that, in fact it’s quite the opposite as I have a tremendous amount of respect for all bodybuilders, both tested and untested, such as 8-time Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman who was regarded as one of the best bodybuilders ever. No one can say he achieved all the success he did simply because he was unnatural. I just think it’s a personal decision more than anything else, and I choose stay within the natural limits of my own body.

I love the feeling of loading up a barbell with insanely heavy amounts of weight and ripping it from the floor.

In my mind the natural lifter should understand the following if they hope to ever succeed. First, understand that bodybuilding is not just a sport or a hobby, it is a lifestyle. Like I said before, I think of it as an artistic lifestyle. This means that bodybuilding has so many requirements to make it work, just like art has to make it look good and that if you don’t have the passion for it, you can’t do it. To be a successful bodybuilder, you have to think, eat, train and sleep like one, or otherwise the frustration that comes along will break you apart.

Next, they must understand that it is like a full time job with no guarantees. This means on top of going to work, picking up the kids, doing homework, Facebooking friends and everything else that we do in our busy lives, you must still remember to fit in your weight training, cardio, all 5-7 meals, etc. At times it can get extremely hard, but just remember that it could always be worse and that if it was easy, everyone would be doing it thus degrading the value of such an extraordinary lifestyle.

Lastly and the most important is that you must also have to have balance in your life. This means that since bodybuilding is a big part of your life, you have to add in other elements like family and friend time to balance it out, just like the yin-yang concept. I understand that it is hard to be around people while being two weeks out from a natural bodybuilding contest with only a few carbs in your system, and still having to go to school, work and all the above, but don’t push those friends and family members away or you will be alone when the contest is over with. And then what do you have left?

Without balance bodybuilding can consume you and strip you away from everything and everyone, isolate you from the world, and that’s not an appealing aspect. So once you are able to factor in the ideas above, then you are on the path for success.

Muscle & Strength: What is your most and least favorite things about bodybuilding, and why?

Victor eats using a Maco Method.Victor Egonu: The main reason I like bodybuilding so much is that it’s fun for me. Some people may ask how is something that includes so much discipline, determination and sacrifice considered fun. Well for me, I like to see the changes in my body composition through a combination of a structured diet and training program, regardless of how much hard work it takes. I like that it is also a very healthy sport, as you are required to eat clean the majority of the time and exercise on a regular basis.

I really like the fact that through my accomplishments in bodybuilding, I can inspire others to better themselves. Another thing I like about bodybuilding is that the lessons I learn can be applied to other aspects in life. For example, if I work hard enough in the gym and eat enough calories, I can make gains in muscle mass. This can be related to how if I study hard enough in school, I can get good grades and thus get a good job, etc.

Bodybuilding is also an outlet for the stresses of my daily life. When I’ve had a long day at work or school, I can’t wait to get to the gym and start working out. Getting a crazy pump is my favorite part of working out like a bodybuilder. I’ve always thought that if you can pump up to a certain size, you can build up to that size as well, which motivates me. I also love the competitive aspect of bodybuilding. In the offseason, I build up muscle to create a bigger physique and then through diet and cardio in the contest season, I chisel it down into a masterpiece.

Being compared onstage to other competitors is a battle to see whose physique is a better combination of size, symmetry, leanness, vascularity, and aesthetically pleasing lines. The top honors are given to the most favored and complete work of art, which makes it that much more interesting. The inner excitement I get from being onstage with the best of the best in natural bodybuilding is a thrill like no other.

As for my least favorite things about bodybuilding, I dislike that it is like a 24-7 job that doesn’t always reward for the hard work put in. Also it is difficult to balance out bodybuilding and daily life itself. I mean, it’s really not that easy to get all 5-7 meals and 1.5 hours of exercise in a day that is jam packed with other activities such as work, school, driving to these places, friend and family time, etc. I don’t really like to carry a heavy lunch box around my college campus all day long so I don’t miss a meal. I look like I am in 3rd grade again, lol.

I also am not too fond of the food shifts between season cycles. I have a pretty fast metabolism, so in an off-season, I have to pound back the calories or I will either maintain or lose weight. Whereas in the contest season, the food tends to become much blander in taste, I mean who likes to eat plain oatmeal, chicken breast seasoned with Mrs. Dash, and not to mention the limited carbohydrates in order lean out.

In my mind, the pros outweigh the cons of bodybuilding; therefore I continue to do it. I plan on doing it as long as I can permitted I remain healthy and determined to better myself.

Muscle & Strength: Let's talk off-season eating. How do you structure your "bulking" periods? Do you eat a certain amount of calories above maintenance levels, or focus more on specific carb/protein macronutrient intake, or other?

