Body Transformations

Greg Plitt Extreme Physique

“Success doesn’t know these things about cold or early or tired. It just knows if you showed up or not.” If you ever tuned into the Bravo network, then you might remember the reality series Work Out that first aired on July 19, 2006 and unveiled the mystery behind the lives of models and fitness trainers across the state of California. Among those on the series was fitness model and former Army Ranger, Greg Plitt of Baltimore, Maryland who joined the cast in 2008 to document his own fitness routine as well as his efforts to help his clients succeed. Although the show was canceled after the 2008 season, it was enough to jumpstart Plitt’s future as he went on to become a huge name in the fitness world.

Athletic from an early age, Plitt grew up in the 1970s and 1980s in Lutherville, Maryland where he was on the football, wrestling and golf teams. It wasn’t until he was in the sixth grade, however, when he was introduced to weightlifting after his father bought a home gym. At the time, Pitt’s older sister was accepted into the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis and, if he hadn’t already committed himself to bodybuilding, it was a done deal after his sister returned home physically and mentally stronger than he’d ever seen. Adopting his sister’s discipline and determination, Plitt worked out even harder and was eager to succeed in weightlifting and everything else he set his mind to, especially when it came to carrying on the Plitt family legacy.

Graduating from Baltimore’s Gilman School in 1996, Plitt was accepted into the prestigious United States Military Academy in West Point, New York where he continued to excel over the next four years. He qualified as both Airborne and Ranger upon graduation in 2000 and served as a Ranger for five years before moving to Los Angeles to work as a certified personal trainer and as an official MET-Rx athlete.

In the best shape of his life, Plitt’s entry into the fitness industry came at the perfect time as he launched his own workout program—MFT28—that was picked up and featured on As he gained more and more recognition for both his physique and the program, it was only a matter of time before he landed covers and feature pieces in magazines like Flaunt, American Health & Fitness, AXL, Maxim, Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, Instinct Magazine, Men’s Exercise and Fitness Rx for Men, to name a few. So, what was the secret to his success?

Plitt often compared his work as a personal trainer to his responsibilities as a Ranger training military recruits. He often talked about how military recruits started off with bad attitudes, tough-guy mentalities and something to prove before everything changed. “One day, they’ll come to you crying, saying, ‘I need someone to talk to.’ All of a sudden, they start changing their ways and they become the men they always wanted to be,” he said. Plitt got the same gratification from training his clients to build muscle and adopt healthier lifestyles. “That’s what’s so cool about it,” he said, “to be able to train somebody and transform them and bring out all of the great qualities that everyone possesses.”

By the time he was in his 30s, Plitt had achieved a lifetime of accomplishments but continued to reach for more as he tried his hand at acting with appearances in Identity and Bobby while signing endorsement deals for brands like Angel Men by Thierry Mugler and Old Spice Body Wash. Landing a spot on Bravo’s Work Out in 2008, Plitt was using his name recognition to promote everything from Bowflex and Zoli Sinks to ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games, Gold’s Gym Power Flex and Under Armour. In fact, he even modeled for Under Armour as well as Calvin Klein, Old Navy Jeans, Skimpies and Modell’s. To top it off, his famous muscles made their debut on the silver screen with films like Watchman, Terminator Salvation and Grudge Match.

With certainly a lot to live for and the sky as the limit as to what he would accomplish next, the fitness world suffered a huge blow on January 17, 2015 when tragedy struck. The 37-year-old Plitt was in Burbank, California where he was shooting a video for his own energy drink commercial. In the video, Plitt was attempting to outrun a train with the intention of showing audiences that his new line of energy drinks gave him the speed to do exactly that. But, as he was running in between the rails of the tracks, a train came barreling from behind and knocked him down just as he lost control of the camera and disappeared from view. Authorities later examined the video taken from the cab of the train’s engine and confirmed that Plitt was attempting to outrun it. However, they believe that Plitt mistakenly thought the train was on the neighboring track instead of the one he was sprinting down.

Although Plitt may be gone, the Maryland native will never be forgotten as his legacy stretches from his hometown of Lutherville to West Point, the Army Rangers, Los Angeles’ Met-Rx and beyond. And, while he left us with his fitness program and incredible determination to succeed in every avenue of life, what he’ll most be remembered for is his compassion for helping others from military recruits to men and women seeking a healthier lifestyle. At the end of the day, that’s what he lived for—to transform people to be the best version of themselves.

Body Transformations

Gregg Valentino Extreme Physique

“Life is beautiful, it is a good thing… Any day you wake up and you’re still alive it is a good thing.” While he may not be a bodybuilding champion or a legend like Lou Ferrigno, Ronnie Coleman or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Greg Valentino managed to make a name for himself and earn a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the biggest biceps in the world. But, his biceps weren’t just the regular, run of the mill biceps that are common on the bodybuilding circuit. Instead, Valentino’s biceps were so big that they looked freakish and disproportionate to his 5’6” frame, which is one of the many reasons why Valentino has earned a reputation as “the most hated man in bodybuilding” since no one in the industry has ever matched his 28-inch arms.

