Kenneth ‘Flex’ Wheeler is a major inspiration for bodybuilders, having cemented a legendary career during the 1990s and 2000s. In a recent Olympia TV video, Wheeler and Bob Cicherillo discussed a few topics like athletes hanging around too long, and chasing size unnecessarily.
Wheeler is widely regarded as one of the best bodybuilders to ever compete despite a lack of Mr. Olympia titles. He’s a four-time Arnold Classic winner and brought an unparalleled level of detail, proportions, and aesthetics to the IFBB Pro League Men’s Open division. In addition to his round muscle bellies and slim waist, Wheeler bested some great competitors in his prime, such as Kevin Levrone, Shawn Ray, and Chris Cormier.
Looking back on his career, even Ronnie Coleman admits he wouldn’t be where he is today had it not been for Wheeler. Coleman has appeared in interviews and explained that Wheeler introduced him to his long-time trainer, Chad Nicholls. In the years that would follow, Coleman became a dominant eight-time Mr. Olympia titleholder whose size was chased by the entire division.
Wheeler has been open with fans about his on-stage battles with Coleman. In an interview with Jay Cutler on the Cutler Cast Podcast, Wheeler reflected on his second-place finish to Coleman in 1998. In hindsight, Wheeler said he was ‘green’ back then, and could have done more both in terms of nutrition and training.
In his latest undertaking, Wheeler joined Bob Cicherillo to discuss athletes who delay retirements. In addition, they examined competitors who are obsessed with adding size at the cost of their physiques.
Flex Wheeler, Bob Cicherillo Answer Why Bodybuilders Delay Retirement: “We Are Extreme Athletes”
Flex accepts that he didn’t retire on top and mentioned that he wasn’t looking for an ‘exit strategy’ during the prime years of his career.
“You know, unfortunately, I didn’t get there yet. I felt that I achieved one of my best ever in 1999 at the English Grand Prix. Then, you know, it didn’t go well because I started getting sick. I still was like in a developing stage that I thought I had more in the tank and when I got sick that just changed everything and it changed my ability to compete.
I wasn’t even looking at an exit strategy. Look at Ronnie, Ronnie existed a lot longer after I left. I was looking like I had at least that much time that they did. I wasn’t even thinking about it. I was thinking about I have a third gear to get to and I’m only in second gear,” said Flex Wheeler.
“I think Ronnie hung out one show too long, you know, Dave I think honestly hung out one show too long, to me, the perfect scenario is you get to write your own story,” added Cicherillo. “We don’t see that a lot. We don’t see a lot of people that write their own ticket off. Yeah, Lee Haney. We haven’t seen that in years.”
“You know, Bob I think it’s because we’re extreme athletes. You look at someone great like Muhammad Ali, you look at that belief, you still have it until someone comes along and proves you don’t. You still believe that. You look at every great. You look at the great Michael Jordan, he came back after going to baseball, he thought he had game going to baseball, it was like nah, this game changed you ain’t no good at baseball. Then, when he came back to basketball, you had Kobe, the younger version of him,” explained Wheeler.
Wheeler & Cicherillo Talk Bodybuilders Being Obsessed with Size & Getting Bigger
Wheeler believes athletes are over-concerned with size and adding tissue instead of focusing on getting better. He said most young competitors nowadays would benefit from losing 15 pounds.
“It’s dysmorphia, especially in our sport, a distorted vision is what I called it and I had it. I never thought I was big enough, I always wanted to put on more size. But it’s not putting on more size, it’s getting better. And bigger doesn’t always mean better, sometimes better is just better.”
“In our sport, it’s probably one of the worst examples that we always feel that we have to get bigger, especially when we turn pro, oh I got to compete with the big boys I better get bigger. That’s always a mistake, especially if your frame can’t handle it.”
“I would almost argue if young men lost 15 pounds of muscle he’d be a more competitive bodybuilder and a more dangerous bodybuilder too,” added Wheeler.
This isn’t the first time that Flex Wheeler has cautioned athletes about adding size. Last year, before the 2022 Mr. Olympia show, Wheeler told Wiliam Bonac to avoid chasing the champion, Mamdouh ‘Big Ramy’ Elssbiay’s muscularity as it could ultimately work against him. In the end, the last Mr. Olympia contest was determined mostly by the conditioning and balance of Hadi Choopan‘s physique.
And it’s not just Wheeler who is calling for less size in the Open. In April, bodybuilding veteran Tony Pearson joined The Menace Podcast to discuss the role of size in Men’s Bodybuilding. He believes it’s not about size and argued the category should focus more on the lines of a given physique.
While size obviously factors into the upper echelons of the Men’s Open, Flex Wheeler is confident most athletes could find success 15 pounds lighter. He continues to stress that bigger isn’t always better in the world of bodybuilding.