By Strength Oldschool
Long gone are the days of the "classic" bodybuilding look - Wide shoulders, big arms, tiny waist, athletic legs, oozing health and vitality. Serge Nubret was a prime example of this. The classic, flowing lines have vanished and sadly, possibly never to be seen again. From the mid '90's onwards, the sport of bodybuilding took a dive and plunged into a state of mass, belly freaks! Blame the drugs, the judges, the bodybuilders themselves, whomever, bodybuilding became and has become a freak show for the wrong reasons. No wonder it's not an Olympic sport because one look at today's crop of top Mr Olympia competitors is a major turn off for the general public. Who wants to look like a 300+ lb ripped but bloated gorilla!!?
Eugen Sandow (1867 to 1925), the "father of modern bodybuilding". Eugen Sandow began it all, he was the first true bodybuilder so to speak to earn a living from performing strength acts and posing displays. He paved the way for others to follow but would unfortunately turn over in his grave if he could see the state of current bodybuilding.
Sandow displayed an amazing rock-hard physique which to this day still shocks people because NO protein supplements of any kind were invented back in those days and more importantly.... NO DRUGS! Eugen Sandow developed his body by natural means (hard training and diet) with the help of good genetics of course. His physique exuded an incrediable amount of muscle - big, wide shoulders, big arms, abs, thin tight waist with athletic, muscular, strong legs. From head to toe, he was covered in muscle and his appearance was down to hard training and diet only.... No drugs of any kind.
Bodybuilding has obviously progressed over the years. I'm not going to go through each and every bodybuilder but I will choose a small, select few to prove my point that bodybuilding since the mid 1990's has horribly gone down hill. Melvin Wells, pictured above ( 1919 to 1994 ), was a bodybuilder with incrediable genetics. That picture above was taken around the late 1940's, maybe 1949 and you can clearly see he had the "Sandow" mold - wide shoulders, big arms, decent chest, tight, thin waist and athletic, muscular legs. A bit light on the calves (not blessed genetically in the calf dept), but overall, a pleasing, aesthetic physique which anybody today who enjoys training with weights would love to have. Melvin's physique is the type of body that the general public could strive to achieve. They would believe that a physique like Melvin's could actually be attainable without resorting to drugs.
Let's jump from the 1940's / '50's to the 1970's now and take a look at the development of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Back in Arnold's day ('60's through to the '70's), he went for mass, he was huge and at 6ft 2", was one of the biggest bodybuilders around. He still maintained an incrediably tight waist at a bodyweight that fluctuated between 225 and 250 lbs.
Arnold is considered the 'King' of all bodybuilders as he developed a physique which to this day has not been equalled. (This statement is obviously debatable). But in my opinion, Arnold had it all. He managed to build a body which carried mass with aesthetic appeal. Steroids however did play an important part in helping Arnold attain such development. Unlike Eugen Sandow, who built his body naturally. Steroids have played an important part in helping bodybuilders attain extraordinary levels of physique development. The following information on steroids, you, the reader, should find extremely interesting....
Anabolic Steroids were developed in the late 1930's. They helped stimulate appetite and increased lean, muscular bodyweight and strength gains.
Throughout the 1940's it was common for Russian Olympic Weightlifters to be placed on steroid programs in order to get stronger and recover faster.
In 1958, the drug Dianabol was developed and approved by the FDA for human use thanks to the U.S. Olympic Team physician, Dr. John Ziegler. This opened the doors for US athletes to take advantage of what the Russian's used. Dianabol may have been approved in 1958 but steroid use was still rampant in the 40's through to the 50's in the sport of weightlifting and possibly bodybuilding.
By the 1960's it was common place for weightlifters and bodybuilders to be taking steroids. In Germany perhaps more so than any other country, anabolic steroid research and development was at its peak.
