For those of you who don't know who Toney Freeman is, let me give you a little background. Coming out of nowhere at the 2002 Nationals, Toney easily won the Super-heavyweight and Overall title, beating out top amateurs like Dave Palumbo and Mat Duvall. At a height of 6'2", Toney won the show at a bodyweight of only 250 lbs! Kinda scrawny for a guy who's 6'2", huh? Perhaps, until one realizes that Toney competed at that show with a 30" waist.
Now, as Toney Freeman prepares to battle it out in the pro ranks, he's got a new attitude, a new Coach, and a massive physique. You're now dealing with a man who has the potential to reach the pinnacle of success in bodybuilding, the ONLY pro competing who has the ability to carry insane amounts of mass while maintaining an aesthetic that is second to none.
I met with Toney in his hotel room in Columbus, Ohio which is where some of the pictures in this interview were taken. You can get a true idea of his awesome size by viewing the last picture in this interview of Toney standing next to his coach, the 5'9", 250 lb Author L. Rea. At 285 lbs and still growing as he prepares for his pro debut, Toney Freeman is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
Jason Meuller: Toney, when were you born?
Toney Freeman: August 30, 1966.
JM: What's your current height and bodyweight?
TF: I'm 6'2" and weighing in at about 283 right now.
JM: What's your competitive history? It's my understanding that you took from 1995 to 2000 off?
TF: Yes, I took quite a bit of time off. Prior to my break, I won the '93 Junior Nationals and placed 6th that year in the Nationals. I was 4th in the Nationals in both '94 and '95, and then didn't make the cut in '96. I took off from that time until 2001, when I did the Nationals and got 8th, and I finally won in 2002.
JM: What was the reason that you took those five years off?
TF: Number one, I tore my pec in '95 nine weeks out from the Nationals, and then after that went through the usual political ups and downs. I subsequently lost my desire to compete, especially with a torn pec. My forte was symmetry and I didn't want to build an unsymmetrical physique by having one unattached pec, so it kind of snowballed from there. I also was suffering from the usual post-contest depression, which was worsened by the fact that I couldn't understand how I went from 4th in '95 to not even making the cut in '96 when I had made significant improvements in my physique, even with a partially torn pec. I didn't really want to deal with competing anymore, I got tired of hearing people tell me to just be patient, it's not your turn.
JM: When you tore your pec, did you immediately have it surgically repaired or did you end up waiting?
TF: No, I didn't get it repaired until September of 2000. None of the orthopedic surgeons I talked to made me feel confident that they could help me. They were all telling me that I would have a huge scar and couldn't promise that the surgery would greatly improve my situation. In 2000, the guy who I trained with who was also my physical therapist introduced me to this orthopedic surgeon who was also a plastic surgeon earlier in his career. This doctor made me feel very comfortable, so we set up a surgery date and he went right in and fixed it.
JM: So when you won the Nationals in 2002, how did it feel to realize that dream of finally turning pro?
TF: It was very overwhelming at first. I didn't realize it had taken me 9 years of competing at that level to win the Nationals, and going into the show, I didn't have any expectations of winning. I just knew for this show I was going to follow my own game plan, I wanted to come in shredded and not worry about being the biggest guy on stage. I didn't believe I had any political pull, and that I would be competing against athletes who were very well known by the judges, so for me it was more of an issue of competing at my personal best. I guess it worked.
JM: You competed at the Nationals at what bodyweight?
TF: I weighed in at 250. I thought I would come in slightly heavier but that's just how it landed. Thursday night at the weigh-in I was 250 lbs and I stayed 250 all the way until Thanksgiving Day.
JM: So you competed at 250 and now you're weighing approximately 283 lbs. Now that you're a pro, at what show are you going to make your professional debut and how do you think you'll place?
TF: I'm doing the Toronto Pro May 24th and the Night of Champions May 31st. I'm 12 weeks out from the Toronto, I'm about 283 and between 4-5% body fat. At the bottom end, you'll see me competing at 275+, it just depends on how things go from now until then. If I continue to make gains like I have and still maintaining this level of body fat, I really can't see me competing at less than 285.
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JM: You follow a pre-contest strategy similar to that of Levrone in that you actually gain weight as your contest date approaches. While most athletes tend to get extremely large in the off-season and then diet down, you follow a different approach. What compels you to follow such an unusual pre-contest strategy?
TF: Number one, I can't stand being bloated, or looking like a bloated-pig. I enjoy my physique, and I try to enjoy my physique year round. Since I don't have any problems both gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time, I just thought this was a more appropriate approach for me. You see so many guys blowing up to 300 lbs or more just for the sake of being able to say they weigh 300 lbs, and in my opinion, nobody really cares.
Bodybuilding is a sport about how you look, not how much you can move the scales. I just want to present the best possible package and maintain not only a healthy look, but my overall health as well. I don't want to overstretch my skin, or overstress my organs. This sport is supposed to be about looking and being healthy, and if you only present that onstage, you're doing yourself a huge injustice.
