column-gray-032715 Most of you young bucks won’t recall this phrase:

“Big fish in a small pond."

Why? Because it no longer exists — at least in reference to bodybuilding. The extinction was caused, basically, by the Internet.

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In a time long ago and in a land far away, it used to be a thing where you could work out at a gym and be known as one of the biggest guys in your gym, area, or town. There was a bit of status that came with it, and it motivated a lot of people to train their asses off and to get HYUGE and ripped. The thought of becoming the biggest and baddest was not just something that motivated someone to train harder, but it was appealing because it also seemed attainable. Even if you weren’t the biggest guy in the gym, you could be one of the big guys or be in the big-guy clique – you know, that high school or frat-boy-type group that everyone smaller wished they were a part of. You couldn’t hang out with the big boys unless you WERE a big boy. In fact, most of us who trained during that time were ostracized, picked on, or belittled for not being one of them. I’m not talking about getting sand kicked in our faces; I mean, I’m not Steve Reeves-old, but I was certainly laughed at or mocked. I could tell you stories that happened to me 35 years ago that are so fresh in my mind that I feel they happened last year. To say these situations weren’t impactful would be a bold-faced lie. In every city in the country, there was a gym where guys wanted to be big and muscular, and keep in mind that during the ‘80s, no one had any desire to work out for “functional training” or go to the gym to improve their golf swing; we went to the gym for one reason and one reason only: to get fucking HYUGE — to look like a freak. If you have one badass in every gym in every city in the U.S., that’s a lot of badasses that had no idea about the other badasses in other gyms or towns. They almost certainly thought there were not many other badasses out there. This is your “big fish in a small pond.” Then, Al Gore goes and creates the Internet (or so his story goes). Strong Bodybuilder Doing Heavy Weight Exercise For Back On Machine

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All of a sudden – one by one – all of the biggest guys in the gym start to find out that there are others just like them, or they realize there are actually others out there who are bigger and stronger. Obviously, there have always been bodybuilding shows where the biggest guys in the gym could compete against other biggest guys in the gym, but back then, even doing a local show was a big deal and there were a lot of competitors. I remember competing in the Kalamazoo Bodybuilding Championships in 1990, and in the lightweight division alone, there were almost 20 competitors. Not many people went on to compete past the state level, and even when they did, there was very little coverage of the shows in the muscle magazines. If you didn’t go to the shows, you had no idea who was there, how good they were, or how big they were. You rarely stood next to someone huge who wasn’t in YOUR gym in YOUR hometown. That’s a pretty small pond. As the Internet grew, the pond started to grow… and grow… and grow… to the point where now we are able not only to see but to interact with bodybuilders — not just in the U.S. — but from all over the world. We can find out what almost every competitor in every single show looks like, how they place, how they train, what their diets consist of, and what supplements they take. Hell, we can interact with them to the point of asking questions and sometimes even getting a response from them.

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Before the Internet, you might be surprised to know that most of the pro bodybuilders had their phone numbers listed on the back of FLEX Magazine. I called Lee Labrada on the phone one time and he answered. I asked him a couple of questions and he answered them for me. The next time I saw him guest posing at a show, I confronted him and told him I was the guy who spoke to him on the phone, and I was humiliated when he acted like a dick by scowling and saying he didn’t. On the one hand, what a time to be a bodybuilder coming up in this “sport.” We all have an infinite amount of information at our fingertips, and we can learn about as much as we have the time to invest. Progress is almost certainly faster and more efficient these days due to this information. On the other hand, those who may have qualified as being the biggest or best bodybuilder in their gym or town are relegated to being just another average bodybuilder that no one pays any attention to other than close friends. Kind of a catch-22 or the metaphorical death row pardon two minutes too late – it’s a little ironic, dontcha think? I would go one step further and make the point that a lot of people these days should be pretty fucking happy for the Internet because there are a lot of people who aren’t very good bodybuilders but have a ton of knowledge and are well-respected and would never have gotten the time of day in their hometown gym. Why? Because everyone knew that only the big guys had the answers; little guys did what they were supposed to do: shut the fuck up and listen. I make a very good living being one of those not very good bodybuilders, so you might think I love the advent of the Internet, and you’d be correct. I know damn well that without the Internet I would have a regular job making regular money and just be another one of the big guys in the gym. At the same time, I can tell you that I absolutely miss those days where I was able to feel like a big fish in a small pond. It’s a paradox for me (and for a lot of others) as we are now all small fish in a very big pond. Careful what you wish for. Just Sayin’. most-popular-home