By Dean Maier & Clarence Paller
Driven to be a champion, Henri-Pierre Ano is a distinguished bodybuilder who has a decade of experience in the highly demanding sport. With an impressive resume of competition victories under his belt – including Mr. Canada 2013 – he is now zeroed in on his goal of qualifying for the prestigious Mr. Olympia. This is the driving force behind his many hours training in the gym and the discipline that goes into every grueling day. At a deeper level though, Henri possesses a unique mental state that propels his training and allows him to overcome the fiercely demanding and repetitive nature of the sport; a mindset that is built on the pillars of innovation and accountability. For Henri it is not just about material goals, for him being a true champion involves perseverance, creativity, and positioning himself as a role model that challenges the dominant stereotypes of the sport.
Henri’s career in bodybuilding began seriously in 2007. He reflects on his early approach to the sport: “At first it was cool and fun to win beginners contests like the nationals. I am genetically gifted. For me just to train, be in shape and look good came easy. I would say to myself, I’m going to win that show, get a trophy and be a champion.” However, Henri quickly realized that after going pro the game of bodybuilding changed dramatically. “You are no longer the only one gifted genetically, now everyone around you is in phenomenal shape and naturally advantaged by muscles” explains Henri. He realized that to find success at an elite level, he needed to tap into deeper and more meaningful sources of motivation to push his limits.
SEE THE BIG PICTURE
Bodybuilding wages a war of attrition on the mind, making the need for motivation critical. Henry gives an example of the off season, “It is extremely challenging mentally when you see that your shape has changed and that you’re not in as great form as you were. You are losing your lines a bit and this is discouraging, even though the goal of this phase is to gain weight. The key to being mentally strong in this time period is to constantly look inward and focus on what the goal is”. Henri continues, “The other mentally challenging aspect is the 6-10 weeks leading up to a show. You don’t eat what you want to eat, you can’t have the fun you want to have. You need to have the will to eat egg whites and oatmeal every morning and to go to the gym. During this time, you have to be strict and this is tough mentally. Again, the key is not forgetting your goal and why you are doing this. You may not love it directly but indirectly you love it because it is part of what’s taking to where you want to go.” By adopting this way of thinking, Henri was able to create the mental state he needed to transcend the repetitive nature of bodybuilding and continue to push his limits.
"BODYBUILDING CAN BE SOMETHING ON A HIGHER LEVEL. YOU CAN SEE RESULTS BY BEING DISCIPLINED, BUT TO REALLY GET WHAT YOU WANT YOU HAVE TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX"
Henri attests that, “By nature bodybuilding is repetitive, and this is the way it should be. There is one way to train and that is the proper way to do it.” Henri suggests that a workout should not be longer than an hour, “In an hour you have plenty of time for a good full workout.” He comments on his workout split and duration. “Usually my splits will be two muscles a day. I try to vary those splits every four to six weeks with different splits, reps, sets, and exercises. If I am in cutting preparation or back to training hard I am going to put more muscle groups together in the same day. I would do higher volume but work less on the strength and more on the hypertrophy of the muscle. That allows your body to recover more quickly and prepare for the next workout. In the middle of my competition preparation, when my body is fully engaged with the program, diet and supplements, I will then go back to my two muscles individually and work them harder.” In terms of weights versus machines, weights are the clear winner. Machines are very good for focusing on muscles in certain areas but dumbbells/barbells are much more complete and have many benefits such as promoting growth hormones, increased grip strength and engagement of stabilizer muscles. Also, your metabolism benefits by working with weights as opposed to machines.”
