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Mo Samuels


Vital Statistics Dec 13/14 Current
Height 178cm 180cm
Weight 65-67kg 82kg
Waist 10-12% ~7%

It’s hard to believe, but just 2 years ago, Mo Samuels was unable to bend his left leg, or even walk, let alone lift weights.

In December 2013, Mo fell seriously ill from what he and his Doctors believed to be a viral infection but after lots of toing and froing, and injections into his knee joint, it became apparent that the culprit of his illness was much more sinister.

He had, in fact, a bacterial infection in his left knee and lower leg. This infection had been made worse by the medication originally administered and it was spreading.

Unfortunately, antibiotics didn’t work and Mo’s condition deteriorated to the point of being rushed into hospital for two emergency knee operations to try and wash the infection from his leg.

He ended up staying in hospital for the best part of one month.

During this time, Mo, who had been training in the gym on and off for two years prior, lost an incredible amount of weight, dropping to a feather light 65kg, which, for a 6 foot male, is extremely underweight.

Feeling understandably down and fearful of what was to come next, Mo was eventually discharged from hospital with a stark warning from his Doctors that he may never regain the mobility in his leg.

Mo - Before & After

But Mo had other plans…

For one month, Mo couldn’t walk, but he was determined to regain his mobility and would stand one legged in the shower every morning trying to stretch his quad by pulling his heal towards his glutes - a challenge that often left him in tears.

After a few weeks, Mo returned to school where he would spend time in the gym with the goal of simply walking again. All of this hard work began to really pay off leading to him not only walking unassisted, but even squatting his own body weight!

He finally had his mobility back, driven by the people who told him he couldn’t do it. It was around this time that Mo caught the gym bug.

So, he began training with the goal to better his general health, as well as get stronger.

Now, two years later, Mo Samuels is in the best shape of his life having put on an amazing 20kg of pure muscle and is even training to compete*!

He currently follows a clean eating diet focused on carb cycling for his bulking and cutting seasons, and he has big plans for his future in the fitness industry.

Most of all, he’s an inspiration to everyone who says “they can’t,” because with a goal, dedication and sheer determination to succeed, anything is possible.

Here’s his story.

*At the time this interview was conducted, Mo was training to take part in a Men’s Physique Tall competition. We have since been made aware that Mo placed an incredible third.

Congratulations Mo!

Mo After Transformation image

Training Plan

My training depends on whether I'm trying to bulk up or cut down. I'll alternate between the two, bulking in the winter (need that blubber to keep me warm), and then cutting down in the spring/summer.

I probably spend about 50% of my time bulking, 30% cutting then 20% maintaining throughout the course of the year. Currently I'm trying to lose weight as I have my first men’s physique competition in just over a week’s time.

Cutting

My current workout split for my cut is:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday
Chest and triceps Back and biceps Back and biceps
Thursday Friday Saturday
Shoulders Legs Arms
Sunday
Cardio and abs

I'll train for about an hour and a half on average, the cardio days are really rest days as they're much shorter! Depending on how I'm feeling I'll do 25 minutes high intensity sprinting on a treadmill on maximum incline or slightly longer and walking on max incline, burning around 300 calories.

When I'm weight training and trying to lose weight, I'll always start my first exercise as a heavy compound, when possible, with low reps and slightly longer rest times; typically 1:30-2:00 depending on the exercise - and 5 sets by 5 reps.

After I've done that initial heavy compound e.g. bench press or deadlift or squat... I'll up the pace - shortening the rest times and upping the reps. I'll do sets of 4 at rep ranges of 12+ resting anywhere between 30 seconds to 1:30 depending on how big a muscle group is trained and how much I want to kill it!

On average I'll hit a total of seven exercises in a typical workout, each comprising of 4 sets (other than the first which is usually 5 if a heavy compound). I like to mix up isolation movements and compound movements.

Training Place

For example, on chest and triceps I may do:

  • Flat barbell bench press 5x5
  • Incline dumbell press 4 x 12
  • Incline dumbell flyes 4 x 12
  • Cable flyes 4 x 12
  • Dips or close grip bench (depending on how I feel) 4 x 12 (Transitioning from chest to tris)
  • One arm tricep extension 4 x 12
  • Cable pushdowns 4 x 12

As I get to the final set of an exercise I often like to do a drop set - dropping the weight without a rest to really burn myself out until failure. The exercises will vary from week to week.

