mass student shredding

You’ve just gotta try, you’ve just gotta do it.

Tell us a bit about yourself? Name, Uni, Course, Year, Interests

I’m Domonic O’Connor, I turn 24 next month, my background is as a rugby player, I used to play international rugby in my younger years so that’s how I was introduced to fitness and the gym before I gained a lot of weight and stopped playing because I injured my knee. At the moment I’m doing a masters by research following onto a PhD at the University of Leeds. I love reading, I’m a massive bookworm, I love coming home in the evenings and reading, I’m a massive Jack Reacher fan, I love the Jack Reacher books and trying to figure out what’s happened haha.


mass student shredding


When were you at your worst? What was that and how did you end up there?

It was at the end of my 2nd year of Uni (and I’m now just starting my 6th year of Uni!) which was a few years ago and I was basically just going out on socials with the rugby boys, going drinking, drinking ridiculous amounts of alcohol and eating takeaways. I was never going to the gym or working out I was too intimidated by the Uni gym, in my eyes, everyone looked amazing and really lean, they looked like they knew what they were doing and they were the business. I felt like I stood out like a sore thumb, so I drank more and ate more, got bigger and worked out less and it became a bit of a vicious cycle. I was over 110kg in bodyweight at my heaviest. I got to a stage where I wouldn’t step on the scales because I knew I wouldn’t like what I saw.

I never really had to think about training and nutrition when I played academy rugby because I had people to do that for me. But when I came to Uni and had to start doing all of that myself I just didn’t. So I gained a load of weight as a consequence.


student shredding


What prompted you to make a change?

It was an instant snap. I went on a year abroad for my third year studying in Hong Kong and out there I was twice the size of everyone, I looked ridiculous, Asians are quite small people generally so I felt twice as big. I would go to the beach with my friends and I didn’t like taking my top off in front of them. Being in Hong Kong got out of the environment of parties and takeaways and stuff so there was no more social pressures or ques to keep living the lifestyle I had been. As soon as I was out there I decided I was making a change now, I’m going to spend a year working out, eating healthy, I’m going to change, then when I get back to Leeds hopefully people won’t recognise me.

And that is what happened, I got back to Leeds and everyone was like “damn Dom you’ve lost weight”.

I hated going to the beach, I couldn’t stand being in swim trunks or how I looked. I wanted to be comfortable in my own skin.

How did you do things differently? What was the journey like?

I initially decided I’m going to eat home cooked food, nutritious whole food and I’m going to go to the gym. I didn’t know what I’d do there initially but thought that something was better than nothing… And it was!

The weight started to fall off of me really quickly, and then it just kinda snowballed from there as I started seeing improvements I thought to myself right I want to see improvements in this area and this area and this area and I started to tweak things and become addicted to it, learning how my body responded to different styles of training through trial and error, what I enjoyed doing in the gym and how I enjoyed it. Then I wanted to get the most out of my training so I decided nutrition needs to go up a level so I started to learn about diet, what should I be eating? Home cooked eating is good but should I be eating certain types of food and when? And it progressed and it progressed.

I reached a stage after a year and a half where I looked at myself and thought “when I started this, this is where I wanted to get to. Now I’m here, if you told me I’d look like this in a  year and a half I wouldn’t have believed you.” And if you told me I was going to become a physique competitor I definitely wouldn’t have believed you, ha ha!

I started off because I wanted to be healthier and happier and it progressed to the point where I dieted for a long time and made huge changes.


dom student shredding


Where did that take you? What was the end result?

I was back in Leeds doing the final year of my undergrad degree and one day I woke up and thought “you know what, I look pretty good. Clothes started to fit me better, I wasn’t wearing baggy clothes anymore, I felt like I looked alright wearing flattering clothes. This was a huge thing for me because I used to leave the house wearing baggy hoodies and trackies, covering up, because I hated the way nice clothes fitted on me and how I looked. And I thought to myself “this is where I wanted to be”. Then I said to myself I’m not happy with this, I want to push myself further and see what I’m capable, then I set myself a goal of competing. I decided to commit to it, I knew what I was doing, let’s see how hard I can go and what I can produce.

I still look at the photos of myself today and I still can’t believe I managed to get into that condition. I look at myself in the gym now and even though I’m not especially lean compared to what I was I think damn I’ve got a lot more muscle than I used to.

