Rafael Brandao’s Arnold Chances

by Christian Duque

Being a professional bodybuilder is all about the journey. It’s the one sport where it’s all about one individual. There are no teams. I mean there are coaches and there are teams, but teams don’t play the sport. The sport is a sport of one. It’s a selfish endeavor that has been said to be very time-consuming, and one that does not really promote intrapersonal social relationships.

This is largely because the individual must spend long hours in the gym, meal prepping, and taking a number of supplements multiple times throughout the day. It’s not exactly a routine that is conducive to having a very good social life. You are either all about this life or you’re simply not. And I think Rafael Brandao from Brazil is all about this life. At least what he has done to prepare himself for the second biggest show in bodybuilding is proof positive that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Rafael has always been known for crazy condition. He brings great detail to the stage and he’s always written about favorably for this reason. In order to get noticed in the fitness Industry you really need to shine. Always remember that this is a world obsessed with vanity. People would eat dirt if it meant being the best. It’s a place where the rational gets thrown out with the bath water. Competitive physique-based athletes and fitness models want to make the big bucks. If they don’t look their best, that might mean losing out on prize money or losing a fitness shoot. For top tier pro bodybuilders making improvements is what it’s all about. And they have the luxury of knowing what exactly they have to do in order to turn their luck around.

What I’m about to share with you isn’t top secret. It’s also not speculative or conjecture. It’s ages-old wisdom that those of us who cover the sport have known about forever and ever. It’s a little something called Judges’ Feedback. Whether it’s a small local amateur show or the Mr. Olympia, the judges are eager to give their opinion on what’s good, what’s bad, and what they’d like to see. And the judges are the ones who decide to competitions. What’s mind-boggling, however, is how few competitors actually incorporate their feedback into their plans for the future. Some will keep doing what they want and will stubbornly keep bringing a look that doesn’t get them the validation they’re after. But one bodybuilder that took the feedback to heart. He’s the subject of this article.

I cannot even begin to sing enough praises for Rafael Brandao. Not only did he incorporate the feedback, but he took a whole year to make the necessary adjustments to his physique. That is very important when you stop to think about it. It’s almost like when an amateur athlete gets his pro card and he takes a year or two to grow into a pro physique. That’s very old-school. Most guys just don’t show the stage the respect that it deserves. They will get a pro card and they will complete the very next day if they can. They just want to get that pro debut out-of-the-way because they don’t understand the value of first impressions. They are just caught up in the adrenaline and don’t stop to think about the bigger picture.

For a professional athlete to take a full year to improve his physique based on judges’ feedback and not get back on stage until they are at a place where they can be as competitive as possible, that’s rare. It’s just not something you see every day. Especially not in the sport as we know it today.

To tell you the truth, I like that Rafael took a full year from the last time he competed to bring in more size. And the progress photos confirm that he was hard at work in the gym doing what needed to be done. His legs have gained tremendous size, but he continues to hold onto his signature symmetry and balance. Also, I would like to talk about condition, seeing as this is his calling card and he always has been known for it.

It’s important not to lose track of one’s roots, especially as a physique is improved over the course of time. The problem with gaining size is that condition will be lost. In bodybuilding whether enhanced or natural that is always a concern. If you put on more size, you lose your lines and your separation. You’re either really small and jacked or really big and soft. But there is a middle ground if it is done correctly. Taking about a year and doing things gradually as opposed to trying to shock the system is the way to go.

Although some media outlets have said they don’t see the same degree of condition in the new version of Rafael than in the old one, I would have to disagree. I think that that last little bit of condition comes with the last 48 hours before hitting the stage. I think that his arms and chest are very much true to their original form. I also think that he has brought up his back, and I think his quads, hams and calves have also improved dramatically. The truth of the matter is that his condition will come in the last 48 hours and that will have to do with more food than with actual physique.

With regards to whether or not he will lose any size as a result of the final 48 is also something I don’t think will happen. I think that a lot of people (pundits and commentators most definitely included) by this point have their favorites in mind, and may be throwing a little bit of water on Rafael as it gets closer to the stage and he grows evermore impressive.

Could Rafael Brandao win the Arnold Classic? That’s a question I think everybody wants the answer to. The reality of the matter is that on the given day, the bodybuilder with the best physique will walk away with the title. It wouldn’t be the first time that a longshot, or a dark horse rolled in and left with the top prize and the purse. Only time will tell what will happen, but the reality of the matter is, he should definitely be considered as somebody who could potentially give each and every bodybuilder a run for their money on that stage.

Anytime the hype surrounding favorites overshadows the athletic performance of the best athlete on a given day – that’s when you have what is called an upset. And those are the most fun bodybuilding shows to watch.

Let’s see what happens!