Friday, January 31, 2014

Power Press Training - Bill Miller (1965)

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Today's pressing records have reached heights unimaginable a decade ago. As the latest power training techniques are fully exploited, press marks will continue to soar even higher. Get on the power-training bandwagon for a ride to bigger press numbers. Bill Miller, world champ Louis Martin's coach as your driver. 

Bill Miller (1965)

 To be a great presser you must have incredible power in the arms, shoulders and back. And the quickest way to build that power is with the finest of all exercises - the Press.

If you are anxious to blast past your current best and to develop Herculean triceps, deltoids and back muscles you must start concentrating on the Press and its variations immediately. The power-building techniques described below are the same ones used by Louis Martin to become Britain's greatest lifter - three times the world midheavy champion.

To build pressing heavy, near-limit poundages must be used. Sets of 2's with a weight 10-10 lbs away from your limit press are recommended. Use a poundage you can, at first, handle for only 5 sets. Then, build up to 10 sets. When that point is reached add 10 lbs and drip back to 5 sets, and build back to 10.

A typical program, based on a best of 200 pounds, would go as follows:

(add one more set of 2 each workout)
After 10 sets of 2 are reached:
(add one more set of 2 each workout)

Follow this system until it no longer proves effective. Future discussions will contain other schedules of sets, reps, and poundages which will allow you to continue building upper-body strength.

The preceding type of actual press training is done only on every 3rd pressing day. On the other 2 days you perform power press variations. Included in the latter category are assistance exercises and sticking point breakthrough movements.

Let's say you do conventional Olympic pressing on Monday. Let's also say you used to spend Saturday nights at a mid-to-low-end dive drinking until the woman behind the bar started undressing you with her one good eye. So now you're clean and sober and do your conventional Olympic pressing on Monday. Tuesday, you will not press at all, allowing the muscles 48 hours to recover. Wednesday will be devoted to the following two movements:

1) Assistance Exercise - THE HEAVE PRESS.
Take a weight to the chest in excess of your best press by at least 20-30 lbs. With a heave from the body to assist you, DRIVE the weight by arm and shoulder power to the nose. Repeat in sets of 3. You will not do many sets as this is a tough one. This is the strongest range in your press and you MUST work at this one as you need to build the necessary power to drive the bar THROUGH the sticking point which is the NEXT POINT above your nose. If you can press 200 you can drive 250 to 270 from your chest to your nose after you have worked at it for a short period.

2) Sticking Point Breakthrough Exercise - THE SEATED PRESS.
You sit BOLT UPRIGHT on a strong bench or box with the barbell on stands at the height of your MOUTH. Take your normal pressing grip and press to arms' length. Do sets of 3 with a weight which had you really working. 5 sets of 3 will make you 'appreciate' the pressing benefits to be gained by this lift. No cheating by hooking your feet around the legs of the bench, or placing one foot behind the other and making use of your legs as props. If you cheat by using your legs you are cheating yourself.

Thursday is a rest day once again, but on Friday you come out for the next strength-builder.

3) Assistance Exercise - THE 60 DEGREE INCLINE BENCH PRESS.

This is the exaggerated "fall away" position of the Press which follows the "bolt upright" position above. Again, you use stands and start with the bar EXACTLY HALF WAY BETWEEN your starting position at the chest and your completed press. At these two points the bar has little momentum and you must work to build up your power to DRIVE the weight through the sticking point.
To give you an idea of just how your power can increase, Louis Martin was struggling with 350 lbs at first but in three months was using 50. Now, when a weight reaches anywhere within 6" of his completed arm lockout, it goes up WHAM!
Again, you work up in this exercise in sets of 3 until you reach your limit, reduce the repetitions to singles and go for the greatest weight possible.
Finish off by reducing the weight by about 30 lbs and performing 5 sets of 3. 
By working on the three preceding exercises consistently - and in conjunction with actual Pressing - your Olympic Pressing power must improve.
There Are Also Things You Must NOT Do!
Do not be tempted to waste valuable training time and energy on the Prone Press. This exercise, marvelous within its own right, develops muscles which are of negligible use in overhead pressing. It is quite inferior to any of the aforementioned trio.
There are a great deal of 400 lb proners unable to muscle 200 lbs overhead, but rarely will you find an accomplished presser who cannot do well on the bench, even without prior training; his basic arm and shoulder strength shows up to good advantage.
This concludes our first discussion of power press training. Future articles will include more valuable information on the methodology we in England use to develop Olympic-caliber lifters. Such instruction, we hope, will be of significant import to lifters the world over. Power training has proven to be the key factor as more and more athletes smash the Press barrier.      

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Thigh Specialization

First Six Weeks (Plus 2-week break-in period)
Foundation Building


Many persons, and often some of the more responsible ones, may tell you that you can build big strong legs without the use of the regular squat. 


While it is  true that you may gain some strength and muscle without the squat, it is equally true that you will gain a helluva lot of muscle and strength if you do employ the squat. 



Work as hard as you can here for this first six-week period.
You will amaze yourself. 

Do the following:

1) Take a full week completely off from whatever type of training you have been doing. This is most important, and it will give your body a chance to replenish itself.

2) Forget about training that week and enjoy yourself with other pursuits. 

3)Take a thigh measurement with a tape measure, about four inches down from your groin. 

4) Obtain a training log book so that you can write down your workout in full, recording your poundages, sets and reps.

5) Spend the first two weeks learning the style and feel of the exercises outlined in the course, and slowly get your poundages up to a reasonable level without really pushing yourself too hard. 

For the next six weeks do the following on Monday, Wednesday and Friday; or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

1) Situps and Leg Raises
30 to 50 reps total. To get you a little warmed up.

2) Parallel Squat 
1 set of 20 reps (plus 2 warmup sets). This will be the one that'll make you grow. 
Step under the  bar, which should be on a pair of squat racks, and hold the bar low on your shoulders. Use a block under your heels or weightlifting shoes if you prefer. Fix your eyes on a stationary object in front of you at eye level, and then slowly lower yourself to the parallel position. Return to starting position and keep the back flat.

Do your first warmup set of 10 reps with a weight about 50% of your best 20 rep poundage. Do these reps nice and slowly with heap big concentration.

Do another warmup set with about 75% of your best 20 rep weight, and now you're ready to get to work. 

Pile enough plates on the bar so that you can just get 15 reps. Your first 10 reps should see you doing each rep with only one breath between each squat; but the weight should be so heavy that you're forced to take 3 or 4 breaths between each rep for the next 10 reps.

You must always FIGHT to get those last reps no matter how hard it is or how many breaths it takes you to believe you can get them.

Add weight to the bar. 
If at all possible.

This one set should leave you wiped out, breathing hard, and wondering just what it is you ever liked about this lifting disease. You may find yourself cursing the lifter or builder who inspired you to begin this whole affair, this fiasco, this knuckle-headed debacle. Rest for a while longer while gathering the inner troops and go on with - 

3) Front Squat
Using a two inch block under your heels hold the bar across your shoulders as if you had just cleaned the weight. Keep you back flat, squat down to well below parallel and return, but don't quite lock out your legs. Keep your elbows high at all times. 

Do an all-out set of 12 reps, take 20 pounds off the bar and a short rest, then do it again. 

Don't lock out. 

4) Leg Curl
3 x 12. Rest no more than 20 seconds between sets and work hard. 

For the rest of the body, do the following:

5) Dips 2 x 10 supersetted with ->
Chins 2 x 10.

6) Seated Press 2 x 12 supersetted with ->
Side Dumbbell Laterals.

7) Curls 3 x 10 supersetted with ->
V-Grip Pressdowns 3 x 10. 

Eat good. Eat a lot. Eat a lot of good food.

After six full weeks of thrice a week workouts take a week off. 

Second Routine 
(1 week break-in and then 6 weeks hard training) 

 This routine consists of an EVERY OTHER DAY SPLIT ROUTINE, but you train the thighs EVERY WORKOUT. 

1st day - train thighs, calves, shoulders, biceps.
2nd day - rest.
3rd day - thighs, chest, back, triceps.
4th day - rest.
5th day - thighs, calves, shoulders, biceps.
6th day - rest.
7th day - thighs, chest, back, triceps.
8th day - rest.
9th day - repeat cycle.

So, this means you are training your thighs at every workout, but you get one day's full rest between each workout. 

In order to break yourself into this routine and to get used to the exercises, train from Monday to Saturday the first week, doing one course one day and the other course the following day. Rest Sunday, and then, commencing the following Monday do this:

1) Situp -> Leg Raise superset, 2 x 25.

2) Parallel Squat - 5 x 5.
Pick a weight 100 lbs below your best 5 rep poundage, and do 8 slow warmup reps. 
Do a second warmup set of 5 reps with 50 lbs below your best for 5.
Now, go to your best weight and do 5 hard reps. Rest one or two minutes.
Do another set of 5 with 10 reps less on the bar. Rest another two or three minutes.
Reduce the weight by 10 lbs and do a final set of 5.
When you can get 6 or more reps on your first heavy set increase the weight by 5 lbs next workout.

You should be able to work up to some heavy iron, and your legs will show it.

3) Leg Extension - 2 triple drop sets of 6,6,6.
Pile enough weight on the machine so that you can just do 6 reps in good style, which means slowly, pushing the weight out, and trying to hold the extended position for 2 seconds.
As soon as you can't do another rep have someone take 15 lbs off as quickly as possible, and then continue for another 6 reps.
Do this once more for another 6 reps and you have performed one triple drop set of 6,6,6. 
Put the weights back on and do the cycle again.
6 reps is only a guideline, do as many as you can.
When you can get 8 good reps on the first set increase the weight next workout.

4) Hack Squat (or Hip Belt Squat) - 3 x 12.
Go straight into a set with your heaviest weight for 12 reps. As you squat down in either exercise, try to lean back, and move your hips forward. Do the reps with continuous tension, i.e., do not lock out at the top. 
Using the same weight, do another 2 sets with 40 seconds rest between each set. 

Take a 5 minute rest and finish with the following:

5) Standing Calf Raise superset Seated Calf Raise - 3 x 15.

6) Up and Down the Rack Dumbbell Press - 2 cycles.
Work up the dumbbell rack doing 6 reps per set until you get to your heaviest possible weight, then work back down again. 

7) Incline Dumbbell Curl superset Seated Barbell Curl - 2 x 8.

Rest the following day and then do the next part of the course the day after that:

1) Situp -> Leg Raise superset, 2 x 25.

