Jackson Bliton lives in two worlds.
In the real world, this 25-year-old Californian lives with his girlfriend, picks up heavy stuff in the gym, devours chicken and butter lettuce with ranch dressing—you know, pretty typical human stuff. Then, at least once per day, Jackson hops on the Internet and transforms into Bajheera, a human warrior with a beard as mighty as his sword.
Bajheera battles against fearsome orcs, humanoid bovine creatures called tauren, the living dead, and other creatures you've correctly assumed are not of this world (hopefully).
Fire-breathing dragons, elves, creepy-looking fish monsters, and fantastical possibilities all exist within a video game called World of Warcraft, in which Jackson—er, Bajheera—spends a majority of his day, decapitating trolls and yelling fervently at his computer monitor, while tens of thousands of people around the world watch him do it.
Thanks to the power of video platforms like YouTube and Twitch, he plays video games for the masses and gets paid to do it. (For those not in-the-know, Twitch is a platform that allows you to live broadcast yourself doing something—usually playing a video game.)
Yup, you heard right. Jackson makes a living off slaying baddies in this virtual world for 6-8 hours a day. That's on top of making YouTube videos about playing said video games and interacting with his fans, while still staying in killer shape. Quite simply, Jackson is one jacked gamer.
Games 'n Gains: The beginning
Every superhero has an origin story. Jackson's knack for fitness sprouted at a young age: "Right from the beginning [my dad] would have me do push-ups. We'd do like 50 push-ups, and he'd do them with me," Jackson recalls of his childhood.
Then, one day, the wee-young Jackson was mesmerized by buff cartoon characters on his TV. "I started watching a lot of Dragonball Z and thought, 'Oh my god, those guys are so cool! Dad, I need to go to the gym. I need to try and save the world.'"
I suspect that, to this day, Jackson still admires those anime characters, as evidenced by the Dragonball Z shirt he wore during our interview. Thankfully, Jackson didn't take any hairstyle cues from the Dragonball Z characters, although he did finally get to the gym with his dad and iron out his skills in the weight room. Throughout his adolescence, Jackson put time in the gym with his dad, even if he had running practice beforehand.
For Jackson, the gym is a stress reliever that allows him to build himself in any way he likes—similar to developing a World of Warcraft character, in fact. "There's no greater feeling than depleting everything you've got [in the gym] and then sitting down to play a video game like World of Warcraft," Jackson says, "in which you can continue the leveling process, after you've leveled yourself in real life, and then continue your training in a virtual world."
In college, Jackson transitioned into more serious bodybuilding to carve the physique you see today. It was also around this time that he unknowingly took the first steps to YouTube stardom.
The birth of an internet celebrity
"In my junior year, I was in a bad place mentally, so I decided to take a break. In taking a break, I was able to pursue things that let me do things creatively, to get back to myself, and do things that made me feel good. I just happened to create my YouTube channel in November 2010, which gave me a creative and fulfilling outlet."
Here, Jackson draws an interesting parallel: "A YouTube channel is like fitness, where you can put your energy into something that's progressive and allows you to grow."
And indeed, both he and his channel began to grow: Around the time of this article, a couple hundred thousand people are signed up on YouTube to watch Jackson talk about fitness, gaming, or what he ate on any given day. That's not to say that he woke up one morning and clicked his heels together to instantly land YouTube fame.
The YouTube channel began as a personal diary of sorts. During our chat, he fondly reminisced about his first video, which was aptly about gaming. The second one he made captured his personal struggle with the drudgery of writing a school paper—something that every college kid can relate to.
"I make so many videos because I want to be able to make something that might matter to someone somehow," Jackson says. "If things are going rough, hang in there. I am genuinely here for you."
By making relatable videos and continually connecting with this fans, Jackson has been able to radically transform his own life. "Now I'm in a position where I can focus solely on the things I like to do, which are games and gains," he says.
The secret sauce to keeping his physique
It's not all fun and games, though. Although Jackson technically works for himself, he has a sardine-packed schedule.
