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David Bissell


David Bissell

One year ago, in 2013, David Bissell was studying for his Masters in Aerospace Engineering. Now, he's a very well known name in the fitness industry having dedicated his time to setting up the first, and only, UK University Based fitness/bodybuilding competition – Mr University.

This wasn't the first fitness inspired venture David set up. In 2011 he created MASS (Muscle & Athletic Sports Society) at Leicester University, with the help of many others, because he wanted to build a community for students in fitness.

Essentially MASS's aim is to help improve the health and fitness services available to students and offer opportunities and guidance in fitness and weightlifting sports. Its popularity has grown exponentially over the last few years and it currently has presence in 10 UK universities and one US.

The reason why David has dedicated his time and life to fitness in this way is quite a simple one – he's passionate about the sport and while he enjoyed studying for his engineering degree, he freely admits his mind was always on other things, mainly to do with training.

His personal fitness journey began at 15 and within a couple of years he'd built up an “OK physique.”

His next stop was university where he played American Football for three years and during this time he got into weightlifting and although he trained for the sport he played, he kept a close watch on the physique he craved.

Unfortunately, though, he sustained serious injury to both his shoulders playing American Football and had to undergo a series of surgeries.

En route to his second operation, David wanted one last “hurrah” before losing his hard earned gains and entered the BNBF midlands 2012.

With just 4 weeks to prep he didn't know what to expect and put a lot on the line but it turned out that his best was enough and he was lucky enough to win his category (Juniors) and the best presentation award.

This win sparked David's passion for fitness competitions and within one year he walked away as the Fit Factor Champion in 2013.

His goal now is to continue competing as well as expand and develop his businesses and we've no doubt, we'll be hearing a lot more of David Bissell in the future!

Here's his story:

Training Plan

Monday: Chest & Back

  • A1 - Pullups - 5x5, 20x0, 60 sec rest
  • A2 - Military Press - 5x5, 20x0, 60 sec rest
  • B1 - Seated Row - 4x8-10, 30x0, 15 sec rest
  • B2 - Inclined Dumbell Press - 4x8-10, 3010, 60 sec rest
  • C1 - Scott Bench Dumbell Curls - 3x10, 20x0, 15 sec rest
  • C2 - Overhead Low Cable Tri Extension - 3x12, 20x0, 30 sec rest
  • D1 - Dumbell Shrugs - 3x20, 2121, 15 sec rest
  • D2 - Face Pull with Rope - 2x15, 3010, 45 sec rest

Tuesday: Lower

  • A1 - Back Squat - 5x5, 3010, 150 sec rest
  • B1 - Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift (Iuse straps) - 4x10, 3010, 30 sec rest
  • B2 - Leg Extension - 4x15, 2011, 45 sec rest
  • C1 - Leg Press - 3x15, 2020, 15 sec rest
  • C2 - Laying Leg Curl - 3x12, 2010, 60 sec rest
  • D1 - Standing Calf Raise - 5+ 15rm, 2121, 60 sec rest

Thursday: Shoulders & Arms

  • A1 - Flat Bench Press - 5x5, 30x0, 75 sec rest
  • A2 - Singlew Arm Row - 5x6, 2010, 75 sec rest
  • B1 - Seated Dumbell Overhead Press - 4x8, 3010, 60 sec rest
  • B2 - Triangle (nuetral) Grip Pulldown - 4x10, 30x0, 60 sec rest
  • C1 - Incline Dumbell Curl - 3x12, 30x0, 30 sec rest
  • C2 - Flat Dumbell Tricep Extension - 3x12, 3010, 30 sec rest
  • D1 - Dumbell External Rotations - 3x10, 20x0, 30 sec rest

Friday: Legs

  • A1 - Deadlift - 5x5, 40x0, 180 sec rest
  • B1 - BB Lunges - 4x16, 4010, 30 sec rest
  • B2 - Incline Back Extension w/Snatch Grip Bar - 4x8, 2010, 45 sec rest
  • C1 - Natural GHR - 3x10, 20x0, 15 sec rest
  • C2 - Leg Press - 3x12, 3010, 60 sec rest
  • D1 - Seated Calf Raises - 5+ 15rm, 2121, 60 sec rest

Nutrition Plan

Coffee is ok before noon (no milk or sugar, but a teaspoon of heavy cream/coconut oil is good!) – you can drink water all day, and green tea up until 4pm, as much as you like (2litres/day water minimum.) Drink a pint of (room temp) water first thing also – gives you a head start on hydration.

Cook meats/fish and eggs in coconut oil or butter/ghee, and add some (organic/grass fed) butter to cooked veg. Dietary fats are important! Also think of olive oil on salads, avocado and olives as a small part of veg intake. Just be sensible with amount.

Also I have stated the meats and veg in quantity, be rough with these and if you want to cook it into something with herbs/spices etc, feel free!

Where I have stated red meats (and even where I haven't at times) if you get/like wild meat such as traditional African meats are better than most meats you can get here, even better than beef etc that is grass-fed. Go for that if you want.

