Nickname: “The Freak on Wheels”

(As interviewed by Steve Shaw in 2010)

Rich Is A Champion Wheelchair Bodybuilder!

I was diagnosed with M.S. Hated the shots so researched and found exercise and low saturated fat diet helps hold side effects down. It wasn’t until I was doing good and looking good that co-workers talked me into doing a show. That was it – I was hooked. When I found out about wheelchair class, tears filled my eyes.


Name: Rich Knapp
Born: 1966
Training Out Of: Appleton, WI
Height: 5’8″
Weight (On): 145 lbs
Weight (Off): 170 lbs
Years Training: 15
Years Competing: 14
Favorite Body Part: Triceps
Favorite Exercise: Whatever Needs Work
Favorite Supplement: AAEFX Supplements
Sponsors: 3DMuscleJourney, AAEFX, TiLite Custom Wheelchairs,  IronMaster LLC, All Things Jerky

  • 1999 Midwest Championship. I placed 3rd in the Novice Class
  • 2000 Great Lakes Pro-Qualifier I took 3rd place in the Light Weight Open Class
  • 2000 North East Championships 1st in Open Light Weight Open Class
  • 2000 Midwest Championships 1st Open Light Weight Open Class
  • 2001 Great Lakes Pro-Qualifier 2nd Open Light Weight Open Class
  • 2001 WI State Championships 2nd Open Light Weight Open Class
  • 2002 Wisconsin State Championships 1st place Open Light Weight Class
  • 2002 Great Lakes Pro-Qualifier 2nd place Open Class Light Weight Class
  • 2003 Great Lakes Pro-Qualifier 3rd place Open Light Weight Class
  • 2004 Great Lakes Pro-Qualifier 2nd place Open Light Weight Class
  • 2010 INBF US Central Championships 1st Place Wheelchair Class
  • 2010 INBF WI State Championships 1st Place Wheelchair Class
  • 2010 Mr. Natural Minnesota Physically Challenged 1st Place

There was another INBF show in the early 2000’s in there, I totally blew coming in and didn’t place.


2011 INBF BUCKEYE CLASSICS/NATURAL WHEELCHAIR NATIONALS-WNBF PRO-Q. 1st Place Natural Wheelchair (Winning my WNBF Pro Card being the First Wheelchair Pro in WNBF History)

2013 WNBF Tournament of Champions Pro Wheelchair class – 1st place.  

What is your background and how did you get started in bodybuilding?

I was diagnosed with M.S. Hated the shots so researched and found exercise and low saturated fat diet helps hold side effects down. It wasn’t until I was doing good and looking good that co-workers talked me into doing a show. That was it – I was hooked. When I found out about wheelchair class, tears filled my eyes.

I started training in late 1996 or early 97 when I found out I had M.S. Never trained or intending to be a bodybuilder. 2 years in co-workers talked me into doing a show and I fell in love with the sport. The rest is history. I trained for about 6 years till 2004. When doctors pulled me from lifting weights due to left arm going threw a paper rewinder at a paper mill, pushing all the nerves to the surface and causing nerve damage in the arm.

They also found a bone cyst the size of a green grape in my right arm right below the bicep muscle. So I went 5 years without lifting a single weight. Late 2009 my back became worse finding out I have bone degeneration, arthritis and 2 bad disks all in my lower back. With my cognitive functions deteriorating I found myself unemployed, in a wheelchair andon SSD. In late 2009 I found out about the “Wheelchair Bodybuilding” class. I took one look to my wife Tammy and said “I’m doing it, I can’t do anything else I will make it my full time job. With your help, reminder notes and my computer programs I can do this at least.” (my mind/memory is a cross between the lady on “First 100 Kisses” and the start of Alzheimers.) So Nov. 2009 I got myself a gym membership and onto a 3 day on – 2 day off split. Tammy drives me to the gym and helps me workout, she is the greatest.

My first competition was in late 1999. I did the INBF Midwest show put on at Ford’s Gym in Madison, WI. I took 3rd place Novice in Open Light Weight class. From 1999-2004 I did 11 INBF shows placing in top 3 of my class (open light weight) at 10 of them with a 1st in my class at the WI State, Midwest Championships, Northeastern Championships. Since my come back in 2010 at this time I have done 2 INBF shows and in prep for Mr. Minnesota natural show. 2010 I have taken three 1st places- the INBF WI State and US Central in the wheelchair class and 1st in the wheelchair class for the Mr. Minnesota natural show and 2011 1st at the Buckeye Classics INBF Natural National Wheelchair Championships winning my WNBF Pro card becoming the first in history 100% Natural WNBF Wheelchair Pro.

Why do you love bodybuilding?

