Mainstream portrayal of the professional bodybuilder is a facade of glamour and machismo douchebaggery. However, those with even the slightest of insights into the iron industry are aware that such a lifestyle is relentlessly demanding and fiscally inept. Among the gamut of professional athletes, bodybuilders – even at the highest level – exhibit a severely disproportionate input to output ratio when compared to other sporting activities. With an investment outlook so grim that Madoff would grin, it is truly wondrous why anybody would choose to endure such a lifestyle. For those who engage in the extreme facets required to achieve cartoonish proportions, it is a pursuit of passion; a need to fulfill an unexplainable compulsion that can only be understood after it has already occurred. To some it is a release from feelings of inadequacy. To others it offers a sense of purpose and discipline. Despite this resounding truth, a cultural shift is at play.
In a society propagated by social media and instant gratification, the concept of substantial, visible results are a lure to those whorish for attention. That is not to say every participant falls into this category as bodybuilding has existed in some form or another for the better part of a century preceding the advent of the Internet. There is, however, no refuting the correlation between the growth of online socialization and the growth of muscular interest. Unfortunately, the use of this new technology within the industry has birthed a warped perspective of the bodybuilding lifestyle. It is disheartening to watch the “Drugs and Butts” of Instagram take precedent over the “Blood and Guts” of the 1990’s. While the dwindling number of draconian diehards forge iron in their under-furbished torture chambers, a new breed of “lifter” has emerged. These commercialized sikkunts have infiltrated the bodybuilding scene with excessive hair gel and cutoff tank tops that wouldn’t pass for a bench towel. What has prompted an entire underground culture to surface as a flamboyant display of manbuns and Gym Shark apparel?
For all of its many benefits, social media often misrepresents, or falsifies, the lives of industry figures. While the populace may feel they are gaining insight into the day-to-day activities of these athletes, they are merely fed excerpts of a much more complex storyline. What is made visible to the public eye is a calculated strategy of hashtags, filters, and image choices. Seldom are followers privileged to seeing the less glamorous aspects of mass acquisition. The use of regimented training, precisely calculated nutrition, and performance enhancing drugs is often downplayed or vehemently denied. Pump sets, cheat meals, and claiming natty, however, have struck a chord with casual gym-goers across the Internet. These individuals are particularly susceptible to unscrupulous marketing tactics and for them it is far too enticing to reject an acronym laden PopTart plan. Although they may have convinced themselves that cookies don’t count, the truth of the situation is that this subset is merely in love with the idea of bodybuilding, but revile the necessary applications involved.
Similarly, a common fallacy is the notion of finding motivation. Certainly, there is a lot of quality content that can assist in strengthening a preexisting mindset, but the idea of discovering an outside force to coerce an otherwise unwilling participant is flawed at best. Motivation is a pure intangible that must come from within oneself. To develop a God-like physique for the purpose of impressing others will inevitably result in continued self-dissatisfaction and, ultimately, the total abandonment of such a pursuit. The very nature of bodybuilding is a selfish one and the extreme rigors required of it will break the will of any who do not fully embrace its difficulties. Passion is the greatest driving force in any endeavor and it is this very passion that removes limitation to afford new opportunities in achievement. The tools and knowledge can be obtained with a simple search on Google, but the desire to overcome adversity is internal.
This changing of interests within the industry has incited concerns over the longevity of open-class bodybuilders. As trends ebb and flow with the tides of society, bodybuilding purists will stay the course and continue to push the boundaries of physical development. Their steel determination cannot be weathered and is the deciding factor in what will preserve this elite group amidst “aesthetic’s” sudden rise in popularity. As is true in all aspects of life, complacency is the nemesis of progress. Take a position to challenge yourself with new experiences and discomfort.