Even in interviews like this where people think my story can help others I never imagined I’d ever be here.


dom student shredding


What would you say to anyone who knows they want to live a different lifestyle but is unsure/scared/stuck?

Something is better than nothing. Everyone has to start from ground zero. It’s so easy to compare yourself to all these people who have been doing it for 10+ years, have amazing genetics and look fantastic. But they didn’t start there, they weren’t born that way, everyone goes into the gym at ground zero at one point. It’s a great level playing field because we all have to start from the bottom and build ourselves up. Just go out and do it, figure out what works for you and you’ll learn and progress. It is a slow process but you’ve gotta fall in love with the process and you will as you start to see changes.

If the next 6 months go by and you don’t make a change or you don’t do anything you’re going to be in the exact same position as you are now. There’s nothing worse than not making a try, 6 months are going to go by regardless, you might as well try.

I used to give myself excuses like I’ve always been a big guy my body isn’t meant to be lean, I don’t have a good frame for a six-pack. As soon as you cut the excuses out and make an effort and decide to try you can at least think to yourself that if nothing changes at least you tried. The changes will happen, you’ve just gotta try, you’ve just gotta do it.

Why do you think MASS Student Shredding is the perfect opportunity to make a transformation?

MASS Student Shredding gives you something to work towards and a goal. So many people start a diet and a workout regime and they don’t have an end in sight and that doesn’t give them a goal to aim towards or a yardstick to measure their progress on. At least if you set yourself a goal you can hold yourself accountable, you say “right I’m entering MASS student shredding and I’m going to improve as much as I can over the course of the competition”. And at the end of it, you can tick it off and have something to show what you’ve achieved. You can know that you’ve met your goal.

The competition also gives you a support network for training and nutrition advice. When I started I was very blindly following stuff on Instagram without understanding why I was doing it. When I look back there was so much stuff I was doing that wasn’t necessarily wrong but wasn’t optimal. Stuff that I could have improved, it was a massive trial and error. If someone was there to point me on the right path and say right this is what you are doing then the process would have been so much quicker and easier. The transformation would have been a quicker process. Having weekly emails, a dedicated support group and free access to a world-class training app (ptonline) will be game-changing.

I think the community aspect of MASS Student Shredding will help. A lot of people won’t necessarily understand what you’re doing and why, they’ll appreciate it and your dedication but they won’t get it. My mum and my friends say “I don’t know why you want to diet but the dedication is impressive”, so none of your friends shut you down for it but they don’t relate either. MASS SS will put you amongst people who will relate, a lot of my best friends are at the gym now. Your vibe attracts your tribe. I’ve so many friends through MASS now who share the same hobby, people I never would have normally met or spoken to are now some of my closest friends and it helps me stay on track and learn more. You’re progressing, they’re progressing, and you tend to bring out the best in each other.


What have you done since?

I’m now a postgraduate research student at Uni Leeds, I’m still in the school of psychology but I’m now in an obesity research group I’m doing a masters by research and progressing onto a PhD next year researching the role of sweet taste in appetite and obesity to try and help obese populations lose weight effortlessly.

I competed at the MASS SPC and I competed at bodypower. Both huge events being stood in front of hundreds of people. I played rugby for England and that was in front of a few people but never hundreds and never in speedos haha… There’s no hiding when you’re in front of the camera in speedos haha.

What are your future plans?

My career goal is to be an obesity expert, to try and envoke widespread change and help as many people as possible.

In competing I’ve got my eyes set on winning the MASS SPC 2019 Physique Overall title.


mass student shredding


You can follow Dom’s journey on Instagram @domfituk

If you’re interested in making your own transformation like Dom, look no further. MASS Student Shredding Entries are open now and first video submissions start 7th November.

Find out more HERE 

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featured image shona

Member Real Life Story: Shona Hughes


Name: Shona Hughes

Age: 20 years old

Weight Class: 63kg

PRs: 87.5kg Squat, 50kg Bench, 122.5kg Deadlift

Studying: Physics in her second year at University of Kent


Shona’s story:

I first set about losing weight several years ago and had a somewhat negative relationship with exercise. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I rebuilt my relationship with exercise and participated with the sole intention of enjoying myself and improving my strength. I started out in the gym doing endless sessions of cardio and using the occasional machine. I was introduced to powerlifting briefly, at first by a friend, who taught me two of the three lifts but it wasn’t until part of the way through my first year at university that I really got into it after my boyfriend, then course-mate, encouraged me.


