People always say, “You must have been huge as a kid!” but that wasn’t the case. I was actually fairly average – average height, average weight. What was unusual, even then, was that I was very strong for my size, very lean even as a kid, and I had enormous endurance. I could run for hours and hours, and I did.
It wasn’t until I hit puberty that it became obvious that I had a lot more going for me than the average teenager. Any sport I played, I nailed it. I always lasted the longest in any endurance contest, I always recuperated first and fastest, and I always was a lot stronger than anyone else my size, even if they were years older.
By the time I graduated from high school I’d stopped growing any taller. I was just 6 feet but I was up to 220 pounds with a 28-inch waist and 19-inch biceps. There were plenty of guys bigger than I was but nobody was harder or leaner. And I’d never touched a weight.
I took that up when I was in college. Then I started growing, 30 pounds a year, four years in a row. By the time I graduated I was up to 340 pounds and I was benching 900 pounds without a shirt. And my bodyfat percentage was still in the single digits.
“You know, kid,” my strength coach told me, “you’re in the wrong sport. You need to do bodybuilding, not power lifting.”
I had my reservations, of course.
“Won’t I have to do drugs to compete?”
“You’re not on anything now?”
He was teasing, of course, he knew better. I trusted him completely. I call him “Coach” but he’s only five years older than I am and, yes, he popped my cherry my freshman year. We’ve been together since then. We’re just the same height but when we first met he was 300 pounds, a good 70 pounds more than I was.
So I took him up on it. Man, what a year that was.
Dropping weight was a cinch, of course, and the muscle mass was already there. It was just a matter of shaping. I took the stage of my first contest weighing a shredded 305 pounds. Blew everyone away, of course. “A future Mr. Olympia,” they said, and the photographers and the magazines and the supplement companies and Mitsuru Okabe all came knocking on my door. It was a trip.
But I wasn’t ready to stop. The only thing annoying about it was having to shave – as you know, I’m a damned furry man, but, hey, that’s the way the game is played, so I went along with it.
Winning that first trophy made me want more, and it made it want to grow on purpose, not just to get stronger. Three months later I entered my first pro qualifying tournament – at 320 pounds. If anything, I was more ripped than I had been the first time. The audience went wild, the other competitors were sweating bullets, and the promoters were tripping over their hard-ons.
You know the rest, of course.
Six months later I entered the Olympia. Despite all the pleas from the mags and the supplement companies and Joe Weider himself, I’d stayed out of sight. The speculation was intense. Was the pro qualifier just a fluke? Could I time my peak just right? And could I handle the pressure?
They weren’t prepared for what they got – 340 pounds of solid muscle. 68-inch chest, 34-inch waist, 34-inch quads, 2- inch biceps. I was 45 pounds heavier than the next largest competitor, and razor sharp. My posing routine was mind-blowing (all those years of modern dance sure helped!) and half the time the other guys just stood there with their mouths hanging open.
I was the first man in Olympia history to win with a perfect score. And God knows how long it had been since a first-timer had won the contest.
The media was even more intense after that. There was a lot of pressure for me to guest pose everywhere, to compete in every contest, but I stood firm. “Look,” I said, “I’m the biggest – and I’m the best. My goal is to be bigger and better every year – that means I’m preparing for next year’s Olympia now. That’s my sole focus.”
Looking back, it’s probably safe to say that my second Olympia appearance would not have been so controversial if I’d make it clear all along just where I was headed. The rumors were wild, of course, but I just kept plugging away at it. I knew I was going where no one else had gone before.
So there I was. On the stage for my second – and final – Olympia competition.
There had been an “arms race” in the intervening year. Jay and Vic both came in at 300, Markus and Gunter at 315, Quincy at 330.
And there I was.
When I stepped on the stage, there was a collective gasp from 10,000 throats – and then total silence, for an entire minute, while I did my routine, with no music at all. When I stopped…
Well, as I said, you know how it went. They lost their frickin’ minds. The other guys came out on stage and they were screaming or crying or freaking out. The judges had to call security. Whodathunk a one-minute posing routine could cause a near riot? Of course, the debut of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring apparently had the same effect nearly a hundred years ago, and Stravinsky wasn’t wearing a posing strap.
What I hadn’t counted on was the other guys saying it was all “unfair,” that obviously I was some sort of genetic freak and/or on something no one had heard of (and they wanted in on it.) When it became clear that, no, I wasn’t on anything (it would have been easier, perhaps, if I had been), then the “genetic freak” chorus only got louder.
Which is where the weight restriction came in. I had to roll my eyes. For the past 20 years bodybuilding had been pushing mass monsters, mass monsters, mass monsters, and NOW they wanted to limit competitors to “less than 350 pounds” for “health reasons”??
Thus ended my competitive career as a bodybuilder. I was 24 and I had competed in a grand total of four contests.
Which is how “Beyond Olympia” came into being. Weider was having a shit fit, of course. No one in the history of bodybuilding, not even Arnold, had sold more magazines than I had.
“Let’s be clear about this, sir. I don’t need to do this. I do it because I want to do it. You and I both know it’s a show – and that I’m the best. You need to figure out a way for me to have top billing, without injuring those other fellas’ precious little egos.”
I have to give him credit. He’s a showman.
So now I’m Olympia’s “Magnum Maximum,” its permanent guest poser. I don’t compete with the other guys for the Mr. Olympia title, but I get top billing at the show, the star posing routine. And a million bucks each time I show up.
Last year I came in at 420.
This year, I tipped the scales at 450.
As for next year…
Well, you can see where I’m headed. I’m off-season now, of course, and for the first time in history my bodyfat percentage has crept into the double digits. It’s 11 percent now and last time I checked I was hovering right about 500 pounds. And, yeah, I know you wanna know, so here’s the stats update:
I finally broke the double digit barrier. Just last week Tom taped my chest at 100.5 inches. Biceps are at 40 inches, waist is holding steady at 50 but quads are up to 54. And I’m about a month away from benching 2000 pounds for the first time. Hopefully it won’t be the last!
Could someone else catch me?
In fact, I think they’d be a lot closer now if they hadn’t instituted that stupid rule. No reason tall guys like Quincy and Sean and Noah can’t compete above 350. Same with at least one of the shorter guys—Trey Brewer is coming along quite nicely. He’s about the same size I was when I started. And, yes, I’m patting myself on the back because, yes, he’s living with me and Tom now and we’re both training him.
But the genes don’t lie, ya know? Just sit back and watch him grow!
Thanks for having me on, Lonnie, it’s always great to see you.