Phil Cohen Athlete Profile

Natural Bodybuilder Phil Cohen has a string of recent first place finishes, and is currently seeking his pro card with the IFPA and WNBF.
Phil Cohen

Quick Stats

  • Phil Cohen
  • 07/25/1982
  • Delaware
  • 6'0"
  • 175 Pounds
  • 10
  • Chest
  • Squats, Deadlift or Bench Press!
  • Whey Protein

Competition History

  • August 28, 2010 - OCB Battle for the Belt Open Tall - Placing: 1
  • August 14, 2010 - OCB Presidential Cup Open Light Heavy - Placing: 4
  • June 26, 2010 - INBF Hercules Open Middleweight - Placing: 3
  • June 19, 2010 - USBF Battle of the York Novice Lightweight - Placing: 1, USBF Battle of the York Novice Overall - Placing: 1, USBF Battle of the York Open Middleweight - Placing: 2
  • June 22, 2008 - NGA Annapolis Novice Heavy - Placing: 2
  • June 21, 2008 - OCB Eastern Seaboard Novice Tall - Placing: 2, OCB Eastern Seaboard Open Tall - Placing: 2
  • June 14, 2008 - USBF Battle of the York Novice Heavy - Placing: 2, USBF Battle of the York Open Light Heavy - Placing: 2
  • June 16, 2007 - OCB Eastern Seaboard Novice Tall - Placing: 2, OCB Eastern Seaboard Open Tall - Placing: 4

Your background

What is your background and how did you get started in bodybuilding?

I love the discipline of bodybuilding.Growing up I was always fairly thin and never carried a lot of muscle or definition. I was pretty active, really big into skateboarding and drums throughout high school. I have always been into sports and hobbies that rely heavily on self-motivation and determination to succeed. I also had a pretty fast metabolism as a youth, making it hard for me to put on weight. I started lifting towards the end of my senior year in high school and, like most beginners, immediately saw results and was hooked.

All through college I was religious about hitting the gym but didn’t know a thing about nutrition. I ate everything I could get my hands on. As long as I saw the scale going up I was happy. Luckily, due to my ectomorphic nature, I was able to hold off a lot of body fat and gain a decent amount of muscle despite my lack of proper nutrition and training knowledge.

After college my love for eating soon caught up to me. I topped 220 on the scales and decided enough was enough - I needed to diet. So, still clueless in the realm of nutrition, I found a random diet from a bodybuilder online. I decided that if it worked for this guy, it had to work for me. Well sure enough, I started losing weight. I lost a lot of fat and well...a lot of muscle too.

Regardless, I was pretty satisfied with my results and decided to enter a local natural show after some coaxing from a trainer at my gym. It was all so new to me. I didn’t even realize natural competitions existed. I ended up placing fairly well despite my lack of proper dieting. That was all I needed to get hooked. I quickly dove head first into the life of a competitor.

Why do you love bodybuilding?

I love the discipline. I love to set goals and work hard until I reach them. I love that you are ultimately responsible for your own success. I love that you are ultimately responsible for your own failure. I love to push myself beyond what I think I can handle, only to then set the bar higher. I love the sound of metal hitting metal.

I love the feeling of the blood rushing through your veins. I love the meticulous detail of the diet and training. I love the science behind exercise and nutrition. I love setting an example for others. I love the community within competition. I love the structure the sport provides. I love the sweat, blood, and tears. I love the pain. I love the joy of success. I love the constant battle to perfection.


What is your training philosophy?

There are lots of fancy routines out there, but when it boils down to it if you're not adding weight to the bar over time then you're simply not growing. If your getting your muscle groups stronger in the long term while maintaining good form, then your making great progress. All routines and rep ranges have their merit, it’s all about adaptation and a progressive overload. I go into every workout with the mentality of outworking my yesterday’s self. Whether it’s adding weight to the bar, getting that extra rep, or buckling down on my form, I have to be better then I was the day before. Now granted there are lots of different factors that influence each workout, but if I don’t walk out of the gym knowing I gave it my all, then I don’t feel like I succeeded.

If you're not adding weight to the bar then you're simply not growing.

