Coming from the stellar highs of 2013, Ben Pakulski’s career has rapidly crashed back to earth and whatever aspirations he had coming off of last year are quickly being crushed and burned. Following the 2013 Arnold Sports Festival, it seemed all things were going in Ben Pakulski’s favor. Not only had he made tremendous improvements to his physique, but these improvements were acknowledged and rewarded with his best placing to date, a 2nd place finish at the prestigious Arnold Classic, and though a historically weak year for the contest, this was a respectable feat nonetheless.
Ben’s transformation from 2012 / 2013 was shocking to say the least, 2013 / 2014 may be just as shocking, but for completely opposite reasons. It is very rare to see someone who is already competing at such a high caliber make such quality and substantial changes in such a short period of time, but that is exactly what Ben did when he competed at the 2013 Arnold. Not only did he bring a level of mass and proportion \ symmetry we had never seen from him before, but also bone dry condition with not a drop of water under the skin. While his genetically weaker body parts were evident, the other facets of his physique were so on point that he was still able to pull a very high placing, and left people very eager to see what he could do this year. But as shocking as it is to see someone rise so quickly in any sport, it is just as shocking to see them diminish equally as rapidly at such a young age as it would seem Ben has, especially at a point in his career when he would appear only to have a promising and bright competitive future.
It could be argued one of the biggest winners to come out of 2014 Arnold Classic was Evan Centopani, especially following his relatively weak Olympia showing last year, and I promise you that this fact makes Ben’s disappointing appearance personally impact him that much more. It is a relatively well-known fact that these two are not fans of each other to say the least. Both young, popular, and talented bodybuilders who came up in separate amateur North American feeder systems right around the same time as one another. Constantly being featured in the same magazines and even vying for the same contracts, which even then Evan was winning. Up until this point these two had been neck and neck with one another, and though it would seem that on the stage Evan had always edged out Ben, coming off of last year’s placing at the Arnold Ben had equally as much momentum in his favor going into this year’s contest. Of course there is going to be some animosity between the two, and this came to a head and possible conclusion at this year’s Arnold, as Ben’s stock has plummeted, and Evan’s reinvigorated. It is also important to remember that as great as this showing was for Evan, just a few years ago he was beating Dennis Wolf, so one has to ask how much has he really progressed relatively.
There is one new glaring issue that will impact Ben for the rest of his career, and that is second to his arms, Ben’s back is possibly his weakest body part and it would appear he has acquired some type of injury to it that has caused long term damage which is becoming evident on his physique. As perviously mentioned, though Ben has always had weak body parts, they were only weak compared to the high-quality parts he had, but this is the first year where these weaknesses actually became weak and apparent.
Just look at his mid to low right of his back beneath the lats and erectors. There are two things that would make some type of possible injury evident (though still speculation). The first is that the muscle on the right side now noticeably attaches much higher than on the left side, and even throughout the poses this is apparent not just the still of this photo. The second is the apparent lack of development / spot-condition by an elite level athlete who obviously knows how to get in condition and train the muscle, but if significantly damaged it would make sense that activation would be improper and hence the muscle would not be fully trained and lack maturity. This would explain why Ben is capable of attaining such good glute / hamstring conditioning but also look to be holding water to the amateur eye in the low back area. Lastly is Ben’s arms, though they have not gotten worse, they have also not improved whatsoever. They have never been a strong point of his due to weak genetic insertion points, but their lack of development becomes even more glaring as the years go by.
This leaves us with one last question, is it already physically over for Ben? While it would seem the max shelf-life of a Caucasian bodybuilder is 40, at just 32 years of age has he already seen his best days as a professional competitor? I have no doubt that Ben will continue to show up to IFBB events for years to come in great condition (and not so great from time to time) and occasionally be able to get a decent placing at a Tier-III show (Hell, his BFF Branch has been missing parts for years,) but honestly ask yourself will we ever see him get as high as second-place or better at the Arnold again?
Many thought that Ben was making the right decision by postponing his Olympia debut and in turn building up the momentum and hype he had following last year’s Arnold finish, but as we found out he was instead just postponing being exposed by high-caliber athletes when they actually show up to compete.