Skip Lacour has been a leader in natural bodybuilding for more than two decades. Now an entrepreneur and a much-sought after peak performance, leadership and success coach, Skip will always be remembered by we naturals as a legend in drug-free bodybuilding who not only drove himself to massive success in the sport, but selflessly helped others succeed through his prolific motivational writing and speaking. For years, he has inspired and empowered all kinds of people - from bodybuilders to executives - to realize their personal potential.
Skip’s success was a huge motivator for me in the 1990’s and early 2000’s when I watched him climb to the top of the sport and it was a real honor to finally meet him recently in California after being a fan for so many years. I’m thrilled that he agreed to this detailed interview that shows you what it really takes to be a champion in bodybuilding, and how anyone can become more successful in any area of life, not just by working harder, but also by raising your standards and developing the mindset for success.
- Tom Venuto.
Tom: Skip, it’s a real honor to have this opportunity to speak with you because I’m sure I’m not the only person who considers you a legend in natural bodybuilding. You’re a Musclemania champion, Mr. California, 6-time heavyweight national champion, a two time overall winner of the Team Universe title, which many people consider the pinnacle of natural bodybuilding, you’re a bodybuilding magazine writer, a magazine cover man and a leader in bodybuilding education - as well as in personal success coaching. I’ve been reading your magazine articles and buying your courses and videos since the 1990’s and I’ve been in the audience and watched you up onstage more than once at the Team U in New York. So I just want to open by saying thank you for inspiring me and thousands of other natural bodybuilders for all these years.
Skip: Thank you, Tom. I really appreciate your kind words.
As I look back now, I can see more clearly just how active I’ve been for so many years. When I was going through my journey, however, it was just a day-to-day process that stacked up over time. It was one workout; one meal; one contest; answering one email; conducting one coaching session; writing one book; and producing one DVD or audio seminar course at a time. All of those accomplishments accumulated over time even make me stop and take notice from time to time.
It’s a real honor for me to have this opportunity to speak with you too, Tom. I’ve noticed your huge presence through the years in bodybuilding, general fitness information, and over the internet. Your name would even come up from time to time among the regular people who attended personal development seminars. You’ve had a tremendous impact on so many people. You’ve proven yourself to be an outstanding leader by communicating your message to the mainstream masses, as well, as the more “hardcore” fitness market. Congratulations on all of your success.
Tom: Thanks Skip. Let me start by going back at least a decade, when I bought your “Skip LaCour Daily Training Journal.” That manual walked your readers day by day through the pre-contest life of a champion bodybuilder and that’s when I first fully really realized that the level of dedication and discipline you put into your craft when you were competing was nothing short of other-worldly. Could you explain to us why you took things so seriously and why you were always striving for 100% effort and perfect compliance??
Skip: Just like a lot of people, I grew up as a little boy always wanting to be great at something in life. When I was younger, I put my focus and effort into being a great athlete. I remember one day back in the fifth grade when I practiced signing my autograph over and over again. That was the day I created the unique “S” that’s in my signature today.
I’ve done many things in my life but, when I stumbled into bodybuilding I immediately knew it was that one thing in life I was going to be great at. The way I approached bodybuilding was very hard work that required a lot of sacrifice - but I loved every minute of it. These days, I sometimes ask myself “How else could a person have done something so long at such a high level unless they absolutely loved it?”
The “next level” for my bodybuilding efforts came when I decided to quit my regular, secure job of 15 years to pursue being a full-time bodybuilder. I set out to be much, much more than just a bodybuilder. My plan was a to be a world leader by example, teacher through information products, competitor, and supplement company spokesperson. I “burned the boats”, so to speak, and left myself no other option other than to succeed.
Everything that I had learned during my years studying personal development, peak performance, and motivation, I applied to becoming successful at my bodybuilding, training, and coaching efforts.
Bodybuilding and teaching others became my identity, passion, career, hobby, and obsession.
When a person makes a big decision like that, blocks himself in with no other options, and totally commits their lifestyle to it, they will eventually be successful at some level. There’s no doubt about that.