What's a good workout routine that has given you results?

There really hasn’t been one routine that worked best. All routines and rep ranges have their time and place. Whether it was a power/hypertrophy non-linear periodization or just an instinctive “going for the pump” split, the key has always been progressively getting stronger. I will mention the routine I am running now.

Having just come off of a successful competition season, I feel like I can improve on my physique by returning to the basics and building more thickness in my foundation. Right now I am running an upper/lower split, training each muscle group twice a week with 20 to 60 reps per group (credit do to Lyle McDonald!).

Coming off of my prep I needed a basic routine that focuses on hypertrophy and the core movements: squat, deadlift, bench press, overhead press, barbell row, etc. It’s not always about blasting every body part from every angle possible, but more about finding something you’ll stick to and something that enables you to get strong.

Legs and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Squat 3-4 6-8
Romanian Deadlift 3-4 6-8
Leg Press 2-3 10-12
Leg Curl 2-3 10-12
Standing Calf Raise 3-4 6-8
Seated Calf Raise 2-3 10-12
Seated Cable Crunch 2-3 10-12
Back, Chest and Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 3-4 6-8
Barbell Row 3-4 6-8
Incline Bench Press 2-3 10-12
Lat Pull Down 2-3 10-12
Skullcrusher 2-3 6-8
Barbell Curl 2-3 6-8
Legs and Abs
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 4-5 5
Leg Press 3-4 6-8
Leg Curl 3-4 6-8
Adductor Machine 2-3 10-12
Standing Calf Raise 3-4 6-8
Seated Calf Raise 2-3 10-12
Cable Crunch 1-2 12-15
Back, Chest, Shoulders and Arms
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press 3-4 6-8
Weighted Pull Up 3-4 6-8
Bench Press 2-3 10-12
Hammer Strength Machine Row 2-3 10-12
Dumbbell Lateral Raise 1-2 12-15
Cable Tricep Extension 1-2 12-15
Dumbbell Hammer Curl 1-2 12-15

What guy doesn’t want to bench?If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  1. Squat – A properly (and safely) done squat with solid technique is one of the most productive exercises there is to stimulate muscular growth and strength gains. While primarily a leg exercise, it puts a lot of stress on the entire body and affects a large amount of muscle. You just can’t beat the feeling of hundreds of pounds of metal sitting on your back while you unrack the weight and squat to the floor.
  2. Deadlift – Maybe one of the most instinctual exercises for a man. You see something heavy sitting on the ground and you want to try and pick it up. While so seemingly simple, it is one of the most technical exercises to perform to properly engage all the muscle fibers and execute without injury. It is one of the most impressive lifts because it involves explosive strength and speed. Besides, you just never know when you may need to lift a car off a helpless child. God forbid, if that ever happened, well...I’d want to be prepared.
  3. Bench Press – My sole reason for doing the bench is so when the bro’s ask me, “Yo how much ya bench?”, I can respond with, “More than you.” Okay only kidding, but seriously what guy doesn’t want to bench press? It is one of the exercises that most men are familiar with and like to talk about. And while a lot of bodybuilders quickly toss it out of their routines due to chance of injury, I believe with proper form and execution it is an extremely powerful movement for chest development.

What’s the best training tip you could give to others?

There are a lot that could mention, but I want to discuss something that has been on my mind lately. That is the use of proper form and a full range of motion. It’s one of the main things that annoy me in the gym. A lot of bodybuilders simply don’t take the time to learn the proper movement. They are increasing their chance of injury and not even benefiting fully from the movements. Just take a step back, learn the movement, drop the weight and the ego, adapt to the exercise, and use a safe and full range of motion. Then you can progress in weight as long as your form doesn’t break. The moment I did this for myself, I got rid of many nagging injuries and benefited from engaging the targeted muscle fibers.


What is your philosophy on nutrition?

My nutrition has become much more of a lifestyle change rather then eating specific foods at specific times. It is important to create a balance between this sport and the rest of your life (which I’m still working on!). And for a true bodybuilder there really isn’t an off-season. It can better be defined as periods of eating in surplus of calories to put on muscle and periods spent in a deficit to take of the fat.

