Gunter Schlierkamp Exclusive Interview for SwoleScience.com
Gunter Schlierkamp is not only a champion professional bodybuilder but an accomplished actor and a driving force in the entertainment and bodybuilding world. As a bodybuilder, Gunter presented a powerful and traditional physique that earned him a Mr. Universe title, and multiple top 10 finishes . As an actor Gunter has appeared in numerous feature films and most notably for his role in the cult classic ‘Beerfest’ and as mixed martial artist ‘crusher’ in the film ‘Never Surrender’. Gunter has excelled and become a champion bodybuilder, and now has his sights on conquering the film world.
Gunter Schlierkamp Interview for SwoleScience.com conducted by Papa Swole.
SwoleScience– Gunter, I would first like to thank you for agreeing to the interview and how are you doing?
Gunter Schlierkamp– Doing great!
SwoleScience- You were Mr. Universe, beat Ronnie Coleman in 2002 at the GNC Show of Strength taking first place, and have six top 10 Mr. Olympia finishes, What do you think is your best quality as a bodybuilder and as a competitor?
Gunter Schlierkamp- I actually think that I am pretty determined. I do what I need to do, so if I have to go the hard way, I’ll go the hard way. So that means right down to dieting, which is actually a problem, that I actually over diet. I was always very serious with my diet and things like that, so I was definitely determined and focused. Sometimes I would say I kind of went too extreme with everything.
SwoleScience- What was the most extreme thing you ever did in the name of bodybuilding?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Actually for 5 years I was eating straight chicken and rice, with no seasoning. (laughs) There was no seasoning, wait actually it was turkey, turkey and rice with no seasoning. It was after 5 years of doing that I could not stand it anymore. Pretty much my main food for 5 years was pretty much only rice, chicken and turkey. I couldn’t see chicken or turkey for along time (laughs), especially the turkey, it was always so dry. It took forever for me to eat one bag of rice with some turkey because it was so dry (laughs). I would say now that’s ‘extreme’ but you need to have balance, obviously vegetables, fibers and everything else, and obviously this was missing and it showed. In the beginning I dieted so hard I was constantly hungry 24/7 because my body did not get enough, and was not satisfied with just rice and chicken. Yet, at the time I was mentally so strong that I thought that’s it for me. In the past, people said the best to diet is rice and chicken, so I’m actually thinking different now but at the time I was mentally so strong I did it. That will show you, I was pretty tough.
SwoleScience- What is your training philosophy and how did you like to train during competition?
Gunter Schlierkamp- You see when I was young, I kind of pushed a lot for heavy weight, and no matter what if you train you will get stronger. The thing is I never pushed for max weight because I look at it this way: if you take a powerlifter and a bodybuilder, a powerlifter uses their muscles to lift as heavy as they can and the bodybuilders use weight to build muscle. So, this was always my philosophy. Doesn’t matter if you incline 200-300 kilograms, it doesn’t say it on your chest when you go to competition. I have to say so far since, I always listened to my body. You know people get aches and pains and take painkillers; I always avoided those types of things. If my body said ‘hey dude, you’re getting a little intense here’, I would kind of back up for a while. So surprisingly I don’t have any knee problems, elbow problems or other kind of joint problems. I’m doing well, even after all these years of training and still training. The thing is, you have to listen to your body, and so I figured out how to back off correctly. You’re using just weight to build muscle, doesn’t matter what it is, as along as the end product looks good and it’s the best you can be. You always have to push, but there’s different ways to push. Also, I believe you have to train all ranges of reps: high reps with low weights, then high weight with low reps such as 4 to 6 reps so you get all types of muscle fibers.
SwoleScience- What does your current training regimen consist of?
Gunter Schlierkamp- I still train 5 times a week, and train every body part once a week. I actually still have my routine almost like I was training for Mr. Olympia. The only thing is obviously you switch up a few exercises, and obviously I’m not lifting intense and heavy. I still work out fast to kind of get a good sweat going, and then make my breaks really short but I’m not focusing on weight at all. I just try to exhaust my muscles as quickly as I can, which is why the rest times are so short. My schedule is 5 times a week: 3 days on, 1 day off, 2 days on, 1 day off.