TRAIN WITH CREATIVITY
Despite this reliable consistency in his training, Henri does like to apply creative techniques to help mix things up. To take weight training to another level, Henri suggests using “Fat Gripz”. They work by wrapping around barbells, dumbbells, cable attachments and exercise machine handles. The science behind this shows that using a thicker diameter bar causes much greater muscle activation in the arms which in turn leads to more growth hormone production and increased forearm and grip strength. Henri suggests, “Using them for some exercises on and off. Cycle your use of them and then you are going to have more results.” Another effective means of workout innovation lies in contraction training. “This technique requires you to deeply focus on the contraction of the muscles. It is always about doing your very big muscle connections with your movement. Whatever weight you are going to do just make sure you are fully extending the muscles and then contract it to the max and squeeze that muscle and feel how solid it feels. With this method your training becomes very different. The weight you use will be lighter and by focusing on the contraction, your muscles will grow much more. With this innovation in my own training I noticed drastic changes to my body.” Henri emphasizes,
“The range of motion is that you go to negative very slow and then explode and squeeze.” In this way bodybuilding can be something at a higher level." bodybuilding can be something at a higher level. You can see results by being disciplined, but to really get what you want you have to think outside the box.”
“With any training routine proper supplementation is another essential you need to think about,” Henri describes. “I always use Isobolic protein in the off season and Hydropure in the on season to build then maintain muscle mass. I always pair the proteins with M|Creatine to support post workout recovery. I also heavily use Anabolic State® for muscle growth and recovery. The taste is the best I’ve ever had in a BCAA supplement and I take it while doing my cardio at night. I also use Nutrabolics’ testosterone booster called Aggro to help me with my muscle growth and my training. I highly recommend this product. It improves your strength and overall wellbeing. Lastly, Supernova pre workout is what helps drive my mental sharpness and performance. I can confidently say it is one of best I have ever tried. It is not loaded with stimulants and really focuses on the pump without any crash.” For Henri, all of these elements are the fine details that separate the real pros from the aspiring ones.
HOLD YOURSELF ACCOUNTABLE
Accountability is another powerful dynamic that reinforces Henri’s mindset to push through. He comments, “having my training partners with me, showing up, and expecting me to work hard drives me. This is especially true in the off season. These people are literally giving me the energy to train. For whatever I have coming up in five weeks, in a few months or in six months, I have to be giving that intensity and applying myself right here, right now to get to that level necessary for those events. Henri admits that he internalizes this accountability to the point where it becomes a key self-motivating factor in overcoming his tough and repetitious training. “I see the people around me coming in everyday working hard, dieting, looking at my supplements and following me,” says Henri, “these people are not competing and they don’t get money out of it. They are regular people just trying to get into shape. They work so hard and it only pushes me that much harder to be an example for them.”
Despite feeling the empowerment and responsibility to act as a role model, Henri never feels that bodybuilding is about the status for him. In fact, he is critical of this “self-glorifying” desire of many fitness athletes who are seeking attention for social media followers. “I am not the type of guy who will go all out, go crazy in the gym, scream and do stupid things for attention. I want people to focus on the way fitness should be, especially bodybuilding.” While Henri admits that he is a big advocate and user of social media, for him these platforms are a way to propagate the sport as well as remain accountable to his message; “Followers can check my profile at any 64 Spring / Summer 2017 – Innovate Magazine for people just going to the gym to improve their life that is the best thing you can do. You are investing into your wellbeing and health. I applaud and encourage them to keep doing it. These are the people who give me the best motivation because they have nothing to do with competitions and placements, nothing to do with Instagram and Facebook, they are here for improving their life. If you can reinvent your thinking you can achieve anything.” given instant and they expect authenticity at all times.” For Henri, social media allows him to expand his perspective by both in powering his self-motivation and allowing him to challenge bodybuilding stigmas and stereotypes.
Part of challenging social media’s negative impact in the sport today requires what Henri calls, “a shift in mindset.” He explains, “I want people to respect the roots of bodybuilding which started in obscurity and people doing it to better themselves. People should do bodybuilding because they love it and have the drive to transform their body – not for attention. Whenever you do a show, don’t do it to expect something. Do it because that day you want to be the best you can be on stage. If you are top 3, 4 or 5, don’t get discouraged. You have to look where you started and where you ended up.” Henri continues, “As for people just going to the gym to improve their life that is the best thing you can do. You are investing into your wellbeing and health. I applaud and encourage them to keep doing it. These are the people who give me the best motivation because they have nothing to do with competitions and placements, nothing to do with Instagram and Facebook, they are here for improving their life. If you can reinvent your thinking you can achieve anything.”