Wheelchair Bodybuilding: Rich Knapp

I have a treat for you guys–an interview about wheelchair bodybuilding.   Rich Knapp, aka “Freak on Wheels,” was nice enough to answer a few of my questions.  Rich is a competitive bodybuilder and creator of the wheelchair bodybuilders group website/forum.

Before you read the interview, check out this video of Rich’s most recent competition.  Pay close attention to the abs pose–truly impressive.

Kevin: Rich, first of all I’d like to thank you for taking the time to do this interview.


OK, first things first: why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself–your age, profession, and your life outside of the gym.

Rich: Well I am 44 years old. I am at a point were my cognitive functions no longer allow me to drive or work. So with the help of notes all over the house, a computer program, and a loving wife I can do bodybuilding. So with that I made bodybuilding and competing my full time gig.  In the winter there is no life outside the gym and apartment.  In the summer on weekends I love car shows.  I used to customize cars and show them.  Before my condition worsened I founded the car club “Modern Machines.”

Kevin: How did you get involved with bodybuilding?

Rich: Back in late 80′s I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  I hated taking the shot every other day.  I started to research M.S. and found a low saturated fat diet and exercise helped control symptoms. So I started eating healthier and lifting weights.

I started to look pretty good and co-workers talked me into competing. So in late 1999 I competed in the Midwest Championships in WI. I took 3rd place (novice category). I also fell in love with the sport at this first show.

Kevin: Tell us a little bit about your training: favorite exercises, number of times you go to the gym, etc.

Rich: Since I can’t do legs I found a 3 day on, 2 day off works very well for me.  Outside the gym I am a couch potato–plenty of recovery time. lol

My favorite exercise?  Anything to improve my symmetry.  Other than that I would have to say Hammer Strength I.S.O. High Rows.

I am very instinctive on what my body is calling for each workout, but I use a base routine around a combination of Eric Broser’s FD/FR and P/RR/S workouts. I have had great results with them–I tweaked them a bit for my body and needs–and the fact that I don’t have a leg day work out.

Kevin: I was very impressed by the level of leanness and definition in your abs. How did you do it?

My low back can’t take a lot of pressure so laying on the floor or a bench and doing crunches is out. So I had to come up with something. I started out laying on couch and doing crunches (pulling shoulder blades up and that’s it, holding and squeezing hard) until I saw stars, rested until the stars went away then went again. I worked up to 10 crunches for starters. Now as long as I keep my legs locked I can use a supported leg raise machine at the gym (I forget the machine’s name, but it uses body weight only).

As far as the definition I can thank All American EFX for that. In cutting up for competition I hit a sticky spot and started taking there Lean Fix. The stubborn fat began to melt away again. But we have to remember a good nutrition plan has a lot to do with how we look. For this side I have to thank the 3D Muscle Journey Team.  My friend Berto put up with a lot of my questions and pestering him about what and why’s. lol

Kevin: Do you think wheelchair bodybuilding is growing as a sport?

This can be a very touchy question.  Please: NO ONE take me wrong or get upset just some real honest points here.

I see the sport growing if given the chance. I started out a able-bodied BBer. Now I am a wheelchair BBer. I have had the gift to see both sides. Please no one get offended.

I have learned this: it is a lot harder being in a chair all the way around from working out and moving around the gym and using weights to something as simple as a side tricep pose.  The mind control required to hold a pose is 50-80% higher.  I am very lucky to have that part a little easier but you have to envey the ones that aren’t.

The wheelchair population growing, and we are getting health conscious as a population.  I hope the class will be given more opportunities to show what they can offer.  I hope more will get into it–if not to get big, just for general health reasons.  That’s the main reason I am doing it. Competing is just a fun by-product of staying healthy.

This is also why I formed the All NEW forum Wheelchair Bodybuilders Group (www.wheelchairbodybuildersgroup.com) for people in wheelchairs to gather info and ways to get healthy and maybe even compete. All American EFX, 3D muscle Journey, Natural Freak World and Muscle and Brawn have been wonderful in supporting and offering help on the site.

Kevin: What’s next for you?

I’m going as far as my body will take me. My plans are to be the first 100% Narural WNBF PRO. This is my goal in hopes more will follow and see it is possible and all wheelchair bodybuilders have the same opportunity as I am having. They ALL work so very hard. So yes, my plans are to open up the 100% Natural World to the wheelchair bodybuilding class.

For myself, just to enjoy the ride where ever my physique, hard work and dedication takes me.

Kevin: Thanks again for your time!

One thought on “Wheelchair Bodybuilding: Rich Knapp

  1. I love this and will feature this on “My Story” and I’ll try that couch crunch thing.

    The dumbbells truly improved my right hand and my mom noticed. if i hadn’t been doing that, it would’ve been twice harder for me when I had my cast.

    thank you for this.

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