“I need to get some blood into the muscles. The only way to do that is to do some reps, baby.” Hailing from Hammonton, New Jersey, Johnnie Otis Jackson is a world-renowned powerlifter and professional IFBB bodybuilder who is praised as having one of the best developed upper bodies in the entire industry. Making his professional debut in 1998, Jackson has spent the last two decades wowing audiences with his most successful win at the 2006 IFBB Montreal Pro Championship where he secured a first-place finish. And, although he may not be the most successful bodybuilder in the world, he is certainly among the strongest thanks to his exceptional training as a powerlifter. So, how did he get his start?
Much of Jackson’s success as a bodybuilder comes from his early years with the armed forces where he learned and perfected his mental and physical discipline. Serving in both Desert Storm and Desert Shield, Jackson saw the importance of good nutrition and the rewards of hardcore training firsthand on the battlefield. Carrying these skills over into the civilian world, he incorporated his new lifestyle into achieving his next goal—becoming a world-famous bodybuilder.
Debuting on the professional circuit in 1998, Jackson competed in the National Physique Committee’s (NPC) Texas State Championships and, after finishing in second place as a middleweight, was determined to do better the following year. Training harder than ever before, he won the NPC Junior Nationals as a light-heavyweight and placed eleventh in his class at the NPC Nationals. After ongoing success at the NPC USA Championships, he took home the title at the 2001 NPC Nationals, which cleared a path for him to compete in future IFBB competitions.
In 2002, Jackson competed in the now defunct GNC Show of Strength competition and earned tenth place before scoring a fifth-place finish in the 2005 IFBB Night of Champions and ninth place in the Ironman Pro Invitational. Eager to improve as a bodybuilder despite his ongoing struggle to place in the top three, the 5’8” tall Jackson knew he needed an even bigger challenge and entered the Mr. Olympia contest for the first time in 2003. Unfortunately, he saw his ranking fall even further down the list with an eleventh-place finish.
Jackson returned to the Mr. Olympia stage for the next 13 years with his highest finish coming in ninth place in both 2007 and 2012. Over the years, he continued competing in the Arnold Classic, Night of Champions and the San Francisco Pro Invitational while training (and competing) as a powerlifter, which many argue is what held him back from winning more bodybuilding competitions. For Jackson, however, powerlifting was another passion that further developed his self-discipline and fueled his competitive edge. In fact, that’s exactly what led him to compete in the United States Powerlifting Federation’s National Powerlifting Championships in 2008. In a contest where the person who lifts the most weight wins, Jackson opened the competition by bench pressing a jaw-dropping 465 pounds on his first try. Although his next two lifts were disqualified, he made USPF history and set the record when he deadlifted 760 pounds wearing a deadlift suit. He attempted to lift 821 pounds on his final lift, but pulled a hamstring that ended his time on the weights.
With even more confidence from his record-setting USPF lifts, Jackson went into 2009 with high hopes and wasn’t disappointed. Sitting out the Mr. Olympia bodybuilding competition, he competed in the Mr. Olympia World’s Strongest Professional Bodybuilder competition where he bench-pressed 523 pounds and deadlifted an astounding 815 pounds. Beating out his rival, Ben White, who benched 573 pounds and deadlifted 633 pounds, Jackson was named the World’s Strongest Professional Bodybuilder, an achievement that marked the peak of his powerlifting career.
Over the last seven years, Jackson has competed in contests around the world from the Europa, New York and Tampa Pros to the Arnold Classic with his only top three finishes coming in 2012 after he took first place at the FIBO Power Pro Germany and won third at the EVLS Prague Pro 1. In 2015, he saw one of his worst Mr. Olympia finishes in fifteenth place that left many unsurprised by his noticeable absence in the 2016 competition.
Today, the 45-year-old has yet to announce his retirement leaving many to wonder if he’ll make a grand return to the Mr. Olympia stage in September 2017. In the meantime, he spends most of his time in Fort Worth, Texas where he works out regularly at the Metroflex Gym in Arlington with his longtime training partner and fellow IFBB professional bodybuilder, Branch Warren. Among his most notable gym stats throughout the course of his career include an 825-pound squat, a 600-pound bench press, an 832-pound raw deadlift and eight reps of 225-pound barbell curls.
Beyond his success on the stage and in the gym, Jackson has continued to extend his reach as a personal trainer, a fitness expert and a nutrition expert. Contributing the majority of his success to choosing the right supplements and diet plans that allow his body to produce the best results, he has the most discipline and versatility in his training than any other bodybuilder in the industry, which is likely why he’s often considered to be the strongest bodybuilder in the world. Now, the question remains as to whether we’ll see Jackson back on the stage or if he’s given up all hopes of ever seeing the Mr. Olympia title among his long list of achievements. For now, we’ll just have to settle for catching a glimpse of him training in The Lone Star State.