Posted 15 May 2012 by Interview:

James Alexander Ellis

How and when did you start training?

I first started, very hit & miss, at age 18 - but unsurprisingly I made some of my fastest gains - even with a very limited selection of weights at home! I had been a slightly overweight teenager and was never very comfortable with my shirt off. So I went from a bit pear-shaped to a bit v-shaped in hardly any time, though from memory I didn't make many dietary adjustments. I carried on training, in a casual fashion until I was about 22 when I took about 3 years off post university! Age 25, I ramped things up a bit and began training first thing in the morning, before my office job, I also got a Personal Trainer to help me at my gym and that helped with progress! I've been steadily improving since then, but I’d say that year was a crucial turning point for me - training properly, and training early!

What mistakes did you make as a newbie?

I'd say the 2 most common ones: rarely moving the weight in a very slow or controlled manner (macho lifting), and not adjusting my diet to suit my goals (which were always centered around being "lean")

We know consistency is key, what tips would you
give to anyone struggling to stay consistent?

Good call my man: consistency is the blackest of arts, the destroyer of mortals! I use visual aids to help keep me on track, so I am constantly looking to others for inspiration - the arms of a certain athlete, the abs of a certain bodybuilder. Another thing which I say to my clients is to differentiate between a small slip with a diet plan, or a few days off training, as opposed to full derailment - its crucial to not make a brief mistake or relaxation into something more long term. I find it is always useful to examine what the obstacles might be to consistency (work, family, financial issues) and get them out in the open as early as possible. So, make a list!

Do you listen to music whilst training?

I am a Trance fanatic, and I listen to it whenever I do my CV (usually contest prep). When I'm lifting I prefer to be 100% aware of my surroundings and I find I can concentrate better without music. No choice though, as my gym plays chart hits all day long… yawn. On my iPhone playlist are artists such as Dash Berlin, Armin Van Buuren, John O'Callaghan, Marcus Shulz and anything from the label "Armada". Consistently the best uplifting trance in the world.

What do you think about when you have to
dig deep and push out that last rep?

I like to focus on a couple of things, depending on how much pain I’m in. One is the results that I am going to get (visualisation) and secondly is the fact that I’m never more than about 60 seconds from a rest!! So, all such pain is very temporary… A great mentality to have in the gym.

Free weights vs machines what do you feel are the pros and cons of both and which do you prefer?

I would say I use 80/20 free weights to machines split. Favourite machines for me are hamstring curls (I like seated or kneeling, not prone), leg extensions as nothing targets vastus medialis quite like it, and the 45-degree leg press. The latter is a staple diet of my leg routine.

Unless a client is quite new to training or very out of shape I almost always introduce (light) free weights from the very beginning as it always burns more calories, builds better proprioception and balance, and they are often MORE user friendly. (3D movement vs 2D)

What are you most proud of?

I would say making the risky but rewarding career change from Architect to Personal Trainer & Strength Coach 3 years ago. I reached a major crossroads in my life and I made a big choice to leave the office lifestyle behind (ironic, as I write this from an office!) and pursue my lifelong passion for iron.

Other than that, I am very pleased with what I have achieved as a competitive fitness model in just 6 months, taking 2 high profile international titles recently and being accredited as a WBFF Pro Fitness Model with 2nd place as Muscle Model. The latter event was also a big risk for me, flying on my own to the states, to take the competition up to a significantly higher level! That sort of recognition and status means a lot to me and drives me forward every day to achieve more and more… I now get messages from people all over the world telling me that I inspire them - this is immensely rewarding.

Finally, being awarded the accolade of "The Body of 2012" on the popular Youtube Channel "Male Fitness Models". This is very humbling, and there is an incredible amount of talent featuring on that channel! No pressure for me then! lol

Do you bulk and cut or stay lean year round?

I'm definitely guilty of trying to stay lean all year round, maybe fluctuating by just 2-4% body fat. I have had good success at adding mass without much body fat. I have photoshoots to attend - and moving forward and working with sponsors etc I will need to be presentable at all times!

What types of cardio do you do?

Off-season, I do only HIIT intervals on treadmill or rower, usually short and intense ones - 15-30 seconds on, 30-60 seconds off for 10-15 mins. 95% intensity.
For contest prep I have a very specific protocol I like to use, which involves a combination of interval training and steady state low intensity CV. The intervals ramp up catecholamine production, which in turn mobiles fat stores to be burnt. Credit to Lyle McDonald for that.

What is your training routine like?