“My eating habits took an extremely restrictive turn a few years ago, and around the time I began to lose a lot of weight I developed an eating disorder.”


What was it like switching from being a cardio bunny to lifting heavy and being a part of MASS?


I was very shy about being in the free weights area but was keen to learn more, so I just needed a bit of a push! I’ve been officially lifting for a year now, and joined MASS at the start of my second year. I had heard a lot about it in my first year, but again, I was reserved about joining. The community feeling you get from the society is so welcoming though.


What’s it like balancing training with studying at university?


Thankfully, it hasn’t been too much of a strain because the facilities in the campus gym are ideal, and it’s nice and convenient to get to between or after lectures. It is tiring, and difficult to strike a balance so I often find myself prioritising training over going out with friends but it’s a fair trade I think, and I’ve even been able to encourage some of my friends to join us in training so I never feel like I’m missing out.


“The community feeling you get from the society is so welcoming.”


What’s a typical training week for you?


My programming tends to vary a fair bit, and since I don’t intend on competing at the moment, I keep it fairly relaxed. I train 5/6 times a week, taking rest days when I need them. Each session is largely focused on either squat, bench or deadlift with focused accessory work. Every so often, I’ll ask someone to oversee my lifts and take me through my weaknesses so I can add in specific accessory movements like deficit pulls for deadlifts, tempo squats or spoto press.




What is your diet like right now?


At the moment, I’m on a bit of a cut (can’t let myself get too far out my intended weight class!) so my macros are a little lower than usual, but I’m a creature of habit so I still find ways to keep in my favourites – protein pancakes and the occasional pizza being the main things. I’m very much a fan of anything carb dense, particularly if I have a heavy day. In fact, I tend to have my most carb dense meals earlier in the day when I’m training; if not I’ll try to spread them out a bit more.


“Having a healthy relationship with yourself and excelling at what you love is what’s key to being content.”

How do your current eating habits vary from before you were lifting?


I was definitely an intuitive eater for most of my life but I became more conscious of my eating habits as I got older. My eating habits took an extremely restrictive turn a few years ago, and around the time I began to lose a lot of weight I developed an eating disorder. I remember very little of that period of my life, but I can’t have been consuming more than 500 calories on a daily basis. Often fewer. I would only have a higher intake if I was being closely monitored by friends or family.


What impact has MASS had on your life?


As corny as it sounds, coming to university and joining MASS has saved me from a self destructive path. It’s taught me that having a healthy relationship with yourself and excelling at what you love is what’s key to being content – no matter how you look, you can’t be happy if your goals aren’t coming from a good place. It’s taught me the difference between, “I’m not good enough if I don’t do this” and “I am enjoying this and would like to improve”. Without the support of the friends I’ve made through university, and MASS in particular, I would probably still struggle with that concept. But being surrounded by like-minded, hard-working and accepting individuals is an amazing feeling.

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Meet MASS February Member of the Month, Matt Molyneux

After receiving many inspiring applications for the February member of the month award we had a super tough task on our hands to decide the winner. Long debates and discussions later we’ve very pleased to award Matt Molyneux with the member of the month award, congratulations Matt!


Matt’s won a Protein Dynamix student bundle and 5kg of chicken from Musclefood


Name: Matt Molyneux

University and degree program: University of Lincoln, 3rd year BSc Biomedical Science



The call to action…

After giving up 14 years of competitive swimming to focus on my A Level studies, I quickly became restless and needed a new fitness objective to keep me sane. I had the cardiovascular endurance of marathon runner and the body to match: 5’11 – 135lbs. Inspired in a way that most young males can identify with, my sights were set on the physique of a superhero; Captain America (Chris Evans), to be exact.

A fitness and financial investment…

I started my journey with a £20 dumbbell set from Argos, hitting bicep curls from every angle, every night. Improvements were made but my interest faded with the limited number of exercises available to me and so I invested further in a £50 barbell set, again from Argos. I drove home after collecting the set, bar half sticking out of the window, and immediately loaded it with the full 50kg.

The path to progress…

Deadlifts were first and I managed a few sets of 3 before collapsing on to the bed feeling like Bane had just snapped my back in half. I kept with it, just me and the barbell, every day improvising to create new and different ways to work my muscles. Cushion supported floor press, wrist snapping power-clean/ front squat combos and swing guided barbell curls in all their infinite glory. I kept this up for around 2 years before moving to university and joining what seemed like Gold’s Gym, Venice Beach at the time .. the uni gym. My training advanced but without a squat rack I could only get so far and so I worked hard on gaining muscle as well as adding pounds to my deadlift and my bench, watching the numbers fly up month by month.