Victor Egonu: That’s a great question. A few years ago, back when I was doing crazy amounts of research on what the proper nutrition for bodybuilding was, I read that there are 3 caloric intake zones, each affecting the body differently. One was caloric deficit zone, which is the zone that is optimal for decreasing body fat and leaning out the physique. Next is the maintenance zone, which describes the amount of calories that you should intake if you want to keep your current weight and physique the way it is. Lastly is the caloric surplus zone, which is the level you should be in if your goal is to increase body weight, the majority of which is muscle mass.

I take great pride in the development and training of my midsection.

Later on I discovered that this was a generic approach to achieving a given physique status, and that there was a different, more specific method to do so. I call it the Macro-Method which entails that a person discovers the specific amounts of macronutrients that their body required to lose body fat, maintain their current level, or build muscle. This way causes a person to really understand their body on an individual level, meaning they must know how their body will react to a given amount of protein, carbs and fats.

For example, I have seen people who have had very productive off-seasons from a moderate to high protein, high fat, and low to moderate carb intake. Whereas I have also seen people, much like myself, who respond best from a high carb, moderate to high protein and low to moderate fat diet.

Personally I’ve tried both methods and find that a combination of the two is best for me, with an emphasis on the Macro-Method. What I mean by this is that during the off-season I know that my goal is to add as much muscle mass as possible while at the same time minimizing fat gain and keeping my energy levels stoked. So, what I do first is figure out what my maintenance caloric zone is by doing a rough calculation of the calories that I burn off due to my daily activities, and body mass in general. Then I know that I must consume an amount of calories equal to the ones that I burn off to maintain what I have.

Next, from my maintenance caloric zone I increase my calories in incremental levels of approximately 200-300 calories per every week or two to allow my body to adjust gradually. Then from there I will assess if I am gaining a good amount of muscle mass or too much body fat. If the former is true, I will increase the caloric level again and hope for the same result, thus increasing my muscle mass while keeping fat gain to a minimum.

I can’t see myself stopping.So an example of an off-season nutrition plan for me assuming my bodyweight was around 180lbs would be something like 3500-4000 calories a day which is around 20-22 x bodyweight of 180lbs depending on the training phase I am in and what body part I am training that day. From the caloric surplus zone I will then calculate my macronutrients in grams that I would need to eat in order to hit my target calories for the day.

I take into account that I require significantly high amounts of carbs to fuel my intense training, relatively high protein to recover and an adequate amount of healthy fats to keep my joints healthy and other bodily needs. So my macronutrients look something like 400-500g of carbs which is roughly 2.5x 180, 250-300g of protein a day, about 1.5x 180, and about 70-90g of healthy fats, which is about 0.5x 180.

These combined approaches of the caloric surplus zone and Macro-Method have proven highly effective for me thus far. I used them only once during my 2009-2010 off-season and gained 30lbs, 20lbs of which was lean muscle mass. I plan on using it again during this off-season and tweaking it along the way where I see fit.

Muscle & Strength: What are your favorite 5 exercises for building mass, and why?

Victor Egonu: My top 5 favorite mass building exercises have to be:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Incline bench press
  3. Front squat
  4. Military press behind the neck
  5. Overhead skullcrushers

The reason why I picked these is because if I could only do them, I would still have a formidable physique.

The deadlift is one of the best overall exercises, but also one of my favorite back exercises as well. Reason being is that it hits your entire back throughout the course of its movement. I love the feeling of loading up a barbell with insanely heavy amounts of weight and ripping it from the floor. I must say that this exercise could be responsible for a large part of my drastic growth last year due to its ability to pack on the body mass, especially on the back which is a crucial area to have developed to be successful in bodybuilding.

The reason why I picked the incline bench press is because it targets the upper pecs with laser like focus which is an area that looks very good when it is well developed. I also feel like the upper chest is one of the weakest areas on most competitive bodybuilders, thus I emphasize that area so as to have a leg up on my competition. I do switch between this and its flat counterpart from week to week to ensure my pec development is even all over.

The front squat is much more effective in my mind than the back squat when it comes to targeting the quads, specifically the outer quad sweep. I alternate between the front and back squat for the best of both worlds. I know that quads are an area that still needs work on my physique and so I turn to the front squat. When I really need to kick start quad development, I will do the front squat using an intensity technique that I call 7th heaven. Basically you pyramid up in weight for 6 sets, the 6th set being the heaviest and then on the 7th you drop the weight close to the weight of your first set, and you pump out as many as you can get. You take normal rest periods between each set, differentiating it from FST-7’s developed by the ingenious mind of Hany Rambod.

I continually remind myself that I could always be worse off.

