Since breaking into competitive bodybuilding in 2019, Erin Banks has become one of the biggest names in the sport. By 2021, he ranked second at the Men’s Physique Olympia — and claimed the title in 2022.
Three months later, in March 2023, Banks bagged his second Arnold Classic title, successfully defending the crown he first won the previous year. With his Olympia qualification guaranteed for life as the reigning champion, Banks is eyeing a title defense in Orlando, FL, on Nov. 2-5, 2023.
BarBend caught up with Banks, who is enjoying some well-earned downtime, to learn how he navigated winning the two biggest contests in the sport back-to-back in a three-month window. Additionally, he shared his workout preferences and addressed whether there is any truth that he might one day compete in the Classic Physique division.
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A Solid Routine Is the Secret
Banks’ training starts right at 4:30 a.m. Before the rush of home life commands his attention, he’s up early to knock out his fasted cardio in the gym. Afterward, he starts his day by helping his kids prep for school.
The trade-off for an early morning is, likewise, an early evening. Banks hits the sack by 8 p.m. at the latest to allow for plenty of recovery time.
“When I’m really locked in for these shows and prep, I’m in bed by 7 p.m.,” Banks tells BarBend. “I don’t like to push past that, because recovery is key.”
Certainly, the last few months have been grueling for Banks, who is slowing things down to prioritize recovery. How did he navigate earning the crown at the Olympia and then the Arnold just three months apart? He prioritized consistency.
“Routine is so key,” Banks says. “I believe a lot of my success is built on what I do on a daily basis. Adapt and stay focused.”
The Reluctant Bodybuilder
Prior to competing on stage, Banks was on the football, basketball, and track teams in high school and then went on to study kinesiology in college. Though he’s athletic and knows how the body works, he says he never wanted to be a bodybuilder. But in 2017, bodybuilder and coach Terry Reeves “begged” Banks to give it a shot.
Banks’ first reaction was, “I really don’t want to compete.” However, after seeing pictures of Men’s Physique competitors, he felt that their aesthetic was in his range.
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Banks has a natural confidence that has helped his winning streak. He feels his charisma impressed judges even when his posing still needed work. Nowadays, with so much at stake, Banks practices his posing every day for up to an hour.
In the time between his victories at the 2022 Olympia and the 2023 Arnold Classic, Banks trained for maintenance, as his physique was already ranked as the best in the world in Las Vegas, NV, and it was unlikely anyone could surpass him by the time they stepped on stage in Columbus, OH.
“We tried to maintain every other body part, but once you start working out to the extreme, everything grows,” Banks says. “In those months, we became more polished.”
However, best in the world doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement, and Banks’ current focus is his upper chest, which he feels is a weak spot in his physique.
Sticking to a Nutrition Plan
During a cut, Banks consumes approximately 2,700 calories per day. At around 10 weeks out from competition, he increases to 3,200 calories. Much of his nutrition comes from chicken breast, rice, and broccoli. It might sound boring — but it works.
When you want to be the best, the taste doesn’t matter.
Banks adds a quarter of a tablespoon of pink Himalayan salt and “a little bit” of Mrs. Dash seasoning to all of his meals “to keep some type of flavor.” At the start of prep, before the cut begins, he also allows himself condiments like hot sauce or mustard.
“At that 10-12 week mark, we push that stuff to the side,” Banks said. “It’s based on being the best. I’ve never gotten bored of food, which is why I’ve prepped for the last three years, eating the same things. I’ve never come off my diet. I want to set my legacy to a point where it’s not chasable. It’s a mental game.”
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Banks’ Off-Season: Cheat Meals and Charity
Following the 2023 Arnold Classic, Banks mentioned he is on a two-and-a-half-month break, which is an anomaly in his time as a pro bodybuilder.
“I get to sit outside without having to worry about eating for the next two or three hours,” Banks says. “That’s where my break is. Maybe I can go four or five hours without eating anything. That’s just the best thing in the world right now.”
For as disciplined as he is in the kitchen, Banks does admit to having a sweet tooth. His go-to cheat meal is at the Cheesecake Factory, and he doesn’t pull any punches when the waiter asks for his order.
“I’m eating fried mac and cheese balls, avocado spring egg rolls….with a side of carrot cake and Oreo supreme cheesecake,” Banks says.
When not prepping or crushing cheesecake, Banks uses his time to help his community via his annual sock drive — an initiative that helps people who are homeless in Fresno, CA, get socks. They delivered over 1,500 pairs in 2022.
Erin Banks’ Back Workout
Banks invested some of his prize money into a new self-titled clothing line — featuring his silhouette on an NBA-style logo — that he hopes to launch soon. Already in his gym bag are wrist wraps, knee sleeves, and a camera. Banks brings a workout plan to the gym and little else.
“I don’t put too much in my gym bag,” Banks says. “I drink my protein shakes and pre-workout before I come to the gym; it’s very simple.”
Though Banks is known for his wide V-taper and thick rear delts, he says he has a “love-hate relationship” with back training. Here’s a sample of the back workout Banks performs twice per week as part of his split:
- Straight-Arm Lat Pulldowns: 4 x 20 (moderate weight to warm up)
- Chest-Supported T-Bar Rows: 4 x 8-12 (heavy)
- Seated Lat Pulldowns: 4 x 8-12 (heavy)
- Rack Pulls: 3 x 10 (super heavy)
- The “EBanks Row” (his signature hyperextended row): 4 x 10 (super heavy)
The workout cooldown consists of posing practice once the pump is set in, and he can fight through fatigue to emulate the experience on stage.
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In an Instagram post on March 11, 2023, Banks teased the possibility of one day competing in the Classic Physique division. How serious was he? Pretty serious.
“When I’m on stage, I’m around 225 pounds. So, when you think about it in a comparison, me and Chris Bumstead are around the same height,” Banks says. “My weight cap for Classic would be 242 pounds, I believe. That’s a lot of weight to be able to put on. I talked to my coach about it, and before I retire, I will probably do a Classic Physique show.”
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Featured image courtesy of The Arnold Sports Festival