By Mike Carlson | Photos By Robert Reiff
For the last decade of his almost 20-year career, Hidetada Yamagishi has been battling the big men of the IFBB. The 220-pound athlete would regularly enter the fray with opponents who were 20, 40, sometimes 60 pounds heavier. Like the samurais of his native Japan, Yamagishi has always trained ferociously and competed fearlessly, and often successfully, such as his fifth-place finish at the 2013 Arnold Classic. Sixty pounds is a lot of muscle, though, and the deficit often did not compute in the fuzzy math calculated by the judges.
This year, a new equation has Yamagishi totaling up some figures of his own. With the introduction of the 212-pound class at the 2014 Arnold Classic, the potential prize money for a 212-pound champion dwarfs the earnings of a top-six placing in the Open. Yamagishi entered a quick huddle with his advisors and just six weeks before the Arnold Classic announced he was dropping to a new weight class.
The transition was an easy one for him. With a smaller waist and tighter conditioning, he believes the pliable laws of perception and proportion will actually make him appear even bigger than he did at 225 pounds. The David is now the Goliath.
How long had you been considering the 212 division?
I was always interested in it. I was just waiting for a good show. Originally, I was going to move down after the Arnold, but I spoke with some people and we thought I had a much better chance in 212, and it is the first time in the Arnold, so why not? And the prize money is very good and getting better. The small shows are still not enough, but the Olympia and the Arnold are better and will be better each year. Before, even when I was top 10 in the Olympia, I earned more money than the 212 Mr. O, so that was a big reason I stayed in the Open.
Has it been necessary to change your preparation?
My training is the same. I do heavy weights as much as possible and train as hard as possible starting 16 weeks out. In the off-season I take a break, but my training does not change much. I have been doing this now for 20-something years. I change my sets and reps all the time. I don’t plot it out on paper, but when I go to the gym and look at myself I see the difference every day as I get leaner. Some days I get tired and flat, so I might go a little lower volume and a little less intensity. It is not really a plan. I just do what I feel. Same thing with my nutrition. I am low-carb right now, but last week I was pretty high-carb. I am slowly changing day by day.
What is different in your process?
Even when I was competing in the Open class, I didn’t care that much about my weight because I knew I wasn’t going to be the biggest guy anyway. I was always the smallest guy. Usually I would never step on a scale. But now, starting at 10 days out, I weigh myself every day.
Do you plan to stay closer to 212 pounds in the off-season?
As I get older, I have been trying not to get so heavy in the off-season. The last couple years I have hit 240 pounds, but it is not sloppy weight — it is still pretty lean. As long as I am lean, I don’t care how much my weight goes up. If I have 16 weeks, I can come down 20 or 30 pounds.
Do you like how you look, or do you prefer to be bigger?
I like how I look. I think I look better than I did when I competed in the Open. My waist is smaller. And while my weight is lighter, I actually look bigger because of the illusion of the proportions. That is interesting for me. I was afraid I would look a little stringy, but I do not.
What are you working on improving?
Triceps is the one bodypart I always need to work on. It is getting better, but they can always improve. Triceps are limited because of pain in my elbows. I cannot do a lot of exercises right now. The only really heavy exercise I can do is dips. Dips are always good for me, but I need to do more. I have done so many shows that my body is tired. But I really want to take the 212 title at the Mr. Olympia. So I will rest and then prepare for the Olympia. I want to be better every time.