|What's Wrong With Bodybuilding?
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What's Wrong With Bodybuilding?
by Ron Ball, courtesy of www.mickhart.com's
No Bull Collection.
“All is not well in the
This is not a very profound
statement; many have been saying the same thing for years. But what is wrong?
What are we bothered about? Are the problems unique to bodybuilding? What can be
done to improve things? I ask a string of questions but does anyone care enough
to try to get things right? Is it possible with so many entrenched officials in
the sport unwilling to give an inch to another organisation.
First of all let’s consider
the good things.
Thirty or more years ago, just as now, in the UK at least, bodybuilders were
held in contempt by Joe Public. But in those days, the gyms were terrible, with
very basic equipment, much of it home made, operating in cheap, nasty buildings
with no heating or insulation and often leaky walls or roofs. Now most gyms are
well equipped, with all Olympic bars, a wide range of weight loading and
pre-select plate loading machines and some buildings even have heating and
air-conditioning. There are many more and useful supplements available and our
knowledge of training and nutrition is so much greater that almost anyone can
now expect a reasonable degree of success (whatever the genetic potential) if he
works hard enough. There is a wider range of clothing and accessories available
for the real bodybuilder for working-out in the gym as well as for casual wear,
than ever before. And now many bodybuilders are able to add to their incomes by
getting work in advertising and TV, as well as in films, much more than was ever
possible in the past.
With so many large fitness centres
around in every town in the land, why can't we attract enough men and women to
go that step further from keeping fit to getting serious about bodybuilding? I
often feel that fitness is such a nebulous thing that alone it will not keep
anyone interested for long. They need to have positive goals whether through
bodybuilding or some other sport.
S o bodybuilders are not held
in high regard by the media and the public.
I don't mind very much what the public thinks of me as a bodybuilder or as
anything else for that matter. bodybuilders have always felt that many ordinary
men poured scorn on body obsessed bodybuilders because they were, secretly,
envious of the physiques of these men. There is probably much truth in this.
Where we have concerns about serious hardcore bodybuilding and the future, are
in three areas.
1. Contests are not getting the
support we would hope for and need.
2. bodybuilders DO NOT get their just rewards
3. The sporting establishment like to blame bodybuilders for any the problems
they think they have with drugs in sports and they may yet persuade a goverment
minister to make bodybuilding a proscribed activity.
With a control freak in charge of
the shop, this third concern could easily come to pass, but we will have to
react to controls when they happen and considering the form of any such
controls. Lets face it we can get enough EPO filled bike riders to disprove that
theory. Primarily, the concerns are the seeming lack of support for contests and
the lack of financial returns for the best efforts of even top rank
bodybuilders. If you cannot drag in an audience, then bodybuilders can forget
about making money from the sport.
T he solutions to the problems
are not simple but there are solutions.
What I say here applies primarily to men’s bodybuilding but much is also true
of women’s bodybuilding too. First and foremost, the various bodybuilding
organisations must pull together. Most men who compete in bodybuilding contests
do not care a monkeys whether the contest is organised by NABBA or EFBB or any
other organisation as long as they get looked after and get a fair crack of the
whip when they compete. All the nonsense of trying to take competitors away from
one organisation, bar them from other contests or place a Mr. Universe winner
nowhere because vou need to prove that your contests are of such a fabulously
high standard that even a Mr Universe winner cannot expect to place, is
ludicrous. These antics will only bring forward the day when we see officials
like a pack of squabbling vultures fighting over the last scraps of meat on a
long dead corpse.
B odybuilding will die
without men who love bodybuilding so much that they will sacrifice most of
their social life and much of their money to get the physique that they have
Fine, you have every right to
dictate what a bodybuilder does if he is under contract but not otherwise. And,
even then, if he is a professional, European law will not allow you to apply any
restrictions which would prevent the bodybuilder from earning his living.
Sometimes two organisations will have contests on the same day and in the same
area cannot they talk to each other to ensure that they do not clash? Do they
think there are several pools of competitive bodybuilders available to compete
exclusively in one organisation only - as well as several lots of spectators who
will only go to one organisations contests? The reality is more likely that each
thinks they will steal the others competitors and audience with the result that
possibly both will get a poor turnout.
B odybuilding will die without men
who love bodybuilding so much that they will sacrifice most of their social life
and much of their money to get the physique that they have dreamed of. These men
come to the gyms year in year out, force the standards ever upward, provide the
stuff for muscle magazines and newspapers and are the inspiration for the up and
coming young men, the bodybuilders of the future. There is nothing wrong with
bodybuilders who do not want to compete but it is the ones who do compete that
carry the sport forward and they deserve the support of everyone in bodybuildng
in everything that they do. But, on the whole side, they get a bum deal.
Much is said about the
To be a successful competitive bodybuilder you hove to live the sport 24hrs per
day, week after week, the whole year round. You have to eat the right foods at
the right times each day, supplement your protein intake, drink plenty of water,
get plenty of rest, train hard in seriously brutal work-outs, use all the right
supplements. The cost in money terms alone can be astronomical - £150/$250 per
week and upwards spent on food and nutrients is not unusual and for a really big
man can be much higher. And for those striving for the very top (even as
amateurs) there will be expenditure on some sophisticated and very expensive
supplementation (drugs!). Then when competition time comes around, there is the
dieting for several weeks or months to get into the ripped low bodyfat shape
that is demanded; a period when bodybuilders become irritable, lacking in energy
and yet have to be even more committed to the life style.
