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The Death Of Bodybuilding

The Death Of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding has what is known as a golden era. It is hard to pinpoint when it began and when it ended. Depending on your point of view it could have started in the 50s with people like Steve Reeves and Reg Park, (peopele who are bodybuilding legends, but not so well known to the general public) or the 60’s. It was definitely in full swing by the 70s when the movie Pumping Iron came out, starring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger (a man so famous that if you spell his name wrong, it’s actually in your spell checker!).

The era probably ended around the mid eighties, perhaps as late as the mid nineties, with Dorian Yates, the English superstar being the last Mr Olympia that the casual weight lifter may have heard of. But frankly unless  you followed bodybuilding, you probably are not likely to have ever heard of him. By contrast, Arnold is known world wide.

So what happened? Well drugs happened. We all know that steroids have been around bodybuilding for ever. Guys were doing steroids in bodybuilding since the 50s. What we’re talking about now is growth hormone and insulin and clenbuterol and who knows what else. These guys no longer even look human any more. They look like the prize bull at an agricultural show.

It used to be that the average person could go, “wow, that’s a well built dude” and they could aspire to be built like some of the bodybuilders of the past. Now, who would want to look like a sideshow freak?

Case in point – Frank Zane. This guy is a 3 x Mr Olympia from the 70s and in my view one of the most well proportioned guys you would ever see. He was about 5 feet 8 inches tall and about 82 kilos.

The thing is, this is something you can aspire to as a normal person. You see guys in the gym now, regular guys who are just training right and eating right who can emulate this. Perhaps not quite to this level, but people can see it’s within reach.

Compare this with someone like 8x Mr Olympia Ronnie Coleman at around 5 feet 11 inches and 130 kilos competition weight. He looks something like this


Now unless you want to look like some Masters of the Universe action figure, you’re not aspiring to this. And not only this, it takes a toll.

This is Ronnie doing squats with 800 lbs

And this is Ronnie Coleman trying to walk again after major back surgery and having both hips replaced.

Was it worth it? Ronnie Coleman says yes. I say that exercise is supposed to increase your quality of life and the span of your life in which you are in robust good health.

I know that Ronnie is not alone. We have a society where excellence in sport is revered. At the top level, sportsmen push their bodies so hard it is is not healthy. It isn’t even worth singling out sports here; some are worse that others, obviously. Combat sports for example are notorious for brain injury that can turn once strong young men into basket cases later in life, but even sports like tennis destroy people’s knees, ankles, hips et c.

As a society we admire the dedication of the sportsman; those who are prepared to pay the price. And of course there are the financial rewards. Even a fringe sport like bodybuilding rewards the top competitors with a very good living. There is also some level of fame. Ronnie Coleman is known worldwide by bodybuilding fans.

But for me the price paid simply isn’t worth it. And as I have already said I believe all of your fitness efforts should be directed to towards extending your health span; the period in your life in which you are fit and healthy.

I also believe that the goal of weight training as envisioned by the pioneer physical culturalists was to extend your healthspan as well. The drug bloated bodybuilders of today have deviated far from the original ideal and as they have done so, the sport has become a sideshow.

I believe in weight training. I believe done right, it is an essential aspect of any fitness program. Muscle loss associated with aging is a thing. With weight training, you can literally hold back the sands of time.

But it has to be done right. And in my view, when it comes to weights, less is more. You would be surprised how little you need to get great results.

So when you train, bear this in mind. Your joints have to last you for life. Exercise your muscles, but be careful. Stimulate, don’t annihilate.


About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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