Aaron Clark’s Wheels of Fortune
At just 23, Virginia’s Aaron Clark accomplished a dream that many amateurs never realize: earning an IFBB pro card. Here’s how he went from punk to powerhouse, building some of the sickest legs in the biz.
By Lara McGlashan, MFA, CPT
Aaron Clark: Just the Facts
Birthdate: Sept. 7, 1988
Birthplace and Current Residence: Fairfax, Virginia
Weight: 235 pounds off-season; 203 contest
Contest History: 2012: USAs, 1st heavyweight (pro card awarded). 2011: Maryland State East Coast Classic, 1st heavyweight and overall. 2008: Southern States, 2nd teen light-heavy; Teen Nationals, 2nd light-heavy.
Looking at 2012 USAs heavyweight champ and new IFBB pro Aaron Clark, you’d never use the term “skater punk” as a descriptive, but once upon a time — and 125 pounds ago — Clark called the skate park home.
“Back then I was at an all-time low, about 110 pounds, and I wasn’t healthy,” he says. “I also had the wrong personality for skating. Most guys would go to the park to chill and have fun, but I would decide on a trick I was going to do and I’d be there for hours until I landed it. That’s what mattered to me — not having fun, but going home with the fulfillment of having done a particular trick. I was too task-oriented for skating.”
Realizing his physique and lifestyle were in need of a total overhaul, Clark decided to try weightlifting. “My father signed me up for a basic orientation of the weight room at the local rec center in Fairfax, Virginia, and I immediately realized I was a meathead,” he laughs. “Bodybuilding and lifting were very task-oriented, and I used the intensity that got me into trouble in the skate park to get stronger and make improvements in my physique.”
Clark quickly became a gym regular, learning by watching the technique of the older guys and supplementing his education with social media. “Whenever I needed to know something or see how a move was done, I’d go to YouTube,” he says. “There’s so much information out there, I was always able to find something useful.”
Pretty soon the gym veterans noticed his progress and encouraged Clark to take the sport more seriously. “I checked out some photos online of teens who had competed, and I saw that I was at that level or even beyond that already,” he says. “I never really thought of standing half-naked on a stage before, but I realized it was something I could be successful at, so I entered a show.”
At only 19, Clark competed in the 2008 Southern States in Florida, placing second. “I had no idea what I was doing for the diet, or that sodium could make me hold water,” he remembers. “I wasn’t as cut as I should’ve been, but I was excited to have placed second regardless.”
He was runner-up again at the Teen Nationals that same year, to the same guy he had lost to at the Southern States — but for a whole different reason. “I didn’t have a tan,” laughs Clark. “I was harder and leaner than the guy who won but I didn’t get around to putting on my tan; I didn’t realize it was so important. The judges told me afterward that I would’ve won if I had been properly colored up. That’s so funny looking back.”
Rolling on a high of ego-fueled excitement, Clark stepped up his training — a bit too much. “I tore my left pec,” he says. “That gave me a reality check and took me out of the gym for a while. I was also going to school and wasn’t doing very well. Basically, there were a lot of things I had to sort out, so I decided to take some time off from competition.”
He ended up taking two full years off, but continued training with a keener attention to form and function as he rehabbed his chest. In 2011 Clark decided to give the competitive scene another go, and easily won a local show.
“I was hesitant about going into the USAs right then because I had heard that even if you’re the best guy onstage, they don’t give it to you unless you’ve been on a national stage before,” Clark explains. “There was a guy in my class who had just won the Junior Nationals and another guy who had done a video series with a big magazine, and all eyes were on them. I was the no-name guy. But I was like, ‘Hey, if I’m going to do it, I might as well go big.’”
That big gamble paid off big time: Clark took the heavyweight title and received his pro card. At age 24, he’s one of the youngest guys to join the pro circuit, earning him the nickname “Baby U.” As such, Clark knows he has a lot to prove at his pro debut next year.
“I’ve taken the rest of 2012 to add another 10 pounds or so to my frame,” he says. “I’m also seriously considering competing in the 212 division rather than the open. I won the heavyweight class as an amateur at 203 pounds, so I think I could be a big threat in the 212s. I’m considering the New York Pro next May, but don’t hold your breath. I’m still making improvements. I want to take my time and do it right.”
In the meantime, he’s hitting the books at Northern Virginia Community College (Annandale), doing his best to strike a balance between youthful fun and professional sports.
“In the offseason I do enjoy myself here and there, because you only live once,” he says. “But you have to know your limits with everything, including partying. I’ve been at this lifestyle since high school, so it’s not really a problem for me to resist the keg parties. Bodybuilding and that lifestyle is part of me, and always will be.”
Aaron’s Training Split
Day 1 – Chest
Day 2 – Arms
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Quads
Day 5 – Shoulders, traps
Day 6 – Cardio, abs
Day 7 – Back
Day 8 – Off
Day 9 – Hamstrings
Day 10 – Repeat Day 1
*Clark trains calves at the beginning of every workout except on leg days.
*Off-season, Clark does cardio 2–3 times a week for 20 minutes. That increases to five days a week precontest.
Aaron’s Dual Leg Workouts
Clark splits his leg training into two separate days; this workout is a compilation of some of his favorite mass-building moves for quads and hamstrings.
Leg Extension 3 Sets x 12 Reps x 150–250 lbs
Leg Press 3 Sets x 8–10 Reps x 720–1,440 lbs
Barbell Squat 4 Sets x 8–10 Reps x 315–495 lbs
Hack Squat 3 Sets x 10 Reps x 360–540 lbs
Walking Lunge 3 Sets x Length of gym x 110 lbs
Squat 3–4 Sets x 10–15 Reps x 135–405 lbs
Leg Press (feet high) 3 Sets x 10–15 Reps x 630–810 lbs
Romanian Deadlift 3 Sets x 10 Reps x 315 lbs
Glute/Ham Raise 3 Sets x 10 Reps x Bodyweight
Lying Leg Curl 3 Sets x 10–12 Reps x 250 lbs (full stack)