So from reading the information on Steroids above, we could assume that bodybuilders from the 1940's could have possibly been taking steroids? Regardless of whether or not certain bodybuilders from the 1940's onwards could have taken steroids, does not matter one little bit. At the end of the day, this article is not about which bodybuilders took steroids, it's not about comparing natural bodybuilders with drug induced athletes, this article is about opening readers eyes to the fact that bodybuilding physiques today are much worse compared to the old school bodybuilders of yesterday. And yes, drugs are a concern. The drug usage from back in the day (1950's through to the late 1980's) I bet, would be nothing compared to how it is now. And I can't write this from experience as I've always been natural but just from researching online and observing the physiques of bodybuilders over the years, the concoction of drugs have taken it's toll on many of today's top bodybuilders.
Here are some reasons on the serious decline of Modern Bodybuilding and why it needs to change…
1. Stupid Posing with arms flared out and extreme bending of the legs when hitting a side chest shot. Posing in general is just bad.
The photo above displays bodybuilder Melvin Wells taken late 1940's and Ronnie Coleman from the late 1990's, maybe even early 2000's. Regardless of physique, which bodybuilder's front relaxed pose in your opinion looks better? Personally, I think Ronnie Coleman's arms out wide, ready for take off pose simply looks stupid.
Let's take a look at the classic Side Chest pose in bodybuilding and compare Arnold from back in 1974 to one of the current top bodybuilders, Kai Greene. Regardless of physique, which pose in your opinion looks better? Personally, Arnold's pose looks so much more aesthetic and professional than Kai's version. Kai's pose shouldn't even be called a 'side chest' because his chest is slumped down whereas Arnold's rides high into the sky. But Kai's posing style seems to be common among today's crop of bodybuilders. Bodybuilder's today could learn a lot from observing how classic bodybuilders back in the day posed...For side chest posing, you can't go wrong from watching Arnold...
2. Fake Tan – It’s hard to tell which bodybuilders are black and which are white??
I assume fake tan was introduced for health reasons (potential skin cancer from too much sun rays). Or / and maybe because of lighting at bodybuilding contests being too bright and thus washing out all the definition amongst competitors. I don't know, but bodybuilders natural skin tones (from basking in the sun) back in the day, looked so much better on stage compared to now.
3. Contest lighting – Extremely bad – Is this why bodybuilders need such dark tans? This was discussed previously within point no. 2.
4. Thongs – Who the hell brought thongs into male bodybuilding contests?
I'm not interested in seeing ripped glutes and couldn't care less whether or not a bodybuilder had striated bum cheeks!! The only person I want to see wear a thong is a sexy woman. The thongs need to be scrapped and have the Arnold style briefs brought back. But that's just my opinion.
5. Big Massive Guts!! – Modern Bodybuilders simply can’t do vacuum poses or even just hold in their stomachs. Maybe this is do with today’s drugs and HGH use, I don’t honestly know. Back in the old days, you would never catch a bodybuilder with a protruding gut, even on the off season. Besides the drugs, I'm sure it also comes down to the lack of posing practice. Posing just isn't as valued in this day and age as it was back in the pre 90's. So now you have all the giant competitors at the Mr Olympia raising their hands in the air, walking about the stage with their guts hanging over their skimpy thongs. What ever happened to the good old Vacuum pose during posing?
Lee Haney (on the left), who was a big bodybuilder weighing around 240 lbs still managed to pull off a vacuum pose. Check out these other legends doing vacuums...
6. Ripped Glutes - When did we start judging physiques on how ripped a bodybuilders glutes are? I've also discussed this on point no.4.
7. MASS MASS MASS - Modern Bodybuilders play the size game and leave aesthetics out – Arnold and Sergio had plenty of mass but also had aesthetics. Even while piling on the beef, they still managed to keep their waists under control.
Today its all about who is biggest – Are judging standards to blame or is it the bodybuilders?
Let's take a look at Ronnie Coleman who has won the Mr Olympia 8 times equalling Lee Haney's record. Ronnie in his early days of competing had a tremendous, old school physique. He was simply unbelievable! In his early years of entering and winning the Mr Olympia he looked fantastic but within two to three years he began seeking mass and became one of the biggest bodybuilders ever. However the price of attaining such mass meant he lost his old school aesthetics i.e. tiny waist. Instead he gained a massive, bloated looking belly which was obviously due to the consistently high level of abusive concoction of drugs he was taking to attain such freakish, cartoon proportions.