The smell back stage, the scream of the crowd as you hit a pose and the natural adrenalin rush. Being on stage is such a natural high, and for a few minutes you are king of the world, nothing can touch you. As for me being a wheelchair competitor, when I hit my rear double bicep pose and hear “holy ****” come from the crowd, or when I slam a lat spread and the crowd hits a dead silence and you can hear a pin drop. They don’t see it, but my face has a smile you couldn’t chisel off. The many hours in the gym, as well as the benefit of good health, makes it more than worth it.

I also love the brotherhood between bodybuilders. When a ripped heavy weight or other competitor walks up to you and asks to have his/her picture taken with you it is truly a honor and complement to be recognized as a equal in the sport.

What is your training philosophy?

I use a modified P/RR/S by Eric Broser as a baseline, tailored to my body response and capabilities. The only time I back off pushing the envelope is one week out from a show. Other wise it is full speed ahead. I always listen to my body and am very instinctive in the sets andreps. I have made some insane gains even while cutting, this time around thanks to 3D Muscle Journey for nutrition, and AAEFX supplements to keep what I have while cutting. How does pressing total weight on a Hammer Strength ISO Horizontal Press of 36 lbs when I started in November to – while 3 months into cutting – a total weight of 281 lbs for 2 sound reps. And I have it on video. Or going from Hammer Strength ISO high row of 94 lbs. in November to 3 months in, doing 404 lbs. For one and holding it at full contraction. So I think I am doing something right. 😉

What’s a good workout routine that has given you results?

I have no set days or reps with 3 on and 2 off, and with my style training, but I will fill in my split.

The plan rolling into the gym is: 1 warm up set, 3-4 very heavy sets with max 4 reps, a set with 12-15 reps concentrating on the squeeze then stripping and immediately doing a set of 15-20 reps to saturate the crap out of the muscle with blood. Like I said this varies due to the fact that I am so instinctive during my workouts.

  • Day 1 – Chest, Triceps, Pullovers and Abs.
  • Day 2 – Back, Biceps, Traps, Rear Delts and Abs. Cardio during show prep.
  • Day 3 – Shoulders and Abs.
  • Day 4 – Off, or cardio during show prep.
  • Day 5 – Off, or cardio during show prep.
  • Day 6 – Start the cycle again.

If you have to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

  1. Bench press.
  2. Any chest supported rows.
  3. Machine flies.

What’s the best training tip you could give to others?

Listen to your body, don’t lie to yourself. If the last rep was your last possible rep.

What is your philosophy on nutrition?

Variety and keep it right on the macros. Everything else falls in place if you hit your macros.

Give us a typical day in your off season diet:

Lol. I am and was always a hardgainer so for me it is EAT all I can. I do try to keep ratios in line and I always eat my food in the order of proteins, then fats and carbs last. With the exception of my immediate post-workout meal. That meal low fat, quality protein and plenty of simple carbs to shuttle nutrients. I have a baseline for macros to hit mid-day and if I hit that I know I’m doing good and can just skate for the rest of the day on tracking my food.

Give us a typical day in your diet (contest prep):

It is nothing for me to spend 2-3 hours setting up my next day’s meal plan to hit my macros dead on. There isn’t a day in the weeks of show prep that I don’t hit my macros dead on. Not over or under even a gram. I weight everything, even my supplements. (Capsules or tablets I don’t weigh LOL) I have all my supplements logged in my ProTrack 2008 when I do my meal plan. Many don’t count the macros from their supplements. I do. Every one of my supplements are in there with their macro counts.

I believe in using a variety of macro sources. It helps keep the urges to cheat away. I eat chicken early in the day and turkey midday. Then end of day tuna. I workout in the mornings so I eat 40% of my carbs in morning, 40% post-workout, and as the day progresses the last 20% tapering them off and rising the fat level in the meals. I use oatmeal, red potatoes, Pringles (yes Pringles), dark chocolate with almonds (again yes, also fills fats), whole grain crackers and veggies for carbs. Fats are almonds, omega-3, pistachios and peanut butter.

What are your favorite meals and foods?

Anything my wife Tammy makes. She is a wonderful cook and baker.

Favorite cheat food?

I would have to say Tammy’s Brownies and peanut butter cookies made with AAEFX NF-Pro protein. Although they are not a “cheat meal” due to how she makes them with apple sauce, powdered oatmeal and the protein powder, you feel like you are cheating. I even eat them on show day. You should see the looks I get at the shows. Lol.

What’s the best nutrition tip you could give to others?

Variety. Variety. Variety. Just hit you macros as close as you can every day.

What supplements do you use that give you great results? How do you use them?