Tom: Could you give us some contrast now by describing what you think is the difference between the type of effort that must go into building a championship level physique and the type of effort someone needs to simply lose some weight, get healthier and look fitter? I think that understanding this distinction would be very valuable to people with both types of goals — serious bodybuilding and general fitness.
Skip: When it comes to earning the healthy and attractive body that you want, your success will be determined by your training, eating, mindset, and lifestyle organizational habits.
Those components are the same for both men and women. Those components are the same if you’re young, old, or somewhere in between. And, those components are the same if you are just trying to be healthy and get into good shape—or a competitive bodybuilder striving to win national-level bodybuilding contests.
These physical, mental, emotional, and psychological factors for success are the same for everyone trying to execute those factors—no matter how different their ultimate goals may be. Talent, ability, determination, focus, organization, mental and emotional flexibility, resilience, and enthusiasm are just some of those factors that a person must use enough of to reach their goals.
No matter what your goals are, a person will need to obtain and utilize all of the same resources that everyone else has available to them to achieve success. Examples of these resources are time, energy, people to support and help them, and money (to afford food, supplements, a gym membership, and expert coaching).
So, no matter what a person’s goals are, they need to manage their habits and resources in order to reach those goals.
Here’s what separates a champion bodybuilder from a person who simply wants to lose some weight and be more fit: It’s their “standards” or how good “good enough” is when they are pursuing their goals.
A person who wants to become a billionaire must live his life at much different standards than the person who is satisfied with making $100,000.00 a year. Heck, he must even live his life at much different standards than that of a millionaire. Whether you make $100,000.00 a year, one million dollars, or one billion dollars, you can still be a “good person” who “works hard”. But, it’s your standards in so many obvious and not-so-obvious areas of your life that will determine your level of success.
When it comes to person’s fitness goals, the standards that they establish and execute on a consistent basis in each of the many components of physical development will make the difference their level of success.
The higher the goal you hope to achieve with your health and body, the higher the standards you must establish and execute. And, you must do so for a longer period of time.
Tom: I’ve noticed a “dumbing down” of nutrition and training advice in the fitness industry lately, where instead of telling their clients to raise their standards, push themselves harder and become more disciplined, many trainers are saying, “stop taking it all so seriously, don’t worry about eating so clean all the time, and stop being so neurotic over the details.” Is this going in the wrong direction or is this a positive move to help the average Joe be realistic and keep life in balance?
Skip: I’ve noticed that too! I’ve thought about this a lot. I attribute this to one of two things: One is the “I want it now with as little work as humanly possible mentality” that’s gone overboard in our quick fix, short attention span culture. And, the other is the explosion of the interent creating an explosion of experts and gurus into fitness information market. Before, all you had were books in the bookstore and infomercials on late night television.
I believe some of the “dumbing down” is an honest attempt by some experts to teach the most efficient ways to reach your goals—while being just as effective. Look, I certainly understand the value of efficiency. There’s no need to train for three hours a day in the gym if you can get the same or better results in just one hour. There’s no need to cut out the spices and condiments from your food because you mistakenly believe that suffering through a meal with no taste at all will get you into better shape faster.
With all of that being said, there are only so many things you can get away with doing and without doing - and still “look good.” If you are going to lower your standards, you are more than likely going to need to lower your expectations too. You can’t lower your standards -and still expect outstanding results.
I think that mental approach is dangerous. It like a new employee approaching his boss and asking, “I’m committed to becoming the highest-paid employee in this company as soon as possible. Can you tell me what is the LEAST amount of work I can get away for the MOST amount of money?”
I understand where that employee may be coming from but, with so many mental and emotional factors that contribute to a person’s success, that’s not a good attitude. You should be WILLING to do whatever it takes to succeed—but the get right coaching and instruction so you won’t NEED TO.
The explosion of the internet has made more and more fitness experts and gurus available. The threshold of what it takes to get your message out to the masses has been lowered significantly. Years ago, you had better be committed to your profession if you wanted to be successful. There was a lot of time, energy, and money you had to risk to get into business, have your book printed, or have an infomercial on television. Heck, now you can have a nice web site to sell an ebook and support it with YouTube video in a matter of day. All for a cost of less than $100.
