Bodybuilding Shows FINALLY Paying More?

by Christian Duque

OK guys, let’s be honest here for a second because a lot of people in the fitness industry are talking about all the money there is to be made by competing in bodybuilding competitions. I want to stress that most competitive athletes at the top tier of the sport do not earn their money based on contest placings. Of course those who win the Olympia, the Arnold, the New York Pro and those kind of shows do make a good amount of their income from prize money, but the vast majority of athletes that make up the rank and file do not.

I think that a lot of people, even within the media, are oblivious to the amount of money that’s required for a top tier physique-based athlete to get ready for just one show. I mean, let’s spell out the obvious one which is drugs. Let’s say that a pro bodybuilder wins a contest paying the bare minimum for first place which is $10,000. $10,000 doesn’t even cover the drugs for a normal 16 week prep!! Especially not after taxes!!

Moreover, it does not cover gym memberships, food, and travel expenses. Before we move on to travel expenses, which are a monstrous expense for most competitors, let’s not move away too quickly from food. Let’s not forget that a lot of bodybuilders have digestive issues whether things like celiac or that they must eat organic, for example.

Food prices are mounting costs for top tier physique-based athletes. Then of course there’s gym memberships which are not cheap because most top athletes do not train in industrial type gyms with everyday people. Most elite bodybuilders only train at members-only gyms –  meaning that the membership is carefully screened by management. Joe Blow off the street could not become a member no matter how much money he wanted to put down on the table. He probably couldn’t even get a guest pass. The only members allowed would be celebrities.

But let’s also talk about travel expenses. One of the competitions which has drastically increased its prize money is the Dubai Pro. Do people even know how much it costs to get a plane ticket to Dubai? Or to Kuwait? Or really anywhere in that part of the world?

It’s not like you’re flying to New Jersey. It’s not like you’re flying cross country to Los Angeles. You are flying all the way around the world. And it’s not even like you’re going to save much money if you fly basic economy. You’re still going to be in for at least $1500 if not $2000 and that’s just a bare airplane ticket. Forget about the food that you’re going to have to spend on overseas, forget about hotel accommodations!!

Do people ever sit down and do the math? If you’re going to a show in Dubai you’re going to need a hotel room for at least three or four nights. Hotel rooms in Dubai are probably not cheap. Nothing is cheap in Dubai. I mean for crying out loud. They built a continent out of sand in the ocean just for fun!! They have the tallest building in the world. They drive around in Lamborghinis. Does anyone think that a hotel room is going to be affordable there?

I mean get real.

So while I would love to echo the sentiments of some of my fellow bodybuilding media personalities, the fact that Dubai is paying $40,000 really isn’t anything to write home about. Imagine if you’re placing second or third and you have to foot the bill for an airline ticket, a hotel for a week, food (which is going to also be monstrous because who the hell eats like a bodybuilder anywhere)? I mean we’re talking about basically breaking even.

So in reality, I think there’s a lot of media fanfare over some of the contests offering more money, when there shouldn’t be. It’s really ridiculous for any media outlet to say that there’s a lot of money to be made for bodybuilders in 2024. That’s simply not the case. I mean we are talking about a sport that literally expects it’s athletes to pay for membership cards. Nobody is getting rich from competing in bodybuilding.

I would love to sit here and tell you that the sport is doing right by the athletes but let’s face it anybody that does a Bodybuilding show in 2024 for a top prize of $10,000 is literally being screwed over in so many ways that I literally couldn’t even begin to count. The fact that some promoters raise the prize money to 20,000 and $30,000 really, honestly does not warrant a big pat on the back. And I’m certainly not going to sit here and write some fluff piece to congratulate them for their generosity.

Promoters are making money hand over fist, and the people getting screwed are the athletes. They have to pay to compete and most of them will walk away with nothing in their pocket, except for a bunch of debts that they will hopefully be able to write off – provided they have enough sponsorship money coming in or revenue from personal training.

I’m sorry folks, but I just cannot be a shill and write some bullshit article like other outlets have done. Or other video platforms have done. It would be baseless propaganda.

I know there’s some people out there saying that promoters have suddenly seen the value in bodybuilding shows. My rebuttal to that argument would be that they have always seen the value in the sport because they’ve been promoting shows some of them for 10, 20, 30 years or more. They wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t profitable. The problem is the profits aren’t distributed to the athletes in the same degree that they are to those that promote the show and run the show. There is a lopsided earning scale in this sport that we have really bore witness to since the beginnings of it. The exceptions being the Olympia and The Arnold, but everywhere else you look, the athletes are the ones walking away with the short end of the stick.

There are the haves and have-nots and the athletes usually are the have-nots. I mean this is why so many once great bodybuilders today don’t have a pot to piss in and find themselves couch surfing at friends’ houses. Don’t even get me started on how many bodybuilders I personally know of that are maybe a couple thousand dollars short of being destitute.

And it doesn’t have to be that way, but unfortunately it is. Some people will say it’s because bodybuilders don’t plan for the future, but I would say hogwash to that.

The money just isn’t there.

That’s one of the luxuries that I have writing for Iron Magazine. I never have to whore out in order to get an article published. I say what I want to say, and I have the support of a publisher that also believes in freedom of expression. The reality of the matter is that bodybuilders and physique-based athletes cannot survive on contest earnings alone. I definitely think the increased prize money is a step in the right direction but it’s just a drop in the bucket. If we are going to talk about real prize money, there is going to have to be a hell of a lot more of it in the pot before the conversation can really be had.

But as always, I leave it to you. What say you? Are you impressed with the increased prize money or do you think like I do that it’s just a drop in the bucket?

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