The behind the neck military press is one I use to hit build up the bulk of the deltoids, specifically the medial head which really helps to accentuate the flaring width of the shoulder girth and in turn the overall V-taper of the physique. Sometimes I will do the military press in front for variety, but rarely as I know it hits a lot of the front deltoids, whereas I know that the incline bench press hits this area as well.

Finally I love overhead skull crushers with an EZ bar. Reason being is that it targets the long head of the triceps like no other exercise. The long head is the biggest part of the triceps and the triceps consisting of 2/3 of the upper arm, so I focus on this movement in my quest for bigger arms.

So these are my top 5 favorite exercises and they or an alternative version of them should be a staple in any off-season bulking routine.

Muscle & Strength: Can you tell us about your natural bodybuilding contest history, what the competition experience is like for you, and about some of the mistakes you're made?

Victor Egonu: In chronological order, these are the natural bodybuilding contests that I have competed in thus far with the placing and a very brief description of each:

  • 2007 NGA Potomac Cup Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships - Placing: 1st in Men’s Novice Lightweight division. Extremely happy to have won my weight class at my first contest.
  • 2008 NGA Annapolis Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships - Placing: 3rd in Men’s Open Lightweight division. According to judges and several spectators, could’ve cracked top two if I had a better tan.
  • 2008 NGA Potomac Cup Drug Free Bodybuilding Championships - Placing: 1st in Men’s Open Lightweight division and Overall contest winner thus earning my pro status in the NGA and any affiliated organizations. At a loss for words, winning my pro card at my 3rd contest at the age of 19 really showed me that I have a future in this sport.
  • Victor Egonu as Darth Vader.Fall 2009 - Spring 2010: 1 year off from bodybuilding competition in order to add more muscle and compete in a heavier weight class.
  • 2010 NGA Pro/Am Natural Garden State Classic : Pro debut - Placing: 3rd  in the Men’s Open Pro Division. I timed my stage prep poorly and so tan was off again, didn’t have time to pump up, carb up, or get focused. In fact I almost missed my call out and had to literally run onstage. Pretty embarrassing for my pro debut, but definitely an experience I won’t soon forget, lol. The crowd still enjoyed my posing routine.
  • 2010 IFPA Cape Cod Gaspari Nutrition Classic - Placing: 7th in the Men’s Pro Lightweight division. Besides the fact that the caliber of competition was extremely high, I was still too flat (a result of still getting to learn how my body responds for a contest), and not dry enough (holding a tad too much water due to miscalculations in my sodium/water balance).
  • 2010 IFPA Yorton Cup Pro World Championships (The top contest in the IFPA and regarded by many to be the top natural bodybuilding contest. Equivalent to the IFBB MR. O on a natural scale) - Placing: 9th in the Men’s Pro Lightweight division. Although my conditioning was a bit better than the Cape Cod contest 2 weeks prior, the stiff lineup of well seasoned pro bodybuilders was just too much to handle at that point in my bodybuilding career.

As for what the competition experience is like for me, it is a feeling like no other. When I start prepping for a contest, my motivation goes into overdrive as I get my physique ready to be displayed before many people. When I stepped onstage for the first time back in 2007, I thought I would have a mental breakdown from all of the nerves etc. However I was anxious to get onstage and show the physique I worked so hard to build. It was a natural feeling and that’s why I knew it was the sport for me.

Also the complex variables that come along with the contest prep makes it that much more interesting, as too much of this or too little of that can really have an effect on the way the body appears onstage. When I place poorly or below my expectations, I am not depressed and downtrodden, rather I take it as a learning experience and in fact if motivates me to analyze what I’ve done wrong and make it right the next time around. I think of winning as more of a personal accomplishment that rewards me for the hard work that I put in rather than thinking I am a better bodybuilder than any other person.

The mistakes I’ve made include: not tanning properly for the stage, as this is a very important part of the overall stage presence and shouldn’t be taken lightly. My advice is that if you have trouble nailing a strong contest tan, hire a professional spray tanner who will get you ready for the stage without worries. I finally did so for my latest contest after placing poorly many times prior, took me long enough, lol.

Another mistake is not listening to my body during the crucial deplete week. I always used to research what is supposed to be done during the final week leading up to the show for several hours at a time, whereas I should’ve been using that time posing, resting, or something else productive. I have manipulated variables including my water, carbs, sodium; you name it, only to find myself looking like a mess on contest day. Then after a day or two after the contest, I look and feel a million times better because I ate what I felt my body needed.

Victor Egonu with chains.