I follow Poliquin training systems, as I am qualified to PICP Level1, undertaking my level 2 as we speak. I trust him implicitly as a strength coach and mentor. So I generally use German Body Comp (or variations) for my accumulation and cutting phases, and then things like German Volume Training for hypertrophy, then a typical 5 x 5 strength block as an Intensification phase.

So off-season, accumulation phases might be German Volume Training, or even an Upper lower split 5 days a week. Intensification phase might be 5 x 5. Minimal CV aside from HIIT 3 times a week.

On season/contest prep: accumulation might be GBC (3 sets of 6 supersets, 12-15 reps, 30-60 secs rest between), with advanced GBC (heavier, more sets, less rest) as intensification phase. More cardio, with twice daily sessions, 60mins CV early on empty stomach then 60 mins weights in evening (when "fed")

Here's a typical week of contest prep (more gym time, more CV):


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: GBC or Advanced GBC workout (full body split - 8-15 reps of 3-4 sets)


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: GBC or Advanced GBC workout (full body split)


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: off


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: GBC or Advanced GBC workout (full body split)


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: GBC or Advanced GBC workout (full body split)


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: GBC or Advanced GBC workout (full body split)


  • AM: 10 mins HIIT then 60 mins low intensity CV.
  • PM: off

Off season (more time off for growth, less CV):


  • AM: German Volume Training Chest & Back (10 sets of 10 supersets)


  • AM: German Volume Training Quads, Hams & Abs (10 sets of 10 supersets)


  • AM: off or just HIIT


  • AM: German Volume Training Shoulders & Arms (10 sets of 10 supersets)


  • AM: off or just HIIT


  • AM: Routine begins again, GVT Chest & back etc


  • AM: GVT Quads & Hams & abs

What is your diet when trying to get
in peak condition?

I would usually try a cyclical ketogenic diet with planned re-feeds about 10-12 weeks out. So I would take only high GI carbs post workout with my shake x 50-100g for insulin production, then after that 3-5 days I take a day of re-feeding on starches and fruits: Sweet Potato, Berries/Apples etc. (to restock glycogen levels, and boost thyroid and metabolism etc.) As I get closer to competition, say 4 weeks out, I go even lower in fat and maybe up the carb regularity as I’m leaner by that point and can tolerate more carbs due to my increased insulin sensitivity.

Who are your favourite athletes, bodybuilders
or fitness models?

My favourite bodybuilder was always Flex Wheeler. In my opinion he had the perfect physique, for a Bodybuilder. Still a little massive for my personal tastes, but oh did he ever manage to keep it aesthetic - never seen anyone match his small joints, huge muscle bellies and round delts!

As far as fitness models, I have had many icons in the UK and abroad - Roger Snipes (Musclemania Pro) (Interview with Roger Snipes) inspired me greatly just 12 months ago, Shaun Stafford WBFF Pro (Interview with Shaun Stafford) is a true professional and has given me some good advice. Previous pin-ups for me were Bill Davey, Frank Sepe etc.

Now I look to the very top of the WBFF fitness & muscle models for inspiration: Sean Harley (interview with Sean Harley) , (the other) James Ellis (Interview with James Ellis), Ryan John-Baptiste, Rob Riches, Micah LaCerte etc. I have the best respect for the guys that actually bother to compete and get on stage for scrutiny, rather than following a guy who just does blogs and workout videos etc.

What supplements do you use if any?

I keep supplement intake quite basic, due to experience of wasting a lot of money in the past. (I rely on whole foods about 70-80% of the time). Whey Protein & Dextrose for post workout. BCAAs for pre & post x 10g. Glutamine pre bed AND in my P/W shake. I am a firm believer in the benefits of Omega 3 and I use a high quality O3 supplement. I also take zinc & magnesium at a high dose for its commonly touted benefits. If I’m feeling a bit lethargic then I’ll take a pre workout shot: recently very impressed by some of Cellucor's products - C4 in particular, for extra pump and mental drive.

What top 3 tips would you give to anyone
wanting to get CutAndJacked?

  1. Make your physique transformation your NUMBER ONE priority. Be willing to let other elements of your life take a back seat. This can be tough but no one said it would be easy, otherwise everyone would be shredded!
  2. Get an experienced Personal Trainer or Strength Coach to help you - don't assume you know it all. Shop around a bit.
  3. Document your progress over time, with photos and journals - this has been invaluable for me the last few years. "If you can't measure it you can't manage it"

James Alexander-Ellis

Born in London, UK in 1978:
Weight: 215lb/95kg
Height: 6ft


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