Larry Pollock wasn't exactly like the 98-pound weakling getting sand kicked in his face in those old Charles Atlas magazine ads. He just didn't want to be 5-6 and 120 pounds all his life.
That was 2 1/2 years and 100 or so pounds ago.
"I was pretty small," Pollock says, "and I didn't want to be."
Pollock, 18, has built himself up to as much as 225 pounds, while growing to 5-10, to make the transformation from boy to he-man.
Earlier this year, he won the Teenage Mr. USA bodybuilding championships in Chicago. Last weekend he finished second in the Teenage Mr. America contest in Atlanta.
The successes have caused him to make some weighty decisions.
"I didn't start out with this in mind, but I intend to be a professional bodybuilder," said Pollock, who graduated from Taft High in June. "I plan to go to a four-year college, but I'll start out at Pierce, taking nutrition and physiology, and get my AA degree.
"Right now my goal is to win the nationals (Teenage Mr. America) and see how well I can do in this. It's not exactly a sport. A few guys in their 50s are making it, but basically you have to do it while you're young.
"I figure I've got five years to make it. If I make it, I'll make it now. If not, I won't."
Despite a first and a second in his first year of competition on the national level, Pollock was disappointed with his runner-up finish in Atlanta because it slowed his personal timetable.
Pollock figured he could step right in and compete with the big boys next year. Dreams of Mr. Universe, Mr. Olympia and Mr. America danced in his head until Sean Ray of Placentia outscored him in Atlanta.
He was disappointed with his finish.
"I really had my mind set on it," Pollock said. "I wanted to win and was thinking of nothing else. That's why second doesn't seem so hot.
"He (Ray) is about a year and a half older than I am and has been training a little longer. And he was big and thick. I have to hand it to him, he was good."
What bothers Pollock most is that his shortcomings may have been mental rather than physical.
The Tarzana resident, who works out at World Gym in Santa Monica, weighed in at 192 pounds in Atlanta. Once he saw Ray, Pollock felt he was too small and went on a carbohydrates binge in an effort to bulk up a bit.
It turned out to be a mistake.
"I could kill myself for that," Pollock said. "I overloaded on carbs and I bloated. "I worked it out after the prejudging, but it was too late.
"I was really hard the night before the show and I was really ripped (his muscles were well-defined), but I decided I was too small. I just ate too much.
"It takes a lot of years of experience to do this right every time. I'm kind of new at it. I've only done it four or five times. You've got to learn from your mistakes. That's the only way to get better.
"There's nothing to do except take a few days off to give my body a rest and get my mind together before starting to train for next year's nationals at Niagara Falls.
"I know what I have to do. I'm going to put on 20 pounds of muscle in my upper body and no one will stand in my way."
Pollock has already started turning his muscle into money. When he won the Teenage Mr. USA title, he began to advertise as an instructor. He combines that work with installing solar panels, and his physique has opened a career in modeling.
He needs the money, because as his weight soared, so did his food bill--something his mother didn't appreciate.
"I spend $200 a week on food," Pollock said. "She doesn't mind the bodybuilding; the food part, she minds. Lately, I've been paying for a lot of it myself, so she doesn't mind so much.
"Once I started getting some publicity, I started training people privately. Anybody who comes to me, I charge $30 just for a consultation. I take care of the training and nutrition. For $100 a week, I'll take a person into the gym for either a three-day or four-day split, usually an hour a day. Usually, we'll work half of the body Monday and Thursday, the other half Tuesday and Friday.
"I've got about three to five people a week so far, so it's not too bad."
Food may be a problem for a bodybuilder, but contrary to public belief, Pollock says clothes aren't.
Despite biceps that measure 18 1/2 inches, a 50-inch chest, 29-inch thighs and an 18-inch neck, Pollock doesn't have to go to Big and Tall clothing stores.
"That's what people think, but clothes are really no problem," Pollock says. "If you look around, they have clothes made big. I wear triple-extra-large shirts and pants that are large in the legs and have an elastic waistband. I have no trouble.
"I have as many clothes as anybody else I know."
