Pin It
Eric Helms Transformation

Interview With Eric Helms

For the first ever interview on EpicAesthetics, I had no doubts that I wanted the architect of my 2013 pro-winning physique to kick things off : The one and only, Eric Helms.

Having worked with Eric in my contest prep from the beginning of the year and learning so much about nutrition, training and life, I knew that an interview with the man himself would be enlightening and helpful to all of the EpicAesthetics readership. Let’s get to it..

Altug

Hey Eric, first of all I’d like to thank you for taking this interview as I could think of nobody better to kick off the interview section on my website. A pretty standard question to start with but for my readers who may not know of you, could you give us a brief history on yourself, what you do and what you’re currently up to?

Eric

So brief history, I started lifting and getting interested in getting big and strong at about 21 in 2004. I discovered and became interested in competing in natural bodybuilding about 1-2 years later along with raw powerlifting, and I got super obsessed with lifting, nutrition and bodybuilding in the process. Obsessed with not only the lifestyle, community, competitive aspects and experience, but also the science behind it all and the prospect of it as a career. I eventually became less obsessive, more balanced and I found more than the empowerment of taking control of my health, performance and strength, I was drawn in by developing deep relationships with other people with similar interests and helping others to achieve their goals and to become empowered.

Through competition I met my best friends, business partners, fellow coaches and truly the men I call brothers: Brad, Jeff and Alberto. They shared the goals of helping others and giving back to the sport that changed their lives for the better and we formed 3DMuscleJourney in 2009 together.

So fast forward to 2013 I’ve had a measure of success in strength sport and competitive natural bodybuilding, I’m a full time coach for these sports as well and I’m also pursuing my PhD in strength and conditioning. I’ve also recently taken up Olympic lifting, which I am horrible at lol, but it’s a lot of fun.

Altug

What is the most rewarding thing for you about coaching people for a bodybuilding/fitness contest or even just getting people in general in great shape?

Eric

Having the honor to be in someones corner when they face their fears, push themselves beyond what they thought they could, and achieve something they weren’t sure they could is an amazing experience. For many people this can be a transformative experience, and finding out what you can accomplish and how hard you can truly push yourself can and should trickle into other areas of life; business, relationships, personal growth, career growth and education, you name it. However, bodybuilding without the appropriate balance and mindset can very easily become something that consumes you rather than empowers you, and that’s the whole reason why we exist. Not to get people shredded and on stage, but to help people grow and become self actualized through the medium of fitness, bodybuilding and strength sport.

 

The 3D Muscle Journey Coaches : Brad Loomis, Alberto Nunez, Eric Helms and Jeff Alberts

Altug

You are currently a Pro natural bodybuilder but have yet to make your Pro debut – It seems that you are taking a detour at the moment by getting into Olympic weightlifting rather than taking a linear approach towards bodybuilding? Is this accurate and how do you feel that Olympic Weightlifting will help you with your bodybuilding aspirations or did you just feel like some variation in your training?

Eric

The detour really has little to do with Olympic Weightlifting and everything to do with my PhD. I’ve known some competitors who have gone through prep in the midst of a PhD and let me just say that is an amazing accomplishment. I dieted and competed in bodybuilding during my bachelors, and my first masters degree, and while it all turned out alright, I learned that for me, the demands of my PhD are substantial enough that I want to finish it before I make my pro debut. So really Olympic lifting is something to keep my training progressive, and to fulfill my competitive spirit (along with powerlifting) while I take a very extended offseason. Plus, I love anything related to lifting a barbell, I’ve always wanted try out Olympic lifting since I first started lifting.

 

Altug

Something I’ve noticed with the 3DMJ coaches is that you guys don’t “market” yourselves using the methods I commonly see in the fitness industry. For example, I’ll never see adverts with you guys claiming “Gain 50lbs of muscle in 6 months!!” or pictures of your clients “before and afters” plastered all over the internet. Was that a conscious decision and how did you envisage the growth of 3DMJ taking place when you started off?

