I have been watching a lot of podcasts recently with both the current and retired professional bodybuilders. The question that they are all asked towards the end is who would be their top six bodybuilders of all time. I have been thinking about who my top five would be and I have found it harder to decide who to leave out as opposed to who I would put in. I have already written posts about some of my top five which should make it easier however below you will find my top five:
1. Sergio Oliva. Sergio Oliva holds the distinctions of being the second ever winner of the Mr Olympia contest, one of only three men to defeat Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bodybuilding contest and is also the most genetically gifted bodybuilder ever. His son, Sergio Oliva Junior currently competes in the IFBB.
2. Steve Reeves. Steve Reeves was the first true bodybuilding superstar. He won every contest available in the 1940’s and 1950’s, one of the first bodybuilders to move onto a career in movies when he played Hercules and had a successful writing career. If I could look like any bodybuilder it would be Steve Reeves.
3. Dorian Yates. Dorian Yates is England’s most successful bodybuilder with six consecutive Mr Olympia wins. The only Mr Olympia contest he lost was his first in 1991 when he placed second to the great Lee Haney who won his eight and last Mr Olympia before retiring. Dorian Yates was a true innovator when it came to bodybuilding. He took Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty Training principles and perfected them by taking what was useful for him and discarding what didn’t work for Dorian Yates.
4. Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was an easy one. Without Arnold Schwarzenegger bodybuilding would not have come as far as it has today. I like to think of Arnold as the Mohamed Ali of bodybuilding in that he knew how to promote not just himself but bodybuilding through movies, politics and by creating and promoting the Arnold Classic competition.
5. Dexter Jackson. No professional bodybuilder has won more contests then Dexter Jackson. Part of this is because there are more competitions that bodybuilders can enter now as opposed to when Steve Reeves was competing, partly due to the length of Dexter Jackson’s competitive career. Dexter Jackson’s first bodybuilding contest was the 1992 NPC Southern States where he placed third in the lightweight class. At the 2019 Mr Olympia he placed fourth. Keep in mind that Dexter Jackson is Fifty years old. Another reason is that Dexter Jackson is incredibly consistent with his conditioning. Dexter Jackson is known as, “The Blade” since he is always in great condition. Despite all his success Dexter Jackson is still incredibly humble.
I really wanted to make a top six however there were so many contenders such as Lee Haney, Reg Park, Mike Mentzer and Ronnie Coleman that could be included that choosing five was difficult enough. If I was to make a top six of each decade then all of them would be in the list for their respective era’s. Mike Mentzer was the first winner of the Mr Universe with a perfect score. Lee Haney was the first man to win eight Mr Olympia titles. Ronnie Coleman is the only other eight times Mr Olympia winner and in 2002 became the first person to win the Arnold Classic and Mr Olympia in the same year. Reg Park was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s idol, a true English Gentleman and took over from Steve Reeves in the role of Hercules.
A common question I have been asked over the years is which is better, free-weights or resistance machines? While I recognise that resistance machines have their benefits, I have always preferred to use free-weights for most of my training. For a start a free-weight is fully adaptable to the proportions of the individual, where as a resistance machine will only move along a fixed path. This means that resistance machines can not adapt to the natural leverages of the individual user. The cams are set to fit the “average user”.
The case for free-weights also includes:
1. Free- weight exercise require the stabilisation muscles to work as well as the prime movers.
2. Free- weight exercises develop greater muscular balance and coordination. In the Dumbbell Bench Press the weaker arm must work just as hard as the stronger arm. With the Chest Press machine, the stronger arm will always take over.
3. Free- weights are relatively cheap and take up less space than resistance machines.
4. Free- weights provide more useful strength for sports as well as everyday life as they require the body to move as a single unit.
5. Free-weights provide greater muscle stimulation as they do not force the individual to move along a fixed path.
6. Free- weights provide greater variation of the same exercise then a resistance machine can.
The case for resistance machines includes:
1. Easily adjustable resistance levels. You simply need to adjust a pin.
2. Machines allow users to isolate specific muscles, such as the Hamstrings in the Leg Curl.
3. If an individual is training on their own resistance machines offer a level of safety which free-weights do not.
4. Machines allow beginners to develop the motor skills and body awareness of a movement.
When designing a complete exercise programme for yourself or another person it is a good idea to include some resistance machines, especially if the programme is for a beginner, however they should not dominate the exercise programme.
My next weightlifting competition will be on June 14th in Basingstoke. Unlike my last competition I have plenty of time to prepare. I also have the advantage of knowing what to expect so all I really need to focus on is peaking for the competition. My aim will be to have my max weights for my last competition to be the opening weights for the next one. With a sensible training programme this will be achievable. For me the only competition I have that day will be myself. Each competition I enter the target will be to be better than I was in the previous competition. I will not worry too much about what the other competitors in my weight class will be up to that day or what weights they lift. So long as I am having fun and I make my opening weights for each lift then I will have done well.
I have always been a bit of a wanderer by nature. I have lived in five different towns/ cities in my thirty-five-year life. In a previous blog I spoke about how I could not rule out the possibility of relocating again. Had I passed the medical and been able to join the Army then different postings would have taken me to different parts of the world. As it turned out I ended up living in different parts of England anyway.
