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THE MEN’S PHYSIQUE DIVISION CONTINUES TO GROW, AND IFBB PRO Anton Antipov TELLS US WHY HE THINKS IT JUST MIGHT BE THE NEXT BIG GAME CHANGER
In 2012, the IFBB inaugurated its men’s physique division, opening the competitive door for countless men blessed with great genetics and strong work ethics. For Anton Antipov, it marked the start of a new career and a new life.
“Every year I make 12 resolutions, one for each month, something doable, like reading a book by a new author or visiting someplace new,” Antipov says. “One of those resolutions was to compete in a men’s physique competition.”
Antipov went to the 2012 NPC Steve Stone Metropolitans to spectate, but he made a game-time decision to hop into the show and wound up placing fourth. “If I could jump into a show half-assed and get fourth, I wondered what I could accomplish if I actually prepared,” he says.
Antipov did nine contests in 2012, winning his pro card at the IFBB North Americans. To date, he’s won multiple pro shows and has earned recognition as one of the top Men's Physique athletes in the indutry.
Many men’s physique competitors share the same characteristics: They’re former high school or collegiate athletes who got into modeling or bodybuilding. Antipov didn’t start competing at age 17 like current Olympia Men’s Physique Showdown winner Jeremy Buendia, yet he has more athletic history than Arnold Classic Champion Sadik Hadzovic. In fact, sports are how Antipov learned to speak English. “In 1997, I came to the U.S. from Belarus, where I played hockey,” Antipov says. “I didn’t speak English, so I knocked on the doors of kids who lived on my block and asked if they wanted to play hockey with me.”
THE PERFECT BEACH BOD
Antipov started his career as a 140-pound fashion model, traveling the world doing photo shoots. After realizing it wasn’t sustainable, he signed with a fitness modeling agency and starting booking fitness shoots and learning more about bodybuilding. “I didn’t think about competing until my booker told me about men’s physique,” he reveals.
“You want to come in looking like the perfect body you’d see on the beach,” NPC and IFBB judge and chairman of the NPC Northeast, New York and New Jersey, Steve Weinberger says. “You go, ‘Look at that body—I can attain that just by going to the gym, dieting, and doing my cardio.’ ”
THE CARDIO KING
Another constant in Antipov’s training is his cardio. He starts with ab training in the morning on an empty stomach, then does sprints followed by the StairMaster and StepMill. Then comes the day’s first meal.
Running and walking are staples of Antipov’s life, and he competes in charity races to raise money for various causes. He also completes Tough Mudder and Spartan Race obstacle races just to challenge himself. Based in New York City, Antipov walks virtually everywhere, which adds up to a lot of calories burned. “All of the walking helps keep me in shape; it’s steady cardio.”
Antipov has previously bulked up to 205 pounds, but now he fluctuates between 186 and 195. His training is completely instinctual; he doesn’t have a set training split.
“I train whatever I feel like training, so if my legs are lagging I sacrifice an arm day for an extra leg day,” he says. “I dedicate up to two hours to lagging body parts.”
One certainty of Antipov’s training is his attention to detail.
“I usually do one compound exercise, and the rest are isolation exercises where I add more detail,” he says. “When you create more detail you create more separation in the muscle.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MEN’S PHYSIQUE
On May 21, 2011, at the NPC Jr. Nationals, the National Physique Committee introduced the men’s physique division. To find out how and why the division was created, we asked Weinberger. “Every year there’s a meeting that [IFBB president] Jim Manion holds with all of the chairmen, and that’s where ideas are brought to the table,” Weinberger says. “It was Jim’s idea, everyone knew it was a great idea. Not everybody wants to be built like a bodybuilder. Men’s physique gives a platform for these guys to compete.”
The NPC’s criteria for men’s physique states: “Judges will be looking for fit contestants who display proper shape and symmetry combined with muscularity and overall condition. Judges are looking for the contestant with the best stage presence and poise who can successfully convey his personality to the audience.”
THE EVOLUTION OF PHYSIQUE
Proportion is key for men’s physique athletes. However, posing along with the overall look has changed since the division’s inception. “When it first started, all you did onstage was put your hand on your hip; you couldn’t flex anything,” says Antipov. “Now everyone flexes everything. Some guys are posing like 1980s bodybuilders.”
The overall look, Antipov says, has seen a trend toward more size coupled with increased conditioning. Officially, coming in too big is supposed to be a disadvantage, but as of now there is no plan to curtail the strive for more size. “We try to make sure not to have anyone too big,” Weinberger says. “Some guys are going over a bit, but they don’t win, because they’re too big. We’re going to keep it just the way it is because it’s very successful and popular.”
Men’s physique has attracted athletes from all walks of fitness. “There’s a broader range of possibility for men’s physique,” Antipov says.
Change is upon us, with Weinberger adding that men’s physique will continue to grow to be just as popular as bodybuilding. Antipov goes one further.
“Men’s physique is going to become the new bodybuilding.”
The exposure of men’s physique is a win for the fitness community, as it inspires weekend warriors and professional athletes alike to reach an attainable goal.
ALTERNATING DUMBBELL CURL
I pretend I have a preacher bench underneath my elbow, sticking my elbow out forward before curling to place tension on my biceps.
SINGLE-ARM CABLE CROSSOVER
Keep your elbow bent throughout the entire movement. Do not overbend.
HANGING KNEE RAISE
Slowly bring knees up, pause, and slowly lower. To keep constant tension, don’t lower your knees all the way down.
Pretend you have a pencil in the middle of your back to keep your shoulders on the bench. This places the stress on your pecs.
MACHINE CHEST PRESS
Push sideways across your body. Perform on an incline to hit inner and upper chest.
SAMPLE DETAILS WORKOUT
Cable Crossover*: 4 sets, 12-15 reps
Dumbbell Bench: 4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6, 20** reps
Machine Chest Press: 4 sets, 12-15 reps (each arm)
Dumbbell Flye: 4 sets, 12, 10, 8, 6 reps
Chest Dip: 2 sets, 15 reps
Dumbbell Curl: 4 sets, 10 reps
Overhead Dumbbell Triceps Extension: 4 sets, 14 reps
Hanging Knee Raise: 3 sets, 12 reps
Oblique Cable Crunch: 3 sets, 12 reps
*On Set 1, arms meet at the bottom of the chest. On Sets 2-4, arms meet higher on the chest. Set 4 will have arms meet at the middle of the chest.
**Drop weight by 50% and do a dropset for 20 reps.