2) Front Squat - 5 x 5.
Exactly the same as the regular squats, and keep pushing the poundage up.

3) Leg Curl - 3 x 12.
Without using your hips to assist you, raise the pad up, contract for a second or two, and then slowly lower. 
Rest no more than 30 seconds between sets. 

4) Leg Press - Perform a fairly rapid set of non-lock presses for about 25 reps.
Immediately put 20 lbs on the machine and do another set.
Continue like this until you can't get 6 good reps.

Rest for 5 minutes and finish off with:

5) Bench Press - 4 x 10

6) Bentover Rowing - 4 x 10

7) Pressdowns superset Dips - 3 x 10. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Antagonist Supersets - J.P. Catanzaro

 SuperSets are a form of strength training where you pair two exercises, moving from one to the next with littler to no rest in between. This training method can be quite effective because short rest intervals are known to raise both growth hormone and testosterone. 

Of course, supersets will also increase the density of training, another variable that can significantly boost muscle hypertrophy and improve body composition. In The Education of a Bodybuilder Arnold explains how many advanced bodybuilders in Germany would use supersets to save time (i.e., do the same amount of work in less time). According to Schwarzenegger, this method builds your body to its "ultimate size" and allows you to train for "maximum definition."

There are many ways to perform supersets - some will promote greater size, others will promote more definition. When you pair antagonist (opposite) body parts or movement patterns in a superset fashion, it helps to promote balance around a joint for better symmetry and less injuries down the road, it increases range of motion (the greater the range of motion, the more muscle you stimulate), and it allows you to get more work done in any given time frame - and as you know, more work gets better results!

By the way, research indicates that greater workloads are achieved over a number of sets with constant reps rather than constant loads, so lower the weight if you must after each set to stay within the rep bracket.

 Sample Antagonist SuperSet Routine 

Day One - Shoulders, Back, and Chest.

4010 denotes a four number sequence which relates to four different phases of the lift. The first number represents the time in seconds to lower the load (eccentric), the second number is a hold in the stretched position, the third number is the lifting (concentric) phase, and the fourth number is a hold in the top position. Therefore, your 4010 example would denote a 4s eccentric, no pause, a 1s concentric and no pause at the top. Rest no more than 10 seconds between 1 and 2 sections of the supersets, and 180 seconds between full supersets.

A1. Standing Mid-Grip Barbell Press: 3 x 6-8@4010, 10 sec ->
A2. Close-Grip Chin-Up: 3 x 6-8@4010, 180 sec.

B1. 45-Degree Incline Neutral-Grip Dumbbell Press: 3 x 8-10@3010, 10 sec ->
B2. Seated Mid-Neutral-Grip Cable Pulldown: 3 x 8-10@3010, 150 sec.

C1. Flat Pronated-Grip Dumbbell Press: 3 x 10-12@2010, 10 sec ->
C2. Seated Rope Row to Neck: 3 x 10-12@2010, 120 sec.

D1. Bentover Cable Crossover: 3 x 12-15@1010, 10 sec ->
D2. Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise: 3 x 12-15@1010, 90 sec.  

Day Two - Legs and Abdominals.

A1. Heels-Elevated Barbell Hack Squat: 3 x 6-8@4010, 10 sec ->
A2. Seated Leg Curl: 3 x 6-8@4010, 180 sec.

B1. Bent-Knee Hex-Bar Deadlift: 3 x 8-10@3010, 10 sec ->
B2. Decline Sit-Up: 3 x 8-10@3010, 150 sec.

C1. Reverse Hyperextension: 3 x 10-12@2010, 10 sec ->
C2. Hanging Leg Raise: 3 x 10-12@2010, 120 sec.

D1. Seated Calf Raise: 3 x 12-15@1010, 10 sec ->
D2. Seated Tibialis Raise: 3 x 12-15@1010, 90 sec.

Day Three - Arms.

A1. Standing Reverse-Grip EZ-Bar Curl: 3 x 6-8@4010, 10 sec ->
A2. Tiger Bend Push-Up: 3 x 6-8@4010, 180 sec.

B1. Seated Midline Hammer Curl: 3 x 8-10@3010, 10 sec ->
B2. Standing Rope Pressdown: 3 x 8-10@3010, 150 sec.

C1. Standing Twisting Rope Curl: 3 x 10-12@2010, 10 sec ->
C2. Flat Twisting Dumbbell Triceps Extension: 3 x 10-12@2010, 120 sec.

D1. Seated Reverse-Grip EZ-Bar Wrist Curl: 3 x 12-15@1010, 10 sec ->
D2. Seated Barbell Wrist Curl: 3 x 12-15@1010, 90 sec.     

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Heavy/Light Routine

There are two practiced forms of heavy and light training in bodybuilding. Both have equal merits and in this course we will use the two of them in our workouts. But first, WHY LIGHT AND HEAVY?

One of the most talked about topics in bodybuilding is "Should I train light or should I train heavy?" There are just as many advocates of the heavy school of training as there are of the light. Mike Mentzer trains heavy and Serge Nubret trains light, yet both have world class physiques. 

Recent scientific research regarding muscle fibers reveals that there are actually two different types, red fibers (or slow twitch), and white fibers (or fast twitch). It would appear that to develop a muscle to its fullest potential both kinds of fibers must be stimulated. The research indicates that the slow twitch fibers respond to heavy training, and the fast twitch require lighter training. So, it would seem that you have to train both heavy and light to develop your muscles to their fullest potential. 

Long before research into fast and slow twitch fibers, Reg Park used and recommended the use of heavy and light workloads in training. During that era, his physique was considered one of the best of all time, and even today he is considered highly. 

Reg Park DVD review:

 Reg often wrote workout schedules incorporating his own system of light and heavy training, and it is from his wisdom that we recommend the following routine as our first Heavy and Light workout.

First Heavy and Light Routine

Train four days per week. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday. 
On Mondays and Fridays do your chest, shoulders, triceps and forearms (push and grip) as follows:

Chest - 
1) Bench Press (Heavy) 5 sets of 6 reps.
2) Dumbbell Flyes (Light) 4 x 12.

Shoulders - 
1) Standing Press Behind Neck 5 sets of 6.
2) Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise 4 x 12.

Triceps - 
1) Lying Triceps Extension (Heavy) 5 x 6.
2) Triceps Pressdown (Light) 4 x 12.

Forearms - 
1) Reverse Curl (Heavy) 5 x 6.
2) Wrist Curl (Light) 4 x 12.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays train your thighs, calves, back and biceps (squat and pull) as follows:

Thighs - 
1) Parallel Squat (Heavy) 5 x 6 reps.
2) Leg Extension (Light) 4 x 12.

1) Standing Calf Raise (Heavy) 5 sets of 12.
2) Toe Press (Light) 5 x 12.

1) Bentover Barbell Row (Heavy) 5 x 6.
2) Front Chins (Light) 4 x 12.

1) Barbell Curl (Heavy) 5 x 6.
2) Dumbbell Concentration Curl (Light) 4 x 12.

How To Get The Best Out Of Light And Heavy

 1) The Heavy Part

With the exception of calf training, all body parts start out heavy. The exercises are done for 5 sets of 6 reps each and the following system should be used:

Do your 1st set of 6 with about 50% of your best 6 rep poundage. A warmup set.
2nd set of 6 with about 80% or your best 6 rep poundage. A second warmup.
For your 3rd set pile on enough weight so you can just get 6 reps. If you can do more, do them. 
Rest about 2 or 3 minutes, and try to get another 6 reps with the same weight on your 4th set.
Rest another 2 or 3 minutes, then try for another 6 reps with the same weight.
It may not be possible to get a full 6 reps on all three heavy sets, but keep pushing. As soon as you can get 6 good reps on all 3 heavy sets, increase the weight by 5 lbs next workout.

2) The Light Part

Once again, with the exception of calf training, each part is to be done for 4 sets of 12 reps as follows:

Go all out to get 12 reps on your 1st set.
Rest only 40 seconds, then do another set of 12 reps with about 5-10 lbs less weight. 
Do another 2 sets, reducing the weight each time, and resting no more than 40 seconds.

The objective of this routine is to fully stimulate the deep muscle fibers with the very heavy sets, then completely pump and burn the fibers with the lighter, faster sets.

Stay with this routine for about 8 weeks.

Second Heavy and Light Routine

The other system of heavy and light training is a more recent one, and its origins would indicate a lot of influence from the teachings of Vince Gironda. Unlike the first method, this heavy and light approach recommends that a light set immediately follow a heavy set of the SAME EXERCISE. 

In other words, do a heavy set of squats for 6 reps, then immediately follow it with another squat set of 10 reps with a much lighter weight. The theory behind this system is that to stimulate all aspects of a muscle, you must first of all hit it with as much heavy stimulation as you can for low reps, and then immediately pump it very,very hard with a lighter set of the same exercise.

Train four days a week as before, on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

On Mondays and Fridays train Legs, Chest and Back:

Thighs - 
1) Leg Extension 6 reps heavy -> 10 reps light, 3 sets. 
2) Parallel Squat 6 reps heavy -> 10 reps light, 3 sets.

Calves - 
1) Standing Calf Raise 10 reps heavy -> 10 reps light, 3 sets.
2) Seated Calf Raise 10 reps heavy -> 10 reps light, 3 sets. 

Chest - 
1) Dumbbell Fly 6 reps heavy -> 10 reps light, 3 sets.
2) Bench Press, same as above.

Back - 
1) Front Chin, same as above.
2) Bentover Barbell Row, same as above.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays train Shoulders and Arms:

Shoulders - 
1) Side Laterals,6 reps heavy -> 10 reps light.
2) Standing Press Behind Neck, same as above.

Biceps - 
1) Dumbbell Concentration Curl - same as above.
2) Barbell Curl - same as above.

Triceps - 
1) Pressdown, same as above.
2) Lying Extension, same as above.

Forearms - 
1) Wrist Curl, same as above.
2) Reverse Curl, same as above.

How To Get The Best Out Of Light And Heavy (Second Method)

As with the first approach, you must constantly strive to handle more and more weight on your exercises. With the exception of calves, perform the exercises like this:

Do a nice slow warmup set of 10 reps on your first exercise, then rest for  60 seconds.
Now, pile on enough weight so that you can just manage to get 6 reps in fairly good style. These reps need not be too strict, and some men even do 'half reps' on this first set in order to handle more weight. 
As soon as you can't do any more reps, reduce the weight so that you can immediately do another 8-10 reps on the same exercise. Having the weights already set up, if possible, is a very efficient way of doing this. 
After resting about 60 seconds, do another heavy -> light set.
Rest another 60 seconds and do a final set. 
After 3 sets like this your muscles should be exhausted. 

