T Nation

Do Olympians Have Bigorexia?

Yup, another question about that essay I’m doing. Its title now is along the lines of man’s strive to achieve a perfect body, and how that led to evolution of classic Greek sculpture to Dorian Yates, Coleman, etc.

I’ve covered a pretty good background of how the Grecian ideal came about and was made achievable in the late 1800s/early 1900s, and now when it comes to how a new fringe idea of perfection arose and led to modern bodybuilding I’m caught between wondering if size started becoming a priority because it was what the judges were looking for, or if the competitors having a unrealistic ideas of what their bodies actually looked like played a role.


Answer: probably a combination of both, depending on the individual. Not a very helpful answer for a college essay where you’re trying to stake out an argument, but it’s the truth.

There was a discussion on Iron Radio a few years back or so about whether we’ve reached the max amount of muscle these people (e.g. Flex Lewis) can put on a body and what the next steps might be. Their suggestions included having hip surgery where the competitors shaved off some of their hip to make their waist narrower.

Like all other athletic endeavors, it’s an arms race, and there aren’t very many rules in this particular one.

So I’d say that overall it’s not about “big” so much as “how do I outpace Person X.” PEDs were an available avenue, since height and bone structure are obviously much more difficult to manipulate than hormonal profile.

I would say that when the sport of bodybuilding was in its early stages, people would train to achieve an ‘ideal’ ‘aesthetic’ physique but somewhere along the way it has gone off on a tangent with the only way of beating the previous winner is to come in bigger, leaner and overall freakier.

Not sure if you could say the top ranking pros of today have bigorexia, I would say that they’re all close to the (current) limit as to how much lbm and how little bf one can carry and will spend a lot of time, effort and money in putting on that extra lb of muscle or coming in more conditioned than the next person due to the possibility of a win and a subsequent pay check/sponsorship.

You mentioned the Greek ideal, but not the reasoning. The training from warrior states in the ancient world, such as Sparta, led to the form you associate. This was functional strength and conditioning preparing the subject for the hardships of battle (look up the Spartan Agoge). In the modern world, the shift has been from functional to aesthetics.

Simply said if someone comes looking leaner and bigger than someone else with similar structure that person will win regardless of how big he thinks he is so if the person who lost wants to win he’ll need to get bigger and leaner. That being said, after being that size for a long time you accept that form as the norm for you so of course you wouldn’t think you look big, you’d think you look normal even if you acknowledge that you’re bigger than everyone else.

In addressing how modern bodybuilding goals or expectations came about, you have to understand that during each passing era (of BBers), things will continue to shift slightly. As what was previously considered extreme becomes the expected norm, competitors must continually seek to push even further. Is it truly bigorexia, a condition whereby one cannot objectively view oneself, or it is simply a matter of understanding the shift in what is necessary to compete at such an extreme level at a given moment in time?


Everyone seems to be echoing my thoughts, I can’t see how someone can be able to be top tier in a sport where aesthetics is still a major concern while having a warped perception of how they look.

drew925, you’re correct about the classic physique being a matter of function, I briefly cover this and how Eugen Sandow was one of the first to make it widely known that this physique was achievable in my essay. The focus is mainly on the “strive to achieve perfection”, so I move from Sandow making the perfect Greek physique something men of that time could actually aim for, to a new, constantly shifting standard for perfection being set in the sport of bodybuilding.

Anyone know where I could find some sort of listing or record for what judges look for in a competition? Stu, I know you judge some, so it’d be great to have you weigh in here.

Also, well done to everyone for avoiding the temptation to make a pun about an “arms” race.

You could call it bigorexia but i read something in a book about steroid use about the mind seeing your body is normal. No matter how it looks like. When you gain alot of size you Will feel big at first. But when you het used To having That size there will be hunger for more. Same t hing goes for leannes strength andere money et.c. That is why nobody ever seems ‘finished’ with bodybuilding.