To Top

It’s Not Just About Muscle

Most nonbodybuilders think of bodybuilding—the use of progressive-resistance training—as being simply about muscle and strength. The process does have the unique ability to transform anyone physically, but besides being a portal to physical transformation, bodybuilding is also a portal to friendship.

When you start working out seriously, you make a determination that you are different. You make a decision that bodybuilding is an important part of your life, and the friends who stay and the new ones you make will mostly share your interest. Your self-determined direction is also a pathway to a different culture, one that puts a premium on exercise and nutrition as a part of a well lived life. One of the pleasures of being a bodybuilder is that you belong to a special club—you are a doer, not a spectator.

Bodybuilding is for doers. Look around at any bodybuilding event, and you will see not just an audience of fans but a brotherhood of a shared love of the feel of iron exerting its force against muscle.  They appreciate what it takes to mount the stage even if they don’t want to compete with anyone but themselves.

When I read my first issue of Iron Man in March 1956, I knew I wanted to be a part of that group. I felt that the publisher, Peary Rader, was speaking directly to me. Very few people worked out with weights then. The gyms were mostly at YMCAs, which were also the venues for weightlifting and bodybuilding competitions. I discovered that bodybuilders were a generous group, always responding to a training question in a positive way. They were all evangelists for the secret transformative power of the barbell. They bubbled over with the need to share their love of the iron.

In 1962 I was in the front row at a YMCA event and happened to be siting next to Bob Gajda, then an outstanding Chicago bodybuilder on his way to becoming Mr. America in 1966. I didn’t realize who he was as I watched him bound onto the stage to pose and win! Our short conversation led to our working out together, first at the Division Street YMCA and then at the Duncan YMCA, as Bob transformed the empty spaces he was given into caldrons of lifting enthusiasm. He is a friend to this day. Bob introduced me to Sergio Oliva at the Division Street Y, and that was really the beginning of my journey.

Everyone who has trained at commercial gyms and/or YMCAs over a period of time has made lifelong friendships. In many ways, its all about the people.  IM

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply

More in Blog Post

  • Why Your Big Toe Is Your Key To Great Calves!

    If you're looking to really build your calves, this one little piece of advice will help tremendously. Yet you rarely, if...

    Nick NilssonApril 6, 2016
  • Create Big-Ass Shoulders With Mike Rashid

    His motto “Train Your Mind as Hard as You Train Your Body,” may test your muscles and your mind.

    Iron Man MagazineMarch 21, 2016
  • The Workout and Happiness

    Happy New Year—a perennial cliché!  Can anything or anybody make you happy? To paraphrase a well-known line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,...

    John BalikFebruary 11, 2015
  • New Year Resolutions

    January first, the birth of a new year.  Time to reflect on the old and plan for the new! Historically, January...

    John BalikJanuary 15, 2015
  • Do You Know Squat ?

    Have you heard any of the following recommendations? “Don’t let your knees go over your toes when you squat, because it’s...

    Doug BrignoleDecember 30, 2014
  • Another Rewarding Olympia Weekend

    A couple of weeks ago I was at the Mr. Olympia competition, the 50th rendition of that iconic event. What started...

    John BalikDecember 15, 2014
  • Muscle Beach Breakfast Club

    I have been a part of Muscle Beach Venice since competing there in the mid ’60s. Much has changed in the...

    John BalikNovember 15, 2014
  • The Science Behind My 2 Week Body Transformation into a Mythological Minotaur

    Sometimes getting in shape can mean perfect timing.  In order to make a 2 week body transformation, science can play a...

    curtis.fisherNovember 14, 2014
  • Bodybuilding: Art or Mass Appeal

    With increasing frequency, we’re hearing a segment of the bodybuilding fan base speaking out against the trend toward ever more massive...

    Doug BrignoleNovember 13, 2014