SwoleScience- What is your strength when you were competing and what is it like now?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Actually yes there’s obviously differences. I always said around 30 to mid 30’s you are the strongest, and you know that’s always how I felt. Now obviously that I’m not competing, there’s no reason for me to push as heavy and hard as I used to, especially with heavy weights. The only thing is you know I want to avoid injuries. I always pushed as hard as I can, and so once in a while now I might do a set where someone will help with one or two reps in the last set, but I’m not going full out and focusing on weight. I pretty much want to maintain my healthy body. My joints especially, still want to be able to walk straight up (laughs)
SwoleScience- After your 4th place Olympia finish you began training with trainer of champions Charles Glass and placed 10th in 2006 Mr. Olympia, can you describe why you think you placed lower and did you think you deserved to be higher?
Gunter Schlierkamp- I actually started training with Charles back in 2001. Charles was there from the beginning, he helped me improve my back even though a lot of people said ‘you looked good last year and last year was awesome’. In 2001, basically people said I already looked good, I should have placed top 6 and I was placing 15th. The thing is, if you look at the pictures from the front, I already looked good, the thing is for some reason, I have to say in my opinion you know, I just didn’t compare. I don’t know what the reason was, and I know for sure the weight difference wasn’t that much because I actually increased my back a little bit but that’s it. To be honest, in 2002 I was actually on that stage with a standing ovation, and it was that people thought I could have won the Mr. Olympia, people thought I was the best on stage that day. In 2006, what happened actually happened in 2005, and in 2005 I placed 4th. That was my highest placing, and even Arnold came back stage and said ‘Dude you could have won the show! I don’t know where bodybuilding is going’. For me it was for some reason, I never entered the top 3. I don’t know what it was, or why, but I realized is it worth it for me trying to go harder and harder every year even though you look the part and still don’t get it. At some point, after many years you have to understand, it isn’t the healthiest thing for our bodies, you have to understand there’s a life after that. You can kill yourself and people just don’t care. That was an eye-opener, and in 2006, my motivation at that time with 2005 and all the years before, I realized. I almost did a comeback last year, but then I had my son and it just didn’t work out anymore.
SwoleScience- Are you planning on coming back to bodybuilding at anytime or are you officially retired?
Gunter Schlierkamp- I am definitely a part of bodybuilding and I actually just came back from a big three-week tour in Europe. Competitive wise I will say, that I will not do it just because its too much commitment and I can’t find the time to have a year just training, resting, sleep and putting everything in that I need to be competitive. There’s a lot of traveling I do now, supporting my wife, and our child, it just doesn’t work. There are other things more important. I still train, am involved, do appearances, and do seminars. I just did a bunch of seminars in Europe and those went really well. I think you can do more now, after doing it, learning it, now it’s almost like your giving back what you learned on to the next generation. I see it now in the seminars, and people want this information and you don’t want people to make the same mistakes. I feel that now you can do more from this position than simply being on stage as a competitive bodybuilder because your dieting, and being selfish by not talking to people and being out there. People sometimes think bodybuilders are ‘mean’ but sometimes they’re just on a diet. This way you don’t have to diet as hard, just stay in shape and give people your knowledge.
SwoleScience- You have made it known about your acting aspirations and have been in quite a few films and most notably ‘Beerfest’, do you plan to continue to pursue acting?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Yes. 4 or 5 weeks before I left, I just did a part for movie- ‘Jack and Jill’, with Adam Sandler and Katie Holmes. It comes out around Christmas, November/December. The part is pretty funny, we’re on a cruiseboat, (laughs) and I kind of train with another guy, a Russian guy, and we’re working out there and he (Russian) can’t lift the weights, and Adam Sandler dressed like a woman easily lifts them, and I start yelling at him in German. It’s really funny, they loved it and it was pretty interesting to do. I still have an agent, do castings, and definitely keep trying to get into it.
