one of the most astonishing features of this sport is the fact that very few bodybuilders are capable of objectivity. This failing is apparent at any local contest where the audience consists
largely of the competitors' friends and family. Just knowing they will be getting up in front of familiar faces ought to be enough incentive to do a good job of preparation, but in every show
you see at least five to 10 bodybuilders who have just missed the mark. These competitors who are not yet ready for prime time ought to feel embarrassed, but that seldom seems to be the case.
Meanwhile spectators are cringing and stifling laughter in the darkened auditorium.
Even at the Olympia there are always cases of guys who remain a few days away from top shape. Some of them pull out, citing illness or circumstance, and a few of them just suck it up and compete,
but on the whole pros have been at the competition game long enough to know the folly of going into a big show in poor condition. If an unforeseen problem occurs in the last 24 hours, for some
odd reason, that's just the way the ball bounces. The point is, you don't see the gross errors of judgment in professional competitions in quite the same way you do at amateur contests.
So what's to blame for a competitor's lack of objectivity? I suppose a lot of it at the amateur level has to do with the nothing-to-lose attitude. Whereas in the pro ranks cold hard cash is at
stake, in the amateur ranks a cheap plastic trophy and a Dixie cup of Gatorade is all a guy has to show for his efforts, win or lose. If he fails to peak properly and looks hideous, he not only
damages his own self-esteem, but he also hurts the image of the sport. Who wants to pay good money to attend a bodybuilding event when half the competitors look as if they're six weeks out,
bloated, white, streaked or ill trained? Yeah, everyone wants to see a 240-pound freak at the local level, but not when 18 percent of those 240 pounds are made up of water and fat!
Part of objectivity is inborn, I think. It's related to how your parents taught you to see yourself. I know people whose parents encouraged them strongly and who turned out to be winners. I also
know people whose parents ignored them and who turned out to be losers. Probably more amazing are the ones whose parents encouraged them unrealistically and told them they could do anything in
the world if they put their mind to it. Well, that's a nice sentiment, but in my view it's utterly ridiculous.
Fact is, not everyone is going to be President of the United States. Not everyone is going to be the next Bill Gates or the next Brad Pitt. Somebody out there who is just turning 6 and picking up
a football for the first time may become the next Marcus Allen. Then again, lots of kids are picking up footballs and will never make their high school football team. What we make of ourselves is
largely about talent and genetic predisposition.
How can we possibly know we aren't destined for greatness in athletics, politics or Hollywood unless we give it a try? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that. There's a certain amount of
validity in unfettered optimism, and no one should stifle an urge to give anything a try (even bodybuilding). Just make sure - if physique competition is your goal -that when you step onstage,
you give yourself a chance to become something. Whether that something is Mr. First Place or Mr. Dead Last, you want to look the best you can for where you're at and what you have to offer at
that stage of your career.
Lack of objectivity is far more of a villain than lack of genetics. Hell, there are guys competing in the pro ranks who, for whatever reason, got to turn pro in their year without being the best
genetic representation of the ideal. It happens. How they got there, even with inferior genetics, is a matter of being at their best most times. That's where objectivity and objective assessment
have obviously worked to their advantage.
I always tell the clients I prepare for body-building or fitness competition to make sure, well before they enter a competition, that they can do well in it. For a first-timer that's somewhat
harder because he or she has never dieted down fully and doesn't know what the end product is going to look like. That's why they come to me. They put their trust in me because I am the objective
eye they probably cannot be for themselves in the beginning, and maybe ever.
Objectivity: Choosing the Right Eye
Many bodybuilders have cronies around them who are essentially just glorified yes men. They want to belong to the group so much that they are dishonest. Or they've known the competitor so long,
they absolutely cannot bear to crush his feelings, so they lie. Sure, you feel good when your buddies say, "Oh, man, you're on!" However, that sort of flattery doesn't do the bodybuilder much good
when he gets crucified onstage a week later. False praise does the friend a disservice.
I know the situation, believe me. The guy wants to hear only positive comments. He is so convinced he looks amazing that if his friends don't agree, he'll get angry, stomp off, or refuse to continue
with the friendship. But who cares? He'll thank you once he enters a contest he's suited for, and wins! In the meantime don't tell him he looks great unless he actually does.
Some people talk a good game about what a trained eye they have. You put your trust in them even though they may be totally ignorant of what to look for at the various stages of contest preparation.
For instance, if a person like this sees bloat three weeks out, he's convinced his subject won't come in on target, on time, and persuades him to drop his carbs too early. When the bodybuilder comes
in flat, deflated and small, he can't figure out how he went wrong. Truth is, the person you choose to be in charge of assessing your physique should know what to look for and how to alter appearance
at every juncture.
