Greatness isn’t determined by how high you soar, but how you respond when you hit rock bottom, says Ben Pakulski
Ben Pakulski is a IFBB Pro bodybuilder and creator of the new Mi40 Xtreme training system and the Mi40 Nation website. He is based in Tampa, Florida.
The New York Pro in 2010 was my second pro contest. I had placed third in my first show the previous year in Tampa and had exceeded a lot of people’s expectations.
I was extremely confident and felt that I would win in New York. But I wanted to get bigger. I wanted to be huge.
I put on 17lb of stage weight in eight months, which is insane. I was so committed. I did nothing but train, eat and sleep. There is no question that I trained harder than anyone else on that stage in New York.
But I placed 7th. I was utterly dejected. I’ve never been so down on myself in my entire life. I was far bigger than I was in Tampa, yet I got a terrible placing, below some bodybuilders I really didn’t think deserved to beat me.
I started complaining about other people and started pointing fingers as to why I placed so low. I get that bodybuilding is a subjective sport, and I don’t play the political game, but I reached a point where I didn’t want my success to be placed in someone else’s hands.
Then I took some time out and looked back at the pictures from New York. I didn’t really like the way I looked. I prefered the shots from Tampa.
I couldn’t work it out because I had trained so hard. And then I realised that my stronger body parts had got bigger, but my weaker parts had stayed weak.
I realised that maybe this sport isn’t about just hard training and swinging weights around all the time. This realisation was a catalyst in changing my mind about what bodybuilding is all about.
I decided to take a more intelligent approach. I really dived into the science of the sport, especially biomechanics. As a scientific-minded guy I believed that there was a right way and a wrong way, and I wanted to find the absolutely right way of doing it.
That hugely negative experience when I questioned turning my back on the sport actually became one of the most positive experiences of my life. It changed who I am and I now take an intelligent approach to everything I do. And now I am considered by some to be one of the best bodybuilders in the world.