SwoleScience- I have to ask you, were you really drinking beer during the filming of ‘Beerfest’, and are German’s the best drinkers?
Gunter Schlierkamp- People always come up and tell me about the movie. Some of these people watch it a few times, drink while they watch it and the drunker you get, the funnier it is (laughs). People always tell me they should do a second part, I seriously think they should do another one. That movie really took off when it came out on DVD and pay per view and received so much attention. They said they were going to do ‘Potfest’ but I think there’s more opportunity with slamming the beer down (laughs). During the scenes we were drinking a tea that looked like beer. We filmed for three weeks in Albuquerque, New Mexico so on the last day of filming we did some of the real thing (beer), and then after we went to a house that the director Jay had rented, and we got hammered (laughs), worse than the movie (laughs). The whole time on the set was really enjoyable and there was no stress, Jay really made everyone feel comfortable and the same with Adam Sandler. I have a lot of respect for him (Adam Sandler), and even more now because of how he is as a person, he comes on the set, says hi to everybody, thanks everyone for being there late, I mean this guy is really a great dude and he’s very funny personally. Germans could be the best drinkers (laughs). It could be, the beer is a little strong over there (laughs). I actually was in Russia last year, and all these Russians they always want to take you and drink. Now here’s a good tip, especially if you’re weighting or bodybuilding and you have to go workout the next day. If you go out and someone wants to get you drunk, every second or third drink, have a half-liter of water, and you will be fine. The Russians tried to get me drunk, so I had to outsmart them. They put a lot of vodka on the table and you cant say ‘no’ because they are really giving and they want to make you feel at home, so you don’t want to step on their foot, so…I didn’t say no, but I had my water. The thing is, the next morning, I woke up, and no headache, nothing, and then the other guys couldn’t even get up in the afternoon. All it does is dehydrate you, and it messes up your whole balance of your body, so If you keep drinking water you will flow everything out and keep your body balanced with liquids, and this is why you have a hangover, people just don’t drink water (laughs).
SwoleScience- You recently had a part in a movie as an MMA fighter, how was it training Mixed Martial Arts as opposed to bodybuilding and would you ever consider competing?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Competing in Mixed Martial Arts to do that now, such an extreme sport, it’s a little late but I do have to say I was a good athlete at school and was always flexible. The guy who I’m training with who did the movie was the producer was one the last world kickboxing champions and he actually trained me in his backyard and I like to say every Saturday we have a ‘backyard brawl’ (laughs). He was very surprised for my size, at the time 285 pounds, that I could kick that high, so he wanted to train me and compete to kick Brock Lesnar’s ass, hopefully someone will do it (laughs). I enjoy the training, its definitely a different workout, different cardio and then all of sudden you realize that even if your big, you can put some serious power out, after a while your arms really get heavy. You can tell, that if you have to go a long distance, the more muscle you have the heavier your arms get. The weight doesn’t really do you much good with going the distance and the technique. For me though, I love the training and getting together for an hour and half on Saturdays and training kickboxing, its always fun and just to do something different.
SwoleScience- What inspired you to become a bodybuilder and then an actor?
Gunter Schlierkamp- It started already when I was 12 years old. I got inspired by the ‘Conan’ poster, ‘Conan The Barbarian’, Arnold and that came out in 82’, I was 12 years old, and I just said wow. You hear all the stories about how he was a bodybuilder and came to America, I was so inspired, and I said I want to do the same. So from that point on, I trained with little dumbbells at home, at age 16 I went to the gym and started training. Even then for me, I have to say it kept me out of a lot of trouble. I was so focused on getting bigger and on my body, I didn’t go out much anymore, or go drinking with my friends and all those things. I just stayed focused on doing the bodybuilding thing. At first, I didn’t want to compete, I just wanted to train, just personally for myself to have a body I like and was happy with. Then after a couple of months, the gym owner said ‘you need to do competitions’, and I said I don’t know if I can go on stage in posing trunks in front of people, I grew up on a farm. My family today is still very simple. For me, I couldn’t imagine all that, and after a while they kept bugging me and bugging me, and finally at 18 I did my first competition. I won my next 6 competitions. Then from 18 to 23 I won everything you can possibly win as an amateur from: Junior World, Junior German Champion, Men’s heavyweight European, German Champion, Men’s heavyweight and Mr. Universe. For me at 23, I was thinking ‘ok you’re a pro’, from that point on there was nothing else. I always wanted it and couple years later I tried to stay in Germany but realized if you want to go the next level you have to come over here (United States), people have to meet you and see you. It was really tough, I hate to say it but if a lot of the guys had to go through what I went through when I started out here- Living in factory building floor on a mattress, with nothing and been ripped off of all your money. I think a lot of people would have quit right there, but I stayed strong and hung in there, got my first sponsor and from that point on it started. When I was stranded in New Jersey, there was nothing, to be honest, I couldn’t go any deeper, that was the deepest you can go.
