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Start Bodybuilding Like a Pro - Natural Men's Physique & Bodybuilding with Harry Ranson

Start Body Building Like a Pro

Natural Bodybuilding WNBF Champion Harry Ranson

Start Bodybuilding Like a Pro - Natural Men's Physique & Bodybuilding with Harry Ranson

Ironmaster got to catch up with and learn more about Harry and his recent success in the competitive fitness world.  With a quick peek at his background and career in personal training, Harry also drops a ton of insights into how he found success in bodybuilding; plus, he has provided a 3-day split bodybuilding program to get you started on your competitive journey.

Professionally, Harry works as an online coach after years of 1:1 personal training which took him as far as India to train Bollywood actors. He has a keen interest in the science of health and fitness and enjoys breaking down complex subjects into more manageable information. Harry lives just outside of London, UK, and recently won his WNBF Pro Card in the Men's Physique division. 

Q&A

Where did you grow up? School, any significant events that might be relevant to your current interests?

I grew up just south of London in a county called West Sussex. My Dad was an ex-professional football player so I grew up playing football and was generally quite sporty at school. I'd always ace my practical but flunk my theory because I didn't want to write about sport, I just wanted to do it. Fortunately, that has changed and I'm actually very interested in the theory of it all, especially when it's a subject I'm interested in. I also did Karate from a young age until I was around 13 years old which taught me a lot about discipline and consistency. I'd train a few times per week and we'd run the same drills over and over until we got them right.

How did you become interested in both personal training and bodybuilding?

It's probably quite a typical story but I started the gym on my 16th birthday as that's the first day I was able to join without needing a companion. Getting that head start meant by the time I was 18/19, people were asking me for advice. Initially, I gave it for free until I realised you could make a career out of it. I vividly remember my parents asking me when I was going to get a "real job" as I started up my personal training business which has now been my career for 13 years.

Bodybuilding was similar. People would ask me if I competed which sowed the seed to step on stage. I stopped playing football around 18 but I still had that competitive spark so it seemed like an obvious choice. I started off in Men's Physique (MP) before transitioning to Bodybuilding as there were no natural MP competitions at the time. I did well at natural bodybuilding, placing 1st and 3rd at the shows I did but I knew it didn't suit me long term which is why I switched to MP.

How do you balance your career with pursuing bodybuilding?

My career and work will always come before bodybuilding which is why I don't compete every year. Competing is incredibly taxing, both physically and mentally, which can have a significant impact on work efficiency so I don't like to do it too often. When I choose to compete, I will often scale work back so I don't become overwhelmed and I'm still able to offer a good service to my clients.

What is the BB category you compete in and how does it differ from others? What interests you about this category, or, why is it important to you?

I compete in Men's Physique which is a relatively new category, only being introduced to the mainstream in 2013. It differs from bodybuilding both in attire and overall aesthetic. Competitors wear board shorts instead of trunks and the size/condition requirements are not as extreme as bodybuilding. On a personal level, MP is the type of aesthetic I've always aspired to have and subjectively the one I prefer. I generally encourage a more balanced approach to life which lends itself better to MP whereby the requirements are a little less extreme.

Harry in his home gym with Ironmaster Quick-Lock Adjustable Dumbbells

What do you enjoy about the process? What do you find most challenging?

Despite saying MP is less extreme, there's no denying there is still a good amount of sacrifice. I'm someone who is quite social and likes to go out with friends to eat and drink. For the most part, you need to knock that on the head during a competition prep which can be tough. You'll also find comp prep becomes all-consuming and your days begin to revolve around when you train, when you do cardio, what meals you're eating, etc. which interferes with work/life balance.

What I enjoy most is seeing the hard work coming to fruition. When I'm not competing I'm trying to build as much muscle as possible which can sometimes be difficult to see until you lose body fat. Competing allows me to compare myself to prior competitions and see where I've improved and where I need to improve for the future.

What was the amateur competition scene like? How many events did you compete in?

2021 was the first year there has been a true WNBF affiliate in the UK. Whilst there were ways of becoming a WNBF pro before this, it was a more convoluted approach that required competing in the US. However, with this new show, pro cards for overall winners and world invites for top 3 placings meant popularity was high. The US has up to 20 WNBF shows a year whilst the UK and many other nations only have 1 so competition is very high.

I competed in the UK competition in October and placed 2nd with an invite to the world championships in Las Vegas in November. At the world championships, I won my class and the overall which secured my pro card.

Can you tell us about your training structure?