Finally – red meat at breakfast is ideal, but really anytime, any meal, choose a meat or fish you like, so it is more sustainable. Don't want you to end up always eating chicken and broccoli 5 times a day.

If eating at a restaurant, just go for a meat/fish and veg based dish, no bread, pastry etc. Don't have to worry about sauces/dressing etc too much as long as the base is meat/fish and veg.

Finally, you don't have to do plain meat and veg! If it's cooked into something, maybe a casserole or stew etc. that's all good.

Interview with David Bissell

Ok – so we'll just jump straight in – tell us more about Mr. University…

Mr. University Logo

Mr University was the first ever student only fitness competition, held at the Leicester o2 academy on Sunday 16th March 2014. Students from all across the UK travelled to compete in what was an epic celebration of the student athlete.

Where did the inspiration come for this event?

Mr. University Finalists

I myself competed in shows as a student and always thought it would be great to have a student only show. In one committee meeting with members of MASS (The Muscle & Athletic Sports Society) in 2012 we sat down and spoke about the idea – all thinking it would be great and that Leicester o2 academy would be the perfect venue.

We wanted to show students what we're all about and prove that bodybuilding and fitness is a sport, which is accessible to everyone of all levels – that it's not about where you are at, but rather the improvements that you make. And Mr University seemed to be the perfect event for students to set goals of personal achievement.

Mr University is open to any and all students to enter, of all levels of experience.

How can people get involved?

Mr University is open to any and all students to enter, of all levels of experience. We'll start taking entrants for the next show(s) at the beginning of the 2014/15 academic year, information of which will be announced through our social media pages.

Only current students are able to compete, but anyone can come to watch the show, contribute and get involved in the action.

Why should they get involved?

Competing in such a competition as Mr University takes a lot of dedication and commitment. It requires you to dig deep down inside and pull out the best in yourself.

The road to the show will be tough, the training and diet will be hard to maintain and you'll question yourself along the way. But once you reach the end and you step onstage, having worked so hard to get there, it really is worth every second – the feeling of achievement is second to none.

No matter where you place in the show you're always going to be far fitter and healthier than when you first started your contest preparation and you'll have no doubt inspired many others along the way.

So ask yourself, do you want to continue with the ordinary? Or do something extraordinary?

Mr University is a platform for self-improvement, achievement, to inspire others and to create greatness. So ask yourself, do you want to continue with the ordinary? Or do something extraordinary?

A Quote from Mr University competitor Jack Sharpe:

“I could sit and watch Breaking Bad or sleep 10 hours every day or I could do something fulfilling that I can be proud of. It was a steep learning curve but we have all got to start somewhere and it was definitely worth the change.”

Why do you think it's important we re-educate the public in what students are really like?

The public's perception on students isn't fair on those students who don't fit the stereotype. And overall the public perception encourages students to keep on living their student life in that manner – as that's what students do right?!

If the public perception can be changed then that will encourage students to reform their lifestyle to a new perception.

Many students are graduating and struggling to find employment because they've spent too much time gaining LAD points and not enough time contributing to their CV.

If we can change what it means to be a student and shift the focus to both physical and academic achievement then more students will take an active interest in the lifestyle and post-graduation plans, they'll find out and seek out what it is they really want to achieve and live a more fulfilling and focused future because of it.

Moving onto your personal fitness journey - Tell us about your fitness background…

David Bissell

I first got into weightlifting when I was 15, I was never athletic as a kid but everyone has to start somewhere and after a couple of years of consistent training I had built an ok physique.

At University I played American Football for 3 years, during this time I really got into weightlifting and started to see results I could be proud of. I trained for sports performance but still kept a tight grip on the visual aspects of my physique.

Playing the sport I was unfortunate enough to suffer injuries to my shoulders resulting in open surgery on both of them, a year apart from each other and both with 6 month lay-offs.

Coming up to my second operation I wanted a last hurrah, to go out with a bang before having all my ‘gains’ taken away from me again. So I decided to enter the BNBF midlands 2012. With 4 weeks to prep I didn't know what to expect and put a lot on the line but it turned out that my best was enough and I was lucky enough to win my category (Juniors) and the best presentation award.

I had my second surgery in August and this time a 5 month lay-off. In October 2012 I spotted Fit Factor at SportEx Festival in Manchester, where they advertised a grand prize of a trip to Las Vegas. I still had months of recovery until I could pick up a weight, but nonetheless I entered the competition there and then and paid my entry fee.

I felt that if I had a target, something to aim towards, then it would force me to get back in shape as quickly as possible. As soon as I recovered I barely missed a session all the way up until the show.

After winning Fit Factor I won a trip to Las Vegas so without a second thought I knew I'd enter a show out there; the Muscle & Fitness Model Search. I didn't place at this show but it was an amazing experience.

Why did you decide to chase a career in sport and fitness instead of pursue your Aerospace Engineering Degree?

David Bissell

I finished my degree in June 2013, for which I studied a masters in Aerospace Engineering. I did enjoy engineering when I really got into a module or a particular project, however in lectures I'd always be thinking about other things – training, MASS and super stardom.