So in the final week, use whatever approach works best for you, which means experimenting months in advance with various methods till you find your body’s best method. The last mistake I have made is shutting out too many friends and family as contest day drew closer. This is probably the worst mistake in that I pretty much cut off my support line by doing so. It does not mean that you have to go out every day and party, rather it means spending some quality time with those you care about which will help you ease the mental stress that comes along with any vigorous contest prep.

So learning from these mistakes and remaining highly motivated, I plan on having a very productive off-season and reinventing my physique for the 2011 contest season.

Muscle & Strength: I have to throw in an abs question. You have very thick and aesthetic abs. What does your ab training look like, and do you believe your ab appearance is mostly genetic or from hard work?

Victor Egonu: First off, thanks for the compliment! I take great pride in the development and training of my midsection. In terms of my ab training, it varies slightly between the off-season and contest season. Usually in the contest season, I train abs at a frequency of 4-5 times a week for about 15-20 minutes, each session consisting of around 3-5 exercises each hitting a different region of my core. An example of one of my favorite bodyweight contest season ab routines is like the following…

Victor Egonu Ab Workout
Exercise Sets Reps Weight
Roman Chair 4 12-20 BW
Decline Bench Leg Raises 4 15-20 BW
Russian Twist 4 10-15 BW
Ab Roller 3 10 BW

I believe in alternating between bodyweight and weighted ab exercises in both the off-season and the contest season. So one workout will be weighted, the next using just bodyweight, etc. The only real difference between my off-season and my contest season ab training is that in the off-season I train them only 2-3 times weekly and usually only do about 2-3 exercises. Also I will use more weight in the off-season so as to strengthen my abs which in turn helps out with my other heavy lifts.

Victor Egonu on weight bench.I think that for the most part, an appealing midsection is a result of three things. The first being a clean diet composed of lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats. Second, consistent training year round, not just in the weeks leading up to a contest or special occasion, will lead to a more defined and toned abdominals. Lastly, doing an adequate amount of cardio will shed the body fat that covers the abs.

However genetics do come into play in the alignment of the abs. After all it is the number of fascia bands that divide the abs into their assorted pairs and determine what “pack” you will have. So if you have 2 fascia bands that run horizontally, you will have a 6-pack if lean enough. And if you have 3 horizontal bands you’ll have an 8-pack. Let's just hope people don't go around using this as an excuse for not being able to see their bottom row of abs, lol.

Muscle & Strength: How do you stay motivated, and what are some of your long term bodybuilding goals?

Victor Egonu: The way I stay motivated in bodybuilding is that I continually remind myself that I could always be worse off. When I was nine years old, I was hit by a car and was lucky to come away with just a broken leg, some scratches and bruises. So since I was given a second chance, I think about those who aren’t so lucky and feel it is my obligation to do my best in everything I participate in, to indirectly fight for them if you will.

I also sometimes let out my daily stresses in the gym by letting out my anger on the weights, as many do. Another way I stay motivated is to think about how many people I inspire and that I must keep up my hard work in order to keep them motivated. Also my next contest is always in the back of my mind, so that is motivation on its own. Finally to better my physique and become a better person are also great sources of motivation as well.

As for some of my future goals, I wish to continue to compete as a natural pro bodybuilder for as long as I can or have a desire to do so. I love this sport and at age 21, unless some ailment or impairment prevents me from continuing, I can’t see myself stopping for many years to come. A more specific goal is to eventually win the IFPA Yorton Cup Pro World Championships in the future. The contest is regarded as one of if not the top natural bodybuilding contest that exists due to the level of competition and high caliber athletes that compete in it.

I also wish to promote natural bodybuilding as I find it not only as a very hard but fun sport, but also as a very healthy lifestyle. It requires you to stay true to a nutritious diet and consistent physical activity, which can only reap benefits in the long run. Finally, to be a good ambassador for bodybuilding and to continue to inspire motivate others are also goals I wish to achieve.

John G
Posted on: Sat, 08/24/2013 - 23:39


Posted on: Fri, 01/14/2011 - 12:25

what is marco method?

Posted on: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 14:09

Awesome read.
Not just dedicated to bodybuilding but clearly everything else he does in his life, he takes great pride in. He lives his life alongside Bb'ing..

Posted on: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 16:12

unreal genetics, keep it up!

Big Red
Posted on: Sat, 01/08/2011 - 15:57

I've seen this kid first hand at work, he truly is the future of the sport! Its hard to believe anyone else has the same determination and work ethic as this guy! Unlike many bodybuilders he makes up his own diet and fixes what he needs to fix as he learns his body even more; he is absolutely remarkable in that aspect.

Quote me now: Within 5 years he will be Mr. Universe!

Posted on: Tue, 01/11/2011 - 20:51

hey big red do you go to fitness 21 by any chance?