Eric

I honestly don’t know exactly how to answer that, because I don’t think we’ve ever even had that type of approach to marketing as even a remote option in the back of our minds. 3DMJ isn’t a business primarily even though we fully intended to make it something that could hopefully support each of us and become our careers. We started 3DMJ from the very beginning with the goal of giving exposure and support to natural athletes, providing a more connected community to natural bodybuilding, and helping to promote an evidence-based approach to the sport. I think the style of marketing you’re describing is in direct opposition to those goals, so it really never was even an option. We aren’t trying to blow up or just make a lot of money, our goals are a bit more connected to the future of the sport, the community, the connections we make with individuals and helping others.

 

Altug

What is/are the biggest mistake/s you commonly see or hear of fitness/bodybuilding competitors making during contest prep? (I know this is a broad question that requires context so feel free to add some if needed)

Eric

You’re right that is a broad question! So broad in fact you could devote a whole article to it! And in fact, Alberto did over three years ago: http://www.3dmusclejourney.com/articles-common-contest-prep-mistakes.php
However, apart from the more quantitative training, nutrition and peaking information there, I think competitors need to remember when they compete is that there is a competitive career beyond this season. If they are doing this right they will have decades of competition ahead of them. Then, considering what that means in terms of the way they see the upcoming show, how they plan on transitioning after the show, and what they plan on doing in the coming years. Contest prep breeds a very obsessive, short term mindset and it can often hurt competitors in the long run if they can’t keep sight of the big picture.

 

Altug

It seems lately that there are A LOT of coaches very openly arguing/debating with each other or other athletes online (Honestly, I’ve found myself regretfully drawn in oftentimes too when I see some outright misinformation!). Again, it’s something I have never seen you or any of the other 3DMJ coaches take part in. Is online debating something you purposely avoid? If so, why and what’s your stance on this?

Eric

Well, I guess I’ll start this off with a question: If someone actually wants to discuss a topic with someone or bring up a concern or personal issue, rather than attempt to harm someone else, bait them, or make them look bad, or discredit them, do they discuss it with an audience publically on social media or do they contact the person directly?

There is a big difference between attacking, disparaging, baiting or entering debates where one or both parties have already made up their mind and discussions that has purpose and are constructive. I typically try to only take part in the latter. I try to put myself in the shoes of the people and community I am trying to help and serve. I ask myself, “if my goal is to help the sport, help my clients and to grow personally, how should I act?” When I’m honest with myself about being true to these goals it keeps me from acting immaturely online. That said, I’m not perfect. Over the years I’ve engaged in discussion that some might call entrenched debate, I also have been more defensive, argumentative or emotionally triggered than I wish I had.

 

Altug

You currently have a coach for your training in Olympic Weightlifting and when you’re in your bodybuilding contest season, you have Alberto Nunez take care of your contest prep if I’m not mistaken – This tells me that you see the benefits of a coach beyond simply providing knowledge. What do you feel the benefits of having a good coach are for you personally and what advice would you give to any readers thinking about hiring a coach? What should they look for?

Eric

Adam Storey is my training coach, for both powerlifting and olympic lifting, and yes when I diet for a show at a certain point the other three coaches of 3DMJ, not just Berto, are my coaches. We round robin coach each other when each of us competes. And I certainly see the value in coaching; having the support of someone who can give you an objective eye and opinion and help you wade through the confusion and emotional turmoil going on in your head is incredibly valuable, especially when you’re starving and planning on getting on stage in a speedo lol. Also, as a coach, every time I get the opportunity to work with another coach, I learn things from them that helps me help my clients.

But honestly, I think knowledge, or rather, knowing a bunch of facts related to the science of whatever sport a coach works in, ranks towards the bottom of the qualities that I see as most important for a coach. Yes you want to know what the current best practice is, but things like critical thinking and logic, good communication and collaboration skills, experience with a variety of athletes, knowing how to use resources and tools, emotional intelligence and maturity, and a good bit of intuition are all so much more important than knowledge.

