“When they get a 50-inch waist and a gorilla butt, it’s ugly looking – and I think bodybuilding has become ugly looking.” – Joe Gold
At the recent Arnold classic show Arnold Schwarzenegger criticised the current judging standards and highlighted the demise of modern bodybuilding. He stated that the athletes’ bodies no longer looked “beautiful” or athletic, nor did they represent the kind of body that anyone would wish to have themselves.
Looking at modern professional bodybuilders today I don’t see anything I would aspire to be, nor would any other sane person. They display veins the size of garden hoses and bulbous distended midsections which make them look pregnant and ridiculous. Evidently proportion and aesthetics no longer have any meaning, and in a culture where the relentless pursuit of mass at any cost is king, many professional bodybuilders have become freakish and gross in appearance. It has gone beyond the pale now, and bodybuilders are no longer accessible to common mortal man.
All this is far removed from the former standards that used to portray bodybuilders as role models of health and strength. Aside from the early days of the sport, anabolic steroids have always been part of the mix in attaining the level of muscularity required to compete in bodybuilding, however the number and diversity of drugs now ingested by bodybuilders has reached ridiculous levels and relegated training as almost redundant. Ingesting a huge cocktail of hormones and other ergogenic aids is now a prerequisite for success in modern day bodybuilding. Health and longevity are no longer a factor and the bury me massive philosophy prevails and is part of the win at any cost mindset. The number of different compounds utilised by bodybuilders includes but is not limited to, fat burning aids, strong diuretics, stimulants, human growth hormone, insulin, myostatin inhibitors and multiple combinations of anabolic-androgenic steroids. Typical professionals reportedly run in the order of 2000mg testosterone a week or more, 15-20iu of growth hormone a day, around 30iu of insulin a day plus various other compounds. They also administer muscle site injections generally into the upper chest, deltoids and biceps.
The following quote illustrates the likely financial burden incurred from a typical drug regime:
“When my guys tell you it costs more than $25,000 to get ready for a big contest, do you think they’re talking about pasta?”
Wayne Demilia, President of the International Federation of Body Builders (IFBB)
As quoted from the New York Times May 13, 2001. This quote is 15 years old so I dread to think what the costs are today.
The physical toll and lethargy from lack of carbohydrate combined with other deleterious effects of drug ingestion pre-contest means many of these behemoths waddle around breathless and uncomfortable at the slightest exertion sometimes unable even to reach and tie their own shoes.
The advent of the GH Gut and demise of modern bodybuilding
Growth hormone (HGH), insulin, IGF1, diuretics and carbohydrate loading have all been blamed as potential culprits for the advent of the so called “GH /Slin / Roid gut” which started to become evident sometime toward the end of the “Lee Haney” era and for many marked the beginning of the demise of modern bodybuilding. There appears to be no clear cut definitive explanation for the distended gut phenomena and though growth hormone has been blamed many former bodybuilders utilising these compounds did not appear to develop this trait, at least not to any great extent.
Whatever the cause for this malady, more than anything else the distended gut makes the physiques of most modern professionals look ridiculous, and in competition they waddle around looking like pregnant gorillas. What happened to trim and tight mid sections?
The scale of drug use in recent times necessitates that bodybuilders be well informed and knowledgeable enough to manage the compounds they ingest optimally in order to achieve success. Managing the intake of this potent cocktail of chemicals in order to optimise contest preparation is no mean feat, and includes managing the desired effects as well as side/unwanted effects. Having a big distended gut is undesirable and looks totally unnatural in keeping with an aesthetically pleasing physique. A competitor with a huge gut should be penalised by judges if displayed onstage.
How different things were during the “golden age” of bodybuilding. I remember Sergio Oliva (see image) being accused by Joe Weider of “going his own way in an all out pursuit of mass” in the early to mid 1970’s supposedly robbing Joe of the opportunity of creating the ultimate physique. Sergio was penalised for this rather than rewarded, admittedly for political reasons, however at that time his physique was the most massive of all. Sergio was a sculptors dream, despite his huge mass and a slight lack of refinement, Sergio retained proportion and a very small waistline compared to other bodybuilders competing at that time. There was no similarity to many of the bloated monstrosities that purport to be professional bodybuilders today.
In more recent times the competing females’ abuse of synthetic male hormone in the form of anabolic steroids made them slowly evolve into freaks, and the resultant drug induced virilisation ensured the eventual demise of their brand of bodybuilding. The sunken eyes, big noses and sharply angled jaw lines (“Man face”) coupled with extreme muscularity spelled the end of female bodybuilding.
Despite claims that bodybuilding is not a beauty pageant the fact remains that aesthetics are indeed part of the show. Like it or not, the end of female bodybuilding is mainly a result of the social repugnance associated with its competitors. Will “GH Gut” do the same for the men, or at least put an end to the all out pursuit of mass and extreme definition at the cost of aesthetics? Will bodybuilding go full circle?, probably not, but changes are well overdue. Arnold’s status puts him above criticism and his intervention on the subject will hopefully precipitate some action. It’s time for this sad state of affairs to end if bodybuilding is to continue as a credible and legitimate sport.
If nothing changes with this freak show and it persists, then aesthetics will have permanently disappeared in the modern age of bodybuilding. It is, and will remain a parody of what the art and sport was originally meant to exemplify.
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