SwoleScience- What is your favorite lift and why?
Gunter Schlierkamp- (laughs) Aw man, it kind of changes every once in a while. At one point I used to like to do chest always, incline bench. Then the time I liked to train bent over rows with dumbbells for back. So it changes. For triceps, rope press downs. I always go through cycles where I like to do one thing more than the other. I don’t think I need to do much for my biceps, even when I do pictures with people and I flex my arms, people are still crazy about my arms. They always say ‘man it looks like a tennis ball!’ (laughs)
SwoleScience- Personally, it seems your physique is closer to that of the ‘Golden Age’ of bodybuilding and closer to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique. What is your opinion of the current ‘bigger is better’ state of bodybuilding?
Gunter Schlierkamp- There are different opinions. In my opinion, first of all, I think at one time people thought what can we do that people will get inspired and think ‘wow this is great’. If you put certain bodies today on a magazine cover, people tend to not relate to them. They would say ‘it looks like a mutant.’ I never looked like that. Where if you look at the bodies from the 80’s, where I got inspired from, I can say ‘that’s how I want to look’. For instance, I always looked at the total shape when I was growing up at the time in 1986 and 88’ when I started. I looked at Berry Demey, he had symmetry. He actually won 3rd at the Olympia and he was in really good condition and I could identify, I was inspired and I could say that’s how I want to look. Today, to be honest, if I look at bodies, no I don’t want to look like that because first of all, even in a shirt, they have distended stomachs. You can never tell if he has a physique or not, because obviously one of the problems is the distended stomachs. I do have to say, for me, the person who should be up there is Phil Heath, he just had such a good physique. For me bigger isn’t always better, the time of the change was when you go into Gold’s gym in Venice and you look at the Mr. Olympia’s, and then you look at the physiques, it stops at Lee Haney. Lee Haney was incredible; he had a double bicep shot that is something where you said ‘wow that looks great but athletic’. The ratio and proportion flowed; there was a flow there. Today, it’s too much. It goes where people push, and push, and with some people 5’8 weighing 280 pounds. You know, I was 6’2 carrying between 290 and 300-competition weight, because I could carry the weight. They are not built that way, they don’t have the frame. If you build up so fast and your muscles can only take so much, so everything is going so fast, you just can’t do it that fast. So one year they look good, then all of a sudden, only kind-of the stomach goes. People need to start looking at the limit and then trying to define themselves. I’ve seen athletes go on stage weighing less than they did the year before but looking better and actually ‘heavier’ than the year before. People need to focus on quality, not just mass, mass and bigger, bigger. There’s always going to be people bigger and this is where I think bodybuilding goes wrong. I think it’s hard to bring to the sport new people. You can’t keep trying to run on the people who are already in there, and that’s what it feels like to me. The only people in bodybuilding now are people that have been doing it forever. I’m talking about the younger generation, and they can’t relate to it. They go to these expos and they look at you weird. In my opinion this is where it goes a little wrong but I don’t know, as long as they keep pushing it this way, it will continue. People will keep trying to get bigger, but it doesn’t make bodybuilding or the sport better or increase the sport. For instance, last year I heard they gave a whole bunch of tickets away for the Olympia and it was the lowest attendance from people at the show. It used to have between 6-7,000 people there, and now they hardly had 4,000-5,000 people. And they still gave a lot of tickets to the army, the US Army, for free. I don’t know, you know you only have people who are already in the sport forever.