Born in 1960, Valentino started working out when he was 14 years old and, after realizing that he would never grow beyond the 5’6” mark, he decided to pump iron with the hopes of adding muscle. “Well, I’m not going to get any taller so I’m going to get wider,” he said to himself. Doing exactly that and setting out to have the biggest bicep muscles in the world, Valentino followed a strict training routine and diet for 28 years without ever turning to performance enhancing drugs to add bulk. Unfortunately, staying natural and simply lifting weights and dieting didn’t give him the results or the title he wanted.

Valentino eventually added anabolic steroids to his already intensive weight training regimen with the intention to boost the size of his biceps even further; however, this still didn’t earn him the record. Desperate for answers and results, he started injecting the anabolic steroids and vitamin B-12 directly into his arms, which took his arm size to an entirely new level of huge. Continuing the same routine for years despite many arguing that he was injecting Synthol, the more Valentino saw results, the more steroids he injected in what became a tragic cycle of addiction. In fact, doctors described Valentino’s obsession as “Bigorexia,” which is an obsessive-compulsive attitude toward using steroids to look bigger.

With his biceps landing him in the spotlight, Valentino was thrilled with the results and made dozens of appearances on television shows like Maury Povich, Ripley’s Believe It or Not and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno while promoting his personal brand with films like Bigger Stronger Faster and The Meat Puppet. Along the way, he snagged covers and feature stories in magazines like Maxim, FHM, ESPN Magazine and Muscle Sport Magazine while, unknowingly at first, making plenty of enemies among other bodybuilders. Why? Many felt that Valentino misrepresented the true nature of bodybuilding since he cheated his way into the spotlight using steroids to gain size.

After some time, Valentino’s arms were so large that they were like rocks or pincushions, not to mention that he began to take his size and good fortune for granted. Instead of sterilizing the needles, he became sloppy with the injections and reused the same needles repeatedly. This caused a severe infection in his left arm, which caused a high fever. Worst of all, Valentino’s bicep eventually popped like a balloon. Rather than rush to the hospital, Valentino took matters into his own hands and tried to drain the pus leaking from the bicep himself. For over 20 minutes, he used a syringe to extract the fluid as blood poured from his arm. Eventually, he landed in the emergency room where surgeons repaired the damage with the hopes of saving the muscles in his arm. As for Valentino, his trouble had only just begun.

Since steroids are illegal, Valentino was arrested and jailed after he was released from the hospital. During the interrogation, law enforcement officials learned that Valentino had spent the last few years supplying other bodybuilders, athletes and fitness gurus with steroids as well, which ultimately caused him to lose everything—his gym, his cars, his house and his fortune. Losing what little credibility he had left in the bodybuilding world only to see his stardom skyrocket among fans thanks to the widespread media coverage, Valentino’s actions negatively impacted the sport and the bodybuilders who had long turned to steroids without going overboard.

Once Valentino was released from jail, he denounced the use of steroids at every opportunity and even made a brief appearance on ESPN’s E:60 where he talked about his own history of steroid use. Using himself as an example of what not to do, Valentino’s appearance on the show ignited even more fury among bodybuilders who thought he was selling everyone else in the industry out. By then, the phrase “Most Hated Man in Bodybuilding” was a perfect fit for the ripped Valentino.

While Valentino might be less hated today than he was during his prime, that doesn’t mean the 56-year-old isn’t still one of the biggest names in bodybuilding. Of course, he’s wise enough now to embrace his past. “There is a lot of bad shit in my past, but I’m at peace now,” he told “My demons died when I got arrested. My arrest sucked, but it saved my life in a round-about way. My glass is always half full. I don’t see the half empty side of things. I get knocked down, but I get up again cause you can’t keep me down!”

Looking at his current situation, there’s some obvious truth to the fact that Valentino can’t and won’t be kept down. Today, he works as a columnist for Muscle Sport Magazine and Muscle Development Magazine and has also co-authored Death, Drugs and Muscle and Essentials of Bodybuilding. When he’s not making television and film appearances, you can find him at bodybuilding competitions around the world where he’s happy to give commentary or simply greet the audience before the big show.

Body Transformations

Gunter Schlierkamp Extreme Physique

Just call him “The Gentle Giant!” Towering at 6’1” tall and weighing anywhere between 300 and 330 pounds depending on the season and the competition, Gunter Schlierkamp is undeniably one of the tallest professional bodybuilders in the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness. So, how did he make his way to the bodybuilding stage after growing up in the 1970s working on the family farm in Olfen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany?

Hoping to achieve greatness in his life, Schlierkamp’s parents had a different mindset and taught their children the value of hard work by making Schlierkamp and his siblings spend every minute of their free time working on the family farm. Refusing to let their children play sports because they thought it was a frivolous waste of time, Schlierkamp couldn’t stifle his competitive nature or his dreams of one day leaving the farm and making it on his own. At only 12 years old, he discovered a path that would take him far away from a rural lifestyle when he saw Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian and was amazed at his physique. Setting out to sculpt his own body, he studied every part of the Pumping Iron bodybuilding documentary and used his work on the farm to build strength.

Finally getting the chance to join the local gym and start weight training when he was 16 years old, Schlierkamp didn’t waste any time building muscle and was ready to enter his first bodybuilding competition only two years later in 1988. With his first win under his belt, he went on to compete and win the 1990 German Championships, the 1992 European Amateur Championships and the 1992 German Championships in the heavyweight division. By then, he was more than ready to transition into the professional circuit and entered the 1993 IFBB World Amateur Championships where he won first place in the heavyweight division. This earned him the prestigious “Mr. Universe” title and a spot in future IFBB bodybuilding competitions.