As each year passes and I reflect more on what I have achieved in my life I begin to think about how much of theses achievements I would have had if I only ever lived in one town/ city my entire life. I have worked with and been friends with people who have only ever lived in one place. Some have only ever lived in one house their entire life and instead of them moving out their parents did. While I admire their ability to settle in one place, I do think about what they miss out on by not experiencing life in different parts of the world. I do not mean living in different countries, although that would expand their world view and life experiences. I mean living in different parts of the same country. As an example, somebody who lives in Bradford will have a different view on life then somebody who lives in Chelsea. The media like to talk about the London bubble in relation to our elected politician’s as a way of saying that MP’s are privileged and don’t understand the real world. This may be true for some but not all MP’s.
In truth I probably would have achieved the same things had I only lived in one place my entire life. Would I have had the same experiences? No, had I only lived in one place my entire life I would not have met the people who have shaped me into the person writing this post. The life experiences of the people I have met have given me the life experiences I have had. Would I have had the same issues with Depression and Social Anxiety? Probably as my body doesn’t produce enough Serotonin naturally. All I do know is that when the urge to relocate returns I should think long and hard about what I have to gain as well as what I will be giving up.
As we return to the 20’s many people will be coming up with new years resolutions and saying things like, “New Year, New Me”. I try not to do these things, instead I like to set myself achievable goals for the year. That way I simply need to make small changes in certain areas to either improve my current situation or put me on the correct path to achieving these goals. In no particular order my goals for 2020 are:
• Read more. I am not much of a reader; I tend to learn more about a subject from watching a programme. When I do read a book or an article it is to learn about something, so fiction books are not something I would pick up for me. I do have some autobiographies I have not finished or even started reading. The small step I will take is to read one chapter a day.
• Enter a minimum of two weightlifting competitions. I have competed in one contest and really enjoyed it. I will not put too much pressure on myself to win, I will simply do them for fun.
• Learn something new, do something new and go somewhere new. This is something I have been doing since 2017 and helps me to stay on the road to recovery from mental illness.
• Spend more time enjoying the moment. This will sound corny; however, I have an annoying habit of overthinking which does not help my mental health. I am aware of different courses I can do in Swindon, my aim is to find one where I have to go somewhere instead of doing the course online.
December 19th, 2019 marked three years since I moved back to Swindon. In this time my life has been a bit of a whirl wind in terms of how much change has occurred. Some of it has been good, some of the change was bad at the time, however it has all provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow as a person. Examples of this include the multiple temporary jobs I took on to keep myself employed, returning to the leisure industry and seeing how different operators run their facilities and starting to write blogs. I also trained at different gyms before finding Battleground Fitness. Had it not been for the support and positive atmosphere of Battleground Fitness I may not have gained the confidence to take part in a weightlifting competition as before Battleground, my training had reached a deep plateau and I was only training because I always have. I didn’t have any real goals and was going through the motions. This had coincided with one of the deepest relapses of mental illness that I have had.
I have lived in five different parts of England in my life; York, Weston Super Mare, Swindon, Louth and Grimsby. Each area has taught me different lessons and shaped me into the person I am today. Can I rule out relocating again? No, although I want to settle down, I cannot say that if I was offered a promotion which meant another relocation, I would reject it. What I can say though is that I have no plans to relocate again.
It is nearly the end of 2019 so once again it is time to look back on what this year has brought to my life. 2019 has had lots of ups with some downs. The downs have previously been covered in past blogs. The highs have involved being promoted at work, moving into my own place again as well as competing in my first ever Weightlifting competition. I also went to Barcelona to visit my older sister who moved there in April 2018. Seeing my older sister in Barcelona and meeting her new group of friends made me feel much more relaxed about her decision to move there. I new she would be fine as she is one of those people who always manages to land on her feet, whatever the situation. I simply needed to see her there to put my mind at ease.
So, what else has 2019 brought to my life and given me the opportunity to learn? I was promoted to Duty Manager at work. As Duty Manager my primary role is the day to day running of the building, ensuring it is safe for staff and customers to use the facility. I place higher emphasis on ensuring that the building is safe for staff to work in for the simple reason that if the building is not safe for staff to work in it will not be safe for customers to use. Each Duty Manager has an operational aspect of the building that they have overall responsibility for, mine is the gym and fitness classes. It has been a bit challenging since taking over this responsibility with some instructors leaving and having to find cover along with dealing with members concerns over some classes being cancelled before I took over, however so far it looks like I have been able to overcome these challenges. It helps that the Regional Fitness Class Lead is willing to aid when needed and that before I took over, she took the time to show me how to process class KPI’s each month.
In terms of my plans to learn something new, visit somewhere new and do a new physical task every three months I have fared well. I have taken part in my first of what I hope to be many more weightlifting competitions, which meant combined two of the three objectives. I had to learn how to perform the Snatch correctly, learn a new style of training and then had to physically take part in the competition. I have also taken up DDP Yoga, which is more of a fitness-based Yoga, developed by the three-time WCW Champion Diamond Dallas Page. Once again, this combined learning a new training style along with having to physically take part in the activity. As far as new places I went to Ascot for a race weekend and stayed in Bracknall. There has also been the challenge of learning a new job role and so I have had the chance to learn new skills professionally, physically and personally.
All in all 2019 has been a good year.