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Bodybuilder or Artiste?

The Ever-changing art of Andrulla Blanchette

I say it's the same difference. As a bodybuilder I sculpt my body in the gym, using the machines and weights as my tools. My body is my artwork'call it the clay if you like. I mold it and chisel it with exercise. The conventional artist uses a canvas and paint, with the brushes as the tools to make changes to the work of art. Yes, there are major differences. My work of art is ever changing. I never put down my brush or chisel; I never stop adding paint or clay.

I always have a picture in my mind of how I want the muscle to look. I also have an overall picture of how I want my body to look. Each muscle in harmony, a perfect balance, no muscle overshadowing the next. That picture can be static awhile, but it is forever changing. It tends to change as I achieve or get closer to realizing it in flesh form.

I choose my exercises and equipment as an artist chooses a paintbrush or chisel. If the artist requires fine detail, he or she chooses a fine-haired brush, as a big brush will throw too much paint down and will be difficult to control. It can ruin the overall picture.

To make the comparison, look around you in the gym. How many people do you see lifting weights that are far heavier than is necessary? They're incapable of using the weight they've chosen for the exercise; however, they still continue to go through the motions, throwing it, heaving it with all their might, using their legs and back to swing it and get it in motion. Some do it to lesser degree, others greater.

My advice is to leave your ego outside the gym door. You may say, 'Hey, wait a minute, I need my ego. It gives me a boost. I feel tougher, more brutal, and it helps me.' Okay, that's your choice. I'm not trying to force my opinions on anyone, just sharing certain things that I did along the journey that helped me.

During my early training days I worked out with two powerlifters, Neil and Andy. They taught me how to do the basic movements. I was extremely weak when it came to squatting. I had great upper-body power, much of which I attained from judo, but my legs were weak.

They showed me how to squat reasonably well, but left to my own devices, with the help of Ms. Ego, I wacked up the poundages, as I knew I could, and forced the weight up. I did get stronger. In fact, I got stronger all around by doing that during squats.

Then the crunch hit. I would get stuck on a weight for a while, and I'd get pissed till I couldn't bear it any longer. I needed to lift more. I thought that more weight meant bigger muscles. That's both right and wrong. It's right if the muscle that's being targeted is doing the lifting. It's wrong if the workload is being shared by a bunch of muscle groups. No wonder I was gaining all over except in the area where I should have been making gains. I was pushing that bar with my butt; then my lower back was helping. It was great for my erectors, not to mention my arms, which always like to steal a percentage where they can.

Do you see how this relates to painting? I was splashing poundage around the way an artist splashes too much paint if he or she uses too big a brush. In other words, you have a better chance of targeting the muscle you're supposed to be working if you choose a weight that's correct for the task at hand.

I treat the equipment in the gym as my artistic tools. Let's say I need to add some clay (muscle) to a given area. It may be a stubborn area like quads, which have been a challenge for me. It took seven years for me to see positive results in that area of my physique.

I used to train legs twice a week. I would batter them, tear them apart. I'd train so hard that I couldn't walk in a straight line the following day. I was forever distressed about the fact that I gave so much and yet achieved no visible difference. I even cut down on other bodyparts in order to hit my legs more, and I started to work legs three times each week.

It was around 1992, when I made a major comeback into the competitive arena, that I totally reevaluated my thinking on nutrition and training. I began to break the mold. I stopped being totally religious about following the set routine I'd been doing for so long.

I noticed that when I trained my back just once a week and my legs twice, my back started to grow bigger and stronger. I found that odd. It wasn't my intention to add more muscle to my back at that stage. My back musculature was far, far ahead of the rest of my physique, and I thought by cutting back on working the area and putting more energy and focus into my legs, they'd catch up and my back would remain the same'but my back grew. Worse than that, my legs got smaller.

That's when it hit me'it was the recovery!

I was training my back hard just once each week. By allowing it to recover, I was enabling it to bypass all the other bodyparts. I began to experiment with rest times. I found that training each bodypart just once each week worked for me. At first it felt completely alien. I felt as though I was being complacent. I was so used to training more often; however, I followed through, and sure enough the visual changes occurred. The artist had triumphed.

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