  • AAEFX Lean Fix Elite – 30 minutes before each of the 3 main meals. I was stripping fat rapidly but I had the hard tallow fat in my abs. I started the Lean Fix and that hard fat busted up and melted away. I didn’t have the jitters from it like other products, or any crashing.
  • AAEFX Kre-Celazine– This is a patented product they have for joints. I take a ½ serving of it first thing in morning. (Due to being a smaller person) With my bone degeneration in my lower back I have some prescriptions for some hefty pain killers. I don’t take them. I hate drugs. Since I started taking the Kre-Celazine my lower back is not fixed but more tolerable, and I have no need for the pain pills on a normal day. I am considering taking the other ½ serving of it at bed time also.
  • AAEFX LG5 Pro (Glutamine)– As you know glutamine is a cell volumizer but also secondary is for nerve health. The 3DMJ team can verify this. The week of my last show I had a situation were my neurotransmitters in right arm weren’t all firing. I take the LG5 post-workout. That week I also took it at bed time and my arm was fine by show day. I am not saying it is a miracle cure at all, but for me it sure does the trick. My full muscle bellies are just a sweet side effect. 🙂

What brands do you think are offering the best products at the moment?

All American EFX. I don’t say this because they are a sponsor. I used them before they became my sponsor. Sponsorship came as a result of the gains I made with there supplements and how strongly I feel about them, and anyone that personally knows me knows I don’t B.S. or sell out on my morals or beliefs. Not even to gain a sponsor.

I would have to say the whole line of AAEFX supplements are my favorite.

I respond great to them. I can use any of the products by them and I know I have nothing to fear as far as not being and staying drug free. Personal I won’t use anything but AAEFX after all the research I did on the company and their quality control.

What do you think is a good off season muscle building stack?

For me personally I will stay with all the AAEFX line exclusively, with the core being: IGF33 Elite/NF-Pro (50-50 mix post work out), Cell Rush, Kre-Alkalyn, Kre-Alkalyn Pro, Nytric Pro, LG5 Pro and LBA Pro.

What do you think is a good pre-contest/fat loss stack?

Good nutrition plan, cardio and AAEFX Lean Fix.

What are the 3 best tips you’d give to someone thinking about competing in natural bodybuilding?

  1. Read labels.
  2. Do your research.
  3. See about hooking up with a vet of the sport with a quality proven record and open your ears. None of us know everything. Let alone someone that has no, or a poor record. They are obviously doing something wrong themselves most of the time.

What is your best advice for looking your best on competition day?

I won’t pull any punches here. I had a good record through 2004. I NEVER came in as good as my last 2 shows when 3D Muscle Journey took over my show prep in January 2010, and if the team can get me, a guy in a wheelchair with things like limited cardio work and the chair to deal with on poses, think what they can do for an able bodied competitor.

How do you stay motivated? What advice would you give to someone who’s having trouble staying on track?

Point blank I don’t want to get worse. I have my family and grand kids I want to be able to play games with and enjoy life with. Motivation? Tell you what …not to seem like a jerk, after reading about everything I have been through, you think you have a valid excuse to not be motivated, e-mail me and share.

What shows have you got coming up, where can we see you compete?

May 22nd I have the NANBF Natural Mr. Minnesota. Then I talked with my sponsors about taking off until next spring and do a quality bulk, seen as I only have had one month of bulk going into the 3 shows this spring. I will be doing INBF shows like the WI State, US Central again next year unless plans change and I hit some major big shows that have wheelchair class. Not that the 2 listed are small, no way, just I mean like some huge out of state INBF shows. I am working on organizing a “100% Natural Wheelchair Worlds” show and if I can get one set up with a existing show I would love to travel and do that show.

What would you like to achieve in your natural bodybuilding career?

I would love to see Wheelchair Bodybuilding in the 100% natural side grow. There is a lot of good talent out there given the chance to compete, plus I have been on both sides – able body and now as wheelchair. Please no one take this wrong. Wheelchair bodybuilders work so much harder. Not only to just get around the gym or even handle the weights but down to posing in a chair is worlds different. It takes so much mind over muscle to make and hold poses. The mind is running twice as hard for everything. I am more lucky with having great sponsors and supporters than most wheelchair competitors and I hope my good fortune opens things up for them. I don’t take any of it for granted.

Last: for me well everything has been like a sweet dream as of so far, but my goal is to be the first WNBF Wheelchair Pro and compete as long as I can.

Who are your favorite bodybuilders and idols?

Arnie of course for bringing the sport to light. I have always loved Flex’s back. Kind of guess that’s what caused me to have the back I have. Next I look up to any natural bodybuilder that reaches their goal and then sets a new one higher and sticks with it.

My biggest and most important idol. Step aside Arnie and Flex, is my wife Tammy. Here is why.

That little woman endures a bodybuilder’scut diet whenever I am cutting just to make it easier on me. She keeps me on track for my meals, even calls me on her breaks at work to see if I am on track, takes time out of her day to cart me off to the gym, plays around with recipes that I can eat during cutting and writes down all the macro info for the recipe so I can log it in my program correctly. Every piece of hardware on my shelf is rightfully ½ hers. I could never do this with out her help and support.

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