With his career blossoming, Schlierkamp’s personal life was also taking off as he moved to the United States and married Carmen Jourst in 1996. Dabbling in modeling and acting with appearances in several movies, commercials and advertisements, Schlierkamp and Jourst realized their lives were taking separate paths and eventually divorced in 2003. Schlierkamp spent the next four years as a bachelor before he met and fell in love with Kim Lyons, an American athlete, nutritionist, fitness model and personal trainer. Tying the knot in March 2007, Schlierkamp was thrilled to share a common interest with Lyons and was widely supportive of her career and even encouraged her to join NBC’s hit series The Biggest Loser in addition to supporting her on American Ninja Warrior.

Finally happy with his life at home, Schlierkamp hired legendary trainer Charles Glass to help him take his physique to the next level and, in 2002, the training paid off when he beat eight-time Mr. Olympia champion Ronnie Coleman in the GNC Show of Strength. Pumped by his latest victory and the incredible upset that secured his place in the spotlight, Schlierkamp was eager to win the Mr. Olympia title but, unfortunately, only made it to fifth place in the 2002 and 2003 contests.

Refusing to give up and competing in nine total Mr. Olympia competitions with his best finish coming in 2005 when he placed fourth, Schlierkamp competed in a variety of contests over his 16-year career including the Ironman Pro Invitational, the Arnold Classic and the GNC Show of Strength as well as Grand Prix contests in England, Finland, Germany, Holland and the Ukraine. Winning only the 2002 GNC Show of Strength, Schlierkamp hoped Glass’s expertise would make a world of difference and help him win the Mr. Olympia title but, sadly, it never happened. After securing a 10th place finish in the 2006 Mr. Olympia contest, Schlierkamp was finally ready to call it quits and retired from professional bodybuilding altogether with the hopes of focusing on other ventures.

Once voted the “Greatest German Bodybuilder of All Time” by Sports Revue Magazine, Schlierkamp found a different kind of success off the bodybuilding stage as he pursued an acting career with roles in American films like Beerfest, Never Surrender and The Mudman. Much like seeing his idol in Conan the Barbarian, Schlierkamp knew he had finally come full circle in his career when he appeared in a handful of bodybuilding documentaries including Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hollywood Hero, Rock Hard: Gunter Schlierkamp and FIBO 2004: Muscle to the Max. He is even credited for doing some of the stunt work for the 2003 blockbuster, Hulk.

Although Schlierkamp never made it to the top of Hollywood as an A-list actor, the 46-year-old certainly left his mark in the bodybuilding world and was hired as a product development consultant with several companies around the world. And, while his greatest career accomplishment came in 2003 when his native Germany named him the greatest bodybuilder of all time, the most unforgettable moment of his entire life came on June 3, 2010 when Kim gave him the gift of fatherhood with the birth of their first child, a son named Jake Alexander.

Now spending most of his time with his family at their home in Hermosa Beach, California, Schlierkamp is incredibly proud of his past as a former Mr. Universe and his ability to inspire others to enter the bodybuilding world or to simply improve their overall health by getting back to the gym. In fact, fans from around the world still email him daily to share just how much his own journey from growing up on a farm in Germany to becoming a renowned bodybuilder in the United States has inspired them to build a healthier life for themselves. For Schlierkamp, that’s what motivates him to get up and get going each day.

Body Transformations

Gustavo Badell Extreme Physique

You might know him as “The Freakin’ ‘Rican.” From a scrawny kid growing up in Puerto Rico to a 245-pound muscle-clad man known as “The Freakin’ ‘Rican,” Gustavo Badell might not be the most popular or well-known bodybuilder in the industry, but his story of success is certainly inspiring. Born in Venezuela on November 3, 1972, Badell moved to Puerto Rico with his family when he was five years old. Despite being considered small for his age, he refused to let his size stand in the way of his competitive streak and dedicated himself to becoming the best amateur boxer and kickboxer around. However, with his opponents continuously ripping through him like it was nothing, Badell discovered his fierce attitude and determination could only take him so far as he finally took his coach’s advice and began weight training with the hopes of adding some much-needed muscle to match his opponents punch for punch and kick for kick.

While his friends were busy hanging out and going to the movies, Badell hit the gym hard at 15 years old and began an intense weight training regimen where he focused on his biceps and triceps to build punching strength. “My trainer told me to start lifting to put on weight and build up my arms because you get hit on the arms a lot and it helps if they are bigger,” Badell recalled. He undoubtedly had the genetics for weightlifting because, after only a few short weeks of chin-ups, pushups and dips in the gym, he had packed on some serious muscle. In fact, his arms grew so big that they looked odd and out of place on his tiny frame, which prompted other weightlifters to encourage Badell to try bodybuilding and work out the rest of his body. Although it took Badell some time to find his rhythm with the weights, once he did, there was no turning back.

