T Nation

90’s Bodybuilding Was Pretty Damn Good

I’m learning more and more genetics have a lot to do with it. Drugs help a lot, but most of the top guys would look better without fear than most gym rats on gear. It’s crazy.

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Oh yeah. I’ve hung out with multiple Olympians and the top placers are always shocked at how much gear the lower placing pros and even most amateurs take in their efforts to win a plastic trophy in their masters, tall, novice categories so they can brag online and have some sense of worth. It’s really eye-opening.


Have you heard if Quinton Eriya? I saw a recent video Greg duecette put out on him. Basically he’s saying he has like 1 in a billion genetics. Showed some pics of him when he said he was natty, and he looked amazing 195lbs 6 2 stage weight. Then he basically said he started anabolics and put on 100 lbs in I think 2 years. Probably 70 lbs muscle.

He’s saying he was natty to that point because of the drastic amount. Of muscle he gained after admitting to starting gear.

Regardless it’s just amazing. I’ve always thought the top guys were running crazy amounts, turns out they’re all running the lower end vs other guys. Genetics are where it’s at. Just pick who your mom and dad is correctly and you’ll be good to go!!!

1999 npc nationals. Rich Piana completely destroyed Dave Palumbo here. I was wondering why he got 7th must be rigged but then I looked at the winner Melvin Anthony and that guy looked freakin amazing

Palumbo just had a horrible physique. He was willing to be careless with his own health and safety to achieve good conditioning, but at the end of the day, standing next to any other competitor with a decent structure, he was going to come across poorly.

Melvin Anthony looked amazing in his prime, and if he won a show back then, I’d guess he deserved it.


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melvin anthony won 1999 npc nationals, and he looked amazing. Rich placed 7th and Dave placed 9th, and just look at the vast difference between those two guys. Rich killed him in every pose even though Dave had slightly better conditioning. Rich had bigger everything except gut and glutes which are uhm not exactly the best parts of you body you’d like to be bigger, and Rich flow and structure are unquestionably much better.

Edit: maybe ill give Dave back lat spread due to those glutes and hamstring details

Yes if I were Dave Palumbo I’d just pick another sport honestly or just lift weights for fun. But who am I to judge his life decision, at least he was happy about it

Well, you have to admit that no one truly knows what they’re capable of before they put in the time,… and building a pro caliber physique can take an easy decade.

There was also a great quote I forget which author used to describe the late Greg Kovaks that is fitting for Palumbo as well…

“He loved bodybuilding, but it didn’t love him back.”



Forgive me my “naivety” - but i don’t know ether of these two guys. BUT if you where to ask me which looked the better - I’d say the guy on the right.

Is this the general consensus?

So I know what I’m looking for:

My comments on these guys would be:
The guy right has a better/tighter waist, and in the the double bicep how his abs and pecs meet looks better.

However I think the guy on left is slightly wider / has more mass (although I don’t always see more as better) and is better conditioned?

This is Palumbo before a combination of injuries and whatever the hell he was taking really took their toll on his physique. Not pretty to look at, but freaky.

This popped on my YT feed. @The_Mighty_Stu

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I saw him in person several times back in the day, the first time Being in the lobby of the Beacon Theater for the Night of Champions 1999 (now the NY Pro). One of the oddest and freakiest physiques I’ve ever seen!

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Damn, Levrone and Cotrell!

I remember picking up a muscle magazine with Cotrell on the cover when I was in college and just starting to train. The guys of that era (early '90s) just looked amazing in every way you could imagine. Size and lines from the 80’s, but with the 90’s conditioning inching in.


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Was never a fan of Yates’ physique. Proportions were often off and the GH gut…

GH gut?


Yer I’m not seeing much bloat there either.


'97 olympia on stage. Plus the picture that Stu posted of him off season - off season or not, that’s a GH gut.

There’s a reason Yates was the first mass monster, guys.

Plus, posting a picture of the adominal and thigh pose doesn’t mean someone doesn’t have a gut.

Kai Greene:

Dude’s got the gut of all guts, obviously bigger than yates. But that’s the pose that’ll hide it, so doesn’t prove anything.

Sergio Oliva literally said, in an interview, “Yates has a belly like a cow.”

Yates will always be one of the greatest, and didn’t work any less hard than anyone else (might have worked harder, given those ridiculous failure sets), but as I said - you earn the title of the first mass monster with more drugs.


'97 he definitely had a gut. Yates said he used insulin for that year and it made everything bigger, including his waist. He also said it was his worst look.


Not going to argue whether he was a mass monster or not, or whether he had a gut, only need to loot at photos to see that, especially later in his career. Whether he used GH to get that gut I can’t say as I am not him. Gut or no gut still one of my all time favourite bodybuilders.


He IS one of the greats. In the discussion for greatest ever, too. Hopefully my post didn’t take anything away from him, his blood and guts training video shows, IMO, the most brutal work sets of any BBer to date. But he also unwittingly paved the way for what was to come.
I grew up in NYC in the 90s and everything was Notorious BIG (and Tupac, if you weren’t around die hard biggie fans), and they are the greats, and in the running for the greatest, but what followed them was millions of songs about money, hos, and drugs, and all the good stuff they did got left by the wayside. That’s the best analogy I can give - Yates brought unparalleled and unprecedented size COMBINED with outrageous conditioning, but it felt like people just focused on the size thereafter.


2nd best back of all time.
You know who the first is.