From booze to barbells

From booze to barbells

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From booze to barbells

By Olivia Amourgis | Photos Dallas Olsen

Loved and hated by many (depending on who you ask!), Ben Handsaker had a reputation for being a party animal at uni. He was renowned for causing as much “carnage” as possible, pushing the limits and being the centre of attention for all the wrong reasons.


Think Animal House frat house parties, or waking up to a scene out of The Hangover. Ben pushed the boundaries and loved it. But one night, that party boy with his carefree attitude got the wake-up call he needed. And it all came down to a girl. Not just any girl; most of the guys had their eye on this one, with Ben describing her as “smoking hot”. After finally working up the courage to ask her out, 10 simple words quite literally changed the direction of Ben’s life; “I would never date a useless fat sh*t like you”.

The next morning Ben joined a gym. He was “clueless but determined”; a young man out to prove he wasn’t useless.

“I wanted to prove her wrong and prove to myself that no one will ever call me that again,” Ben admits. “I was able to start changing my life and turn it around in a matter of years. I went from a guy who was called a ‘useless fat sh*t’ to recently being crowned one of Australia’s top fitness models.”

It’s been five years since Ben started his fitness journey and from someone who had no idea about training at his first session, he’s certainly come a long way! Today he describes himself as ambitious, grateful and positive – three words that paint a very different picture to the party boy with a reputation for mischief.

But his adolescent antics were just a façade to hide what was really happening underneath. Ben was chubby, depressed, unhealthy and tired. His downward spiral left him sitting at rock bottom, learning the ultimate lesson that has helped him to reach the heights he’s at today: to make pain his friend.

“This may sound very strange but I am thankful for what happened to me and everything I have had to overcome. We learn the most about ourselves in times of struggle,” Ben says. “Dancing with depression was one serious character-building experience I couldn’t have asked for. I am just glad I survived; so many adults don’t. I developed the realisation that no matter how bad things get, just hang in there. When you hit rock bottom,if you can look up, you can get up. Just don’t give up - that is permanent.”

Looking at the 178cm, 86kg man now it’s hard to imagine he was ever 26% body fat and struggled to bench press 40kg. From a young man whose life was suffering from far too much booze, partying and bad food choices to a guy with energy, determination and focus, Ben’s life now has purpose! So if you resemble Alan from The Hangover, it’s a welcome reminder that you’ve got every hope of becoming a cover model in the future. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some hard work ahead of you. But if you want it bad enough you CAN and WILL earn a buff bod staring back at you in the mirror, and if anyone can tell you how to do it, Ben is!

“Be consistent, patient and relentless. Rome wasn’t built in a day! You need to break your training down into monthly goals and then weekly and daily goals,” Ben advises. “So each day you have a plan of what you want to achieve with training, and then focus on winning each day as it comes. Stay with the process week in, week out. Before you know it you will have trained consistently for six months and you would made some great progress! Just remember, it takes six months to build a Rolls Royce and 13 hours to build a Toyota.”

Now, we all know we’re a lot more likely to stick to an exercise regime for 13 hours than six months. Motivation certainly isn’t a necessity when it comes to transforming your body – we can still get up and go to the gym or eat well without it (no excuses!) – but enthusiasm does help! So how do you keep driving that motivation, building that ambition and fuelling your fire? Ben finds his get-up-and-go from watching YouTube videos, looking at images of guys he wants to look like on social media, or reading the latest issue of a great fitness mag (like Men’s Muscle and Health!). But one of his biggest motivators is training with others.

“I find when I train with a partner I push hard every session,” Ben says. “I have learnt something new from all of them along the way! My training partners have been like brothers.”

Today the Aussie fitness model trains with a plan; goals are set for every day, week and month, continuously adapting his program depending on his progress. Ben’s journal serves as his bible; a place where he writes everything down and can see how much he’s progressed and over what time period. Through his journal Ben can figure out exactly what’s working, what’s not and devise a plan to get him heading in the right direction.

Ben’s primary goal now is to lift weight with great form and slowly tear muscle fibres before sitting back and letting the body work its magic – the trick to a detailed physique. It’s these finer details that have helped Ben earn the titles of ANB Fitness Model, Overall Men’s Champion and the coveted honour of Overall Winner at the 2013 Asia Pacific Championships. After three years of hard work and getting closer each year, it really was third time lucky. So what’s Ben’s secret to finally coming first instead of third or fourth?

“Losing weight, feeling great and getting a six-pack is 70% eating and nutrition, 20% training and 10% rest,” Ben advises. “I always tell people to get the eating right before you even think about stepping in the gym or begin working on a six-pack. You can’t out-train bad eating habits.”

Habits are what it’s all about; breaking the bad ones, building the good ones and then maintaining consistency. It can be pretty darn hard at first, but let’s be honest, when has anything truly lasting and good in life ever come easy? Ben has shown that transforming your body, mind and lifestyle is more than possible! So it’s time to make the changes you need to create the physique and lifestyle YOU want. Where will you be in five years?


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