When Erik Jansson was barely into his teens he used to sneak into the garage and lift his brother David's weights. "Nobody caught him and he kept covered up," David remembered with a chuckle. "Then one day about a year later he uncovered. I said, 'Whoa, this guy's getting big.' "
At 13, that was the start of Jansson's body building career, which is still in its infancy but has opened to rave reviews. Erik's discovery of the weights, and David's discovery of Erik, has apparently opened the door to one--and possibly two--successful careers.
At 14, Erik won his first contest. He won another at 15. Now 16, he's gearing up for an international "natural" (drug-free) competition in Venice in November.
That's where David, 21, fits in. Now getting ready for his last semester at El Camino College, he is planning a future in sports nutrition or sports medicine and has become, in a sense, his brother's keeper. He not only oversees Erik's training, but plans special diets and nutritional approaches.
"I saw fast results and I enjoyed it. But I really didn't know much about the sport or the proper way to go about getting ready for a contest, so I asked for his help," Erik said.
David elaborated: "I took some classes in exercise physiology. He said he wanted to compete. A month or two before the contest we got into it and he won. We've got a new plan of attack this year. I'm modifying the diet even more. His training we're also modifying a bit. Just after a few weeks you can see results."
Erik now carries about 170 pounds on a 5-9 frame. In his first contest he competed at 152 pounds. In November he plans to come in at about 158. Eventually, the brothers said, they foresee him bulking up to more than 200 pounds and competing professionally.
The challenge is to do so on a natural training and diet regimen in a field dominated by the use of steroids.
"He got big so fast, everybody's wondering if he's on steroids," David said. "That's why we're going in the natural contest. We want to prove you can do it the natural way. We hope he can reach the 220s in his mid-20s. It will take longer the natural way. But right now the technical ability (to build muscle) is there and getting better, without the high blood pressure and liver tumors (associated with steroid use)."
Without giving away secrets, David said his diet guidelines include fish and fowl but no red meat, complex carbohydrates (cereal, pasta, bread), fruit and a protein supplement.
Workouts, which continue at Kasey's Gym in Torrance though the family recently moved to Orange County, are five days a week, stressing each body part intensely twice a week beyond the normal routine of squats, bench presses and curls needed to maintain mass.
Erik is bound for the pro circuit, and his mentor may follow. "In two years I'll hopefully start competing," David said. "I look at him and say, 'Wait a minute. He's the big brother now.' I hope to catch up. I hope one of these days we can compete in the same contest. I'm still keeping a few secrets for myself."