In 1991, Badell entered his first bodybuilding competition at the Junior Caribbean Bodybuilding Championships and won the title at 19 years old. Motivated by his victory, he trained even harder and won the 1997 Caribbean Championships, which earned him his professional card. He made his first IFBB appearance at the 1998 Grand Prix Germany where he finished in ninth place before facing a series of disappointing finishes at the 1999 Grand Prix England, Night of Champions and World Pro Championships. Determined to find his footing, he made his first appearance at the 2000 Ironman Pro Invitational where he placed 18th and went on to make his Mr. Olympia debut in 2002 where his 24th place finish further proved just how steep the competition truly was on the pro circuit.

After ongoing disappointment, things finally started to turn around for the 5’8” tall Freakin’ ‘Rican in 2003 when he teamed up with Serbian bodybuilder Milos Sarcev to take his training and physique to the next level. “Now my role model is Sarcev,” Badell told Iron magazine. “He is like a big brother to me and he’s taught me so much, not just about training and dieting, but how to enjoy bodybuilding. He’s taught me to enjoy bodybuilding no matter what the result of a contest. I am just so happy to be competing and doing what I love and he is the same way. He’s a real inspiration to me and I feel fortunate to know him and his family.”

Soon, Badell’s partnership with Sarcev paid off and he ranked higher and higher in competitions with third place finishes at the 2004 Ironman Pro Invitational, the 2004 Show of Strength Pro Championship and the 2004 Mr. Olympia. Riding the wave of momentum into 2005, he finished third at the Arnold Classic before taking home the biggest win of his career at the Ironman Pro Invitational. Later that year, he wowed audiences with a shocking third place win at the Mr. Olympia. Finding another victory at the 2008 San Francisco Pro Invitational, Badell had finally reached the top and wrapped up his career wins in 2009 with a victory at the Atlantic City Pro.

Amid his wavering success on the stage, Badell landed on the cover of numerous magazines like Flex and enjoyed the perks of endorsement deals with companies like Muscle Tech who paid him a pretty penny to promote their Masstech weight gain powder and their Nitrotech Hardcore protein powder. However, not even the perks could overshadow Badell’s true passion for the sport. “I want to be the best bodybuilder I can be, not to win contests, but for me,” he said. “It would be great to be Mr. Olympia, but I can’t say, ‘I’m going to win’ or ‘I’m going to be in the top five.’ You never know what the judges think. I want to show everyone how good I can be. I just want to always get better… I don’t want to get bigger, just always get better.”

Despite his determination to always improve, Badell never earned the Mr. Olympia title and eventually retired form professional bodybuilding after his 13th place finish at the 2012 Arnold Classic. With retirement, he quickly shifted his focus from building his massive 21.5-inch arms to life at home in Puerto Rico with his wife, Jessica, and their children—Christian, Michael Gustavo, Nicole Marie and Barbie Ann.

Today, the 44-year-old continues to make the rounds at various bodybuilding contests around the world and frequently gives interviews where he shares his story as a skinny boxer who took more than his fair share of hits on the mat before transforming himself into the ripped and impressive “Freakin’ ‘Rican.” Using his story to inspire young bodybuilders, he keeps his advice simple and rooted in commitment. “Bodybuilding is a lifestyle,” he says. “It’s not a contest. I want to be a professional bodybuilder all my life, to live this way all my life.”

Body Transformations

Jay Cutler Extreme Physique

“I can promise those who support me that I will not stop pushing until I stand on that stage in September.” Born and raised just outside of Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1970s as the youngest of seven children, Jay Cutler was taught the value of hard work at a young age when he started working for his older brothers at Culter Bros. Concrete when he was only 11 years old. Learning the ins and outs of the business while building his own physical strength lugging concrete forms around the lot, Cutler developed an incredible work ethic as his physical strength exploded and inspired him to start weight training as a senior in high school.

At the time, bodybuilding wasn’t even a possibility for his future as Cutler earned his degree in criminal justice and set out to channel his growing strength as a corrections officer at a nearby maximum security prison. Everything changed, however, when he met personal trainer Marcos Rodriguez, who was so impressed by Cutler’s physique that he encouraged him to compete. By then, it was only a matter of time before Cutler was hooked as he dropped $300 of his hard-earned cash on a Gold’s Gym membership.

Cutler made his bodybuilding debut in 1992 at Gold’s Gym Worcester Bodybuilding Championships where a second-place finish boosted his confidence enough that he entered that 1993 NPC Iron Bodies Invitational in the teenage and men’s middleweight division. Finishing in first place, he went on to compete in the NPC Teen Nationals as a middleweight and saw yet another victory as he set his sights on the 1995 NPC U.S. Tournament of Champions where he won both the men’s middleweight and overall titles. Thanks to his success, his star power skyrocketed as he set out to become the best bodybuilder in the world.

Earning his IFBB professional status on his first try at the 1996 NPC Nationals where he placed first as a heavyweight, Cutler was well on his way to greatness as he boosted his training regimen, signed endorsement and appearance deals around the country and built his reputation as the biggest bodybuilder in the industry. However, his hard work had only just begun. Cutler burned up the professional circuit two years later but didn’t find the success he imagined with an 11th place finish at the 1998 IFBB Night of Champions and a fourth-place finish at the 1999 Arnold Classic. Even his Mr. Olympia debut in 1999 left much to be desired as he finished in 14th place and returned to the gym, this time starting from scratch.

