I get a lot of questions from people asking me how I met Paul Gardiner, the owner of Muscletech. They wanna know how did Muscletech begin? They wanna know the story of the young kid with a great concept who worked in a Musclemag store and who discovered the huge hulking bodybuilder named Greg Kovacs, They wanna know the story of how Paul launched my career and created one of the largest supplement companies of all time. Since I was there to witness the company growing from grass roots muscle heads to one of the largest nutritional companies in the world today, I feel that my point of view is particularly relevant.
As I said, I first met Paul at the Musclemag main store by the airport in Toronto, Canada. He was a great kid and huge fan of the sport of bodybuilding. Over time, he and I became good friends. He was my biggest supporter. He always bragged to people about me and how huge I was, and he marveled over my freakish strength. He was extremely passionate about bodybuilding and the whole industry in general. Back in the old days, he always gave me great deals on protein and anything else he could possibly help me with. We talked a lot about training and he would constantly pick my brain. A few weeks before I competed at the 1995 IFBB North American Championships I came into the store and Paul introduced me to Bob Kennedy, the owner of Musclemag. Bob had his magazine offices over this particular Musclemag store so Bob happened to be downstairs when I came in.
A few weeks after the show ended (I came in smooth and placed 11th), I got a call from him asking me if I'd do a photo shoot with Bob for Musclemag. I wound up doing the photoshoot and at dinner later than night, Paul explained that he was coming out with his own supplement line and he wanted to use me to endorse the products. He promised me that, eventually, he would provide me with a paying supplement "deal". Remember, back then, I knew Paul as the manager of a supplement store, a great kid, good spirit and smart. I thought to myself, becoming a supplement owner is a lofty goal. The supplement industry wasn't as popular in the 90's as it is today. These days you have new companies popping up daily. It seems like everybody owns a supplement company. Well, except me, that is! In the 90s' there were a few giants-- Weider, Met-Rx, EAS and a few others. Whey protein isolate was new age back then. It would have been pretty easy for me to tell Paul, "Yeah, ok kid. Whatever you say," but it was the way he talked to me. He had such great conviction in his voice, I saw the possibilities. He was great at motivating me and helping me to believe in myself. He saw something in me that I didn't even see in myself. He always reminded me that I had unlimited potential.
Paul used himself as a guinea pig and he dieted and trained for the first Before and After pictures ever used to promote his "supplement baby" You might have heard of it; Hydroxycut. Back in those early days, I helped Paul with his diet and training and I helped him to prepare for those first photos like he was getting ready for the Mr Olympia contest. And in retrospect he was. Those Before and After shots were so drastic that many people thought they were photo-shopped. Sure he slouched and stuck out his belly in the before pics, But i was there to witness the change He worked his butt off, dieting and preparing like any bodybuilder would for a contest. He really looked awesome in those "after" photos. He was contest ripped and he had a good physique to boot. While he enjoyed the process, I think that was the first and last time Paul ever dieted like that. It's cool to know that I was somehow involved in the creation of the supplement giant that Muscletech is today. But I'm also grateful for the tremendous amount of knowledge I accumulated regarding diet and supplementation during that time. This was information that I was able to successfully apply to my physique for my assault on the 1996 contest season and earning my IFBB Pro Card. Paul was my Litmus test and, from the results, I felt pretty confident in my preparation skills from that point on.
The 1996 Arnold Classic was the first official launch of the Muscletech line and Paul, a few of his friends, and I worked our first ever Muscletech booth that weekend. It was quite primitive compared to the ones they have today. You could raise a family of 3 in the size of the booth spaces they have nowadays. At that 96 Arnold, we had a couple card tables pushed together with a few bottles of the entire line at the time. I remember, we only had Creatine 6000, Acetabolin, and you guessed it...Hydroxycuts, back then. We had a blast though. I was 400lbs at that show and was just about to start my 6-month prep for my next contest. As I'm sure you can imagine, I drew a lot of attention to say the least. But the interesting part of the story was the drive back from Columbus, Ohio to Canada. We didn't fly back then. No one did! Paul and the boys drove down in Johnnie Fitness's old red beat up van. That's how they brought the supplements to sample and the display. Well, surprise, surprise, the van broke down and Paul asked if my wife and I (at the time) would give them a ride. At the time we had a Ford Tempo so just fitting a 400lb bodybuilder, my wife into the car was a project. Add in 3 larger than average humans and luggage . . . well u get the picture.
Just when we thought nothing else could go wrong, a crazy whiteout blizzard started falling out of the sky. There was zero visibility. We literally shoved the 3 guys in the back (with their bags) and forced the doors closed. Thank God it wasn't a 2 door car or this would never have worked. I sat in the font and drove while my wife sat in the passenger seat. I'm sure to onlookers it seemed as though we were raping that poor, defenseless, vehicle. I somehow managed to get us back safely despite not seeing very much of anything the entire trip. The 3 guys whining about cramps from being wedged in the back didn't help my nerves much either. When we finally arrived home, I opened the back doors and they literally fell out of the car; all their muscles seized up and stiff. Oh, those were the good old days!
Next week I'll fill you in on my 6-month contest prep leading up to the Canadian Nationals, my flying out to California for photos with FLEX and Musclemag, and my face-to-face meeting with Joe Weider at the Woodland Hills office. I'll also tell you about Muscletech's surprising offer to me and the quick rise to success and travelling the world. And for the finale, I'll tell you all about the the Kovacs-Muscletech parting of ways. . . one of my sadist moments in the history of my career.