With the pro bodybuilding gene-pool growing larger with each passing year, the quality depth among recently-qualified IFBB athletes is better than ever. To become a champion on today's pro circuit, a competitor requires a truly phenomenal physique with few, if any, weaknesses.
S/he also needs the perfect blending of size, shape and conditioning. Brandon Curry, the 2008 NPC USA bodybuilding champ, appears to have all of these qualities and is rapidly becoming one of the best of a new generation of bodybuilders.
Because of his 6th-place finish at his pro debut in the 2010 Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Championships and his 8th-place finish in the 2011 Mr. Olympia, his fans expect great things from him in 2012. His nickname, 'The Prodigy,' sends the signal that we can look forward to more phenomenal things from this wunderkind.
As impressive as his potential is, Brandon, a BSN-sponsored athlete, did not immediately set the pro bodybuilding scene on fire. Despite his near-perfect musculature, fullness and proportions, he garnered mixed results in his first two years competing on the IFBB pro scene.
In late 2011, he finally brought his best conditioning to battle the best at the prestigious Mr. Olympia, sending a resounding message to his fellow IFBB elite: do not take me lightly.
Following his successful 2011 Olympia debut, Brandon reevaluated his training and quickly resumed his process of self-improvement that will no doubt catapult him to top-contender status in 2012. His first mission: challenge strongly for the Arnold Classic title.
Interview With Brandon Curry
In 2011, I kind of got into a rhythm as far as understanding my body. My trainer Neil Hill and I haven't had much of an offseason, so we applied what we learned in 2011 to the prep for the 2012 Arnold. I definitely feel we are on top of the game and will bring a better package this year.
Yes, that was exactly the goal. We wanted to be farther ahead than we have been in previous shows. We controlled my cardio and increased my calorie-intake. I have eaten a bit more to ensure I don't peak too early and have done a lot less cardio; my body has adjusted accordingly - I'm much fuller than I was last year this far out from the competition.
We spent a bit of time working on my weaker areas this offseason; we have brought in more quad detail and muscle separation. That will be the biggest factor. However, I've also tightened my conditioning and feel more confident in my muscle maturity.
My first goal is to qualify for the Olympia. Hopefully everything will happen at the beginning of this season so we can get plenty of rest and prep heading into the Olympia. The Arnold is a perfect opportunity to meet that goal. A lot of the main guys are coming in with burdens on their backs and the field is open, so I couldn't pass up this chance.
We didn't plan on competing in the Arnold last year; it was a last-minute decision. But so far we have comfortably stepped up to the plate and my body has definitely adjusted well. I expect favorable things to come out of the Arnold Classic.
I've learned that I have to use more exercise variations. I still do the same movement patterns, but I'm just more efficient at targeting the muscle in different areas. I've become more involved in my training, especially when it comes to my legs. Actually, I ran into a small back injury which forced me to adjust. The fine-tuning I had to do to heal my injury has actually been something that enabled me to improve my physique.
It happened just before I went on a trip to Hawaii in mid-November. I was doing front squats and hadn't done them in a while. I thought I was being smart and put my front squats at the end of my workout. I was a little stronger than I thought I'd be so I kept increasing the weight. Some of the muscles that were supposed to support this movement and protect my spine were over-fatigued. When I hit the bottom portion of the squat, where my glutes and hamstrings were supposed to come into play, they didn't have anything to give and my back had to take over.
When I came up, I knew something wasn't quite right, so I decided to dump the bar. But since I was strapped to it, I got twisted up. The chiropractor said my spine was twisted and my hips were off-set, a so I had to make some adjustments to my training and just play it safe for awhile. This actually worked in my favor; I have been able to train 100% and it hasn't stopped me from doing the things I know will benefit me.
I couldn't really move my spine for a while so I had to focus on using variations as far as my range of motion. The first adjustment we made was to add belt squats, where the weight is attached to a belt. I had a welder friend of mine make a sleeve that could hook a belt to a T-bar row bar, and then we loaded weight on the bar.