 

Altug

You’re gonna hate me because I know you mentioned recently in the 3DMJ group that you have discussed this topic “ad nauseum” but I’m gonna have to ask you – How do you feel about the current state of the whole “Clean Eating vs Flexible Dieting/IIFYM” debate on the internet? To be honest, I only ask because I’ve had your thoughts on this before and I found your view really helpful and enlightening. I think my readers would gain something positive from your perspective on it too..

Eric

I’d only hate you if you asked me something within the debate; like brown rice vs. white rice or some nonsense like that lol. I’m totally happy to talk about the debate itself! In most cases, this is a debate centered around two groups endlessly strawmanning one another, getting pissed off, flaming one another and then subsequently becoming even further entrenched in their own dogma once they feel attacked. Most commonly I see flexible dieters/IIFYM proponents posturing and swaggering like they have hacked the fitness industry and are just so much smarter and above all the “bro science”. On the flip side I see a bunch of “clean eating” advocates doing whatever kind of mental and pseudo-logical acrobatics that they can to hold onto the beliefs they aren’t willing to reconsider. Often what gets lost in the middle is that both groups have a lot more in common in terms of their big picture ideals and values, and both are trying to be healthier, help others, and reach their goals. The problem is that people attach their identities to their opinions. This is why it appears to turn into a damn near religious debate at times; it isn’t a debate of what’s the best nutritional approach, people take it as a personal attack. Of course, it is a lot easier to take something as a personal attack when someone challenges your beliefs with a condescending attitude.

There are positives to be taken from both sides of the fence here; the main one on the flexible dieting side of the fence is that there is no one size fits all and that the nutrients that foods contain are what we need to focus on rather than the foods themselves. On the “clean eating” side of it, while often the micro is focused on more than the macro, there is an awareness that a nutrient dense, whole food diet has benefits. These benefits are often glossed over in some versions of “flexible dieting” mindset despite their importance like satiety and micronutrient density.

It really depends on what you do with either approach, if you take flexible dieting on with the mindset of “what can I fit in? or what can I get away with?” it’s going to become problematic. On the flip side if “clean eating” is approached more from the mindset of “I can’t have any of these dirty foods” rather than “I should try to include a lot of clean foods in my diet”, it’s going to become problematic.

 

Altug

Recently your review from your masters, “A Systematic Review of Dietary Protein During Caloric Restriction in Resistance Trained Lean Athletes: A Case for Higher Intakes” was accepted and published into medical journals, for which congratulations are in order! What does this mean exactly for my readers who don’t know and how is it decided what gets published into medical journals? (I’m curious too actually!)

Eric

First off, thanks for that Al I appreciate it! And to clarify a bit on how the whole scientific publication process works, essentially anyone can submit a paper for publication. If you have done some research, be it a systematic review of published peer reviewed literature in a specific area, or an actual study done in a laboratory, you can choose a scientific journal and submit it to be considered for publication. I submitted my review, that I wrote in the course of my masters degree, to the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. After what’s called the peer review process, it was accepted. Each journal has a specific scope, and specific guidelines. If your paper meets those guidelines and scope, and the editor assigned to your paper believes it has importance in the field you are publishing in, they will put it through the peer review process. To do so, they select 2-4 reviewers (typically) who are experts in that field (or are supposed to be, finding reviewers is hard), and then the reviewers either recommend that the editor reject the paper, accept the paper, or accept it with revisions. Typically papers get accepted with revisions or rejected, they almost never go straight through. After many rounds of revisions, they get published. That in a nutshell is how the process goes. The process typically takes 3-9 months from when you submit it, to once it gets accepted and put into press.

 

Altug

You recently made a video about another hot topic currently online – “The Natural Bodybuilding Controversy”. While I can safely say it was the most comprehensive and level headed video I’ve ever seen on the topic, it surprised me that you made it. I’m glad you did but why did you feel that now was the right time for making it? I do see a lot of comments on your videos, especially Alberto’s, accusing you guys of “using”. Did these accusations have somewhat of a hand in your decision to make the video in your defence or was it something else?