I typically run a Push/Pull/Legs split over 5 days a week. I don't tend to conform to the days of the week i.e. Monday = Push, Tuesday = Pull. Instead, I run the programme in sequence and train as often as I can and as often as I feel recovered for. Some weeks I'll train 4 days a week whilst some I train 6 but I always follow the same sequence of Push > Pull > Legs.

Natural Bodybuilding WNBF Amateur Champion Harry Ranson receiving his Pro Card

How much time do you dedicate to lifting, did you hire a Pose trainer, how do you figure out if tanning is important?

I lift for around 5 hours per week on average for around 1 hour per session. As I said, some weeks it will be more and some less but I'd say that was average. I didn't actually get a posing coach for my competitions but I did avidly watch other professional men's physique competitors to see how was best to pose. Having said that, my best tip for posing would be to record yourself without a mirror and practice. You won't have a mirror on stage so you need to know how to hit your poses without one.

Tanning is extremely important. If you don't get tanned you'll look washed out on stage next to the other competitors as the lights are so bright. I'd recommend getting the tanning company associated with the competition to do your tan. It won't be the cheapest but it'll be stress-free and they'll be able to do any touch-ups if the tan streaks. They'll also know what colour is best as it will probably be MUCH darker than you think!

Do you have any recommendations for those looking to take their fitness to the next level and start competing?

If you want to be competitive, I'd recommend going to a local show to see the standard and work out what class suits you the most. With social media filters and curated content, it's difficult to gauge how big and/or lean someone really is. You might find you need to wait a few years to work on weaknesses before stepping on stage or you might find you can step on stage sooner than you thought. If you want to compete for the experience then I'd recommend seeking out a first-timer or novice show. As everyone is in the same boat it's much less intimidating and is a good starting point to see if it's something you'd be interested in, in the future.

As far as training and nutrition plans for competitions I'd recommend finding a coach whose principles you resonate with and is able to accommodate your specific needs. You might not need a coach for every competition you do but at least initially, it's good to have someone with experience guide you through a competition prep so you know what to expect. You don't need specific equipment or specific foods to be able to compete but you will need to be relentlessly consistent with what you have.

What do you plan to do with your Pro Card?! Any particular events?

First of all, I plan on framing it and putting it in my home office or gym! Secondly, I plan on doing a pro show in 2023. I'm not someone who likes to compete every year as I prefer to spend a good amount of time away from the stage to build strength and muscle. Competing too often can really hamper your progress as you don't give yourself enough time to build momentum and come back better than before.

Workout Program:

This is a great split workout, to get started with bodybuilding; however, we recommend you find a professional trainer like Harry, to keep you progressing and safely achieving your goals.

Push

Flat Dumbbell Press - 3 x 6-8 reps

Incline Machine Press - 3 x 8-10 reps

High to Low Cable Fly - 3 x 12-15 reps

Shoulder Press - 3 x 8-12 reps

Lateral Raise - 3 x 12-15 reps

EZ Bar Skullcrusher - 3 x 8-12 reps

Overhead Cable Tricep Press - 3 x 12-15 reps

Pull

Bent Over Row - 3 x 8-10 reps

Chin Up - 3 x AMRAP

Single Arm Seated Row - 3 x 10-12 reps

Lat Prayers - 3 x 12-15 reps

Rear Delt Machine Fly - 3 x 12-15 reps

Barbell Shrug - 3 x 12-15 reps

Incline Hammer Curl - 3 x 8-12 reps

Cable Curl - 3 x 12-15 reps

Legs

Hack Squat - 3 x 8-10 reps

Barbell Romanian Deadlift - 3 x 10-12 reps

Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat - 3 x 12-15 reps

Seated Leg Curl - 3 x 12-15 reps

Leg Extension - 3 x 12-15 reps

Seated Calf Raise - 3 x 12-15 reps

Cable Crunch - 3 x 12-15 reps

Back Supported Knee Raise - 3 x 12-15 reps

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About the Author

Harry Ranson, WNBF Pro, personal trainer, bodybuilding

Harry is an online personal trainer and WNBF men's physique professional from the UK. He's has been working in health & fitness for over a decade and has had almost every job the industry has to offer. From owning a private personal training studio to training Bollywood actors in India and now, coaching clients from all over the world online. Harry also started out competing in natural bodybuilding before transitioning to men's physique where he won the world championships in Las Vegas in 2021. Harry's primary interest is to take more nuanced and complex subjects related to health and fitness and make them more accessible for those who don't have the time to trawl through the research. When he's not in the gym, Harry enjoys going out for drinks with friends and getting his hands dirty with DIY (although preferably not at the same time!).

Instagram @harryranson



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