I have the mentality that I am always in training for that next show—whether it is a year away or just a few weeks. I’m sick of hearing people say that a certain food is “clean” or “dirty”. It’s silly to think a food is good or bad. It seems that some people cast a moral judgment on foods. They think that they are better then someone else if they eat plain chicken and rice 8 times a day. Sure, no one can argue that a bodybuilder shouldn’t be eating the most nutritious foods available, but the key is to develop a healthy relationship with your diet.

Take responsibility, be consistent, educate yourself on nutrition, and have some method of tracking your macronutrient intake. If you’re in this for the long haul then it is important to be flexible with food choices but stay within your nutrient totals. However, it’s more then just eating the correct amount of calories per day. When you find the proper macronutrient breakdown for your body type and goals, then good things will follow.

It is important to create a balance between this sport and the rest of your life.

Give us a typical day in your off season diet:

Generally speaking, I like to keep my protein around 1-1.5g/lb depending on my goals. Fats I like to keep around 20-25% of my total caloric intake, and carbs pretty much fill in the remainder of my caloric requirements. I will raise my carbs and fats as needed to keep me gaining at a slow and controlled pace, but like to stay within 15-20 pounds of my stage weight. The closer you can stay in weight throughout the year, the less time you spend cutting for your next show and the more muscle you can maintain.

I started working with Dr. Joe Klemczewski a year ago and want to give him thanks for transforming my nutrition and creating a metabolic monster. I never realized that I could take such control of my metabolism just through creating the ideal macronutrient breakdown for my body and following it consistently.

While my food volume will change throughout my off season, right now my typical day is:

  • 7:30 – 2 whole eggs, 4 egg whites, 1 bagel, 1 tbs low fat cream cheese, 2 rice cakes, coffee with milk.
  • 11:00 – 6 oz ground chicken, 0.5 cup brown rice, 1 oz low fat cheese, 3 oz pepper and onions.
  • 2:00 – 8 oz Greek yogurt, 0.5 cup Cheerios, 1 packet oatmeal, 1 tbs natural peanut butter.
  • 5:30 – 4 oz ground turkey, 1 cup brown rice, 3 oz asparagus, 0.5 oz low fat Mexican cheese, 1 small bag of popcorn, 1 cup Cheerios.
  • 7:00 - 8:30 (training) – BCAAs and a small Gatorade.
  • 9:00 – 1 scoop whey protein, 1.5 cup oatmeal, 1 banana, 0.5 tbs honey, fat free whip cream.
  • 11:00 – 6 egg whites, 2 rice cakes, 1 tbs natural peanut butter, 1 bag small popcorn.

Give us a typical day in your diet (contest prep):

The structure of my diet stays the same throughout prep, but the goal changes. Instead of being at a small surplus (or maintenance) of calories, I shift to a slight caloric deficit. The goal is to burn off all of my body fat yet maintain all the precious muscle that I worked so hard to put on. To do this I like to give myself plenty of time to diet, shooting for around .5–l lb loss a week. This allows me to diet less aggressively and keep my carbs as high as possible while still losing body fat.

Learn your own metabolism.Keeping carbs elevated will ensure me that my metabolism stays aggressive and will also protect me from muscle loss. This is a sample from one of my days this past July. I had reached stage conditioning and competed in June and was now at maintenance calories until August, when I would compete again. As you may notice my food choices pretty much stay the same and I am able to eat a large amount of carbs due to my metabolism and properly structuring my macronutrients.

  • 7:30 – 7 egg whites, 1 bagel, 1 tbs low fat cream cheese, 2 rice cakes, 1 tbs natural peanut butter, 1 cup Cheerios, coffee with milk.
  • 12:30 – 8 oz ground chicken, 1 oz low fat cheese, 3 oz pepper & onions, 1 packet oatmeal.
  • 5:30 – 4 oz ground turkey, 1 cup brown rice, 3 oz asparagus, 1 small bag of popcorn, 1 cup Cheerios.
  • 7:00-8:30 (training) – BCAAs and glutamine.
  • 9:00 – 1 scoop whey protein, 1.5 cup oatmeal, 1 banana, 0.5 tbs honey, fat free whip cream.
  • 11:00 – 10 egg whites, 1 tbs natural peanut butter, 2 slices low carb whole wheat bread.

