Even If You Don’t Follow Bodybuilding Competitions…
Here’s Something That Can Be Learned From Them
I’m not much into bodybuilding competition. The very principle seems kinda dumb. Yeah, I entered a couple in my lifetime but it was more for the challenge, and to be honest, in a way, it was a chance to relive my childhood. You see, when I was a kid, I grew up with the magazines that featured “the champions” of bodybuilding and that was an ideal I always wanted to achieve. I was too young and naive to understand that the reality of one’s genetics is the major factor as to why certain individuals were so far superior to us mere mortals. I assumed it was because they used Weider’s MEGA MASS 1000! Hey, I gotta admit, it was rather tasty. The fact that it was 50% sugar made sure of that. But alas, it did not make me look like Arnold Swarzenegger. (Surprise. Surprise). I was also a big Pumping Iron fan and preparing for a show by getting into the best possible shape had tremendous appeal. Even if I got my ass kicked.
The last time I competed was in 2013 and at that time I hadn’t even attended a bodybuilding show as an audience member in over 15 years. It wasn’t until I arrived the day of the show that I found out there was a category called “Physique” which was designed for more aesthetic bodies. NOW they tell me! Plus, the contestants wore long shorts so thigh development was a non factor. If ever there was an occasion custom built for me, that was it! But instead, I went into the straight bodybuilding show against some incredibly muscled athletes. No way could I beat that level of competition. But I hung in there.
Although competition isn’t the goal of most bodybuilders it should be known that “back in the olden days” once someone won a contest, that was it .., they won it. No need to repeat. It was like a beauty pageant. And the Mr. Universe was the top of the line. That’s why Weider came up with the idea that former Mr Universe winners can go head to head for a “best of the best” showdown, and that became the Mr Olympia contest. Originally, it had fewer than five contestants. Today, it’s pretty much anyone with a pro card. It’s lost its meaning. But more than that, the level of competition showcases something that we can all take away as valuable insight.
The guys of the last 20 years are on another planet compared to the guys from the 60’s and 70’s. Frank Zane won the Olympia at 190 pounds. Ronnie Coleman was 280. That’s the extra size of almost another whole person! But this is the thing…if you look at the guys from way back, when they reached their 50’s and 60’s, they still looked good. Older, of course, but in shape and with considerable muscle. Scott, Zane, Draper, Oliva, Benuit, Robbie Robinson, Vince Taylor, Lou Ferrigno Lee Haney. All over 50 and beyond. They still looked like bodybuilders.
Now take a look at the aging mass monsters from the 2000’s.
Dorian Yates redefined the term “mass monster” when he competed. If he walked by you today on the street you wouldn’t even know he lifted. Dave Palumbo pushed the envelope of anabolic enhancement to create as much of a freakazoid physique as possible, eclipsing 300 pounds. Today, he’s 185. Ronnie Coleman is suffering the damage of lifting ungodly poundages. Kevin Lavrone was one of the most muscular beings on the planet and even he lampooned his fall from grace shortly after retirement demonstrating how he no longer had any muscularity beyond that of an average gym goer. Rich Pianna — dead. Shawn Roden was a seemingly perfect specimen of physical excellence when he won the Olympia a few years back, yet six months after that show, he did a guest posing appearance only to reveal a fat out of shape body with much smaller, soft watery muscles.
The reason is simple. The difference between the old guys and the new is that the old guys trained for the love of it and then used tiny amounts of steroids to gain that extra 5%. Today, guys start out using boatloads of gear and those who respond well to the drugs are the ones who enter contests. They do as much as they can tolerate to get as big as possible and then use drugs to get as cut and as hard as possible a few weeks out from the show. The results are impressive. But they’re ephemeral. It isn’t real muscle built from hard work and allowing the body to adapt to the stress and strain of lifting by growing solid muscle. It’s artificially inflated through the anabolic process. With todays “champs”, the steroids aren’t an aid. They’re pretty much everything.
Now I have no problem with using enhancement for getting that extra edge to go beyond one’s genetic potential. In fact, I’ve advocated for years that steroid use can be of tremendous benefit to health and longevity if used wisely and safely. But if you want solid long lasting muscle, it has to be built from the ground up. The foundation must be solid before you add the fancy decoration.
So the next time someone wants to know what stack is best to get in shape to look good at the beach, let him know…it’s that stack of weights over in the corner! Lift them! Repeat! Do that enough, and you’ll build a body that you can always get back in shape. But you can’t regain muscle that was only borrowed without borrowing again.
Take it from a guy who’s been at this longer than most people reading it have been alive. You’ll never regret honest training. And if you decide to dabble with the sauce, make sure the cycles are kept short and the majority of the year is spent training natural. Then you’ll know the muscle that you have — you earned.