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The Misdirection of Competitive Bodybuilding


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The Misdirection of Competitive Bodybuilding


Everyone trying to squeeze a dollar out of bodybuilding recognises that bodybuilding needs a substantially larger fan base/audience. To make more money (any money?) promoters need more people coming to their shows; magazine publishers need more readers; supplement companies and retailers need more customers; and professional athletes need more fans willing to buy the products they endorse, shows they enter etc etc.

The general consensus is that further growth of competitive bodybuilding means a greater degree of mainstream/public acceptance and interest. But how do you get a conservative, redneck public to embrace a sport where nine-tenths-naked men, cover themselves in oil and then flex their grotesquely disproportionate muscles to a predominantly same-sex audience? Yes, its quite a pickle.

And then there is the drug ‘problem’… but we’ll get to that later.

A Guess At What The Public Thinks

Though I can’t seem to find any formal research on the public perception of bodybuilding, I am going to take a guess at it based on about 15 years of having their feelings forcefully shoved in my face.

Bodybuilders are insecure, steroid abusing Neanderthals with IQ’s barely scraping over 70 (the minimum required to stand up). They are drawn to bodybuilding in a feeble attempt to overcompensate for their small brains, small dicks, Napoleonic complex or combination of all three.

Bodybuilders lives are completely one-dimensional. They spend every waking hour in the gym pumping iron and in the change-rooms pumping steroids or each other.

Ultimately, bodybuilders are grotesque. Their muscles look like they are about to explode out of their skin and they have disgusting hose-like veins squiggling all over them. They look like a condom full of walnuts; 20 gallons of crap poured into a 15 gallon bag; or any number of bad clichés. And they all look the same.

Too harsh? I doubt it.

Even in my sheltered world as a fairly hardcore trainer, still the vast majority of clients will forcefully state that they ‘do NOT want to look like a bodybuilder’ (maybe they are afraid they’ll accidentally squat 1000lb and then mix up their tea bags with a syringe full of steroids?).

To the general public bodybuilding is at best a joke; at worst its an abomination. Its like the worst parts of WWF wrestling minus the entertainment value of the wrestling.

But Its Worse Than That

Bodybuilding offends absolutely every hypocritical ideal held by the general public in Western civilisation.

Firstly you have the vanity of bodybuilding – the complete obsession with the outward appearance of ones body cannot be condoned. For centuries it has been preached that vanity is a sin. And never has that been truer than in today’s society where morbid obesity is the accepted norm. Damn the fact that the survival of all animal species hinges on a degree of self-obsession – when it is convenient (like whenever you aren’t the best looking person in the crowd), vanity is a sin.

Then you have nakedness and appreciation of the male body – something the conservative, redneck public are certainly not yet comfortable enough to do. Real men look at breasts, football and V8’s. NOT other blokes!

Then you have the issues of discipline, sacrifice and intense physical effort – the antithesis of life in Western society. Sticking to a rigid diet, not drinking to excess, not partying to the wee hours of the morning and actually exercising hard is not cool.

And then you have the raw fear factor. Most people will never, ever, begin to have anything close to resembling an attractive body… on ANY level! If they tried, they would probably fail so its best not to try just in case. That’s why cricket is so popular – there’s no fear factor of sucking at cricket. Even a triple amputee with Turrets Syndrome and narcolepsy can play cricket (ever wonder why bowlers suddenly have those spastic fits after they’ve done a good bowl? HOWZAAAAT!?!?!! Yep, that’s turrets syndrome).

And finally you have the drug issue. Whether they use steroids or not, bodybuilders look like steroid abusing athletes. And in the publics twisted morality it is OK to use drugs that render you mentally and physically incapacitated; it is ok to use drugs for recreational sex; it is ok to have a surgeon cut you open to vacuum out your fat and then spend weeks on mind-killing pain killers; but it is NOT alright to artificially increase naturally occurring hormones for super health and physical capacity!

In stepping down off my soapbox, can we simply agree that the general public is never, ever going to even understand bodybuilding let alone flock to it like football. As such, the success of bodybuilding will NOT come from trying to appeal to the mums and dads in the general public.

The Drug Issue

And then there is the drug issue. It is well recognised that most people negatively associate bodybuilding with drug use; specifically the use of anabolic steroids. And rightly so. Most competitive bodybuilders do use drugs of some description. At the top level of bodybuilding the drug use is unlike anything most people could possibly imagine. Then again, virtually all elite athletes in most sports use a massive array of performance enhancing drugs of some description (sorry to burst your bubble if you didn’t know, but that’s just a fact!). And lets not get started on the drugs of choice of your average, obese, couch-potato (cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine etc etc). We live in a society that is addicted to drugs but suffers a BAAAAAD case of denial.

The ubiquity of the Internet has brought the underworld of bodybuilding drug use out into the wide open. The increased sharing of knowledge combined with the release of numerous new hormones, growth factors and ancillary drugs has meant that contemporary bodybuilding has become a scary war of chemistry. And people are getting VERY sick… only, not for the reasons you might expect.

