Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Bodybuilding Insights

Last week Big Ramy was crowned the 16th man to win Mr. Olympia since the contest started back in 1965. The first time I remember seeing a bodybuilder was as a little kid in the late 70's. I was watching The Streets of San Francisco and a particular episode featured Arnold Schwarzenneger as one of the characters. Later in the 80's I'd watch Lou Ferigno as The Incredible Hulk each week. Muscles eventually got more mainstream over time thanks to Hulk Hogan, Sylvester Stalone and many others in sports, entertainment, and Hollywood.

Around 1999 while waiting for a prescription to be filled, I sheepishly picked up a body building magazine for the first time from the magazine rack. It was Muscle Media, which was Bill Phillips magazine. It fell open to a page featuring dozens of before and after pictures of people and I was blown away when I realized that the amazing transformations took place over a short period of 12 weeks. I was equally impressed by the fact that most of them were regular people, not professional bodybuilders. It motivated me enough to actually do the challenge myself. It went pretty well. I lost fat, gained muscle, and got much stronger. Completing the challenge and seeing my own improvements was one of the things that motivated me to go into personal training over 20 years ago.

My Body for life results

Since that time I have followed bodybuilding kind of like I follow MMA. I find it very entertaining and I appreciate the athletes hard work but at the same time I've never aspired to be in an octagon or posing on a stage. I enjoy lifting weights for conditioning and for the health benefits, but I have never been strong when it comes to muscular strength. I was always the tall skinny guy who was good at sports but could hardly do a pullup. My passion was playing basketball and later running and those activities don't usually produce swole physiques. 

Since I moved to Ghana over 3 years ago I have really struggled with exercising. I love basketball but have had a hard time finding decent facilities or people who even want to or know how to play. It's always so hot and humid so running is a miserable, sweaty experience here that can only be done during certain hours of the day.

Last month I decided to check out Agyefam gym which is about a mile away from my house. It can't hold a candle to most facilities back home since the equipment is very old and not working so well but the environment makes all the difference for giving me the motivation to work out. I'm not a fan of the. limited hours, crowded rooms, or the loud music they play, but it's easier for me to have an intense workout among other people as opposed to being alone at home and just going through the motions.

This gym has all kinds of patrons. There are some big, strong experienced lifters, as well as rail thin novices, but it provides an energetic environment to help people workout. So, for the next several months I am going to focus on bodybuilding since I don't have a lot of other exercise options. We will see what kind of progress a 52 year old man can make over a couple months.

Even though I have never considered myself a bodybuilder, I still appreciate the sport and the many athletes I've followed over the years. Some of my favorite bodybuilders include:

Guys from the 70's and 80's- This obviously includes Arnold Schwarzenneger, Frank Zane, Franco Columbo, Tom Platz, and Lee Haney. I really liked the proportions and appearances that were common during this era.

Athletes from the 90's were incredibly competitive- Kevin Levrone, Lee Priest, Flex Wheeler, and Shawn Ray had great physiques. This was also when Dorian Yates started ushering in the mass monster stage. Guys went from being huge, to massive, to freakish.

The 2000's and beyond.  Even though I can't relate to the insane figures of many of these athletes, I have a lot of  respect for the repeat champions like Dorian, Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, and others. Recently I've been enjoying all kinds of entertaining interviews from these guys. It's so interesting to hear stories of their training philosophies, competitive natures, and different personalities. 

Professional Bodybuilding may have a dark side with performance enhancing drugs, body image issues, and focusing strictly on aesthetics, but even so, I admire the athlete's accomplishments. Even with the aid of steroids and other PEDs, and even though many of them already have incredible genetics, it still requires so much discipline and hard work to do what they do. The camaraderie and sportsmanship I've seen from those competing in the sport is also commendable.