Opposing Opinions on Size, Symmetry and the Art of Bodybuilding

Size and Symmetry in Bodybuilding

A great discussion based on what really makes the sport of bodybuilding an art form.

Sheer size should be a secondary consideration for the bodybuilder. Bodybuilding is an art form, and competitive physique athletes should reflect this by placing aesthetic development first and foremost. Judges should reward those competitors who strive to create a work of art as opposed to those who overcrowd their frames with excessive amounts of muscle. From local contests to the pro level a smaller, more aesthetic physique should triumph over a larger, more blocky one every time when all other things are equal. For example, if Bob Paris and Mike Matarazzo are in the same sharp condition, Paris should always place above Matarazzo at least until Matarazzo hones his physique into a more symmetrical package. Too much muscle size ruins the lines and can turn a work of art into a hideous, contorted lump.

The presentation should also reflect bodybuilding's artistic sensibilities. Poses should flow smoothly from one to the other; music should be rousing, not obnoxious; and athletes should try to express themselves in a way that stimulates emotion in the audience. Bodybuilders who stomp on stage and repeat the seven mandatory poses to Guns N' Roses' "Welcome to the Jungle" should be scored down in the posing round. This type of presentation takes no creativity.

When fans come out of a bodybuilding contest, they should have a sense of artistic fulfillment and inspiration for their own creative endeavors in the gym. They should feel as if they've witnessed the type of beauty present in an art museum, not as if they've been assaulted by the ugliness of the human form. Too many competitors strive to beat the audience over the head with their mass. This type of aggressive attack does nothing but reaffirm the public's opinion of bodybuilders as obsessive, self-centered muscleheads.

Bodybuilding is about size-freaky, eye-popping, show-stopping mass. It's what I pay to see when I go to a bodybuilding show, and it's what I try to build in the gym. Overall proportion and symmetry are important, but to a lesser degree than size-a much lesser degree. I think that the majority of muscle fans agree with this bare-bones, big-is-beautiful view.

Take the posing round at any bodybuilding show. When does the crowd go wild and work itself into a frenzy? When hardcore muscle is combined with hard-driving music. When I think of the perfect posing routine, I imagine an unbelievably huge, ripped bodybuilder squeezing off hardcore muscle shots as a bone-shaking heavy metal number or a throbbing rap tune pounds the air. It's what bodybuilding is all about-raw, freaky muscle combined with Herculean charisma to create a high-powered adrenaline rush. Real muscle fans don't want to see some pansy ballet routine performed to "The Nutcracker Suite."

And as far as the art thing goes, yes, bodybuilding is an art-it's certainly more of an art form than Robert Maplethorpe's photos of men and their bull whip suppositories, which were displayed in many galleries across the country-but it's the hardcore muscularity that puts bodybuilding in this category. It takes a tremendous amount of work and a critical eye to build a shocking physical sculpture with gargantuan mass in all the right places. True, the physique must be symmetrical and proportional, but without mass these attributes are meaningless. To be brutally honest, a lot of people use the term "symmetrical" to describe any physique that's smaller, and smaller is the complete opposite of what bodybuilding is all about.

In my opinion, there's nothing complicated about bodybuilding-it's a cultish art form that's all about mass-utter mass. Period.

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