I believe some of these experts and gurus sincerely believe that you only need to do so much to “look good”. Those experts believe that their methods are effective while being intelligent and efficient. But, what they don’t make clear is what is their exact definition of “looking good”. Does the expert make that clear to his potential student? Does that expert even know himself?
A fat person who has been inactive most of their life can dramatically improve their level of health and fitness eating just twice a day. I agree that a person can reach a certain level of success using that eating theory—especially in the short-term. If that person thinks they are going to become a national champion drug-free bodybuilder using that approach, they are going to be sadly mistaken. And, the challenge is not going to be because of their inferior genetics or because “everyone else” uses illegal drugs and they don’t.
I believe some fitness experts are simply exploiting many people’s quick-fix mentality. These fitness “marketers” understand that, a lot of the time, if a person just takes any action at all they’ll make improvements. So, if that’s the case, make it as easy for them as possible. Hell, if they’re that lazy they more than likely won’t even read the ebook they bought. If they don’t like the ebook and want a refund (which the marketers are betting they won’t take the time to do either), it didn’t really cost them much to deliver the product anyway. All-in-all, it’s a good gamble on the part of the unscrupulous fitness “marketer”.
When I think about it, there’s one other category of fitness experts. Those are the ones who are extremely ego driven. Sure, they are giving you information but their number one motivation is being important. Experts like these just try to be different for the sake of being different. This should come off loud and clear when most of their material discusses just how great they are. I certainly understand the need to establish yourself as an authority with a certain level of credibility but, after so much of that, the focus should be on how to help the student reach their goals.
Tom: The first course I ever bought from you was a book called THINKING BIG and it was about the mindset and psychology required to be a champion bodybuilder. You actually built a major portion of your career around the mental aspects of bodybuilding. What made you go that route and what was the outcome in terms of client results and your own results?
Skip: I realized very early in my bodybuilding and training journey that a person’s level of success was not solely determined by the training strategy or nutritional program they adopted. All you need to do is look around and see all the people with great bodies using different strategies.
I also chose to believe that great genetics or physique-enhancing drugs were not the determining factors in a person’s level of success either. All you need to do is look around and see people with great genetics who squander their opportunity to be truly outstanding. All you need to do is look around and see all the men who are taking drugs and look terrible.
Now, I want to emphasize that I used the phrase “chose to believe” for a specific reason. I realize that many people who struggle with their health and fitness efforts tend to “choose to believe” just the opposite. They believe that people with great bodies are simply more genetically gifted that they are and/or use physique-enhancing drugs. That choice they’ve made is having a tremendous impact on how well and how consistently they execute all of those physical, mental, emotional, and psychological factors for success I previously mentioned—whether they realize it or not.
I’m not implying that a person doesn’t have genetic limitations. I’m not implying that physique-enhancing drugs don’t help those who use them. What I am stating is that jumping to those conclusions before you have exhausted all of the resources that are available to you will prevent you from becoming the best YOU can be.
I built my teaching and coaching career around the mental aspects because that’s what I 100 percent believe makes the biggest difference in a person’s level of success.
Tom: Honestly, was it ever tough to sell bodybuilders on the mind in bodybuilding concept in a sport where everyone seems more concerned about which supplements to take and what’s the latest bicep building strategy?”
Skip: I’m not sure if I ever thought about how tough it was because I had such strong beliefs about what would help my students the most effectively. Maybe I was just too naive to notice any resistance.
To be an effective leader, I refer to the famous line in the movie Field of Dreams that starred Kevin Costner: “If you build it, they will come.”
I just teach people what I believe in 100 percent. The people who are inspired come and I never hear from the people who I don’t because they are perusing the philosophies that suit them best.
I recently watched an online seminar with six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates. For an hour straight, he was asked specific training and a couple of eating and supplement questions. I was thinking to myself, “Guys! You have this incredibly accomplished person with such an amazingly determined mindset—and you’re using this rare opportunity to ask him which one is better: curls with a straight bar or curls with a EZ-Curl bar?”
