Changing standards in what it takes to be a ‘muscle man’
This is Charles Atlas, the original strong man of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Charles Atlas was considered to be ‘huge’, a hunk of a bodybuilder, and the epitome of masculine development and peak fitness.
It fascinates me….just 60 years ago, this was the epitome of “phwoar what a muscle bound hunk of health and fitness he is” yet today’s media would say this is “smooth, barely athletic”.
The media set impossible standards…women are expected to be rail thin like catwalk models and men are pressured to have square pecs, washboard abs, rugby-player thighs, bulging biceps and a big square jaw. The ridiculous ‘Hollywood standard’ that we are all supposed to meet is driving our young women, and men, to exercise obsession and eating disorders.
Even further back in history, was this man pictured to the right. This is Eugen Sandow, a Russian strong man often referred to as ‘the father of modern bodybuilding’. Mr Sandow was at the peak of his career at the turn of the last century, over 100 years ago.
Now, zooming forward to the 21st century, in this next picture this is Branch Warren, who came 2nd in the Mr Olympia competition in 2009, and won the Arnold Classic (another world-class body building contest) in 2012.
I don’t want to put this guy down, if pro-bodybuilding is his choice, then good for him, but in order to look like this, requires heavy steroid use, supplemental human growth hormone, testosterone injections and masses of synthetic supplements.
In the last 60 years, we have dramatically redefined what a “muscle man” is supposed to look like. How Charles Atlas looked was achievable naturally, for normal men, without the use of steroids, and without compromising genuine good health.
However, modern body building ‘superstars’ are completely chemically enhanced, and frankly, in my opinion, not particularly healthy. I worry, over the NEXT few decades, where will this trend go in the long term? How much further can men push their bodies? At what point will people say ‘enough’? Steroids, supplements, surgery, cosmetic enhancements, what will come next? I worry that the pursuit of some kind of physical ‘perfection’ is trending quite dramatically AWAY from natural good health. I am not ‘down’ on muscle men and body builders, but worried that genuine long-term underlying good health is being sacrificed in the pursuit of aesthetics.
I ask ladies if they find this kind of muscular look attractive, and they vast majority of women say no, they think the excessive muscle mass, the bulging vascularity and the rippling lack of body fat to actually be quite revolting.
Impressionable young men are becoming absorbed in gym culture and steroids are becoming a common ‘street drug’, illegally traded in back streets like any other illegal substances.
In this next picture, we see Anthony Catanzaro, an all-natural body builder who has passionately dedicated his life to achieving the best possible physical development and conditioning WITHOUT ever touching steroids or other drugs which have harmful side effects. In the 21st Century, this represents the limit of what is possible without taking steroids, and this requires extreme dedication to good quality nutrition and careful, intelligent training.
I take my hat off to this guy, he is in incredibly condition, and he must have worked incredibly hard to look like this. Compared to Eugen Sandow or Charles Atlas, allowing for modern lighting and photographic techniques, you can see moderate advances in muscular development, overall size and lean-ness, but really, the differences are not massive. It is important to remember, this guy represents pretty much the limit of what is possible without drugs, so any images we see of guys looking bigger than this, they are almost certainly taking steroids.
This final picture is my own motivation. That’s me in the middle, and either side are my goal pictures, how I want to look. The guy with his hands on his hips on the left, is Georges St.Pierre, one of the words top MMA cage fighters, and he IS as fit as he looks – maybe fitter!
I am a rock climber…so I don’t want to be big and bulky like a body builder. Being huge would make no sense for me, as pulling the extra weight (albeit muscle) up vertical rock faces would be extremely hard work. So I want to be lean and athletic, muscular and strong but not bulky. I just want to build up my arms and shoulders a little (most vain men want big strong arms!) and then drop my body fat just a little…but otherwise I am pretty chilled about it all, not too hung up on body image. I am supremely healthy, I never get ill, I am fit, always full of energy, pretty strong and broadly physically capable, so I’m good, doing fine!
Do you have goals?
Men – what do you want to look like? Big and bulky, like a body builder? Or slim and athletic?
Ladies – do you think big bulky men (like body builders) are attractive? Do you prefer men ‘big’ or ‘lean’?
If you want to read more about MotherNaturesDiet and what I believe to be optimal muscle and optimal fat for the best health, download this ebook The MND Guide to Body Composition. 2013.
Please leave any comments or questions below, I look forward to hearing from you.