I received a message from a guy in South Africa this week asking why bodybuilders from the United States are so advanced. I realized that it was something that, living in the U.S. myself, I had not given much thought to until now. I mulled it over for a while before responding and came to the conclusions below. First, let me be very clear that there are obviously great bodybuilders all over the world. However, the U.S. is clearly the leader — and has been as far back as I can remember in the world of bodybuilding (and we are usually at or near the top of almost every Olympic Games, as well). I have narrowed down why I feel the U.S. has lead in the world of bodybuilding to these five main reasons.


The U.S. ranks number three in the world for population only behind China (first) and India (second). Obviously, having a larger pool to pull from increases the likelihood that there are more genetically superior physiques that could potentially develop the desire to ascend the bodybuilding ranks. China and the U.S. typically lead medal counts at the Olympics, so this backs this up to some degree. India, though populous, has a much larger disparity between the wealthy and poor, which leads me to my next reason.


It takes a lot of money to support an athlete attempting to be the best in their sport. U.S. citizens typically have more disposable income to invest in expensive hobbies than people who live in other large countries. If you compare the average income of a U.S. citizen to the average income of someone who lives in India or China, there is a substantial disparity. Though other countries of the world may have higher average incomes per person than the U.S., they don’t have the population that the U.S. does. When you combine a large population with a higher disposable income, it is a more likely outcome that these countries will have better athletes than countries with smaller populations and less money to invest in their hobbies or passions.


Nutrition and Supplementation Innovation

The advances in nutrition and supplementation are typically U.S.-based. As an example, the U.S. likely has more nutritional supplement companies, and the U.S. is also within the top three countries with the most pharmaceutical companies. By itself, this may not seem to be something that would separate the U.S. from other countries as far as athlete or bodybuilding excellence, but when you add the availability of drugs and supplements with having more disposable income to spend, along with having a huge pool of people to choose from, it should seem obvious that these factors all play a part in the equation.


Champions breed more champions. What I mean by this is that when I trained at Armbrust Pro Gym, I was surrounded by high-level bodybuilders, including a lot of pros. It isn’t that the water at Armbrust Pro Gym is laced with dianabol (though I do drink extra water while there just in case), but the motivation and passion needed to excel at a high level in the sport of bodybuilding can have a contagious effect. While training next to pros, most people up their game and feel that being in close proximity to other high-level athletes can be advantageous. I am not at all saying that someone can become a pro by proxy; what I am saying is that training in a country or at a gym where you are a big fish in a small pond usually doesn’t provide as much motivation to excel and get better as being a small fish in a big pond. The U.S. has a lot of high-level athletes and bodybuilders, and I believe that this variable plays a role in motivating and creating passion in other people who can witness these athletes firsthand.


U.S. citizens have high-quality options for food and what most countries would consider an abundance of food. Aside from high-quality options and an abundance of food, the U.S. also has convenience, because we offer restaurants that cater to healthy food as well. In poorer countries, you might find an abundance of fast food options, but in the U.S. it is incredibly common to get Japanese “fast food” like sushi, salads, and high-protein, low-fat options. Almost any major city in the U.S. will provide options for regular items like burgers and pizza that are gluten-free, as just one example of many. I have seen numerous pizza places offer “smart menu” or fat-free options, as well. This is not to say that pizza or burgers are going to get you huge or ripped, but my point is that the U.S. is more health-conscious than most other countries.

Basically, as U.S. citizens we are spoiled and tend to forget how good we have it. We may not rank as one of the smartest countries but we are certainly near the top of the list for vanity. U.S. residents spent over 16 billion on plastic surgery in 2016, 2.6 billion on gym memberships, and 1.5 billion on nutritional supplements. I would like to know what amount of money US residents spend on trainers, but I couldn’t find an accurate number. I would guess this number to be quite high.

Keep in mind that even though the U.S. has more high-level athletes and bodybuilders than any other country, we also have more people who think they are high-level and simply aren’t and never will be. At least in a smaller, poorer country, someone who fails to reach the upper echelon will still stand out in that population. Not so in the United States. We are overrun with average, mediocre athletes and bodybuilders. If you want attention for your mediocre physique, my advice is to move to Zambia. Just Sayin’.

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