Pollock says bodybuilding isn't just a phase he's going through, it's a way of life. Even when his competitive days are over, he plans to be involved.
In other words, when he retires, his body won't.
"People don't realize, when you're training your body, it's not just something you do in the gym," he said. "It goes with you everywhere you go. You don't just walk into the gym, train it and then hang it up on the rack at night and go around during the day doing your business without it.
"Your body goes with you everywhere you go, so everything you do affects your training--sleep habits, eating, everything is related. It's a matter of life style.
"Everybody has a mental side and a physical side. If your body is not working well, you can't expect your brain to work at full capacity. I realize there are some very intelligent people who aren't in very good shape. But I think they'd be better off in good shape. They'd feel better and could do everything better because they'd have more energy.
"I know I'll always be involved with this aspect of health and fitness."
Pollock just doesn't believe this, he lives it.
He keeps records of everything he eats and how he works out daily to determine how it all affects his body. He says he learns new things about himself all the time.
"I'm on a diet all year long," Pollock said. "I go on a strict diet six to eight weeks before a show, depending on what kind of shape I think I'm in at the time. I can always get ready in eight weeks, no matter what kind of shape I'm in. I usually weigh 220 to 225, but I can lose 30 pounds in eight weeks. I go from 10 to 15% body fat to about 2%. Nobody can stay in that kind of shape all year round. Well, you could, but you wouldn't make any gains.
"I make sure I have plenty of carbs, lots of protein, about 6,000 calories a day. That's not a lot. When I was really trying to gain weight, I was up to about 12,000 calories a day. For four months before a show, I eat no red meat, just chicken, fish and eggs for protein, and I take a lot of liver pills--anywhere from 50 to 100 a day--and a lot of B vitamins. Before a show, I cut those out and take only amino acids, and cut out eggs six weeks before a show.
"Everybody functions differently. For example, I can't take any dairy products; too many calories. I blow up like a balloon. I'm on zero salt. When you're on low salt, anything you take will blow you up. I only drink distilled water the last eight weeks before a show; that's how strict I am with my sodium. When you do this, you have to make sure you have the proper supplements. You have to keep your potassium level up or you cramp. A lot of guys, you see them on stage at a show and they're cramping up. I never cramp because I go through three bottles of liquid potassium, a bottle a day, the last three days before a show."
Steroids have been a hot topic not just in bodybuilding, but in sports in general lately.
Pollock says what you see is what you get. Body by Pollock, not through chemistry. He claims to be all natural, no preservatives added.
"I knew that question was coming," he said with a smile. "Every competitor at the nationals was asked that. I'll just say you can take all the steroids you want, or any other chemical, and it's not going to make you a champion.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked that on the Merv Griffin Show once, and he answered: 'If I say, 'Yes,' you'll call be a drug addict, and if I say 'No,' you'll call me a liar. So I can't really answer that question.'
"I've tried to answer that question. I've been asked it so many times. It's easy to get steroids. I can tell you where to get them. You can go to a doctor and he can prescribe them for you. They're not illegal.
"A guy I'd never seen before asked me in the gym the other day, 'What kind of steroids do you take?' I asked him why he thought I took steroids. He said, 'Because I work out, too, and I have muscles, but they're not as big as yours.'
"I won these trophies because I was in the gym every day and I followed a strict diet to get myself in the shape I'm in. I didn't win with steroids. I've always felt steroids were an excuse for guys who didn't want to do the work in the gym and couldn't stick with a diet.
"It's not just bodybuilding and it's not just steroids. Drugs are everywhere."
Pollock began training at Gold's Gym in Reseda and later moved to the Steve Davis Gym in Panorama City, but now that he's out of school he works out exclusively at World Gym in Santa Monica.
The long drive is worth it in the long run, he says.
"It's World Gym; they have the best bodybuilders in the world," Pollock said. "It's the place to be. I've learned a lot just watching some of the top bodybuilders work out in the gym. There's a lot of experimentation involved, but basically you just listen to people and try it out. If it works for you, fine. If not, you forget it.
Courtney Brown contributed to this story.