T Nation

Bodybuilders of Yesteryear

I just wanted to hear some peoples opinion on this. What happened to todays bodybuilderS? They look so “freaky.” Some may like it while others may hate it, personally I think it’s halfway cool. But nothing was like the bodybuilders of the past!! They looked huge, athletic, HUMAN, and awesome! Arnold, Draper, Zane, Haney, Columbo, Pearl, Olivia, etc. were the best. I guess my question is what happened?

I think it was the mixture of trying to be bigger than the next guy and everyone abusing steroids. As I am typing this I am watching Pumping Iron, such a great movie.

Excessive steroid use, GH, Synthol. That’s what happened. And fucked up judging standards where you can’t win without dangerous levels of roids.

Jeremy…EXCELLENT question, and one that I could talk about for DAYS! Just some thoughts…


Judging in this very subjective athletic event (yes…I think that Bodybuilders are athletes…I try to stay out of whether what they do is a “sport” or not…but the competitors ARE athletes)…


Anyway…judging is everything. And I can’t tell you all the flames I’ve received over the Internet when I’ve made the statement that IF the judges reward a certain type of physique, and that type of physique CONSISTENTLY wins, that is the type of physique that the athletes and fans will accept. It’s a bunch of bull when some hack says “I ain’t gonna pay to see no “Men’s Health” model…I wanna see FREAKS, man…”…right…as the athletes endanger their health because you want to see a freak???


Some people DO want to see “freaks”…but according to Manion on the recent “Bodybuilders” that appeared on TLC, they had sold -out tickets and standing-room-only for a mid 80’s Olympia. They haven’t had such attendance since…


So the argument is like the dopes in Hollywood who say that they MUST “titillate” to sell, when the list of blockbusters of all time are G, and PG-13 rated movies! PEOPLE WANT TO SEE BIG, SYMMETRICAL, HARD PHYSIQUES WITH BEAUTIFUL LINES, PERIOD! AND HISTORY HAS SHOWN THAT THEY WILL PAY FOR IT!! The push for size for size sake has systematically alienated a public “hungry” for those earlier physiques.


Just one last point, then I’ll shut up! When these hacks talk about “wanting to see FREAKS, man…”…let me tell you something…if you have ever seen Labrada, Benefatto, Ray, Everson, Langer…even “Arnuld”, in person…these were NOT “little people”…they were BIG (and some still are!)…without GH guts, Synthol delts and calves and “symmetry” that is probably more in someone’s mind than a description of their body…


Just my two cents…

Man, awesome post !! those guys back in the day where the epitome of what bodybuilding should be today and in the future. All those freaks all look the same to me. (symmetry-wise, I can?t tell who looks ?better? than the other, if I had to choose)… every now and then, when I?m at the grocery store I like to pick up Flex and flip thru the pages to see how freaky people are getting. Ridiculous. I wish a bodybuilding organization would spawn and promote and judge for the 70?s look. If that ever happens, I?m all over it and be one of the first people to compete !!! but until then, fuck the freaks in the Weider Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, I don?t give a sit.

I don’t see how they’re going to get the genie back into the bottle, if you know what I mean. I don’t see how the smaller non-ripped bodybuilders will be able to claim they are the best, when there are swarms of other bigger, more ripped guys all over the place. Even the pro wrestlers of today are in some cases superior to some of the top physiques of the 60s and 70s. Back in the late 80’s(?) Vince McMahon of the WWF started a pro bodybuilding league that didn’t get too far. Supposedly it was a drug-tested organization. Ultimately the athletes just didn’t look as good, and I think that was the general consensus. For this look to come back, there would probably have to be year-round drug testing of all competetive bodybulders, and that probably won’t happen… Even if it did, it would still be the same story as we have now… guys cheating on their tests, using drugs that are under the radar, figuring out ways to beat the drug tests. Just like now, the guys with the best pharmacist will still win. I don’t see the point… so you won’t have to look at freaky physiques? Don’t buy FLEX, problem solved. I don’t understand this thread to a certain extent…I mean, I do, but… Isn’t this the website/forum that is so down on Muscle Media and the “Body for Life” look? Ironic because the Body for Life look and concept is possibly closer to your ideal physique than FLEX magazine. I mean come on… You say guys should be big, but not “too big”. Ripped, but not “too” ripped, etc. This is daydreaming, with all due respect.

The Weider brothers, in their greed, decided to push the sport(?) into the absurd at the risk of competitors’ health.

Agree, wholeheartedly with Mufasa.

Let me throw in: that, IMO, the competitors (both men and women) around '88 and '89 were striking. That they all had this "statuesque" quality to their physiques. Rather than turn bodybuilding back to the '70's - I wouldn't mind if they would go back to the judging standards of the mid to late 80's.

Another thing that's missing now that was so prevalent in the 70's and also in the 80's? Comaraderie. Just check out the photos of training sessions in Arnold's book and old magazines. Even backstage photos. It shows the competitors training together, commenting on physiques during impromptu posing sessions, etc. These guys (and women) looked to each other as either friends, peers - not just competitors. NOW? Even Shawn Ray has commented on the "icy" feeling backstage at a contest.

Just kinda sad how it all is now....

Okay, I am rethinking my “Body for Life” comparison, that may have been going a bit overboard. You wouldn’t see Sergio Oliva in BFL. However I did used to train at the same gym as he did, for a short time, and Oliva DID have what could be called freaky size…unbelievable to think anyone could ever beat him… this was even a few years supposedly past his prime (early 80’s). Also, Lee Haney is pretty freaky as well. Haney’s was the era of the “ripped glutes” maybe not Haney himself, but some of the guys he was beating. So maybe you are looking back through rose-tinted glasses… Finally, I remember reading Muscle Media in the 90’s when things were starting to change. Bill Philips wrote that he’d rather have a physique like Frank Zane’s than Dorian Yates. They printed a letter someone wrote, flaming him for that. And not too much longer than that, Body for Life was born, from what I remember. Also, the Zane look is not out of line with a Body For Life program (just add a little Dianabol).

I agree they looked better before. But they’re so big and freaky today because of 1. more advanced drugs 2. more advance scientific understanding of drug use 3. higher dosage drug use 4. better science related to lifting and nutrition 5. more money (they get paid by sponsors so all they have to do is eat, train and sleep rather than deal with the normal time and stress-related responsibilities of a job).

Sorry if I missed spelled your name, but my question is what does the original cover of pumping iron look like? Thanks

Chemistry beat out athleticism. That’s what happen. The guys in the past used steriods. Now the guys are steriods. No focus on athleticism, all size. Garbage.

One problem today is that it would be prohibitively difficult to quantitatively compare bodybuilders while not judging on “biggest, hardest, leanest, most proportional, and most symmetrical”. Look at the joke that the upper echelon of women’s bodybuilding judging has become. Women get penalized for being larger? I know the current judging parameters are not exactly quantitative now, but I could still look on stage and know what I’d be looking for in a winner. I couldn’t do that if I was told “Look for the best 80’s bodybuilder physique.” Thus, currently, the only real way to compare bodybuilders is on what can be enhanced via pharmaceuticals. I agree with most here, that it is quite a perversion of the original, “pure” form of the sport, but unfortunately this is what it has evolved into, as the primary motivating factors have been greed and sex, and neither of those impetuses gives a damn about the “purity” of the sport. Bodybuilding, at its highest level, is now a minority activity for a select group of financially benefiting individuals and the group of extremists and fetishists that support them. (Not to mention the pharmaceutical industry. :slight_smile: )