Determined to win the Mr. Olympia title, Cutler reevaluated his entire training routine as he and his wife, Kerry, relocated to California where he finally found success with second place finishes in the 2000 English Grand Prix and Joe Weider’s World Pro Cup. Knowing that he had finally made it to the top, Cutler finished in eighth place in the 2000 Mr. Olympia only to earn runner up at the Mr. Olympia Rome. A year later, the coveted title was well within reach after Cutler spent an entire year working out twice a day with the hopes of taking the title from the legendary Ronnie Coleman. However, Cutler finished in second place which, despite the disappointment, truly marked his success. “I was made,” Cutler said when asked about the loss. “I was so excited. I finally made it so close.”

Putting all his efforts toward ousting Coleman from the Mr. Olympia seat, Cutler spent the next two years training as he won two consecutive Arnold Classics before returning to the Mr. Olympia stage in 2003 for yet another second-place finish. With the same showings in 2004 and 2005, it wasn’t until 2006 when Cutler finally beat Coleman and secured a huge victory as the newest Mr. Olympia. Riding the heels of success and refusing to let go of the title too quickly, he won again in 2007 opposite Victor Martinez only to suffer a huge loss in 2008 when he lost the title to Dexter Jackson in a cat and mouse game that would continue until 2011.

Amid his incredible success on the bodybuilding stage, Cutler cashed in on his fame and signed numerous endorsement deals to pad his fortune and further build his personal brand. Along the way, he was named “the most publicized bodybuilder in the world” as he promoted his series of training DVDs including A Cut Above, New Improved and Beyond, Ripped to Shreds and The Ultimate Beef: A Massive Life in Bodybuilding. He also launched his personal website——as well as Cutler Athletics and the Swole Monkey Clothing line that instantly became huge hits and sealed Cutler’s fate as a household name in the industry. To top it off, the four time Mr. Olympia winner shared his insight and expertise in his book, CEO Muscle: Jay Cutler’s No Nonsense Guide to Successful Bodybuilding while he promoted his chiseled physique on the covers of magazines like Muscle and Fitness, Flex and Muscular Development.

Continuing to compete, Cutler won the Mr. Olympia title in 2009 and 2010 only to lose the title once again in 2011. The defeat, combined with a severe bicep injury and the loss of his 10-year-old dog, Trace, pushed Cutler into depression and forced him to step away from the gym. Eventually opting for surgery to repair his biceps, he returned to the gym in 2012 with the hopes of making a grand return to the Mr. Olympia stage in 2013. Unfortunately, disappointment prevailed as Cutler saw his top two ranking fall to sixth place.

Tired of defeat, the 43-year-old Cutler hasn’t officially retired but has shifted his focus to business as he promotes his newest supplement brand, Cutler Nutrition. As to whether we’ll see him at future Mr. Olympia contests, that’s a mystery only time can answer!

Body Transformations

Johnnie O. Jackson Extreme Physique

“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.

Body Transformations

Kai Greene Extreme Physique

“If I have to die tonight, if this weight is going to kill me tonight, so be it!” Praised as one of the most famous bodybuilders of the 21st century, Kai Greene is certainly a force of nature both on and off the stage. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Greene was placed into foster care at only six years old before he was transferred to a handful of residential treatment centers around the city. A rambunctious child, Greene’s mischievous behavior at home often went unnoticed but, at school, it was widely considered problematic thanks to growth spurts that left Greene towering over both his teachers and his classmates. Luckily, his 7th grade English teacher knew Greene was looking for discipline and introduced him to bodybuilding to help the young man focus his mind, find an outlet for his energy and regain control of his body.

Instantly hooked on bodybuilding and the results of seeing his hard work pay off from the moment he set foot in the gym, Greene entered his first competition as a teen before he went on to compete in the National Physique Committee. With mixed success in these competitions, he never lost sight of his goal to eventually enter the professional circuit with the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB). However, everything changed in 1999 when he won the NPC Team Universe contest and was left so disappointed and disheartened with the competition that he considered leaving bodybuilding for good. Instead of giving up on his dreams, he took a five-year hiatus from competing.

Fortunately for the world of bodybuilding, Greene made his grand return as “The Predator” and “Mr. Getting It Done” in 2004 when he took home the title as the NPC Mr. Universe, which qualified him as an IFBB professional bodybuilder. Setting his sights next on the Mr. Olympia title, he spent the next few years training and even had director Mike Pulcinella document his “mind-muscle connection” training routine in the 2009 and 2013 documentaries Overkill and Redemption, the latter of which showed his Arnold Classic win for the second year in a row.

By 2011, Greene took his training to the next level and hired preparation coach George Farah whose expert guidance helped him win the New York Pro Championship in addition to securing a third-place finish at his first Mr. Olympia competition in 2011, which qualified him to compete in the 2012 contest held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Finishing in second place in Sin City, Greene was obviously on a roll as he competed and finished in second place in the 2013 and 2014 Mr. Olympia competitions and left many to anticipate that he would finally take the title in 2015. Amid a flurry of rumors, however, personal circumstances prevented Greene from competing in 2015 as fans and the media speculated that he had been banned from the contest due to steroid use. Denying the rumors and refusing to elaborate on the real reason he wasn’t competing, Greene left the response up to the Mr. Olympia officials who said that he failed to register for the competition before the deadline despite receiving numerous reminders and extensions to do so.

