I don’t know if anyone else does this, but when one of my kids has a birthday, I reflect on what I was doing at their age. I have raised three kids with one still at home. She just started high school and turned 14. I remember starting high school after spending the summer lifting weights and everyone was shocked at how huge I was—at 136 pounds.
Understand that I was a big fish in a small pond and was well on my way to a pro card. I just had to stay on my path to getting huger and eventually good things would happen. I was convinced because my parents always told me I could do anything I set my mind to. It took me a few years to figure out that my parents handed me some poor genetics.
Thanks for lying to me and thanks for the narrow shoulders, Mom. I sit here typing this with a lot of responsibility on these shoulders:
- Feeding my kids
- Paying for college
- Keeping my wife from finding someone younger and hotter
- Supplying enough alcohol for said wife to drown her work-life with paying her bills
- Dispensing free advice to my kids—three of whom I have already served my time but, apparently, they still need life advice (exhausting)
- Making enough money for a midlife crisis/material things to keep me from curling up in the back of a dark closet in the fetal position with a gun in my mouth
- Feeding my cats and talking to them like they are babies
This list is only a fraction of my daily stresses, but I think this paints a clear picture of what I am dealing with. My point? If you know anything about me, it takes me a while to get there. Be patient.
I sometimes reminisce about my teenage years when my parents paid the bills, paid for my clothes and food. I believed I was just put on earth to get huge and complain about my clothes, food, and the fact that they didn’t provide me with everything I wanted.
Now onto the 10 things that I miss most about my teenage years in relation to bodybuilding, of course.
I was 21 here. Close enough. I was five weeks out from the Natural Mid-Michigan.
1. String Tank Tops
You can bash these tops all you want, but if you were a bodybuilder in the 1980s, you now miss them, too— don’t lie. The end result of training while showing off most of your upper body—minus abs and lower back—was the appeal. The 1980s also offered bright, flashy colors that, if I could, I would match with my Oakleys. Yes, I wore these tops while training and don’t blame me, as all of the pros in the magazines were wearing them, so I kept wearing them and practicing and would be a pro soon enough.
I remember it was almost as much fun wearing them as it was creating one. Took some art to get them just right: cut the borders around the neck and arms low enough to show my overdeveloped lats, but not so low that anyone could see the fat on my obliques.
I ruined a few Golds Gym tanks before getting it right. If you were lean enough, you could go with the extra cut, which was cutting the bottom of the shirt so that it showed an inch or two of my abs.
I should add that I miss the Boatneck-T Michael sweatshirts that were considered the Ralph Lauren Polo shirt of the bodybuilding world.
2. Dynamic Everything
Just about the only supplements you could find in the 1980s were Joe Weider supplements and everything started with Dynamic: Dynamic Muscle Builder, Dynamic Carbo Energizer, Dynamic Body Shaper, and Dynamic Life Essence, to name a few.
Life Essence—my bad—Dynamic Life Essence, I could never afford. I would just stare at it on the GNC shelf as if it were a bottle of steroids. I wanted it so badly because I knew it would build more dynamic muscle than I had ever had, but my parents wouldn’t give me the money. Not only would I find out they gave me dynamically subpar genetics, but they were stingy with their money and so any dynamic-related money seemed a bit much.
3. The Bro Club
This still exists in some gyms, but I never seem to be invited into that club. In high school, I was the muscled kid who the other kids looked to for advice. I read more muscle magazines and spent more time in the gym, so they were correct to assume that I knew everything there was to know about gaining muscles.
These days I can be bigger than others in the gym, but apparently no one wants to look like a bodybuilder anymore. Either that or the more obvious reason is no one invites me into their Bro Club is because I give off the aura that I don’t want to talk to anyone. I mean, I’m a bodybuilder. I need to be so focused on my training that I scowl and don’t acknowledge anyone. If I don’t act this way, someone might think I am not serious.
To me, this WAS steroids. I had no idea how to get steroids, and I didn’t have the luxury of having a shady, huge guy standing outside of my gym trying to peddle Dbol. No matter, as I could not buy them anyway because I needed money from my parents who were not supportive of my using steroids to get my pro card. I am sure you can now see more clearly how much of an obstacle my parents were in blocking my dreams.