When I position myself at a certain angle, I can achieve twice the depth of a regular squat and thus push my legs and quads really hard without putting stress on my spine. I can maintain an upright position which allows me to keep my hips out of the movement, which helps me to really stress my quads. I can also do hack squats and front squats in such a way that I'm not excessively loading my spine.
I'm using a method that Neil came up with: I freestyle, varying my workouts each week. For example, one week we will use all basic movements where the volume is low and the intensity is high because the rep range is typically about 10-12. Sometimes we go down to eight, but the goal is always to train to failure while maintaining good form and utilizing a partner and rest-pause. The next week, we'll move up to 14-16 reps and we'll add a few different techniques like supersets. The next week will be even more advanced because we'll maintain 18-20 reps.
Sometimes, we split rep ranges between super sets and we also employ some drop sets during the course of this week. The idea is to make necessary tweaks from week to week, day to day. It is an intuitive style of training - I believe it works. If I do the same thing every day, I sometimes feel bored, so this training style helps me have the best possible workout, whether I'm lifting heavy weights or not. I just make sure I go to failure and do not sacrifice correct form to get there. I want to do things properly so I can increase my longevity and continue to do what I love.
Nothing drastic, except to increase my calories; actually, we have been carb-cycling a little more frequently than we did for the 2011 Olympia prep. We are trying to prevent as little muscle loss as possible and keep my attitude at a steady level while maintaining fat loss.
For training energy and recovery, I use Volumaize before and after training; I also use Nitrix before training to enhance my pump and aid my performance. I'll have three scoops of Syntha-6 with one banana for my mid-morning meal. And, as part of my mass stack, I take advanced strength NO-Xplode, Cellmass, Axis-HT and True Mass.
Onstage, I'll be anywhere from 220-to-225 pounds. Right now, the important thing for me is to stabilize and my body will get to a point where I'll get leaner and leaner. It's kind of hard to predict because my body is doing something different this time around, but I like it. When it comes to comparisons, I'm not the biggest guy, but my small joints and waist create an illusion that I use to my advantage. Because I know the power of these tools, I don't necessarily worry about what the scale says.
I would love to be compared to Branch just so I could look at the photos later. Branch Warren and I are in the same height range, but he has a completely different musculature and is thicker than me in some areas. But as far as bone structure and natural width, I think I am pretty much the same. My joints are longer than his.
It will be interesting to see how our physiques compare because they're quite different. Dexter Jackson has given us some idea of how such a comparison looks. I take my hat off to Branch; I know he is a very hard worker. I know he has a baby in the house and I can relate to that.
I want to be at a place where I can eventually beat Dexter. That would be a big accomplishment for me with my style of physique. He definitely knows I'm going to bring it, but I know he is up for the challenge.
Even if I wasn't competing in bodybuilding, I would be a gym rat. I fell in love with training before I fell in love with bodybuilding. Bodybuilding provides me with an outlet to train for a purpose and a reason. The more I have fallen in love with the sport, the more I have gotten to know the sport.
Of course I feel I have a certain purpose and mission to accomplish and that keeps me focused. I also have a growing family which I have to support; my sons look to their daddy as a provider, and I would like to be an example for them.
Yes sir, I want to win the Olympia. I want to be one of the great legends of the sport. I definitely don't think I would be satisfied with winning one time, but when my time is done it is done. I want to walk away from the stage gracefully, not with any 'what ifs.'
It's about continuing to mature and make the changes in my lower body which will complement my upper body strengths. When I look back at my career, I don't want to leave any questions about fulfilling my potential, so I've been concentrating on good balance. I want to have perfect proportions. The size will come and the maturity will come, it's just about putting in the work to get there.
I can't comment. At last year's Olympia, I went in with no expectations - I was just happy to be there. Going into the show I figured a top-10 placement would have been an admirable thing. But there were no guarantees. I know that a top-5 at the Arnold would be a great accomplishment and right now that's what I'm aiming for. A lot of the guys in this year's Arnold are younger, so the next generation is starting to take over the sport.
They are going to see me having fun, just enjoying what I do. I will continue to learn with each opportunity; that's what I did at the Olympia and that's what I will continue to do. God willing, we will bring the best conditioned Brandon Curry yet.