Interview With Mike
Kefalianos' Coach - David Balasas
By Kostas Marangopoulos, M.Sc., CPT.
April 3rd, 2013
The following interview was conducted a few days after Michael Kefalianos'
return to Greece, after a long series of trips. First from Greece to Columbus
for the Arnold Classic and then from there to Melbourne for the Australian Grand
Prix. David Balasas has been in bodybuilding for the good part of three
decades with a lot of success under his belt, both as an athlete and coach.
Known widely as one of the best coaches in Europe, David learned from the best,
having spent time in Venice, CA and Gold's gym where he trained in the 90's. In
1995 he won the light heavyweight and overall categories of the NPC Mr. Los
Angeles which qualified him for the NPC Nationals. A few months later he
returned to Greece where he continued his career as an athlete and trainer,
which led to him meeting Michael in Kos Island.
I personally had heard of David as one of the best athletes to come out of
Greece during the last decade, but I only found out that he was Michael's coach
in 2009, when Mike competed at the Arnold Amateur Classic and received his IFBB
pro card. Later on that year in September, I had the opportunity to meet David
at the 2009
Olympia Weekend, where he traveled with Mike and his family, feeling an
enormous amount of pride for coaching the first Greek bodybuilder to compete at
the prestigious show.
Since then, David has coached Michael for more than 20 IFBB pro shows,
solidifying him as one of the best prepared and most conditioned athletes in the
industry. Rightfully, Mike's outstanding prep and consistency in competitions,
has earned him a place among the world's best bodybuilders, a fact that David is
very proud of.
KM: Hi David, and welcome once again. I would like to start by
thanking you for taking the time to give us this interview. Can you please tell
me your history and how you started with bodybuilding in Greece?
David: I’m 47 years old and I started bodybuilding when I was 16 years
old because of my father. He was a bit muscular then and I was very proud that
my father had such big arms. That was my main motivation to start with
bodybuilding. I started competing when I was 27 years old, in Greece and I won
the Greek championships in 1995. A few years later I went to live in Los
Angeles, and I competed for the NPC, level 5, which means if you win the
overall, you qualify for the nationals. So I won the overall and I was Mr. Los
Angeles, and since then I did a few more competitions. Now I’m coaching and
training Michael Kefalianos, among other top athletes.
KM: How long have you known Mike? When did you meet him and how long
have you been his coach?
David: I know Michael a very long time, we live in the same island in
Greece, Kos. He left for a few years and lived in Australia. He had met his wife
Helen here in Kos, Greece, so they got married and went to Australia, then they
came back to Greece. I met him and invited him to join my gym, and that was
around 1998. Since then I’m coaching Mike and I’m preparing him for
competitions, we train together every day and I think we are a very good team
KM: And you are also very good friends, right?
David: Yeah, that’s most important, to be a very good friends, to respect
each other, otherwise you can’t do anything. I know Mike very well; he is very
focused with what I say to him, he is trusting me and we have great results.
KM: So you’ve been prepping & coaching Mike since basically his first
appearance in the IFBB professional competitions in 2009, right?
David: Yes, definitely. It was very difficult for us here to start to
compete at the IFBB pro level but Mike believes that nothing is difficult if you
believe that you can do it. So I told HIM, one day you’ll compete for the
Olympia, and you’ll compete with the best guys. And when I mentioned that to
people, that Mike is going to compete there, they looked at me like I was an
alien. If you believe something, you do it. And we are here now.
KM: And you’ve prepped him for three Olympias, and two Arnold Classics in
Ohio, two Arnold Classics in Europe and another amateur in 2009; and he has
another one coming up in Brazil.
David: Yes, we’ve done around 25 competitions in 3-4 years now and for
most of them we were in very good condition, except this past Arnold Classic
where we got a little bit too big. Because Mike had to prepare his new house, in
this last Arnold Classic he was not in the best condition, because he was very
busy with the building and moving. And he had to prepare it to move his family,
he’s got four kids, so he prepared a house that's his own and he’s happy to have
it. So, he was not as well prepared. But hopefully in the next competition in
the FIBO, we are going to show our best self and maybe better. We are going to
change some things for the posing routines, plus we have more time now to do
that than in the last Arnold Classic. KM: When, in your opinion, do you think was Mike’s best showing,
best presentation, or best condition during the past 3-4 years?
