A pro competitor since 1999, Jason Arntz, though a spectacular bodybuilder with incredible size and muscle symmetry, had never quite broken into the top tier of the IFBB elite. Then he made the switch to the men's 202-pound division in 2008 and promptly placed third at the New York Pro.
Three years later, the 39-year-old champ with shoulders so wide he was at one point forced to bring them down, is among the top contenders in his division. Now, he's knocking on the door of his first Olympia top-three placement. With further refinements made to his perennially-ripped and stacked physique, leg size and ultra-thick lat and chest development, Arntz promises to place several notches higher than he did in 2010, where he snatched a respectable fifth place finish.
He placed fourth in the formidable 2008 202-pound Olympia line-up. Jason showed what he is capable of when he hits his stride. He made improvements to his formerly-criticized arms and allowed his shoulders to balloon back to where they once were (to match the overall size gains he has made). There is no question he will be a standout performer at this year's Olympia.
In the following interview, Jason explains how he made recent gains and what he has in store for his competition September 17 at the Olympia 202-pound showdown.
Q: You showed that you are truly in the mix by placing fifth in last year's Olympia 202-pound division. With David Henry out do you think you can jump farther up the rankings?
Fortunately this year they allowed us to qualify from last year's top six without having to re-qualify so this allowed me to take the whole year off without having to diet down in the off-season. This allowed me to recover, heal, make some improvements, pay more attention to detail and bring in a package that I feel will help me jump up a couple of placements.
Q: What improvements have you made to your physique since 2010?
I think I have filled out my upper body and brought my arms up a bit and capped my shoulders back out. I tapered off them for a while, as I felt they might have been too big. Now, being in the 202-pound class I want to have more of a presence onstage since the competitors are the same weight and pretty much the same height; having a wider frame might make me stand out a bit more. So I have brought my shoulders back up and paid more attention to my arms to make them fuller.
Q: You have in the past been criticized for having shoulders that are actually too large. Why would this be such a problem?
I naturally have a wider frame with wide clavicles and have really good shoulder development anyway. But being a shorter guy, this kind of made me stand out before there was a 202 class. When it was open [division] I was always as wide as guys who were over six feet tall. And they always kind of criticized me a bit by saying my shoulders were too big and that they made me look too wide. So I tapered them down and tried to balance out my physique. Now that I feel I have brought everything else up, I figure I can tap them back out again and let them stand out more.
Q: What other areas have you been working on in preparation for this year's Olympia?
I'm known for my conditioning, but my biggest struggle has always been keeping my arms full and not letting them flatten out when I suck down in weight. I think I have a very symmetrical, well-shaped physique with a wide frame and great leg development. So for me it has always been about keeping my arms in balance so that when I do diet down, they won't suffer.
Q: Do you experience any problems holding your size when sucking down to the 202-pound class?
Well, it is more of a natural weight for me. Since they came up with the class it has been easier for me to diet. I thought I would have more trouble this year getting down, but as soon as I got back on my diet and got my cardio in, my physique fell back into place. Of course, sucking down that few extra pounds kind of brings my waist in more and brings in more separation, which I thinks makes me look better.
Q: This year's 202 lineup is stacked with top talent. You will be up against fellow top tier guys such as guys such as Kevin English. Where do you see yourself placing?
All I can be is the best I can be; I can only control myself. Taking fourth the first year and fifth last year I'm always right there in the mix with those guys, so having that whole year off has allowed me to pay more attention to detail and this I feel will carry me farther.
Q: Other than being wide for your height, what other major strengths do you have?
I think my legs; I have good quad sweep and thigh separation and definition, and overall balance and symmetry.
Q: Have you made any nutritional changes to prepare for this year's Olympia?
Yes, actually. It's been more of a struggle this time around because I've had to pay a little more attention to my diet. I have had to increase my calories from carbohydrates and proteins because I wanted to make sure I remained full the leaner I got. When I started getting into my cardio and on my diet, my body (condition-wise) just fell into place. So in order to stay full I added some calories and started using some Vitargo, carbing up differently and staying full.
Q: So you have found that despite getting older your metabolism is actually increasing?
Yes I had to add calories because my body was burning too many. I'm on a higher calorie diet this year compared to the one I was on last year. I'm training other pros such as Craig Richardson and Ben White and I'm taking in more calories than some of those guys right now [laughs] even though they are heavier than me. I have always been blessed with a good metabolism and the ability to stay in pretty close to contest shape year 'round. It is usually not that much of a struggle for me. This year it has been more of a balancing act though. I've been backing off the cardio when I felt it was needed, and increasing the calories.
