Teen Amateur Of The Week: Alex's Love Of Lifting Gave Him Strength
When Alex grew tired of being "skinny fat," he drew on the lessons he'd learned from running and karate, but it was his love of weightlifting that kept him going.
Name: Alex Oda
Weight: 165 lbs
Years Bodybuilding: 4
How did your fitness
I was always active as a child, but never really considered myself an athlete. I started karate when I was six, and eventually became a cross country and track runner from junior high onward through my senior year of high school. I liked being lean and had a strong core, but I used to look in the mirror and envision a larger, more muscular physique. Although running and karate taught me difficult lessons about perseverance and endurance, I wasn't able to pack on much mass due to my commitment as a distance runner. In the summer of my senior year of high school, I had stopped running and started losing my abdominals. I was becoming "skinny fat" and began lifting occasionally just so I wouldn't lose my old muscular definition.
My biggest step forward toward my transformation happened during my freshman year of college at the University of Illinois. During the first week of my freshman year of college, I finally had an opportunity to pursue weight training. I told myself I would work out at the gym every day for 30 days straight to make it a habit. I lasted 35 days before my first rest day—and after that, I was hooked. I loved the feeling of soreness after a workout, the small day-to-day differences I would notice in my body, and the intensity I could emit while in the gym.
I started out not knowing anything about workout splits (I bench pressed and curled every day), exercise movements, or dieting, but I slowly began to absorb knowledge from experienced lifters and online research. I began to focus less on the physical changes in my body, and more on the number of repetitions I'd reach or weight I increased in the gym. Over time, my goal switched from being the biggest guy in the gym to working harder every day that I trained.
The gradual increase in strength, the visual feedback I saw in the mirror, and the uplifting comments by my peers helped to initially propel me forward. Ultimately, however, my intrinsic motivation to continue lifting has played the biggest role in my progress. I started at 135 pounds at 5-foot-10 (17 years old at 8 percent body fat) and now weigh 165 pounds (21 years old at 6 percent body fat), having just finished my first national level competition with the NPC.
What workout regimen delivered the best results?
My workout routine will cycle between strength building and hypertrophy, depending on whether or not I'm preparing for a competition or training in the off-season. Currently, I'm doing a strength-building routine as I enter a bulking phase for the next 1-2 years.
I've used a routine similar to this in the past, and it has helped me make measurable strength gains while still training for targeted hypertrophy. My rest between compound movements is generally 2:00-2:15, and 1:45-2:00 between isolation movements.
How did your passion for fitness emerge?
My passion for fitness emerged from the feeling of intensity and euphoria in the gym and the gratification of improvement on a day-to-day basis—both in the mirror and on paper. I love how fitness has aspects of both science and intrinsic motivation, and that both these factors can be considered when trying to get over a strength plateau or to build out a body part. The immense satisfaction of setting a new PR or building out a body part keeps me driven.
What or who motivated you?
Physically, there are a number of athletes I've admired for different traits—Bruce Lee's proportional muscular strength and worldly outlook; Ryan Terry's core and symmetry; Jeff Seid's V-taper. Internally, hearing about how I've been able to motivate others with my progress also keeps me driven to work hard and make a positive impact in my community. Finally, looking at how far I've come and my future fitness plans keeps me focused and motivated.
Where did you go for inspiration?
I've gone through phases where I would YouTube motivational fitness videos on a daily basis; the ones I would watch the most were usually of people going until absolute failure at the gym. I've downloaded motivational speeches onto my playlists, and would play them as I commuted back from a long day of work or school in order to get myself in the zone.
During contest prep, I'd watch videos of IFBB pros on stage to help me keep focused and motivated. Finally, I'd look at some of the transformation articles on Bodybuilding.com to remind myself of how far I (and others) have come.
What are your future fitness plans?
I intend to take the next 1-2 years to bulk up; I would ideally like to hit the stage at 175 pounds and 6 percent body fat in 2016. In the meantime, I work on a fitness-related startup company on the weekends with a few other engineers that should launch later this year.
What is the most important fitness tip?
It's difficult giving just a single meaningful tip, but I would say my biggest word of advice is to always strive to go outside your comfort zone. Whether it's the first time you mail in a check to compete or each day you fight for one more rep in a workout, it's that feeling of taking on something new and exciting that will help you grow into a more competitive athlete—it all ties in with becoming a lifelong learner and goal-oriented individual.
Who is your favorite competitor?
Ryan Terry is definitely one of my favorite competitors. Besides his incredible symmetry and extremely defined muscular condition, he has an extremely humble attitude and has progressively made steps toward impacting the fitness community. He started out as a plumber, won the Mister International Title in 2010, and became the first IFBB pro from the UK—all of these things are a sign of someone who is progressive and constantly setting new goals.
How did Bodybuilding.com help you reach your goals?
Bodybuilding.com was my first real outlet with exposure to the fitness industry. Most of my research related to training and nutrition started from the website's databases. When I first started out, I followed a lot of routines that were posted on the site. I also found the Exercise Database (which shows you every exercise available, the proper form, and user ratings) extremely helpful.
When I wanted to learn more about creating my own workouts, I did research on the articles that were published by accredited authors. From a motivation standpoint, I loved reading about some of the transformations and hearing about the hardships people have overcome in order to improve their quality of life.
And from a supplementation standpoint, I've been using Bodybuilding.com since my first year of training to order supplements. I've always received quick shipping and excellent customer service.
Alex's Favorite Gym Tracks
Cash Cash feat. Bebe Rexha
"Take Me Home"
EDX feat. Hadley
"Everything (Cazzette Remix)"
XV feat. Wiz Khalifa
"Gobstopper (Figure Remix)"
Sebastian Ingrosso & Alesso feat. Ryan Tedder
"Calling (Lose My Mind)"
- NPC Natural Mid-States Muscle Classic (1st in class D)
- NPC Jr. Nationals