On an average day, Jackson wakes up after a late-night editing session and posts a video to his YouTube channel. "I post three videos a day: morning, midday, and evening after my [Twitch] stream is over."
After this, he gets to the gym for his workout, which is always a priority. "I'm very familiar with how good I feel when I get my workouts in, and how bad I feel when I don't get my workouts in, so it's self-motivating," notes Jackson.
Then it's chow time and more video stuff, after which he begins his marathon gaming session on Twitch and plays for his viewers for 6-8 hours. In a sense, this resembles a traditional 9-5 gig.
As you can imagine, these long cycles of playing at his computer could very well tempt Jackson to reach for the nearest bag of Doritos and burp up a few cans of energy drinks, but he simply applies the number one rule all dedicated bodybuilders live by: meal prep, meal prep, meal prep.
"I already have meals prepared—usually just baked chicken and good ol' ranch dressing for the fats," Jackson says of his gaming food. Good man.
"I'm one of those people [who] can eat the exact same thing every day," Jackson adds, and he ain't kidding. He even mentioned that he could simply eat grilled chicken over buttered lettuce and ranch dressing for the rest of his life.
"I'd be lean as hell, dude!" he adds. Staying content with the same food simplifies things for Jackson, but he admits that his girlfriend likes a little more dietary variety: "Shout out to my girlfriend for helping me prepare meals!"
When it comes to sweets, a Quest bar (Double Chocolate Chunk flavor, represent!) or a chocolate protein shake will usually squash Jackson's chocolate cravings. Occasionally, he'll indulge in craft beer. "I don't feel a lot of affinity towards cheat meals, although I do have scheduled refeeds. That's not to say I won't have cupcakes on my birthday or something."
The power of internet role models
When you think of traditional role models, you might imagine Hugh Jackman, Will Smith, and other movie and TV celebrities. The popularity of YouTube and Twitch has given an influential platform to a new generation of celebrity-esque role models like Jackson. He represents a normal dude who doesn't live in a mansion or have personal trainers at his disposal, but can maintain a healthy lifestyle in spite of stereotypes.
"How do I build muscle?" is a perennial question asked by his young viewers. "I simply tell them that you can always get a little more exercise and always eat a little cleaner," Jackson says. "I generally avoid telling young kids to be that concerned with their body, because everyone knows that one chubby kid who comes back in sophomore year and is shredded to the gills. Give yourself a break when you're young, and give yourself a little more time."
Since Jackson has a number of gym videos on his YouTube channel, he points inquirers to them for ideas on exercises he likes to do. "To build muscle, find a program—maybe even on Bodybuilding.com—stick with that, and eat a lot. You have to train hard no matter what you want to do. Just got to put in the time and effort."
Aside from mercilessly crushing enemy skulls in World of Warcraft, there's room yet in Jackson's future plans for a bodybuilding competition of some sort. "I definitely want to do it for myself in the future, but for now I'm working toward that sneakily. I haven't fully decided to do it yet in the front of my mind, but in the back of my mind, I can hear myself saying, 'Yeah, we're going to carb-cycle you down, big fella.'"
"I really enjoy the bodybuilding lifestyle, and adding competition would make it feel 'real' and maybe even add legitimacy," Jackson says. "I'm a nice guy, but I'm a fierce competitor. When I do something, I want to be able to be pit against other people."
As for the alter ego Bajheera, you can expect this troll-slayer to live on forever—at least until YouTube and Twitch go the way of the dodo.
Jackson's Full Fitness Plan
Jackson currently follows a three-day lifting split. Sometimes he will add extra exercises, but below is the backbone of his current training program. If you attempt his program, be sure to use a weight that will allow you to hit the rep ranges with 1-2 reps left "in the tank" so that you don't reach absolute failure on every set.
Jackson carb-cycles, establishing higher- and lower-carb days. He often does 2-3 low-carb days followed by a higher-carb day. This is an example of what he eats on a high-carb day: