Gustavo Badell flexing his muscles for the camera

Gustavo Badell

IFBB Professional Bodybuilder

Gustavo ‘The Freakin’ ‘Rican’ is an IFBB professional bodybuilder from Puerto Rico. He is regarded by many as one of the best professional bodybuilders of all time, coming 3rd multiple times at the Mr Olympia.

Growing up, Gustavo was very active and played a number of contact sports. He loved boxing in particular, but was too skinny to make his mark. He began weightlifting to build his body mass and gained size and strength very quickly.

After a number of years of weightlifting and learning the ropes, Gustavo won his first competition. It was a junior show, but he won the 1st and overall which allowed him to join the adult category the following year.

In this 1997 adult show, he impressed all the judges and took a 1st – claiming his Pro Card in the process. Following this win, Gustavo built an extremely successful international career. He landed 2 3rd place trophies at the Mr Olympia and won the Ironman Pro Invitational in 2005.

This is his story:


Gustavo Badell showing off his toned physique, displaying his ripped and and quads

Athlete Statistics

Full Name: Gustavo Badell
WeightHeightAgeDate of Birth
255 - 265lbs (115.7 - 120.2kg)5'8" (172.5cm)51November 3, 1972
Puerto RicanIFBB Professional BodybuilderThe Freakin' 'Rican
1990, 2000, 2010
Weight255 - 265lbs (115.7 - 120.2kg)
Height5'8" (172.5cm)
Date of BirthNovember 3, 1972
NationalityPuerto Rican
ProfessionIFBB Professional Bodybuilder
AliasThe Freakin' 'Rican
Era1990, 2000, 2010


Gustavo Badell completing a cable row, showing his massive chest, large biceps and ripped abs

“Bodybuilding is harder than baseball. Baseball is about having a talent and playing a game. With bodybuilding, you have to train and diet and get enough sleep and take supplements and do cardio. Bodybuilding is not just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. You have to live it all the time.”



  • 1991 Junior Caribbean Championships, overall winner
  • 1997 Caribbean Championships, overall winner (received pro card)
  • 1997 World Amateur Championships Heavyweight, 10th
  • 1998 Grand Prix Germany, 9th
  • 1999 Grand Prix England, 17th
  • 1999 Night of Champions, DNP
  • 1999 World Pro Championships, 14th
  • 2000 Ironman Pro Invitational, 18th
  • 2000 Night of Champions, Did Not Place
  • 2000 Toronto Pro Invitational, Did Not Place
  • 2000 World Pro Championships, 11th
  • 2001 Grand Prix England, Did Not Place
  • 2001 Ironman Pro Invitational, 16th
  • 2001 San Francisco Pro Invitational, 11th
  • 2002 Ironman Pro Invitational, 13th
  • 2002 Night of Champions, 10th
  • 2002 Mr. Olympia, 24th
  • 2002 Southwest Pro Cup, 6th
  • 2002 Toronto Pro Invitational, 3rd
  • 2004 Arnold Classic, 7th
  • 2004 Ironman Pro Invitational, 3rd
  • 2004 San Francisco Pro Invitational, 4th
  • 2004 Show of Strength Pro Championship, 3rd
  • 2004 Mr. Olympia, 3rd
  • 2005 Arnold Classic, 3rd
  • 2005 Ironman Pro Invitational, 1st
  • 2005 Mr. Olympia, 3rd
  • 2006 Arnold Classic, 4th
  • 2006 San Francisco Pro Invitational, 1st
  • 2006 Mr. Olympia, 6th
  • 2007 Arnold Classic, 4th
  • 2007 Mr. Olympia 8th
  • 2008 Ironman Pro Invitational, 2nd
  • 2008 Arnold Classic, 6th
  • 2008 Mr Olympia, 10th
  • 2009 IFBB Atlantic City Bodybuilding, Fitness & Figure Championships, 1st
  • 2009 IFBB Arnold Classic, 11th


Gustavo Badell tensing his large bicep and showing his vascular chest and arms


Weightlifting Beginnings

Gustavo was born in Venezuela, but his family moved to Puerto Rico when he was 5 years old. He was always passionate about contact sports growing up and trained in boxing and kickboxing to a high level.

While he was good at boxing, he and his coach knew he was too skinny. His coach introduced him to weightlifting and aimed to make Gustavo’s arms more muscular, because they get hit a lot in bouts.

