MARIA MALATESTA meets bodybuilder John Jones, who hopes to flex to success in the next Mr Universe contest.
A MUSCLE man from Wrexham is hoping his rippling physique will scoop him the Mr Universe title.
Bodybuilder, John Jones, of Hightown, has competed 15 times in the British Body Building Championships and eight times in the Welsh Championships and has only once been out of the top three.
The 42-year-old, who owns a bodybuilder supplement shop, called Reps 'n' Sets, in Mount Street, is now looking to achieve his ultimate goal - to be crowned the best body in the Universe next November.
John got into bodybuilding seriously when he was 17 years old, but said he has played with weights since he was small.
'I grew up in the era of the Hulk, played by Lou Ferrigno, and I trained like a boxer because I watched all the Rocky films, which inspired me,' he said.
'I trained for about two years and the reigning Miss Wales bodybuilder, Jeanette Jones, who used to train with me, was impressed with my genetic potential and said I would go a long way.
John entered his first local competition in Deeside when he was 21.
'I didn't go in with any expectations of winning but I came third,' he said. 'Then I started training more intensely for another three years and put on more muscle.
'Mr Universe is probably the highest standard you will ever get to. It's the top three bodybuilders competing from every country.
'You are judged on the size, shape, symmetry and balance of your physique. The picture has to be perfect. It's no good having a good back and poor arms.
'Judges each have their own perspectives on what a good physique should be, and you can only hope that more than half of the judges like you. I've always tried to give them everything.
'Anyone can be big, but to be big and look right is a different thing. You have to have the genetic ability to compete.'
John said preparation for a competition is hard-going, with a strict exercise regime and diet plan.
He is in the gym seven days a week - four days to train with weights and three to do aerobic work to keep his metabolism firing.
A typical daily diet for John before a contest consists of porridge, cooked with water and a couple of scoops of protein powder, about three protein shakes between meals and lean chicken or tuna with pasta, rice or potatoes,
'It's a bland diet and you crave things because you can't have them,' he said. 'It's a tough regime and you need a lot of will power.
'The last show I competed in was the British Championship qualifier in Warrington, for the Championship in October, where I came fourth out of 20 people.
'I messed up my diet because I had a few personal problems at the time and you can't have any negativity when you are competing; you have to be positive.
'When I go on stage I never go for second place otherwise I would be sat in the audience.'
John, who lives with his partner, Sharon Clayton and her two children, said he never had time for a family before because bodybuilding was his priority.
'Because you are judged on perfection you have to put yourself first,' he said. 'It is hard to do the dieting when you are living with someone who isn't used to it. You are better off living on your own for three months because it's so time consuming.'
John will also use the sun bed twice a week, as well as tanning lotion, before a competition.
'I see my tan as armour, like a warrior preparing for battle,' he said.
Advising young men who might be interested in getting into the sport, John said: 'There's not as many local shows now, so most lads have to go in the higher federations straight away.
'When you start competing at high level, the genetics come into it. If God gave you big shoulders and narrow hips, you have the right frame to work with.
'Try to learn as much as you can about nutrition. It's no good doing this sport if you don't take the right nutrition.'
John says steroids aren't the answer.
'You will never beat genetics,' he said. 'If you haven't got the potential to start with you will never get anywhere.
'You've got to build on the foundations. It's like building a house - if you don't have strong foundations, years later the house falls down.'