Michigan has its share of great bodybuilders. IFBB North American Champions John Simmons, eight time Ms.Olympia Lenda Murray and most recently Shelby Starnes hail from there. However one more name hopes to put the “Mitten” on the map, IFBB pro Kenneth Jackson.
Jackson, 36 and a native of Detroit, has always been fascinated with bodybuilding.
“I was always impressed with their size and conditioning,” he said. He also thought the physiques he admired was a fantasy to try and attain.
“It just seemed like an impossible task. When I stopped playing college football, that’s when I had a lot of time on my hands,” he said.
When his playing days at the University of Michigan came to a close, he won a National Championship playing alongside NFL stars Tom Brady and Charles Woodson, he was asked by people if he competed.
“When I said I don’t compete, I was told I have a gift,” he said.
With that Jackson hit the ground running on the posing dais. His first foray in 2005 in competitive bodybuilding didn’t go well. He said it wasn’t until 2007 when IFBB Pro and fellow Michigan native Darien Bond helped him with his prep. With Bond in his corner, Jackson won the 2007 NPC Motor City Classic heavyweight and overall crown.
“That was my first real introduction into bodybuilding,” he said.
In 2008 Jackson took to the NPC Jr. Nationals and netted a first place finish in the light heavyweight division. The experience of preparing for a national level bodybuilding show was another eye opener for him.
“It was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life. Once I started training for the Jr. Nationals, Darien took me on a ride for 20 weeks,” he said.
Since turning pro at the 2011 IFBB North Americans Jackson is back to being a rookie without shoulder pads. He summed it up with one word.
“Pressure. When you’re training to be a top amateur you’re focusing on something you don’t have. When you become a pro, each time you step onstage, you’re expected to look like a pro,” he said.
The unique thing is Jackson is used to performing under pressure. As a former division one athlete he understands what pressure is. He said there was one practice as a freshman that stands out.
“We were in a scrimmage and I wasn’t doing very well except for Charles (Woodson). I played defensive back alongside him and I was getting burned,” he said. Woodson yelled five words that Jackson said would turn around his entire time at Michigan.
“Quit playing like a fucking freshman!” Woodson said. What made it stick with Jackson is that they were both freshman at the time. Jackson also said the lessons on the football field came with him to the weight room.
“Work ethic is number one on the list and drive. You never want to rest on your past accomplishments,”
Now working with Neil Hill and utilizing the Y3T training method, Jackson is not resting with one of the most notable task-masters as his contest prep coach.
“I love Neil to death. I can’t ask for anymore out of a coach. Neil can work with anyone in the world and I’m apart of his team, so I feel honored,” he said.
The Gaspari Nutrition athlete is excited to make his debut in 2013. Hill said his greatest strength is his overall body.
“My thing is physique. I’m not going to out power anyone,” he said. With Hill and CEO of Gaspari Nutrition and IFBB Hall of Famer Rich Gaspari in his corner, Jackson said he knows he can do well.
“I’m excited for what’s to come,” he said.
Jackson sends special thanks to his wife Nikki Jackson, Joe Volgey (athlete rep for Gaspari Nutrition), Neil Hill and Flex Lewis (212 Olympia Challenge Champion) who Jackson gains inspiration from.
“He busted his ass, saw his dream and went after it. If anyone wants to model themselves after a bodybuilder, Flex is definitely it.” he said.