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Mike Van Wyck
2009 CBBF Canadian National Bodybuilding Championships - Mens Super Heavy & Overall
By: Vince “Fitness Financier” Pe
Mike Van Wyck is one of the largest competitive bodybuilders to ever hit the pro stage! This mammoth competitor is hard at work preparing to make a comeback after a torn pec at the 2011 Olympia Expo. I personally can’t wait to see Big Mike dwarf the competition with his balanced shape on such a massive frame.
MUSCLE INSIDER was fortunate enough to schedule an exclusive interview with Mike to share how he got into bodybuilding, some of his favorite moments in the industry, and some of his fondest memories with his old coach, the late Darren Oliver.
Q. Mike, you’ve been tearing up the Canadian bodybuilding scene for the last few years as one of the biggest and most conditioned athletes out there. What are your some of your upcoming goals with regard to competing?
A. I’m currently setting my sights on the FLEX Pro next year as a tentative return to the stage. As some people know, I’m seven months removed from pec surgery, having torn my pec at the 2011 Mr. Olympia expo doing a demo for my supplement sponsor, Animal. What happened is I went to bench press the 200-pound dumbbells, and my pec wasn’t feeling it that day, and—boom!—I tore it. I’m just letting the competition know that I’m coming back fast.
Q. I hear your love for bodybuilding started at an early age. How old were you, and what was it that sparked your interest in the sport to lead you to where you are today?
A. My interest in bodybuilding, I guess, has been a lifelong thing in a lot of ways. I always watched wrestling as a kid and remember thinking I wanted to be as jacked as some of those guys one day. The Ultimate Warrior and the British Bulldog, Davey Boy Smith, were a couple of key guys that got me started down the path mentally wanting to be a huge guy one day.
It wasn’t until ninth grade that I really got specifically into bodybuilding. In my high school, at that time, we had a very good weight room, and it used to be open really early before school started and during lunch hour. The dude that ran the place went by the name of Eddie, and he looked like Hulk Hogan. Eddie would have all of us read various MuscleMag issues and attempt to teach us how to work out. From then on, I was hooked.
Q. I know you’re a big fan of the greats—Dorian, Ronnie, and Flex. What is it about them that you admire so much?
A. I admire them all for various reasons. I’m a big Dorian fan because of his no-nonsense and basic approach to the sport. That dude just busted his ass and trained hard. I had the opportunity to meet the man and hang out with him, and he is a very down-to-earth person. I was kind of blown away to be hanging out with Mr. O, and it was a real pleasure to get to know him a little.
As for Ronnie, the dude is the word “monster” defined. I always thought that to be that big would be a dream come true, crazy as that sounds. His strength always impressed me as well, and till this day, the only feat of his I’ve matched is pressing 200-pound dumbbells, and that will be the only one I ever reach. I still watch him squat 805 pounds for, I think, a triple, and my mind is blown.
I also admire Flex Wheeler because he was the epitome of what I think a bodybuilder should look like. That cartoon-like muscle fullness and density combined was amazing to look at.
Q. Many people don’t know you were a defensive lineman for the University of Rhode Island. How is football training different than bodybuilding, and what do you love most about it?
A. Football was my passion for years, but I didn’t start playing till eleventh grade, and until that point I actually played rugby. My scholarship to the University of Rhode Island was a huge accomplishment in my life, and I loved my time spent there. I honestly don’t miss football though. Near the end, I was glad to be done with it. My mind was shifting to bodybuilding, and my body really took a beating in college. I tore my ACL and had numerous ankle problems, back issues, and shoulder issues that still plague me today.
Football training, in my case, was all about power and speed. A lot of plyometrics were incorporated too. My repetition ranges never exceeded 12. For sets, it was 3 to 4. It was all about getting that bench, clean, and squat up as high as you could. The best bench I had in college was 605 pounds for one rep. And I have never attempted that again and probably never will.
I enjoyed training for football because of the intense lifting. I also, strangely enough, loved the sprinting. And for a fat guy, I could really move. I know that sight is hard to believe or imagine.
Q. You worked under the late (and great) Darren Oliver. He left us with so many fond memories, and we all miss him terribly. Can you share with us some of your favorite moments or what you learned most from him?
A. For four years, I spent almost every day of my life with Darren. He trained me, and we trained together for a while too. I considered him like a brother to me. Although we grew apart over the years, my memories of him are very fond ones.
The time spent in the gym with Darren was always fun because we constantly challenged each other to find better ways to hit the muscle and train better than everyone as we both truly believed that the style of training directly led to winning physiques.