SwoleScience- You never had a distended stomach. What do you think the reason for the distended stomachs is? There have been numerous speculations for the cause, and some bodybuilders even blame genetics.
Gunter Schlierkamp- I definitely believe it is a combination of insulin and growth hormone, that’s my opinion. It’s just the combination of that. To be honest, that really came on board when people started using the insulin stuff in combination with growth hormone.
SwoleScience- A lot of people agree that it does not look healthy, how do you feel about the distended stomach trend?
Gunter Schlierkamp- That’s why I say that. A few years back I heard them say, if you come with a distended stomach they kind of mark you down, but they don’t. That’s the problem right now. You want to make the sport better or worse? What kind of physique is that? I mean I see people with tight shirts and their stomach is over their chest, now that has nothing to do with physique. There is no physique. It’s like that it! They need to get away from that. For many years people tried to get as big as Ronnie. Even Kevin Levrone, he told me he wanted to try and go after Ronnie with mass, and you know a lot of people tried to catch him with mass. I never wanted to go down that road because not only did I not want a distended stomach but also second of all, people cannot just get that big, they have to take whatever they take. Again, you know then they have the problem with the stomach. If you stretch your muscle as far as you can and everything goes into your muscle, there is a limit, you can only push that much glycogen in your muscle, and then where does it go? Your muscles are already all filled up. Then they still try getting more glycogen, where does it go? You’ll look like the incredible hulk, there’s no growing, they can’t do that, doesn’t work. People don’t see that. I just think people don’t see reality, they need a reality check, you cannot just have mass, mass, and more mass. It does not work that way, at some point it will go to your midsection and hang around your intestines.
SwoleScience- You recently signed a deal with Multipower supplements, how are you involved with them?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Yep, I’m on contract with them. I love their products, they contacted me over a year ago and said ‘hey we have this idea’ and I said ‘I love it, if the product is clean and it works then ok’. So I tried the product and I loved every bit of it, the taste, how it works and I’m just impressed with it. From the ground up a new line and you know it beats everything out there and I just love it. I actually tell people try it and if it doesn’t work let me know. It’s a very clean product, they manufacture everything themselves and control the quality of stuff and today that is must. I’ve seen companies come out with a good product then all of a sudden to get their margins they go cheaper quality. People will notice, people will notice quality change. To be good on the market you must have a quality product. People are not dumb and just dump money out, they want a quality product.
SwoleScience- You are currently offering training, nutrition and workout plans on your site, where can our readers find more information on this?
Gunter Schlierkamp- People ask me for work out and nutrition plans and I can write everyday nutrition plans but the thing is it’s time consuming and if you have to spend a lot of time, you have to charge money for it. I always give advice. If somebody has one question, I always answer or two questions, but people come in and want to have a total plan. It takes me a whole day to do it and this is knowledge that I got over 25 years of experience. I do offer plans, nutrition and work out plans though. (website provided below)
SwoleScience- What is the most important piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring bodybuilders?
Gunter Schlierkamp- Everybody has a vision. I had a vision and a way I wanted to look, I saw somebody in a magazine and that’s how I wanted to look. You remember ‘He-man’? I had that ‘He-Man’ puppet hanging in my first car, and said this is the perfect body that I want to look like and I never went off of that. I never chased after what other people like, I always say stay true to your self. How much are you willing to give, want to invest, and don’t let other people tell you what you need to look or have. People need to be honest with themselves and stay true to their ideals and what they want, and not follow what other people put in front of them. That’s what you have to go for, stay true to yourself and go for what you want for yourself and don’t let people tell you what you need to do for yourself.
SwoleScience– Thank you so much for the interview Gunter and we look forward to speaking to you again in the future.
To buy a training plan or schedule an appearance with Gunter Schlierkamp please visit his website at-
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(Photos used with permission from Gunter Schlierkamp)
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