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Sunday 17 November 2019
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Carlos Elcock: I’m more than my ‘gains’

Fitness trainer challenges stereotype

Talking over bottles of beer at a bar in east Trinidad, Carlos Elcock said even though a lot of the messages he receives on social media are based solely on his physical appearance, he is motivated and encouraged by those who seek help to transform their bodies and lives. Seeing them make progress is what keeps him motivated. “I just ignore the inappropriate DMs (direct messages), and stay focused on my goal to help people meet their fitness objectives.”

Biomedical technologist at Eye See You Ophthalmic and Medical Supplies Ltd and certified personal trainer Elcock, 28, from Siparia, says his fitness journey began while he was a student at UWI, St Augustine, in September 2012. He was completing a degree in electrical and computer engineering, and was initially drawn to the gym as a way of coping with stress.

He said there are many who at first glance will assume and even accuse him of using steroids to acquire his physique – along with assumptions that he is superficial. But Elcock said this could not be farther from the truth. What started as a coping mechanism became a lifestyle, resulting in gains beyond what he may have anticipated.

Carlos Elcock began fitness training as a way to cope with stress as a university student

“There were things that affected me mentally, and working out helped me to relax so I could

focus on my studies. I didn’t even know anything about proper weight training at that point.”

He said all he knew about fitness was Shaun T’s Insanity Programme, which was mainly focused on using body weight and not dumbbells or machines. The programme also included high intensity movements such as burpees and jump squats which increased the heart rate rapidly and therefore, increased the rate of body fat loss. “I was seeing progress in muscle development from bodyweight training.”

Elcock said on his first visit to the gym, the instructor gave him a full body circuit, which means he would do exercises to activate multiple muscle groups in a single session. In retrospect, he realised that approach may not have been the optimal workout for muscle growth.

“But since then I was hooked. I started reading articles on Bodybuilding.com and attempted my first cutting diet, which failed, of course, as I lost significant muscle and strength.”

Cutting, in the world of bodybuilding, is essentially manipulating the diet and amount of cardiovascular exercises to reduce one’s body fat percentage at a fast rate, while maintaining muscle mass – resulting in a lean, defined physique at the end of the cutting phase.

“I didn’t have all the knowledge and variables at that time to make informed or wise decisions on dieting and training.” Over time he consistently kept up his physical activity and changed his mindset from just working out to training with a purpose.

“My purpose was to develop an aesthetically appealing physique defined by wide shoulders and lats, small waist and big legs – where everything is well-proportioned.”

This led to his competing in the 2015 Junior Nationals Bodybuilding Competition in the men’s physique category.

“This was my first attempt doing an extreme diet, where the goal was to get as conditioned as possible, that being less than ten per cent body fat.”

After being on a programme of working out three hours every day, he placed fourth out of 13. That was his launchpad, from which he established himself locally as one of the top competitors. His last was in 2017 when in the senior nationals he placed second to Dexter Simon, who went on to become an International Federation of Bodybuilding elite pro. “Simultaneously, I coached my first competitor for the season in 2017, Kichelle Farrell. She was placed second in the bikini category at junior nationals, and fourth in Sportsworld Classic, which is a regional bodybuilding show, and won in her class in senior nationals.”

Carlos Elcock placed fourth in the 2015 Junior National Bodybuilding Competition
Photo by Shaye Forde

He admitted that over time he gained confidence as his size increased – but these changes had a downside.

“Arrogance crept up on me. But it is safe to say that those drawbacks were ironed out very quickly.” Elcock said his motivation to remain consistent in the weight room has changed over time, saying it was no longer about coping with mental and emotional stress – but now to use the knowledge and skills gained to inspire and train others who are inspired to change their body and health.

“I guess you can call it entrepreneurship because I hold multiple portfolios now such as personal training, contest prep coaching, recently implemented online coaching, physique modelling and corporate ad campaigns. I’m always looking for new opportunities, but I always keep in mind that I must continue to improve my service to better help my clients, while always adding value to their lives.”

He balances personal training with work as a biomedical technologist through meticulous scheduling. He said he ensures clients’ needs are met, while maintaining high work performance, and getting in his own training regularly. “Most importantly, I try to not over extending myself by giving myself enough rest and down time.”

Drawbacks to having a bodybuilder’s physique, he said, is tied to the attention his body generates. Unwanted and random comments and messages he receives daily via social media, which he said are generally inappropriate, from both men and women. These messages, he said, objectify him, as if he is not more than his body. “You are only seen as something fit for sex. People assume there isn’t anything more to you beyond your body. Even if I’d meet a woman I’m interested in, at least initially, she doesn’t see beyond the physical. That’s not a good feeling.”

Interestingly, the perks of having the physique of a bodybuilder, is also connected to the attention it generates, because he said it gives him the ability to stand out, commanding attention when he walks into a room. “The physique of a bodybuilder is not the norm.” This, he said, gives him the opportunity to further make an impact and opens the floor for interaction, whether in an interview room, auditioning for a video shoot, or in any social gathering. “Humans are visual beings.”

Elcock said, “Physical fitness remains important because it adds direct value to your daily life. Early morning workouts sets the trend for the rest of the day. Late evening workouts helps to get rid of the accumulated stress from your day. I believe everyone should be aiming to unlock their full potential and physical fitness is a major part of doing.”

He said great legs are markers of fitness success. “Few have it because few work it. In the gym only psychopaths do legs twice a week.” He said, however, that is what is required for optimal growth. “One leg workout for the week is good, but two, that’s the path to building an awesome physique.”

Recommended Exercises, which can be easily found on YouTube:

* Barbell Squats – the MVP of leg day, a very technical movement that is the overall mass builder for legs.

* Lunges – Your best friend after Squats working the same muscle groups but iso laterally allowing for symmetry and equal total strength.

* Romanian Deadlifts – For the hamstrings.

* Calf Raises – You will get no one’s respect with well-built quads and hamstrings but puny calves. Yes, the size is limited by genetics (curses!!!) but they can be grown to a point as well.

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