My most fond memory of D was from the Canadian Nationals in 2009 in Vancouver. The whole weekend was full of good times, including Darren getting shit on by a bird outside the athletes’ meeting. Ha, ha, ha! I still believe that was good luck at the time.
But my utmost favorite moment came about an hour after winning my pro card. I was driving because if anyone knows Darren, he couldn’t drive at all! He was the worst! Ha, ha, ha! I was driving, and it started to hit me—what I had just done and what this man had done to help me get there. He stood by me when no one else did. We had each other’s back through the toughest of times. At that moment, I pulled the car over and broke into tears and just hugged my friend and kept thanking him for everything and told him I loved him. That was my favorite moment with him.
Q. You won your pro card in Vancouver in 2009. Most people will never know the feeling of winning a prestigious IFBB pro card in bodybuilding. What did you feel when you were onstage hearing your name called out, winning your class and the overalls?
A. The feeling was surreal, and I honestly didn’t believe my own ears. I kind of got dizzy when it happened when everyone turned to me. I don’t even remember what they said because for a moment I was deaf. All I remember was looking out in the crowd and seeing Darren and my mom with their arms in the air. After the pictures, I brought my mom up onstage, and she just stared at me and said, “Oh my God, Michael, you did it, you really did it.”
Q. That’s an awesome story, Mike! After that, your pro debut was at the infamous NY Pro Show. There are so many great stories from various competitors over the years regarding the NY Pro Show. What did it feel like to be competing on the same stage as some of the greats?
A. In hindsight, jumping into the NY pro for my first show was pretty brave. But my way of thinking is this: “I wanna beat the best, I have to see what the best looks like, and if I get my ass handed to me (and I sure did), then so be it.”
It was a real pleasure to stand on the same stage as all the greats of the sport, but honestly, I wasn’t starstruck, I had immense respect, and the show gave me a new perspective into what it would take to not get my ass handed to me again!
Q. Who are some of your favorite IFBB bodybuilders that still compete today?
A. I don’t look up to anyone in the sport as I feel that we are all living the same dream and all put in the same dedication and hard work. I do, however, have a lot of respect for guys like Seth Feroce, Bill Wilmore, and all the guys in my animal crew, Frank McGrath, Evan Centopani, and Erik Fankhouser. I respect these guys because they are humble and down to earth and are great people.
I also can’t forget to mention my fellow Canadians Fouad Abiad, Mboya Edwards, Ben Pakulski, and Chris White. All these guys are stand-up guys and are kicking ass. I need to catch up!
Q. You are definitely one of the biggest bodybuilders to ever compete onstage. For the fans, what are your favorite body parts to train and why?
A. Prior to tearing my chest, I used to throw around some serious weight on the bench and have done presses of 535 pounds for 10 and 315 for 30 reps.
My favorite body parts to train, though, are arms and quads. The reason is that both are lagging and I enjoy challenging myself to train them better every workout.
Q. I know you are also passionate about sharing your love of bodybuilding, and we talked about some camps you want to set up. Tell us about your vision.
A. The camps I envision will be very similar to the style of Shawn Ray’s Muscle Camps. The idea is to have a group of National-level and IFBB pro bodybuilders come together and teach the up-and-comers of tomorrow about our industry—everything you need to know about bodybuilding, figure, and fitness. The goal of the camps will be to offer a comprehensive, no-bullshit look into the training principles and techniques that are molding the top physiques of today. We will offer a chance for the people attending to ask questions and get real answers, not just the regular bullcrap and nonsense.
The sport of bodybuilding can be very selfish, and the individual is responsible for his or her choices, but that doesn’t mean we can’t share knowledge, dispel rumors and get people going on the right path so they can make informed choice when it comes to trainers and dieting styles.
Q. You’ve been training many others that are starting to make their mark in fitness and bodybuilding. Keeping in line with your mentors Darren Oliver and Joe Flesia, who are some of your students that you’re proudest of?
A. I’m developing quite the team around me, and the people I train are all great. Rachel Mailloux, Mona Poursaleh, Monika Pocsaji, Carey Kastner, and Yasmine Shahlavi comprise the team of girls I train, and they are all stars and will all be heard of for years to come.
As for the guys I train and give advice to, the list is growing, and my good friend Jerome Bravo is on pace to win the Canadian Nationals this year if we keep on the same training path.
Thanks, Mike! Good luck on your comeback. We’re looking forward to seeing you back onstage and also seeing the athletes you train do some damage in the competitive ranks.
For more information on Mike, check out his site, www.bigmikevanwyck.com.