Phil Heath shares a New Years motivational message and offers Olympia-worthy advice as we head into 2023.

The new year is often a time to reflect back at our past, evaluate our successes and failures, and then use what we learned to make new promises for a better future. Nothing encapsulates that idea better than bodybuilding and fitness. Each year bodybuilders evaluate what worked, what didn’t, and then try to apply that knowledge to a better physique. So who better to ring us into the new year than 7x Mr. Olympia Phil Heath. In Generation Iron and Barbend’s latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, Phil Heath shares the most valuable advice he learned from over a decade of pro bodybuilding.

There’s no denying that Phil Heath is a true legend of bodybuilding. With Mr. Olympia victories under his belt, he stands tall as one of the most successful competitive bodybuilders of all time. And while a healthy dose of superior genetics certainly helped him out – Heath was not fated to be a champion by default. He had to challenge himself, learn, grown, and find his way towards elite status. Just like the rest of us.

That’s why in the final week of 2022, Mike O’Hearn invited Phil Heath onto the podcast for a quick chat about the most important battle to be had in bodybuilding – the mental battle. Phil Heath talks about mental limitations we often put on ourselves setting us up for failure. He also talks about mental challenge of coming to terms with celebrity status in a constantly connected world. Let’s jump into it.


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Phil Heath wasn’t always the man deserving of a Mr. Olympia title… he worked to change and become that

In today’s world, information is so easy and instantaneous to come by. So when aspiring bodybuilders want to know the “secret” to competitive success, the answers are actually easy to find. Training and dieting advice ranging from beginner to advanced is just one click away. So why don’t we have more Phil Heaths or Jay Cutlers in the world?

The answer, according to Phil Heath, has everything to do with the constant mental battle happening inside you every day. You can learn everything there is to know about training, nutrition, and competitive bodybuilding. But all of that knowledge means nothing if you don’t have the willpower to do things that no one has ever done before.

It’s common or aspiring bodybuilders to want to learn how a previous champion trains and then follow that template. But the truth is that each champion, especially long term reigning champions, never followed a template. They forged their own path. They broke new ground. They changed the norm.

In order to do that – you have to defeat the voice inside your head that says words like “can’t” or “impossible.” Even the best athletes in the world, like Phil Heath, have that voice in their head. They weren’t miraculously born without self doubt. But they were able to train their brain to think differently. To ignore that negative voice and instead push to do the impossible. That’s what separates a great bodybuilder from a legendary bodybuilder. It’s not finding the training or nutrition “secret,” it’s training your mind to no longer limit itself.

All of this is to say that Phil Heath wasn’t the same man over 10 years ago when he was still playing basketball. He’s not the same man who competed in bodybuilding and got lower placings. He turned himself into this man through denying the negative voice in his head. From denying the self imposed limitations that could hold him back.


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Phil Heath warns of negative dopamine hits with bodybuilding and social media

For those fortunate enough to rise in the ranks and become a notable figure – a new mental battle emerges. Celebrity has always been a complex double-edged sword. The internet and social media has ramped that up even more. Phil Heath knows this better than most by not only being a bodybuilding champion for nearly a decade – but also being in a feature film documentary seen by millions across the world.

Bodybuilding is deeply connected to physical judgement. This is by design. It’s the literal way the sport is judged. So when a bodybuilder becomes famous, suddenly they have an army of millions of “judges” commenting on your physique.

While celebrity is truly a blessed thing because it means you are successful – the internet age has also led to no privacy for public figures. Combine that with a necessary focus on physical appearance – and online celebrity can become a mental death trap.

Phil Heath calls it a negative dopamine hit. This is when you become addicted to reading the negative criticism about you. Whether it’s about something you said, something about your overall personality, or something about your physique – a person can become addicted and doom scroll for hours.

This can change your world view into one where negativity is the baseline. One where external validation is necessary to be happy. Phil Heath sees this as a very dangerous thing. It can re-impose limits on your mind and force you out of a successful mindset. How  can you break past limits if you are too concerned about everyone telling you something is impossible or that you aren’t good enough?

This feeling has existed forever well before social media or the internet. For every successful innovator, there have been thousands who told the person it was impossible. But the internet has now amplified those voices. We can now hear more opinions than ever before. It floods our brain. It can be debilitating.

Phil Heath had to learn how to give himself permission to shut it off. He suggests that one of the biggest things he has learned after a decade of bodybuilding is to disconnect. If you can schedule time to decompress and remind yourself that the true reality is the one that you believe is possible – then you will avoid falling victim to negative dopamine hits and self imposed limitations.

Wrap Up

Much of what Phil Heath talks about in this episode is not a simple step by step instruction manual. Learning how to change your mental state can be challenging. Even hearing Phil Heath’s advice here could be useless. It’s one thing to give advice, it’s another to follow it and do the hard work to make it happen. Changing the way we think just might be the single hardest challenge in life – more challenging than lifting heavier weight.

Hopefully, with Phil Heath’s credentials and Mr. Olympia history, his words can carry more meaning and help inspire those to find the right path towards success. You can watch the full interview of Phil Heath on the latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show. Make sure to swing back every Friday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.