Throughout my final year the question was – shall I go into engineering or should I try to emulate Arnold Schwarzenegger? One had a clear path with a stable life; the other was a gamble but my true desire. I went for the second option, and it's safe to say that there's no turning back now!

Winning Fit Factor combined with the enthusiasm about MASS from fellow students sparked a desire in me. When I graduated in July “I had a dream,” that dream was to grow MASS globally, helping as many other students as I could to set it up, to take my physique to the next level, improve myself as a person/individual and break into modelling and/or acting! All of which would all take a lot of work and a lot of luck, haha! So there was no room for engineering in there.

We know you were the Fit Factor Champion 2013 – why did you decide to compete?

It was at SportEx Festival in October where I first found out about Fit Factor, I saw the stand and had a chat with the organisers about the show. As soon as I was told that the prize was a trip to Vegas that was it!

Having previously won a natural bodybuilding show I was considering which show to do next and couldn't think of any others with such a good prize! At that time the competition was a while away so I had plenty of time to recover from my surgery and pack some size back on, I knew committing myself that far in advance would give me the motivation to get back to my old self as quick as possible.

Describe the moment you found out you'd won…

Winning Fit Factor was the greatest feeling I've had, when my name was called I knew what it meant but the reality didn't hit me for days, I was simply too happy (and shocked) for it to settle in.

One of the best things about it was standing on stage next to my best buddy Stephen Olagoke who I trained with, when his name was called out as well as mine I was overly excited for the both of us.

It was also great how happy all the other competitors were for me, I received many congratulations and they were all genuinely pleased for me, which was a tribute to the atmosphere of the show and the brotherhood amongst competitors.

Have you any future competitions lined up?

I sure do! I'll always continue to compete. But I can't reveal which shows I'll be competing in just yet ;)

What advice would you give to those maybe considering entering a competition?

David Bissell

My advice for someone looking to compete would be that stage presence and personality is just as important as your physique development. Many shows are also judged on stage presence and marketability, so a whole half of your score doesn't have anything to do with how unbelievably vascular you might be!

Amongst many great physiques, the ones who are able to show off their physique's the best and make it look effortless at the same time are the ones who will do well.

Think about planning your posing, accentuating your strong points, have a good tan and haircut, wear stylish, well fitted swim and sportswear, smile and control your breathing well, acknowledge the crowd, judges and photographer and last but not least prepare thoroughly, not only so that you can do well but so that you can really get your monies worth and enjoy the experience too.

How important is nutrition in achieving and maintaining your physique?

Nutrition is key! Consistency with diet helps you so much mentally. Always having a stocked up fridge and enough food, planning when you will prepare meals – puts you in a state of comfort where you can relax, focus on training and then tweak your diet as and when you need too. I recommend buying meats in bulk and vegetables from your local market.

MuscleFood.com is great for meat; it's all of the highest quality and is shipped directly to your door. All the great different meat types keep you entertained and enjoying your diet and the convenience is great.

Do you use supplements? If so, what do you use and why?

My core supplements are Whey protein, Vitargo, Creatine Monohydrate, Beta Alanine, BCAAs, Glutamine, Pre-Workout formulas, Protein bars, Multi-Vitamins, Vitamin D3, Omega 3, Vitamin C, J-X (joint complex) and ZMB6.

Once your diet is spot on supplements help in giving you that little bit extra which you may not be able to obtain as easily and conveniently from food sources.

Once your diet is spot on supplements help in giving you that little bit extra…

What are your long term goals for your training?

My long term goal is to have a physique which is both aesthetically pleasing and athletic. I want to try my hand at all of the different fitness based sports out there which maintaining a fitness model look and competing in (and hopefully winning) many more shows to come.

Back to your businesses! What is the Muscle & Athletic Sports Society and why did you set it up?

David Bissell - MASS

MASS is a non-profit organisation with an aim to help improve the health and fitness services available to students and offer opportunities and guidance in fitness and weightlifting sports.

It facilitates consultations, lectures, sports events and much more at universities all across the UK. With the help of many others I set up MASS in 2011 at the University of Leicester because I wanted to build a community for students into fitness; we were amazed with the brilliant support we received from members and sponsors and have now grown to be present at over 10 universities in the UK and one in the USA.

We have an official program that enables enthusiastic students at universities where MASS isn't already present to start up a MASS society of their own and enjoy the benefits it offers.

How has the concept been received by students and uni's since its conception in 2011?

Students are all over the idea! At the founding University (Leicester) they are now the highest membership club with over 500 paid members. Everybody likes it and from students at other Universities the first response is always that they wish something like MASS existed at their Uni.

Starting MASS up is another step however, it takes a confident individual with a lot of drive, ambition and determination to pull a committee together and get the club up and running – well done and thank you for your hard work to all our committee members thus far!

Finally, where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I see MASS being present as a society at almost all UK Universities and having expanded to the USA, Europe, Asia and Australia. I see Mr University being a global competition with qualifiers all over the world and a grand final in the UK. And I personally will be ultra-shredded and will live in a mansion made of whey protein.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Persistence and never giving up is the key. Rome wasn't built in a day and there is no clear path to success; you just have to keep on persevering!