At 15 years old, he began lifting weights with the assistance of his peers. To his surprise, he began putting on a lot of weight quickly, saying “as it turned out, I had great genetics for bodybuilding.”

As he saw the progress he was making and started to read books about weightlifting and nutrition, people around him thought he was a bodybuilder. He liked the attention and loved the process of building muscle, so decided to enter a junior competition.

First Competition

Gustavo’s first bodybuilding competition was the 1991 Junior Caribbean Bodybuilding Championships. He prepared well for the show and managed to take the 1st and overall with ease – beating his young rivals.

This victory gave him a massive boost of confidence, so he decided to make bodybuilding a major part of his life. He would stop boxing and chase this new dream with all his effort.

Getting His Pro Card

For the next 6 years of his life, Gustavo would train hard, eat right and build the best physique of his life. At the 1997 senior Caribbean Championships, he stood on stage against the best in the region and tried to make his mark again.

To his delight, he managed to win this competition outright. He came in first place and received his winners trophy – but this wasn’t all. He also managed to take his Pro Card at this event, meaning that he now could compete with the best in the world at IFBB events.

IFBB Contests

Gustavo’s first IFBB appearance was in 1998. He competed at the IFBB Grand Prix of Germany and took a respectable 9th for his first show. Following this, he was invited to compete at the 1999 ‘Night Of Champions’ contest – the predecessor to today’s New York Pro.

At this show, he placed 14th, and his results were quite lacklustre until 2002. He took a number of ‘Did Not Place’ results and only managed a 24th at his first Mr Olympia.


Gustavo Badell posing ta acompetition in a confident stance, showing his large abs, chest and huge quads

Friendly Advice

In 2002, Gustavo began to receive assistance from a pro bodybuilder friend named Milos Sarcev. They worked together on his training routine, nutrition and posing and he started to place much better. In the 2002 Southwest Pro Cup, he came 6th, which gave him a new self-confidence.

Between 2002 and 2004, Gustavo took 4 3rd’s at major shows. He took a 3rd at the 2002 Toronto Pro Invitational, the 2004 Ironman Pro Invitational, the 2004 Show of Strength Pro Championship and finally at the 2004 Mr Olympia.

This was an incredible run for Gustavo. He had finished it with a top 3 at the most prestigious show on earth – taking a $50,000 prize and an Olympia medal to boot.

Great Success In 2005

2005 was another extremely successful year for Gustavo. He came 3rd in his first show of the year – the Arnold classic. He then followed this successful performance with the best win of his career.

After a long and arduous competition cut, he came 1st at the 2005 Ironman Pro Invitational, which is an extremely prestigious show. He beat the likes of Lee Priest and made a name for himself as a professional champion and major Mr Olympia contender.

He proved himself at the 2005 Olympia too. He took another spectacular 3rd place; bagging the $55,000 check and coming a close third to Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. 

Media Appearances

Around this time, Gustavo began to attract the media. He was dubbed as a future Olympia champion and one of the best bodybuilders of all time. While he didn’t win an Olympia, he has made a name for himself as an excellent IFBB champion.

Gustavo has been featured in many fitness and magazine articles. He appeared on the ever-popular magazine FLEX and has remained a go-to figure for supplement companies due to his powerful and masculine aesthetic.


Gustavo Badell completing a concentration bicep curl, showing his vascular arms and bicep


Training Approach

Gustavo likes to train each bodypart one time a week. He trains the same way all year round – seeing no need to switch it up. For most of his exercises, he completes 4 sets and he likes to keep the rep-range at around 12-15 reps per set with heavy weights.

Weekly Routine

Monday: Chest, biceps and abs

  • Incline presses
  • Bench presses
  • Machine vertical bench presses
  • Flyes
  • Dumbbell curls
  • Standing barbell curls
  • Preacher curls
  • One-arm cable curls
  • Standing cable curls
  • Reverse curls
  • Wrist curls
  • Various ab exercises

Tuesday: Back, triceps and abs

  • Chins
  • Pulldowns
  • Barbell rows
  • Dumbbell rows
  • Lying extensions
  • Dips
  • Pushdowns
  • Various ab exercises

Wednesday: Shoulders and abs

  • Dumbbell presses
  • Hammer Strength machine presses
  • Dumbbell laterals
  • Upright rows
  • Rear-delt machine
  • Dumbbell bent-over laterals
  • Shrugs
  • Various ab exercises