The big compounds remain the same but I might make small alterations to others such as changing close grip bench press for dips etc. This way I kind of keep the body guessing, as if I do the same thing week in and week out my body is going to get used to it! I like variation.

Bulking

When I'm bulking I like to change my workout split. Push, pull, legs and rest is a favourite:

Monday
Push: Chest, triceps and shoulders
Tuesday Wednesday Thursday
Pull: Back and biceps Legs Rest Day
Friday
Push (& cycle starts again)

I like this because you're hitting everybody part more than once a week. I like to focus on my weak parts to ensure that I train them around twice a week. Once I've been on one training split for a few months I might change it to something different. For example, during my bulk I also did the split:

  • Monday: Legs
  • Tuesday: Chest and triceps
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: Back and biceps
  • Friday: Legs
  • Saturday: Shoulders
  • Sunday:  Arms

Basically my training is all about variation. I'm a strong believer in not doing the same thing week in week out and am a big fan of introducing new exercises every week and changing things up which also keeps it fun!

To really bring a body part up I think you should hit it twice a week, at one point I was training legs three times a week (until I eventually burned out and dropped it back to two). I went from being the stereotypical legless gym goer to having the best legs in the gym.

The best thing I ever did for my physique is train more than once a week and I believe it's the best way to bring your physique up to the next level. It's all about consistency, variation, intensity and dedication at the end of the day!

Meal Plan

As I said earlier I have two phases: bulking and cutting.

When trying to lose weight I go into a calorie deficit of about -500 calories to begin with from my maintenance calories and track my weight throughout that week. I want to lose about 1.5lbs per week, maybe slightly slower depending upon the time scale but 1.5lbs a week max really to minimise muscle loss.

I'll track my weight through the week and if I’m losing too much, I will up my calories by say 100, too little, down them by 100. In terms of nutrition I like to eat 1.2lbs of protein per pound of body weight, 20% of my calories come from fat and the rest from carbs.

I like to keep my protein high, especially in a calorie deficit too spare muscle! I used to be scared of carbs, but now I love them. They're a brilliant, muscle sparing, macronutrient. I think that's where a lot of people go wrong, dropping carbs too low and over restricting calories unnecessarily!

My macronutrients look like this currently:

  • Calories ~2900
  • Protein: 240g
  • Fat: 82g
  • Carbs: ~300g

I really like intermittent fasting, it has numerous health benefits but the main reason for me is that I find it makes me feel more satisfied and stops me from wanting to binge on bad food. I typically eat from 12:00-20:30, then fast for the rest of the day.

Muscle Food Products


I also like to carb backload and cycle carbs. I consume around 30% of my carbs before I train and about 70% after I train. Then in terms of carb cycling I will have low days and a high day where I will refeed on carbohydrates and get more hormone levels back to a nice level!

I track all my food and calories using myfitnesspal.

My protein and fat intake remains the same when I cut; I vary my calories with my carbohydrate intake. A typical day for me looks like this:

Note that my carbs control my calories, so the amount of carbs I eat depend on how many calories I want to eat for that day. My protein and fats remain constant.


I'll use tools like protein shakes, protein bars and other Muscle Food snacks to bring up my protein if I'm low and as a tasty snack!

So the high protein food makes up the back bone of my diet and carbs vary controlling my calories.
For example, if I was bulking and wanting to gain weight I may eat the same high protein food and amount of it, to get my 240g of protein, but I will have much more carbohydrates to bring up my caloric intake to say, 3700 per day to gain muscle.

Interview with Mo Samuels

How did your diagnosis affect your outlook on health and fitness?

Before I developed the infection in my leg I had had lymphoedema* from a young age. I was unable to do a lot of things that the other kids did, so spent my break and lunch times in the school gym. I couldn't really play the sports they did, especially in the summer heat, as all the standing up was really bad for my leg.

Younger Mo

I kind of just went every lunch to kill time, casually, not really knowing what I was doing and thought it would make girls like me. This probably separated me from the other kids, as I would spend a lot of time alone.

I used to take a fair bit of abuse for being in the gym the whole time, as they wouldn't understand.

