Interview with Natural Pro Wheelchair Bodybuilder Richard Knapp

  • Hometown: Hortonville, WI
  • Location: Appleton, WI
  • Height: 5’ 8”
  • Weight: 156
  • Age: 47
  • Favorite Lift: Whatever body part needs more work. Those lifts.
  • Favorite quote: “Keep the drive alive!”
  • Websites: www.aaefx.com, www.3dmusclejourney.com.

You have to be committed but at the same time you have to have a life outside the gym or you will burn out. Mine is my Blade RC helicopters. www.helifreak.com , www.bladehelis.com Then, there is the popular Facebook. That’s my link to the world seen as I don’t get out of the apartment much. “Wheelchair-Bodybuilder-Rich-The-Freak-On-Wheels-Knapp”

For those unfamiliar with you, can you tell us a bit about your background?

rich-knapp-1Lol, there’s no short side to everything I have been through, but I’ll try to keep it short. I grew up as a country boy in a small farm town. I started working on the family farm and I got paid for it when I was 13 or 14.

I saved up, paid cash and bought my first car at 14 years old, a ’71 Camaro. I had it all fixed up before I even had my license. Back then, fast loud cars were my thing, but I was also the typical 100 lb nerd. For real, I weighed 110 lb’s, 5’ 8” tall in my senior year. I was small, but strong.

I started working all kinds of minimum wage jobs right out of High School. In those days minimum wage was $3.25 per hour, sometimes I worked 2-3 part-time jobs. But I worked and did what it took, so my family wouldn’t go hungry. Many days it was Mac and Cheese and hot dogs.

After serving in the U.S. Navy, I worked my way up the food chain so to speak. I still did hard manual work, but nicer jobs and with better pay came nice cars and a house and a new wife. The first wife I married when I was way too young.

Things began to change in the 90’s. I was diagnosed with M.S. and it was bad. I started slurring my speech and sounding like I was drunk all the time. My legs were bent at a 45 degree angle and at one point; I fully lost the use of my right hand.

Over the next few years, I found weight lifting and I started to see improvements. I went off the M.S. meds and fought it naturally. I got talked into competing in Drug Free Bodybuilding and fell in love with it.

Then more things happened. I was diagnosed with carpel tunnel in both hands. I had an accident and I crushed my left arm all the way up to my shoulder; this caused full arm nerve damage. This is when the doctors found a bone cyst under my right bicep.

The doctors told me I was done with bodybuilding. By this time (1999-2004) I had done 11 shows, able-bodied and standing. I had placed in the top 3 of my class 10 times. Of that winning, I won my class 3 times, 4 times 2nd place and 3 times 3rd place.

I had stopped lifting weights all together but kept a job that was physical to stay in shape and fight the M.S. In 2009 some big changes came again. My cognitive function got worse and the doctor found bone degeneration in my lower back and right hip causing complications. Everything brought me to permanent disability and the use of a wheelchair. I’m not the kind to give up or slow down. I still had all my computer programs and such, and my long term memory could remember my bodybuilding stuff.

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With the help of my wife Tammy and my computer programs, I decided to give wheelchair bodybuilding a shot as long as my arm and such would hold up. Things were going good, so in the spring of 2010 I made my stage comeback. Going on stage was a good way for me to keep the drive and see how I was physically doing vs the last show.

Since my come back to Drug Free Wheelchair Bodybuilding, I have never taken less than 1st place at the 5 shows I have done. I have even won a WNBF Pro card and won the Pro WNBF Wheelchair class at one show.

My last cut was very hard on my M.S. and nerves, so at this time I’m retired from competing. You never know what the future will bring with M.S. IF my M.S. improves I may come out of retirement for another show or a show when I turn 50.

Can you tell us how you got the nickname “The Freak on Wheels?”

Lol. I’m sponsored by All American EFX supplements and their reps are called “Natural Freaks.” Because of how I get my show conditioning and the weight I push for my size, well I’m a “Natural Freak” and in a wheelchair, so they started calling me “a freak on wheels.”

Then the name just stuck with me and I got known to others outside of the company as “The Freak on Wheels.” I didn’t just wake up and say “I think I will call myself “The Freak on Wheels.” I am sure it looked that way to some, due to how fast it caught on and spread.

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Tell us about your current sponsors and how you got connected with them.

A friend, Chris Lawrence, on Bodybuilding.com told me I should start a training log. So I did. Then Eric Helms told me I should fill out an application for 3D Muscle Journey’s worldwide yearly show prep sponsorship for 2 people. So I did and WOW, myself and another guy from WI, Jason Bosak won!

This is where my relationship started with 3DMJ and AAEFX because Jason was a rep for AAEFX. He asked me if I ever tried their products, to that day I hadn’t, so I tried them out. And all I can say is my body chemistry loved them. So I kept using them; I also liked that I would never have to worry about failing a test because their supplements have no banned ingredients.

