Ryan Terry doesn’t let success go to his head. As the only man to have won the Arnold Classic Men’s Physique crown in three different countries (Spain in 2013, the U.S. in 2017, and England in 2021), the popular British bodybuilder is preparing for his seventh competitive Olympia appearance. With busy family life and a tighter schedule than ever before, Terry is returning to his roots for his meal prep and diet to his workouts and training schedule.
BarBend spoke with Terry to gain insight into various topics related to the sport, his off-season, what’s in his gym bag, and to learn more about what going “back to basics” really means for him.
Editor’s note: Ryan Terry’s quotes have been lightly edited for readability.
Ryan Terry on Men’s Physique
Terry was 14 years old when he took an interest in bodybuilding. However, the four-sport athlete (gymnastics, football, swimming, golf) couldn’t see himself bulking up to the heavyweight level.
“My kind-of stepdad, at the time, he was Mr. Great Britain in the Super Heavy,” Terry says. “I was always inspired by how they trained and their determination and willpower. But I never aspired to look like that. I always wanted an aesthetic, athletic look. I wanted to have that goal like the bodybuilders had and that willpower in the gym, to push myself, but simultaneously keep up with sports.”
As Terry hit the age of 20, the Men’s Physique division (one of five men’s divisions in the IFBB Pro League) was gaining attention. It seemed like a perfect fit as he was a successful cover model with a shredded beach-body look. The division has come under criticism as the athlete’s legs are covered by board shorts and they aren’t judged on their lower halves.
You were supposed to be that beach-body look. So, a surfer dude essentially…that look on Venice Beach or Bondi Beach…it’s all about the torso and the chest.
Terry takes as much pride in training his lower body as those in any other division.
“As the division has evolved, you can see it’s gotten bigger and bigger. Men are showing their legs more,” he says. “The shorts aren’t as baggy — they’re a lot tighter on the legs, so they show that. Personally, I would look to have them even shorter or trunks or something like that.” Still, Terry appreciates that the board shorts are a unique identifier of the Men’s Physique division.
Ryan Terry’s Off-Season
Terry loves the in-gym grind so much that he is less comfortable when he’s not prepping for a contest. However, he does use his off-season wisely.
“It’s basically trying to increase the calories and grow muscle tissue quality and muscle tissue,” says Terry. “So, it’s always a bit of a downer after a show because I know I’ve got to go into an off-season for three quarters, but it’s a necessity in bodybuilding. If I didn’t do that, I’d be smaller and smaller each year.
“My off-season consists of being consistent, knowing what I’m eating, spending as much quality time with my family as possible, socializing with my friends, and living a normal life. The actual recovery time is important for your body.”
Gym Bag Essentials
Lifting straps are a staple for Terry. He was taught early that grip strength only goes so far.
My grip would always fail before my back. For me to push through my plateaus and get those extra few reps out, I’ve always supported that with some wrap around grips.
Terry also designed and developed his pre-workout called “The IN:AA” in partnership with MyProtein.com. “I wanted a good pre-workout with a thermogenic fat burner in there as well,” says Terry, who values his relationship with MyProtein as it allows him to be hands-on with ingredient selection for his goals.
[Related: The Best Pre Workout Supplements for Muscle Gain, Weight Loss, and More]
Ryan Terry’s Chest & Triceps Workout
While at the gym, Terry is constantly asked for his top tips on becoming a bodybuilder, and he always shares the same advice.
The most important thing is that bodybuilding is not a 12-week thing. It’s a lifestyle; 365 days of the year. You’ve got to live and breathe that lifestyle. It’s not a quick fix, be patient with it.
Below is an example chest and triceps workout that Terry uses in his programming during his off-season.
Rest 90 seconds between each set; rest two minutes between each exercise:
Ryan Terry’s Road to Olympia
Typically, Terry begins his contest preparation four months out from showtime. In 2022, he’s reconnecting with the process on a very personal level.
“If you had asked me [about prep] last year, it was very specific,” Terry shares. “I used to have a team around me. I had a nutritionist and my training partners. But I felt like I’d lost my way because I’d lost the enjoyment of what I did and why.”
“When I started bodybuilding and Men’s Physique, it was all about self-confidence,” he continues. “Getting in the gym and going balls to the wall and not thinking about anything else. As the years have gone on, and obviously with technology, I’ve gotten higher in the ranks. It became the norm to have this big team around me, to overanalyze everything. I started to lose interest. So last year, I made a decision before my last Arnold Classic to get rid of everybody around me — not because they’ve done anything wrong, but to hold myself accountable and go back to how I enjoyed prepping.”
Terry dialed in on his poses to judge himself by looking in the mirror rather than checking arbitrary fat readings.
[My] mind muscle connection [was] better, because I wasn’t [over]thinking. [The 2021 Arnold Classic] was…the best I ever looked on stage. I’m going to try and mimic that at the Olympia.
Married and with a son, who is almost two years old, there are more demands on Terry’s time than ever. Going back to basics gives him a renewed passion to be his best.
“It’s a lot harder and time-consuming, but the results are much better.”
Featured image via @ryanjterry on Instagram