Professional bodybuilding seems to be returning, at least somewhat, to the former ideals of shape and symmetry. Physiques like those of Phil Heath, Dexter Jackson and Dennis Wolf are a far cry from the thick waists and pregnant bellies that many felt were ruining the sport by turning it into a pharmaceuticals-induced carnival sideshow. Now that the tide is turning, some want to know how and why things got so out of hand in the first place. In short, someone needs to take the blame for the age of “mass at all costs.” But who?
Is it the athletes themselves? They’re the ones who decided to take size further. But what athlete doesn’t strive to take the game to the next level? We haven’t had a Mr. Olympia weighing less than 250 pounds for 20 years. The bodybuilders were only following the leader. Haney was bigger than any Mr. O before him; Dorian brought a whole new standard for massive, thick muscle to the throne. Ronnie was even freakier, and if a human being could get much bigger than Jay Cutler, I don’t think he’d be able to move around at all.
Maybe we should blame the judges for rewarding the mass monsters. That’s questionable too. They judged what was put in front of them, and the competitors were getting larger by the year.
What about the fans? Weren’t they the ones cheering until their voices grew hoarse for freaks like Yates, Nasser El Sonbaty, Paul Dillett and Markus Rühl and virtually starting riots whenever smaller men beat their giant idols?
We could also ponder the role that the magazines and supplement companies played. Since both cater, generally speaking, to males aged 18 to 25 who simply want to get huge, they often featured and sponsored men who had the freakiest physiques on earth. It could be argued that they glorified the image of the overjuiced 270-to-300-pound monsters and made it the standard that everybody chased. Twenty-three-inch arms, legs that really were the size of tree trunks and veins the size of garden hoses were salivated over, while boil-like acne, B-cup gyno and bellies that looked ready to give birth to quintuplets were ignored.
When you step back and objectively analyze the era of the mass monsters, you have to realize that we were all to blame. It was a group effort that shifted the paradigm of the ideal physique, just as we are all now shifting back to a more reasonable standard. As tempting as it may be to blame one group for deciding what type of physique we aspire to and rewarding that look with contest wins, magazine covers and lucrative endorsement contracts, it’s not realistic.