Now granted back in Arnold's day and perhaps from the 1940's onwards, drugs were part of the sport of bodybuilding but nowhere near the level that today's crop of bodybuilders take. Modern bodybuilding has therefore in my opinion become grotesque and drastically needs to change. I am sure that I am not the only one who has become disgusted with some of the top physiques who enter the biggest bodybuilding contest, the Mr Olympia. Today's physiques look unhealthy, unattainable and non-aesthetic. If we go back to the early 1900's right up to 1980's / very early 90's physiques, bodybuilders such as Lee Haney, Kevin Levrone etc all had mass with class, they were aesthetically pleasing and looked healthy.
Bodybuilding today is in a state of terribly sad decline and unfortunately is heading in the wrong direction. Too many physiques today are being rewarded even when the competitor has obvious flaws i.e. conditioning or just lack a certain bodypart due to bad genetics such as calves. Mr Olympia winners back in the old days didn't have any glaringly poor bodyparts, they were strong all over, from head to toe.
The bodybuilder whom I believe was the first to abuse the mass game and to take the sport in a new direction was Dorian Yates.
Dorian in his early days had a very good physique. You can see how tight his waist and mid-section is on the left. On the right, a few years later, you can see the effects of mass gain. His waist is a lot thicker at the sides and his mid-section no where near as tight. Instead, he looks bloated. Notice the belly button change!
Here is a comparison between bodybuilders Dorian Yates and Shawn Ray. Personally speaking, I honestly think Shawn Ray's physique is more pleasing to the eye. Look at the lines of his body, they flow better because he doesn't have any protruding fat spots. He has a much more streamlined athletic body. This is how a bodybuilder should look. Carry as much mass as possible, yes, but not at the expense of losing your aesthetic appeal.
Let's now compare Arnold with one of the current Mr Olympia's, Phil Heath...
( Pic above: ) Arnold - 1971 Mr Olympia Vs Phil Heath - 2012 Mr Olympia
Comparing these two photos, in my personal opinion, Arnold dominates easily and I definitely would not agree from looking at Phil Heath in the above photo, that bodybuilding has progressed. Quite the opposite. If you take a look at Phil's waist and notice how it protrudes over his thong, quite disgusting actually.
Let's now compare Arnold with Ronnie Coleman...
In my mind, Arnold's physique flows so much better than Ronnie's. Also take into consideration posing technique. Ronnie is just doing a flat out front double biceps pose whereas Arnold is slightly twisting his body to make the pose more aesthetic, dramatic, more powerful and also to help make his waist appear smaller. Ronnie's body just appears to be a series of lumps and bumps whereas Arnold's is nice flowing, gently curved lines which is what old school bodybuilding is about. That's the difference between bodybuilders today compared to yesterday. Today every bodybuilder looks the same, they all appear blocky with the wide waists and massive thighs. Pre-1990's, bodybuilders were muscular with an athletic appearance. The legs weren't as big so the eye could be drawn around the body identifying one bodypart at a time, the arms....chest...back...etc. Looking at Ronnie Coleman's photo above, you barely notice his chest because there's no differentiation between his chest and his mid-section. You can easily spot the difference looking at the photo of Arnold. The vacuum shot should definitely be brought back into bodybuilding.
Let's finish off this article by focusing on good aesthetic bodybuilders whom we don't hear much about anymore but definitely made an impact on the bodybuilding world.
Bodybuilding legend, Brian Buchanan, probably had one of the smallest waists in bodybuilding history. His V-Taper was incrediable and made for a dramatic shock when he posed in competition. Melvin Wells nodoubt built his impressive physique naturally. Both men were muscular, strong and oozed aesthetic appeal - They both had impressive V-Tapers which is what bodybuilding should be about but unfortunately we don't see much of anymore. Hopefully soon, a new bodybuilding icon will emerge and bring back old school bodybuilding. But in the meantime, judging standards need to change, posing needs to become better and thongs need to go.
Thanks for taking the time to read this article. Please post your comments below, good or bad. I have also created a video to go along with this article, please consider watching it before you make judgement. Thank you.
Keep training hard,