“If it was easy, everyone would be a champion. So, you’ve got to decide if you’re that person that’s going to be a champion.” Born and raised in Seattle Washington in the 1980s, Phillip “Phil” Heath was a star athlete and wowed his high school coaches with his skills on the basketball court as a shooting guard. Earning an athletic scholarship to the University of Denver after being heavily recruited in high school, Heath headed east to Colorado where he double-majored in information technology and business administration while spending the rest of his time on the hardwoods leading Denver’s Division I basketball team. As luck would have it, Heath’s success was only just beginning as he hung up his jersey and basketball sneakers in the hopes of taking the bodybuilding world by storm.
Knowing the importance of physical fitness even as a teen, Heath was 23 years old when he started weight training and turned his attention to bodybuilding in 2002. Three years later, he was ready to compete and entered a handful of National Physique Committee (NPC) competitions before his first major win as the light heavyweight NPC Colorado State in 2003. Winning the heavyweight NPC Colorado State title in 2004, he went on to win the overall heavyweight NPC USA Championships title, which earned him professional status and qualified him to compete in the IFBB’s Professional Bodybuilding competitions around the world. His bodybuilding dreams were quickly coming true.
Winning his first two IFBB competitions in the Colorado Pro Championship and the New York Pro Championship in 2006, Heath had a minor setback in 2007 when he came in fifth place in the highly publicized Arnold Classic. Although it qualified him to compete in the Mr. Olympia competition that year, he turned down the opportunity and, instead, focused on improving his form to better prepare for his Mr. Olympia debut in 2008. Although his decision shocked many competitors and industry commentators, it ultimately paid off as he made his Mr. Olympia debut with a third-place finish in 2008, which was unheard of since 1993 when the last novice to place in the top three was none other than Flex Wheeler.
Naturally, all eyes were on Heath as many believed he would win the Mr. Olympia title in 2009. However, the 5’9” tall Washington native had an unfortunate setback when a stomach virus in the weeks prior to the competition left him six pounds lighter on the first day. Taking fifth place in the contest, Heath was determined more than ever to improve his score the following year and, in 2010, he did exactly that with a second-place finish behind Jay Cutler. Studying Cutler’s score and his physique, Heath spent the next year working on his rear laterals and was ready to take on Cutler in 2011 when he won the Mr. Olympia title with Cutler coming in second. Talk about a major role reversal! Since then, Heath has won the title year after year and is the reigning Mr. Olympia, matching the legendary Dorian Yates with six title wins behind Ronnie Coleman’s and Lee Haney’s eight and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s seven.
As the current Mr. Olympia (until the competition in September 2017, that is), the 37-year-old Heath is the biggest name in bodybuilding today with many anticipating that he will take home the title once again later this year. Amid his incredible wins, he continues to build his reputation and his personal brand after landing on the cover of numerous magazines like Flex in addition to releasing his own line of bodybuilding DVDs including The Gift, The Gift Unwrapped, Journey to the Olympia, Becoming the Number 13 and Operation Sandow. But, like many successful bodybuilders, Heath hasn’t stopped with just a few videos.
Cashing in on his nickname as “The Gift” in his films, Heath also launched his own fitness clothing company known as Gifted Athletics. In 2014, he made history once again when he partnered with Joey Firestone and launched the Gifted Nutrition supplement company. Why was this so impressive? At the time, Heath was the first professional bodybuilder to launch a nutrition company while holding the Mr. Olympia title and actively competing. Not bad, right?
Beyond his successful business ventures and his determination to hold onto the Mr. Olympia title for a seventh year in a row, Heath does his best to live each day by his mantra to “turn the pain into power.” Now living in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and training nonstop at the Armbrust Pro Gym, Heath managed to take some time out of his busy training schedule in 2013 to make a brief appearance during the TNA Wrestling pre-show for the Bound for Glory event on October 20th. Accompanying Robbie E and Jessie Godderz into the ring, the audience went wild hoping the six-time Mr. Olympia would make history and throw a few punches. Luckily for Robbie E and Godderz, the 250-pound Heath refrained.
Today, the 37-year-old continues to train as many anticipate his seventh Mr. Olympia competition will end in victory in 2017. In the meantime, he is always quick to encourage aspiring bodybuilders by sharing his own experience. Often imparting a few words of wisdom, Heath says, “Being negative and lazy is a disease that leads to pain, hardship, depression, poor health and failure. Be proactive and give a damn to achieve success.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!