How to Reduce the Poundages Correctly

It is impossible to tell you exactly how much weight to take off for your light sets. Some lifters have tremendous recovery abilities and can continue the exercise with only a 10% reduction in weight. Others reduce by 25% and some even more. 

The weight should not be too light or you will not stimulate the muscle fibers enough, and if it is too heavy you'll find yourself working on your nerve.  



Saturday, January 25, 2014

Advanced Upper Body Dumbbell Course - Tom Smillie

There is a visual power about dumbbells even more so than than barbells. To see a man lift a 200 lb barbell and press it overhead is impressive, but much more so if it is two 100-lb dumbbells. The number of plates required (e.g. 10 x 10 lb plates) makes the dumbbells appear thick and massive, in contrast to the hands holding them. Dumbbells enable the trainee to attack his muscle groups from entirely different angles than he could with barbells. Each area trained must perform independently from the other, there is no umbilical cord in the form of a bar linking the dumbbells together. The bodybuilder can bring a precise weight to bear on a specific muscle thus encouraging the growth of a lagging body part and enabling him to blast beyond a sticking point. There are certain advantages of course, the main one being that dumbbells are of limited use in developing the legs. However, this is more than compensated by their versatility in other areas such as the arms. Due to their more specific effect on certain muscle areas dumbbells are of ten used for defining muscle groups. However, I feel that defining or bulking up are results of diet not repetitions. There are vast ranges of repetitions employed by many champions. If you change to dumbbell training there is no need to alter the combination of repetitions that you find suitable. I have listed those repetitions that I think work best. As you are an advanced trainer I will assume that you are handling respectably heavy poundages, in which case I will offer some words of warning. Have a partner to spot you. Remember that dumbbells are not connected. Your stronger side cannot take some of the strain for your weaker side. Being free, the dumbbells have a greater range of movement. Do not allow your concentration to waver or you may find yourself losing control of one of the dumbbells resulting in serious muscle tearing.

I have divided the course into two areas: Power Training and Muscle Shaping. After each exercise you will find advice on how to get the best results from that particular exercise and the number of sets and repetitions for the type of training you are doing.


EXERCISE - Dumbbell Flyes.
TECHNIQUE - There is no need to use light weights, but be careful to maintain control at all times. Lie on a flat bench and with the dumbbells at arms' length above you turn your knuckles so that they face each other. Keep your elbows well back and unlocked. Your arms should form a slight curve. Breathing in, lower the weights bringing your arms below the level of the bench. Your arms will now form a crucifix position with your body. Now return the dumbbells to the starting position, breathing out as you do so.
POWER TRAINING - 3 sets of 15 reps. Use these as a warmup for dumbbell bench press and superset them with the first 3 sets of this exercise.
MUSCLE SHAPING - 5 sets of 6 reps. Do as a superset with dumbbell bench press.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Bench Press.
TECHNIQUE - Take two heavy dumbbells and clean them to your thighs at the same time as you sit down on the end of a flat bench. From here lie back, and as you do this bring up your thighs thus helping you to clean the dumbbells to arms' length. Make sure you have them under control. Lower to your chest, keeping your elbows back. Your forearms should form a right angle with your upper arms. An angle greater than 90 degrees could put undue stress on your pectorals; an angle less than 90 degrees will take too much stress away from your pectorals. Press to start position and repeat.
POWER TRAINING - 3 sets of 3 reps. Do these as a superset with the flyes. 3 sets of 1 rep. Do 3 separate sets of 1 rep each (singles).
MUSCLE SHAPING - 5 sets of 6 reps. Do these as supersets with the flyes. 

Incline pressing and incline flyes can be substituted at times.

To make it easier to see, the chest routine will look like this:

For power training -
Dumbbell Flyes 3 x 15 supersetted with
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 3.

Dumbbell Bench Press - 3 singles.

For muscle shaping -
Dumbbell Flyes 5 x 6 reps supersetted with
Dumbbell Bench Press 5 x 6.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Pullovers.
TECHNIQUE - Lie on a flat bench with your head at the end of the bench but not projecting over it. With the plates of one end resting on the palms of your hands hold the dumbbell at arms' length above you. With your elbows unlocked allow the weight to travel back slowly until has passed the level of the bench, then raise it. Keep your body on the bench and do not allow your backside to rise. By keeping your body flat you will pull the dumbbell back using only your lats and pecs.
POWER TRAINING - 6 sets of 6 reps.
MUSCLE SHAPING - 5 sets of 8 reps.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Rowing.
TECHNIQUE - With your hand on a flat bench, bend your legs slightly but keep your back straight and parallel to the floor. Grasp a heavy dumbbell and let it hang at arm's length. Now raise it steadily until it touches your chest, then lower it slowly. Do not let the dumbbell touch the floor but let it hang for a breath or two then repeat the move.
POWER TRAINING - 6,6,4,4,2,2 reps. Your back is strong, so use heavy dumbbells but keep the movement strict and DO NOT CHEAT.
MUSCLE SHAPING - 5 sets of 6 reps. Go from one arm to the other, do not pause between sets at any time.

The Back portion of the workout:

For power training -
Dumbbell Pullovers 6 x 6.
Dumbbell Rowing 6,6,4,4,2,2

For muscle shaping -
Dumbbell Pullovers 5 sets of 8.
Dumbbell Rowing 5 x 6.

MUSCLE AREA - Shoulders.
We will look at the exercises for power training first.
EXERCISE - Dumbbell Shrugs - 4 sets of 6 reps.
TECHNIQUE - Take two heavy dumbbells and stand erect with your arms at your sides. Rotate your deltoids forward, up (try holding the top position for a two second contraction), then back to the original position.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Standing Press (4 x 3 reps), Alternate Dumbbell Press (3 single reps).
TECHNIQUE - Clean two heavy dumbbells, then press them overhead. Do 4 sets of 3 reps, then increase the weight and go on to alternate dumbbell presses. Clean the dumbbells, then press first with your left arm, lower to your shoulder, then press with your right arm. Do 1 rep for 3 sets. That's a clean, a press with the left, then a press with the right. Three times.

Now we will look at the exercises for muscle shaping.
EXERCISE - Dumbbell Standing Press 8,6,4,2,1.
TECHNIQUE - Start at the lighter end of the dumbbell rack. Clean the weights to your shoulders, draw your elbows back so that your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Move the dumbbells up but don't extend your arms to their full length, keep your elbows bent. Your arms will make a semi-circular movement as you push the dumbbells up. Advance along the rack increasing the weight as you decrease the reps. Pause as little as possible between sets and reps. Do 8,6,4,2,1 reps.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Lateral Raises 4 tri-sets.
TECHNIQUE - Take a moderate to light weight pair of dumbbells and stand erect with your arms hanging in front of you, bells on your thighs. Lean back slightly and raise your left dumbbell in a forward raise to about eye level. Lower slowly and repeat with your right arm. Immediately take two slightly heavier dumbbells and, keeping your arms slightly bent, raise the bells in a lateral movement to just above shoulder level. Lower slowly. Now take two lighter dumbbells and bend your upper body forward with your knees slightly bent. Keep your back straight and parallel to the floor and perform a real lateral raise. Do these exercises as a Tri-Set with 3 reps for each movement for a total of 9 reps each Tri-Set. Do 4 Tri-Sets.

The Shoulder section of the workout:

For power training -
Dumbbell Shrugs - 4 x 6 reps.
Dumbbell Standing Press - 4 x 3 reps.
Dumbbell Standing Alternate Press - 3 cleans and 3 singles. Clean, left press, right press.

For muscle shaping -
Dumbbell Standing Partial Press - 8,6,4,2,1.
3-Way Lateral Raise Tri-Set - 4 sets of 9 reps.

EXERCISE - Seated Hammer Curls.
TECHNIQUE FOR POWER TRAINING - This exercise involves both the biceps and forearms. Sit at the end of a flat bench with your arms hanging at your sides holding two heavy dumbbells, palms facing each other. Curl the dumbbells up simultaneously, keeping your thumbs facing up. Do 4 sets of 4 reps.

EXERCISE - Alternate Dumbbell Curl.
TECHNIQUE FOR POWER TRAINING - Stand erect with your arms hanging in front of you with the backs of your hands resting on your thighs. Curl your left hand first in the usual way, lower slowly, then repeat with your right arm. Increase the weight as you decrease the reps. Do sets of 3,2,1,1.

EXERCISE - Incline Dumbbell Curl.
TECHNIQUE FOR MUSCLE SHAPING - Lie on an incline bench with your arms hanging by your sides, palms forward. Curl both bells simultaneously, lift your upper arm slightly so that the plates clear your shoulders, then lower slowly. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Concentration Curl.
TECHNIQUE FOR MUSCLE SHAPING - Sit at the end of a flat bench and take a light to moderate dumbbell. Lean forward and place your upper left arm against the inside of your left thigh. Put the back of your right hand against the inside of your left thigh. Put the back of your right hand against your left upper arm also, this is to immobilize your left arm. Now slowly curl the dumbbell, making sure you do not cheat. Squeeze the biceps at the top of the curl and hold, then slowly lower the weight. Do 4 sets of 6 reps.

MUSCLE AREA - Triceps.
EXERCISE - Lying Dumbbell Extension.
TECHNIQUE FOR POWER TRAINING - Lie on a flat bench with two moderate dumbbells at arms' length, palms facing each other. Lower the weights until the plates just touch the bench and then straighten the arms back out. Do 4 sets of 4 reps.

EXERCISE - Standing Dumbbell Extension.
TECHNIQUE FOR POWER TRAINING - Hold a moderate to heavy dumbbell at arms' length above your head while standing erect, with the top plates resting on the palms of your hands. Lower the dumbbell until the upper plates just touch the back of your neck then straighten. Keep your elbows pointing forward all the time. Do 4 sets of 4 reps.

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Single Arm Extension.
TECHNIQUE FOR MUSCLE SHAPING -  This can be done standing or seated on a flat bench. take a light to moderate dumbbell and hold it in your left arm at arm's length above your head. Put the palm of your hand against the back of your left upper arm. Slowly lower the weight with your palm facing forward and keeping your upper arm stationary. When the top plates touch the top of the back of your neck straighten out your arm. Do 4 sets of 6 reps supersetted with:

EXERCISE - Dumbbell Triceps Kickback.
Take up the same position as you would for dumbbell rowing but use a light to moderate dumbbell. Raise your arm so that your upper arm is tight against the side of your chest. The exercise starts in this position. Extend your arm back so that your arm is now parallel to the floor and your triceps are contracted. Try to hold this position for a second or two, then return the dumbbell to the starting position. Do this in superset fashion for 4 sets of 6 reps.