Being Honest and Realistic with Yourself
You can hire trainers, a good eye, or a team of babysitters, but if you don't know your own physique, your selections will be in vain. You need to have a realistic streak and sense of how you compare
to other competitive bodybuilders. Wanting to become a pro often thwarts an athlete's ability to honestly assess himself. Many bodybuilders fall prey to layers of denial that, when built up over the
years, show them a completely different person in the mirror from the man who stands before it. Many of this type see an absolute god when they gaze at their reflection, whereas they probably look
just a few pounds bigger than the guy who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach.
This is especially true of anyone who's overweight in the off-season. All he can see before him is a massive contender who could be ready in eight weeks, when in reality he would probably need closer
to 18 weeks to shed all the baby/body fat! I've known guys like this. Hearing them go on about the amount of muscle they've packed on since their last competition is very sad when anyone can clearly
see mounds of fat instead. Almost invariably they fail to go into a competition ripped, developing a reputation as the resident lard-ass in any show they enter.
Look, no one will ever tell you self-assessment is easy, particularly when the picture staring back at you isn't anything like what you hoped you'd be as a competitor. The first step in making your
desires match your outward appearance is to be honest about what your needs are in order to make you a better competitor. You can't become Ronnie Coleman overnight!
Taking it One Step at a Time
Objectivity doesn't happen overnight any more than a bigger lat spread or a beefier chest happens within days of beginning a new routine. Like muscles, your perspective needs training as well. There
are several ways to train your eye and become more objective.
One of those ways is to keep track of your weight and measurements. Numbers don't lie. Sometimes these statistics can be the wake-up call you need to realize you aren't yet at the level you imagine
yourself to be. For instance, if you know most light heavyweight competitors at the national level have thighs of at least 20 to 23 inches whereas yours are only at 19, and you are far from ripped in
contest condition, you can probably deduce that you aren't at that level, even though you weigh within the range of a light heavyweight at 182 pounds. With that knowledge you might be best served to either
enter a contest that is more local and not as competitive to test your physique against the lowest possible denominator, or try to suck down to 176 to remain a middleweight until you can really pack on
the mass over the course of a year or two. In either case you can work your way up if you've underestimated yourself. You're always better off to go in the victor than to enter an event where you don't
even get far enough to be able to perform your routine to music at the night finals.
Another great way to ensure you develop a keen eye and sense of objective reality about your physique is to have someone shoot video of you in competition shape or in stages approaching contest condition.
Diet, training and cardio records are always beneficial leading up to a competition, but many people stop there. They fail to keep a visual record through either still photos or videos. A photo progression
allows you to see yourself at all phases over the course of a contest diet period, but video gives you a more dimensional picture of your progress. Get film of yourself training, posing between sets,
posing in trunks in an aerobic room, and also up onstage at competitions. Try to get shots using natural light, stage lights and gym lighting. Stand beside people you consider big and those you consider
small and see how you measure up. This perspective of various lighting schemes, different settings and juxtapositions with a variety of physique types and sizes should give you a good idea where you are
in your preparation. People who are obese often do not get a really good idea about just how big they are until they see a video or photo of themselves. When reality hits them, they are in a better position
to do something about their weight. I believe bodybuilders have a similar problem.
What to Do Once You Know Who and What You Are
This is the point where realization has already set in and the time has come to decide what to do with your physique and your bodybuilding goals. There's a real adjustment period between the moment you
discover you aren't all you thought you were and the moment that you actually change gears and start taking steps to make your physique better. The realization that you are much smaller, less complete, and
not as symmetrical or ripped as you once thought may be depressing, but you'll benefit in the long run.
One big reason why objectivity ends up being a positive is that you begin to work toward improvement. That's the next step. You may have ignored real weaknesses while others kept praising you to death.
These weaknesses may have held you back while all the while you were blaming your lack of success on unfair judging practices or claiming to have been robbed. Face the truth, and these flaws will soon become
A Final Word
All the time I hear top pros whine about getting ripped off. I'm always bewildered to hear a bodybuilder at that level say he has been robbed of his rightful place when he is clearly
making a foolish statement based on fantasy, not reality. Besides, a pro bodybuilding physique is well known to all. We know who has high lats, a large waist, and weak lower quads. The truth is not some
kind of huge revelation. Sadly, for those who cannot admit their flaws and improve upon them, their lack of objectivity can mean eventual career death. After all, these are guys whose business is to continue
bettering themselves. Why wouldn't they want to be honest in order to make more money in the process? I have to assume that, for some, the ego is stronger than the desire to improve, once they have achieved
a degree of success and notoriety. Apparently, when the hunger is gone, so is the progress. You don't have to become one of those casualties.
You can always effect change as long as you are willing to be honest and admit your shortcomings with open eyes and an open mind. That's hard to do, especially in the presence of buddies and training partners
who may look up to you. Ironically, the more willing you are to admit your flaws and work on them, the more respect you'll get from everyone. As an added benefit you get to teach people that honesty about
ourselves isn't as painful as they may imagine. That objectivity opens the door for others to become the best that they can be too.