Since his noticeable absence from the Mr. Olympia stage in 2015, Greene refused to let the rumors dishearten him and returned to the stage in 2016 with three first-place finishes in the Arnold Classic, the Arnold Classic Australia and the Arnold Classic Brazil. As if to prove he had even more to offer after years of endorsing products and representing magazines like Flex (while enjoying the perks of sponsorships, of course), he launched his own supplement brand—Dynamik Muscle—as well as his own training program known as The 5P, which is an acronym for “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.”

As many in the bodybuilding industry anticipated, The 5P embodies Greene’s longstanding belief in the “mind-muscle connection” that he refers to as the number one factor in training. “You develop it over time by posing your muscle and also by paying close attention to how your muscles feel when you work them,” Greene says. “Eventually, you get to where your mind can read the feedback your muscles are providing, and your muscles can react to the stimulus your mind is providing… Eventually, your mind and muscles will speak the same language and communicate back and forth.”

Apart from his mind-muscle training, competing and promoting his own personal brands and products, the 41-year-old Greene has plenty to do as he fills his days with podcasts and interviews for various fitness magazines in addition to appearing in documentaries like Generation Iron, which followed the 2012 Mr. Olympia competition. Most recently, he’s even shifted his focus to the silver screen after traveling to China’s Guizhou province in November 2016 to film his part as the villain in the martial arts flick Crazy Fist, which is set to release in 2018. Of course, acting isn’t all “The Predator” has up his sleeve these days.

Despite his tough-guy appearance, Greene is an artist at heart who often creates self-portraits to better envision his ideal self. “As a professional bodybuilder, I’m a master sculptor,” Greene said during an art exhibition featuring his work in 2011. “The art show made me realize that I’ve always been an artist: my medium the human physique. My life is what I make it, just like the art I’ve produced on canvas and on stage. This art show makes this statement. I’m celebrating some personal accomplishments and my own artistic expression.”

As for what’s next for the bodybuilder, actor, artist and trainer, only time will tell. All we know for sure is that there seems to be plenty of opportunities on the horizon for a New York foster kid who’s transformed himself into one of the best-known bodybuilders of the century.

Body Transformations

Ken Waller Extreme Physique

“In many contests that I would enter, I would look at some monster backstage and think he was the most muscular thing I’d ever seen. Only under the posing lights would the true story be told when the rolls of blubber would show through.” Best known for his graceful and confident pose on the bodybuilding stage, Ken Waller found early fame when he won the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe contest in Pretoria, South Africa. He later appeared in the 1977 documentary film Pumping Iron, which featured the legendary Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno as they prepared for the 1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia. Although Waller wasn’t the star of the film, his award-winning physique was hard to miss especially with his signature red hair and freckles making him easy to spot in the crowd.

Raised in Jeffersonville, Indiana in the 1940s, Waller enjoyed a normal childhood and showed an early interest in sports that led him straight to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green where he played on the university’s football team and helped secure their undefeated record at the 1963 Tangerine Bowl. To this day, Waller’s photograph still hangs in the locker room as a tribute to his success on the football field as well as his legacy as a bodybuilder, which we’ll get to momentarily.

After college, the 6’0” tall Waller served in the United States Marine Corp and later went on to teach at a Louisville high school before moving to Canada to play professional football with the Canadian Football League. Tipping the scales at 230 pounds, Waller’s interests slowly shifted from football to bodybuilding in the late 1960s and early 1970s as he spent more time at the gym packing on muscle. In 1968, he entered his first competitions as an amateur and surprised himself when he finished in fourth place in both the 1968 AAU Mr. Olympia and the 1968 AAU Mr. USA. The following year, he took the title at the 1969 AAU Junior Mr. USA and the 1969 AAU Mr. USA where he was also named the “Most Muscular.”

Enjoying ongoing success in the 1970s with wins at the AAU Mr. America and the AAU Mr. World, Waller was ready to go professional and upgraded his status after receiving his IFBB Pro Card. He made his professional debut at the 1971 IFBB Mr. America and finished in first place. He went on to win the titles at the 1971 IFBB Mr. International, the 1971 NABBA Mr. Universe, the 1972 IFBB Mr. International, the 1972 IFBB Mr. World and the 1975 IFBB Mr. Universe. In 1976, he competed in the Mr. Olympia competition in the “Over 200 Pounds” class and earned first place. He attempted to defend his title in 1977 but lost to Robby Robinson. By then, he took a few years off from competing to manage the original Golds Gym until he returned to the Mr. Olympia stage in 1980 with a disappointing 16th place finish. Realizing that his prime had come and gone, he retired from professional bodybuilding in 1981.

Amid his success on the bodybuilding stage and as one of the winningest amateur bodybuilders in the 1970s, Waller also enjoyed time on the silver screen with numerous uncredited parts and cameos throughout his later career. Beyond his appearance with Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno in Pumping Iron, he made a cameo in Schwarzenegger’s 1976 Stay Hungry flick where he played the part of Dougie Stewart, a rival bodybuilder to Schwarzenegger’s on-screen character, Joe Santo. Appearing in the B-movie Kill the Golden Goose in 1979, his last guest role came in 1981 when he appeared in the “King of Beach” episode on The Incredible Hulk television series starring Lou Ferrigno as the Hulk himself.