After I became ill, the gym became a tool for me to regain my health. My initial goal was to be able to walk and eventually run - which I smashed. I suppose it's a form of therapy, physically but also mentally, somewhere where I can completely immerse myself in one simple task - so much more than just moving heavy objects.

I was in a bad place when I got out of hospital. But working my arse off every day and seeing small improvements motivated me massively and made me push myself further and harder with one goal - to get better.

I passed that goal and carried on. I wanted to be better than I had ever been before. I was told that it was likely I would have arthritis in my knee, and wasn't sure how much movement I'd regain. I realised at this point that feeling sorry for myself had held me back.

There are so many others worse off, and that I should take everything I am able to do and do it to the best of my ability. My diagnosis made me appreciate what I do have, made me want to utilise it and take full advantage of it. It makes me want to push my physique and health to the next level, to be the best I can possibly be, every day I wake up and know that I am better than the day before.

Younger Mo

As well as driving me it also gave me hope. This last year has been great, I've met so many genuine people through fitness, some of my best friends. I always used to associate "gym goers" as the arrogant bully "meatheads" types that we are often portrayed as.

But it's been a real eye opener. Never have I met such a welcoming and supporting bunch of people than those involved in health and fitness.

*Lymphoedema is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs. – Source NHS

What was your first thought when the doctors told you they were uncertain how much mobility you'd regain?

It sounds silly now, but at the time my biggest concern was about losing my leg. When the first operation didn't work and they decided to do a second one to clear out the infection one of the side effects I was warned about was arthritis and reduced mobility.

My mind was racing, so I was more concerned about what if this one failed, and began thinking of the worst case... After the second surgery and antibiotics were a success but the reduced movement in my knee came as a huge shock.

After a month of not being able to bend it due to the swelling, infection and surgery it felt pretty much locked in place, like nothing would give past a few degrees. Day by day I began to get it back though, until I could bend it about 130 degrees with the help of a hospital physio.

Unfortunately I didn't get any help after I left the hospital and could still barley bend my knee...so every morning I would stand in the shower and stretch my heel towards my bum until the point of tears.

Mo Leg

My first thoughts were instantly the worst case scenario. What if I never walk properly again, never run etc.? But as time progressed, this uncertainty turned to motivation. Every day without fail I would do stretches, it felt like I was tearing the muscle, I wanted to prove them wrong, and eventually I regained my mobility.

How did it feel when you took those first steps unassisted?

Pretty damn good. I remember going home with my mum, and the first thing I made her do was take me to the beach, because I had been staring at the same view for weeks. I was on crutches at this point and determined to go for a "hobble" on the sand (she wasn't too keen on the idea).

Standing on your own two feet and sea air was the best feeling in the world after being in a hospital bed and wheelchair for weeks. In terms of fully unassisted walking it's all a bit of a blur, it was painful, a challenge at first and sometimes upset me but slowly I ditched the crutches!

Mo Transformation

How long was it before you really noticed a change in your physique?

It all happened really quick, especially as I trained before I was ill and had that muscle memory, although at the time it felt like progress was slow and nothing was happening, until one day I looked back at a picture I'd taken on my phone from when I was ill and thought – “oh sh**, I've grown!”

So I'd say probably a few weeks really, the main thing was a change in strength and mobility which was soon followed by a change in how I looked.

Did you have any setbacks along the way? If so, how did you overcome these?

Nothing major but a few little ones. My leg is really susceptible to infections and I've cut it a few times along the way which has always been a scare. You've just got to know when you have to take it easy and have a break from training to let things heal and recover.

I've had a few days as well where my leg has ballooned in size, the worst had to be when I finally got one of my dream jobs, working on a film set... that upset me, kind of felt like my dreams and everything I had worked for had been smashed to pieces in a day, as a day on my feet had really messed me up – it made me worry there was no future career for me.

I worked around it though, got a little camping stall and my boss, Edgcombe and Sharky, were kind enough to let me sit down when the cameras were rolling!

I doubled up on leg supports and moved on.

Which has had the most impact on your physique - gym or diet?

100% diet. If you're diet isn't up to scratch then there's not much point in training. Nutrition is everything. Your body is a machine; you get in what you put out. If you don't put the right fuel in, you won't get the results - simple.

