When you first meet Yosef Brodsky, it might take some time to figure the dude out. In the gym, he'll be training chest, but if he sees you grinding out a set of high rep squats he might just run over and ask if he can join you in your set. He'll spy a powerlifter pulling deadlifts and rush to the platform, again asking—politely—to partake, only to pull 500 for a few reps. Then it's back to his incline presses, but not for long. Two minutes later you'll see him outside flipping tires with the strongmen.
He's Not Afraid to Draw a Crowd
Brodsky is the guy in the expo crowd at a bodybuilding contest who drops and does a hundred push-ups, often inviting fitness and bikini types to sit on his back while he does them.
"People get into it," he says. "Yeah, at first they're like, 'Who's this meathead doing push-ups in the middle of…wherever'? But then after 30 reps, they start to stare and a crowd gathers around."
After 50 reps, the camera phones come out and people are laughing and gawking. By the time he completes 100 reps, they're clapping and cheering and shaking their heads, thinking, "Who is this nut?"
Who is this nut, indeed! Brodsky, 31, doesn't do these things to show you up or to show off. He's not jumping in on your set to put you down. In fact, it's your intensity during your set that fires him up and motivates him. Brodsky is like a hyperactive kid with no impulse control bounding around the gym, a hypercaffeinated ball in a pinball machine.
He Has an Unexpected View on Bodybuilding
Despite having so many obvious gifts for bodybuilding—mass in abundance, a good flow to his physique, and no glaring weak points—he has yet to step onstage and doubts whether he ever will. He's enthusiastic about lifting and the physiques that define our iron sports, but adamant he's not a "bodybuilder."
"Okay, I'm a body 'builder' because I'm building the human body. But I'm not a 'bodybuilder.' I'm just trying to find my way in the gym—and in life."
At 5 feet 8 inches tall and a relatively lean 235 pounds, Brodsky has for years been encouraged by friends and fans to get onstage and see how he does. His fervor and love for the sport are evident, but he can be quite critical of bodybuilding as a sport—and bodybuilders as a species.
"Today's audiences are desensitized," he says. "As a bodybuilder, you have one chance, one window of opportunity to step onstage and present yourself. You can be Justin Compton's level, but guess what? If you don't wow them when you step onstage the first time, if it's not like 'Boom! Look at me!,' then what?"
When pressed about what really holds him back from competing, Brodsky says, "I don't have the physique now. I have the potential."
He's a Man of Varied Interests
An Israeli immigrant of Ukrainian stock, Brodsky has been lifting seriously for 10 years, although he says he's always been in shape. Brodsky lives an hour outside of Manhattan and frequents many of its better-known bodybuilding gyms. But when he's at home in Westchester County, he trains at Dana's Efficiency Training Gym (where the accompanying photos were taken), owned by former NPC competitive female bodybuilder Dana Capobianco.
But he's a man of many interests, only some of which have to do with gym life. He's also into Japanese collectible knives and the nature/sci-fi-inspired jewelry of Japan-based brand Ability Normal. He also sits on the board of directors of The Cure Is Now (New York City), a national, non-profit organization dedicated to the eradication of cancer. (His mother passed away from ovarian cancer when he was 12.)
Brodsky has also been building quite an Instagram presence, with his @yosefrealm gathering more than 10,000 followers in the last few months. Yes, there are the requisite bodybuilder photos and videos, often of Brodsky in spandex shorts and a gladiator helmet or mask, but he says he's going for something more than the "look how many times I can squat 315" vibe.
"Lately, @yosefrealm has been about the music," Brodsky says. "I'm trying to integrate club culture with physique culture and bring the nightlife into the gym. It's about freedom of expression, openness, being progressive. Social media is experimentation for me. I'm trying to create thought-provoking situations and scenarios about interconnectedness. I'd like to eventually make films."
Will Yosef Brodsky ever compete in a bodybuilding contest? Time will tell. In the meantime, if you see him at a show or in the gym, take a moment to say hello to this super friendly and enthusiastic guy!