Markus Ruhl is a German professional bodybuilder who, at his peak, boasted one of the most impressive sets of shoulders ever seen in bodybuilding.
However, Markus didn’t initially plan on becoming a bodybuilder. During his early childhood and throughout puberty, Markus played high-level soccer for his team in Germany. He hoped that with his performances, he would make it to the professional level in the sport.
But then, one day, Markus received a major blow to his knee; bringing his future in soccer into question. As a part of the recovery process, Markus began training in the gym. As soon as he saw the changes in his physique from lifting weights, Markus decided to go after bodybuilding instead of soccer.
Ever since then, Markus has gone on to become a professional bodybuilder with remarkable accomplishments in the sport.
This is his story:
“My knee was totally damaged. So I go to the hospital for a couple of weeks after that and the doctor said I have to go to the gym, you know, to rebuild a little bit more muscle. That’s the reason why I was in the gym.”
Full Name: Markus Rühl Weight Height Arms Chest 275 - 285lbs (124.7kg - 129.3kg) 5'10" (177.5cm) 24'' (off-season) 60'' Waist Age Date of Birth 38'' 47 February 22, 1972 Nationality Profession Era German Professional Bodybuilder 1990, 2000, 2010 Weight 275 - 285lbs (124.7kg - 129.3kg) Height 5'10" (177.5cm) Arms 24'' (off-season) Chest 60'' Waist 38'' Age 47 Date of Birth February 22, 1972 Nationality German Profession Professional Bodybuilder Era 1990, 2000, 2010
“The most important lesson I’ve learned is that the most productive exercises are simple and compound.”
Markus Ruhl’s Competition History
- IFBB Europa Super Show – 7th place
- Mr. Olympia – 15th place
- New York Pro – 3rd place
- IFBB Austria Pro Grand Prix – 3rd place
- Mr. Olympia – 8th place
- Mr. Olympia – 15th place
- Mr. Olympia – 5th place
- Arnold Classic – 3rd place
- Mr. Olympia – 8th place
- Night of Champions – 1st place
- Toronto Pro Classic – 2nd place
- Mr. Olympia – 14th place
- Mr. Olympia – 7th place
- Joe Weider’s World Pro Cup – 5th place
- Grand Prix England – 5th place
- Night of Champions – 2nd place
- Toronto Pro – 1st place
- Grand Prix England – 7th place
- Joe Weider’s Pro World – 7th place
- Night of Champions – 4th place
- Mr. Olympia – Disqualified
- Hessen Bodybuilding Championships, Overall – 1st place
- German Heavyweight Championships (113kg) – 1st place, Pro Card Earned
- Bachgau Cup (Babenhausen), Heavyweight Class and Overall – 1st place
- Hesse Grand Prix – 2nd place
- XXXL-Big Beyond Belief (2000)
- Made in Germany (2004)
- Big and Loving It (2007)
- Ruhling 4 Ever (2010)
“I don’t do this to be healthy, I do this to get big muscles.”
From Soccer to Bodybuilding
Markus Ruhl was born on 22nd of February, 1972, and he grew up in Darmstadt, Germany.
As a teenager, Markus showed a great deal of interest in soccer. He practiced the sport for years, until an accident happened. Markus took a serious blow to his knee which forced him away from the soccer pitch for a long period of time.
As he waited to recover, and re-join his soccer team, Markus was introduced to bodybuilding by his doctor. The doctor recommended Markus to train with moderate weights to speed up his knee recovery.
At 120 pounds of weight, Markus began working out six days a week to recover as quickly as possible. However, throughout the recovery process, Markus became enthralled with the improvements he saw on his physique. As a result, he decided to leave soccer behind, and focus on bodybuilding instead.
Markus Ruhl when he was a teenager.
Growth and Bodybuilding Contests
At the age of 18, Markus began working out in the gym with a serious intention to grow as much as possible. He says; “After a short time I have developed my passion for bodybuilding and I went from the initial 63kg to well over 100kg.”
After seeing the tremendous improvements on his physique, Markus realized he had the potential to do much more than just train in the gym. As a result, he began looking into bodybuilding competitions.
Markus’ first bodybuilding show was supposed to be the 1994 Newcomer Championships in Hessen. However, Markus was struck with an unlucky injury just a few weeks prior to the show; forcing him to postpone his bodybuilding competition debut.
Then, several months later, Markus finally hit the stage. The competition was called Bachau Cup in Babenhausen. Surprisingly, Markus took 1st place in both his heavyweight class, as well as overalls.
From National to Worldwide Recognition
Winning his debut show was a big ‘boost’ for Markus, who was now motivated more than ever to continue training hard, as well as competing.
Just one week after the Bachau Cup, he upped the stakes by competing at the Grand Prix in Hesse; this time, finishing in 2nd place.
From there, Markus kept on competing in bodybuilding shows. Over the years, he slowly climbed up the competitive ladder – going from a national-level competitor to a highly recognized bodybuilder.
By 1999, Markus already won his Pro Card, and was on the biggest of bodybuilding stages. Including the Mr. Olympia, Night of Champions, and Joe Weider’s Pro World.
Between the years 2000-2006, Markus’ career in bodybuilding was in full swing.
Markus’ most significant results from this period include;
- 2000 Toronto Pro, 1st place
- 2000 Mr. Olympia, 7th place
- 2002 Night of Champions, 1st place
- 2004 Mr. Olympia, 5th place
- 2006 Austria Pro Grand Prix, Top 3
At his peak, Markus was feared for his outstanding shoulders. To this day, Markus is regarded as the bodybuilder with some of the biggest delts in bodybuilding history.
“You either can pose right for the picture or you can move heavy weights – you really can’t have both.”
- Pump – Markus’ primary goal in each workout is to achieve the maximum pump possible. He says, the pump determines how he trains that day. If he doesn’t get a good pump using his usual heavy weights, he’ll lower the weight and do more reps. If this doesn’t work, he’ll go even heavier to see if a lower number of reps would yield a better result.
- Full Range of Motion – This links back to the pump. As Markus says, by doing a partial range of motion, he’ll get a partial pump. Likewise, a full range of motion gives him the maximum pump.
- Instinct – Markus never commits himself to a fixed workout plan. Instead, he listens to his body’s signals to determine which workout would be the best at any given moment.
- Heavy Weights – More often than not, Markus gets the best pump by lifting heavy weights with a low number of reps; 1-2. On an odd occasion when he doesn’t get the pump this way, he’ll lower the weight, and increase the number of reps.
- Control the Movement – Markus makes every single repetition count. This way, he places highest possible stress on the trained muscle.
- Focus – There is no time for talking or playing around when Markus works out. As he says; “During my workout, I’m all business.”
- Learn and Think – Markus never settles in terms of his knowledge of training and dieting. He keeps studying new articles and scientific research to stay on top of his progress in the gym.
Markus Ruhl’s Shoulder Workout Principles
During his peak, Markus trained with weights six days per week; taking only one day off from the gym. As for his shoulders, he had a day dedicated solely to this body-part.
In his shoulder workouts, Markus aimed at mixing high volume with heavy weights. In addition, he strived to get the best pump and to get ‘deep’ into the tissue of his shoulders in each workout.
Here are the rules Markus followed to build his massive shoulders;
- Go for the maximum pump.
- Aim for moderate-high volume, try to have as many sets and reps on different exercises to hit all three deltoid heads from every angle.
- After the warm-up, push every set to failure.
- Begin every shoulder session with a heavy press like a shoulder press. This helps with achieving the pump right from the beginning.
- Use heavy weights, but also watch out for the form – strict technique and slow movements to maximize results and avoid injuries.
- Hold a 2-3 second squeeze at the peak of the movement to maximize results.
- Take longer rest between sets (~2 minutes) to get the shoulders ready for heavy and intense sets.
- Change the workout up every 2-3 months to ‘surprise’ the muscle and avoid stagnation.
Markus changed his shoulder workouts every few months. That said, here’s one of his variations;
- Dumbell shoulder press – warm-up of 30 reps, then, 6 heavy sets of 16-4 reps
- Alternating front dumbbell raises- 4 sets of 12-8 reps
- Upright rows – 3 sets of 10-8 reps
- Standing lateral raise – 5 sets of 15-12 reps
- Bent-over lateral raise – 4 sets of 12-8 reps
- Dumbell shrugs – 5 sets of 12-6 reps
Markus would increase the weight in every subsequent set, hence the reduction in the number of reps.
Biceps Workout Plan
Just like with any other body part, Markus combines heavy weight compound lifts with light-moderate weight isolation exercises when training biceps.
In the beginning of the workout, he goes for the maximum ‘burn’ in his muscles by doing a free-weight exercise. After this, he immediately proceeds onto the exercise which isolates the same muscle (e.g. Standing Dumbbell Curls followed by Seated Machine Curls).
As always, Markus pays close attention to his form when training biceps. He doesn’t just swing the weights up and down. Instead, he moves the weight slowly, making sure to squeeze the muscle at the top of the movement.
- Barbell Curls, 6 sets of 4-30 reps
- Seated Barbell Curls, 4 sets of 6-30 reps
- Dumbbell Curls, 6 sets of 6-20 reps
- Preacher Curls, 4 sets of 4-20 reps
- Cable Curls, 4 sets of 4-20 reps
Markus Ruhl training biceps.
Full Body Training Split
Here’s one of many variations of Markus’ full body workout program;
- Monday: Chest
- Tuesday: Back
- Wednesday: Triceps
- Thursday: Biceps
- Friday: Legs
- Saturday: Shoulders
- Sunday: Off
Top Exercise For Each Body Part
- Chest – Wide-Grip Bench Press
- Back – Front Wide-Grip Pulldowns
- Biceps – Rühl Curls, Concentration Curls
- Triceps – Close-Grip Bench Press
- Shoulders – Smith Machine Military Press, Bent Dumbbell Lateral Raises
- Quads – Leg Press, Hack Squats
- Hamstrings – Lying Leg Curls
- Calves – Standing Calf Raises
Working Traps With Delts
While some people prefer training their trapezius as a part of their back workout, Markus trains it with his delts instead. He says; “Some people work traps with back, but I prefer to hit mine after delts.”
His favorite exercise for developing strong and big traps is barbell shrugs. Here’s Markus explaining how he likes to do the exercise; “With barbell shrugs, you pull your shoulders up but also slightly back.
I prefer machine shrugs and dumbbell shrugs because you pull your shoulders only straight up. You don’t waste any motion.” – Markus Ruhl
Other exercises Markus does for his traps include; shoulder presses, deadlifts, upright rows, and even squats.
According to Markus, here’s a list of mistakes he made as a beginner lifter;
- Training too long and too light – Markus says by training for very long and using only light weights, he would exhaust himself without getting any tangible results.
- Doing too many sets for one exercise (20+) – While Markus prefers high-volume training to anything else. There also comes a point where he thinks it’s possible to over-do it; doing more harm to the muscle than good.
- Lifting heavy weights at the expense of form – One of the mistakes Markus did when he set off on his bodybuilding journey was sacrificing his form with lifting heavy weights. Looking back, Markus says this was a dangerous thing to do, as it could’ve caused him a serious injury.
- Having more of a powerlifter’s mindset than a bodybuilder’s – While it’s important to progress in weights, Markus believes the bodybuilder’s main focus should be the correct form – especially when starting out.
- Training the body using the same routine over and over – In Markus’ opinion, doing the same workout week after week will eventually stop yielding results as the body adapts.
- Impatience – Talking from his own experience, Markus said that wanting quick results in the gym isn’t realistic. Instead, he suggests aiming for slow, consistent progress.
High Calorie Diet
On average, Markus Ruhl consumes 7000 calories per day. He says consuming so many calories is never easy. However, what makes it even harder, is that Markus gets all of his calories exclusively from ‘clean’ food sources.
Specifically, here are some of the foods Markus eats to hit his daily calorie goal;
In total, Markus will get in about 400 grams of protein, and 800 grams of carbs every day.
“Eat crap and you will look like crap. It’s not easy to eat so much good food all the time, but this is what it takes to get huge. Unless you do this, don’t bother wasting your time training hard, or else it will just be for nothing.” – Markus Ruhl
Markus Ruhl posing on the stage with the legendary Ronnie Coleman.
Markus Ruhl doing a side chest pose on the bodybuilding stage, standing next to the 4-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler.
Idols and Influences
These people influenced Markus to bring his best version to the stage; surpassing his previous-best physique year after year.
What we can learn from Markus Ruhl
Markus Ruhl was an individual who held high ambitions for himself, ever since he was a child. First, he showed this through soccer performances; excelling in the sport from a young age.
Then, coming into bodybuilding, Markus was no less impressive – within just a few years of weight training, he sculpted what was to be possibly the best shoulders in bodybuilding history.
He’s shown us that you should dare to dream big. Because big dreams, accompanied by radical action, can allow you to reach your ultimate potential.