Diet comes before training in my eyes every time. You could go to the gym all you want, but if you're not eating enough calories, you're not going to get significantly bigger, or put on any proper weight - diet is everything.

pizza chicken

Top three foods you can't live without?

Haha...from a fitness based point of view I'd say:

From a tastes good point of view:

  • Pizza
  • Chocolate milkshake
  • Those little chocolate shells that you get!

What's your ULTIMATE cheat meal?

SOO many, I love food too much.

[But I’m] going to have to say a Pizza and all the sides, with some ice-cream for dessert. Although an all you can eat Chinese buffet and a good curry are very, very close contenders!

Three moves you love in the gym?

Bench press - it's a classic and such a powerful and fun movement!

I also like tricep rope push downs at the moment, really contracting and squeezing your triceps, pumping them full of blood is such a good feeling.

Thirdly, is probably bent over rows.

And the one you loathe?

Currently... it's deadlifts. I have a love hate relationship [with them]. But when you're dieting, feeling weak, I just can't stand them (sorry)! So I have taken a break - ha.

Your physique takes a LOT of dedication - how do you maintain your motivation?

I try not to lose touch with my roots and remember why I started. I like to think of all the people who can't do what I'm doing - be it due to illness or old age - and do it for them.

Or the people who told me I couldn't, laughed at me - to prove them wrong. I also think that your work ethic in the gym reflects your work ethic elsewhere. You give it everything you've got and you'll go far. I want to succeed.

Mo After Transformation

Who has been your greatest inspiration?

I have a few. My Grandad is one, he had an awesome physique back in the day and I only found this out once I started lifting - he actually trained with Arnold [Schwarzenegger] once when he was on the UK!

But he's proud of me. My buddy Nathan Etherington is also a massive inspiration. He won his category in the comp I'm doing in a week’s time, and has been a massive help, in and out the gym.

He's really given me faith in natural bodybuilding, and has achieved far more with his physique than I thought possible! Plus, training with someone slightly better than you always keeps you on your toes.

Another inspiration has to be Zyzz. Not because of his physique, but more because of his care free attitude and do what you want kind of outlook on life.

What was the best advice you've ever been given?

From my buddy Nathan - he basically taught me that you should enjoy everything you do. If you're dieting, and hate it, why do it? Diets should be enjoyable, the training should be enjoyable, and if it's not, you're doing something wrong and should do it differently.

I've used this a lot, especially on my prep into this comp. I used to massively over restrict calories, just eat veg and lean meat - but I can happily say that not once have I eaten just meat and veg without wanting to.

I've enjoyed my time training, and dieting. And think others should to, if you're doing something you don't enjoy, don't do it.

Biggest non-food related guilty pleasure?

I was listening (and enjoying) radio 4 today in the car? Despite being 19, not 90.

You're going to be taking part in your first Men's Physique competition this year - what made you want to compete?

To prove to myself that I can do it, to prove those wrong that have put me down and laughed at me and to show others what's possible! Being healthy and looking good doesn't have to be a chore, and I believe more people should realise that.

Mo Winning Award


Aside from your competition, what’s next for you?

I'll have to see how this goes first! I'm trying to get some funky new surgery for my leg - I would love to compete in some other comps like the UKBFF then maybe make it onto the international stage but I feel my leg currently holds me back on a stage due to its asymmetry.

We'll see how MASS SPC goes first! I've been really enjoying making fitness videos on YouTube lately, I'm putting some real work into that over these next few months and will see where it goes.

I've had a lot of good feedback which has really motivated me! Especially when people tell you that they've got to the gym, and there life has improved thanks to you - nothing quite like it – Check it out: mofit

As I'm unsure whether I'll be able to compete in the future and really love the social media side of the fitness industry and film making, I'm on a mission to get sponsored. I'm focusing on growing my social media and having a good time.

If competing is too much for me and my leg I would love to take it down that route, that's the great thing with fitness, there are so many places you can go with it. In terms of summer, I plan on getting some more work in film again, smashing the gym, eating good food, making even better videos and enjoying it!

Muscle Food Final Thoughts

Every transformation story featured on Muscle Food outlines that a good diet and a good workout plan are essential to achieving the results you desire. All transformation stories, exercise routines and diet plans are provided by the customer and have not been checked by a nutritionist or doctor. Results may vary for different individuals.