The Arm Section of the Workout:

For power training -
Seated Hammer Curl 4 x 4.
Alternate Dumbbell Curl 3,2,1,1.
Lying Dumbbell Extension 4 x 4.
Standing Dumbbell Extension 4 x 4.

For muscle shaping -
Incline Dumbbell Curl 4 x 6 reps.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl 4 x 6.
Dumbbell Single Arm Extension 4 x 6 supersetted with ->
Dumbbell Triceps Kickback 4 x 6.

This then is the course:

For Power Training -

Dumbbell Flyes 3 x 15 supersetted with
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 3.
Dumbbell Pullovers 6 x 6.
Dumbbell Rowing 6,6,4,4,2,2
Dumbbell Shrugs - 4 x 6 reps.
Dumbbell Standing Press - 4 x 3 reps.
Dumbbell Standing Alternate Press - 3 cleans and 3 singles. Clean, left press, right press.
Seated Hammer Curl 4 x 4.
Alternate Dumbbell Curl 3,2,1,1.
Lying Dumbbell Extension 4 x 4.
Standing Dumbbell Extension 4 x 4.

For Muscle Shaping -
Dumbbell Flyes 5 x 6 reps supersetted with
Dumbbell Bench Press 5 x 6.
Dumbbell Pullovers 5 sets of 8.
Dumbbell Rowing 5 x 6.
Dumbbell Standing Partial Press - 8,6,4,2,1.
3-Way Lateral Raise Tri-Set - 4 sets of 9 reps.
Incline Dumbbell Curl 4 x 6 reps.
Dumbbell Concentration Curl 4 x 6.
Dumbbell Single Arm Extension 4 x 6 supersetted with ->
Dumbbell Triceps Kickback 4 x 6.

Do the exercises in the order given. This will give your upper body a completely thorough workout in a way that ties the muscle groups together and progresses from the larger muscle areas to the smaller. The arms are also last due to the fact that most people enjoy arm training, at least in comparison to other muscle groups, and although tired near the end of a workout will still give this area maximum effort. I suggest you do this routine 3 times a week. You can alternate the two routines or simply use one for a period of time, then the other.

As stated earlier, dumbbells are not very suitable for leg work, mainly because the leg muscles are much stronger than those of your hands and your grip will give out well before your legs have been fully worked, especially noticeable when doing lower reps. Certainly as regards power training barbells are a must. There are no advantages to using dumbbells when training for leg strength and development, and many disadvantages. Conversely, substituting dumbbells for barbells as outlined above will give your upper body training a whole new dimension and impressive results will follow. For muscle conditioning you could substitute dumbbells for barbells in such moves as Hack Squats or lunges and other single-leg movements, but there would be little, if any benefit to be gained.

All the exercises are interchangeable. For example, you may wish to use heavy weights in the Alternate Dumbbell Curl and then follow with a shaping exercise like the Concentration Curl. Simply follow the directions given in regards to exercise technique and combine them as you wish.

Remember during training that you must use progressively heavier and heavier weights. With dumbbells it is not always possible to increase the weight by 1 or 2 pounds at a time. Thus you will find that you will be doing 6-10 reps before you can step up to the next set of dumbbells and return to 4 reps. It may be necessary to cheat for the last 2 reps, but don't cheat from the first rep. If you have to, the weight is too heavy.

Changing to a dumbbell routine can give you an interesting and stimulating change, thus increasing your motivation to train. Set yourself reasonable goals, that is, goals you can attain. Having attained them, you can set new ones for yourself once again. Train regularly, the body responds best to regular demands, and get adequate rest and sleep. The latter definitely varies from person to person but you should know yourself whether you are adequately rested by your level of energy for your regular activities plus your training.




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Forearm Specialization

As with the rest of the body, forearms like a variety of exercises, but like everything else there are some very good movements, and some movements which are simply a waste of time. So we are only interested in the very best result producing movements.

Training for the Rest of Your Body

It goes without saying that the rest of the body should not be neglected during a period of forearm specialization. In fact, you can still train fairly hard, because forearm training is not that energy draining.

Do the following on Tuesdays and Fridays:

1) Warmup with leg raises supersetted with situps for two supersets of 25 reps each. 

2) Regular squats - 3 sets of 12 reps.
Do a warmup set of 12 reps with a weight about 75% of your best 12 rep poundage.
Increase the weight and do an all out set of 12 reps or more, as many reps as possible. Let's pretend we're in the future and call this AMRAP! This set should leave you in a state of breathlessness for around a minute or two. 
Reduce the weight by 20-40 pounds and do it again.

3) Calf Raise- 3 sets of 20 reps. Rest only 30 seconds between each set.

4) Dumbbell incline press - 4 sets of 10 reps.
Lie on a low incline bench set at no more than a 30 degree angle. Use two dumbbells 20 pounds lighter than your best poundage for 10 reps, and do a nice slow warmup set.
Now, with the heaviest dumbbells you can use for 10 reps, go all out to get as many as you can.
Do two more sets with the same weight, AMRAP.

5) Chins to the front - 3 sets of 10 reps.
Using a grip 3" either side of your shoulders, do a warmup set with bodyweight only.
Now, attach enough weight to your body so that you can just do 8-10 reps before failing.
Do a final set with bodyweight only.

6) Seated front press - 3 sets of 10 reps.
Sit on a bench and take a bar from the racks weighing about 75% of your best 10 rep poundage and do a slow warmup set of 10 reps.
Now pile on the weight, using as much as you can for 10 reps.
After a short rest, reduce the weight by 10 pounds and do another set to failure. 

7) Barbell curl supersetted with dips - 3 sets of 8 reps.
After a warmup on each exercise do another two supersets with all the weight you can handle for 8 reps. 

Now, on to the forearm training: 

The forearms can take a lot of work so we can work them at least four days a week. Don't worry though, these will be very fast, short workouts that should not take longer than about 30 minutes to complete. Take the first week to get familiar with the routine and then go all out. 

Do the following on Mondays and Thursdays:

1) Barbell preacher bench curl - 5 sets of 10 reps.
Although the preacher curl is primarily a bicep exercise, it is also a very good upper forearm developer, and an ideal exercise to begin your routine with.
Do a nice slow warmup with about 70% of your best poundage for 10 reps.
Increase the weight and go all out to get 10 reps.
Resting only 30-40 seconds do another 3 sets using the same weight for AMRAP.

2) EZ Bar reverse curl on preacher bench supersetted with seated wrist curl - 6 supersets.
At the preacher bench hold an EZ curl bar with a reverse grip, knuckles to the front. Slowly curl the bar as far up as you can without letting your elbows leave the bench. Very slowly lower back to the start position.
Immediately go to the seated wrist curls. With a false (thumbs under) grip hold a straight bar in your hands. Now let your wrists drop down and then curl the bar up to the top, and contract hard.
Do a warmup set on each exercise.
Then, go all out to get 12 reps on the reverse curl and about 15 on the squeezing wrist curls. 
Rest only seconds to catch your breath, and do another four supersets, trying to get as many reps as you can. 

3) One arm dumbbell wrist curl - 4 sets of 12 reps each arm.
Sit on a low stool or box with the back of your arm resting along the top of your right thigh. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand with your wrist hanging over your knee as in the regular wrist curl, but here is the difference. Try to 'drop' your right shoulder downward in the direction of the floor. This will create a twisting action of the forearm that really makes the muscles work with each repetition. As you raise the dumbbell your will see your forearm muscles strongly 'bunch up' and this is exactly what we are after. 
Use a dumbbell that is heavy enough for the completion of around 12 reps . . . do as many reps as you can, and then change arms. Alternate like this nonstop for a total of 4 sets each arm.

On Wednesdays and Saturdays do this workout:

1) Dumbbell preacher bench curl - 5 sets of 8 reps.
The same layout as the barbell version.

2) Wrist curl on bench supersetted with reverse wrist curl - 4 supersets.
This is similar to the wrist curl as previously described, minus the false grip but with a finger roll added at the bottom. Using a block of wood, set up a bench so that when your forearms are on it they are at a slight decline, which puts them under more resistance throughout the exercise.
Lay them flat along the bench and hold the bar with a narrow regular grip. As the weight descends, open up your hands and let the bar roll right down to your fingertips, until it almost falls out of your grip. Close your hands again, and curl up as far as you can. Squeeze the contraction and then repeat. 

The reverse wrist curl is best performed with your forearms lying along the top of your thighs. Using a narrow grip of approximately 6" lay your forearms along the top of your thighs and hold the bar in a direct opposite way to the regular wrist curl. That is, your knuckles should be on top, and your palms will be facing the floor. Lower the bar until you feel you are losing it, and then curl it up until you can't go any further. Hold and tense strongly for a 2-count, and then return to starting position.

Try to get 15 reps on each exercise on your first superset. Do another 3supersets using the same weights, and do as many reps as you possibly can. With forearms training, you can go quite a ways past what you think is your limit.

3) Reverse curl - 5 sets of 10 reps.
Hold onto a bar with a grip about 3" either side of your thighs. Your knuckles should be facing the front and your palms the rear. Slowly curl the bar up towards your neck, and as close to your body as you can. Return to the starting position and let the bar brush your body as it slowly lowers. 

Do 5 sets of about 10 reps with a 30 second rest between sets, reducing the weight by five pounds each set.

 Tuesday and Friday
1) Situps/Leg Raises - 2 supersets 25 reps.
2) Regular Squats - 2 x 12.
3) Calf Raises - 3 x 20.
4) Dumbbell Incline Presses - 4 x 10. 
5) Chins - 3 x 10.
6) Seated Front Press - 3 x 10.
7) Barbell Curl/Dips - 3 supersets 8 reps.

Monday and Thursday
1) Barbell Preacher Curl - 4 x 10.
2) EZ Bar Reverse Curl on Preacher Bench - 6 x 12 supersetted with -
3) Squeezing False Grip Wrist Curl - 6 x 15. 
4) Dumbbell Angled Wrist Curl - 4 x 12.

Wednesday and Saturday
1) Dumbbell Preacher Curl - 4 x 10.
2) Decline Rolling Wrist Curl - 4 x 15 supersetted with - 
3) Reverse Wrist Curl - 4 x 15.
4.) Reverse Barbell Curl - 5 x 10.

