Kevin Grech of evolutionofbodybuilding.net had the pleasure of interviewing the Legend himself Francis Benfatto.
Bodybuilding fans remember Benfatto for his symmetrical physique and his graceful and perfect posing routines.
Read what Benfatto has to say about modern day bodybuilding and what plans he has for the future.
What made you fall in love with the sport of bodybuilding?
As far as I can remember, I have had always been mesmerized and appealed by the representation of a muscular body, either in real life or/and on screen.
This fascination of a man at his best started when I was 11 years of age, then at fourteen my friend Alain and I joined the Baretta gym in Toulouse France, where, weight lifters, power lifters and bodybuilders cohabited in perfect harmony.
Next, I really liked the atmosphere, the spirit and the sympathetic ambiance that reigned at time, all of us enjoyed enduring and struggling for reps and sets against heavy and/or heavier resistances, making tremendous effort was part of the game and we did it for free and for fun.
I have learned then that I was made for bodybuilding. Resistance training made me stronger and more muscular in a pace, I enjoyed the process and my progression, but what I enjoyed the most about training was the muscle sensation and pump, and then, the relaxing almost magical feeling coming along that lasted for hours thereafter a great training session. Next, training became the single most important and rewarding experience of my teenage life.
I can even recall that during this time, I choose to walk from home to the gym, for over an hour instead of taking the bus to spare money, and then, buy milk to get more protein into my body while training.
What has kept me highly motivated for all these years is my body responds and its positive effects on both my mind and musculature, the way I exercise today and its procedure give me the ability to maintain a relative good condition shape and muscle development in despite of my age. This potential helps me to perform exhibitions and still impress I believe, a wide variety of people.
During my youth and my carrier I have built an aesthetic and symmetrical body, while working out with a relatively correct form of execution, I have also learned how to reach a high level of muscle-growth stimulation, either with heavy-weight or specific training-methods and training-techniques, then, I became better at training in an efficient manner without relying on heavy-weights or/and on high-intensity training to progress.
Then, I decided to do a come back at the 2006 Australian GP at 48 years old, meanwhile, I slightly modified and changed my training approach, I was still training heavy and intense but I was more concern about form than performance and/or volume of work, and then, I was surprised and astonished to see how well my body and musculature responded to my new way of training, especially at 48.
For my last pro-competition I reached my best ever shape and condition, I step on stage after 14 years of retirement 10 kg heavier, denser and more refined than during my prime when in my thirties. Since then, I have learned more about training methods, form and postures, and to how best stimulate muscle growth while undergoing a specific training procedure, now at 56, I have no ambition to compete anymore, today my ultimate goal is to represent the longevity side of bodybuilding and I know I can do it.
This new training discovery and its positive effects keep me inspired and motivated every day, every training, even though most of the time, I don’t possess the requisite energy resources, my training procedure is designed to help me regain energy resources and stamina, I can train 7 days a week because I know that I will eventually succeed with each and all training session/s, I also know that one training session influence me to do the next one, and so forth, I have created this new training habit based on my knowledge and experience, and now I have the desire to stay young and functional as long as possible.
I can train for ever because the way I train is safe and productive with 0 side effects, I train with an almost perfect form of execution, that is, perfect body and body part postures, appropriate angles of work, very slow rate of speed, full range of motion, peak or static contraction, muscle failure, all done throughout sequential/progressive phases. My training is about techniques and skill, this keep me 100% focus! And when people ask me: – Why do I train slow and light? My answer usually is: – When I train slow, I can only train light, the good news is that, in doing this, I have the ability to completely isolate my training effort to fully stress my muscle fibers,
Thanks for your compliments, I sincerely believe that I could have had more success as a pro competitor, if we could have kept Mr. Olympia drug-tested, in fact, at the first and last drug-tested Mr.O in history, most of my competition were off shape, five of them were tested positive and couldn’t compete, while a few others didn’t try to prepare and compete. During this historical Mr. Olympia 1990, I was in my best ever condition shape.
Today in modern times is a direct consequence of yesterday decisions. The incredible muscle development and size that professionals and amateurs bodybuilders can reach today is absolutely phenomenal, this spectacular progression or evolution is I believe due to the interest bodybuilding is generated nowadays, meanwhile today bodybuilding preparation haven’t that much evolved, bodybuilders still use the same kind of exercises and gym equipment than we utilized in the nineties.
They haven’t learn more about training methods and techniques, they don’t even train harder or heavier or/and more effectively and productively than we did a decade or two ago, eating during the off season and/or dieting prior to competition is essentially the same, its’ true though and I must admit that modern times bodybuilding and bodybuilders possess more experts and coaches than we had before where, it was rare, exceptional or almost nonexistent to have access to a personal coach who could tailored your contest preparation accordingly to your needs and goals.
Today it is common to have a coach to help aspiring and professional bodybuilders to claim faster the ladder of success, coaches who’s job is to make sure that their protege and clients reach their targets and goals at predetermined time, that their get bigger, harder and refined as much as possible in despite of health risks.
Meantime it is true that bodybuilders are 24/7 365 committed to their business, it is also true that because bodybuilding is becoming a serious and important source of revenues, we have more professionals and therefore more genetically gifted bodybuilders, these factors largely contributes to the level of muscle development and progression of today modern pro bodybuilders.
You had (and still have) one of the most aesthetic physiques at the time. You and Bob Paris were the ideal people to promote the sport without a freaky look. do you think your type of physique is gone forever from the sport?
Thanks again for your compliments, During the nineties aesthetic bodybuilders such as Bob Paris and myself could compete and do well, they could also get some recognition from the masses and the media, the average people could get inspired and motivated by them, we had achievable muscle development.