A summer of setbacks…

During the summer between second and third year I took myself to my local gym where I managed to contract medial epicondylitis (tendonitis of the inner elbow) attempting overhead barbell tricep extensions. Eight months with no deadlifting and very minimal heavy training, I returned for third year to a new (and cheaper) gym, closer to my house than the university gym.

The comeback…

The 175lbs of hard-earned man that I had built myself into traded loyalties and my new gym obsession took over: powerlifting. Just over 6 months in the new gym, weighing in at approximately 185lbs, I have managed a 147.5kg squat, a 100kg bench and a 182.5kg deadlift without breaking 12% body fat. I’m still undecided about pursuing bodybuilding or powerlifting, but for now it’s a bit of both, and a much smarter approach to my training.

Thank you to all of the applicants, please apply again next month!
Edited by Emma Pudge


Competition sponsored by







For Enquiries
Email –
Phone – 0208 668 4310
Office hours are 9am – 5pm Monday-Friday
Thanks for taking part!

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MASS’s Member of the Month Competition

In MASS’s member of the month competition we’re awarding one lucky member with huge prizes for an inspiring achievement.


Have you defied the odds and achieved something truly spectacular? Have you made a transformation? Have you taken on a new lifestyle? Or maybe you’ve overcome a serious injury or illness? Whatever your story, we want to hear it!


To be in with a chance of winning a Protein Dynamix student bundle and 5kg of chicken from Musclefood fill in the submission form below and send you’re before and after pictures to with your name and subject ‘member of the month’.


Submission deadline has been extended to Sunday 28th February.



Kelynn Renals

4th Year psychology student, Cardiff University

I used to be fat, now I am less fat. When I was fat, there were lots of times when I was happy with the way I looked, now there are times when I am not happy with the way I look. Despite what the media says, being leaner does not guarantee happiness. This being said, I have changed a lot as a person in the time between these two photos, and that’s because I’ve met a load of new people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Gym people are often seen as narcissistic bellends, but most people are usually using it as a way of working through something that they’ve got going on, whether it’s self-esteem, mental health, stress, trying to become stronger for a sport that they love etc. This is why I think that the key to being happier is not about looking skinnier, it’s about eating foods that keep you healthy and going and doing something new with people who build others up, rather than knocking them down. P.s. I still want to get leaner, but that’s more to do with hitting weight categories that’ll help me compete :).

June 2014 – January 2016



Keylnn Renals


Competition sponsored by







For Enquiries
Email –
Phone – 0208 668 4310
Office hours are 9am – 5pm Monday-Friday
Thanks for taking part!


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Student Transformation – Rachael Tordoff

Name: Rachael Tordoff
University: Plymouth University
Course: Computing
Year of Study: 3rd Year

Plymouth University Computing student Rachael Tordoff, 20, transformed her body in 12 months. She took on the challenge of a lifetime when she decided ditch the PlayStation for the gym…. and this is what happened!

“I feel healthy, happy, and positive in every aspect of my life now. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”



“I remember the day, this time last year when I realised I had gone from trying to squeeze into a size 10 to suddenly not being able to fit into my size 14 jeans. When realising I was borderline a size 16. I decided at that point I had to change my entire lifestyle before it got worse.”

“The journey was long and bumpy, it wasn’t just about losing fat, I had to learn about myself and my body. I was never active growing up, I was the typical tv/gamer couch potato snacker and I didn’t even realised that I was doing it!

During my journey I started to enjoy the process, started believing in myself and actually thinking “I’ve got something here”, and so I decided I wanted to start competing to see how far I could push my body and my mind. Mr University was a great experience I want to shout out to the world and say you DON’T have to have a background of fitness to compete!”



Once I achieved my goal of being ‘bikini fitness ready’ I realised it was only the beginning. I am now training for an 85 mile cycling race and plan on doing a triathlon, something I never thought I would do and this is all because I realised how much I could push myself whilst preparing for the MASS Student Physique Championship.”

Rachael got through to the finals of the MASS SPC 2014 placing 4th and also won the highest public vote Award with 1,300 ‘Like’s on her photo.
Rachael Tordoff
Instagram @rachyhtordoff
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