T Nation

Is Bodybuilding Dead?

I could be well wide of the mark here, as I’ve only got my own (maybe limited) personal observations to go by, but has bodybuilding kinda died? I say this for a few reasons;

  1. Hardcore gyms seem to be disappearing at a rapid rate, in favor of more profitable airbrushed ‘fern bars’ where the staff have nothing better to do than hassle me about using chalk or telling me to use the Hammer Strength deadlift machine instead of the free weight version, so ‘the bars don’t get damaged’ (if they even have any free weights left!).
  2. How many hard core meat heads do you find in gyms nowadays? How many competitive bodybuilders do you know (geared or not)? Competitive powerlifters? Maybe you know a few, but I’ll bet not as many as you would 7 years ago.
  3. It doesn’t look like there are a lot of younger guys taking it up anymore. It seems like the average age of lifters/ gym members is gradually rising. At the risk of sounding old beyond my years is this too much computer games!?
  4. Steroids and steroid users are sadly a diminishing breed, at least in the southern hemisphere. Drugs are getting lower quality, more expensive and harder to find. I’m sure this is having a major impact on the number of hardcore lifters.


    We hang out in gyms, socialise with other bodybuilders and spend our spare time on websites like this one, so maybe we get a distorted picture of how popular the sport is. But take a walk down the street. How many bodybuilders do you see walking around the city you live in? On the train or bus? Hell I’m not the biggest guy around by a long shot, but even I’m bigger than half the guys working security at pubs and bars nowadays? Has the criminalisation of steroids taken bodybuilding out of the hands of the public and left it the sole reserve of a (small and shrinking) minority subculture? Is bodybuilding/ power- or- olympic- lifting whether competitive or recreational doomed to going back to its ‘weirdo’, pre- Pumping Iron days again? Thoughts?

it was never “alive”.but let me get this right, you think that the lack of access to roid is whats killing this “sport”? anyone can still get roids. if anything the less people competeing has more to do with increased drug consumption, it used to be if you had good shape and trained hard you could win a local show, now the guys at some local shows are drugged up freaks(which is what this “sport” is realy about, and thats fine),you keep hearing about another powerlifter or bodybuilder dieing too young and that can’t help. big fans should just embrace the subculture and enjoy it. BB will NEVER be mainstreem and will NEVER be an olympic sport

debo: Great thread. I’ll try to give my two cents worth. If the informercial world has taught me anything, its that when it comes to Health and Fitness, people are easily swayed, and often decieved, in essentailly three ways: 1)By the use of slick marketing, something is presented to them as realistic and reasonable for them to aspire to (therefore you see the ENDLESS testimonials) 2) Cheap and easy (“3 payments of 59.95 if you act now!” “No sweaty gyms and thousands of dollars in individual weights and equipment needed; it’s all in the privacy of your home!” and 3)Something that promises phenonmenal results with little or no effort. (“Only eight minutes a day to the tight buns you’ve always wanted!”). So in lies one of those phenomenal ironies of life. Firstly, this subculture (and this IronGame we love always has been, and probably always WILL be,a subculture) is the subculture OUT of which all those beautiful models that you see on the informecials come from! (Bodies like that come from sweat, iron, and strict adherence to diet; NOT Ab-rollers, Bussant Herbal Breast Enhancer, Subway Sandwiches and Sweatin’ To The Oldies). Secondly, people are much more ready to spend hundreds for someone to LIE to them than to hear the truth about what it takes to truly reach their goals. (I would be willing to bet that Jake’s and Subway’s ADVERTISING budget probably exceeds the total gross of “Testosterone”.)And who gives us more of the truth of what it REALLY takes to build strong, healthy and fit bodies?

In terms of popularity, I think that bodybuilding saw a slight “uptick” in popularity for two main reasons. One is that it followed the general wave of fitness awareness brought about by people like Fixx, Cooper and yes, Weider. And secondly, if you look at many of those late 70, early to mid 80 muscle mags, the bodybuiders (men and women) really looked like living Greek Statues; again, back to an earlier point. Something that people said “Hey…you mean I can look like this?” It was then that you saw a phenonmenal increase in gym building, health club membership and the like. However, while bodybuiding “rode the wave”, it still was a subculture. (Very few people on the street could tell you who Cory Everson or Lee Haney were, even though they were the tops in their sport).

What I THINK you are seeing now is not so much a "dying" as the loss of those small inroads that the bodybuiding world made into the mainstream in the 80's. This places us back into what I think is a LARGER sub-culture (than say in the 50's and 60's) but a small sub-culture, nonetheless, when you compare it to the fitness world of informercials, bunny weights, ab-gadgets, Herbal Breast Inhancers "buttissimo" flattners and Gyms that look and sound like Raves and Discos.

Do “we” share some of the blame? You bet. Do you see “Time” and “Newsweek” publically ridiculing each other to the extent of “MD” and “Ironman”? Judging criteria have gone beserk in favor of the “huge and bloated” instead of the aesthetically pleasing and symmetrical. Many have been turned off by the unobtainable, the hypocritical and quite frankly, the acceptance of the illegal and dangerous, in a sport/lifstyle meant to exude health and vigor.


