Last Updated on December 22, 2023

The Evolution of Bodybuilding: From Arnold to “Big Ramy”

In the golden era of bodybuilding, icons like Arnold Schwarzenegger dominated the stage with classic, muscular physiques. Fast forward to today, and the landscape has dramatically shifted. The behemoths winning marquee titles barely resemble the legends of the past. According to Brad Schoenfeld, a professor at Lehman College, even Schwarzenegger wouldn’t stand a chance in today’s competition.

bodybuilding dark side

The Pursuit of Perfection: What It Takes to Win

Creating a championship physique demands superhuman self-discipline, intense training, and, increasingly, the use of illicit drugs. Earning a pro card, the ticket to the professional ranks, is deemed nearly impossible without resorting to anabolic steroids. The pursuit of a drug-free victory is met with skepticism, with experts like Harrison Pope asserting its impossibility.

The Dark Underbelly: Reckless Pursuits and Dangerous Games

The quest for the ideal body has led to a reckless pharmacological game among bodybuilders. Stacking various steroids and muscle-building drugs, combined with compounds to burn fat or control appetite, creates outlandish yet fragile physiques. However, the price of this pursuit is chaos within; some drugs pose immediate threats, while others wreak havoc on the body’s major systems.

The Training Odyssey: Hours in the Gym and the Heavy Lifting

Bodybuilders spend years honing their muscles, but the focus is on appearance rather than functional strength. The training regimen involves hours in the gym, with heavy lifting central to building muscle. However, this intense routine is not without consequences, with tendon tears and injuries common among steroid users.

Growth Hormone and the Fragile Pursuit of the Ideal Physique

To bolster their connective tissue, steroid users often resort to injecting extra growth hormone. While growth hormone strengthens tendons, it comes with its own set of risks, including overgrown bones, an enlarged heart, and increased risk of various health issues. The pursuit of the perfect physique comes at a high cost.

The Diet Dilemma: Bulking, Cutting, and the Mind Game

Bodybuilders follow a two-phase training approach: bulking and cutting. Bulking involves consuming a staggering number of calories to build muscle, often supplemented with hormones like insulin. The subsequent cutting phase is a drastic reduction in calories to reduce body fat. The extreme dieting, coupled with legal and illegal stimulants, takes a toll on competitors.

The Why Behind the Madness: Motivations and Consequences

Despite the immense physical and health challenges, bodybuilders continue to pursue this demanding lifestyle. The motivations vary, from a love for competition to the desire for a shortcut to success. Some are willing to sacrifice their health for a chance at the top, while others simply want to embody the look of a comic book superhero.

The Long-Term Toll: Consequences and Reflections

As bodybuilders age, the long-term consequences of their choices become clearer. Issues in the heart, reproductive system, and brain emerge, shedding light on the potential risks that come with the pursuit of the perfect physique. However, for some, the sacrifices are deemed worthwhile in the pursuit of a fleeting ideal.

The Future of Bodybuilding: Balancing Passion and Pragmatism

As the world of bodybuilding grapples with its health risks and ethical dilemmas, competitors and enthusiasts alike must navigate the fine line between passion and pragmatism. The pursuit of physical excellence should not come at the cost of one’s well-being, prompting a reevaluation of the standards and practices within the sport.


Q1: Can bodybuilders succeed without using steroids?

A: Earning a pro card without anabolic steroids is considered very difficult, and winning titles drug-free is often deemed impossible.

Q2: What are the immediate risks of the drugs used in bodybuilding?

A: Some drugs used by bodybuilders can cause immediate illness and, in extreme cases, death.

Q3: How does bodybuilding impact the long-term health of competitors?

A: The long-term consequences include issues in the heart, reproductive system, and brain, with impacts becoming clearer as competitors age.

Q4: Is the pursuit of bodybuilding financially rewarding?

A: Very few can support themselves solely with bodybuilding, making it a challenging endeavor for financial gain.

Q5: What motivates bodybuilders to endure the physical and health challenges?

A: Motivations range from a love for competition to the desire for a shortcut to success or simply wanting to embody the look of a comic book superhero.