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Bodybuilding Is Not a Race

7305-train1A lot of young guys I talk with these days want to get huge. I can relate to that. So did I at their age. The difference is, they want to be huge yesterday. When I try to explain that building a truly exceptional physique is going to take anywhere from five to 10 years in most cases, they either laugh or become outraged. They aren’t willing to wait more than a year to go from looking very average to looking like a pro bodybuilder. Thanks to some misinformation they are being spoon-fed by dolts, they honestly believe it can be done—as long as they take enough test, tren, EQ, GH, insulin and a few other magical potions. Many of them don’t even want to start training until they can be on a “pro bodybuilder” stack of drugs.

Why is it that the guys of my era, whether we knew about drugs, weren’t in such a hurry to get big? My theory is that we lived in a much “slower” time in general. Before the Internet there was no e-mail. We had to write letters, put stamps on them, drop them in a mailbox and wait a week or weeks to get a reply. Reaching people on the phone wasn’t always easy. There were no cell phones, so you had to call people at home or their workplace, leaving messages and hoping for a call back. Photos were taken with cameras that used film, and you had to take the film somewhere to get it developed.

Now it’s 2014. You can reach anyone at anytime via phone, e-mail, text message, instant message, Facetime or Skype. “Phones” these days are really personal computers. You can contact people in any number of ways, take photos and videos and send them in a second and go online to look up anything. It’s all about faster, faster, faster!

So I don’t blame the younger generation for expecting to get the physiques they want right away. What bothers me is that so few seem to talk about training or nutrition, as they feel those factors are almost insignificant compared to drugs. They believe that we of the older generations and especially those of us in the bodybuilding industry have been keeping a “secret” from them—that drugs are all that matter.

Don’t get me wrong. Drugs are absolutely part of the equation for the freakiest physiques—but they are just a part. Training and nutrition are more important and always will be.

There I go again, trying to keep the young guys from getting huge, right? Nope. Not at all. Often when I read comments on Facebook from young guys who spout the mantra that drugs are all that matter and proudly boast about their big cycles, I click on their profiles to see what they look like. Most of them don’t look as good as kids their age who compete in natural contests, and a lot of them look like typical 18-to-23-year-olds with a bit of muscle. None look remotely like pro bodybuilders, even though they are using the same drugs in the same amounts. Why? Because you can’t rush a great physique.

Can a guy pack on a lot of size in a year or two of massive drug abuse? Sure, I suppose so. But most of them don’t look very good, and they certainly don’t look very healthy.

I started training more than 30 years ago, in the early ’80s, never having heard the word steroid. My goal was to be much, much bigger, and I never thought for a minute it would happen fast. I knew it was going to take years. I didn’t even break 200 pounds until I had been training for six or seven years. Did I feel cheated that the process took so long and my gains were so slow? Not at all! I loved training, as I still do, and I saw it all as a challenge. It became my lifestyle, and it made me a stronger person in many ways that had nothing to do with the gym or muscles. Once that passion was in my soul, I knew it would never leave. And it hasn’t. Whether I ever compete again, I will always train.

So I suspect that many of these kids today won’t last. By taking the amounts of drugs that many of them do from the start, a lot of them will develop health problems. At the very least they won’t be able to afford spending thousands of dollars a year on gear for very long. Some will quit once they don’t see what they want in the mirror, and most won’t see what they want because they lack the rare genetics that elite bodybuilders are born with. Those are the lucky ones. Still others will just keep raising their doses, believing that it’s the only solution to reaching their goals. If three grams a week isn’t doing the trick, bump it to five. Then seven, 10 and so on. I hope that isn’t an accurate prediction, but I fear it is.

If I could sit down one on one with each of them, I would do my best to make them understand that bodybuilding is not a sprint. It’s a lifelong pursuit in which you can and should continue to improve for many years. There should not be such a frenzied rush to fulfill your ultimate potential as fast as possible. If you were building a house, would you expect to go from a vacant lot to a finished home in four or five days? Probably not. That house would almost certainly have issues down the line due to the rushed construction.

So it would be with trying to make 10 years’ worth of progress on your physique in one year. Eventually, you’ll have problems. I urge those of you who are young or who are close to young people starting on their bodybuilding journeys to understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day—and neither is a great physique. —Ron Harris


Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding—Muscle Truth From 25 Years In the Trenches, available at


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