Almost every bodybuilder that I have ever met considers themselves “Hard-core” or the most dedicated, knowledgeable, or hardest training athlete in the gym. Over the 20 years I have spent in the sport I have been asked many times what does it really take to be successful in the sport? My answer might surprise you but let me tell you it’s a question everyone has to ask themselves. What’s more is the answer you give yourself reflects whether you’re a Real Bodybuilder or Just another Wannabee!
Most magazines, scientists, and competitor’s are quick to point to genetics as the deciding factor. While on the surface there seems to be some truth to this when a person looks deeper into the sport this is not necessarily the case. In fact in every contest I have ever competed in, or watched I have rarely seen the person with the best genetics win the show.
I asked my friend, legendary bodybuilding coach Scott Abel the same question about what he believes makes a true bodybuilder successful, and Scott’s answer was pretty quick. He summed it up in one word… “Heart”.
Now Scott has trained over 200 titled winners on all levels from amateurs’ right up to Olympia contenders including myself to a National Title as well as a birth into the Mr. Universe contest. He’s also had the opportunity to work with the broadest range of personalities, genetics, and mental aptitudes so his opinion carries a lot of weight.
I tend to agree with Scott. From my own experience coaching thousands of bodybuilders around the world I feel the real successes are always the guys/gals who understand that bodybuilding has more to do what’s going on inside the mind than anything else.
Winning Comes In Many Forms
Winning and success come in many forms and so many people equate a trophy or a title with success. Considering how many of the top professional and amateur bodybuilders in the world have serious health problems and rather chaotic personal lives it’s hard to equate success with their professional status or their drug-swollen bodies. That being said, there are a handful of professionals who embody the ideals of true bodybuilding but they are definitely few and far between.
Of course, you have all kinds of guys/gals in the gym coming up with a host of reasons why they haven’t stuck with their diet, followed through on their training schedule, and simply not made the gains they desire. Although both cases represent opposite ends of the extreme; everyone fits somewhere in between and many are still left asking the question… What makes a “True Bodybuilder?”
While everyone has to determine the answer for himself, my own definition of True Bodybuilding is significantly different than “The Hardcore” Version portrayed in the top Magazines. Although at one time I aspired to be like the “gargantuan” individuals who grace the pages of the magazines, I had a change of heart once I reached the National Championship Level. Here’s why.
Drug LOADED Bodybuilding – The Fast Track to Self Destruction
You see I realized almost the entire competitive bodybuilding scene had almost nothing to do with “Real Bodybuilding”. In fact it was more like body destruction. Many of these athletes I was competing with and against, had become consumed by the desire to build massive muscles and resorted to using massive amount of drugs that damaged their health. While their physiques and muscles are definitely impressive, they had built them at the cost of their health as well as the personal lives.
I personally consider this to be a psychological condition of disease similar to anorexia, or obsessive-compulsive disorder and indeed some psychologists have labeled the condition “Muscle Dysmorphia”. Many “hardcore” bodybuilders have become so obsessed with competitions, muscular size, body fat levels, diets, etc. that every other aspect of their lives has shrunk smaller then their testes on a 10 year cycle.
I know how this dysfunctional psychology can limit one’s life because for 10 years I went down that path. Fortunately, I turned the corner and saw “the light” so to speak, and recognized that there was a lot more to life than a 20-inch arm. I understand how the pressures of athletic excellence lead some athletes to turn to drug usage. I am not condoning the act however I simply recognize how athletes rationalize drug usage and get caught in the “machine” of high performance sports.
Although it seems things are getting worse in the athletic world as opposed to better with the increase in volume of high profile athletes testing positive for drug use; I believe the increased awareness of what’s going on in sports will eventually change the course of athletics, including what I call the return to True Bodybuilding.
Don’t Play Russian Roulette With Your Health
Now what’s even crazier than taking drugs for athletic performance, is the sheer number of individuals, who use bodybuilding drugs thinking it a short cut to an impressive body. Countless scores of young men and women in bodybuilding are resorting to any number of drugs to change their appearance.
These misguided individuals who often purchase these drugs on the underground market from “dubious sources,” are playing Russian roulette with their health. Often these drugs are fake, veterinarian, or “home made” drugs not intended for human consumption.
Many of these men/women delusively believe they will stop taking drugs once they add that extra inch to their arms or lose that next percentage of fat. As soon as they stop the drugs, the muscles are gone, the fat comes back, and they begin looking for the next “fix”. This sets a vicious cycle of enslavement to the drugs, as the individual has unconsciously linked drugs to a better physique and built a reliance on them to improve the cosmetic appearance of their body.