So, I did the next best thing. My friend and I stole money from his mom. She was seldom home, didn’t parent my friend much, and had a load of cash all of the time from working at a waterbed store. No, I am not kidding, as she did work in a waterbed store. How 1980s is that, right? He usually stole money from her to buy clothes and she never knew. So, we stole the money (okay, he actually took the money, but I was complicit), ordered CyberGenics, and waited.
I lasted one workout and I was done. In my defense, the workouts listed in the program were absurd and nothing but giant sets for two to three hours. Clearly, the guy who wrote this program didn’t know what I knew and this was definitely not going to be the avenue I used to get my pro card. I did, however, take all of the supplements (of which they only sent five when there should have been eight or nine). Nothing happened. I think you are now just as surprised as I was.
5. Training in My Basement
I would invite friends over, and we would pound weights on my Sears weight bench that included a squat rack, lat pulldown, triceps pushdown, preacher bench (where the leg extension/leg curl attachment would go), etc. We sometimes trained for up to four hours. Why? I think you know the answer: imminent pro card because I was eminent in my own mind. All I did was overtrain and not do homework. Who needs homework if you are a pro? Exactly. I was always thinking.
6. Weights that Made Noise
This one is self-explanatory. The 1980s provided real steel weights without rubber coating. They made a cool sound like that of men honing their craft and being…men. Men who wanted to stand on stage oiled up, entire body shaved, and dance around flexing their muscles in a Speedo. I can’t think of anything manlier than that. I doubt you can either.
7. Teenage Diet
Dieting was quite simple then. We just ate our asses off, and it didn’t matter what we ate as long as we got some meat in there somewhere—the 1980s bulking at its finest.
Dieting to get lean was a little harder because my parents refused to provide the high-quality foods that I needed. I typically would have to eat a can of tuna and a plain baked potato for lunch at school. This gave me even more cafeteria cred and bolstered my argument with my fellow classmates that I was destined to rule the bodybuilding world. They told me all of the time how disciplined I was because I never broke down and ate the orange-greased pizza provided by the school lunch lady.
8. Bodybuilder Pictures
The magazines preached that if I didn’t visualize my goals, I wouldn’t reach them. I posted pics on my bedroom walls and on the fridge, but as you can probably guess, my mother wouldn’t allow them to remain on the refrigerator. She told me the fridge was reserved only for tests that received an A-grade. Clearly, I was not taking up much space on the fridge with those A’s so there was PLENTY of room for bodybuilding pictures. She didn’t see it that way. Just one more obstacle to my pro card.
9. Arm Blaster
When I saw Arnold using an Arm Blaster in that famous pic at Golds Gym, Venice, I realized at that exact moment that my arms were still small because I did not have that tool. I knew I had to get an Arm Blaster and then my arms would explode. I am logical like that. I asked for one for Christmas, telling my parents that I spoke to God and he told me that I needed bigger arms. Shockingly, it worked. Go figure that Santa would give me more than my parents ever did.
10. Low Stress
This is the single biggest thing I miss from my teenage years. In my adult world, the stress sometimes seems overwhelming. As a teenager, all I had to do was go to school, pass my classes, date girls who acted like Rizzo, and lift weights. Not too terribly stressful as I look back, though it probably seemed stressful at the time.
As much as I miss my teenage years, I admit that my life isn’t too terribly bad as an adult. I do have a 25-year marriage to a pretty cool woman; four great kids (though they seem to think I never buy them everything they want—sound familiar?); a business that provides a very good living for myself and my family; my health and a myriad of other positives. I have just over a year before I turn 50, so pardon me for reminiscing just a little bit to the days when my responsibilities were low and I had a lot of free time on my hands.
Note: I ended up falling just short of getting a pro card, and when I say “just short,” I want to clarify that I competed against Phil Heath twice and while he took the class both times, I took 3rd and 4th places. I think I can honestly say that I was close to beating him.