Breaking News! Return of the Russian

Alex Federov returns to compete at the IFBB Grand Prix Fitness House Pro Mens Open on November 1st!



In 1703, Russia’s Peter the Great captured a Swedish outpost on the Baltic Sea. In the decades after, St. Petersburg blossomed. Noted for its awe-inspiring architecture and canal-laden topography, it became the capital of Russia and a center of intellectual and artistic progress. It was one of the world’s greatest cities during the 18th and 19th centuries. But in the aftermath of 1917’s Communist revolution, the city was renamed Leningrad, and it languished behind the Iron Curtain for 67 years—a period that included a devastating 2.-year siege by the Nazis during World War II. 

During the Communist years, Anatoli Fedorov was a Leningrad bus driver with a passion for working out. Because the individualist pursuit of bodybuilding was scorned by the Soviet state, gyms were scarce. So Fedorov and his friends started their own gym in a utility shed in sprawling Yuzhonoye Cemetery. It had no heat. It was dark and infested with rats. But they moved in weights and built primitive squat racks and pulley machines, and there they toiled, sometimes bundled in clothes to stave off the coldest Soviet winters.


“I used to go to the gym to watch my father train,” Alex Fedorov says. “I knew I wanted to be a bodybuilder.” On the first day of 1992, Anatali began training 13-year-old Alexander. Soviet communism had ended, Leningrad had been renamed St. Petersburg, and commercial gyms were sprouting up. Still, the Fedorovs worked out among the graves. They had no bodybuilding magazines. Instead, the son learned from his father’s expertise and from his own trial and error. “My father knew that at my height, I would compete in the unlimited [weight] class, so our main point then was just to get me as big as possible. I always trained heavy, always trying to use more weight one workout than the one before. We didn’t focus on diet much. I just ate a lot, even though it wasn’t always healthy food.” 

At 15, he started competing in bodybuilding contests. In a photo of him striking a pose at 18, you can see the full muscle bellies and the blossoming quads, but it’s also apparent  he has a long way to go to fill out his lanky frame. But progress was rapid in subsequent years. He won the junior titles of the 1997 German Open (at 19) and the 1998 World Championships (at 20). Then, under the tutelage of his father, he stayed off stages and built himself up for the open class. 

In the middle, between the No. 1 and No. 2 bodybuilders on the planet, was 25-year-old Fedorov. And, against all odds, he was holding his own.

Alexander Fedorov peaked on May 6, 2003, his 25th birthday. That’s when he dominated the IFBB European Amateur Championships with a physique notable as much for its proportional aesthetics as its mass. Watch the YouTube video, slightly more than a minute long, of him posing at that contest. He’s smaller than he was almost six months later when he battled Coleman and Cutler. His conditioning is a bit blurry and made blurrier by the mudlike Dream Tan European bodybuilders coated themselves in. Nevertheless, he has all the tools. His chest is in line with the rest of him. Project the gains on that physique, chest and all, that we saw him make over the following two years, and he may have lived up to every bit of his hype. He may have challenged Coleman and Cutler on the Olympia stage, and he might still be challenging Phil Heath today.  Perhaps he could’ve brought Sandows home to St. Petersburg.

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