Yet another week down, and another great competition! This week, thanks to a massive 316 votes, Darren Hoff secured himself 1st place, and of course the prizes courtesy of Goldstar Supplements and Smartshake! Physique Of The Week’s Craig Abbott caught up with Darren to talk to him about his training and his plans for the future!
Craig: Hey Darren, first thing is first, well done on winning Physique Of The Week! You won what was our most popular week so far! 316 Votes! That is pretty impressive! So can you tell us, how long have you been training, and what inspired you to originally start training?
Darren: I have been training for just under four years. At the beginning of 2008, just after I turned 18, a new fitness facility was built at my school, and students over 16 could use the fitness suite for free. It was pretty basic, but as soon as it opened I got myself in there and started lifting weights every weekday after school. I had always been very sporty growing up, but was also very skinny. Having a brand new gym built at my school gave me the drive to try and improve my physique. Training became a natural antidote to feeding my inherently competitive nature.
After a couple of months, I became good friends with the gym manager and he gave me some guidance and taught me the importance of heavy compounds and practicing good form. A few months later, he offered me a part time job at the fitness centre, and my knowledge of training and nutrition really developed.
I continued to train through university, constantly researching and seeking advice from other people at my gym, until a nasty injury in Summer 2010 kept me away from any kind of physical activity for a few months.
Craig: Oh, am I allowed to ask you what happened? I cringe when I hear people talk of injuries! It’s got to be everyone’s worst nightmare!
Darren: Yeah that’s fine (laughs). I actually severed two ligaments in my left ankle. I was on crutches and couldn’t walk for two months. Funnily enough I did it doing pull ups in my old university house! The bar was over our stairs, and one evening when I was doing pull ups it broke! I fell a couple of feet and landed awkwardly on a step. I didn’t train for four months, as well as letting my diet slip dramatically. When I returned from a holiday and saw some of the photographs, I was horrified to see how much I’d let myself go in that time.
Craig: Ouch, that sounds horrendous! I know what you mean about the photographs though, sometimes it just creeps up on you doesn’t it! You think you’re getting away with it, then one day it just hits you how much you have slipped!
Darren: Yeah totally! From then, I vowed to take my training up to the next level; lifting 5-6 days a week with real intensity, and sticking to a consistently clean diet. I trained hard, ate well, and was constantly striving for improvement. I was no longer “just going to the gym” – I was driven, focused, and had clear goals in sight to improve my physique as much as I could. Fast forward just over a year and here I am today!
Craig: Awesome! It’s inspiring to see such drive. It often rubs off on other people! You make me want to just go to the gym right now! (laughs)
So what made you apply for physique of the week?
Darren: Well, I actually found out about the competition through two friends of mine, Jordan Leader and Alex Carmichael. They were involved in previous weeks. Both of them did really well, and the competition seemed like a great opportunity to market myself and network with other like-minded people with a penchant for fitness. On top of that, the prospect of potentially winning some free supplements was too good to ignore!
Craig: Ah yeah, Jordan was unlucky, Paula only just pipped him to the top spot! Alex won, so obviously did really well too! You seem to be winning a few things lately, I saw you were picked by Imogen Thomas to win ITV’s Hunks In Trunks competition. Was that one of your biggest achievements or did you enter for fun?
Darren: Initially, it was definitely the latter. I made an extremely facetious application for ITV’s ‘Hunks in Trunks’ as a bit of a joke after reading about it on the Misc, a bodybuilding sub-forum that I post in. Next thing I know I’m heading down to Bournemouth to appear on TV for the regional competition, and then a week later I’m being flown out to Marbella for the live final! Although I still consider it as a bit of fun, I did feel quite privileged to have been picked as the winner, and I guess that it makes for a funny story to tell friends and family in the future! I also got a free holiday out of it and got to party with television crew and celebrities for a couple of nights so can’t really complain!
Craig: Sounds awesome! Bet it would annoy a lot of their serious contestants if they knew the guy who won it, only did it for a bit of a laugh! (laughs).
So, with Hunks In Trunks and Physique Of The Week under your belt, what are your plans for the future?
Darren: I would really like to forge a career in the fitness industry at some point in the future. Keeping fit and staying in shape is a passion of mine, but at present it is nothing more than a really great hobby. I adore the fitness lifestyle as a whole, and would love it to be something of a career and livelihood in the future. I have done a few interviews on fitness websites now, and the next step is to try and get sponsored by a company. At the moment I’m happy to keep striving to improve my physique and expand my knowledge of training and nutrition, and hopefully bigger things may be around the corner!
Craig: Yeah, well I think you are doing a great job of showcasing yourself at the moment! The more people talk the more people notice! You’re obviously in great shape, could you tell us what your typical diet is like?
Darren: I tend to follow a clean, high protein diet, with a moderate carbohydrate and fat intake. My maintenance is about 3000kcals a day. I’m not really a fan of bulking hard, adding a lot of fat and then cutting down later in the year. I like to stay relatively lean year-round, due to my vanity! (laughs). But if I do feel like adding a bit of size I will eat at around 300-500kcals above maintenance, and likewise if I feel like cutting a bit of fat I will eat at around 300-500kcals below my maintenance.