JM: Do you feel that most pro bodybuilders are not concerned about their health and only really care about how they look onstage?
TF: A lot of people have that "win at all costs" attitude, and I'm not saying that I don't. I think to win a pro card in this sport, you have to take some risks. But there's also the reality of being 60-80 lbs overweight in the off-season, the constant fluctuation of weight has to be extremely unhealthy and uncomfortable. It doesn't look good. If your arms are 22 inches when you weigh 300 lbs and then you diet down and their 19.5", what have you accomplished? My arms are close to 22 inches now at 4% body fat, and I always know that I can be ready for a show within a matter of weeks.
JM: Do you think it's a matter of genetics that allows you to stay this lean in the off-season and utilize such a different approach to your pre-contest preparation?
TF: No, I think it's entirely an issue of self-control. Hey, I could sit there and pig out and gorge myself just like many of these other guys, but I choose not to because I don't like the way it looks. I'm admittedly a very vain person on the inside, I try not to show it too much outwardly, but I like to look at myself. I don't want to have to cover up everything that I've worked so hard for! That's the primary reason why I prepare for shows in the fashion in which I do. When you walk around at 285 at 4% and you're still 3 months away from a show, that blows people's minds. I get off on that. I don't know how much my genetic ability plays into that, a lot of people say I'm a genetic freak, but they don't realize that I started this sport at 160 lbs at the same height I am now. I don't chalk my success up to being a genetic freak, I just think that if you do something consistently for 10, 12, 15 years, you're supposed to be good at it.
I've learned my body over the years. Earlier in my career, I was labeled as being lazy. I didn't have to worry about working out or taking drugs year round and I could still have an impressive physique. But I think that people who never take a break are miserable and there's more to life than carrying around a cooler of food and being a bodybuilder. There's got to be a happy medium, a balance in your life. Now that I'm a pro and make my living from the sport, I'll definitely be more strict, more consistent, a little more of everything, but I still intend to enjoy my life.
JM: Are there any particular athletes in the pro ranks that you view as being competition for you once your physique matures and you begin to realize your full potential?
TF: Down the road, when I'm closer to achieving my full potential, I really don't see anyone out there as competition. I'm not trying to sound cocky or start any crap, but I'm a realist. When you walk out onstage at 6'2", 295 lbs shredded with a 31-32" waist, I don't see anyone in the pro ranks that would be competition for me. Everyone in the pro ranks is shorter than 6' with the exception of Gunter, and everyone has pretty much maxed their potential. By that, I mean I don't see any of these guys getting bigger while getting better at the same time. Yes, some of the pros could certainly be bigger, but in doing so, they lose the aesthetic look that gives them an edge in the first place.
I still have at least 25 lbs of contest weight I can add in the next few years, and I plan on competing at 285 this year. In the next couple of years, working with Author L. Rea, I'll be onstage at 300 lbs, shredded. With my small joints, symmetry, and taper, I just don't see anyone being competition. Now there's certainly someone out there, someone we haven't heard of yet, that can probably come in bigger and tighter than I can. But I look at the current crop of pros and just don't see a lot of competition, and I hope that doesn't make me sound cocky. Like I said, I'm a realist.
JM: You are the only guy I see in the pro ranks that has the ability to carry tremendous amounts of size and still retain that aesthetic look. We currently see athletes that seem to do one or the other... either they have an extremely aesthetic physique but aren't that big like Flex or Dexter Jackson, or they're extremely big but lack any aesthetic, guys like Marcus Ruhl or Gunter. Even Ronnie, who seemed to have the ability to do both, has problems with his midsection when he tries to compete at a heavier bodyweight. Given that you've been competing for so long, do you think your methodology of diet, training, and chemistry have played a significant role in your ability to maintain pleasing lines while carrying tremendous mass?
TF: Yes, most definitely. For example, the way I'm doing my chemistry now is not significantly different from the way I did it in the past in terms of substances, but the way in which I take it is radically different. I firmly believe now that it's not necessarily what you take, but the fashion in which you take it.
It's also important to stay in tune with your body and formulate a program that is based around your specific abilities. The reason why I tore my pec is because I was following someone else's workout and I was also chasing what was currently popular which was size. If I had stuck to a program that was more conducive to my abilities, I'm sure I would have avoided that injury altogether. But this sport is so subjective, and I felt that I was being judged not only on my physique, but a lot of other things that shouldn't matter onstage. I'd like to see bodybuilding develop where athletes are judged solely on the package they put forth in any particular contest, and not judged by things they have or haven't done in the past. There's a look, a mystique, a certain way that you carry yourself that the judges can't deny you, and that's what I'm going for right now. I'm shooting for that ultimate look, carrying humongous, freaky mass, but still pleasing to the eye, and still able to present your package well onstage. I see a lot of guys that fall short in this area, they look good but they don't know how to present it, or they have good presentation but are always slightly off.
Every time I hit the stage, I plan on presenting a package that is a result of dotting all my I's and crossing all my T's. That way I cannot be denied, and I'll be very successful.
