Awhile back I coined an article entitled ‘Your First Muscle Pageant’ on the forums, in the satirical ‘Iron Valhalla’ fashion. While the general feel of that article was humorous, it again was still filled with very honest observations on what a competitor might encounter at a first competition. It always seems to happen the same way. Usually an older member of our cult *coughs* I mean ‘subculture’ pulls aside a gym patron who is developing a bodybuilder’s physique and approaches the young one and says ‘Hey, you thought of competing?’. After a few months of mulling it over, finally the person is ready and goes through with their first bodybuilding competition; more accurately the event is termed a muscle pageant as it displays much of the same characteristics to a little princess pageant with all of the preening and preparation involved.
Even being the cynical, god-building, curmudgeon that I am, I still love bodybuilding. I absolutely cannot get enough of this lifestyle, and owe some of the most precious aspects and gifts of my life, as a direct result of bodybuilding. By taking the first steps on stage (in front of dozens of shrieking males), you graduate to a new level of bodybuilder; no longer relegated to being a gym bodybuilder. No, now you have felt the honor of paying a registration fee an felt cold pro-tan streaking down your armpits. In Free-Masonry, or the Rosicrucian’s or any esoteric ‘secret society’ there are clear progressions, and levels. In bodybuilding, the transition of competing in that first show elevates you into the next rung of our protein gobbling cult of people suffering from muscle dysmorphia.
For the previous 12 weeks I had been giving weekly posing coaching to a competitor who was getting ready to compete in first competition, interestingly enough a natural bodybuilder competition. I could tell that Mark had great genetics and had a thorough understanding of nutrition, training, etc. and the type of drive necessary to be a successful bodybuilder. I had to remove myself from the drug-obsessed version of bodybuilding I enjoy (to be quite frank) and observe and be a part of this ‘other’ bodybuilding for awhile. It’s not that I dislike natural bodybuilding; it’s simply apples and oranges compared to the NPC and the IFBB. I respect the elegant, streamlined in symmetrical physiques of true naturals and find them to be some of the most hardcore participants of the sport, many displaying the same genetics that could warrant them a IFBB Pro-Card (If they juiced up…)
Over the next few weeks in a formulaic fashion, Mark leaned down and appeared as a chiseled statue the last week I saw him before his show with a sunken in face and look of overwhelming fatigue. First his quads started coming in with cuts, then more detail in the shoulders, abdominals and finally the serratus and obliques displayed prominently. At some time during contest dieting I’ve seen peoples’ brains ‘change’ and talk about creative posing routines, music, and even ‘spiritual experiences’. It’s probably a good rule of thumb not to make any crucial life decisions at that time. Luckily, Mark seemed to keep composure and only started cussing a lot towards the end of his prep (uncharacteristic for him), more than likely the influence of me and sailor-like vocabulary at times.
Saturday arrived, the big day for Mark’s show. As I predicted he won his class and had a triumphant time during his first competition, taking place in backstage camaraderie and meeting new friends, fellow die-hards. I stood back at times and observed, and I felt Goosebumps over my neck as the little white, test-fueled hairs raised up on my body. The almost tribal feel and unique bond of being backstage at a bodybuilding competition, your first one at that. In a society and country that loves ‘teams’, a person has decided to engage in a solo endeavor where they will be judged in methodical fashion on their anatomy, including irregularities and imperfections. In our subculture, this at times is our religion, a sacred experience. Yes, basically there’s just a bunch of people inhaling Pro-Tan and Aqua-net fumes and an overweight ‘photographer’ who seems way too knowledgeable on bodybuilding for being a unshapely blob. It still remains host to all those things, but maybe that’s partially why it’s great. It’s fringe, it’s bizarre, it’s a form of pea-cocking, it’s an art show and it’s your first. At the end however, you’ve put it all out there and displayed a piece of art to people that cannot be replicated. To understand that feeling, and to witness that again… That was quite alright.
-Danny Manslaughter, for more from Danny, CLICK HERE