What are your favorite meals and foods?

My favorite meal right now would have to be eggs and potatoes. I love to wake up on Saturday morning, grab a few potatoes, cut them into cubes and pan fry them, or shred them with a cheese grater to make hash browns. Eggs are cooked sunny side up so I can break the yokes and dip the potatoes in them!

I’m also slightly addicted to rice cakes and peanut butter. Put a little honey on top and I’m in heaven. Another food I enjoy is those snack pack popcorns. They are a dieter’s delight—low calorie, high fiber, filling, and they take a long time to eat. Actually everything that I eat I really enjoy. That’s why I eat it. When I get sick of something, I just swap it out.

Favorite cheat food?

I tend to crave salty things. I’ve never really been a big desert kind of guy. If there was a bowl of ice cream and a bag of Doritos sitting in front of me, I would choose the Doritos any day. However, the only thing I wanted after my last set of shows this year was to hit the all you can eat sushi buffet. Mmmm, I’m getting hungry now. I’m a pretty simple kind of guy – nothing beats a good tuna or salmon roll with cucumber. The more wasabi, the better!

What’s the best nutrition tip you could give to others?

The best tip I could give would be to learn your own metabolism and become your own nutritionist. No two people are the same metabolically and personally. Track your food, be consistent, and educate yourself. Many bodybuilders follow special diets that require them to eat a specific food at a specific time of the day. They have every meal written out for them. Sure, it may be easier in the short term, but being a natural bodybuilder to me isn’t a short-term hobby.

I know that no two days of my life are exactly the same—life is unpredictable. Following a diet on paper teaches you nothing, provides misconceptions on food choices, and many times leaves competitors clueless on what to eat when their show is over. You see them gain all their weight back in a matter of weeks. You need to understand your body, how it works, and create your own meals. Your nutrition has to be flexible or you’re not going to stick with it. And to make progress in this sport you have to be consistent.


List 3 supplements that you’ve used to with good results.

  1. Whey Protein – It’s hard to even consider this a supplement. It’s almost a necessity for any bodybuilder. It provides convenience and flexibility for me to meet my protein needs. I have always been a fan on Optimum Nutrition Extreme Milk Chocolate Whey. So good. I take it post-workout, when I’m traveling, or any time when I need a quick and easy source of protein.
  2. Multivitamin – Nobody eats perfect all the time and as an athlete it is important to cover our bases and make sure we are getting all of out vitamins/minerals due to our intense training and demands that we put on our body. I take just a simple 1(or 2) a day multi, but make sure not to ignore the important aspects of obtaining nutrients through my overall diet as well.
  3. Fish Oil – I take these because eating fatty fish every day just isn’t too practical. They are proven to provide so many benefits like promote fat oxidation, inhibit fat storage, and control inflammation. I shoot for close to 3 grams per day of the combined EPA/DHA values. I like to buy the higher strength dosage so that it cuts down on the amount of pills I have to take each day.

I am a huge fan of Scivation and Optimum Nutrition.

What brands do you think are offering the best products at the moment?

I am a huge fan of Scivation and Optimum Nutrition. I seem to continually return to their products when I am purchasing supplements. Scivation makes a great BCAA product called Xtend and I am also a fan of their pre-workout drink Quake 10.0. I also use Primaforce for obtaining my creatine and such since they seem to have quality products and good pricing.

What do you think is a good off season muscle building stack?

Food. Lots of food. Overall, I’m really not huge into supplements. I think 99.9% of the supplement market is just a load of crap. They are always coming out with the newest product that promises 10 pounds of muscle in only 2 weeks. It’s a money market. They get your money with fake promises. There are only a handful of products that are tried and true and backed by quality research. Get your nutrition and training down and then worry about the rest. Off-season or pre-contest, I pretty much take the same supplements—whey protein, multivitamin, fish oils, creatine, BCAAs, an occasional pre-workout drink, and some additional vitamins and minerals.

What do you think is a good pre-contest/fat loss stack?

