A FORMER footballer who took up bodybuilding just two years ago has muscled his way into first place at the UK Open British Bodybuilding Championship.

Competing against bodybuilders from around the country, risk assessment manager Gareth Bann flexed his biceps for a judging panel for the very first time.

The 33 year-old, who lives in Fence, said: “It was my first time in a bodybuilding competition and I thought I’d do alright but I never expected to win.

“I was delighted to get the first timer trophy and it’s really inspired me to keep competing and see how far I can take it.”

The event took place in the Middleton Arena and saw Gareth compete against six other first-time entrants.

Bodybuilders’ muscles are judged on a variety of different categories including development, proportions, symmetry and definition but one of the biggest challenges is remaining confident on stage while wearing very little.

Gareth, whose thighs measure at 16 inches around, said: “It was my first time on stage but surprisingly, I didn’t feel worried about it at all - that is, until I saw the tiny trunks I had to wear!

“They are very revealing but luckily I didn’t let it put me off too much.”

Gareth started bodybuilding around two years ago after a knee injury stopped him from playing football.

He said: "I used to play for Pendle Forest but I took a few too many dodgy tackles and started getting pain in my knee.

“I was advised to stop playing football and started looking for other sports to do as a way to keep fit.

“I’m quite competitive but hadn’t really thought about bodybuilding competitions until my trainer mentioned that he thought I should give it a go.”

Gareth trains every day at Fitness Factory in Burnley and keeps to a special diet to ensure he has enough protein and fat to be able to keep up with his rigorous routine but says that his physique is not as bulky as some heavier weight body builders.

“A lot of my friends were shocked when they saw the photographs and had no idea that I’d been training so hard.

“It’s not really my goal to have massive muscles and when I have my clothes on, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell that I’m a body builder.

“I am going to keep up with my training though and am looking forward to entering more competitions next year.”