Bodybuilding: Health or Havoc?

Health or Havoc

Always pursue your bodybuilding goals with your health in mind

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The simplest thing to do is change the name of the sport. We can't truly call it bodybuilding. How about bodyhavoc? The unrelenting quest for sheer size and so-called symmetry shoves proportion and health out of the picture.

The starting point seems to be how the sport of bodybuilding is judged. Since I tend to feel that the most important facets of bodybuilding are aesthetics and health, it would seem most reasonable that these criteria should be the strongest guidelines for judging. I have always been under the presumption that health means not only strength for at least basic injury prevention, but also strength for the continuation of a productive and long life. Maybe I've been wrong. On another level bodybuilding as an art form is extremely subjective, as is all art, so some people may believe that the freakier the physique is, the better it is. Most often those people are judges.

Vince Gironda told me that the state of bodybuilding today is mainly the judges' fault and that applause meters at contests are one method of solving this problem. While meters would give a more general consensus, none the less, if the audience was collectively feeling a little freaky, then the steroid user would still most likely prevail.

If we are to let a panel of judges preside and ultimately determine things that affect peoples' lives, we must decide on criteria for judging that do not import the need for obsessive and unhealthy drugs and practices. As with any sport, many competitors will do most anything in the pursuit of that ultimate victory, and the sooner it is achieved, the better. Why should someone with the dream of a Universe or Olympia title spend eight to 10 years in preparation when it is possible with the aid of drugs to obtain the same physique in as little as three to five years?

If we condone the use of such methods and drugs, as we most often do by the obvious choice of winners and favorites, then how can we expect to rid the sport of what we preach we are trying to remove from it? In truth we are hypocrites supporting exactly what we say we should not support.

How is it that when there are so many variables to what constitutes a beautiful physique, we basically force all physical types to be massive, huge and freaky? It seems that we will never again see the likes of a Tony Sansone win a Mr. America title, let alone a Mr. Olympia. If someone with Sansone's skeletal structure were to compete today, he would need to add ridiculous amounts of mass, ruining his proportions, and most likely he would need drugs to obtain that added size. We are headed to the point where even Frank Zane would not be able to win a single contest were he to be competing in his prime today.

There must be an ideal that approximates what humanity as a whole deems to be acceptable rather than the subjective tendencies of a few.

As we know, there are three basic physique types, or somatotypes: ectomorph, mesomorph and endomorph. (Currently we lean very heavily toward the mesomorph with endomorphic tendencies in our value of the so-called ideal physique.) These divisions are not new. The early Greeks had a very similar classification system thousands of years ago, but each type was expressed in the form of a deity. This kind of classification seems more worthy, as it is much harder to judge the worth of Hercules over Apollo than it is to say merely that larger is better.

Maybe somatotypes should be divisions within the weight classes, or maybe we should do without the weight classes altogether and distinguish by structural types alone.

It is more important to have pro-portion in bodybuilding than symmetry. Although the definition of symmetry also includes proportion, symmetry is basically a mathematical term stating that size, shape and the relative position of parts on opposite sides of a dividing line, or meridian, are exactly the same. Symmetry within the context of the human physique is an impossibility. When we speak of symmetry in the human form, we obviously mean a physique that in its muscular development is in proportion to its skeletal structure.

The type of classical physique you can obtain depends, first and only, upon which type of skeletal structure you possess. The two ends of the spectrum are drastically different and for a person with the basic structural form of an Apollo to strive to build the muscle of a Hercules is not only ludicrous, but impossible. Even if it were possible with drugs for the Apollonian type to build Herculean mass, the physique would lose all sense of proportion, and the person's health might well be jeopardized. This puts us right back to where we started, with the two reasons, or criteria, for bodybuilding-aesthetics and health.

I am not in any way maligning or favoring any particular type, as long as it's what is natural to any given physique structure. A highly muscled Hercules type, properly developed and balanced, is wondrous to behold-if it's the person's natural structure, as it is with Sergio Oliva. But why should such a type be considered greater or better than a developed classic Theseus type, such as Steve Reeves or possibly Steve Brisbois.

I just can't even begin to believe that if Steve Reeves were to compete today he might not have a chance at any title-because his physique is too slight or too lean. This brings us to the question of what is wrong with Steve Brisbois' physique anyway? The same demon that drove Arnold has led Brisbois to possess the form he now has. Is he being punished for having a shorter stature? Let's hope he does not feel he must add more mass.

It seems as if we need beauty and health to again assert themselves as reasons and goals for bodybuilding. If we are ever to have our beloved activity squarely recognized as a sport and an art form, then we must abide by these varying structures and dictates. Train hard, don't lose sight of your goals. Live well!

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