Playing the gains game always requires hard work, serious dedication and unwavering commitment to strict eating, intense training and smart supplementation to build more muscle, which is why USN wanted to reward those hard-fought gains by launching the Muscle-Up Challenge.

The competition uses a simple benchmark for success – the person who makes the most gains in 12 weeks, wins. And Celumusa Mthimkhulu met the grade in 2023 to win the competition.

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Hard gainer

Before discovering the ideal muscle-up approach, Celumusa says he was a naturally skinny person who struggled to build muscle.

I have to work extra hard in the gym and supply my body with adequate nutrients to support muscle growth,” he explains.

In his search for the ideal muscle-building diet to complement his training, Celumusa says he initially tried to bulk up using a very high-carb diet. However, a lack of adequate protein and other essential nutrients meant he failed to achieve the results he wanted.

This diet was detrimental to my body because I added too much fat, which made it difficult to lean out and hold onto any muscle. My body just went go back to its original size.”

Personal stats

  • Age: 31
  • Lives: Pietermaritzburg, KZN
  • Career: MSc Agribusiness, Diploma in Finance, Banking and Investment management. Currently, working as a Credit Analyst at WesBank
  • Weight before: 93 kg
  • Weight after: 97 kg during the mass phase, leaned out to 91 kg
  • Muscle gained during the challenge: (gained 4 kg, then lost 6 kg)
  • Instagram: msuthu_vigor
  • Tiktok: msuthu_

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Becoming a bodybuilder

After finding the right eating plan that balances muscle mass with leanness, Celumusa began competing in natural bodybuilding competitions.

I wasn’t planning to compete this year because I was busier after landing a new job. Without any competition prep, I wanted to find a way to achieve and maintain my best shape possible, and came across the USN Muscle-Up Challenge.

Celumusa decided to enter the 12-week challenge to keep him focused and motivated throughout the year. He bought two products from the USN Hardcore range and entered online at

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Motivation mantra

As my circumstances changed, I faced new challenges, but I told myself that I will finish the challenge and achieve the transformation I want to ensure I make the year a success.”

His motivation mantra for 2023 was: “Yes, I can! It’s how I got the job done, no matter the situations and challenges I experienced along the way. There are always challenges in life, especially if you work full-time. Sometimes you have to attend events that do not offer diet-friendly meals, or there is no access to the gym.”

In these circumstances, Celumusa says you have to improvise and get creative to find the best combination of the available food, or do an indoor bodyweight workout.

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Hitting those macros

But a healthy snack or meal replacement was never far away thanks to USN’s wide range of quality supplements.

It is easy to carry some USN protein powder in a shaker, with some added glutamine to sustain your muscle density.”

Celumusa’s Muscle-Up diet plan was divided into an initial muscle mass growth phase over the first six weeks and a depletion phase in the final six weeks to improve his conditioning.

My muscle mass diet included clean carbs, like sweet potato and oats, with added USN BCAA Amino-Gro. I followed a low-carb, high-protein diet during the depletion phase, with added USN CLA 1000 to support fat loss.”

Celumusa’s USN Muscle-Up supplement plan:

Celumusa stuck with the tried-and-trusted bodybuilding approach to weight training to achieve his physique goals.

I start with a focus on my weak areas. In my case that included my legs, shoulders and calves. My legs and calves have always been stubborn, so I decided to train them twice a week to achieve better balance with my upper body.”

Celumusa’s weekly workout split:

  • Monday: Quads
  • Tuesday: Shoulders and abs
  • Wednesday: Back
  • Thursday: Hamstrings and calves
  • Friday: Chest and arms
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: Rest

I start my training sessions with light cardio before moving to the weights room. I start with lighter loads and progress to lifting heavy weights.”

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A winning formula

His considered approach to diet, training and supplementation delivered the results he wanted and ultimately earned Celumusa the overall title in the USN Muscle-Up Challenge.

By adding the most muscle among all the entrants, Celumusa’s transformation secured the R100,000 cash prize and a one-year USN ambassadorship contract that includes products and apparel.

The experience taught Celumusa valuable lessons about the power of perseverance and discipline. His advice to others who want to achieve their dream physique is to never doubt yourself.

You are more than capable. Yes, it is always difficult until it’s done, but if you learn to enjoy the process rather than stress about the final outcomes, you will achieve your goals.”

Quick facts:

  • Favourite muscle-building meal: Oatmeal with blueberries and USN Whey Protein Hardcore gH, Vanilla flavour.
  • Favourite routine: Leg day (10-minute treadmill warm-up, squats, lunges, and leg extensions).
  • Must-use muscle-building supplements: USN Creatine Monohydrate and USN Hardcore Whey gH
  • Top muscle-building diet tip: Get your essential macros (proteins and carbs) and supplement your micronutrients (trace elements, calcium, omega-3s).