Johnnie O. Jackson shares the hardcore truth about picking the best bodybuilding division that suits your goals and needs.

Welcome to the Hardcore Truth – our new podcast and digital series staring one of the strongest pro bodybuilders in the world – Johnnie O. Jackson. Known for his incredible physique, strength, and hardcore training sessions with Branch Warren, Johnnie is gearing up with a mic and camera to share his most valuable lessons from a career in bodybuilding and strength training. This week, Johnnie O. Jackson helps break down how to decide which bodybuilding division is best for you.

At this point in time, there are over 10 different divisions in professional bodybuilding. And it seems like the introduction of new divisions is not slowing down. This past year saw the official entry of Wellness into the Olympia weekend. Just a few years earlier, we saw the creation of Classic Physique – which has grown with wild popularity. So with so many divisions to choose from, how do you know which is right for you? In our latest episode of Hardcore Truth, Johnnie O. Jackson breaks down key factors to consider when deciding which division to compete in.

The most important factor to consider, Johnnie O. Jackson claims, is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing. While Men’s Open bodybuilding, for example, might bring the most eyeballs and prize money – if it’s a struggle to keep yourself at that size – it will make you unhappy. Bodybuilding as a sport takes passion. Decide what makes you happiest about bodybuilding, what you would like to look like physically, and choose your division based on that.

Of course, it’s important to also be realistic about your goals. Johnnie O. Jackson challenges aspiring bodybuilders to really look at the competition on stage in each division. Does the aspiring bodybuilder have the genetics to succeed with that look? Do they have the drive? Do they have the bone structure that lends towards success with that muscular look?

Delusions will only lead to heartbreak in the end – and with a lot of time wasted. So it’s important that an aspiring bodybuilder can be honest with themselves early. Bodybuilding as a whole takes time. You’d rather it not be wasted after years dedicating to the wrong division or perhaps the wrong sport entirely.

That being said, Johnnie O. Jackson is also very careful to discourage confident aspiring bodybuilders. Confidence and even cockiness is important in becoming a champion. Legends in the sport aim to do what is impossible – and ultimately achieve it. That’s what makes them legends. So if an aspiring bodybuilder truly believes they can be the best in a specific division – even when others claim they don’t have the right genetics or structure for it – don’t be discouraged.

There’s a fine line between delusional thinking and confidence. A legend straddles that line very closely. The only difference between a legend and a fool – is whether or not the person succeeds in the end.

Johnnie O. Jackson also shares some advice on how to properly make weight depending on which division you want to compete in. He uses these tactics as an example of how you can manipulate the division itself to meet your best strengths. If you think that your physique is at it’s best at 220 pounds but not big enough to hold up against the Men’s Open competitors who typically stand at 250+ lbs – perhaps 212 division is best for you.

What you can do is make weight the night before – and then put on pounds and build up hard muscle in the next 24 hours. You can essentially be a powerful bodybuilder weighing 220 pounds facing off against others much smaller than you. It’s a tactic that Johnnie O. Jackson used himself – and one that might be able to be applied to various divisions in the sport.

You can watch Johnnie O. Jackson go into full detail in our latest episode of Hardcore Truth above. Make sure to stick around every Thursday for new episodes!

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.