The hardcore bodybuilders among us will lie and deny, but the reality is that men’s bodybuilding is dying a slow death, following in the footsteps of female bodybuilding.

Where female bodybuilding’s death was related to getting too big and crossing some alleged line of femininity, men’s bodybuilding’s death is not size related, per se, but gut related. No one is saying male bodybuilders are “too big”, but rather their guts are out of control. Promoters are not to blame and drugs are only a part of the problem. If you want to blame someone, blame men’s bodybuilding, as it is the cause of its own demise.

Though there are still bodybuilders that have small waists and somehow have managed to control their midsections (at least until they spend a couple decades in the sport), the vast majority have ponied up their midsections in return for more size everywhere else. It is an ugly tradeoff and is off-putting to those who are contemplating getting into the sport. Basically, not many guys want to look pregnant to get big arms and big legs.

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Bodybuilders like to take pot-shots at physique competitors, but most people prefer the look of the physique competitor – not necessarily because they aren’t as big, but more importantly because the large majority of them have that small, “pretty” waist. I have gone on record many times publicly admitting that if the physique division was around when I started training and competing, I would definitely have gone that route. Of course, this is hindsight because I had no idea at the time I started—over 30 years ago—that bodybuilding physiques would end up where they are today.

When I started training and competing, waists, for the most part, were still small. The 80s didn’t have a gut problem and bodybuilding had a more pleasing look. While Lee Haney, Mike Christian, and Lee Labrada all were small-waisted, even Rich Gaspari (who was considered “blocky” at the time) still had a relatively small waist. It wasn’t until the force-feeding-for-size concept came to life in the mid-90s did bodybuilding veer from a pleasing and aesthetic look to just plain ugly AF. Are there exceptions? Of course there are, but if we are all being honest here, we can all admit that bodybuilding took on a different look after the mid-90s.

Promoters aren’t to blame. A lot of people want to blame promoters for the death of bodybuilding with the stance that promoters don’t care about bodybuilding anymore, and because they created so many more divisions, they are simply greedy and want more money. It isn’t “greedy” to make more money by offering more people options to compete. Promoters are businessmen and women and good businessmen and women make more money. After all, it is the name of the business game. In giving more people the opportunity to compete, a ton of people decided that they didn’t want to look like the modern-day bodybuilder and preferred the smaller-waisted look of the physique divisions. Blaming promoters for providing this option is akin to blaming gun manufacturers for gun violence across the country.


So, who is to blame, if anyone? I blame bodybuilders themselves. That’s right; bodybuilders have created the demise of their sport. When size is the ultimate pursuit and motivation, the variables or factors that get that size are exactly the same factors that are causing the pregnant and ugly modern-day look of bodybuilders. We can argue which factors are to blame until we are blue in the face but the main issues are (not necessarily in this order):

1. Massive Drug Use

This is including, but not limited to, insulin and growth hormone. Though there are many small-waisted physique guys that abuse performance-enhancing drugs, the abuse in bodybuilding is across the board. There may be drug abuse by physique competitors, but nothing that is on par with the “at-all-costs” ideology of bodybuilders.

2. Force-Feeding for Size

I have argued over the years, ad nauseum, that this is, to me, the main reason that guts are out of control in bodybuilding. A lot of people can get away with this when they are young, but after years of force-feeding, the ab wall, intestines, stomach, etc., just do not have the elasticity that they once had.

3. The Basic Bodybuilding Concept of “More Is Better”

More size is not always better. There is a certain amount of muscle that someone’s structure can hold and still look “pretty.” Most bodybuilders don’t give a shit about this and believe that they will be a better bodybuilder if they can just move up one more weight class. More drugs, more food, and more size is typically the mantra of most bodybuilders.

The one nice consolation of the destruction of the aesthetic bodybuilding physique is that the division of classic bodybuilding was created. While a lot of us don’t like that leg development is left out of physique competition, classic bodybuilding allows those that don’t want to look ugly, but want to be judged on their entire physique, an option to be competitive. This look is far more appealing to most because it limits the scale weight—and ultimately the size—of competitors, discouraging the variables that contribute to an ugly physique. One might argue that this is still bodybuilding, so bodybuilding isn’t necessarily “dying,” and that may be correct, but the caveat here is that we don’t know how classic bodybuilding will fare. It is still in its infancy. It is quite possible that it could thrive, but we don’t know that yet.

Whether classic bodybuilding thrives and grows and attracts a large amount of competitors or not, bodybuilding in its purest form is still dying. When you have to put limitations on something because it has gone too far, it is in its final stages of death. Bodybuilding was not ever about limitations, and with those limitations, other divisions had to be born.

While some will still have a passion for pushing the envelope as far as it can be pushed, the majority will opt for the more pleasing look. Sad? Depends on whom you ask. I say the limitations are long overdue; others will continue to believe that anything less than pushing the envelope is blasphemous. No matter which side you fall on, bodybuilding is to blame for its slow death. Just Sayin’.