Photos of Tobias Young by Alex Ardenti
For most bodybuilders, getting a pro card is akin to finally snagging the dangling, shiny carousel ring that has been just out of arm’s reach for years. There aren’t that many cards to be had, frankly, and those that are handed out are as precious as the Ring is to Gollum.
But for Tobias Young, earning a pro card has never been the driving force behind his stage quest. In fact, he’s not exceptionally interested in getting one, and though he has qualified to go to national competitions on several occasions, he’s quite content with his amateur status — and physique.
“I’m more into the aesthetics of bodybuilding rather than the freaky size,” says Tobias, who turned 38 last spring. “If I were to go to the national bodybuilding stage, I’d be up against guys who outweigh me by like 50 pounds. I admire them, sure, but that’s not how I want to look. I like having an attainable physique and being in magazines and on covers, motivating people to work out and compete. That’s what my physique is doing for me now, and I like where I’m at in that respect.” That’s one reason he’s now turning to physique competitions.
His ‘everyman’ physique not only lands him workout spreads and magazine covers, it also earns him something a lot of pros only dream of: sponsorship. “I’ve been with Optimum Nutrition for five years and they’re really great because they don’t pressure me to be a mass monster,” he says. “They know there’s a big market of people out there who don’t want to look like that, and I represent that market and can speak to those people knowledgably.”
Still, that doesn’t mean Tobias doesn’t love to compete, and he hits the local circuit like a sledgehammer 2–3 times per year. In 2012 he competed in the Governor’s Cup and the Fresno Classic, and placed first in both shows in the heavyweight division, adding two very tall, first-place trophies to his already very wide collection.
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU
But truthfully, Tobias has always enjoyed success at sports. Growing up he played soccer, football and baseball in the Bay Area just north of San Francisco, and he was a top-level wrestler in school. Though he was a winner on the field, something was missing in other areas of his life.
“My mom was a single mother who worked a lot, and she recognized that I needed a male role model in my life,” says Tobias. “So we contacted the Big Brothers program and they hooked me up with Elliot Daum. He always made time for me and encouraged me to do well. He came to my games and meets for sports and was always there for me to ask questions. To this day he is my best friend and I still talk to him all the time.”
Elliot is also the one who’s to blame for Tobias’s iron addiction. “He got me my first gym membership when I was 12,” remembers Tobias. “He showed me how to use everything and gave me a structure and a routine that would help me with sports and, of course, get me big! Back then I got so excited when I could lift half the weight he was using. But these days I tease him that I can lift three times his max.”
Tobias went on to play football in junior college and was keen to get a scholarship to a four-year college when he tore his hamstring. Dream over. But he didn’t lower his spinnaker; he simply changed tack, going headlong into personal training, sports-club management and competitive bodybuilding. In 2002 he did his first show and took second in the novice class at the Border States in Southern California.
“What surprised me most was what I looked like when I dieted down,” he says. In the offseason you think you’re all big and stuff, but when you shrink down you really see what bodyparts you can improve on. That was actually really motivating to me, being able to pinpoint what needed work so that I could improve for the next show.”
PAYING IT FORWARD
Nearly 11 years later, Tobias remains motivated both as a competitor and as a fitness professional. He works full time as a general manager for an In-Shape fitness club in Brentwood, CA, a suburb of the San Francisco Bay Area, and runs an online coaching business on the weekends. “I love to help people realize their goals — men, women, teens, anyone,” he says. “That’s part of the reason I want my physique to stay this size, because I’m approachable and I love when people ask me questions about what I do for workouts and nutrition. It gives me a chance to educate them and help them out.”
When he’s off-duty, Tobias is a fulltime daddy to two little girls. “They’re too young to come to my shows, but they see the trophies and that’s exciting enough or them,” he says.
As for Big Brother? He’s still watching, though now from the audience.
And we bet he couldn’t be prouder.
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