David: There are many competitions that I liked Mike, one of them was
last year at the Australian Pro, where he placed second to Branch Warren. I
believe Mike was in a better condition, but Branch, you know, gets respect. I
also believe that in his first Olympia in 2009, he was in a very good condition
but he was a beginner. He had to place accordingly and you got to respect the
judges and what they do. Hopefully, one day the luck is going to smile on us and
he is going to do better.
2012 IFBB Australian Pro
- Kefalianos vs. Warren
KM: So, this Arnold Classic which was Mike’s first show for 2013, a
lot of people, a lot of experts said that Mike was off from his best
conditioning. You said that he had a lot of work to do with his new house and
because of that he wasn’t 100%. What exactly happened? ‘Cause we know Mike, even
if he’s off, he looks great.
David: Yeah, I don’t like excuses, OK? Half of the mistake for his condition
was mine. I didn’t want to push Mike as I usually do. He had to prepare his new
house because he had to move out from the other one that he was renting. He had
to move to his own house, so he had to work from morning to evening. Then he was
training in the afternoon for an hour, so no time to eat properly, no time to do
cardio so we didn’t have the best preparations. And because he was invited for
the Arnold, we had to do our best and respect the organizers and honor our
commitment. So I said to Mike, “Go there, see what’s going to happen, you’ll
have a good start to the season and then at the next competitions hopefully we
are going to show our best self.”
KM: And he went to Melbourne a week later for Tony Doherty's Grand
Prix and he looked much better.
David: At the first competition at the
2013 Arnold Classic, he was overloaded.
I mean, he ate more than he was supposed to eat. And his look was unbalanced, he
held a lot of water. When I saw that, I was not there, but we spoke on the
internet, I saw pictures, when I saw him, I told him to do last minute work. I
told him Ok, compete, and then at the next show we'll do better. So he lost a
few more kilos, like 4 kilos down. So, he competed in Australia, he was a bit
smooth, but he was in a better condition than in the Arnold Classic.
KM: And now it’s been a few days since he’s
back from Australia..
David: Now it’s the second week back, we are back training together and I
push him to the limits. Actually today we did shoulders workout, he had a good
pump, and no injuries. I spoke to him about we have to do, improve the posing
and change some things. He’s going to look more sharp, more defined, more hard
KM: OK, good. So hard work from now on, for the next few weeks until
David: For the next weeks, we have to change some things in the workout,
he has to do drop sets, he has to do more cardio. Actually he got a bicycle and
he is biking out in the field. But he is more comfortable because in the morning
he has time to do the cardio and rest and then he’s doing his workout more
Training At David's Gym
In Kos Island, Greece
KM: A lot of people say that Mike will get burned out or tired from
competing so much every year. You know him best obviously being his coach for so
long, but how does he do so many shows, year after year? He does 7-8, sometimes
9 shows, when most of the guys do 3-4 at the most.
David: Yes, it is very unusual for somebody who’s competing to do so many
shows, but Mike I believe he’s got the charisma and he fights. And if he looks
tired or anything, be sure, I’m going to tell him. But we always discuss about
the next show, and everything, what shows we have to do, and he’s ready to do.
He never complains that he’s tired or about the food, or about the training. So
he’s giving me motivation too, to work with him more. But I believe that he’s
got the charisma to do it, he never gets tired. We are never over pushing. I’m
not going to push him over the limits because I want him to have longer term in
KM: As a coach and friend to Mike, what do you think drives him,
motivates him to be among the top athletes in the sport and compete in so many
David: Mike is very proud of what he’s doing and his fans. He sees
everyday what they write about him, even some small kids saying, “I want to be
like you when I grow up,” they shake his nad, they say, “Hi, Mike, you are very
strong, you are a big guy.”
He feels proud, he doesn’t need much to give him the motivation to go on. Even
just a few words, they are enough for Mike. So simple.
KM: It is exceptionally simple, and knowing Mike for a few years now,
I know that he is one of the most humble guys anyone will ever meet. You’ve
coached a lot of people throughout the years, on national and international
levels. What do you think is the secret, if secret is the right word, to Mike’s
trademark conditioning. How do you achieve it, show after show?
