If perfection were easy, anybody could look this way.
Perfection takes complete commitment and daily discipline. It means no junk-food binges or workout skipping. It requires devotion and focus.
Perfection drives Jeremy Buendia, who is pushing his muscles and mind toward a singular goal — having the best-looking body in the world.
Winner of five consecutive state and national contests this year, the Roseville fitness trainer hopes to make history with his phenomenal physique. He’s competing in the inaugural men’s Physique Showdown division at Joe Weider’s Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas, the Super Bowl of fitness and body building.
“This is the show where they’ll set precedents for years to come,” said Mike Wood, Buendia’s coach. “Jeremy could be setting the bar for the perfect ideal physique.”
Buendia, who turned professional this summer, is among eight men worldwide who have qualified for the physique showdown at Olympia Weekend, to be held Sept. 26-29 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The event is best known for its Mr. Olympia body builders (that’s the title that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fame). Not eligible for the title of Mr. Olympia itself, Buendia will vie for the new Olympia men’s Physique Showdown crown.
On his road to Olympia, Buendia has traveled thousands of miles since last summer. He won his professional debut in New Orleans on June 22. That followed his overall victory in the 2013 Junior USA Championships in Charleston, S.C. Before that, he had strung together three consecutive overall titles in California.
Buendia, 22, realizes he’s already accomplished a lot.
“Walking in as a rookie and winning a pro show is unheard of,” he said. “This is the first time men’s Physique will be at Olympia. It’s really important to me. My name could go down in history.”
Olympia is synonymous with bodybuilding glory. In the 1970s, Schwarzenegger shot to worldwide stardom as Mr. Olympia. Other Mr. Olympias such as Frank Zane, Lee Haney, Ronnie Coleman and current Mr. Olympia Phil Heath continue to inspire young weightlifters.
As popularity of pumping iron grew, so did Olympia. First prize was worth $1,000 when Schwarzenegger won his first of seven titles in 1970. Now, it’s worth $250,000 plus much more in endorsements. Meanwhile, gyms and workout equipment have become commonplace.
“Bodybuilding obviously continues to be very popular,” said Wood, a longtime Roseville trainer. “It’s definitely still the No. 1 fitness sport, but it could be overshadowed by physique (competition). That’s growing very rapidly.”
The physique category is a throwback to past Mr. Olympias with an emphasis on total physique and proportion, not just muscle mass.
“Frank Zane was my idol when I started out as a teenager,” Wood said. “He was the one with the physique I wanted to be like. He was proportionally perfect.
“The ideal (in physique) is good proportion and balance; tight waist and broad shoulders,” Wood continued. “Think Abercrombie (& Fitch) guys with more muscle. It’s a very marketable look.”
Instead of building bulk (think the Incredible Hulk), physique competitors emphasize their natural musculature, honed to perfection. They wear board shorts and pose simply with four quarter turns.
“For athletes who preferred a more streamlined and classic look, men’s physique was the perfect platform to fulfill their competitive dreams,” said the official Olympia website in announcing the new category.
Said Buendia, “It’s classified more as a ‘pretty boy’ category. It’s about aesthetics; the ratio of your waist to chest and shoulders. (Judging is up to) what’s most pleasing to the eye.”
Buendia also has an X factor.
“It comes down to stage presence,” he said. “When I’m onstage, people say I take control.”
Said Wood, “You’ve got make the judges remember you — in a good way. You’ve got to make yourself stand out. And Jeremy does that.”
A former football player at Whitney High School, Buendia started lifting weights seriously while a high school freshman. A neck injury his senior year derailed his gridiron aspirations, but not his love of the gym.
“I couldn’t play anymore,” he said, “but I got serious about bodybuilding.”
Originally, Buendia competed as a body builder, where the emphasis is on overall size and mass.
“I wasn’t comfortable being that big,” he said. “I was one of the smaller body builders. I dropped 20 pounds and switched to physique.”
In competition, Buendia weighs in at 167 pounds. “I’m really out of shape right now,” he said with a smile. “I’m at 180. In competition, I’m at 2 percent body fat, but it’s unhealthy to stay at that (low level) all the time.”
In the six weeks before Olympia, Buendia will drop his weight while fine-tuning his muscles.
At 5-foot-8, he has a phenomenally small waist — just over 26 inches. That helps accentuate his broad shoulders.
“Jeremy is blessed with genetics,” Wood said. “His waist is so small, it’s absolutely teeny. He’s also very good looking; that helps, too. Physique is about the total look, like bikini (competition) for women. The judges are looking for that overall look. In bodybuilding, they’re looking at the neck down. That’s what makes this division even harder to win. You don’t have to have just a great physique; you’ve got to be handsome, too.”
Buendia, a Filipino-American, was practically born to be a body builder. He grew up watching his father, Louie, work out and wanted to pump iron, too.
“I owe it to my dad for my naturally small waist,” he said. “He still looks great.”
Fitness has become Buendia’s life. He can bench-press 500 pounds and make it look easy. In workouts, he routinely pumps 80-pound barbells in each hand without breaking a sweat.
Besides his physique career, he launched his own team — FitBody Fusion — to develop, coach and train other elite fitness competitors.
“I work out about 90 minutes a day — not that much,” Buendia said during a break at Anytime Fitness in Roseville. “It’s more about diet and eating correctly.”
Buendia fuels his body with seven high-protein, low-carb meals a day.
“Lots of chicken, fish and lean beef,” he said. “I eat about 2 1/2 pounds of protein a day; a lot of egg whites, too. Plus sweet potatoes and asparagus; that’s about it.”
Buendia’s advice to other gym rats is simple: Be patient and keep working out.
“This sport is a marathon, not a sprint,” he said. “It takes time to build muscle. People expect to get big and turn pro overnight, but it doesn’t work like that.
“You can always get better,” he added. “I know I’m never satisfied.”
Call The Bee’s Debbie Arrington, (916) 321-1075. Follow her on Twitter @debarrington