Be as progressive as you can during each workout, and try to do more reps, add more weight, contract harder, concentrate more strongly . . .


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rounded-Back Exercises to Prevent Injuries - Al Murray

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Sometimes, as the old saying goes, we are unable to see the forest for the trees. We tell weight lifters - and anyone else who will listen - to keep their backs flat when lifting. We sometimes tend to forget that those we are instructing are only human and are, therefore, subject to human error.

They may mean to keep their backs flat and they may try to keep their backs flat, but there are times when anyone, even a trained weight lifter, is going to slip-up and lift something heavy with his back rounded. When he does, the chances are that he'll suffer a painful back strain - usually in the low back area.

Think it can't happen to you? It's a well known fact that America's leading heavyweight, Norbert Schemansky, has injured his back so severely that he has had to have surgery to correct the painful disability. That he recovered well enough to set world records is a tribute to the efficacy of weight training exercise and to the to the indestructibility of Schemansky, but the fact that he was injured is proof that it can in fact happen to anyone - even a man strong enough to set world records in the two top bodyweight classes.

How can this be? Aren't well-trained muscles strong enough to withstand great strain? They are, indeed, strong enough to withstand strains that would hospitalize an average man, but all things are relative. You have to remember that the weight lifter works with his back flat so that his spine is essentially straight. The muscles around his spine thus work nearly isometrically to maintain stability.

When the trained man fails to hold his flat-back position for one reason or another, unaccustomed strain is thrown suddenly on the muscles that are not prepared for the stretch or the effort required through more than the usual range of motion. The result is usually a strain or a more serious sprain, but seldom more than a painful experience. There is, however, also the possibility of injury to one of the cartilage discs that serve as pads between the vertebrae.

As a member of the British Society of Remedial Gymnasts, I have occasion to exchange ideas with other members, including physiotherapists and physicians. Recently they have agreed with me, in general, that the back muscles must be exercised in positions other than the correct lifting position, in which the muscles are held under tension isometrically, but receive no other type of work. The usual approach to exercising the back through a range of motion has been to recommend the stiff-legged deadlift, but instructors seldom explain why the exercise is important.

When the stiff-legged deadlift is recommended, the instructor usually cautions that no more than body weight be used, because of the risk involved in lifting with the back in an inefficient position. Actually, a man in good condition can train himself up to a level of strength and flexibility that permits him to handle weights in the stiff-legged deadlift that are not much less than he lifts with bent legs.

The construction and activity of the spine are the main reasons rounded-back lifting is considered inadvisable. Ordinarily the vertebrae are stacked solidly atop one another, with the cartilage discs between them acting as shock absorbers. They are held in position by small muscles and ligaments that attach from one vertebra to another, but if the back is suddenly unlocked from its natural position while supporting or raising something heavy, these small muscles and/or ligaments can be strained or torn.

This sudden, unaccustomed motion is, I believe, the cause of a large percentage of back strains. I believe that these strains can be avoided, but to do so, the back muscles must be exercised systematically over their full range of motion and not just in a static position. Entirely too many weight lifters and other athletes fail to deliberately exercise their spines through a range of motion.

Let's consider the movements that are possible with the spine:

(1) Flexion -   
When the spine and only the spine is bent forward forward so the lower end of the sternum is brought as close as possible to the pubis, or when the lower ribs are brought downward as much as possible toward the top of the thighs. (You flex your spine, of course, when you lift with your back rounded, as in the stiff-legged deadlift.)

(2) Extension - 
When the spine is straightened from a bent-forward position.

(3) Hyperextension -
When the spine is extended backward beyond a normal, erect standing position. This is the opposite of forward flexion. When a good competing weight lifters thrusts his hips forward and raises his chest high as he follows through with his pull in the middle and upper range, his back is arched into hyperextension.

(4) Lateral Flexion - 
When the spine is bent to the left or right, without backward or forward movement.

(5) Rotation - 
When the spine is turned or screwed clockwise or counter-clockwise while the hips remain stationary.

(6) Circumduction -
When the hips are kept stationary and the head and shoulders are moved in a circular motion, practically all the proceeding movements are brought into action.

To prevent injury that can result from sudden change of position or from moving into an unaccustomed range of motion, the back must be exercised to accomplish two ends:

(1) accustom the spine and its surrounding, supporting structures to full range of motion, and

(2) strengthen the supporting muscles and ligaments.

The exercises I would recommend to accomplish these ends are few and simple, but are important enough that I encourage you to practice at least one of them.

Basic Range-of-Motion Exercise - 
Pick up a barbell of about half your body weight with the normal overhand grip (as though you were going to clean it) and raise it to the dead lift finishing position (barbell across thighs, arms hanging straight). Round your back by flattening your chest so the bar moves down lower on the thighs, then straighten fully and arch back with your chest held high. Repeat for 3 sets of 8 repetitions. Add weight when able, but keep the repetitions at about 8 to avoid overloading.

Advanced Range-of-Motion Exercise - 
After a thorough grounding in the basic exercise, you can progress to a favorite of Geza Toth, Hungary's runner-up at the 1964 Olympic Games. This exercise might be called the "Rounded-Back Good Morning Exercise." You place the barbell across your shoulders as if to perform squats and stand with your feet a bit wider apart than the width of your hips. Breathe out and flatten your chest, then bend your knees and hips so that you allow your trunk to come down and forward into what should look like a badly-performed half squat. Then return to the erect starting position. Use a weight that is heavy, but comfortable for 4 sets of 5 repetitions.

Toth has worked up, over a period of time, to use 220 pounds in sets of five. But a beginner at this exercise should start with a weight that is about one-fourth of his bodyweight, and then work up very gradually. This is definitely not an exercise to try limits with.

Toth told me, in our mutual language of German, that Hungarian team physicians solidly endorse this exercise. They say there is less danger of back injury when this exercise is performed with rounded back than there is in the usual type of good-morning exercise in which heavy weights are attempted with the back held flat. Toth claims that the exercise not only helps prevent injury, but also greatly improves pulling power.

Most athletes and weight training authorities have been reluctant to deviate or to recommend deviations from exercising in the flat-back position, but I feel that it is important to perform range-of-motion exercises involving the spine. If you will digest the information in this article, I think you will agree with me. And I believe that if you will try the exercises recommended above you will see your back power increase. 


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Strategies of Enfreakment: Representations of Contemporary Bodybuilding - Niall Richardson

The definition of the true freak in many ways also describes the contemporary bodybuilder.
(Lindsay, Cecile [1996] "Bodybuilding: A Postmodern Freak Show" from - Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body)

Ruhl Goes Shopping 
English Subtitled

In an article in Flex magazine, published in 1992 [August], IFBB professional bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo wrote that, 'Consensus has it that I'm a freak. To the general public, I'm an object of ridicule . . .' but 'I love being a grotesque horrifying freak. I just love it! To me, this is bodybuilding.' Describing himself in terms such as 'gross' and 'nauseating', Matarazzo explained how bodybuilding fans delighted in his "freaky" dimensions which he described as 'huge gobs of twisted, sickening muscle hanging off my body'. Matarazzo detailed how his unclassical grotesque body was a source of great pride rather than shame as 'what's especially great is having freaky bodyparts. It makes me feel unique, as though out of the entire world, I have something very special to offer, even if it is a quality as weird as mutant muscularity.'

Another example from around the same time was the lesser-known professional bodybuilder Troy Zuccolotto who, writing in 1988, expressed his lifelong ambition as being, 'I want to be big. I mean, so huge it'll make you puke! I want to be gross!' (Sport and Fitness: Incorporating Health and Strength, December 1988).

Similarly, in a 1989 edition of Flex, Franco Santoriello, another young professional bodybuilder, is described as 'a fissiparous freak of frightening size, a perpetual shock wave of emotional tumescence that threatens to annihilate all life forms that wander within the range of his fallout.' Adam Locks lists the type of descriptions which bodybuilding publicity material would employ in representing its stars: 'Freak-enstein, Meat Monster, White Buffalo, Freaky Guns, Monster Mass, Jurassic Thighs, Thunder Thighs, Humungous Hams, Cantaloupe-Size Delts, Titanic Thighs, Monstrous Delts, Bulldozer Quads, Canons (for biceps), and Barn Door Shoulders (Locks, Adam [2003], Bodybuilding and the Emergence of a Post Classicism).

What we find expressed here is the celebration of abject freakishness: a representational tactic which would become the norm for the world of contemporary competitive bodybuilding.

Welcome to the strategies of enfreakment used to market contemporary bodybuilding.

As this book's introduction has detailed, there was a move in professional level competitive bodybuilding from the ideal of the classical physique to the disproportionate or "grotesque" physique. While the classical ideal celebrated symmetry, proportions, and overall aesthetic harmony of the body, the "post-classical body" is an inharmonious shape in which certain parts have been distended so that they are too large and therefore overpower the rest of the physique. Arguably, the first example of bodybuilding's celebration of this body type was Tom Platz, whose extreme quadriceps development overshadowed the rest of his body and managed to make even his hugely muscled torso appear small. Possibly, Larry Scott was the first to anticipate this move given the size of his arms, but it was Platz who became the first main example of the post-classical physique. After Platz, bodybuilding publications would marketing other bodybuilders having "freaky" and grotesque muscle groups, including Eddie Robinson (famous for his arms), Dorian Yates (famous for his enormous lats - back), and Platz's successor Paul "Quadzilla" DeMayo. In other words, what was being sold to the "fan" or "consumer" of bodybuilding representations was no longer the pleasure of gazing upon a 'perfectible body' (Dutton, Kenneth [1995] The Perfectible Body: The Western Ideal of Physical Development), but the thrill of staring at a grotesque body. Indeed, terms which would enter into bodybuilding currency would include 'monster,' 'grotesque,' 'gross,' and, most importantly, 'freak.' From the late 1980s onwards, professional bodybuilding was "sold" to the consumer through the representational strategy of enfreakment.

What is a "Freak"?

