Muscle & Strength Talks To Natural Bodybuilder David Ashton

David Ashton
Quick Stats
  • David Ashton
  • Chester, UK
  • 27
  • 5’9”
  • Natural Bodybuilding
  • 2 x NPA South West Champion
  • 85 kg
  • 70 kg
A 2 time bodybuilding champion with a passion for lifestyle. In this interview he details his training approach which features a monster arm day!

What is your athletic background, and how did you get involved with bodybuilding?

I started lifting weights in my late teens. I was very skinny and simply wanted to build up my physique and gain some weight. At that time I knew very little about the sport of bodybuilding and had absolutely no knowledge of the correct foods to eat. However, I would lift weights for hours everyday training various bodyparts, and quickly fell in love with the iron.

As time progressed I started to read bodybuilding magazines, nutrition books and began to piece together workout programs and diets. It was only when I purchased Arnold Schwarzenegger's Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding that I truly understood the competitive aspect of the sport.

David Ashton

With competitive bodybuilding in my mind I took my training even more seriously, and became completely entrenched within the lifestyle.

It's also important to note that even from this early stage I knew I wanted to train drug free. In fact, I was partly driven by my naivety in thinking that all competitive bodybuilders were natural. A naivety of which I'm now thankful for.

What do you love most about bodybuilding?

In bodybuilding your success is a direct outcome of your own hard work. Nobody else. Family members and friends can offer support but when it comes down to the actual physical aspect of lifting weights and dieting, that is your responsibility. It makes you realize that nothing is impossible. If you have a goal in mind, and you want to obtain it badly enough, through hard work you can reach it. Bodybuilding offers a disciplined mind-set that can be applied to other aspects of an individuals life such as career goals and personal development.

David AshtonIn addition I've also made many great friends through bodybuilding. We all share the same positive characteristics and driven mentality, all eager to help one another reach our goals. I believe that outside of the gym I may never have met such a large group of like minded people.

What are your future goals, dreams and plans?

I'm currently training towards my future goal of becoming a natural pro. I have other competitive milestones along the way, but to become a pro bodybuilder is my ultimate dream. It's the dream that keeps me motivated everyday.

What does your current training split look like, and what do you like most about it?

Currently I train each body part once per week, with each day dedicated to a specific area. I’m in the process of increasing some of my weaker areas to twice a week in order to make improvements to the balance of my physique.

My current rotation is as follows:

The number of sets I perform could be considered fairly high, ranging from 20 – 35 sets, but this is a level that has worked for well for me. My repetitions begin with 15 to act as a warm up set. They then decrease with each set allowing me to both instigate an effective state of hypertrophy and increase my strength levels.

The first two exercises I perform tend to be powerful compound movements. I do this because I feel that I am at my strongest upon entering the gym and therefore can handle more weight. My final exercises are more isolated allowing me to connect with the individual muscle in a more controlled manner.

Day 1
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Bench Press 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Decline Bench Press 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Dumbbell Pullover 5 8-12
Dumbbell Flye 5 8-12
Day 2
Exercise Sets Reps
Bent Over Row 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Heavy Rack Pull 5 10
T Bar Row 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Close Grip Lat Pull Down 5 8-12
Seated Cable Row 5 8-12
Hyperextension 2 Failure
Day 3
Exercise Sets Reps
10 Minute Warmup on Stationary Bike    
Squat 5 15-20
Leg Press 5 15-20
Leg Extension 5 8-12
Leg Curl 5 8-12
Barbell Carpark Lunge 3  
Standing Calf Raise 5 15
Day 4
Exercise Sets Reps
Seated Dumbbell Press 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Seated Barbell Press 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Front Dumbbell Raise 5 8-12
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 5 8-12
Bent Over Reverse Dumbbell Flye 5 8-12
Barbell Shrug 5 8-12
Day 5
Exercise Sets Reps
Barbell Curl 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Incline Dumbbell Curl 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Barbell Preacher Curl 5 8-12
Concentration Curl 5 8-12
Skullcrusher 5 15, 12, 10, 8, 6
Rope Tricep Extension 5 8-12
Straight Bar Tricep Extension 5 8-12
One Arm Tricep Extension 5 8-12

David Ashton

Unique approach. For a ‘shock tactic’ I will occasional utilize the following approach. I recommend this to be used once every couple of weeks for stubborn body parts.

Begin by performing a few warm up sets with a comfortable weight. Then the working set is as follows:

  • 15 reps – wait for 15 seconds.
  • 14 reps – wait for 14 seconds.
  • 13 reps –wait for 13 seconds.
  • 12  reps – wait for 12 seconds.

And so on...

Do not rest any longer than the allocated seconds, then immediately perform the next number of repetitions. It is very important that you use a difficult but safe amount of weight.

David AshtonWhich do you prefer, and why: steady cardio or HIIT?

I’ve always found the best results using steady state cardio. I believe the reason for this is that it is a method that can be controlled effectively with the use of a heart rate monitor. I will bring my heart rate up to 140bmp and remain in that area for up to 45 minutes as this is my fat burning zone. Using a heart rate monitor and keeping cardio steady provides a method that has far less variables to be concerned about and therefore puts you in a position of control.

What are your thoughts on fasted cardio?