Craig: Sounds strict! Do you ever cheat?
Darren: I usually eat clean most of the time, but I do afford myself 2-3 ‘cheat’ meals a week, and drink alcohol around once a fortnight to keep my sanity. This allows me to let go and enjoy myself a couple of times a week, and reminds me that you shouldn’t obsess too much and live your life based around your training, provided that you are eating well most of the time. I tend to eat clean for 5-6 consecutive days, and then have my ‘cheat’ meals all in one day, as a way of getting any cravings for junk food out of my system. A typical cheat day usually involves me eating almost everything in sight – pizza, chocolate, ice cream, bread, soft drinks etc. I really go all out and it gives me something to look forward after a week of strict dieting!
Craig: Cool, I think it is good for our readers to know that you can still let your hair down once in a while and maintain a great physique!
Although my diet does vary and I like to experiment with my meals, So my daily diet might look something like:
Meal 1 – Porridge Oats with a Protein Shake
Meal 2 – 200g Chicken Breast, Brown Rice and Mixed Vegetables
Meal 3 – Banana and 6 Boiled Eggs (2 Yolks only)
Pre-Workout – Protein Shake
Post-Workout – Protein Shake
Meal 4 – 200g Salmon Fillet, Brown Rice and Mixed Vegetables
Meal 5 – 300g Cottage Cheese and Chives or Omelette with 6 Eggs
Craig: I love Salmon, It’s not often we see it thrown in there! It’s usually just plain old Tuna! (laughs). So, what is your typical training program like to accompany this diet?
Darren: I train 6 days a week, and lift heavy every workout, mainly staying in the hypertrophy, five to eight rep range, as I feel that I get the best results that way. I also incorporate a lot of drop sets into my workouts, particularly with isolation movements, as I like the intensity and pump that it yields. My workouts are centred around large compound exercises for that particular muscle group, and then these are supplemented with high intensity isolation exercises.
So, generally speaking, I follow a bodybuilder style split, but also dedicate one workout day a week to heavy compound lifts. This gives me a chance to work on my strength and push myself on some of the big weightlifting exercises.
Day 1 – Chest
Day 2 - Back and Core
Day 3 – Compounds (Power Cleans, Bench Press, Squat, Deadlift)
Day 4 – Shoulders
Day 5 - Arms and Core
Day 6 – Legs
One day off and repeat.
Craig: Looks intense! So your diet is spot on, an your training is spot on. Do you use many supplements to aid all of this?
Darren: Yeah, I do take a number of supplements, which I feel are essential to aiding a good training routine and diet, but I try and stick to the basics and only take what I feel is necessary.
My current supplement stack involves whey protein, multi vitamins, vitamin C, fish oil, flaxseed oil, ZMA. I also take caffeine tablets and green tea extract pre-workout.
Craig: So quite a few, but nothing out the ordinary?
What about inspiration? Do you have anybody you look up to?
Darren: The late Aziz ‘Zyzz’ Shavershian was my main inspiration for improving my physique, and in taking my training to new levels after I got injured. He was a popular character within the fitness industry, with a large internet following. Sadly, he passed away in August, but he continues to inspire me in many ways. South African fitness model and bodybuilder Marco Pietrowski is also an idol of mine from a fitness perspective, his physique is incredible.
However, a lot of my inspiration derives from sources closer to home. My training partner Jordan Leader motivates me, to continually strive to improve my physique and training methods. Having friends around you who are equally as driven to achieve their goals, and willing to push you past your comfort zone is invaluable inspiration in itself.
Craig: Yeah I agree Darren, I draw a lot of my inspirations from sources closer to home too! Most of the guys I look up to I can find and talk to every night in Goldstar Gym! Okay, now, I have to ask it… What do you think of our website?
Darren: I think the website is absolutely fantastic! Having a unique weekly competition such as this is a great premise, and I am really excited to see the site continue to develop and grow in the coming months. Having entered Physique Of The Week, I have found that it is a really good way to market yourself and try and get your name out there in the fitness industry, whilst it has given me the opportunity to network with other like minded people and establish some good contacts. To anyone with a serious interest in fitness I would definitely recommend entering the competition!
Craig: Thank you! We always appreciate peoples opinions, especially if they are good ones (laughs).
Okay, so, if you could give our Physique Of The Week readers one piece of advice, what would it be?
Darren: Research, and learn as much about training and nutrition as you can! Peruse helpful and informative websites, ask advice from experienced guys at your gym and always be looking to expand your knowledge of bodybuilding. There is so much to learn and so many different methods of training and nutrition to consider. Obtain as much knowledge as you can and try and find out what works for you, but most importantly, ENJOY YOURSELF. Keeping fit is a really rewarding hobby, so stick at it and have fun with it – It’s supposed to be enjoyable after all!
Craig: Excellent advice Darren! You’ve been great to talk to! Thank you for your time, and congratulations again on winning Physique Of The Week. We wish you all the best for the future!