I don’t think they are aesthetic pro bodybuilders today, its’ impossible to define an aesthetic bodybuilder if this one bodyweight is 30 kg above his height, when I competed I weighted around 170 pounds for 5.6 foot, today 5.6 bodybuilders such as Flex Lewis and Dexter Jackson must be respectively 210 and 220 pounds both, in top condition shape.
Today the Pro bodybuilder is getting bigger year after year. Do you think it has become almost impossible to step on the stage defined and big at the same time?
The most gifted and committed pro bodybuilders can manage to get big and defined, pros like Phil Heath and Dennis Wolf can bring the total package, but they both are exceptionaly genetic and are also driven individuals.
As I said earlier I don’t think so, bodybuilding is becoming a serious professional and lucrative sport activity, and therefore there are more passionate bodybuilders interested in becoming professional that will do anything under their power to succeed in despite of health risks.
The conditioning of a bodybuilder has changed in the last 15 years, is this good or bad for the sport?
In our time, we had pro bodybuilders who wanted so badly to get in top condition shape that they end-up either dead or life injured. I don’t really see more conditioned bodybuilders today than in the past, remember Andreas Muntzer or Mohammed Benaziza or Albert Beckles, the first two dies from the side effects of their drastic chemical preparation which included diuretics, today pro-bodybuilders and their coaches are very aware of the side effects of diuretics.
Do you see the amateur level in Europe and the Arab states better than the NPC amateur level?
The last important amateur competition I had the opportunity to watch in Europe, was the 2010 IFBB World Championships.
I never saw a NPC amateur level competition, therefore I can’t compare these two levels of competitions.
Meanwhile, the IFBB World competition is drug-tested unlike the NPC competition, and for obvious reason, this test doesn’t influence bodybuilders to enter and compete, consequently, the amateur level of the competition at the IFBB World Championship has significantly dropped since 1986, the year where the drug-test has been implemented.
We didn’t see the American team doing the IFBB World. Next, amateur bodybuilders decided to turn professional without trying first to become a IFBB World Champion, pro cards were offered to national level champions all over the World, the first bodybuilders which could become pros without a World amateur title were the American amateur bodybuilders coming from the NPC competition, then, the World follows.
Competing is fun when you are competitive, and then, when you have a chance of accessing the podium, be among the best or at the top level of your competition, in the top 5 or 6 is what makes competing appealing, otherwise its frustrating, after Mr. Olympia 1991, I knew that this competition will not be drug-tested anymore, therefore my chances to be among the best Olympians will be compromised.
Then, I had no reason to compete anymore and I ended my professional carrier shortly after Mr. O1992 lympia. What I miss most about competing was the preparation itself, the privation, the difficulties, the enduring and struggling, the process to get in top condition shape, and then, looking at the end results, when finally reaching my full potential.
You are now working promoting your own products. What made you go into the business of nutrition?
As a pro bodybuilder I had the opportunity to work for Weider Nutrition, during the early nineties Joe Weider used my name and image on the label of his Victory products, in 1999, I started selling supplements through mail order in France and French countries, since then I have improved every single element part of a great supplements line, the labels, packaging, formulations and taste, BN Benfatto Nutrition helps most athletes, trainees, gym goers including bodybuilders to positively progress, with 0 side effects, BN has been carefully formulated with the health of people in mind.
Your company is called Benfatto Nutrition. Your name is on the label so you are sure it is a perfect product. What goes into making a perfect supplement?
I am a correct principled human being, that is, someone who cares about people, I am into bodybuilding since the past 40 years.
I started as a young aspiring bodybuilder with plenty of desire and energy, and nothing else.
I would like people one day to remember me as a genuine human being, BN products are good, effective and productive products, and quit affordable for the average person, most people who have used BN products stay on it, others, switch to BN products from well known brands, some of these brands are very expensive and doesn’t provide more results than BN.
Its important to mention that all supplements brands aren’t equal in quality, for instance, cheap brands usually are mediocre! The best compromise lies in between the very expensive and the cheap, BN is right there.
Gaspari, Labrada, Cutler, Dexter Jackson and Ronnie Coleman to name a few all have their own product. Does this give you a drive to work harder? Is it the same mentality of stepping on the stage against them?
BN is only available through direct selling, this means, that Personal Trainers and Coaches sell BN to their own clientele.
I am available for them if they require my expertise in regard to training, dieting and supplements.
I can train with some by either email them or by phone, convincing them to buy and sell BN is just the first part, the rest goes much further, beside offering them my knowledge and experience, I help them to develop their own BN business.
I said they can sell BN to their clients, but they can also convince someone else to become a BN VIP Agents, then, we BN company gives 20% kick back coming from his own BN agents.
I am not going to sponsor any athletes, there are more than enough brands that are encouraging young aspiring pro-bodybuilders to become pros and to make a living with sponsorships and competitions.
I prefer to offer some athletes, personal trainers and even trainees the opportunity to develop their own BN business, in becoming BN VIP Agents, I will encourage them to create BN awareness, bond and friendship with gym goers, in order to sale BN products to these potential clients, they can also influence other personal trainers to become BN VIP Agents.
Will your products be available in Europe or in the USA in the near future?
During the past 5 years, we (my girlfriend Adele and I have successfully launched BN at FIBO first in Essen then in Cologne, then, a new label law came along and we are now exclusively focusing in the South African Market, of course, I would like to launch again at FIBO to target the European Market, and why not one day in the US.
But, the competition is fierce and the consumers follow the tendency, and the most advertise Brand, I can offer great products that work for my fans, and for the aging gym population that are more concern about health, fitness and longevity, along with that I can also offer a new way of training based on strict and correct form of execution, this method can appeal to bodybuilders who cant maintain muscle integrity after a certain age, or who cant positively progress, in size and injury free.
Benfatto Nutrition: benfattonutrition.com
See his entire profile and competition history here