When AAEFX saw I was once again bringing high quality to the stage and how my body reacted on their sups only (YES, I only used AAEFX products even before I became sponsored by them.) They brought me aboard. It’s a true honor to be part of their family. They even put me, yeah, a wheelchair guy, on one of their product banners. How cool is that?

TiLite custom wheelchairs provided me with a custom wheel chair that wasn’t too distracting when I was on stage. That was a great help. I met them through replacing my old used 20+ year old chair I was rebuilding all the time.

Iron Master I met through doing research, and I purchased a set of good quality adjustable dumbbells from them. They helped me get one of their sets that go to 120lb’s per hand but I can upgrade them to 160 lbs per hand.

The Fitness Factory Outlet helped me out when I was getting a full cage for safety since; I work- out at home alone when Tammy is at work. I did have an Olympic bench with no spotters. Now yes I’m one of them guys that bench and curl in the cage. Lol, but it’s my cage!

All Things Jerky helped me out with my high Omega’s and lean meats for this last cut. Kangaroo and Ostrich was a norm in my meal plans.

Congratulations on your recent first place win at the WNBF Tournament of Champions of Wheelchair class. Can you tell us a little about how you prepared to for this competition as opposed to previous competitions and what was the most memorable moment, for you.

rich-knapp-4Thank you very much.

Coming off a 2 year bulk I had a few more pounds of body fat to lose than I should have had, so I had to start 6 months out in order to take it slow and retain as much muscle as I could. I also added 1000mg’s Raspberry Ketones to my supplements this cut, to help bust up the internal fats.

This cut was a hard one because my body would react different every show day test run, even the look of my tan. I don’t do booth spray tan. I feel it takes some of the old school knowledge out of it.

As an amateur I always went super lean and dry. It did me very well, but as a pro I had to change over to super lean and full. It felt weird to me because looking in mirror I felt splashed over compared to my other shows, when in reality I was just as ripped and thin-skinned. I was just fuller and my muscles bellies were rounder.

This has been a memorable ride.

My Team and I helped bring Drug Free Wheelchair Bodybuilding out in open.
My Team and I won the 1st Drug Free Wheelchair Nationals
My Team and I won the 1st WNBF Wheelchair Pro card.
My Team and I won the 1st ever in world, Drug Free and Tested Wheelchair Pro show.
Hearing my name called for 1st place as a Pro.
Next to that, the team work that got me there; I couldn’t have done it without the team.

I know you are extremely precise on your macros. Can you tell us how you educated yourself on mastering them.

This is an easy one, 3D Muscle Journey and Alberto Nunez. I used the program “Pro Track 2008” but these guys were the biggest help. They were a wealth of info.

What does your pre and post workout nutrition look like?

I don’t per say, eat a pre workout meal. I generally do at least 1 workout a day and it is between my lunch and supper. I get up at 4am so lunch is at 9am, workout at 11am. If I do a 2nd workout, it will be around 2pm. Working out at home has its advantages; they can vary depending on what I need to get done in or out of the gym.

I base my macro’s on my lean body mass as I’m not trying to preserve or grow my body fat. I’m trying to gain muscle and save my (lbm.) That being said, I can get my macro’s filled in 3 meals during bulk and leave room for intra and post.

Around workouts, I utilize AAEFX Karbolyn for tweeking my carbs also (rice, corn or potato) for intra or post workout.

  • Pre w/o : **NEW** K-Alkalyn Hardcore (3 caplets), HMB’s, Joint Rehab, Gluta Zorb
  • Intra w/o : 20g’s Karbolyn, 5g’s pure baking coca. LBA, Cell Rush and LG-5 just before last set.
  • Immediate Post w/o : AAEFX’s NF Pro whey, non-fat cottage cheese, spinach, pineapple shake. HMB’s, V-E, V-C, and 2 rice cakes.

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What do you love most about this sport and why?

It keeps me going and I have made some wonderful friends. It also gives me a life outside the apartment walls.

What do you find your biggest challenge is in your everyday life?

Keeping my mind busy, so I don’t notice or try not to, notice the pain and trying to remember things.

Tell us one thing not too many people would know about you.

Going on stage, I hid a lot. Now that I’m retired I’ll fill you in; I have blacked out on stage more than once. And I’ve had lethargic attacks on stage. The M.S. has weakened my sphincter muscles, so I have to wear depends on stage. More than once I have had to sit through all of my poses in urine. But you do what you have to do when you’re up next to guys averaging half your age.

Why do you think you have succeeded when someone else would give up?

I never change my long-term goal just to make my short-term goal easier. I also know what it’s like being on the bottom in life, getting kicked in the teeth and I don’t like being there. I know what it’s like to literally come one tenth of a second from death, from slowly being eaten by a machine. These things have given me a new outlook on the little things like living to eat versus eating to live.

I also don’t care what Joe Jones looks like or is doing. I do what is right for me and what will help me be better than the last time. I love life, no one hands it to you; you have to earn it and take it. I have old school work ethics.

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