I’ve tried both methods and have found the most benefit performing cardio on an empty stomach. I will take BCAAs and glutamine before the session but no carbohydrates. I feel that this allows my body to utilize my fat stores more effectively.

What are your best tips for getting ripped and shredded abs?

Cardio and diet! I think the common misconception is that hundreds of sit ups will produce shredded abs when this is simply not the case. You may have well developed abs but how can we see them under layers of fat! A clean diet with plenty of cardio is the best solution.

What are some of the most common mistakes made when someone is trying to build muscle and get ripped?

In my opinion I feel the biggest mistake is the pursuit of both. For natural bodybuilders it can be quite difficult to build muscle tissue whilst decreasing fat. My advice would be to concentrate on building muscle for a few months and then switch to the approach of preserving the muscle whilst reducing fat. The result should be a more muscular and ripped physique.

Which workout has worked best for you?

I think with any workout the key to progress is intensity. There are hundreds of theories and ideas about training but without an intense work ethic it all becomes trivial. A perfectly structured workout will show little results if an individual is simply going through the motions. Any workout will show results if you train to your maximum effort and intensity.

David Ashton

What does your off-season bulking plan look like?

My metabolism is ridiculously fast! Only within the past few years have I managed to achieve a better understanding of the food I require to sufficiently increase weight. I consume many clean meals throughout the day, on average every 2-3 hours. It’s important to note that empty calories are useless when it comes to muscle building.

Sample off season diet:

  • Meal 1: 3 egg whites, 2 whole eggs, 100g oats, EFAs.
  • Meal 2 (Pre workout): 100g oats, whey protein.
  • Meal 3 (During workout) weight gain shake.
  • Meal 4: (Post workout) 2 bananas, whey protein.
  • Meal 5: Chicken breast, 100g brown pasta.
  • Meal 6: Weight gain shake.
  • Meal 7: Chicken breast, 100g brown pasta.
  • Meal 8: (Before bed) 50g oats, casein/whey protein shake.

David AshtonWhat does your pre-contest cutting plan look like?

My approach to pre-contest dieting is essentially the same as my off-season in terms of timing. The meals now become smaller to reduce calorie consumption. I don’t have any cheat meals, I simply can’t allow myself to show weakness on the run up to a competition, it could separate a 1st place finish from a 2nd.

However I do have reefed days. This is very different to a ‘cheat day’ as I’m simply just increasing the amount of calories consumed that day by having more clean sources of carbohydrates. This allows my metabolism to re-ignite and continue the fat burning process. I reefed on my leg days.

Sample cutting plan:

  • Meal 1: (Pre cardio) BCAAs, Glutamine.
  • Meal 2: (Post cardio) banana, whey protein.
  • Meal 3: 50g oats.
  • Meal 4: Chicken breast, 100g brown rice.
  • Meal 5 (Pre workout) Chicken breast, 100 brown pasta.
  • Meal 6: (Post workout) banana, whey protein.
  • Meal 7: Tuna.
  • Meal 8: Casein/whey protein.

What are the biggest training mistakes you’ve made?

Diet! If I could turn back the clock I would have spent more time researching information on food! You don’t get big in the gym! It’s all about an effective diet designed specifically for increasing recovery and creating an anabolic state.

Which athletes do you admire and why?

Of course Arnold Schwarzenegger, but I think anyone who’s ever held a barbell would say that! He’s the greatest athlete to have ever come out of this sport.

I also admire Bob Paris, both for his classical physique and posing. After reading his biography I’ve gained a lot of respect for him in terms of his early insight and opinions on the eventual direction of the sport.

Workout music – Don’t care, or MP3 player?

I NEED my MP3 player whilst training! It helps me to block out other distractions and focus on my training. Artists I listen to are:

  • Breaking Benjamin
  • Alterbridge
  • Creed
  • Disturbed
  • Slipknot
  • DMX

What are some of your favorite motivational quotes?

When you're going through hell, keep going.

If someone wants to connect with you, where can you be found?

My email address is:

Posted on: Sat, 12/31/2011 - 10:36

I had a few personal training sessions with David a few years ago. You can see how dedicated he is and how much he wants to help others learn. He gave really helpful advice, is a genuinely nice guy and got me interested in pro bodybuilding. Good to see he's doing so well! Danny.

Posted on: Wed, 12/21/2011 - 14:45

Good interview, I am a retired mma fighter with a natural bodyweight of 220. I am 6ft tall so I dont think that is a bad weight. I fought at 185 so over the years the only workouts I have done are to help me stay slim so I didnt have such a big weight cut. Now that I am done competeing I am wanting to bulk up. I plan on trying his workouts as well as keeping up on my mma training. Thank you for the tips

Posted on: Mon, 12/05/2011 - 14:27

Great article, david is an inspiration to people trying to stay natural, bodybuilders and powerlifters alike

Posted on: Sun, 12/04/2011 - 17:12

Great interview, will definitely try his workouts!

On another note, the 1st three bands he listens to are some of my favourites :D Hope you went to the AB gig at wembley it was awesome!


ann marie tarran
Posted on: Tue, 11/22/2011 - 17:35

i have known david from birth to present day and my goodness he is so focused at what he does we are all very proud of his achievemnts.well done david.