Cause natural bodybuilding is still... natural... well at least some of it. And being natural means limitations. Track, Football, Basketball, baseball.... they all have players in their ranks who are taking performance enhancing drugs... That's a key reason why they're "better".
Not to mention more people aspire to be professional athletes now days, which in turn creates a larger "pool" of players to choose from. (i.e. greater competition)
I think you've hit the nail on the head there. Not to say that records don't naturally increase and there aren't great athletes out there today, but there are three main reasons that come to mind as factors for the seeming increase in performance in some sports: Drug use, equipment enhancements and endorsements drawing a larger pool of genetically elite. We've seen enough baseball heroes alone "fall" to drug-use that it begs the question, "Is anyone clean?" I also think people tend to underestimate the influence of equipment - but it is profound. For instance, the running shoes of today cannot be compared in any way, shape or form to the canvas flats of years ago. I may have mentioned it previously in this thread but Bannister himself didn't break the 4-min mile until shortly after delivery of his custom spiked running shoes. Within weeks other top sprinters had seen his new "equipment", started following suit and a flood of runners broke the 4-min mile shortly after. Not meaning to take anything away from Bannister, but even he couldn't break the 4-min mile in his canvas flats and no one in history has ever done so either. Sports is FULL of such stories.
Another example, the modern Eleiko Olympic barbells are made of an alloy deliberately designed to flex and rebound. In comparison to the bars of years ago they are like springs. Lifters use the wipping action of the bar to help their drive out of the bottom of the Clean and also to "assist" Jerking the bar overhead. Anyone who's used a competition Olympic bar (and I have) vs. a stiff "power" bar used for Powerlifting or the cheap bars in most gyms will immediately see the difference - and that difference results in pounds on the Olympic Lifts. (I devoted several years to Olympic Lifting from 1999-2003.) It is completely unfair to compare the lifts of someone like Kono, Anderson, Hepburn, Berger, Davis, Sheppard, etc to lifters of today for that reason alone.
But there is more than that. The actual rules of Olympic Lifting (and many other sports) have been modified to allow techniques that weren't allowed years ago. In Olympic Lifting it was "illegal" for the bar to touch the body at any point other than the palms of the hands and fingers during the Clean (which is why it was called the "Clean" in the first place). In the early 1970s that rule was changed to allow the bar to brush the thighs but not to stop or rest on them. That seemingly subtle detail has a huge impact on how much weight can be lifted. For the bar not to touch the body the lifter must lift with the arms slightly bent and the traps slightly shrugged throughout the lift. Because of that the lifter is limited to a very real extent by the ability of his biceps to remain flexed as he Cleans the bar - a very limiting factor as it necessitates a much smoother, less explosive lifting style. You can see this technique, which might be falsely interpreted as "poor" form by modern viewers ignorant of the rule change, on old films - and you can also usually notice the superior biceps development of those generations of lifters as compared to modern lifters. When that rule was removed the lifter was free to lock the elbows, tense the traps and transmit the full power of the hips, back and legs to the bar without the arms acting as dampening "shock absorbers". The result can be 100 or even more pounds lifted. So much so that Oly coaches will warn lifters, "When the arm bends the power ends."
In many sports endorsement money is a major factor in not only drawing greater numbers of genetically elite, but actually allowing them to compete. Until recent years professional athletes were not allowed to compete at the Olympics and this was very strictly enforced. Today, professional and endorsed athletes compete freely at the Olympics and high-level amateur athletics is essentially a thing of the past at the world level. Doug Hepburn, one of the strongest drug-free men in history, was banned from National and Olympic competition because he accepted a silk jacket at a demonstration/seminar he gave in the mid-1950s. Paul Anderson was "forced" to turn pro and was also similarly banned from competition. Marvin Eder, Reg Park and many other very strong and potentially competitive lifters were likewise not allowed to compete. Why do you think so many of their lifts were acknowledged as "good" but also "unofficial"? Even with that, nobody has ever Overhead Pressed or Squatted more than Anderson without drugs and/or a lifting suit (and in the case of Anderson's Squat, not at all), Hepburn's top Bench Press has only recently been passed by drug-tested raw lifters (and keep in mind that Hepburn was primarily an Olympic Lifter who used the Bench Press as an assistance exercise) and Park's and Eder's Bench Presses would still stand as world records in their weight classes in the drug-tested raw federations. Incidentally, it was Park who popularized the 5x5 scheme in the 1950s, it was not a "formal" training method at the turn of the century. The only vague connection between 5x5 and the early 1900s could be the fact that Alan Calvert recommended in some early "Milo" barbell courses that trainees start with sets of 5 reps then build up to 10 and start back at 5 again - a simple and effective form of progressive resistance.
In the field of bodybuilding the fact remains that lifetime drug-free bodybuilders of today carry no more lean body mass than the champions of the pre-drug era. I have shown this many times and probably in this very thread (which is so old and long that I don't remember). Obviously then, "modern" training and nutrition methods have done nothing to surpass the accomplishments of yesteryear on an absolute lean body mass level. That is strong indication of a genetic limit.
If sports progress can be explained simply by modern training and nutrition dogma, and drug-use, equipment advances and endorsement money aren't major over-riding factors, then why has nobody surpassed or even equalled Leonid Taranenko's Clean & Jerk or Antonio Krastev's Snatch absolute records in over 20 years?
And to clarify, I don't recommend that people train only as the "old-timers" did. I recommend people take a serious look at what worked for them - who were, by necessity, drug-free - and combine that with modern strength and hypertrophy research and experience.
Personally, I'm shocked by the ignorance of some recent posts made here - even more so at the arrogance that allows such clearly "uneducated" and/or inexperienced people to think they have worthwhile points. A few of you need some serious education before you give your opinions out publicly.
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