Thursday: Quads and hamstrings

  • Front squats
  • Squats
  • Hack squats
  • Leg presses
  • Lunges
  • Leg extensions
  • Leg curls
  • Deadlifts

Friday: Calves and abs

  • Smith-machine standing calf raises
  • Standing calf machine
  • Seated calf raises

Hits abs four times a week and supersets with these exercises:

  • Crunches
  • Cable crunches
  • Leg raises
  • Cable serratus pulls


Gustavo Badell completing a barbell tricep exercise in the gym with a spotter


Learning From Mistakes

When he was younger, Gustavo didn’t really know anything about proper bodybuilding nutrition. He would eat the wrong foods and have too many carbs before competing. Because of this, he could never get the perfect cut which he was known for as his career progressed.

Luckily, he had great people around him. He gradually read a lot of bodybuilding literature and created a diet which would allow him to build the body of his dreams.

“I’ve always been very disciplined with my diet because I want to do well. I’m very motivated’very motivated! I never complain about my diet.”

Off-Season Diet

In the off-season, Gustavo eats more complex carbohydrates like potatoes, rice and oatmeal. He also includes a lot more red meat alongside the staple lean options of chicken, turkey and fish.

Before a contest I restrict carbohydrates and eat more chicken and fish. It’s all part of the plan to improve every time I compete.

Contest Meal Plan

Meal 1

  • Whey Protein Shake
  • 2 cups oatmeal
  • 15 egg whites
  • Water

Meal 2

  • Whey protein shake
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Steamed broccoli

Meal 3

  • White fish
  • Baked potato
  • Steamed broccoli

Meal 4

  • Whey Protein Shake
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • Steamed asparagus

Meal 5

  • Steak
  • Baked potato
  • Steamed broccoli
  • Before evening cardio

Meal 6

  • Whey Protein Shake
  • White fish
  • Steamed broccoli

Meal 7

  • 15 egg white whites
  • Steamed broccoli


Gustavo Badell posing at a competition, showing off his large arms, bulging chest and toned abs

What we can learn from Gustavo Badell

Gustavo never gave up. He didn’t place well in a professional show until the early 2000’s. This didn’t faze him though, and through his own sheer determination to succeed, he ended up placing 3rd at the Mr Olympia.

All this success came from a simple dream he had as a teenager. He read the books, learned the techniques and tried his hardest. His story illustrates how important dreaming big and working hard is in bodybuilding.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

He was born in Venezuela, and so was I. I wanna be like him someday. I do not have the genetics but I´m not giving up. I´ve got a lot of time. I´m gonna hit abs four times a week too.

You might like...

Nick Jonas Physique and Workout


See Profile

Kevin Heart Physique


See Profile

Joe Manganiello Physique: Achieving an Enviable A-List Fitness Level


See Profile

Tom Hardy Physique


See Profile

10 Meal Planning Mistakes to Avoid: Get Shredded the Right Way

Preparing food in advance is a tool used by pro athletes and bodybuilders to stay lean, strong and aesthetic all year round. Avoid these meal planning mistakes and sail to single-digit body fat in no time at all. 

Read article

Vin Diesel’s Physique


See Profile

KSI Physique: How Did KSI Get In Shape?


See Profile

Jake Gyllenhaal Physique


See Profile

Gerard Butler Physique


See Profile

10 Protein-Rich Foods for Vegetarians

If you're a vegetarian who's serious about strength training, you need to know how to optimize your diet to get the best results. Check out our guide to protein-rich foods to help you on your way - a completely new fitness level is just around the corner.

Read article

Henry Cavill Physique


See Profile

Alex Eubank Physique


See Profile

Will Tennyson Physique


See Profile

Cristiano Ronaldo Physique


See Profile

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger - He's been named the Austrian Oak, The Terminator, John Matrix, Mr. Freeze, The Governator, and to many of his fans just Arnie. Not only is he known as one of the greatest bodybuilders in history, but also as an action movie star, and an American politician.

Read article

Jason Mamoa Physique


See Profile

Ryan Gosling Physique: Ryan Gosling’s Ken Transformation


See Profile

Stephen Amell Physique


See Profile

Chris Pratt Transformation and Physique


See Profile

90 day Muscle Building Workout Plan

You just can’t beat that feeling of knowing that your physique is one you’ve worked hard for. Noticing the appreciative stares from envious strangers, and knowing that every time you hit the gym, you’re pushing the boundaries of what you once thought was impossible - makes it all worthwhile.

Read article