When your aspiring physique champ
goes to the contest venue, he or she will often get little help - sometimes
competitors may even seem to be considered as just a bloody nuisance - the
contest will probably start late, competitors will often be provided with
neither space nor equipment to warm up, etc, etc. And if our bodybuilder happens
to win he or she will get a fairly low value trophy; anyone coming only second,
third, fourth, etc. will get a smaller trophy and almost instant obscurty.
I t sounds that my criticisms are
aimed at those who organise contests. To some extent they are, but many of those
individuals organising area contests do so only out of of love for the sport, in
their spare time and often with little help or support. And it is not only they
who are at fault. Some bodybuilders at all levels in the sport are very
unprofessional in their behaviour and sometimes it is difficult or impossible to
be sympathetic to their antics.
If bodybuilding is to prosper,
we need more competitors.
More competitors means bigger audiences, since the competitors will bring along
their mates, supporters from their gyms and relatives to watch. More competitors
will mean better and real competitors. If so, how do we get more competitors?
This is difficult. In our own gym in Crawley, we have a small number of men and
women who are competing on a regular basis and a reasonable number who show
interest in competing. But the vast majority of gym members will not compete,
not this year, not next year, not ever! Some of them have terrific potential and
some have competed in the past - once!! But not again.
"To compete nowadays
even at novice level and have a serious chance of placing well, the commitment
that the potential competitor has to make is probably greater than in any
They feel that for the potential
rewards, competitive bodybuilding is just not worth the efforts. To compete
nowadays even at novice level and have a serious chance of placing well, the
commitment that the potential competitor has to make is probably greater than in
any other sport. I t is true that at some shows, many classes have only one or
perhaps two competitors, so you get a trophy for just turning up on the day.
This may allow you to collect trophies if you want to, but there is little
satisfaction in winning because no one else turned up!
On the other hand, I feel
very sympathetic to the competitor who does turn up in top condition and then
finds he has no competition; it offers no encouragement to think - as you will -
that you put all that effort into training, dieting and applying colour, etc.
when you could have won by just turning up and putting on your posing trunks.
But for the out of shape competitor who wins, when he lines up against real
opposition he comes nowhere. This does nothing for bodybuilding and guarantees a
smaller audience next time around. But to build a real contest winning physique
requires total commitment. That commitment is greater because the standards for
top physiques are set by pictures in the magazines and decorating the walls of
every hardcore bodybuilding gym in the country.
You see the pictures and you know
that is what a top bodybuilder physique should look like and so every competitor
strives for that look, training with total commitment for months or years before
that all important first contest.
In comparison, if, for example,
you play football at weekends for some local team, you cannot see by looking at
pictures just how useless you and the rest of your team are in comparison with
Manchester United. And since the opponents also do not see how useless they are,
a sort of game of football is played and everyone is happy. But get hold of your
team and make them train really hard four times per week, with proper coaching,
eat good quality food and supplements (nothing illegal) do not allow them to
smoke or drink alcohol, plan your games, etc. and suddenly, assuming the players
dont all tell you to get knotted and leave, your team will start looking
something special. But no matter how useless you and your team are at playing
football you can tell tall stories down the local pub and at least you can
believe it. But it is no use trying to persuade your mates that you will be the
next Mr. Universe if you have a bodyweight of 10 stone (140lbs) at 6’ height
or excess weight hanging around the waist, it is the constant visibility of a
bodybuilder that makes the commitment so necessary.
“Most men who compete in
bodybuilding contests do not care a monkeys whether the contest is organised
by NABBA, EFBB or any other organisation as long as they get looked after and
get a fair crack of the whip when they compete.”
W e have had a gym in Crawley now
for thirty years. During that time we have, at some time, entered competitors in
contests run by all the established organisations. But the extent of their
contacts with us has generally been no more than to send us posters and entry
forms and sometimes they don't even do that unless we ask for them. We have had
the gym affiliated to one of the above organisations for years and have
supported their contests almost every year, yet only a few months ago they
didn’t seem to even know of our existence.
By comparison, I have to say that
recently we had two of our women members competing at the EPF Britain show and
then going on to the WPF World Championships in Leipzig, and the officials of
this small (in the UK) organisation showed very much more interest in our
support and involvement and made us very welcome at the Britain Show in
Halesowen. Our two women who went to Leipzig said that the organisation there
was very good and that the show ran to schedule - they were almost quite
unprepared for this. They enjoyed the whole trip and will want to compete with
the EPF again. But this is more the way it should be.
Without support from the gyms
there will be no bodybuilding shows.
If there were more contacts between gyms and the show organisers it may be that
the numbers turning up to compete could well increase and the numbers failing to
turn up (having already entered) for no reason could be reduced. B odybuilding
is an expensive sport and most serious hardcore bodybuilders are perpetually
without any money - they spend everything that they can afford on food and
supplements for their sport. When I was competing, bodybuilding was still
expensive but not as much as today because then we hardly knew anything about
conditioning and our knowledge of ‘supplementation' - yes I do mean drugs -
was much less sophisticated.
It was normal then to try to eat
1gm of protein per day for each lb of bodyweight; nowadays the average
recommended amount is 2 or 3 gms per lb of bodyweight, and protein foods are the
most expensive. The contest condition of serious competitors is now way beyond
anything in the past in both muscle mass and in condition - just look at an
average Mr. Universe in 1970-75; few of them could do better than place in an
area qualifier show today. In the next issue of No Bull, I will say more about
the rewards for bodybuilders and the problems of judging and what you may have
to do to win!
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