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Why the Bodybuilding Era Matters

by Matt Weik

With all the smack talking going on these days about so and so bodybuilder wouldn’t place top 5 in this era or that era, who cares? That’s like Michael Jordan saying no one from today’s era would be able to guard him. I think we need to take a step back and look at each bodybuilding era for what it is. Let me explain. 

Each Bodybuilding Era Matters

When you look at the bodybuilding era when guys like Arnold was competing, the physiques were a lot different. We call it the golden era for a reason. The physiques were aesthetically pleasing, not overly muscular, but had good size and symmetry. Is that missing today? Sure, but the bodybuilding industry has evolved over the years to where it stands currently. 

As the years go by, the size game seems to get elevated. Bodybuilders are looking to achieve that true freak-factor. Many of them looking for that cartoonish physique that when you see them you simply can’t fathom how that can be real. They walk around in the off-season at 315+ pounds and jump on stage at 280+. We’re talking about a different breed of animals here.  But in all honesty, go back and look at Arnold’s era and put them side-by-side to today’s competitors. It’s like teen nationals versus today’s IFBB professionals.

If you were to put Roelly Winklaar next to Arnold at his prime, Roelly would make Arnold look like a child. There would be no comparison at all. And that’s saying something because many believe Arnold is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) bodybuilders of all time. Personally, I think it’s hard to not give the greatest of all time (GOAT) award to Ronnie Coleman but that’s just what I see with my own two eyes.

You could also say the same about Ronnie Coleman and Rich Gaspari. Both were great bodybuilders but Rich would get dwarfed in a lineup of guys like Ronnie, Jay, or Phil. We need to look at what each bodybuilding era brought to the industry at the time. 
Is the Current Physique the Future of Bodybuilding? 
I think to answer this question it comes down to a matter of opinion (a topic I’m going to touch on in the next section). What I mean by this is, the current reigning Mr. Olympia (Brandon Curry) wasn’t affected by the comments Dorian Yates made about him not being in shape at the 2019 Mr. Olympia yet still winning the Sandow. That’s because Dorian is looking at things through a different lens.  Brandon didn’t need to be at his best ever to win his first Olympia. He only needed to be good enough to beat everyone else on stage. It’s that simple. Do you think Brandon was happy with the package he brought to the stage? Probably not. He probably looked in the mirror and post-show photos and started dissecting his physique. I think that’s common for a lot of competitors, so they see where they need to improve for the next show.

Being that bodybuilding is a very subjective sport, we all tend to focus on different things and aspects of competitors’ physiques. Today’s bodybuilding era is much different than 10 years ago and 10 years ago is much different than 30 years ago. 

This is not to say that we can’t appreciate each bodybuilding era. I see things I appreciate from each bodybuilding era. In fact, I RESPECT the competitors from each era. Obviously, today’s competitors have a much wider variety of PEDs they can cycle through during the year. While there are some similarities between eras, there are also many differences as well.

Opinions Are Like A$$holes

I love the saying that opinions are like assholes because it’s so true – everyone has one. What I don’t like about the opinions here of late in the bodybuilding industry is that everyone is talking trash about one another. Look, we haven’t had rivalries in bodybuilding for years. Ronnie and Jay were really the last one. I don’t even look at the Phil and Jay rivalry as being one since it really wasn’t long enough to call it such. You could argue Phil and Kai but then Kai went AWOL and left the sport. Plus, Kai never beat Phil – so there’s that.

But what these opinions are doing for the sport is muddying the waters. Honestly, who cares what Dorian thinks about today’s competitors? If he wants to think they couldn’t compete back in the day that’s great. Maybe on stage today HE couldn’t compete with the new guys? That could be debated back and forth from all sides.

What the back and forth here of late looks like is a bunch of salty old bodybuilders who apparently don’t want to see the sport succeed and would rather belittle the current competitors as if to say it’s not even worth going to the shows because no one is ever in shape. Are they wrong? Maybe not? But the fact of the matter is that THIS is what the sport has become and where we are right now.

Was basketball better back when Michael Jordan was playing? Was it more exciting to watch? I think so. But I’m not about to bash the current state of the game and try to play one against the other. Things are just… DIFFERENT. And that’s ok. And if people don’t like basketball today, they’ll stop watching. Just like if people don’t like bodybuilding today, they’ll stop going to shows.

We all have opinions of who looked better than who on stage. An opinion of how someone came into the Arnold and how they showed up for the Olympia. Simply put, there are a lot of opinions being shared these days. And while everyone has the right to share theirs, it’s my OPINION that it’s not doing one ounce of good for the sport of bodybuilding.

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