Profile: John Jack(ed)man

jackIf you have ever have been at the University’s fitness center, you definitely know who John Jackman is.

Born in Keansburg, NJ, Jackman is more commonly known around the University as Jack. It comes as no surprise that Jack is a fitness enthusiast as he is the Director of the University’s Fitness Center; however, most students do not realize just how much he cares about fitness.

“I competed in body building for 10 years,” Jackman said. “I wasn’t much in to team sports, so at 11-years-old, I decided to become a body builder.”

The year was 1976 and an 11-year-old Jackman was determined to mimic the physique of the Hulk. He began by lifting in his friend’s house for the next three years before he took to the Flamingo Gym.

“Gyms were Rocky type gyms and kids were not expected to just walk in, but I eventually did.” Jackman continued. “It was all men, girls did not work out then. They probably weren’t comfortable; I wasn’t even comfortable at first.”

The Flamingo Gym was by no means a typical modern day gym. The gym where Jackman planted his roots was located in the back of a bar and filled with intimidating bulked-up men.

It was at this gym where Jackman met his weight training mentor Tom Bizocco, a man who won the Mr. New Jersey title in 1975.

“We connected right away; he took me under his wing and that was that,” Jackman said. Jackman also noted that Bizocco was not your stereotypical ‘meathead’ which is seen far too often in today’s society; Bizocco was a trainer with knowledge and skill.

At 19-years-old, Jackman entered his first competition. After a few years under his belt, Jackman won his first big competition in 1988. The competition was called the Governor’s Cup Body Building Championship in Asbury Park, NJ. Not only was this competition his first big victory, it was also one of Jackman’s fondest memories because of who he shared it with.

“My mom was my biggest fan. When I was a kid, she would follow me all over NJ; then she got sick. The Governor’s Cup was the first show I ever won and I brought the house down,” Jackman said. “Five months after the competition, she passed away.”

Although Jackman admitted it was difficult not having his mother in the audience at his following competitions, he entered one competition as a way to honor her memory. “My mom loved the beach so it meant a lot for me to compete in Mr. Jersey Shore. I won and I always felt like I won it for her. She would have been really excited,” Jackman said.

Jackman went on to win numerous titles such as Mr. Atlantic Coast, Mr. Jersey Shore and The Jersey Classic. While the common image of a body builder is to have a massive build, Jackman claims it was his symmetrical body that won him his competitions.

“To succeed in body building, you do have to have some genetic foundation, but I did train really hard to get a ‘Greek Statue’ kind of look. You didn’t have to be the biggest guy on stage to win a show, you had to be one with no flaws,” Jackman said.

Jackman added that “nutrition is full time and weight training is part time.” In order to reach peak shape on the day of a contest, Jackman not only had to train in the gym, but also had to watch what his food and water intake. 

“You have to train smart because your body weight is important. I came up with a lot of original exercises to achieve a muscle balance but I also made sure to perfect a lot of old exercises. The trick is food. Food can work like magic, you have to pay attention to that,” Jackman said. During his competitions he made sure to weigh anywhere between 198 and 212 pounds, but would also make sure to not get too big or too small. His goal was to keep the perfect symmetry.

Eventually, enough wins qualified him for the 1991 Mr. America contest held in Atlantic City, NJ. According to Jackman, it was the biggest competition of his life, however, it also marked his last competition. “I remember I had my whole gym come and watch which made it the most fun for me. After that, I just decided not to carry it any further. I used to choreograph my own music and my own poses but it wasn’t the same without having my mom out there,” he said. Jackman placed in the top 10 for the contest.

Looking back on his 10 year body building career, Jackman recalled one of the best days being when he met world renowned body builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“I met Arnold at a body building show and got to spend some time with him. He gave me the classic ‘how you doing’ and we got to work out together the next morning.”

Although his body building career has since commenced, Jackman has embraced his passion of fitness through other means.

As former owner of Champions Gym, Jackman began to dedicate his life to helping others maintain their fitness. In fact, the Keanesburg native used to have his own personal training business. Through this position, he was able to help people, including Bruce Springsteen. He continued to attend body building competitions, but instead of being on the stage, he was a judge.

“I was an official judge at the Mr. and Mrs. Trenton body building show for about seven years which was a huge honor for me,” he said.

Even though Jackman still admires the act of body building, he noticed that the current body builders lack much of what he and his colleagues believed in.

“I didn’t think about getting more attention on the way I looked, I just wanted to win,” Jackman continued. “I put it in my head that I would beat guys with bigger arms or whatever, I honed my physique so it was so even that judges would have to pick me. I did it for balance.”

Jackman added that there is a physical predicament when it comes to today’s body builders. The body builders who enter competition nowadays fail to have the small waist which was a staple mark in Jackman’s era. This is due to growth hormones as they increase the size of everything on a body, including internal organs. 

The competitors now pose with bloated stomach because the growth hormone enlarges their intestines and pushes their stomach out.

Despite this detail, Jackman still fondly looks back on his body building days. “There are quite a few guys who I am still in touch with today who were older,” he said. One name that came to mind was Gary Kamil. “He is an alumni of Monmouth College but that was before I worked here. He owns the Fitness City in Matawan, NJ and was a huge inspiration in my life, he still is.”

When all is said and done, Jackman is very proud of where he has been but even more proud to have spent half his life as a part of Monmouth University’s fitness center staff.

PHOTO COURTESY of John Jackman