Eric

Anyone who has developed an impressive physique, naturally or using drugs in the process, will get comments related to drug use. That really wasn’t the impetus for the video, that’s old news, and there will always be folks who will believe what they want and will be vocal about it. I wasn’t trying to change that, If I was foolish enough to think I could change that…well let’s just say you could expect me to make a video about religion, politics, and the Israeli Palestinian conflict next lol.

The debate recently got to the point where I started seeing outlandish, illogical, hurtful and destructive things going on, and I started to take notice. It got to the point where it reminded me of a witch hunt, or a McCarthy era red scare. People were taking it upon themselves to attack people, call them out, and actively spend a lot of time online trying to hurt other people and feel self righteous about it. Furthermore, the evidence required to be a target of these witch hunts was based in subjectivity, hearsay, rumours, and simply repeating opinion and rumors as though they were facts.

In the years I’ve been around the scene, there have always been rumors, accusations, and people on message boards saying “come on, no way he’s not on drugs.” And that’s fine, but when people start repeating anything and everything they hear regardless of logic, evidence or critical thinking and then start raising pitchforks and torches in response…that’s a bit extreme. So, I felt obligated to try and put some logic and factual information out there…I know, a bold move in this debate lol. At the very least it will give information to folks interested in competing so they can decide where they want to compete.
Also, I asked myself the question: “If someone is really passionate about natural bodybuilders being natural and the integrity of the sport, how would they address it?” Certainly the witch hunt is doing nothing positive, in fact I would say it’s making the problem worse. If you can convince enough people that natural bodybuilding is fraught with drugs, that helps people who have a desire to cheat convince themselves it isn’t cheating to take drugs and that everyone else is doing it too. I think the choice of either competing in natural bodybuilding or non tested bodybuilding is the most important tool in ensuring natural bodybuilding has as level of a playing field as possible and that cheating is minimized. But, if people think that choice doesn’t exist, then you have an actual problem with cheating vs just a perceived one. So, in response we decided to do a couple things; support organizations that help make it clear that natural bodybuilders want natural bodybuilding to be natural, like the NAA that asks athletes to voluntarily sign up for random offseason testing, and I put out the informative video so people could make educated decisions and form educated opinions about the sport.

 

Altug

If you could go back to the first day you started bodybuilding, what advice would today’s more experienced Eric Helms give the young, newbie Eric Helms?

Eric

The big one would be have an exit strategy and a plan after your show that isn’t just a list of your 10 favorite restaurants. The struggles I had with binge eating and the unhealthy relationship I had with eating was really tough and it’s something most competitors struggle with at one point or another. That said, if I hadn’t had that struggle, I wouldn’t be able to empathize with and help people as effectively now a days with bodybuilding related disordered eating.

 

Altug

What advice would you give to him from your current life experiences and a “personal growth” perspective?

Eric

Great question…and probably one that is difficult to answer, because I am who I am today because of the successes, failures, mistakes, good decisions, bad decisions and path I took as a younger man. That said, probably one of the biggest things in my life that has helped me in my personal growth is remembering that my life experience is unique, my perspective is unique, and that I see the world and other people through the lens of my own experience. Understanding that everyone is not me, and I am not everyone else, has probably helped me avoid more conflict, make more friendships and help more people than anything else in my life.

 

Altug

If you could change ONE thing about the fitness/bodybuilding industry what would it be?

Eric

The idea that fitness, bodybuilding or health is a game, contest, or problem that you can “win”, “figure out”, or “succeed at”, or that it has some end. I see so many people make decisions with a very urgent mindset, looking only in the very near future to inform the choices they make today. You see it in the marketing, “get 10 inches on your biceps tomorrow!” etc etc etc., and you see it in the mindsets of the way people get duped into quick fix crash diets or extreme training plans.

