Mr. Olympia Brandon Curry Shared the Training Secrets That Keep Him Jacked at 39

The champion bodybuilder also broke down his workout philosophy, competition outlook, and more.

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At the 2016 Mr. Olympia press conference, host Bob Cicherillo spent time asking many of the competitors questions about the upcoming bodybuilding contest. Near the end, he approached Brandon Curry, who at the time was considered an afterthought. Some fans had even speculated that he should compete in a lighter division because he wasn’t faring very well on the stage with the big boys of the sport.

Fast forward to 2019’s edition of the competition, and Cicherillo and Curry were together again with a microphone. This time, the MC was announcing Curry as the 15th Mr. Olympia. He had also won the Arnold Classic earlier that year, making the Tennessee native only the third man to win both of bodybuilding’s biggest shows in the same season (the other two being muscle legends Ronnie Coleman and Dexter Jackson). Curry hopes to be the first man to capture those titles in the same season twice when he enters both contests again in 2022.

“I had something bigger than me that was allowing me to keep going when I was dealing with those trying times,” Curry said, referring to the support he got from his family and fans, which he credits for pushing him to the pinnacle of his sport. He shared a lot more in a conversation with Men's Health about how he’s achieved the success and why he works so hard to stay on top.

What led you to deciding that you could eventually become Mr, Olympia someday?

I was at the 2006 Mr. Olympia, where Ronnie Coleman was going for his ninth. That would’ve broken Lee Haney’s record of eight wins. I thought I was supposed to be there to see him do it. Being in that room to witness that he actually did not break the record, and with actually no other real reason to be there myself back then, for some reason made me feel like that this was what I was supposed to do. While watching Jay Cutler win that show, I knew in my head that I had to be on that stage, and I believed in my heart that I could be the champion.

Obviously you’ve made that happen, and you’ve been one of the top two bodybuilders on the planet for the last three years. Is it harder climbing to the top or staying there?

Staying at the top has been hard for sure, but it wasn’t as hard as it was climbing up from the bottom. Now that I’m still in the conversation as being the top athlete, staying in this position hasn’t been the same journey as trying to reach this point. So I have to say when it comes to bodybuilding, getting there is harder than staying there.

How would you describe your training philosophy?

My training style is a very connective experience. I came from a background of training for football and performance before I got into bodybuilding. I had to actually learn about training for this by reading what those that came before me did. It was then that I learned that bodybuilding isn’t about strength. I had to learn the value of the techniques of training. It wasn’t about how strong I was or my performance. I went from a “powerbuilding” type style to what I do now by talking to guys like Dexter Jackson, Darrem Charles, and guys that have been in it for a while. They showed me what I do now, which is training for longevity and making the muscle work. Between what I learned in school and experimenting in the gym, I found that targeting the muscles and achieving stimulation was more important than performance or the amount of weight I used.

Do you feel that people training should focus more on form or feeling the muscle working?

A lot of people like to call people out for form online, but what they don’t understand is as bodybuilders we have to focus on performing the motion that creates the most tension for us while minimizing the impact on the joints.

That goes back to training for longevity. If I find that I can achieve muscular tension within a certain range, I’m going to stay in that range. People that want to maximize physique development should find what range of motion does that for them.

Another popular topic of discussion is cardiovascular exercise, specifically high intensity interval cardio versus steady state activity. Which do you believe is best for people wanting to get in great shape?

I believe in whatever will get you results and whichever one you will do consistently. If you enjoy doing steady state cardio, and you’re seeing the results you want, don’t change anything. Conversely, if you like HIIT cardio, then by all means, definitely add in some intervals. I do suggest not doing HIIT year round because like weight training, it can wear you down and beat you up after a while. Don’t be afraid to mix them up as well. I’ve done both in the past, but I’m more of a steady state guy myself.

There are always new people getting into fitness, whether it’s for New Year's resolutions or other personal reasons. How much stock do you place in hiring someone to help people achieve their goals?

It’s an important factor. I don’t think it’s as important as it used to be because of all the places people can get information now, but it’s definitely an advantage to have someone with you that has gym experience to help you when you’re doing something that may not be correct. So it isn’t essential, but it would definitely be beneficial.

Recovery from exercise is obviously important, but many people don’t place as much stock in it as they should. What are your favorite forms of recovery from the rigors of training that you’ve been through in your career?

During my days off, I’m already trying to get as much nutrition in as possible. I also take an intra-workout supplement during my training to help me get a jumpstart on that recovery. I’m getting those essential amino acids in, carbohydrates help me replenish my glycogen, and I want that in my system quickly so I can extend my calorie window after the workout is over. I also want some liquid protein that can be absorbed faster than solid sources. Then, I get a meal after the work in the gym is done.

Do you believe in using other methods such as massage therapy or alternating hot and cold therapy?

When I start feeling really beat up, I do use hot/cold therapy. I use a sub-zero chamber for the cold, and then I get into a sauna for the hot. Going back and forth helps the body get rid of inflammation. Other than that, I do recommend massage therapy once or twice a week, and I also use a device called a NeuX. It provides muscle stimulation, and it can also help get rid of some of the stiffness and aches that I am feeling after a lot of intense training. The most important thing is sleep. Getting that every night is very advantageous, and if needed, take a nap, which I try to do when I’m in Kuwait training for my contests.

