Do you think you have what it takes to become a bodybuilder? Leejay Nelson does, and it is safe to say he is on the slow but steady climb to the top.

The 28-year-old from Stretford is an amateur bodybuilder and personal trainer at Flex and Tone in Salford. Nelson, who describes himself as an ‘artistic person’, speaks about how he became a bodybuilder. Nelson says: “I watched my first show in 2017 and my friend said I could be on stage. From then it just motivated me and I thought why not just go and push yourself and do it.”

Two years into his bodybuilding journey, Nelson dedicates almost every day of his life to his passion. The 28-year-old reveals: “Every body part is trained twice a week. When I’m not in competition mode I train Monday to Friday, and either Saturday or Sunday will be functional training to keep my flexibility and mobility, or Thai boxing to keep my joints safe.”

Based on Cobden Street in Salford, Flex and Tone is a bodybuilding gym that Nelson uses to trains clients and to train himself. Asked on why he goes to this particular gym, Nelson explains: “I like the gym’s with the old school feel. You just get in a zone, you’ve got no distractions. When I go to a gym I always look for environment, equipment, atmosphere, location and price and Flex and Tone fits everything.”

In terms of a bodybuilder’s diet, Nelson has been a vegan for over a year and a half. With the traditional stereotype that you need to eat meat to build muscle, Leejay Nelson is a prime example of why you do not: “I’ve not ate red meat for seven years in January. From then I ate just white meat, and it was just a case of educating myself a bit more to become full vegan. I’ve been a full vegan for 19 months now. It’s like bodybuilding, you have to do a lot of research so I’ve just took that principle into my food. Because I haven’t got a coach, I have to make sure my body’s getting the right amount of protein, the right amount of carbs, the right amount of fats, and it takes time for your body to get used to it.”

Talking about what he loves about bodybuilding, Nelson says: “I love the art. I’m an artistic person, I like music and portraits so I love the art form of it, you can sculpture your own body. As a kid I watched the wrestlers and the superheroes, so I’ve always wanted that alpha masculinity look for my physique.”

Leejay Nelson at the 2019 NAC Championships in Middleton. Image credit: Anthony Chia-Bradley

But there is a price to look this good, with Nelson highlighting the financial obstacles that new bodybuilders like himself must overcome. Nelson says: “A lot of people don’t understand that there’s not a lot of money in bodybuilding unless you’ve got a big sponsor or you’re a big time professional. If you’ve not got the followers on social media and the daily clients then the income is not there. People don’t understand that its fifty pounds a show, then you’ve got to pay for your travel, hotels, tanning, food and training for example. But you don’t want to limit yourself because you’ve not got the best gym, or you’ve not got the money. I’m kind of making do with what I’ve got, but I’ve not got a lot so it makes it that bit harder”.

Still quite new to the industry, Nelson has competed in numerous respected bodybuilding competitions, such as the 2018 British National Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF) and the United Kingdom Drug Free Bodybuilding Association (UKDFBA) 2019.

Nelson says: “The UKDFBA in Birmingham was where my foundation got laid as I did good in that one. Last year I came sixth in BNBF, this year I came third in UKDFBA so I can see my progress already slowly getting there.” Looking at 2020, Nelson confirmed that he will be competing at both the UKDFBA and the BNBF again, and says: “I know I’ll be getting to one of the two finals next year. That’s what bodybuilding is about, it’s a slow progression. No person has become a bodybuilder overnight. It’s not about me beating anyone else, it’s about me beating what I looked like this year. if I beat myself, I better myself. if I’m trying to beat my opponent, I’m always going to be chasing them.”

So with Nelson confident that he will get a top place finish next year, he has advice for bodybuilder’s starting from the bottom: “Do a lot of research to see if it’s even for you as a lot of people don’t tell you about the dark side of bodybuilding.They don’t tell you about the money aspect, they don’t tell you that you might not have a lot of people at your shows or a lot of family time. Bodybuilding is a regime. Are you a person that can follow a regime or are you a person that has to be monitored a lot?”

To follow Leejay Nelson and his bodybuilding progress, Nelson can be found on Instagram, and a short interview clip with the bodybuilder, discussing the difficulties of being a new face in the industry, is available below.


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