David: As you said, I’ve been coaching many people, professionals and not
professionals, but most of them they don’t have the courage to go from one
competition to another. They just want to do a few shows to be a little bit
famous as we can say, and that’s it. So Mike he doesn’t have that, he is
thinking differently. He wants to compete, he’s a fighter, he likes to be up
there with the best. I know he has to work on some things on his posing and I
believe that we are trying to do the best we can.
KM: Is it Mike’s physique that responds so well to your nutrition and
David: Yes, and that gives me the motivation to
work more with Mike. His skin stays always clear, you know? Beautiful striations
and everything on the back but I believe we can show more, more quality, more
definition, and he doesn’t look tired.
Dennis Wolf & Mike
Kefalianos - Mr. Olympia 2012
KM: For the last trip to the United States, then to Australia, and
back to Greece, he did something like 30.000 miles, you know? Doesn't he get
David: Mike is a traveler; I don’t how he manages that, it’s a long trip.
If you are on a plane for 20 hours, it’s a very long time, you have to have
strong will to go and do that. Especially if you travel so much, you need some
foods that are very important for you to look harder and better.
KM: What do you think will happen or would happen if Mike was an
athlete that lived in the United States and didn’t have to go back to Greece or
Australia? How would his career go?
David: Yeah, definitely, if he had a job in the United States, that would
give him the right things to work with his body more. There are so many other
good trainers to take care of him, especially the one I’m respecting the most
and is my idol among trainers, Mr. Charles Glass! My respects to him. So
hopefully Mike, I don’t know if he was going to look better, but he was going to
have more luck and more publicity. Sometimes it’s who
knows who, and who is training you. That’s one of the things I realized on the
shows, at the competitions.
With Charles Glass At The
2009 Olympia Weekend
KM: Is Mike being sponsored by any big companies right now?
David: Mike has been sponsored from the beginning, since he was an
amateur, by Mr. Alex Siatravanis. He owns the Healthy2Day company in Greece,
selling supplements, gym equipment and clothes, and he’s the sponsor that took
us to where we are here now.
He is the official importer of the NPC clothing in Greece and actually for my
own gym I work with him and sell these clothes very much. And plus, one of the
most important people is Kostas from the largest Greek bodybuilding site
bodybuilders.gr, he made us famous and
we owe him a lot to where we are now and all the competitions. These two people
they give us big support and I would like to thank them from my heart and we
always wish the best for them.
KM: Thank you for you kind words David. I know we said before that you
coach a lot of athletes, for the national level in Greece and international
level for the Arnold Classic Amateur, Arnold Classic Professional, and many
other shows. Would you be open on taking on more IFBB pro athletes to help them
with their prep?
David: Yeah I don’t say no to anyone, but I have to see what they have. I
mean, how they look, how we can work together and I have to be sure about them
before working with them. I’m a little bit difficult on that. But I’m not saying
no to anybody.
In Las Vegas For The 2009
Mr. Olympia KM: What’s your opinion on the upcoming 2013 Mr. Olympia ?
David: My opinion? I like Phil! In the last competition, I was expecting
him more cut, more dry. He was OK, but I believe that he’s got more to give. So
when he competes, he’s going to win it again. I can’t see any other close to
him. But for sure, many other guys are very close, with very good condition.
KM: Just a couple of days ago, we read the sad news that Joe Weider
had passed away. Your thoughts?
David: He was the beginning in everything in bodybuilding. In the gym he
was the motivation of everybody, and he’s going to stay in our minds forever. I
believe he sees what is happening from up there and nobody can forget him. He’s
going to be everywhere and he’s the master blaster! He started everything.
That’s my opinion. My respects to him.
KM: Definitely one of the biggest influences in my years in
bodybuilding & fitness, as well. One last question to close. Who would you like
to thank through this interview?
David: I would like to thank all our fans that give us motivation to go
on. Thanks from my heart to Alex Siatravanis, our sponsor, for all his help.
Also big thanks to you and Bodybuilders.gr for all your support. Many thanks to
our families, to my wife, to my kids that are supporting me and a big thanks to
Eleni, Mike’s wife because she is a strong woman and she is staying next to Mike
KM: Thank you for your time David, I am happy we had the chance to
talk and give the fans a chance to get to know the man who has coached Mike for
all these years a bit better. I look forward to the videos of you and Mike
training for the upcoming shows.
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