‘Lots of people think I take steroids. It’s a compliment, but I’ve never taken them and I never will,’ says 27-year-old Will Duru, a 6ft 3 personal trainer from South London who gained 40kg of muscle mass over six years.
Duru transformed his self-described ‘tall and skinny’ physique to stacked and shredded, and in the process shifted his scale weight from a light 70kg to a powerful 110kg. Rather than look for pharmaceutical help to achieve his goals, he did it with pure persistence and focus, slowly gaining weight over time – weight, which he adds, he has no trouble maintaining thanks to a sustainable and realistic fitness and dietary approach.
But looking back, what was behind Duru’s body reshape?
‘When I was in college back in 2013 I couldn’t bench 40kg, but my classmates could,’ he says. ‘I thought I was strong but I felt so weak. I vowed that I’d come back after that summer break and bench 100kg.
‘I trained all summer. I was doing 300 press-ups every night with a 10kg dumbbell on my back. All I did was press-ups, pull-up and dips. When I went back to college, I benched 100kg.’
Duru’s summer sessions kickstarted a love of weight training, and he grew from 70kg to 80kg within 10 months. ‘I’d always been active, playing football four times a week. I was strong when it came to the football pitch, but in the weights room, I wasn’t strong at all.
‘I started researching how to gain weight and muscle,’ he says. ‘I overhauled my nutrition, adding more protein. I went from eating three meals a day, to four and then to six meals a day, keeping my metabolism revved up.’
But Duru wasn’t working alone. His gym-loving college teacher, Mr Walter, acted as his Mr Miyagi-style guide. ‘I would train with him. He’d tell me what to eat, what time, and what supplements to take,’ he says.
Once he’d learnt his way in the weights room, Duru devoted his uni years – where he studied Sport & Exercise Science — to growing his body. He dedicated time every day to training and eating a muscle-building diet, gaining 30kg over three years.
‘My training was bodybuilding-style, working with high reps – 10-15 for each exercise – using light weight, focusing on controlling the muscle and making the muscle grow.’
‘I trained twice a day: before lectures for an hour and then again in the evening-either cardio or weights. I ate four to five times a day with a heavy protein focus: breakfast was an egg-white omelette using eight eggs, then I’d eat chicken or salmon with rice or sweet potatoes and spinach, about three times a day.
‘I loved how my body had transformed so I trained to be a PT after uni,’ Duru adds. ‘I loved how people’s confidence improved when they worked out and hit their goals.’
‘I knew I’d hit my ideal weight when I saw a video of me and I thought, “oh my word is that what people see?” So I stopped working towards growing. Instead, I switched to maintaining my physique.’
Duru admits that it’s not about the look anymore as mental benefits take precedence. ‘If I train and eat well, I feel better, I don’t get stressed,’ he says.
‘In 2018, I started incorporating more CrossFit-based workouts. I was finding bodybuilding boring. I didn’t like the look of being big and stiff. I wanted to move more comfortably.’
Duru now trains six days a week for 90-minutes a time, following a routine that encompasses a full-body fitness approach.
‘I do a leg-focused day on a Monday, chest and back on Tuesdays and then Wednesday and Thursdays I’ll do CrossFit full-body workouts. On Fridays, I do a long distance cardio session for an hour; cycling or running usually. Saturday, I’ll do a boxing session and Sunday, I rest.’
Duru credits boxing as being one of the key drivers behind his self-discipline. ‘It’s an individual sport. If you’re not doing well, it’s mostly your fault,’ he says.
Meanwhile, even though abs are made in the kitchen, Duru isn’t a total slave to his diet. Instead, he follows a 70/30 approach, with no foods banned. ‘On training days I eat about 3,000 calories; non-training days, about 2,500. But I don’t track; I know the rough calories in foods.
‘I fast till late morning then I have a strong coconut latte and an almond croissant from Pret. Lunch and dinner will probably be chicken breast, rice and spinach or turkey mince and rice and spinach or sweet potato. I have four to five digestive biscuits in the evening with a mug of mint tea.
‘I eat some sugary foods every day which means I don’t get sugar cravings.’
Still, food prep remains a key part of Duru’s weekend and helps him stay on track.
‘On a Sunday I make all my lunches and dinners for the week. Sometimes I prep with my girlfriend – she’s a triple jumper so she likes to follow a health diet.
‘On Sunday I make a recovery smoothie with spinach, kale, beetroot and dates. It helps to flush out lactic acid from the muscle, so I can keep going on Monday.’
‘I take amino acids in the morning to help with muscle growth. After my workout, I drink a protein shake. I take vitamin D and also glutamine as it’s good for your gut; it helps to release water retention and is good for muscle recovery. I take Zinc too which is good for hormones and testosterone.’
‘People do pay more attention when you’re bigger because you have a presence and people are more attracted to you,’ claims Duru. ‘Business wise, it’s helped build my client base. People are keen to follow in my footsteps and want to know how to build and maintain muscle whilst still living your life.’
Still, with maintenance comes striking a balance to ensure life isn’t just a cycle of gym, eat, work, repeat.
‘I normally drink once a week on a weekend; two beers or two cocktails. Then I’ll have a double patty Honest Burger once a week,’ says Duru.
‘During summer, I have more blowouts. I can drink 10 pints but get back on track the next day.
‘On holiday I do train but I tend to come back about 5kg heavier. I eat and drink pretty much whatever I want. But I know how to quickly lose the weight and get back to my maintenance weight of about 107kg.’
Although Duru is maintaining, he still has goals that he’s working towards.
‘I’m doing a team Hyrox in May, so I’m incorporating more of the Hyrox movements into my workout routine. I also have a shoot soon. I’ll lose 2 to 3% body fat in the weeks leading up to it by reducing carbs and increasing my protein and veg intake.’
‘I’m at a point where I flux between 105kg and 107kg and I know what I need to do to gain muscle or lose fat, if I need to. My training and food routine is just part of my lifestyle now.’
The Shopping List
If you want to maintain muscle and keep your sanity then you’ll need more than chicken and broccoli on your weekly shopping list. Here’s what Duru buys to stay in stacked and shredded shape.
- A bag of sweet potatoes
- Chicken breast
- Basmati white rice
- 2 bags of spinach
- 2 bags of cabbage
- Organic eggs
- Tuna tins
- Full fat Greek yoghurt
- Organic olive oil
- Frozen sweetcorn
- Apple cider vinegar
- Plain digestive biscuits