Along the many years I have been a fan of bodybuilding, I have enjoyed as a front-row witness the incredible transition of our sport. As I became aware of the sport when I started working out back in 1992, I grew spoiled with such a great line up of incredible bodybuilders and their influence into the discipline we enjoy today. After entering a few shows without the results I expected, I decided to dedicate my time to the other side of the sport coaching and training. Eventually, in 1997 received my IFBB judging card and with it the benefit of spending almost 2 decades enjoying The Good, enduring The Bad and Admiring the Posing.
The Good Has been clear since the beginning way back when Eugene Sandow became the poster child the idea of the “strong man” In 1894. Sandow was featured in a short film by the Edison Studios back when the Lumiere brothers were making history with what we know today the Film Industry. The short film was of only part of a bigger event and featured him flexing his muscles in front of the camera for scientific purposes, rather than performing any feats of physical strength. As he would later create the Institute of Physical Culture, an early gymnasium for bodybuilders in 1897 giving birth to our sport. The Weider brothers came along (Ben and Joe) and with them the true visual nature of our sport became of mass production via the media publications ( we would need to dedicate an entire library to talk about them). Then that guy! Yes the guy from Austria with big Chest, big Arms and a big Mouth bringing to the sport the dimensions of celebrity and success and becoming the most influential cross-over figure bodybuilding has seen.
The 90’s symbolically began with the retirement of Lee Haney as the 8th time Mr. Olympia, and all the figures that then emerged to make the sport a worldwide phenomenon. Stars such as Lee Labrada, Rich Gaspari, to freaks like Vick Richards and Mike Matarazzo. The premature loss of some of bodybuilding’s most prolific such as Muhammed Benaziza and Andreas Muntzer. The dominance of Dorian Yates, and the epic battles with Vince Taylor, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone, as well as the very debatable subject that any of the of the four previously mentioned could have taken the Sandow out of Yates’s hands. We advance to the Cartoon-like competitors of the new millennium (taken out of the pages of the once famous “Max Rep” comics,) with Ronnie and Cutler leading the way (Dexter sprinkled in the middle,) and admire today what I call the ‘mutation in perfect harmony’ of symmetry, muscle density, size, cuts, separation and freakiness; which is only enhanced by, charm, grace, personality, style and an impeccable presentation on and off the stage. That ‘thing’ called Phil Heath, that is the good! Was that clear?
Now the Bad…
We all know it, it’s s always been there; the egos / domestic approach of some of the leaders of our sport, the terrible examples of bodybuilders and figures who crossed the point of no return with the law and whom have also disregarded the laws of our biological limitations, the self proclaimed chemists, gurus, and keepers of the secrets, the hungry business men bringing to the bodybuilding lingo terms like “breakthrough” “experimental” “engineered” “proprietary blend” and “clinical study.”
All this as we get blamed by the irresponsible bureaucracy of Major League Baseball, the WWE, and IOC, with their well documented inability to control the doping aspect of their sports and business, constantly falling back to portrait bodybuilding as the ‘root of all evil’ ignoring the fact that some of the smartest athletes at any time in history in the last 60 years have been bodybuilders. Considering the grueling preparation leading to each show and the emotional ‘thick skin’ developed by enduring the analysis of the social microscope. The bad my friends, is not about to just go away!
Then, there is the Posing!
Oh my friends the posing! The beautiful display or art through the development of a balanced, symmetrical, and conditioned human body. The art Eugene Sandow showcased to the world over 100 years ago, and all the figures we can remember like Ed Courney with his epic display of drama and Frank Zane with his timeless ‘statue-like’ figure, the Iconic ‘one pose’ of Larry Scott, Sergio Oliva, Franco Colombo, Arnold and Lee Haney along with the dark and mysterious presence of Serge Nubret. We can vividly picture in our minds Larry Scott and his arm pose, Sergio with his wings exteded over his head, Arnold on a side chest, Franco popping a most muscular, and “Serge being Serge” just standing there. As we moved on to witness some of the most artistic and creative displays of posing with the influence of the Ultra-Classic style of Lee Labrada and the creativity of Vince Taylor, in my opinion the greatest example of showmanship and entertainment we’ve ever seen on stage. This showmanship, eventually adapted by all of the greats of the subsequent generations like Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler; as well as the swagger they display in each turn and transition.
Unfortunately, not all great champions have been great posers, but they have also created iconic moments with their signature poses delineating their dominance in the sport despite the lack of beauty they displayed while on stage. Nevertheless, we have to continued enduring the painful display of terrible posing that sometimes makes you cramp at the edge of your seat until we finally get to Kai Greene the posing messiah who will deliver us from all the pain of getting the same bland and lame posing mixed with awful music. Kai makes it worth the wait, makes the overpriced ticket a golden opportunity to see art of posing at it’s best… That my friends is real posing!
Keep enduring for those who love the sport and can only watch and those who CAN DO. Please work on your craft, practice, lead, inspire, communicate and Create the Good, fix the Bad and elevate The Posing!
-Written by Ivan Almonte