I always wish people would ask themselves “after I achieve x (could be 10 inches on your biceps by tomorrow or losing 100lbs in 2 days or whatever), then what?”. Are you going to stop training, are you going to be happy, is your life going to be a success? The reality is fitness needs to be a lifestyle and a lifelong pursuit if you want to achieve anything, especially anything like happiness, a meaningful life, success in your career, or success competitively.

Most people who are serious about fitness and especially bodybuilding would feel like they had their soul sucked out if they could magically snap their fingers and achieve the physique and fitness they desired in seconds. Can you imagine not having the joy of figuring out the next training plan, trying to break the next plateau or trying to reach your genetic potential? There is a reason why people climb mountains and run marathons instead of taking a helicopter to the top or driving a car to the finish line and hopping out to jog the last few meters.

So I guess if I could change one thing it would be the flavor of the industry; promoting the joy of having a lifelong goal of bettering yourself vs the urgency of achieving some very specific goal very quickly with minimal time, thought, effort and therefore lasting reward.

Deadliftshelms

Altug

I consider you one of the few go-to guys I trust to give me unbiased and well researched advice about fitness/science, but who do YOU like reading articles/books etc from either online or offline in this industry and why?

Eric

There are a lot of folks who have inspired me to develop my critical thinking and to improve my grasp of the science. I enjoy trying to improve my ability to think, and to learn more information just as I enjoy improving my body. The body and mind aren’t separate entities and we have a lot of plasticity physically, and mentally.

Some of the people who have inspired me to do this, are Alan Aragon, who I think does such a fantastic job of not only staying on top of everything, but also being willing to change his mind, evolve his thinking and not take himself or fitness too seriously. I also have to credit Layne Norton, I wasn’t aware natural bodybuilding existed, nor was I aware that you could even take a scientific approach to the sport until I came across his writing. Lyle McDonald I also think has a great mind for critical thinking and applying information. I really started to realize as I read his stuff that hoarding scientific knowledge is wholly different and so much easier to do than understanding it’s implications, applications, and context. Finally, Dr. Joe Klemczewski I have to pay homage to, as I think he is the progenitor of the modern, evidence based bodybuilding coach by a long shot.

 

Altug

Finally, when it’s all said and done, what would you like Eric Helms to be remembered for?

Eric

I have a lot of things related to my ego that I want to be remembered for lol, like being remembered as the foremost expert on science related to bodybuilding, and being competitive on a pro natural bodybuilding stage while also being a damn good olympic and power lifter.

That said, more importantly than things that make my ego/inner-kid feel acknowledged, accepted, liked, powerful and accomplished, what I TRULY want to be remembered for when I’m honest with myself is being a man of integrity. Not someone who never made mistakes, but at least someone who had the courage to admit them, make them right, and learn from them. I also want to be remembered as someone who tried and hopefully succeeded at making the world a better place; even if just a little bit via the small corner of the human experience I’m passionate about.

 

Altug

Eric, I’d like to thank you so much for an awesome interview – As always, I learned something new and I know that my readers will take away some great info from this which they can apply positively in the gym as well as to their lives.

If you’d like to see more of Eric Helms, you can find him at the various places online listed below :-

Website :- www.3dmusclejourney.com

Facebook Page :- 3DMuscleJourney Facebook Page

YouTube :- http://www.youtube.com/user/Team3DMJ

If you liked this article please LIKE/SHARE with your friends and leave a comment below if you have any questions for Eric! Thank you for reading.

About the Author

Altug KopOn a never-ending journey for improvement, Altug (AL2) is a Pro Fitness Model, Online Aesthetics Coach and 12 Year Qualified Personal Trainer who created this website through a desire to help the confused public with a simple, cutting edge and unbiased source of information to combat the ever bullshitting Fitness industry! My goal is to help as many people as possible gain an aesthetic mind and body while living life to the MAX! Let's focus on the things that matter, NOT the insignificant stuff.View all posts by Altug Kop »

Leave a Reply


Warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/altugk0p/public_html/epicaesthetics.com/wp-content/plugins/premium-list-magnet/plm.php on line 724