With his confident posing style and signature red hair and freckles, Waller landed on the cover of Iron Man and Muscle Magazine but did his best to stay out of the spotlight after his retirement in 1981. This left many fans to wonder where the wild redhead with the short temper had disappeared to until Waller reappeared in the 2002 television documentary Raw Iron: The Making of Pumping Iron. In the film, Waller faced his critics head on when he talked about how Pumping Iron portrayed him as a villainous bodybuilder, which frequently led to boos as he walked the stage. “I would go to contests and get booed, after that!” Waller said. Little did anyone realize that Pumping Iron was a docudrama with the bodybuilders playing specific roles that didn’t truly reflect their typical personalities.

Finally setting the record straight from Pumping Iron, Waller cashed in on his fame and expertise as a bodybuilder to open his own gym—Red Lion Fitness—in Culver City, California. Running the gym from 1980 to 1996, he then worked for Extreme Active Wear, a supplier of Golds Gym apparel, for the next decade before retiring from the business world in 2005 and moving to St. Louis, Missouri. Today, the 75-year-old Waller is reportedly still a fanatic about working out with his body in incredible shape for a man his age. And, while he may not be as big as he once was with 230 pounds of pure muscle, he can still hold his own and just might look better than Schwarzenegger even if his red hair has now turned grey. As a matter of fact, a senior bodybuilding competition among the legends seems like a great idea. Don’t you agree?

Body Transformations

Kevin Levrone Extreme Physique

“Intensity builds immensity.” With a name like the “Maryland Muscle Machine,” there is no question that Kevin Levrone has left his mark on the bodybuilding world as an IFBB professional and an IFBB Hall of Famer. In fact, competing professionally for 12 years between 1991 and 2003, Levrone set the record after competing in 68 IFBB professional contests with 23 professional wins, which was the most wins ever achieved by a single bodybuilder. Losing the record to Ronnie Coleman just a year after his unofficial retirement in 2004, Levrone made a grand return to the bodybuilding circuit in 2016 at the Mr. Olympia where, at 51 years old, he proved that he is one of the few bodybuilders who continues to get better with age.

Long before becoming a household name in the bodybuilding industry, Levrone was born one of six children to an African American woman and an Italian-American man who settled in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960s. While his birth year is often contested with sources suggesting that he was born anywhere between 1965 and 1968, most argue that Levrone was born on July 16, 1964, shortly before losing both of his parents to cancer. Turning to his siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles for support and guidance after such a tragic loss, it wasn’t long before Levrone found his way to the gym.

Inspired after seeing his cousin’s growing muscular physique after serving only a few months in the military, Levrone became more serious about weight training himself and eventually discovered his passion for bodybuilding. He launched his career with the IFBB in 1991 with his first heavyweight bodybuilding competition with the National Physique Committee (NPC), the NPC Junior Nationals. Winning second place in his first contest, he competed in the NPC Nationals only a few months later and took the title, which inspired him to launch his professional career despite having only one year of competitions under his belt.

In 1992, Levrone made his Mr. Olympia debut and, to everyone’s surprise, came in second place, which is incredibly rare for a newcomer. Shortly after the competition, Levrone made headlines once again when he tore his pectoral muscles after attempting to bench press 600 pounds. The injury was so severe that surgery was required to reattach his pectorals back together. After the first eight-hour surgery, Levrone suffered an infection that required yet another extensive operation. This left many to assume that the Maryland Muscle Machine’s career as a bodybuilder was completely over; however, he persevered and surprisingly returned to the stage later the same year.

Proving that hard work and dedication truly pay off, Levrone competed in the 1993 Mr. Olympia contest and earned fifth place, which was incredibly impressive considering he was still recovering from two surgeries. The following year, he was back in the heat of competition with a third-place finish before he climbed even higher in 1995 with a second-place finish. Continuing to compete in contests like the Arnold Classic, the San Francisco Pro Invitational, the Night of Champions and Grands Prix in England, Russia, Germany, and Spain among numerous others, Levrone found great success and many first-place victories but never secured a win at the prestigious Mr. Olympia. Instead, his four-time second-place rankings in 1992, 1995, 2000 and 2002 sealed his fate as “The Uncrowned King of Mr. Olympia.”

Amid 13 years of competing professionally, Levrone’s most notable bodybuilding victories came in 1994 and 1996 when he took first place at the Arnold Classic. Over the next few years, he secured top five finishes in everything from the 1998 Toronto Pro Invitational and the 1999 Grand Prix England to the 2002 Grand Prix Australia, the 2003 Arnold Classic and the 2003 Show of Strengths Pro Championship before he disappeared from the spotlight completely without making any official announcement regarding his retirement.

As many wondered why the 5’11” tall Levrone never announced his retirement, he claimed it was because he never truly felt that he had retired. Instead, he simply shifted gears and focused on his other passions like golf, tennis and, believe it or not, acting. Appearing in films like Backlash, Redline and I Am over the years, Levrone also proved his talents as an entrepreneur and launched his own supplement brand—the Kevin Levrone Signature Series—in 2015 in addition to his online training platform——in 2016. No longer competing, Levrone’s competitive edge was fueled by the blossoming adrenaline from running his own business.

