Welcome to the first edition of “My PRIME With…”. Each month, we will feature a PRIME customer, friend or employee to uncover what motivates them, their training philosophies and where their sights are set for the future. Who knows, hearing their story might help you #FindYourPRIME!
This month, we put the spotlight on none other than Ben “BPak” Pakulski. Ben is a world-renowned Canadian born IFBB Pro bodybuilder. Known for his cerebral approach to training, Ben is a 3x Mr. Olympia qualifier and the 2016 Vancouver Pro Show Champion. Ben is also the owner of MI40 Gym in Tampa, FL – one of the most sought after private training facilities in the country, attracting bodybuilders, athletes, movie stars and fitness enthusiasts from all over the globe. MI40 is also home to 20+ pieces of PRIME equipment, making it one of the most “PRIMEified” gyms in the USA. Interested in training with Ben and his team at MI40? We recommend attending one of their camps, it will change the way you train, your perspective and most likely your life. Learn more here: www.mi40nation.com/camp/
PRIME: Ben, how long have you been bodybuilding?
BPak: I’ve been training since I was 15 years old. I started as a long-distance runner. I was 155 lbs and decided I wanted to be stronger and faster for sports. I primarily played baseball, hockey and football at the time, so I started doing some weight lifting. I enjoyed it. I found I got faster and stronger, so I stopped doing long distance running and started eating meat (I was a vegetarian at that point in my life). I found my passion for bodybuilding at literally 15 years old. I had no desire to be a bodybuilder at that time, I just loved to train. By about 17 years old I became a little more indoctrinated into the bodybuilding lifestyle and decided I wanted to get bigger. I went from 165 or 170 to 235 pretty quickly because I was training twice a day and started eating diligently, I ate a lot of food!
PRIME: At what age did you know you wanted to be a pro bodybuilder?
BPak: I don’t know that I ever really decided I wanted to be a pro bodybuilder. It was something that just kind of happened. I loved training and bodybuilding, and I knew I could be a pro bodybuilder. The first time I thought about it, I was probably 18 years old, but I don’t know that it was singular goal for me. When I was 17, I went to my first Mr. Olympia contest in 1998 in NYC and in 1999 I went back in Las Vegas. Both of those events were massive eye openers for me. Between those events, I had actually put on about 60 pounds of muscle- I think I was about 230 in 1999. By that point, I knew I enjoyed bodybuilding and knew I wanted to compete. I wanted to compete because I wanted to get in shape to look great in a suit. After University, I got a pharmaceutical sales job and wanted to look like a boss in a suit! So, I competed and won – I basically won every event I entered. Two years later, in 2007, I did two national shows and lost each by 1 point. The following year I came back and won my pro card at the Canadian Nationals in 2008.
PRIME: When you started your bodybuilding journey, who motivated you? Who were the people that inspired you? Why?
BPak: My biggest inspiration in the sport of bodybuilding, without a doubt, was Dorian Yates; six-time Mr. Olympia. He just had this amazing mystique about him. He was the hardest working guy. His look was incredible, so hard, so grainy. I loved the idea of his work ethic, because that is what drew me to bodybuilding. It was never the aesthetic appeal, just the masculinity of it and the hard work. It was a really definitive, objective way for me to work hard. I enjoyed that idea of constantly building myself. I was also inspired by Jay Cutler, Lee Priest, Milo Sarcev and many other guys along the way who were great inspirations for me.
PRIME: You’re known for your intelligent approach within bodybuilding community, where did that originate and how do you think it’s affected your bodybuilding career?
BPak: I think I knew from the time I was 15 years old that I was particularly gifted. I knew that because the guys I trained with, who were the same age as me, were much stronger than me and more muscular than me. They had a much easier time building muscle than I did. So, I started reading. I read everything I could get my hands on – magazines, books, and I started to look for people I could rely on as being authorities. I went to the University of Western Ontario in 2000, and studied kinesiology and biomechanics. So, I guess that was the start of my ‘mindful approach’ to my training. But, like other people aspiring to have a great physique, my focus was primarily on nutrition and periodization, which is how to logically vary your stimulus. Unfortunately, that’s a huge mistake for most people. It doesn’t matter how many sets you do, how many reps you do, what your stimulus is, if it’s strength, if it’s hypertrophy, if it’s neurological, if it’s is metabolic – none of those things matter if your execution is not on point. Proper execution is more important than any of those other things, including nutrition from my perspective. Without proper execution, nothing matters – and I didn’t know that. I studied it, but I didn’t really know it until about 2007. I learned that from a gentleman named Peter Chiasson, who unfortunately passed away in 2012. He was my greatest influence in execution to begin with and it’s obviously expanded a lot from there. It started because I realized hard work was awesome and it got me far, but it also developed massive, glaring imbalances in my physique. I had great strengths and great weaknesses. I didn’t know how to develop those weaknesses because ever time I would pick up a weight, my strengths dominate movements. Then someone said something that really opened my eyes. The idea is, your body is the same on the inside. There is no such thing as strengths and weaknesses. It’s all the same muscle fiber composition, it’s all the same hormonal profiles inside your body. The only difference is, when you pick up a weight, how your body distributes tension throughout your body. So, genetics refers to how your body mechanically distributes tension throughout your body, so you have certain body parts that tend to take tension and certain ones that don’t tend to take tension. Thankfully, that allows us to realize that we’re in control of the ability to build a symmetric body. Some people do it really easily genetically, and don’t have to think about it. Some people, it requires a lot of thought and a lot of mindful dedication to perform very precise execution. So, I’ve developed a system called Precision Exercise Execution, which is what MI40 started around.
PRIME: In 2015, you opened MI40 Gym in Tampa, Florida. You have 20+ pieces of PRIME equipment. Why was having PRIME equipment in such a big way so important at MI40?
BPak: Once you learn how to execute effective exercise strategies, you realize the importance of loading a muscle at every aspect of the range, and varying that load at every aspect of the range and most importantly understanding that your body has a varying capacity to generate force at each part of the range. So, having the ability to manipulate how much load I put at each part of the range of motion is a massive advantage and necessity for me in my training – and that’s exactly what their SmartStrength technology does. So, when I built my gym, I literally hand selected each piece of equipment for myself, because I was selfishly trying to build the perfect training environment for me. That included as many PRIME pieces I could fit. I got the entire Plate Loaded line and a large number of their Selectorized pieces. To this day, they are still the best and most used pieces in my gym.
PRIME: What’s on the horizon with BPak? What can everyone expect from you in the next 5 years?
BPak: In the next 5 years, I expect to be synonymous with the #1 muscle building brand in the industry. We’re teaching people effective strategies to learn execution and now progressing in to teaching people intelligent programming, nutrition, theories, protocols, and expanding in to other avenues such as supplementation – just full life optimization. I think as I age, my focus becomes not just being as big as possible, but being as healthy as possible. That includes health optimization from the inside, as well as looking like a badass on the outside.