by Bradley J. Steiner
For one thing, a conspicuous fact about bodybuilding “then” (ie roughly, prior to 1975) is that the word itself was not one that caused sane people to repeat their last meal. It did not conjure up images of grotesque, malformed freaks whose drug-induced bloated tissue caused revulsion.
It did not trigger images of fanatical, neurotic crackpots who would rather die at age 25 with 20” arms than live until 90 with “mere” 18” arms; genuine, certifiable nutjobs whose only reason for getting out of bed in the morning was to achieve a better pump that day, at the gym.
It did not cause the hearer to think of men whose counterparts in the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, were known as he-men, proudly(!) flaunting the fact that they were genuine SHE-men, and as proof could point to a same-sex live-in partner (who was also their training partner)!
Bodybuilding, as an activity, was advanced as a health-building, character-building, and strength-as-well-as-muscle-building pursuit. Real athletic/strength & muscle stars like Reg Park, Jim Park, John Grimek, Harry Paschall, Sig Klein, John Farbotnik, Steve Stanko, Louis Abele, Jules Bacon, Chuck Sipes, Jack LaLanne, and dozens of others, brought the gospel of sensible barbell and dumbell training to boys and men everywhere. These heroes pushed sound and sensible routines, diets, and lifestyles.
There were no steroids. Size was not everything, and only the odd man out was a “mirror athlete”. Back “then”, bodybuilders were men who not only possessed real muscle and strength, they were men who could do things with their muscle and strength. Jack LaLanne performed feats of endurance “back then” that any Navy SEAL would be hard pressed to duplicate today! The first Mr. America was a tough NYPD Officer (not some preening, gender-challenged kook in a gay pride parade!).
The entrepreneurial greats — Bob Hoffman and Peary Rader — while not necessarily being perfect in all ways, nevertheless gave anyone who read their material truthful, honest, legitimate, and WORKABLE training advice and instruction . . . and they guided countless young people (our self, among them!) to healthful personal development.
We remember as though it was yesterday how we felt after the first couple of weeks of training on Bob Hoffman’s “York Barbell” Course. We knew that we had struck gold! And by the time we had trained for two months we had fallen in love — not merely with “weight training” — but with sensible weight training (with bodybuilding), and we knew that this activity, along with the combat arts, would occupy a central place in our life, forever.
Thanks to the way bodybuilding and weight training was “then” we benefitted enormously, and we continue to benefit from this marvelous activity, 46 years later. We began to write on the subject, and to teach others, personally — and we had the great satisfaction of sharing with those whom we trained the benefits of an activity that we still believe is borderline miraculous!
It saddens us when we look at the modern scene and observe what appears to us to be mentally disturbed narcissists occupying, for the modern generation, those places once occupied by giants such as the men to whom we referred earlier. Young people have almost no guiding lights in the bodybuidling field, any more. And who can blame a father, after looking through a mainstream “muscle magazine” for forbidding his son to become involved in “that insane activity” ?
If the only “negative” thing about modern bodybuilding was the use of steroids, that would be enough to keep sane people away! However, there is more. There is a complete lack of concern over building useful physical abilities, and of doing so solely for oneself. (One needn’t, after all, compete in or win any kind of contest or event in order to reap full benefit from weight training).
There is the sexualization of the activity. It is nauseating to see illnesses that only half a century ago would have been correctly labelled as such, today being touted as “the way to go” — the way to be “cool”, and the way to “really enjoy” one’s physical appearance and prowess.
What repulsive, sickening garbage.
No, bodybuilfing is not completely lost. There are a few real gyms left, and with proper instruction, it certainly would benefit anyone to purchase a good set of weights, a squat rack and a bench, and start training regularly. But do not look to the modern “bodybuilding scene” which is sick and discouraging, and that has given the very word “bodybuilding” a distasteful emotive meaning. Look to the “way it was”.
For the way it was is the way it ought to be. Bodybuilding “was” the greatest known means by which a person could build rock-solid internal health, an impressive and powerfully efficienct physique, self-confidence, and the physical ability to do anything else that he wished to do in life a lot better than he was able to do it, before he began using the “iron pills”.
Bodybuilding can be that way again. Make and keep it that way for YOURSELF, and for anyone with whom you can relate about this incredible and wonderful activity.
Please visit Bradley at seattlecombatives.com and americancombato.com
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