Hidetada Yamagishi Interview
ENTER THE DRAGON—Hide “The Ultimate Warrior” Yamagishi is Tearing Up the International Scene!
Since 2002, when he won the World Amateur Championships, Hidetada Yamagishi has been on the IFBB radar in a big way. With a stellar career spanning over 15 years of competing, Hide, aka “The Dragon” or “The Ultimate Warrior,” has made a name for himself not just because of his jaw-dropping physique but also because of the barriers he’s broken. He was the first Asian bodybuilder to compete at the Mr. Olympia, and the first one to be invited to the Arnold Classic. He’s clawed his way from humble beginnings—coming to America not speaking any English, receiving back-to-back DNPs at the Ironman Pro in 2005 and 2006, and placing 13th at his first Arnold Classic—to owning the 212 division of most contests he enters, including a win at the 2016 AC. Yamagishi’s philosophy on training is “all or nothing,” “there is no such thing as “impossible,” and “train hard every day, and even harder the next day.” For a guy who has overcome language, cultural, and geographical roadblocks, and even physical obstacles, that line isn’t just another cliché—that’s life for The Ultimate Warrior.
MUSCLE INSIDER: At the 2015 Arnold Classic, you placed second. In 2016, you bumped up to first. In 2017, however, you landed in sixth. What happened that may have affected your prep and placing?
HIDETADA YAMAGISHI: I really don’t know what went wrong. Leading up to the show, we actually thought I looked better than the 2016 version of myself. I was really confident going into the 2017 Arnolds. If something went wrong, which it did, it was only a few days before the show. There are so many pictures of me looking great! One reason, I think, which has always happened to me since I switched to the 212 division is my weight/carb-up. I always try to put as much glycogen into the muscle as possible after I weigh in so that I look full onstage. Sometimes it works, but that’s only happened a few times. I don’t remember many shows that were a success when it came to carbing up after weigh-ins. So I end up looking really flat and soft onstage in the 212s.
MI: You opted not to do the Olympia this year because of a nagging shoulder injury. Why did you choose to make that decision, and how hard was it for you?
HIDE: My shoulder has been bothering me for a couple of years, and it’s only been getting worse and worse. So I legitimately couldn’t do any hardcore training for a while. After March at the Arnolds, for about two months, I trained very light. Not intense at all.
I pretty much just got back to hard training now [around June/July]. Mentally, I’m okay with the decision. After the Arnolds, I was disappointed, and I kind of lost my goal. So it was good for me to relax, focus on the business (BodiCafe with Iris Kyle), and, of course, train my clients. I enjoy being like a normal person. I’m aiming to compete in something in 2018, but I’ll decide that a lot later.
MI: Why did you switch from the Open division to the 212?
HIDE: Obviously I have a better chance of winning a show in this decision. I won the Arnolds, so clearly it was a good decision for me. I felt really good after the Olympia [in the open division], and I’ve won Open shows all around the globe. I have been top five so many times and made good money from that division too. But I think if I really want to win something big like the Olympia or the Arnold, I have to do the 212. Truthfully, the 212 isn’t that easy to win, though! Any bodybuilder can come down in weight to 212, but the challenge is how to make yourself full again onstage.
MI: What’s it like working so closely and traveling with Iris Kyle? Is she hard on you? Is it motivating to have a 10-time Olympian in your corner?
HIDE: We met in 2012 for the first time. I went to Iris because I was struggling with my conditioning. I was full for the open division, but if you think about shredded glutes and conditioning, Iris Kyle was the first one I came up with. She is big, but she’s also so shredded. Her structure is perfect. I went to her because she’s the best and she’s gifted. I talked to her and trained with her, and she’s been so good for me. Last year, I took my conditioning to another level. The guys with the best work ethic are the ones who go to the top, and although I don’t think I’m genetically gifted to be a bodybuilder, I work really hard. I can outwork everyone. Normally, if you’re gifted, you get lazy. But I’m not gifted, so I outwork people in training and diet. I have learned so much from Iris about training and diet. After training for so many years, you have to have a different stimulus, so she’s full of surprises for me. She’s amazing.
MI: You’re a trainer, a sponsored athlete, a co-owner of BodiCafe, and an international superstar, and you run half a dozen social media platforms. How do you make time for everything in your schedule?
HIDE: Social media is something I have to work on. I try to just post on everything once a day, but sometimes I forget, or I get occupied with something else. I take it as seriously as training; you’ve got to do it. We have an online store, and a lot of the orders come from Japan. Because I’m the only one that speaks Japanese, I have to take care of all the orders and the emails. But then I get so wrapped up in my work that I have to cut myself off. I have to tell myself that I won’t check my emails or computer after 9 or 10 p.m. I won’t stop working. I usually spent 8 to 10 hours a day at the gym working, working out, and training clients. It’s not all work for me—I really like to do all of it—but you can’t spend 24/7 doing it.
MI: How did you get the Gaspari sponsorship back in 2009, and how does it feel to be one of his longest sponsored athletes?
HIDE: I first met Rich in 2007 at Milos Sarcev’s Coliseum gym. He was my first trainer and mentor when I came to North America. I have to thank him for everything he’s given me since I started. I was nobody back then, but Milos took me in when I came and I was training with all these pros. So in 2007, Rich came because he was scouting Silvio Samuel. Rich saw me training legs with Milos and Silvio, and said that his first impression of me was regarding how strong I was and how hard I worked. He saw me train crazy. Back then, I didn’t really speak English, so it was hard to get a sponsor company. You need to speak English to promote products. In 2009, I started speaking with Rich and his crew. My English was better by then, and I started placing top five consistently in my open shows, so he signed me right a few weeks before the Olympia. I did eight shows that year because I wanted to show Rich that I could do something crazy for Gaspari.
I was doing demos every other week for him at one point; it’s not an easy contract. Everyone knows that Team Gaspari works really hard. But I pride myself on being part of their team, and I will always do the most work for the company. He had faith in me at the beginning, and I love working for them. I take this contract seriously.
MI: What Gaspari Nutrition supplements do you take on-season and off-season?
HIDE: I don’t have a very good appetite, but I have a really fast metabolism, so I take a lot of their protein. Especially in the off-season. I don’t use a weight gainer, I just use their Precision 100% Hydrolyzed whey (I am lactose intolerant, so this is the best protein for me). I also use a lot of Glycofuse, so I have a good balance of carbs and protein. That’s pretty much my meal three or four times a day. Glycofuse is a better option for carbs because it doesn’t use maltrodextrin, and it doesn’t upset your stomach. I take Anavite every day [a multivitamin with carnitine and alanine]. And pre-workout, I’ll use SuperPump Max or SuperPump 250. SuperPump Max is the strongest product; one of the strongest stims. But I switch them around to give my body a break. Intraworkout, I just use more Glyofuse and Precision because of my metabolism. In season, I use less Glycofuse because of the carbs. That’s pretty much it. It stays the same year round, except the carbs depend on my conditioning.
MI: You’ve had an incredible career. You were the first Japanese bodybuilder to compete at the Mr. Olympia, and the first one to be invited to the Arnold Classic. You’re 44 years old now; are there any other barriers you’d like to break before you hang up your posing trunks?
HIDE: Right now I feel like I’ve done most of my goals. That’s why I decided not to compete at the Olympia. I told you that I lost my motivation a little, but I know I’m still going to compete, so I feel good again. I’m training hard and want to reach the highest goal, which is the Olympia 212. But depending on how I feel next year, I think I might want to return to the Open.
I want to thank Gaspari for everything they’ve done for me. And of course my fans, especially the ones who always come from Japan to the Olympia to watch me compete every year. I can’t wait to see all my fans at the Olympia this year while Iris and I work BodiCafe.
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