My thoughts are pretty much the same when it comes to pre-contest supplements. Diet and nutrition make up 98% of the battle. If you have the money and want that 2% icing on the cake then some addition supplements may give you that minor edge. I pretty much take the same supplements pre-contest as off season, but I may add in some additional glutamine and an occasional fat burner to use when I situationally need the energy.

Advice For Others

What are the 3 best tips you'd give to someone thinking about competing in natural bodybuilding?

  1. Big muscles don’t grow over night. It takes time, lots of work, and lots of patience. It’s important to stay consistent with your nutrition and train smart and injury free. If it were easy, then everyone would be walking around with bulging biceps and ripped abs. Worry about the bigger details (nutrition and training) before the smaller ones (supplements).
  2. Ask questions and dig into some research. Don’t just trust what your reading in mainstream magazines or online or what the big jacked guy at the gym tells you. I’m always asking why. Once I started to figure out what research proves effective, I incorporated these techniques into my nutrition and training and took my physique to a whole new level. You’d be surprised how many myths are still out there and are getting circulated every day.
  3. Have fun. If it’s not fun for you, then you’re in the wrong sport. Sure there will be hard times, but you should enjoy every second. You’re doing this for yourself, because you want to. So when you’re dieted, depleted, low on energy, and cranky, try not to take it out on anyone else (I’m telling myself that too!).

What is your best advice for looking your best on competition day?

Nothing you do in the final week before a show is going to magically make you look better. Before dieting you need to really take a step back and look at yourself. Realistically figure out just how much fat you have to lose. Now add another 10 pounds to that number. Most people waaaay underestimate their body fat. Give yourself enough time to diet so that you are in shape a couple weeks before the show.

You never know when you’ll hit a sticking point or when obstacles will arise. Being ready early allows you to increase your carb intake before the show so that you can start to stoke your metabolism and fill out your glycogen stores. Again, there are no tricks, just get lean. And for those competitors that are a week out and think they are holding water, news’s fat.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who's having trouble staying on track?

I think motivation comes with an extreme passion for doing what you love. I never have a hard time being motivated because I love what I do. I find myself searching the message boards, reading a lot of articles and books, surrounding myself with others who enjoy it, attending shows, and always trying to lend a helping hand. If you’re having a hard time staying on track then take a step back and look how far you have come. I always enjoy pulling up old progress photos of myself. It can get frustrating if you think your not making gains, but when you compare yourself over time, the results should be prominent and you should be proud.

Future Plans

What shows have you got coming up, where can we see you compete?

I just ended this season with a big class win at a natural pro-qualifier and barely losing the overall battle for the pro card. I plan on taking all of 2011 off and returning to the stage in 2012 for another chance at obtaining my natural pro card. I know I have a lot of work to do before I can stand competitively on a pro stage. Muscle doesn’t grow fast, but I’m willing to put forth the time and energy. I will not quit.

What would you like to achieve in your natural bodybuilding career?

My main goal right now is to win my natural pro card with the IFPA or WNBF and be competitive on the pro stage. In the meantime, I want to do whatever is possible to be a promoter of the sport of natural bodybuilding and set a solid example for others.

Favorite Competitors

Who are your favorite bodybuilders and idols?

There are too many to list. My trainer, Dr. Joe Klemczewski, has been a huge influence in my life and I have the utmost respect for him. I also admire Layne Norton for his research and the examples he has set in the sport. Other favorites include Doug Miller, Brian Whitacre, Philip Ricardo Jr., Jim Cordova, Dave Goodin, etc. But no one can top Arnold. He is the greatest American material culture icon in bodybuilding and has single handedly shaped the sport into what it is today.


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2 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 11/10/2010 - 16:37
RJ Perkins

How Phil has yet to obtain his pro-card is besides me the kids conditioning is bar none!

Almost thought I was going to have to compete against him...***scary thought***, looking forward to seeing Phil progress!

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Posted Thu, 11/11/2010 - 22:46

Thanks RJ! Really appreciate that. Congrats again on that obtaining that card. Stoked for you man! Although not gonna lie, I'm a bit jealous ; ) haha, hopefully well get a chance to meet on that pro stage soon enough!