In my last monograph, Transgressive Bodies: Representations in Film and Popular Culture (2010), I suggested that the archaic entertainment spectacle of the freak show has been creeping back into contemporary popular culture - if, indeed, it ever left. The most influential writers on freakshows have been Leslie Fiedler (1978), Robert Bogdan (1998), Rosemarie Garland Thomson (1996), Rachel Adams (2001) and, most recently, Nadja Durbach (2009). One of the main critical points to remember when considering freak shows is that the "freak" is always a construct. The body may be different - for example, it might be extremely tall - but it is the mechanism of the freak show - the strategy of representation - which renders this body a "giant." As Bogdan explains, '"freak" is a way of thinking, of presenting, a set of practices, an institution - not a characteristic of an individual.' For example, in most freak shows there was usually an exhibit entitled "the giant." This was a man who was undoubtedly very tall, yet his tallness was re-presented to the public as "giantism" and so the presenters would usually have the "giant" wearing shoe lifts to give him another few inches and a hat to add to the impression of extreme height, while the mise en scene of the stage would also conspire to increase the illusion of even greater height through the use of under-sized furniture. Likewise the "world's fattest lady" always gained quite a few pounds in the program blurb and through padding under the clothes. As Bogdan explains, in the freak show, 'every person exhibited was misrepresented to the public. The critic David Hervey aptly describes this process of stylizing and, most importantly, marketing the non-normative body as 'enfreakment.' (Hervey, David, [1992], The Creatures That Time Forgot: Photography and Disability Imagery).

Of course, the above debates raise the question of why spectators are still interested (perhaps even more than they ever have been) in staring at "freaks." Leslie Fiedler adopts a totalizing psychoanalytical approach and makes the valid argument that freak shows bring to life our darkest, most secret fears. For example, we stare (not look or gaze) at the dwarf because this body touches our darkest fears about never growing up and remaining a child forever. Yet this nightmare is made safe as it is removed from us, contained within the representation (the freak show stage - or the contemporary film/media text) and establishes a "them and us" boundary. Nevertheless, as we stare at the 'freak" we shiver with anxiety as we are reminded that this "difference" may not be as firm or clear-cut as we like to imagine it is. (Fiedler, Leslie [1978] Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self).

Although Fiedler makes a valid argument, psychoanalysis makes little allowance for cultural variation (some cultures, given the specifics of its cultural history may have a greater fear of the image of, say, "the fat lady" than others) and also this does not suggest why "freaks" seem more popular now than they ever have been. More recently, critics such as Margrit Shildrick, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, and Rachel Adams have developed Fiedler's argument by pointing out that the concept of the freak is a fluid one which continually evolves in relation to cultural norms. In other words, the "freak" of the dwarf may signify differently in relation to contemporary spectators than the way it did for spectators of the Victorian freak show. As Adams points out 'the meaning of freaks is always in excess of the body itself' (Adams, Rachel [2001] Sideshow USA: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination). There is no fixed meaning to the body of the freak because there actually is no essential body which exists prior to the discourse which "creates" it. The freak's body is the product of the institution or discourse known as the freak show. As Thomson explains (Thomson, Rosemarie Garland - Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body; Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature; Staring: How We Look), the freak show exhibits become 'magnets for the anxieties and ambitions of their times'. These 'magnets' can function as abject sponges, absorbing all the fears and worries of the particular period. As such, the signification of the "freaks" and ways in which they have been exhibited have evolved over the years.

However, why "freaks" may have returned in popularity in recent years may be due to a growing realization on the part of the general public of the key theory in body studies: that there is no fixed, inherent or essential body. Arguably, the media's fascination with the "freak" body - the 500 lb teenager; the woman with the most augmented breasts in the world; the self-elective eunuch; the most beautiful transsexual in the world - is that these images remind us (perhaps subliminally rather than explicitly) that the body is not an essential attribute but instead is shaped by culture. A key difference, of course, is that in recent years we have seen a growth in the minor category of "freaks" which Bogdan (Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit) identified as the 'self-made freak'. At the heyday of the freak show, these were "freaks" such as the excessively tattooed person, the person with innumerable piercings or the sword swallower or the fire eater; in other words, bodies which had no physiological difference but who enhanced/modified their bodies or forced their bodies to perform extreme actions. Given advances in science, surgery, medicine, technology and - most importantly for this chapter - exercise and nutrition, one of the things we are witnessing is a growth in the category of the self-made freak. (Examples of two famous self-made freaks have been the late Lolo Ferrari and the late Michael Jackson). Therefore, what a documentary focusing on a woman with the most surgically enhanced breasts in the world is not the terror of a freak of nature but the horror of the overwhelming power of contemporary regimes of culture in shaping the body. This documentary reminds us that the body is formed through specific discourses and, in the case of a woman such as Lolo Ferrari, shows us how frighteningly powerful these discourses can be. If these discourses are the way the woman identifies - Lolo Ferrari, for example, identified only in terms of her augmented mammary glands and was 'the woman with the world's largest breasts' - then the body will be formed in accordance with the cultural demands. Ferrari had to have more surgery to accede to the ranks of having the most augmented breasts in the world. What Ferrari demonstrated, in a nightmarish fashion, was how the human body was shaped specific cultural discourses; performatively constituted by the discourse of surgically enhanced breasts.

Arguably, the same thrill is the case when we stare at the bodybuilding "freaks" in the Mr. Olympia line-up. We marvel at the demands of contemporary bodybuilding culture which has forced these bodies to develop to such extreme proportions. While Schwarzenegger had competed in the Mr. Olympia at about 230 lbs and at a height of 6'3", the 2010 Mr. Olympia - Jay Cutler - weighs in at about 270 lbs at a height of 5'9". More than any other contemporary activity, professional level bodybuilding testifies to the overwhelming power of culture in shaping and coercing the human body to the dictates of specific regimes.

However, given that bodybuilding representations are hardly mainstream (a bodybuilding training DVD will never make Amazon's top seller list), it is fair to say the fans of these representations have considerably more investment and, in most cases, identification in these "freak" bodies than a spectator who, surfing through the television channels, stumbles across a documentary about a woman with the most surgically enhanced breasts in the world. It is this investment/identification which makes this particular strategy of enfreakment markedly different from other contemporary representations.

Enfreakment: Markus Ruhl

As I have emphasized already, "freak" is a re-presentation (a misrepresentation) of an unusual or non-normative body in which this body's difference is coded as "freakish." Undeniably, the professional bodybuilder quoted at the start - Mike Matarazzo - is an exceptionally (unusually) muscled man who has body parts which are disproportionately bigger than the rest of his physique. However, it is only the representational discourse which renders this unusual body a "freak." In other words, "freaks" only "exist" as re-presentations.

This has particular relevance for bodybuilding given that (as outlined already in the introduction to this part) the world of extreme, competitive bodybuilding only exists for the majority of people as representations. These competition-ready bodies, so stripped of fat and dehydrated that their veins look like snakes slithering underneath paper-thin skin, only look this way for a short period of time and so the majority of people only "know" this body because of representations. Most competitive-level bodybuilders do not walk around in public, flaunting their extreme muscularity in tank-tops and training vests but tend to cover their vast bulk with loose clothes, known in bodybuilding circles as "baggies." As Adam Locks points out, the bodybuilder, dressed in baggies, looks to the general public as someone who is merely bulky or fat and, as we all know, in our contemporary culture of fast-food plenty, bodies which are bulky or "overweight" are hardly unusual, let alone warranting the status of "freak."

Bodybuilding representations, however, have strained to represent the extremely muscular body as a "freak." One contemporary star of the professional bodybuilding circuit, who has been subject to bodybuilding culture's strategies of enfreakment, has been the German bodybuilder Markus Ruhl, an athlete (in)famous for the sheer enormity of his physique. Although never having been crowned Mr. Olympia, Ruhl continues to attract a legion of fans enthralled by the huge dimensions of his body. Jon Hotten (Muscle: A Writer's Trip Through a Sport With No Boundaries, 2004) employs enfreakment discourse to describe Ruhl as having 'no real neck to speak of, although there must have been one somewhere. His lats were so big his arms had nowhere to go but outwards. His thighs moved past one another like two men in a narrow corridor.' Indeed, it is hardly surprising that Ruhl's nickname is 'Das Freak.' In a description of the free-posing round of the Mr. Olympia, one journalist describes Ruhl as 'Das Freak! One of the more popular bodybuilders to grace the posing dais in recent years. Ruhl was his usual beastly self. Freakish, hard and separated, Markus is finally getting his props and deserved his placing.' This element of Ruhl's freakishness is the way bodybuilding publicity material always "markets" his body, especially in his lifestyle DVD.

Lifestyle DVDs are publicity material for professional bodybuilders. These documentaries are, unsurprisingly, composed of sequences of the bodybuilder training in the gym, and talking about his exercise regime and diet, but will also feature sections which represent the athlete in his recreational leisure time. In Ruhl's first publicity DVD, Markus Ruhl: Made in Germany, the documentary features all the usual sections of gym training, nutrition, and competition preparation but also includes a rather entertaining segment entitled 'Ruhl Goes Shopping,' which represents Ruhl and his wife, Simone, out shopping for their groceries in the local supermarket.

The humor of this sequence is observing the stares which Ruhl receives from all the other shoppers. As the sequence begins, Ruhl, dressed in training tank-top and workout pants, lumbers along the aisle pushing his shopping trolley.

Diegetic "musak" plays, suggesting the everyday banality of the situation. It is also intended to suggest the "virtual-realism" of the sequence and to downplay that this is an "enfreakment" marketing scenario, used to sell the image of Ruhl to bodybuilding consumers. As Ruhl swaggers around the supermarket, filling the trolley with huge quantities of groceries, he manages to turn every head in the place as people stare in astonishment, unable to fathom what this body actually is. Some people giggle, some simply stare and a few more arrogant individuals feel it is their right to make jokes about the man's extreme proportions. The sequence culminates in Ruhl queuing at the check-out while a woman standing at the next queue is visibly nauseated by the sight of Ruhl's body. The woman makes the classic "stifling vomit" face and clasps her hand to her mouth as if to stop herself from puking. It is interesting that this particular moment was deemed so important to the whole documentary that it was used in the trailer and, should the spectator fail to notice that a woman was nauseated at the sight of Ruhl's "monstrous" body, this was even highlighted on the screen by an arrow superimposed onto the image.

Of course, one way of interpreting the shopper's stares is to rad their astonishment due to a masculine invasion of a gendered space. Some could argue that Ruhl's shopping is a hyper-masculine invasion of a feminine space and therefore this produces horror, if not even nausea, by the female occupants. Since the iconic ending of The Stepford Wives, in which a troupe of gorgeous, pre-feminist women (or are they androids? - we never really know) navigate their way around Stepford supermarket in a sequence of such beauty that it almost looks like a finely choreographed ballet, the supermarket may be read as an exclusively feminine space. In this respect, the 'shopping sequence' is almost akin to a masculine invasion of the feminine. This (arguably) hyper-masculine body invades a space which is normally a safely feminine haven and intimidates, if not even terrorizes, female shoppers.