After 13 years out of the spotlight and seeing his record-breaking 23 professional wins be overturned by the legendary Ronnie Coleman, Levrone did the unthinkable in 2016 when he announced his return to bodybuilding. Always known for his incredible ability to train quickly for competitions without spending a dozen long, grueling months in the gym, Levrone entered the 2016 Mr. Olympia competition at 51 years old where he took the stage with bodybuilders 10 to 30 years younger. Although he finished in 16th place, his courage to come out of retirement did not go unnoticed as fans, fellow bodybuilders and commentators couldn’t hide their awe over Levrone’s incredible physique.

Today, Levrone is possibly one of the most underrated bodybuilders in the industry after years of second-place finishes at the Mr. Olympia contest where he lived up to his reputation as the Maryland Muscle Machine and rocked an impressive 250-pound physique with 24-inch arms, 32-inch legs, a 57-inch chest and a 29-inch waist. Bench pressing an upwards of 530 pounds prior to his injury, Levrone is thrilled with what he’s accomplished throughout his career. And, whether he takes the stage at the 2017 Mr. Olympia or not is still up for debate but one thing is for certain, Levrone is ready for anything as he says, “I don’t know what the future will bring to me, but I want to be ready when it comes.”

Body Transformations

Larry Scott Extreme Physique

“Motivate the mind, the body will follow.” When you think about the golden age of bodybuilding, it’s impossible not to think of Idaho’s very own Larry Scott, who is affectionately known across the industry by bodybuilders both young and old as “The Legend” and “The Golden Boy.” Winning the first Mr. Olympia competition in 1965 and holding onto his title in 1966, it’s easy to see why Scott is truly a legend in the industry.

Scott was born and raised in the university town of Pocatello, Idaho and, despite weight training being unpopular among teenagers, he started seriously training at 16 years old and immediately took a liking to his new hobby. Over the next four years, he put on incredible muscle and bulked up his physique before entering his first competition in 1958, the Mr. Idaho, at 20 years old. Winning the title and seeing a bright future as a bodybuilder, he packed his suitcase, said goodbye to his small-town roots, and moved to California with the hopes of pursuing bodybuilding full time.

Once in California, Scott competed in the 1960 Mr. California contest and came out victorious with wins at the 1961 Mr. Pacific Coast, the 1962 Mr. America and the 1964 Mr. Universe competitions. Instantly becoming a household name known for his football-shaped biceps, he was the hottest figure in bodybuilding at the time and, thanks to his new California roots, landed a small role in the 1964 flick, Muscle Beach Party. Aside from that, he cashed in on his growing fame, muscled physique and on-stage charm by modeling for notable photographers like Pat Milo, Don Whitman and Bruce Bellas who paid top dollar to photograph the Golden Boy.

Thanks to his working friendship with Milo, Scott was introduced to a bigger network and built an even larger fan base as Milo coached him on various poses that would work in his favor and further enhance his frame while building his reputation as the boy next door. Around the same time, a Canadian bodybuilder by the name of Joe Weider was in the process of launching a new bodybuilding contest for the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) known as the Mr. Olympia. With Scott frequently appearing in and writing pieces for Weider’s bodybuilding magazines like Mr. America and Muscle Builder, it was only natural that he entered the first Mr. Olympia contest in 1965. Winning the title and $1,000, he reclaimed the crown a second time in 1966 and abruptly retired from professional bodybuilding at 28 years old.

When news broke about Scott’s sudden retirement, the media went into a frenzy as the world desperately looked for answers over the bodybuilder’s seemingly quick decision. However, Scott was fast to respond and explained that he had given bodybuilding his all and seen his dreams come true with two major victories under his belt. Choosing to focus more on his second marriage, he gave up his career and left his fans and fellow competitors with little to hold onto other than memories and training tips featured in publications like The Young Physique, Muscles a Go-Go, Muscle Boy and Demi Gods. Of course, there was always Muscle Beach Party runs to turn to on the silver screen.

After his retirement, Scott relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah where freelance writer Rod Labbe collaborated with the bodybuilder on a series of articles for various fitness magazines. With Scott’s experience writing for Weider’s publications, the articles were a success and were published in Ironman, Muscle Mag International and Scarlet: The Film Magazine. Using the momentum from this success, he launched his own personal training company—Larry Scott Fitness and Nutrition—and vowed to devote his future to manufacturing, promoting and selling customized health supplements and gym equipment.

Continuously recognized on the streets as “The Legend” and the first professional bodybuilder to ever build 20-inch upper arms, Scott eventually made a brief comeback in 1979 at the Canada Diamond Pro Cup. Finishing in ninth place, he went on to compete at the 1979 Grand Prix Vancouver but, when he failed to rank, he knew his five minutes of fame had come and gone. He announced his official retirement in 1980 and returned to Salt Lake City where he enrolled at the California Air College to study electronics and help raise his five children—Michael, Derek, Nathan, Erin and Susan—with his wife, Rachel Scott.

Scott’s accomplishments in the bodybuilding industry were recognized in 1999 when he was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame. Praised as the father of modern bodybuilding, his brief career popularized Vince Gironda’s training principles as well as the combined dumbbell press and side lateral raise that’s known today as the “Scott Press.” The only bodybuilder to never lose a Mr. Olympia competition in which he competed, he is also the first bodybuilder to win the Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. Olympia competitions. On March 8, 2014, the bodybuilding world bid a sad farewell to the Golden Boy as he died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at his home in Utah. He was 75 years old.