A bodybuilder and personal trainer who works out at a Leamington gym is aiming to be named Mr Universe when he competes at the prestigious event in Birmingham next month.
Max O'Connor, 30, from Stratford and who trains at the Workout Mill in Leamington's Regent Place, is a former junior level England rugby player who was forced out of the game through injuries and switched to bodybuilding ten years ago.
Just three years later, aged 23, he won the National Amateur Body Builder's Association (NABBA) Pro – AM title - a feat previously only achieved by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger at that young age.
Since then, he became the NABBA World Champion in 2015 and has twice been a runner-up at Mr Universe, both in 2012 and 2017.
This was despite having to endure eight surgeries in the last four years.
Max said: “I ruptured my anterior cruciatelLigament playing for my local team in Stratford in a memorial game.
"That led to a big operation to sew it back together and part of the rehabilitation was to get into a gym.
"I joined up my local strength gym and part of the rehab was to strengthen my hamstring and I got into strength training that way.
"Initially I trained for about six months and really enjoyed it.
"I saw my body change and the results came quickly.
"Someone mentioned I should do a bodybuilding show.
"I said there was no chance I was getting in sparkly pants and getting on stage ever.
"My mother kept going on and on at me and eventually it broke me.
"I said alright I’ll go and do one and the rest is history.
"I ended up entering a show and I didn’t realise how big it was. It was the biggest UK BFF qualifying event of the year for the UK’s BFF Championships.
"I rocked up thinking I was going to a normal regional show only to realise there was around 2,500 people in the audience.
"I thought, I’ve bitten off more than I can chew here, but then ended up going through with it did it and won.
"You get such a buzz from winning and – I was hooked from there.”
So what does Max's training regime involve and what lengths does he have to go to to be a contender for the Mr Universe crown?
In the build up to the event he’ll have six meals a day.
Meal 1: Oats in the morning with eggs, egg whites and a USN Blue Lab Whey protein shake.
Meal 2: Whole eggs on wholegrain bread
Meal 3: Large chicken and rice meal with plenty of vegetables
Meal 4: Soaked oats, USN Blue Lab Whey protein shake and USN Muscle Fuel
Meal 5: In between training he’ll use USN BCAA Power Punch and a USN carbohydrate powder followed by USN Muscle Fuel post workout.
Meal 6: White fish meal with white rice.
At the start of his preparations he’ll consume about 5,500 calories per day dropping down to about 3,000 per day day closer to the date of the show.
Max said: "“Carb drinks it makes it a lot easier for us.
“I would you say that one of the hardest aspects of being a body builder sticking to the diet as a result. I know some of the boys I train with could eat all day every day just bland food and ramming it in, but for me I don’t have a great appetite.”
Max said another difficulty of being a bodybuilder is finding clothes which actually fit him correctly and they often have to be tailored for him.
He said: " “A 32” waist with a 29” thigh is hard to get hold of."
Max's before and after statistics are as follows: 118kg/90kg, waist 34”/34” (always 34”), thigh 30”/26”, chest 52”/48”, bicep 22”/18”.
The NABBA Mr and Mrs Universe competitions take place at Birmingham Symphony Hall on Saturday November 10.