However, reducing the supermarket to an exclusively feminine space is, in contemporary culture, not accurate. It hardly requires a quantitative investigation to discern that supermarkets are now frequented by men as well as women although, certainly in some areas, the majority of shoppers will undoubtedly be female. Instead of viewing the supermarket as indicative of femininity, it is probably more appropriate to consider it in terms of the banal, the everyday or, more importantly for these debates, the normative.

Therefore, I read the 'Ruhl Goes Shopping' sequence in the DVD as a celebration of how this body no longer 'fits' (quite literally in his case) into the regimes of the normative. Through his intense program and training and supplementation Ruhl is represented as having built a body which has transcended the everyday and therefore upsets the normative bodies of the supermarket who find his body impossible to read. In this respect, extreme bodybuilding is represented as attempting a form of deconstruction, offering a challenge to accepted ideas of beauty.

Arguably, extreme bodybuilding could be related to other body modification practices such as tattooing and body piercing. Like bodybuilding, tattooing and body piercing can be interpreted as a form of resistance, critiquing (often through caricature) culture's notion of normative beauty. In one respect, what the extreme body-piercing practitioner does is to take something which is deemed attractive or ornamental by contemporary culture (pierced ears are usually regarded as attractive ornamentation) and then caricature this through excessive piercing. Pierced ears are deemed "sexy" by normative Western culture but what if nose, lips, cheeks, and eyebrows have piercings in them as well? Similarly, tattooing can have a comparable trajectory. If contemporary Western society deems one subtle tattoo to be a risqué, quirky ornamentation, what about when the body becomes covered with these "ornaments"?

Arguably, a comparison could be drawn between the politics represented by the hyperbolic body of the extreme bodybuilder and another embodiment of cartoonish dimensions: the late Lolo Ferrari. Ferrari was a Belgium porn star who attained a relative degree of notoriety for having (while she was alive - I believe she has been succeeded now) the most surgically enhanced breasts in the world. She sprang to media recognition largely because of her regular appearances on the British television show Eurotrash where she did very little else other than flaunt her enormous breasts for the spectator's attention. Ferrari's slot on Eurotrash was entitled "Look at Lolo" and every week spectators would marvel at hos such an extreme body could manage to do a basic chore such as polish the silver or wash a car. Ferrari's breasts were indeed "freakish." After a huge number of operations (18-25 - reports vary), Ferrari had indeed attained the dimensions of a living Barbie doll. Reports (but, again these may simply be 'enfreakment' marketing ploys) suggest that she suffered intense back pain, from supporting the weight of the breasts, and had trouble sleeping at night. Ferrari died of a drug overdose - or so the reports suggests, but this is open to debate and many believe that her husband was implicated in her untimely suicide. While most critics would simply dismiss Ferrari as a woman suffering from serious mental health issues, most obviously body dysmorphia, Meredith Jones (in Body and Society) makes some very interesting points about the politics of Ferrari's cartoon dimension breasts by suggesting that Ferrari's surgically enhanced body can be read as transgressive. By having attained the dimensions normally associated with a Barbie doll, or a masculine fantasy cartoon, Ferrari is actually making an ironic comment on the "perfect" woman's body. If society deems the extreme dimensions of tiny waists and enormous breasts as the feminine ideal, the representations of Ferrari ask how attractive it is when when these dimensions are exaggerated to cartoon proportions. As Jones points out, 'Ferrari was quite aware of the borders she was transgressing' as something deemed ideal in feminine beauty can become very unattractive, if not even ugly, when it reaches excessive dimensions. In this respect, Ferrari was enacting a form of femininity that was 'overly subversive'. Like the extreme bodybuilder, Ferrari can be read as a 'freak of conformity' in that she takes something which is deemed ideal in contemporary culture but twists or even carnivalizes it.

Arguably, the extreme bodybuilder can be read in a similar fashion. This celebration of the 'freakish' body, a body which has pushed idealized proportions to a ridiculous extreme, can be read as making a subversive comment on idealized masculinity. Most importantly, as the 'Ruhl Goes Shopping' sequence demonstrates, male bodybuilding is represented as celebrating a rejection of traditional ideas of attractiveness.

Of course, a comparison with Lolo Ferrari obviously ignores the issue of gender. When a man challenges regimes of masculine attractiveness/beauty it is not the same cultural taboo as when a woman does it. While women have always been considered simply as their bodies, and their appearances have always been policed by patriarchal culture, men by contrast have had the liberty (until recently) of not having to be overly concerned about their appearance. The male body is a tool for getting the job done but never something that should be the cause for concern about whether or not it is beautiful (Bordo, Susan [1999] The Male Body). Yet this links to one of the tensions within bodybuilding in that the appearance of the body is the ultimate goal of the bodybuilder. Unlike powerlifting or weightlifting, which are concerned with the ultimate heavy lift, irrespective of how this alters body's appearance, bodybuilding is not concerned with the amount of weight lifted as long as it effects changes in the physique. Therefore extreme bodybuilding stands as a curious activity given that its concern is purely appearance - the bodybuilder works out to create a specific body shape and not to achieve maximum strength - but that this "appearance" is excessive and unattractive by contemporary culture.

It is important to remember that the sight of Ruhl's body is represented as managing to evoke nausea in a woman queuing at the checkout but yet this abject spectacle is represented to the bodybuilding fan (who, arguably, wants to copy Ruhl's training and nutrition so that he too can look like that) as something desirable. Therefore, it is not rather odd that this sequence proclaims to the bodybuilding fan that looking like Ruhl will only lead to public shame and ridicule? If you look like this, everyone will stare rather than gaze. To reference Matarazzo once again, you will be an 'object of ridicule' and a 'grotesque, horrifying freak.' It is here that I wish to consider how these enfreakment representation strategies fuel fantasies of bigorexia in the bodybuilding fan. 


The term 'bigorexia' is derived from the established medical term known as anorexia nervosa. While the anorexic believes that the body is too fat, the bigorexic believes that the body is too skinny and seeks to increase overall (muscle) bulk. Obviously, there are very different political and psychological agendas between anorexia and bigorexia which I consider in more detail later.

However, there is still some debate about the term bigorexia itself given that some critics use it as a synonym for "The Adonis Complex" while others, myself included, draw a distinction here. The Adonis Complex was a term made famous by the trans-academic text of the same name which argued that more and more men are now feeling victim of the beauty myth of contemporary culture. Besieged by images of perfected bodies and six-pack abs in every advertising image, men are starting to feel the tyranny of impossible standards of beauty in a way previously experienced only by women. One of the most interesting examples cited in the Adonis Complex has been the recent transformation in the physiques of boys' toy dolls - especially action figures. The original GI Joe, Luke Skywalker, and Hans Solo had body types which could be deemed "average." By contrast, contemporary models of these toys now display pumped biceps and washboard stomachs. This fetishization of chiseled muscularity in popular culture has, arguably, exerted an influence on male body image and induced an obsession with the appearance of the body in a fashion similar to those which women have labored under for years.

Yet I should draw a distinction between the Adonis Complex and bigorexia. While the Adonis Complex aspires to a body type which is deemed beautiful by the standards of contemporary culture, bigorexia fetishes "extreme" muscle mass, often to the point of excess, which moves the body beyond the spectrum of traditional attractiveness. The bigorexic reveres Markus Ruhl or the other "mass-monsters" of the professional bodybuilding circuit while someone consumed by the Adonis Complex aspires to the "beautiful" dimensions of a Calvin Klein model. In this way bigorexia can be read as relating, in some respects, to anorexia although there are definite political differences.

On an obvious level both bigorexia and anorexia are about the subject gaining control of the unruly, wayward body. Many people who suffer from anorexia often feel that their lives are out of control and the only thing that they actually can control and discipline is the living tissue of their bodies. Bodybuilding obviously holds a similar trajectory which explains its popularity in prisons, and other establishments where civil liberties are denied, and also areas of socioeconomic deprivation. As Susan Bordo explains, like anorexics, 'bodybuilders put the same emphasis on control: on feeling their life to be3 fundamentally out of control, and on the feeling of accomplishment derived from total mastery of the body' (Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body [1993]). Yet there is another area deserving attention in the similarity between the two - the correspondence these activities have to sexual attractiveness and the awareness the subject has of this. Although, on the one level, anorexia can be read as women simply trying to adhere to the standards of beauty found on the contemporary catwalks (where womanly curves have been replaced by reed-thin, if not skeletal-thin, models), it is also possible to see anorexia as a form of resistance. Many anorexic women talk about hating the sexual characteristics of their body. Bordo quotes an interview with one anorexic woman who describes how, at puberty, she hated the development of her womanly curves and other sexual attributes such as full breasts. Indeed, many anorexics express a desire to be removed from the constrictions of sexuality altogether and of remaining in a time (childhood) where sexuality was not an issue.

Arguably, this idea of being removed from the dictates of sexuality is also at work in the agenda of the extreme bodybuilder or bigorexic. While the anorexic wishes to subdue her womanly curves so that she is not recognized as a sexual subject, and not driven uncontrolled sexuality herself, the bigorexic wishes to step outside the regimes of sexual attractiveness too but obviously in a much more confrontational, aggressive fashion. The anorexic wants to become small and unnoticed; the bigorexic wants to become so "gross" that he is unfathomable within the dictates of sexuality. This is why bodybuilders such as Troy Zuccolotto (quoted at the start) express a desire to disgust people, to the point of puking, by his enormous, grotesquely muscled physique. Certainly a distinctly different agenda from that expressed by someone held in the thrall of the Adonis Complex, idolizing the beautifully sculpted musculature of an Abercrombie and Fitch model.