There are so many philosophies about nutrition that it could overwhelm folks that are starting out. What do you think they should know about the best food choices to make?

A lot of people talk about these goals that they have, and then when they get asked about what they eat, the only thing they say is that they eat clean. In order to help someone achieve their goals, you have to know more than that alone. You need to actually know your protein, carbs, and fats numbers.

I say that motivation is fleeting. The best replacement for motivation is discipline.

That way, you have tangible things that you can make adjustments to along the way. So, the main thing is actually having a formal plan, and the next thing after that is actually sticking to that plan. If you’re not consistent, then you really don’t have a plan at all.

Do you feel cheat meals or cheat days are worthwhile, or should someone stay locked in from start to finish when it comes to eating for a goal?

That’s another reason why having someone helping [with your training and nutrition plan] can be so important. I leave re-feeds, cheat meals, all of that up to my coaches that I’m working with. If they don’t say to have one, I stick with the plan I’m following. They can be beneficial for helping with the mental part of it, or they can help you gain energy when you’re tired. I believe in them, but having that other person dictate the timing of them can be very valuable.

Another component of your program can be supplementation. What supplements do you think are the most important that people reading this should look into?

The easiest one, and the one that can be the most valuable, is one that helps you build up your protein intake. The one I use is a hydrolyzed whey protein called Big Hydro from my O15 line. It’s easy on digestion, and as soon as you’re done training, you can down it and be on the road to recovery. I mentioned the intra-workout supplement earlier, and that is also very important to have during the workout. Mine is called Intra-Advantage. It helps you keep that intensity throughout the workout. Finally, most people like to use that pre-workout to help them get their energy up and the focus locked in. We have Exalt, which is stimulant based, and it has electrolytes to help get the pump going. It also has organic caffeine and creatine in it. For those that want something non-stim that can help promote endurance, pumps, and focus, we have Expansion. I obviously like my products, but the main three people should look at are protein, intra-workouts, and pre-workouts. Extras could be things like digestive enzymes for digestion and fish oils.

Something else that comes up a lot in discussions is motivation. That conversation increases tenfold around the New Year because of it being considered a fresh start. However, that motivation diminishes and a lot of folks struggle to get past that. What do you feel they should do in those moments?

I say that motivation is fleeting. The best replacement for motivation is discipline. They need to learn how to develop discipline, and then it should become a staple. You can’t ride motivation, but you can practice discipline, and you can apply what you learn to carry you through. There is also the need to have a defined purpose. If you have that and can dwell on that purpose, your chances of success will be much greater. Something else that I would advise is that the purpose should be selfless. It’s better to be doing things for the purpose of benefiting others. Having a reason outside of yourself is always going to be a good thing.

Aside from that supplement line, you’re also involved with a luggage company, you’ve started your own podcast with your wife, Brandy, and you have other endorsement deals. How do you approach business opportunities?

I’m usually open-minded when something comes up, and I believe that business is about networking. You have to put yourself in a position to do that. You have to treat people the way you want to be treated. Also, it has to be something I’m actually interested in. I have to believe in it before I go in with it. The people I’m working with have to be good people, and they have to be ready to get things done. I have my hands in a lot of things, and I actually want to be active and help with those things. My wife is my number one go-to when it comes to ideas and getting information. If we both agree it’s worth our time and investing into, we attack it head on. We’re actually working on another product coming out later in 2022 called Aloha-O, which is a bodybuilding water. The main thing is that we need to be working with good people that bring a lot to the table, and that we have to put things out that I can get behind. I’m not really that business savvy. I’ve just been presented with the right opportunities, and I’d been a fool if I didn’t take advantage and give it all I got.

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Unfortunately, there are some people who don’t have the best inner circle, or they have people that doubt their abilities to succeed. What advice would you share with those folks that are trying to achieve personal greatness, but are faced with negative surroundings?

If you can, look for those people that are not only positive, but they can help contribute in some way. What can they provide, what are their assets? Also, ask how you can contribute. How can you serve them as well? How you treat people and the value you can provide is a big deal. You have to be able to represent yourself well and provide your own value. You got to be honest with yourself and what you can provide. That and being around people that are willing to do the same can take you a long way. At the end of the day, everybody being a team player is what it’s all about—personally and professionally.

You’re an athlete, entrepreneur, and a family man. How important is it to have a balanced life?

Actually, it’s not really about balance. If you chase balance, you don’t catch anything. The real goal should be to seize the moments. Take it one moment at a time, one day at a time, whether it’s a family moment, competition moment, or business opportunity. I also take everything that comes my way, good or bad, as something that I can take out of it. That even applies to the bad situations. It may not be ideal, but what am I going to learn and take from this? I look at things one at a time like that instead of trying to juggle and chase balance. Nothing is going to be perfect. There is no textbook way of going about it. That’s how I look at it at the end of the day.

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