Volume I - Introduction - Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors

Volume I – Introduction

Could there possibly be any other athletic discipline that surpasses the sport of professional competitive bodybuilding when it comes to the extreme in physique presentation? What other physical endeavour dictates the level of regimentation required to push the body to the outer limits of muscle development and body fat reduction? For years, critics deemed it as narcissistic, self-centred, queer, and even approaching the lunatic fringe. Bodybuilding, or simply weight-training and dieting, are practiced at various levels of application, but none approach the outrageous antics of the modern competitive bodybuilder.

Due to the strong subjective presentation nature of the discipline, bodybuilding has battled many stigmas, including being viewed more as pageantry opposed to sport. Unlike most other fields of professional athletics that demonstrate better balance between show time and preparation, bodybuilding offsets months and years of prerequisite training with only hours of presentation. Preparation does not end in the gym; it carries on to encompass the entire lifestyle of the athlete.

The art of physique development is a product more directly relative to its time than any other athletic endeavour. Its unfolding evolution strongly corresponded to the advancements in science and technology. Modern innovations have played a role in all levels of sports, affecting some much more than others. Whether it is the production of a better ice surface, a golf ball that travels further, or a car that goes faster, these are all commodities that can be technically modified to advance the sport they represent. However, with bodybuilding, all the pertinent advents of science are typically applied directly into the human body, a far more questionable vessel for experimentation.

The manner in which technology has influenced this lifestyle has totally redefined the sport diametrically from its original intent. But what exactly was bodybuilding’s original intent? Or, are we better to ask, “What was bodybuilding originally?” And finally, just what were the 2 primary forces that carried such an impact that they would totally alter the very nature of the beast?

Any attempt to deemphasize the use of steroids in the bodybuilder’s historical quest to build muscle would not only be totally disingenuous, but would also eliminate the only real dividing line in a sport that likes to arbitrarily delineate itself into eras and ages. Drugs virtually hijacked bodybuilding and in doing so, splintered the discipline into a number of factions, each representing varying degrees of departure from the essence of its origins.

These roots go back to a time when the public was awakening to the potentials of exercise as a means to cultivate their own “Physical Culture.” We’ll examine the meaning of this term, and its relationship to the early strongmen who galvanized their disciplines into what would become known as the “Iron Game” from which modern bodybuilding would emerge.

The tenets of the early growing industry were actually grounded in quite a pro-health environment until the sport encountered its “divide.” This drug division would become both an ethical and political sore for every strength, size, or speed-oriented field of athletics.

What is put forth in the chapters of Volume I and II is not earth-shaking to anyone deeply involved in the industry. However, for those who have remained on the periphery of serious bodybuilding, much of what is divulged will be alarming. In fact, the faction of the Iron Game that literally blew the doors open for chemical warfare may actually surprise many.

The debate rages over the extent of the dangers of these drugs. In one corner, there is growing leniency towards steroid use based on their potential medicinal application, and that their side effects are grossly overstated through a perverted context. Heavy opposition to this view has been voiced for decades starting with the late Vince Gironda and later Tom Ciola, author of “Steroids Kill” (2004).

Regardless, the vast majority have come to terms with the fact that steroids have long infiltrated the ranks of all speed and strength-related sports for a number of years. It will be demonstrated, just how and when they made their appearance, their rise in prevalence, their effect on the focus on nutrition in bodybuilding and finally, their threat to the sport itself.

The bodybuilding subculture managed to fly under the radar with its chemical idiosyncrasies for many years by operating in its own microcosm. Nevertheless, its wares were still not restricted from influencing other fields of athletics, not to mention the general public. It will be shown that the world of physique was working with a number of dietary protocols long before they gained popularity within the mainstream media. Many strategies such as low carbohydrate diets, protein supplementation, eating multiple small meals a day, raw food diets, meal replacement packages, macro-nutrient balancing and manipulating, either derived or gained their popularity through the evolution of bodybuilding.

Although the physique builders did barricade themselves within a vacuum to some degree, it was stated earlier that the sport was in fact altered by more than just the insurgence of anabolic steroids. In order to understand exactly what has impacted these highly innovative forefathers of the fitness boom in terms of their sacred diets, we must step outside of this void and look at the nutritional field as a whole, its relationship with the health industry in general, its evolving status within the Iron Game, and how these entities all interacted over the past century. Adding to this complexity, was the literal birth, growth, and struggle for bodybuilding’s own identity amidst a burgeoning industry rife with smoke and mirrors

When viewed in this context, the political forces that did in fact penetrate and inflict their influence on this very tight-knit circle all seem to have their origins stemming from the same point in time as the pioneers of bodybuilding. We must go back historically and follow these players from their infancy, their rise in power and to their eventual collision much later in the 20th century.

Let the Iron Game begin!