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Bodybuilding has changed a lot over the years, and for a lot of people it has changed for the worse.
In its golden age when Arnie, Serge Nubret, Franco Columbu, and Frank Zane were competing the winners of Mr Olympia were household names. Well maybe they weren't household names in the way that sports stars are, but they were well known by many people and the likes of Arnie and Ferrigno are still known today.
Compare that to the competitors of the 90s, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, and Ronnie Coleman who are legends in the world of bodybuilding but pretty much unknown outside of it.
Bodybuilding has never been more popular, and competitions have never had more funding yet 90% of the world wouldn't recognise any of the most famous current bodybuilders.
What has been the major change? A lot of people would tell you it was the sport moving away from aesthetics and instead focusing on size and muscularity.
Drug use in Bodybuilding
Today's competitors would dwarf the lifters of the 1970s, in terms of the size that they have become and the risks they are prepared to take for it.
Whilst it would be foolish to believe that the bodybuilders of the 1970s abstained from drug use (they used plenty) it is clear to see how much less they used.
Nobody was using Insulin in those days nor were they using synthol or growth hormone (which didn't really get used until the 1980s).
Growth Hormone is probably the drug that has changed the face of bodybuilding the most, with its impact on muscle mass being the biggest factor. Other factors though are its ability to let bodybuilders train through injury and its negative effects on the body.
Growth hormone leads to enlargement of the hands (sausage fingers) and swollen midsections. These are caused by the enlargement of internal organs due to growth hormone use. It's why most modern Bodybuilders now have a gut even when they are at <5% body fat.
Incidentally the gut is also due to Insulin use and also the ridiculous amount of calories that they consume per day.
If you have ever seen a video of an obese person talking about their diet, they usually state that they eat between 5000-7000 calories per day. Well a bodybuilder could be consuming between 8000-10,000 per day!
This would cause the stomach to expand to a point where it pushes your abdomen out.
All of these drugs have caused modern day bodybuilders to become grotesque in the eyes of the general public. This is obviously a subjective opinion and there are many people who admire their physiques, but the majority of people would describe them as off-putting.
So what is Aesthetics in Bodybuilding?
Training for aesthetics is all about trying to achieve the ideal proportions, originally designed on the Vitruvian man.
Wide shoulders, thin waists, and if not a natural look – at least one that the common person could aspire to even if it was unlikely.
Bodybuilding in the 60s and 70s was very similar to physique competitions today, obviously the bodybuilders were bigger but they would still concentrate on looking natural even if they were far from it.
Will Aesthetics in Bodybuilding ever be as important as before?
If modern bodybuilding ever plans on creating famous and popular characters that absolutely filled the 60s and 70s then a change is going to have to be made.
It is going to have to come from the judges and the governing bodies because the bodybuilders themselves will not be able to make a change.
If competitors such as Phil Heath and Kai Greene are no longer seen as the ideal as they are just too big and unnatural looking, and instead a more aesthetic looking lifter takes the crown it may set things in motion. This could actually be the move that saves bodybuilding.
If you look at today's fitness celebrities you'll see that people like Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson are the most well-known.
Couple that with actors such as Tom Hardy and Chris Evans who were acclaimed for their aesthetic physiques in their more recent films.
If bodybuilding isn't careful it could become an anachronism, something that the public shows no interest in.
It doesn't have to be that way and all that needs to be done is to start promoting aesthetic bodybuilding again.
It's probably too late to change the Mr Olympia criteria, too many competitors have changed their bodies irreparably through the use of growth hormone, insulin, and large quantities of testosterone.
But if they looked to bring in the lightweight/heavyweight split with an overall winner chosen from those two – something that they had throughout the 60s and 70s.
That would start to attract smaller more aesthetically pleasing bodybuilders, and if they started to win the overall prize rather than the heavyweights it could set in motion a change for the better.