The Perceived Problem

Muscle size is the most obvious point of difference between a bodybuilder and, well, anybody else. Muscle size is the primary difference between a steroid using athlete vs. a non-steroid using athlete. Muscle size is the major entry barrier to wannabe bodybuilding competitors. And the quest for massive muscle size supposedly forces bodybuilders to use more and more drugs making them more and more sick and making bodybuilding more and more inaccessible and grotesque. Clearly then muscle size is the factor that needs to be de-emphasised in order for bodybuilding to grow? It’s a wonderful, elegant, sensible conclusion; except for the fact that its flat out WRONG!

The REAL Problem With Competitive Bodybuilding

Let me cut straight to the chase here: the problem with competitive bodybuilding is the focus on stuffing as many people on a stage as possible so long as they have ridiculous low bodyfat and are dehydrated to within an inch of their life! Its rotten-boring for the crowd and dangerously unhealthy for the athletes.

It is commonplace for competitors (or prospective competitors) to be hospitalised in an attempt to lean-out or dry-out for a show. Yet the number of bodybuilders that wind up hospitalised as a direct consequence of their muscle mass is… well, I haven’t even heard of it! The drugs that have killed or nearly killed bodybuilders aren’t the drugs that helped them get big; the killer drugs were the ones they used to get stupidly ripped and dry for the contest.

Now please understand that I love bodybuilding. I have experienced competitive bodybuilding as a competitor, fan, judge and sponsor. As such, I feel justified in stating that bodybuilding shows are boring as hell! Big shows are so boring as to be painful. It is just the nature of the sport.

Bodybuilding is boring because nothing happens. There is no real contesting for anything in bodybuilding. There are no CGI effects or limbs flying off or people bleeding or getting KO’d. Its like comparing architecture used in buildings – its boring. And it is what it is. You can’t change that. But you can at least give the fans what they want: a few MASSIVELY MUSCLED DUDES!!!

The Reality of the Situation

Firstly, the only remotely interesting thing about a bodybuilding show is the freak factor. You don’t have to go to many shows to realise that the fans want to see muscle! Nor do you need to sit with many first-time spectators to realise that the massive, muscular freaks – love ‘em or hate ‘em - are the only thing that makes sense at a bodybuilding ‘show’. The general public - like the rest of us - can go to the beach if we want to see skinny, ripped dudes.

Everybody including the general public EXPECTS to see mass-monsters at a bodybuilding show. That’s what a bodybuilding show is supposed to be! And a 23 inch arm doesn’t offend anybody – if WWF wrestling is anything to go by, 23 inch arms are cool!

As a paying spectator I am not particularly bothered if the high quality and massive size of competitors scares away 100 useless wannabe’s. I am paying to see muscle – not skinny dudes with high hopes of no REAL bodybuilders turning up to their contest. A small, high quality show is infinitely more desirable than a big, low quality show. And I will go back, year after year to the small but quality show.


What the general public and bodybuilding newbies find distasteful and grotesque about bodybuilding is not muscular size. Its the thousand squiggling veins and jagged cross-striations jumping out of the skin of a guy whos face looks like a reanimated cadaver. And it doesn’t matter how big the guys flexed arm is… unless it’s a skinny ripped arm in which case they are confused as to why a skinny, POW is in a bodybuilding contest?

This same conditioning that disgusts pretty much everybody outside of the hardcore community is the exact same issue that is causing all of bodybuildings infamous health and drug problems. It is the same issue that prevents many excellent physiques ever stepping on a bodybuilding stage and it is the reason we have such a glut of awful physiques competing in Australia today. Its hardly motivation for anyone else to take up the sport.

Bodybuilding needs to get back to its roots: muscle mass, shape, symmetry and proportion with decent definition and separation. It needs to reduce the number of class divisions so that there is some exclusivity and status to winning a bodybuilding show. And it needs to give some major payoff to the athletes that win the Overall so people might actually be motivated to work hard and compete well… like they did in the past.

Its not that complex: give the competitors a reason to compete at their best, don’t ask them to ruin their physique and nearly die to compete and you wind up with a contest people will pay to watch. Genius!


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As you probably no I’m not a fan of steroids but “MUSCLEROIDS” has some very good points there

Bodybuilding needs to get back to its roots: muscle mass, shape, symmetry and proportion with decent definition and separation.

It’s a shame that mainly due to the media the general public only get to see the bad aspects of body building and not the good

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  • 3 weeks later...

I too like yester-year's physiques more than the current lot.

To me, Haney was the last of the great physique's. Although he wasn't my favourite BBer, his physique was pleasing to the eye. The last of the truly small waists.

Let's not kid ourselves, the old school BBers were all on the gear too, they just didn't look as gross as the current crop.

I have no problems with users or non-users, so long as the guys that are using don't compete in Natural shows. That's one of my pet hates. In this day & age, there is a contest to suit all BBers. There is no need to cheat.

I like seeing Naturals compete in non-tested shows & winning them. It's great that they are not only taking up the challenge, but are succeeding as well.

My personal opinion of the general public accepting our sport, is why waste our time worrying about it? Who cares what they think.

You do it for yourself, not to gain respect or to be accepted by people who are not interested in the sport.

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Hey, what a great article.

The reality is the general public and media fail to see the point of bodybuilding and always will.

I mean it doesn’t make great T.V and is at best a minority participation with little to offer a neutral viewer or reader.

Your description of B.B as pro-wrestling without the entertainment value is very apt.

Well done.

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