One of the most outspoken ambassadors of bigorexia is bodybuilder Greg Valentino. Known for having the biggest arms in the world, Valentino is famous for a very disproportionate physique (the arms are far too big to be in any way proportionate to the rest of the physique), and, more recently, for the trauma his arms suffered as documented in The Man Whose Arms Exploded. In the film, Valentino explained that he wanted to have the biggest arms in the world so much that he not only performed site injections of steroids (injecting steroids directly into the biceps muscle) but also pumped huge amounts of an oil known as synthol into the muscles in order to inflate them to enormous proportions. Unable to cope with the sheer volume of synthol, Valentino's arms, quite literally exploded when his immune system decided it could no longer tolerate this foreign oil being pumped into the body. His biceps developed internal abscesses which eventually burst and oozed out. This rather disgusting image - indeed it would not be out of place in a gross-out horror movie - has delighted and intrigued many fans, most notably teenage boys. Valentino has appeared regularly in teenage, gross-out lad magazines such as Nuts and Zoo which often delight in the horror of exploding bodies, pus and gore, and also the scatological delights of piss and shit. These abject substances are, of course, notoriously the fascination of prepubescent boys who often delight in all things disgusting and gross, especially when they are the cause of the disgust themselves. In the documentary about steroid use in American sports, Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Valentino explains that he was not interested in bodybuilding to make himself more attractive to women. Indeed, with a grin of satisfaction, Valentino proclaimed that his arms are disgusting and put women off. His face breaks into a beaming smirk when he describes how women look at his arms and think 'Gross.'

This rejection of sexual attractiveness, of building a body which is outside the regime of sexual allure, obviously accords with the anorexic's trajectory of preventing the body from being sexual. Of course, the anorexic tries to prevent the development of sexual features while the bigorexic seeks to exaggerate features which are deemed sexy, such as gym-sculpted biceps, and caricature them to an unattractive extreme. It could be suggested (although without ethnographic research this is speculative) that bodybuilding representations therefore support homosocial fantasies in which men create their bodies to impress other men and disgust women. In this respect, it is hardly surprising that the most avid fans of bodybuilding are pubescent boys, being at extremely difficult points in their lives - the onset of hormones, lust and the "threat" of girls - may find some solace in the fantasy representations of bodybuilding as "removed" from the dictates of conventional sexual attractiveness. Arguably what can be interpreted from the representations - or rather enfreakment fantasies - of bodybuilding imagery is the dream of a petulant rebellion against societal norms. The bigorexic is saying he will not conform to this tyranny of making his body conform to dictates of masculine attractiveness - will actively reject the tyranny of the Adonis Complex - but will make his stand of resistance through the very mechanisms which the Adonis Complex says men should do; namely, gym training and bodybuilding.

Why the Move to Bigorexic "Freak" in Contemporary Bodybuilding?     

The question this "look" raises is why the change in iconography of bodybuilding representations? From representations which had revered the proportions of classical beauty they have become images which glorify the "grotesque" and the "freaky." The reason for the change might be attributed to various developments in the sport and fitness industry and cultural politics.

First, a factor which has undoubtedly influenced the extreme hypertrophy of contemporary male bodybuilding physiques is the development outlined in this book's introduction: the growth in popularity of women's bodybuilding and, most importantly, the change in female bodybuilding physiques. Indeed, while the developments in nutrition, pharmaceutical enhancements, and training techniques promoted changes in the physiques of male bodybuilders, it also permitted extreme advancements in female physiques. As female bodybuilding started to change, with female bodybuilders attaining a degree of muscularity which previously was considered only possible for a male body, male bodybuilding had to progress alongside it.

Second, the late 1980s saw the growth of a new strand of male body type springing into public view. This was a more lithely muscled, toned and, most importantly, eroticised body which came to grace the cover of other alternative health and fitness magazines and started the cultural trend already described in 'The Adonis Complex.' As Susan Bordo summarizes, by the late 1980s, 'beauty (re)discovers the male body.' Eventually this type of body would be canonized as the Men's Health magazine physique - a body which is distinguished by its sculpted abs, low body fat and most importantly moderate muscle development. The rise in popularity of this body type was connected to the growth of the gym and fitness industry. While gyms had previously been filthy, underground bunkers (often tagged onto a boxing club), in the 1980s they became luxurious health clubs and gym membership became a standard work bonus for white-collar professionals. Now, having a lithely muscled physique became the goal of the average professional who would often train after his day at the office.

The rise in popularity in the Men's Health-type physique meant that bodybuilding - as a competitive sport - had to assert itself as something different or more extreme from this body type. With advancements in training, nutrition, and pharmaceutical drugs (where once steroids were the only chemical recourse, growth hormone, insulin, and others were also being used), competition level bodies started to become more extreme and pushed the envelope out in relation to muscular development.

However, the key factor which is certainly implied in the above discussion of the Men's Health physique and the Adonis Complex is the question of who is doing the gazing and whether or not this is underpinned by eroticism. As I have argued already, the investment in the "freakishness" of extreme bodybuilding fuels fantasies of being released from the pressures of the conventional Adonis Complex and of sexuality altogether. The subject fantasizes about challenging these pressures in deconstructive, confrontational fashion rather than simply ignoring them and being accused of "letting himself go." Similarly though, one of the reasons why contemporary bodybuilding has embraced the idea of "freakishness" may well be its paranoid attempt to extricate itself from the connotation of homoeroticism.

Bodybuilding has always held an uncomfortable relationship with gay culture. One of the most famous early "muscle" publications was Bob Mizer's mail-order Physique Pictorial. This magazine was soft porn masquerading as an exercise magazine, and featured young toughs as its models (often just out of prison) whose physiques ranged from "some" muscular development to none at all. One of the reasons why gay soft porn stopped disguising itself as a bodybuilding publication was simply the question that the pornography legislation changed in the 1970s and porn could now legally exist. No longer did porn fans have to buy publications which claimed to be dedicated to "sun bathing enthusiasts" and but could buy actual pornography. Indeed, one of the Weiders' biggest struggles - and their bodybuilding ambassador Arnold Schwarzenegger was very important here - was to free bodybuilding from the taint of homosexuality. Schwarzenegger's indisputable heterosexuality and charisma greatly helped in erasing the stigma of bodybuilders as closet gays.

However, the rise in the 1980s of gay pornography, which became a mulit-million dollar enterprise, reified the representation of the classical bodybuilder's physique as ultimate object of homoerotic desire. While images of bodybuilders engaging in homosexual activities had previously been the stuff of fantasy drawings, such as those produced by Tom of Finland, now these could be watched on home videotape. Of the gay pornography studios, Falcon became synonymous with the bodybuilder look and often featured impoverished amateur bodybuilders having sex with other bodybuilders. Of course, these bodybuilders had more in common with the type of physique predating Schwarzenegger than with the "mass monster" or "freak" of the 1980s competition world. (This, of course, was why they were impoverished, as their physiques had not attained the "freakish" proportions necessary to gain entry to the professional ranks.) Therefore, while the classical physique was being crowned as the ultimate in homoeroticism, with gay men (especially those based in metropolitan settings) taking up bodybuilding as a serious hobby, professional bodybuilding needed to distinguish itself from that look and so espoused the excessive, grotesque physique.

Another factor in this debate may well have been the lasting impact of early 1980s professional bodybuilder Bob Paris. Paris was (and still is) the only professional bodybuilder to have taken the very brave step of announcing his homosexuality to the bodybuilding world. A noted writer and critic Paris has written a considerable amount about his experiences of professional bodybuilding and has always maintained that "coming out" was damaging for his career. As the only openly gay professional bodybuilder, Paris has attained iconic status within gay culture. For example, London's most famous gay gym is The Paris Gym, although, sadly, many of the gym-goers training in it nowadays are unlikely to be aware of the significance of the gym's name. Yet Paris is not only famous for being openly gay identified but also for arguing that the classical physique should remain the goal of professional bodybuilding. Writing about the shift in professional bodybuilding toward freaky, grotesque proportions in Straight From the Heart: A Love Story, Paris argued:

 - By the time I had stopped competing, I hated bodybuilding and the direction it was headed in. And, in fact, I still disagree with the direction the sport was and is taking. I saw bodybuilding as a road toward the 'perfect' physical specimen. The dominant culture of the sport for the last ten years has been grotesque freakiness for the sake of freakiness. (1994)

What this did, of course, was help cement the link between the classical body and homosexuality. If Paris, an openly gay man, exalted the "beauty" of the classical physique, then most people interpreted that this was a look which appealed to gay men. If bodybuilding was not to be a homoerotic beauty pageant, then it needed to transform the look of the bodies on the stage. Indeed, this emphasis on how a bodybuilding competition should not be read as a beauty contest, and how those men were not hunk pinups, was exemplified by one of the most popular "mass-monsters" of the late 1980s/early 1990s - Nasser el Sonbaty. The journalist Jon Hotten described Sonbaty as having 'the head of a professor . . . and the body of a genuine freak.' Sonbaty did indeed have the stereotypical head of the professor even in the strictly physical sense given that he was balding - yet did not simply shave the head but emulated a style which was not far from being labeled a "comb-over" - and always wore a pair of big, thick specs - even on the competition stage. Sonbaty's specs were not fashion glasses but heavy, unglamorous spectacles. Yet beneath this professorial-looking head was a physique which, at a height of 5/11", often weighed an astonishing 300 obs plus. Sonbaty's appearance certainly made the point: professional competitive level bodybuilding is not a beauty contest and the contestants on stage are not hunk pinups.


This chapter has argued that in order for professional-level bodybuilding to survive it had to change its strategy of publicity representations and market itself as a postmodern freak show. Given the rise in female bodybuilding, the cultural trend of the Adonis Complex, and the growing articulation of a metropolitan gay bodybuilding culture, contemporary professional bodybuilding had to repackage itself as something different from the canonization of male beauty. Enfreakment discourse became the accepted way of marketing professional bodybuilders to the fans. I have suggested that these representations may fuel homosocial, bigorexic fantasies for the bodybuilding fan; the idea of challenging regimes of normative attractiveness and creating a body which moves outside the dynamics of sexuality altogether.

However, it should be remembered that, historically, the freakshow was a place where human deviance was valuable, and in t hat sense valued. Joshua Gamson points out that this "value" is the way in which the "freak" can challenge received dictates of normativity (Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity). Indeed, Gamson argues that one contemporary evolution of the freak show - the daytime chat show - is not simply a vehicle for permitting normative people to stare at the freaks but can also be read as spectacles which 'mess with the "normal," giving hours of play and often considerable sympathy to stigmatized populations, behaviors, and identities, and at least pertly muddying the waters of normality' which, arguably, intrigues most critics interested in enfreakment. 

Perhaps the final word should be with Greg Valentino who in his own charming style states that the fans of bodybuilding demand the disquieting pleasure of watching "freaks":

 - In bodybuilding nobody gives a shit about Milos Sarcev up there all symmetrical with a beautiful body. You ask the crowd who they like to see. They like to see the freaks, Markus Ruhl of Paul Dillet, even though he can't pose to save his life. People love to see mass. They like to see freaks. It's what gets them into this sport.

And what the fans want - the fans shall get.    



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