If you’re into fitness then the name Steve Cook should resonate with you already. Pick up any respectable fitness publication in the world today and it’s unlikely you’ll find a copy without a picture of his smiling face and ripped torso staring back up at you.
In 2013, he solidified his place as arguably the planet’s most sought-after fitness model. With a soaring international fan base, a list of blue chip corporate sponsors, and more photoshoot requests than half of Hollywood, Steve Cook has got the physique most fitness enthusiasts aspire towards.
But what makes him tick? What are the 2014 training philosophies of the full-time fitness model and IFBB pro men’s physique bodybuilder?
TRAIN travels to his home town of Boise, Idaho, for a week of training with the fitness icon and discovers an athlete that’s actually only just getting started with his own athletic aspirations.
Born in the middle of a family of seven children, Steve excelled at sports growing up. He played football at college and would eventually graduate with a degree in integrated studies (biology/psychology). And by then he was already in good shape thanks to a childhood built around a training rewards system, like not being allowed to watch TV until he’d finished his daily push-ups!
And it’s still those early training memories, instilled into him by his father, that Steve maintains are the key philosophies he uses to stay in shape today. He insists that getting the basics right, no matter what your fitness level, offers the best route to a healthier, fitter lifestyle. Especially if your gym visits aren’t as frequent as you may wish.
He says: “As long as you stick to the basics then you won’t go far wrong. Things like bench press, squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, movements that work a lot of muscle groups. If people reading this can’t get to the gym as much as they’d like, then they at least should make sure they do the compound exercises.
“The basic stuff, like deadlifts which work the back, core, legs and shoulders are essential. By sticking to those types of movements you’ll see the biggest results.”
And focusing on your own goals and achievements is what matters most, states the Bodybuilding.com and Optimum Nutrition-sponsored athlete. Allowing someone else’s achievements or performance to cloud your own aspirations is a sure-fire way to stunt your growth.
“Don’t compare yourself to other people,” he maintains. “Whether it’s in competition or just in the gym, there is always going to be someone out there with better calves or a better chest. But the minute you start comparing yourself physically to other people is the minute you’re not going to be happy with your training.
“If you concentrate on your progress and getting better from month to month then you will be satisfied. The moment you start looking and comparing everyone else’s best features to your worst features you’re in trouble. I’ve been there myself in the competition world when I’ve felt like crap because I may not have felt like I was lean enough or big enough.
“So the best advice I can offer is to focus on yourself, focus on your goals and achievements and don’t allow anybody else’s progress to scupper your fitness plans.”
Bodybuilding vs. Crossfit
Cook doesn’t see his own fitness career as a job, more a lifestyle. He doesn’t stereotype himself as a professional bodybuilder, rather more of a full-time athlete. A guy who through commitment and training has provided himself with an opportunity to live his life the way he wants.
Sure, it’s through conventional bodybuilding that he has found himself in the public eye. But Cook’s training regimen is so much more than pumping iron. He lives for new challenges, is determined to try anything at least once and embraces all forms of exercise – including CrossFit.
The strength and conditioning training craze has gained global recognition in recent years but along the way has driven a divide between traditional bodybuilding practitioners and the new generation of CrossFit devotees. However, Cook insists there’s plenty of space on the planet for both to not only coexist but even embrace one another’s core values.
He accepts: “There is a big issue between bodybuilders and CrossFitters, and I think there’s negativity on both sides. CrossFit people say that bodybuilders don’t have functional muscle, while bodybuilders say that CrossFit is just a sure-fire way to get injured. But I don’t see why there has to be such a disconnect.
“Obviously, there are bodybuilders out there that do fit the stereotype of not being athletes, just concentrating on isolation movements that don’t really do anything in regards to functionality. But at the same time, there are also CrossFitters who really don’t know the technique of the lifts they are doing. But stereotyping is dangerous.
“For me, I train pretty instinctively now and I always like to try new things. So I will always incorporate movements like the clean, and always try things like the muscle-up, on top of my bodybuilding exercises like bicep curls or the bench press, things like that. I like doing both.
“I like to lift to be a better athlete and to live healthier, yet I also like to lift to look better too. And at the end of the day it should all just be about health. Whether you are a CrossFitter or a bodybuilder it should always just be about improving your life. And so if I can do both and have fun doing it, as well as make progress in looks and performance, then I’m a happy guy.”
So, does this mean we may even seen him compete in the CrossFit arena one day? “I wouldn’t mind giving it a go,” Cook says. “I’m the type of guy that likes a new challenge. I’ve got my pro card and I’ve competed on the Olympia stage and while I’m not saying I am done doing that, I am also starting to look for something else to push my body.
“When you are a bodybuilder and you’ve competed on the stage it’s easy to become depressed after a competition because you look back and you know that you’re not going to look as good as you did on the stage. So now you’re back in the gym and what are you striving for? To get bigger and leaner for next time?
“What I want to do is concentrate on other goals and so I’m not obsessed just with how my body looks. I really want to look at what my body can do. And that means improving all my lifts, improving my cardiovascular system, getting my mile time down and just swimming more.”
Fitness with a smile
And training happy is the key to keeping Cook interested. While he’ll happily play around with different exercises and programs in the gym, outside of it he’s even more adventurous.
He says: “I like trying new things for sure, and there’s no better opportunity to try new ways to work out than when you’re on the road. Of course, when I compete I always want to be the best and I enjoy being good at something, but I also want to try everything new. There is no better feeling than taking something you’re not too good at and making it your strength.
“I’ll do yoga, I go trail running, I enjoy getting out into nature, getting out of the gym and I love opening my mind to new experiences. It’s actually as much a spiritual thing as anything else. What better way to work out than swimming in the ocean or even surfing. I grew up in the mountains so using my surroundings to stay in shape is too good an opportunity to miss.
“Recently, I was over in Hawaii so I went surfing and ocean kayaking; I was running on the beach and doing stand-up paddle boarding. And this is on top of going the gym for 45 minutes every day. And it’s all because I wanted to experience things I could only experience in Hawaii.
“There’s no better way to start your day than doing something active. Then you don’t have to worry about all the little details like what you’re eating, because you’re burning off calories anyway. There’s no such thing as the wrong cardio, in my opinion. As long as you’re enjoying it, then that’s it.”
Find celebrity interviews and more in every issue of TRAIN magazine.