Tom: Skip, you talked earlier about the importance of raising your standards and you’ve actually been writing about that for years. That’s a concept I first heard from Tony Robbins, but I think it was you who really made that idea click for me because you applied it to bodybuilding and I could understand and relate to that because you put it in a specific context. Could you explain for our readers what you mean by “raise your standards” and why you believe that’s so important in bodybuilding?
Skip: Sure. Put simply, it’s asking yourself if demanding a little more of yourself in each and every one of all the different aspects of bodybuilding and training could help you reach your goals.
If you only have only five “cheat meals” a week and you aren’t quite as lean as you’d like, ask yourself if cutting them back to only two a week will get you closer to your goals. If you are eating three meals a day and you are not building as much muscle as you’d like as quickly as you’d like, ask yourself if eating five meals a day will be more effective. If you are not able to make the time to eat all the good, clean, healthy meals that you intend to eat every day, ask yourself if getting up in the morning 30 minutes earlier will help solve that challenge.
In the gym, at least ask yourself if lifting “five more pounds”; concentrating on your form and execution just a little more, or limiting your talking to either before or after your session to improve your concentration will lead to better results. Instead of just going through the motions and being satisfied just because you finished your 20 minutes of scheduled cardiovascular training, you push yourself harder and make sure your heart rate is at a certain number throughout the entire session.
I can go on and on with hundreds more specific examples, but I’m sure everyone gets the point.
People who excel at the highest levels have incredible standards - even if they don’t even realize it. I look at what the majority of my Facebook friends are doing and I see they are constantly taking pictures of themselves in the bathroom mirror, taking pictures of their meals, taking pictures of their stocked up refrigerators, posting what they are going to train later that day, and a report back on how that workout went, and more. It’s no mystery why they have amazing bodies compared to the general public who rarely even think about these things—let alone take the time to post it on Facebook. A lot of time these people themselves don’t realize just how much attention they pay to their standards.
Tom: What do you do to protect your self confidence in a sport where the standards ARE so high and where there’s also so much negativity and destructive criticism?
Skip: My 100 percent belief in who I am, what I’m all about, and the message I share with others protects my self-confidence. I understand that people are entitled to their opinions and, at the end of the day, it not about me. I either am or I am not the person who inspires or educates them in way that appeals to them most. As I always say, “There are some flavors of ice cream I like and some I don’t. The flavors of ice cream that I don’t like shouldn’t take it personally.”
All of that AND having enough time and experience dealing with negativity and destructive criticism. I’ve been in this business and in the public eye for over 20 years. You get used to it. You get better at handling it. If I wasn’t able to handle the negativity and destructive criticism, I would have been gone a long time ago. There hasn’t been some sort of criticism that I haven’t heard at least a couple of dozen times in the past. I think after the fifth or sixth time I heard it, I gained the mental and emotional perspective I needed to carry on.
Tom: What advice would you give to our readers about the importance of consistency and persistence in the development of muscle mass and overall bodybuilding success?
Skip: You must always have a “big picture” of what you ultimately want to accomplish with your body.
With that being said, you must realize that your “big picture” is nothing more than knocking down your “daily disciplines”, as I call them, every single day. One weight training session at a time - that consists of one exercise; that has one set; that has one repetition at a time. One cardiovascular training session—that consist of one minute at a time; that has so many hard strokes at a time during that minute. One great meal at a time leads to success. Doing all these things for one day; one week; one month; for several months; for a year; and for several years is what’s going to lead to great results. And, when you consistently knock out your “daily disciplines” you are going to ENJOY the process a lot more. Oftentimes, your level of enjoyment during your journey can supersede you actual results - and you feel like you are winning.
To Be continued in Part 2
Websites and contact info from Skip:
SkipLaCour.com for bodybuilding and training information.
www.MassMachineNutrition.com for Skip La Cour’s Mass Machine Nutrition sports nutrition and bodybuilding supplement line.
www.MANformation.com for Alpha Male Leadership Strategies.
Disclosure: Tom Venuto and Bodybuilding secrets have no affiliation with Skip La Cour Mass Machine nutrition supplements
Published on 15 September, 2011