Why do I still love it? There is still something absolutely beautiful about a healthy, strong and aesthetic body with beautiful lines. (A beautiful body still turns heads in a crowd, at a mall or on a beach, doesn’t it?) And beyond the visual, there is a feeling of FREEDOM in a strong, healthy body. I personally want to LIVE not merely EXIST. And as long as it takes sweat, pushing Iron, and drinking Protein shakes to get there, this will be the life that I love, whether of not the “mainstream” accepts me or not…and if this pursuit of fitness, health and ultimate happiness makes me “weird” in the eyes of the world…so be it…

you don’t live in australia do you? I agree 100% with what you said. it pisses me off that a few years ago you could buy 500ml of 100mg/ml test propionate over the counter at a cattle feed store for $25, now you have to buy it in 10ml bottles for $90. dbol used to be 60c a tab, now some arsehole has decided that it is worth $2 a tab. I still see a lot of guys (young!) on the gear, but they don’t know about bodybuilding they just want to take gear, do bench press and barbell curls, so their arms look big in the nightclubs. these are the morons who will pay $200 for 20ml of stanazol, so the price now becomes that for everyone. MESSAGE to gear dealers in AUSTRALIA-people are sick and tired of paying these bullshit prices-take a long hard look at yourselves!

Way to go, 225!The truth shall set you free!..I was hoping you were
going to rant a little longer. You had me on the edge of my seat,
than you stopped.Oh, well,let me throw in a jab or 2. I was introduced
to body-building when I was a wee lad through, my uncle Louie’s gargantuan
collection of B.B. Mags, back in the 60’s. Then, as a teen, I got to frequent
many a show and got to see my share of the “legends of the game.”
The sad part is that most of them are now DEAD! My other passion growing up
was Hockey. I was a huge New York Rangers Fanatic!.. Now, to the best of my
knowledge, Rod Gilbert, Vic Hadfield, Jean Ratelle, Brad Park, Ed Giacomin and
the rest of my heroes from the 60’s & 70’s are alive and well today!!!
The assumptions speak for themselves. Think about it, shouldn’t Vince McMahon
be hosting this year’s Olympia? It’s a shame because I really used to love
the sport. Now, when someone says to me “I would just die to look like that,” I say
“Yep, you probably would!”

I started training in '76 just after the Arnold era. Just about the only place you could find weights was at a hardcore gym. Mostly YMCAs. I began at Leaning Tower Y in Chicago. Norm Zale worked there. Tom Deters did powerlifting there. The weight room was in the basement, hard core to the hilt. Lots of heavy iron, plates clanging, chalk particles floating in the air. NO music. Just the puffing and grunting and clanging and the slam at the end of a set of deadlifts. Ahhh the good old days.
What happened? The 80s. Aerobics. Jazzercise. Women began working out. With weights. Twenty five yrs ago (many of you on this forum were not even born) women in the weight room indeed were a rarity. Gyms went corporate, Gold’s went franchise, other chain health clubs began springing up, like Bally’s, Family Fitness, etc. These spelled the end of the local neighborhood ironhead gyms, as well as the Y weight rooms. Today’s chain health clubs now cater to women and baby boomers. Simple demographics. Hardcore muscleheads and powerlifters are too miniscule in number to keep a gym afloat financially. I bet even Gold’s in Venice has a similar majority of “average” folks as opposed to the IFBB crowd.
Finally, the proliferation of attorneys and lawsuits in the US has caused many gyms to abandon higher risk apparatus in favor of “safer” machines. Where I work out all the benches are bolted to the floor. So the lowest incline, which is still not low enough to hit the upper pecs on incline db press, is as low as it goes. And they have those stupid, stupid Iron Grip plates that cause the bar to pitch forward or backward when deadlifting.
Bodybuilding isn’t “dead”, it’s just that it never was all that alive. Most gyms are filled with people who “lift” weights. More of a social club than anything else. Most of these folks don’t even know “Arnold” was a bodybuilder.

Bodybuilding as a sport will never be mainstream. In fact, it will probably dwindle. It’s no secret today, even to the average joe on the street, the these guys are walking pharmacuetical freaks. The vast majority of people out there do not aspire to look anything like these cartoon caricatures. It’s not even a sport in the first place. It’s more akin to watching a circus act.

For there to be many up and coming lifters, a seed must be planted. Something or someone has to start them out. I got my first serious gym subscription over a year ago. However, nobody I knew went there. After people saw how i went from a pot-belly pot-head to a sharper more agressive person with a wrestler build, friends joined en masse. Most people won’t stick with it for too long. They don’t know what they are doing or how to do it. However, their are a few genuine T-Men/Boys out there and plenty of potenials canindates. For a tree to grow, you need a seed. Food, water, sunlight and rest don’t hurt either.

Hey Steve…those people who “lift” weights are probably worse than those people who go out on a rare Saturday, dressed in the latest and most expensive, to “play” tennis or “play” golf…more like hit a ball across a net a couple of times or knock a ball around a course…

Wasn’t bodybuilding made an Olympic sport? Or was that just a rumor? If this is true, does anyone know what the judging criteria will be like? Todays IFBB pros will obviously not be allowed to compete or will anyone who “juices” to much. This may lead to more appealing physiques dominating the sport.