JM: Was it when you tore your pec that you realized you needed to follow your own course and you couldn't play someone else's game?
TF: That was a turning point for me. Until that happened, I felt invincible, I felt like Superman. At the time, Dorian Yates was Mr. Olympia and I was doing one of his chest workouts. I'll be damned if that wasn't what caused me to tear my pec. It was an incredible workout, one of the best chest workouts I had ever done, but it wasn't for me. It either worked too well, or my body wasn't ready for that kind of shock. I fell into the trap of following a path that was fine for someone else, but it wasn't for me. After that I realized that I had to listen to my body, and do what was right for me, not for someone else. The things that work for someone else are not necessarily going to work for you, and part of being a successful bodybuilder is finding that combination that works for you.
JM: I know you're being coached by Author L. Rea. How is it that you came into with Mr. Rea and what kind of impact do you feel his coaching has had on your physique?
TF: It was kind of a fluke that we actually met, perhaps it was fate. Of course I do a lot of research and studying, and consider myself a very open-minded individual. I ended up reading one of his articles on Meso-Rx and it really intrigued me, so I ended up emailing him. I guess my email intrigued him, and he emailed me back. I ended up sending a couple of pictures, and we just hit it off really well. The thing that impressed me most about him is that before he would even agree to take me on as a client, he had certain requirements of me. I thought that was totally impressive, because so many self-proclaimed "gurus" will just sit you down and make up a program for you and tell you to follow it. They don't take the time to review your blood work, to review what you've done in the past to get you to the place you're now at, they just hand you a program and expect you to follow it.
I was just very impressed by how he approached the entire situation, he's very professional, he cares about my health, he's a family man, and I had a great deal of respect for him immediately. We have our mutual interests at heart and I know we're going to be successful as a result.
JM: You mentioned that he had requirements before he worked with you and this is what really impressed you. What kind of requirement did he have?
TF: He needed to know what I had done for the past year as far as diet, supplementation, training, and pharmacology. I also had to have blood work done. Stuff like that. I've never met anyone else in the sport that's like this, they feel like they're the guru and they want you to follow the same protocol all of their other athletes are following. I don't see these guys attempting to customize programs to an athlete's specific needs. Of course, this is just my opinion, I haven't worked with everyone in the sport. But I do know what a lot of guys are on, and I know what their programs consist of and I just don't see their programs being tailored specifically for them, both inside and out. Coach (Author L. Rea) has ways of altering your genetics by looking at you and carefully studying your blood-work... I've never seen anything like it.
JM: Without giving away any trade secrets, what are some of the changes you've instituted since being coached by Mr. Rea that you feel have been crucial to some of the amazing changes you've seen in your physique?
TF: Coach calls me a "protein synthesis machine." One of the main things we're doing right now is taking advantage of that by changing my diet to consist of high protein, moderate fats, and low carbs. Before I used to eat a tremendous amount of carbohydrates, between 400-600 g of carbs every day. Right now I'm eating about 200 g and I can barely do that. The other thing we do is utilize short protocols, about 28 days at a time with a short break before beginning another 28 day cycle. Before I was just doing 8, 12, 16 week cycles straight through, but I'm getting much better gains this way. He's showed me so many different things as far training, ways to stimulate muscle fibers I hadn't been stimulating over the years. That's why my back, arms, calves, and chest have improved so much. Just little tiny tricks that I can utilize in my training that I've never seen or heard of before that are proving enormously effective. It's really awesome.
JM: I know you're not currently contracted with any supplement company, so you can answer this question without bias. Do you use any OTC supplements and if so, why?
TF: Throughout my career I've stuck with the basics, branched-chain amino acids, glutamine, whey protein, stuff like that. As far name brands go, if I had to pick one company I'd go with VPX. I use their meal replacement, their Plasma Expandor, and a few of their other products. The number one reason for that is when they first hit the market, I went out and bought their products. I'm the kind of guy who likes to try all the new stuff, so I purchased some of their Paradeca and Decavar. I gained 18 lbs of muscle by using these two products, I can tell you that I was shocked. They really had a drug-like effect. Usually when you take supplements, you can't really tell if it's working or not, but everything I've ever taken made by VPX has an immediate effect.
JM: In wrapping this up Toney, is their anything you'd like to say to the people out there reading this?
TF: Basically, focus on yourself and train within your own abilities. Always seek knowledge, never think you know it all because I guarantee there is someone out there far more knowledgeable than you. Train hard and stay focused, really focusing is what it is all about. So many people have the genetics and the work ethic needed to be successful in this sport but they fail to keep their eyes on the prize and they lose the focus that is necessary to win.
I know I just turned pro and probably a lot of people out there don't even know who I am, but they will soon. I've got a website being built that should be up shortly, if people are interested they can go to ToneyFreeman.com and sign up to be notified when the site is complete. I'll be interacting directly with the people who come to my site and plan on updating it on a regular basis, so it will be a great place for people to learn from a pro without all the hype.