Bodybuilding shows in the 70s and 80s were different.
It used to be guys would train together at the gym, diet for a few weeks, and then take the stage at a local show, cheered on by family and friends. Everyone was proud of you – you were strong, healthy, and a good role model as one who took care of yourself.
Today, things are way different. Today, a stone cold natural will not place at any decent bodybuilding show (unless he’s a complete genetic freak).
The reasons? There are many. First off, bodybuilding has grown. When Arnold was winning Olympia titles in the 1970s, he was one of only ten human beings on the planet who looked like that. The Arnold of 1975 would have a hard time placing top 10 at Nationals today. Many more people know about bodybuilding, and many more have hopped in. You get better genetics and better innovations. This huge influx of competitors has resulted in better guys competing, and more guys doing anything to take it to the next level. No longer can a man win the Olympia at 198 pounds. Today’s champions are 260+ pounds with 3% body fat, and they’re only getting bigger.
Sports nutrition and supplement technology have grown at a tremendous rate in the last 30 years. There was no creatine, no delicious whey, no convenient BCAAs back in the day.
The internet has made it much easier to get your hands on steroids. It used to be, you had to look for “that one guy” in your gym who could get you a handful of unknown pills that you would shovel down your throat and hope for results. Today, one can type a few keywords into a search engine and find a huge selection of drugs, from anywhere on six continents, with discreet delivery and competitive prices. And instructions for use are included!
The human body can only get so big, and despite the innovations, growth, and discoveries of the past few decades, the men on stage are still cut from the same cloth of the Reg Parks and Steeve Reeves’ we saw many years ago. At some point, the amount of muscle we see onstage will become less functional and more of a hindrance, as well as less marketable to fans worldwide. When this happens, we’ll likely see a return to “normalcy”, although many would disagree on what this term actually means. However, yesterday’s purists, as well as today’s hardcore fans, should take shared solace in the fact that the size game will eventually peak and drop. Humans do have their limits. And while the sport will never see any kind of return to natural status (who would pay money to see guys onstage with physiques smaller than most local high school football players?) Not I…