Q: How do you schedule your cardio?
Well, in the past I have just added cardio six weeks out because I never really needed much, and I would only ever do 20-30 minutes. A couple of years ago I started doing 45 minutes of cardio when they added the 202-pound class. I did that because I thought the extra cardio would give me more of a streamlined look and it does give you cleaner separation and a more refined look. The problem with this is that 45 minutes is sometimes a little too much for me. So what I will do now is take a week off if I think I'm doing too much; sometimes it will be ten days off before again adding it. This year I started cardio ten weeks out and have taken two weeks off. I have added it back in now and I would like to continue doing it because we are now only three and a half weeks out.
Q: So would it be fair to say that training progression for you from here on out will be guided by where you are at rather than being specifically set in stone?
Exactly, nothing is really set in stone and you have to take that into consideration when planning out your prep. You have to take it day by day; everything changes; people get older and sluggish. I feel I've gotten better and more refined. Paying this kind of attention to my body is going to pay dividends. Of course everybody has an approach they like to stick to, but sometimes that's not necessarily the best thing. What I like to do is take it day by day. We are getting down to the end, so there are some days when I'm a little tired and lethargic. I really don't have any body fat left, so some days I'm really dragging my ass.
Q: What do you do on days when you are feeling excessively tired?
On days like that I am extra careful not to overtrain or do drop sets or go beyond failure. I will just go to failure to break down the muscles. This time around what I did do is train a little harder during my prep. The past couple of years I backed off because I felt that as soon as I started restricting my calories, if I overtrained I would start burning muscle. This year, because I have had to add calories, I was able to train harder and longer. This has made a difference to my physique and helped me to bring a couple of body parts up.
Q: How much heavier are you training this time around?
Well my training might involve more volume and going beyond failure and doing drop sets. I go heavy but it is always with good form; I don't like to do anything less than between 5-8 repetitions, but usually I will stick to between 8 to12 reps.
Q: Has you training evolved much over the years?
Yes, when I was younger I was more carefree and I was swinging heavier weights around. When you get older your tendons, ligaments and joints are not as caring and forgiving as they were when you were younger. So I do warm up properly and do take all of my supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM. I now pay attention to the little things that I may have let slip in the past. I will not leave any stone unturned.
Q: You have been competing for 12 years. Have your muscles become denser the longer you have been competing?
Yes, I think so. I think I have more of a classic type physique with good symmetry, shape and stage presence. I have a different look for a shorter guy; I don't appear short onstage and have added a lot of refinement and detail to my physique each year I have competed.
Q: What keeps you motivated to compete at the highest level year after year?
We are in a sport where you are on your own, so I like to compete because I am an athlete at heart. Now I am married and have a daughter so family is my key motivation which keeps me moving and working to do better. But at heart I'm an athlete and I'm always looking to improve and outdo my competitors.
Q: Do you feel you will compete much longer?
Well there is an end point in sight. I am 39 and we will see what happens this year and take it one show at a time.
Q: What do you hope to achieve at this year's Olympia?
Well this year I'm hoping to do better, to crack the top three and, ultimately, to win.
Q: Who do you feel will be your toughest competition?
The same guys I have battled in the past. I think it will come down to who really dials it in and comes in sharp. On any given day you could have Flex and Jose [Raymond] switch places; we have seen Kevin [English] at his best and we will see how he looks this year. I feel that having the whole year to recover and train has given me a boost. I think the top guys will be Kevin, Jose Raymond, [James] Flex Lewis and myself.
Q: What fires you up to train at a high intensity?
I train at around 6:30 a.m. and I work for VPX so am on the road at 9 a.m. My motivation is that I have to get my training in and get it in hard. I have a certain timeframe in which to do it so I have to lock it down during this time. As soon as I get up, [training] is the first thing on my mind, which allows me not to focus on anything else as opposed to others who may have to train later at night.
Q: What message would you like to pass on to your fans who will be coming to watch you at your best come Olympia time?
I would like to hear everybody cheer for me and would like to see all my fans out there. I will give a good show and do my best as I always do. I will be ready and will put 100 percent into it. Everyone will get their money's worth.