Fitness model Zak Taylor on changing lives, training hard and what it’s really like behind the scenes of a comp.
Looking good on stage takes a hell of a lot of hard work and sacrifice, particularly in the weeks leading up to a competition, but reaching your goals can take years. Musashi GenNext athlete Zak Taylor knows this first-hand – the fitness model has been competing for four years, finally placing first as Australian Natural Bodybuilding Overall Male Fitness Model in South Australia last year.
Taylor, who is also a personal trainer, began training at the age of 15, influenced by his father and grandfather, who were both bodybuilders.
“They inspired me to get into the gym,” he says. “We started training together and I learnt the ropes from my dad, and then I started taking it to the next level as I grew older.”
Taylor’s first show was a body-building competition. He placed third, but won best posing routine, which led him to move more towards fitness modelling, which calls for a greater stage presence. He then went on to come second in his category three times at the Asia Pacifics.
The nitty gritty
Taylor trains six days out of seven, doing up to nine sessions a week in the lead-up to a competition.
“I’ll do six weights sessions a week, then abs and high intensity cardio three mornings a week,” he says. “My split changes as I progress towards a competition, but usually I would train legs twice, then chest and back, then shoulders and arms and then repeat that, then have one day of rest.”
As well as training heavily, it’s also essential that Taylor’s diet be as clean and structured as possible.
“The dieting is very strict,” he says. “It’s more important as you get closer to a competition. I track my macros the whole time, keeping it quite linear – the same foods and the same calories every day – then I slowly bring down the calories until I’m about three weeks out. Then three weeks out I do carb cycling, where I do maybe three days really low carb, then one day high carb.”
Taylor is also sponsored by Musashi, which means he has access to their range of high-quality supps.
“I use their Lean WPI protein and Bulk Extreme, as well as Essential Aminos. I also use creatine, multivitamins and a glutamine,” he explains. “Musashi have been a big help – they’ve been providing me with products to help me train a lot harder and help me with my recovery. They flew me to South Australia for the comp last year and put me up in a hotel and drove me to and from the competition, and they also helped with the tanning. It all makes a huge difference – it wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Preparing for a competition is a very personal thing. While everyone sees you up on stage on comp day, no one really sees the days and weeks of hard training and strict dieting that goes into that end result.
“Competing is great, but it’s more about putting yourself through the day-to-day struggles and challenges of preparing, and progressing so that you’re better than the last time you competed,” Taylor says. “It’s definitely a personal thing for me.”
While some might expect fellow competitors in such an event as physique or bodybuilding to be fiercely competitive and ego-driven, Taylor’s experience has shown it to be quite the opposite.
“There’s a friendly rivalry, but it’s been really good in my experience,” he says. “Most of the guys know how hard it is just to stand on the stage, and to go through the weeks of intense training and all the sacrifices you have to make to get there. So once you get there, all the hard work’s been done and everyone’s up there enjoying themselves and congratulating each other on looking so good.
“I know sometimes you see things like Generation Iron or something where people are quite nasty with each other and there’s a lot of ego involved, but from my experience with Australian guys, everyone is quite charming and quite complimentary to each other, so it’s a good experience. You’ve been through so much to get there – at the end of the day you don’t need that kind of negativity.”
Taylor also gains great satisfaction out of his other career as a personal trainer.
“I know it sounds clichéd, but I really enjoy being able to change people’s lives and make them feel good about themselves,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of success stories. I’ve had a couple of clients lose 40 to 50 kilograms – people who couldn’t tie their own shoes and then within a year and a half they’re running a half marathon. That’s a huge achievement, and when you talk about changing lives, that’s a massive change for them. It feels like I’m making a really big difference.”