We all wanted something before we started to mold our bodies with iron. Some of us were overweight; a fortunate few were already athletic looking. The vast majority of us, though, were underweight and looking to bodybuilding to increase the amount of space we took up on the planet. I was the classic example. All through school I was slight and almost the shortest in my class. By the time I started high school and, at the same time, regular weight training, I was a shrimp at 4'11\” and 95 pounds.
More than anything (except to lose my virginity, of course), I wanted to be huge–like the wrestlers on TV. As a little guy, I was often pushed around, and girls saw me as cute like a Smurf, not Tom Cruise. I knew that if I could blow up with muscles, things would be different. Though I had only a vague idea of what I wanted to look like, I had a very clear weight goal–200 pounds. It was such a perfect, even number, and nobody could consider a 200-pound man small, right?
I was 21 years old before I finally reached that goal, and by then I'd moved to L.A. and was training at Gold's Gym in Venice. All of a sudden, the fact that I'd literally doubled my bodyweight over six years didn't seem like such an achievement. I was surrounded by national-level and pro bodybuilders who were my height but weighed 240 to 270 pounds. My new goal immediately became 225 pounds, which again seemed like a nice round number. It wouldn't make me anywhere near as big as the freaks strutting around Venice Beach, but it would earn me a bit more respect. In just six months, force-feeding myself roughly 8,000 calories a day, including loads of starchy carbs plus two or three of the high-calorie/high-sugar weight-gain shakes that were then in vogue, I managed to get up to 230 pounds, drug-free. Great, right? Not really, because at least 20 of those 30 pounds were pure lard. My ass was the size of two Christmas hams. I had love handles, chipmunk cheeks and a double chin. I look back at photos from those days and cringe. It was three more years before I'd put an end to that idiocy and trimmed down for good.
Unfortunately, many bodybuilders are obsessed with weighing more, so they ignore or deny the bodyfat they've accrued. If you've ever been to the Olympia Expo, IM FitExpo or Arnold Classic, you've seen a lot of these guys. They'll proudly tell you they weigh 260, 270, even 320 pounds. They neglect to mention that they're 20 to 40 percent bodyfat (many will claim about half their real bodyfat percentage).
In recent years the combination of overeating and copious drugs has raised the bar. A 300-pound off-season bodybuilder was a rare thing 10 years ago, but now you can throw a rock in some gyms and hit four or five.
The bodyweight fixation has even spilled over to how some think a contest should be judged–with the absurd notion that the heaviest man always deserves to win. What many seem to have lost sight of is the fact that bodybuilding has never been just about size, measurements or weight. It's also about shape, symmetry, proportion and cuts. That's the formula Dexter Jackson has been using to beat larger men like Jay Cutler, Chris Cormier and Markus Ruhl.
So take your shirt off and look in the mirror–and not in flattering light, either. Can you see your abs? Visible separations between your muscle groups? Are some veins showing? If you answer no to all three questions, it's time to stop worrying so much about what you weigh and start considering how you look, as well as your health. Gaining weight is great, but only as quality muscle, not water and adipose tissue. Bigger isn't better when you're big and fat. IM
Editor's note: Visit Ron's Web site, www.ronharrismuscle.com.