Updated to include Jackson entering next year’s Arnold Classic.

Dexter Jackson holds a lot of records: most pro victories (28)*, most pro contests (88)*, most pro years (21), most Arnold Classic wins (5), most Mr. Olympia entries (20), most Mr. Olympia top-6 finishes (16), and on and on. It’s difficult to see any of those just listed being broken by anyone but The Blade himself. And he may break all of them next year, just as he did last year. It all starts with the American Arnold Classic, his 17th (another record, of course) when he goes for win #6. What’s more, Jackson, who turned 50 on November 26, is preparing for his 22nd year as a pro bodybuilder, a span that touches on four decades.

It began with his rookie campaign in 1999 at the dawn of the Ronnie Coleman era and ascended to his own Olympia victory in 2008 (when he was already a 38-year-old grizzled vet), bracketed by Jay Cutler’s foursome. He was fading by early 2012, but he reinvented himself in his 40s, training in Venice, re-inflating his flattening wheels, and he just kept going and going, Arnold victories, seconds and thirds in the Olympia, through the Phil Heath dynasty this decade and on and on and now roaring into the ’20s—his fourth decade as a pro—with no sign of stopping.

1999 Mr. Olympia (29 years old, 9th place); 2019 Mr. Olympia (49 years old, 5th place)

First, we should acknowledge that he’s hardly alone as a middle-aged pro. When Phil Heath turns the big 4-0 next week, he’ll still be a youngster compared to Roelly Winklaar, Shawn Rhoden, Kai Greene, David Henry, and Hide Yamagishi, all of whom will be between 43 and 47 at the next Olympia—if they compete. But the big 5-0, that’s lonely terrain. There you’re only chasing memories. At 50, Vince Taylor finished 11th in the 2006 Olympia, and, at 51, he qualified for the Mr. O the following year. And Albert Beckles won a minor pro show in 1991 at the record age of 52, but, though he competed frequently in the couple years after his 50th b-day, that win was the only time he finished higher than fifth then.

Dexter has grander goals. After taking a couple months off, he returned to The Gym Jax in Jacksonville, Florida, in late November, back to work, and training for yet another year as an IFBB Pro League competitor, his 22nd (record). Now a grandfather, The Blade plans to compete in the 2020 Olympia, his 21st (record) and land in the top six once again, number 17 (record). What’s more, he vows to best the shape he showed last September when he was still, if only barely, 40-something. He recently posted on Instagram a gray-bearded photo from just before the 2019 O with a promise:

I’m so motivated to beat this physique from this past Olympia. My lifetime goal has always been to be better than my previous competition. I worked my ass off this year to achieve this physique… so I can only imagine the hard work I gotta put in next year to be better. I’ll be the big 5O next week so my age ain’t helping. 😳 I damn near killed myself this year. Lol! I will be better next year or I’ll die trying. So if y’all see or hear that the blade passed.. you’ll know why. 😂😂😂 All you guys out there think back or pull out a photo of yourself when you looked your best and make it a goal to be better than that and don’t let nothing stop you from achieving that goal!! Ima be better next year.. are you?? 😉

He is the perennial. Guys come and go, their hype rises and fades, and Dex keeps right on flexing. Every September, there he is, sauntering to the center of the Orleans Arena stage with his trademark glacial entry, and when the final six are announced, there he is again. When will Father Time finally ankle-tackle The Blade? Stay tuned. Another decade is about to begin, but the Dexter Jackson era continues. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

* Doesn’t include his two Masters Olympia wins.

Opening photo: Instagram