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Tested vs. Untested
November 26, 2009 by John Hansen
Q: I’m considering competing in bodybuilding, but I need to decide whether to enter a natural or untested contest. I have no problems with steroids and steroid use, but here in the United States it’s illegal to use them, meaning I would have to move overseas to be untested. I was just wondering, how do you support yourself in your bodybuilding? Do you have sponsors that pay for all your stuff, or do you have a real job and do bodybuilding for more of a lifestyle?
I’m shocked that you would consider moving overseas just to be able to use steroids to compete. There are thousands of bodybuilders who use steroids in the United States, even though they’re illegal. If you really wanted to use steroids in this country, you could do so, but you’d be breaking the law.
The easier solution, of course, would be to forget the drugs and compete in natural bodybuilding contests instead. The fact that there are a dozen or so natural bodybuilding organizations in the country means you have many options if you decide to enter a contest.
If you think you’d be taking a step down by choosing to compete without steroids, I can tell you that you’re completely wrong. Natural bodybuilding contests are very, very competitive, with some incredible physiques onstage. I promote two natural bodybuilding contests every year in Chicago, and I’m amazed at how much more competitive each new contest is. The athletes are getting bigger and harder each year.
Years ago there were very few natural competitions. You were basically stuck with entering nontested shows, and you had to make the difficult decision of whether to use the drugs. If you didn’t use them, you were at a distinct disadvantage.
Today there’s no reason to even consider using steroids, in my opinion. Develop your physique naturally through hard training and good nutrition and compete against other natural bodybuilders in a drug-free competition. That’s what bodybuilding was originally supposed to be.
I support myself with a regular job and don’t make my living as a professional bodybuilder. Nor do most bodybuilders in this country or anywhere in the world. Many do it only as a hobby, and even a lot of professional bodybuilders have to do something else to make a living because they don’t make enough money as professional bodybuilders.
Only a dozen or so professional bodybuilders make six-figure incomes exclusively from the sport. Most of them are sponsored by supplement companies, but, as I said, the number of bodybuilders who can make that type of income is very limited.
During most of my competitive career I mad...
The Most Important Bodybuilding Lessons
August 8, 2010 by Stuart McRobert
Note that the lessons aren’t listed in any particular order.
Lesson 1. While I was at college in England, I trained in a gym where one of Europe’s elite physiques at the time worked out. We often trained at the same time. He helped me learn perhaps the biggest lesson in bodybuilding. He was on bodybuilding drugs and, generally, was a genetic muscle-building phenomenon. He hadn’t neglected his calves, but I had better calf development, even though I was drug-free and had been training for far fewer years. He asked me for advice on how he could improve his calves.
The explanation for the difference in our calves was our heredity. I had better genetics for calf development, but he was much better off in all other body-parts. I trained my calves the way I trained my arms, chest and shoulders, but my calves were the most responsive.
The lesson: Provided you train sensibly and fully attend to the components of recuperation, the most important factor determining your bodybuilding success is genetic, and you have no control over that. Even so, while acknowledging your genetic constraints, don’t use them as an excuse not to seek progress. Bodybuilding should be about personal satisfaction from improving your own physique, and you can realize tremendous enjoyment from it even if you never enter a physique competition.
Lesson 2. For many years muscles were more important to me than anything else in my life. I craved to be a professional bodybuilder. I neglected school work, social activities and sport in my quest to build a great physique. My education suffered, my social skills suffered, I became a near recluse, and I didn’t pursue sports where I had some natural talent. I spent a huge amount of time training, thinking about training, studying training and thinking about everything related to bodybuilding. That amount of time, otherwise applied, could have earned me two doctoral degrees, for example.
One of the biggest regrets I have is that I didn’t get the education I was capable of. I still got a bachelor’s degree, but my options were severely limited, and I never fully committed to the degree because of my obsession with bodybuilding. I still could have been highly dedicated to bodybuilding but without making it the obsession that made me neglect everything else. I couldn’t see that at the time, however.
The lesson: Be dedicated so that you train 100 percent well and recuperate 100 percent well, but don’t neglect other aspects of your life.
Lesson 3. Despite 100 percent commitment to bodybuilding, my initial gains were only modest. After I got even more “serious” about my training—increasing its volume, frequency and intensity—progress came to a halt. Then started my appreciation of “hardgaining.” I learned that there was much more to bodybuilding success than effort and dedication. In addition to the critical role of heredity, I learned about the need to use training routines...
You’ve Already Won
October 22, 2010 by Ron Harris
How do you define success in bodybuilding? If I pose that question, the most common responses would be quite predictable: building an exceptional physique, winning a contest, turning pro, getting your picture in the magazines and getting endorsement contracts. Based on those standards, only a small percentage of people who take up bodybuilding would be considered success stories.
The reality is that far more people than anyone will ever know about have achieved success—not necessarily “in” bodybuilding but “through” bodybuilding. Consider the obese man or woman who uses the gym—rather than surgery or some cocktail of diet drugs—to shed the unwanted and unhealthy pounds and gain new mobility, self-esteem and purpose.
How about the skinny young guy—that was me and plenty of others—who had no confidence with the ladies or life in general but used the weights as a tool to build his body and learn to hold his head high and look others in the eye? My brother Dana, who is now 47 years old, struggled with substance addiction at one point in his life, and for a while we thought it might be the end of him—as it had been for one of our sisters. On January 7, 2001, however, he decided to become sober and has been ever since. On January 19, after being on the fence about training, he dedicated himself to working out and eating right consistently. Since then he’s cleaned up his act in many ways.
Dana even competed in a masters bodybuilding contest in 2007 and another in 2008. The fact that he didn’t win is irrelevant. Preparing for the contests gave him focus and drive he’d never known before. Having the courage to get up onstage alongside men who had been training hard for decades was a trial by fire that he managed to come out on the other side of with honor. To say I am proud of Dana for sticking with the goals he set out nearly a decade ago would be an understatement. He surprised me, and I’m overjoyed that he did.
Bodybuilding can give a sense of purpose and direction to those who lack them, and these days that includes a large number of people. It shows you that you can set goals, work hard and smart and achieve them. That’s a lesson you can apply to anything, whether it involves school, career or business.
The obvious benefit that bodybuilding provides is a lifestyle of regular and vigorous exercise and good eating habits. Human beings, particularly in the United States, are becoming increasingly sedentary and inactive. Thanks to technology we now have computers, big-screen HDTVs, video games with phenomenal graphics and captivating action, text messaging, iPods and iPhones and numerous other gadgets that inadvertently encourage a lack of physical activity. Healthful foods are widely available, yet millions prefer to subsist on fast food, snacks and processed microwave foods loaded with chemicals and preservatives.
All that makes bodybuilding more valuable and important than ever. O...