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Imagine standing at the edge of a bodybuilding stage and waiting for the announcer to call your name to walk out. You’ve prepared for this moment for months and trained for hundreds of hours to hear that crowd cheer and applaud you when you hit that first pose in front of the judges.
Erin Banks is different. He doesn’t even hear the crowd, and he said that he’s developed tunnel vision on contest day. Walking out onstage is a completely different experience for him.
“I don’t hear anybody, I don’t see anybody. Everything is a blur because I’m so focused because I prepared so much. From the posing routine to the food, the water cutting, everything else that goes into it. This is my spotlight, and I need to zone all the way in and present my physique in the best way that I can.”
Banks hasn’t been just showing up onstage, he’s been dominant in a short time. Banks is the reigning Arnold Classic Men’s Physique champion, and he won the 2022 Men’s Physique Olympia in Las Vegas in December. That makes him the number one Men’s Physique athlete in the world today. He was the first man to win both titles in the same year. Now, he’s looking to repeat that feat, starting with the 2023 Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH, on Saturday, March 4.
With all of this success, it’s hard to believe that Banks only got into bodybuilding in the last five years. He was working as a personal trainer in 2018, and competing in a bodybuilding show wasn’t even on his radar until a former trainer he knew talked him into stepping onstage.
“I was just a personal trainer, never thought about bodybuilding,” he revealed. “I wasn’t a fan of bodybuilding before I started bodybuilding myself. I didn’t know anything about it myself. She begged me to go for it, and I finally did.”
Banks would compete in his first show in 2019, the NPC Fresno Classic, which he won. By the end of that year, he earned his pro card at the NPC USA Championships. After skipping the 2020 season, he made his first pro appearance in the Houston Tournament of Champions, where he placed second. One month later, he won the New York Pro and qualified for the Olympia.
By the end of that year’s Olympia, he was side-by-side with champion Brandon Hendrickson waiting to hear who was announced as the winner. It would be Hendrickson on that day, but Banks was well on his way, and he knew how he wanted to use this new spotlight that was shining on him.
“Once I got into the sport, I wanted to be a guy like Jay Cutler. He had a big presence onstage, and he still has a big presence off the stage. Jay is a people person, and that’s a model I’d love to follow.”
One Arnold Classic and Olympia win later, Banks was on top, but he didn’t have much time to celebrate or take in the satisfaction of victory. Banks got sick after the Olympia, and he then had to immediately begin preparing to defend his Arnold Classic title, along with his coach, Ariel Cutz.
“I only got to enjoy the moment for like a day, and then I had to get right back into contest mode. So, it was right back to the drawing board,” he stated, “We’re bringing a different package. The goal is to come at the same stage weight, but with more muscle density. It will be a better overall package from top to bottom.”
Banks will start his title defense in the Greater Columbus Convention Center, where prejudging will be held on the Expo stage. He then will focus on finals at the Battelle Grand Ballroom in the same building that evening. In a surprising move between those times, he scheduled himself to meet fans at the Celsius booth during the Arnold Expo that day. Watch for him to be enjoying a Watermelon or Arctic Vibes flavored can while he’s there. If you’re going to the Arnold, he invites you to grab a can for yourself as well.
Banks feels that shaking hands and taking selfies, even with the pressure of competition, is important because he wants to meet his supporters and people that look up to him. He’s enjoying those moments as much as the fans do.
“So far, it’s been great,” said Banks. “I’m a people person. I’ve been able to meet a lot of people, encourage a lot of people, and I want to give back to my community back home. Also, these fans paid money to see Erin Banks compete or to meet me. It’s my opportunity to give back, at least for one hour.”
The Fresno, CA native may not have been a part of this sport for very long, but the former three-sport athlete is here now, and he doesn’t plan on going anywhere for a long time to come.
“Right now, I’m just rolling with it, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to win both shows in the same year. Now, I’m coming back with the opportunity to defend that Arnold title and as the reigning Olympia champion, again it’s a blessing. We’re in a good spot.”