Boardman’s Adu-Poku to compete in Jr. National Bodybuilding Championships
By Greg Gulas
Boardman’s Ivan Adu-Poku had bulked up for a big competition.
The Boardman graduate is competing in the Jr. National Bodybuilding Championships on Friday and Saturday in Chicago. Adu-Poku will be in the men’s open physique competition.
A relative newcomer to the sport who is entering just his fourth competition, Adu-Poku fully expects to bring the championship in his class to the Mahoning Valley.
He’s won two overall events and finished runner-up once, yet his route to becoming one of the nation’s top bodybuilders hasn’t been a conventional one. That’s why this weekend’s competition is so important to his ascent in the sport.
“Being from Boardman I’ve had the opportunity to play competitive sports my whole life,” Adu-Poku said. “In high school, football, basketball and track were my focus and I was fortunate to play football a couple years at YSU. I just loved the competition and being on the field.”
A 2014 BHS graduate, it was an injury he suffered prior to his junior year that would change his athletic mindset.
“There are many reasons I got into bodybuilding. It was always my dream to go to the Olympics in track and field,” he added. “I picked up football along the way and began to excel in the sport. I played as a sophomore and going into my junior year it was time to prove I was worthy of starting at running back for the Spartans.
“God had a different plan for me, however, as I ended up tearing my Achilles tendon during a track meet in the spring. I ended up having to sit out the entire football season and it was demoralizing to not be able to walk. After months of therapy, I was able to get back to where I could at least run and lift.”
For Adu-Poku, one door closed but another opened for during his rehabilitation he fell in love with the weight room.
“Football was now in season and I was cleared to lift so I spent the majority of my time in the weight room while the team practiced,” he said. “While trying to get bigger and stronger so I could return to the team, I fell in love with the lifting aspect of bodybuilding. The work you put in and the results yielded were such a great feeling.”
While in college, injuries began to take their toll and Adu-Poku felt his body couldn’t deal with the stresses of playing anymore so he opted to hang up his cleats.
It was a tough decision, yet necessary so he could move on to the next chapter in his life.
“Leaving football was a hard decision, yet one that I needed to make in order to move forward,” he said. “I learned so much about myself while playing the sport, things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
“For the first time in years I wasn’t involved in a team sport, so I was just trying to find something to focus on and that’s when I discovered bodybuilding. A couple friends told me that I would be able to compete in a show and win so I prepped, coached myself and competed in the North Coast Championships, which were held in May of 2018 in Kent. I ended up winning overall in men’s physique collegiate class and after the show received positive feedback from the judges.
“I even got a coach [Gary Chayney] out of the competition and what a help he has been to me. I took a year off competitively and he helped me focus on putting on quality size, which I did.”
Adu-Poku began prepping the first week of January and since his return, has won top honors in his class in men’s open physique and overall at the Pittsburgh Championship on May 4, finishing runner-up in the same category at North Coast on May 26.
“I used North Coast as a learning experience and to get ready for this weekend’s Jr. Nationals,” he said. “The plan was to do the Pittsburgh Championship because in the bodybuilding world, this show is one of the biggest of the year. It’s a pro-am, so I had the opportunity to be in front of national level judges who work pro level shows. It was huge to be in front of them.”
Adu-Poku will compete in his class in the men’s open physique on Saturday.
“My eyes have been set on Jr. Nationals since January and I’m excited to be stepping on stage with the best of the best in men’s physique,” he added. “Thanks to my family, girlfriend, friends and of course, God, it is my hope to win my class and be able to bring back a pro card to the 330.”