If you want to know what it’s really like to be a professional bodybuilder—the diet, training, mindset, sleep, supplements, and yes, the drugs—you want to listen to this episode.

Bodybuilding is a strange sport that requires a special type of masochism.

If you want to make it in the big leagues, you not only need great genetics but you also have to micromanage your nutrition, beat the shit out of your body with absurd amounts of training, and do enough drugs to make Jordan Belfort blush.

It also makes for a rather isolated and lonely life spent mostly in the gym grinding away to add that next pound of muscle, and even when you make it to the professional level, it doesn’t pay all that well.

And so I’ve often wondered why people choose to become bodybuilders and what it’s really like to dedicate your life to the sport.

Well, a couple months ago, I was invited to attend a podcasting event put on by my buddies at Mind Pump and interview the ex-pro bodybuilder Ben Pakulski.

In case you’re not familiar with Ben, he was an Olympia-level competitor who used to step on stage at 280 pounds and walk around in the low 300s during the offseason, and in this interview, I got to ask him about what that experience and lifestyle was really like and how the transition out of the sport has been for him, both physically and psychologically.

Ben also shares some great training advice, including his favorite exercises for developing different muscle groups, observations on the relationship between volume and intensity and muscle growth, how stress affects your ability to gain muscle, and what to do about it, and more.

Enjoy!

TIME STAMPS

5:55 – How much do you weigh?

6:27 – Why did you stop your pursuit for Mr. Olympia?

10:34 – How much do drugs play a role in professional bodybuilding?

14:20 – If you didn’t eat a meal for an extended amount of time, did you lose weight?

14:55 – Why did you want to become a professional bodybuilder?

18:55 – What exercises work well?

23:00 – What is an example of an exercise that gives good mechanical advantage?

25:25 – What’s the best exercise for the chest?

27:17 – Do you believe in high or low volume?

27:58 – What are the best exercises for you?

30:42 – How should your foot be functioning during a squat?

33:59 – What are the best exercises for you?

37:12 – What are your go-to chest and back exercises?

42:06 – How does stress affect muscle building?

43:48 – What is the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system?

48:46 – What is your pre-sleep routine?

53:49 – What is your new identity after leaving bodybuilding?

57:29 – What are your new goals?

1:06:33 – Do you feel a burden as a leader?

1:11:21 – Where can people find you?

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What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!