6 Myths About Body Builders That Are Total BS
Recently, my girlfriend decided to participate in bikini competitions, which means that I would be entering what I imagined in middle school to be my own, personal seventh circle of hell. I'd be surrounded by bodybuilders, leading to my head being eventually engulfed in a swirl of toilet water, as someone shouted from above "Look, he was carrying a novel in his cargo shorts pocket! Who the fuck is Junot Diaz, and why does he deserve to be crammed in this dumb geek's asshole so badly?"
But here I am, unscathed. Through the process of watching bodybuilding contests and meeting these quad monsters, I learned that muscular men and women aren't put on earth to shove me while they berate me for biting a slice of pizza. Going to a few bodybuilding and bikini competitions helped me sort out the ignorant personality filing cabinet that I'd been constructing for most of my life. For instance, I had no idea that ...
A Lot of Bodybuilders Are Giant Nerds
The desire to judge people harshly without ever meeting them is a constant throb. And the easiest way to go about doing this is to be an awful nerd and classify people using an RPG system. If you've ever felt the need to justify the existence of an ex-girlfriend's new boyfriend, you understand the process of rating someone's attributes based on what they may lack according to a complex system of Rock-Paper-Scissors idiot logic.
He's skinny? Well, he must shit himself whenever he's within a whiff of a squat rack. He has big biceps? His reading skills must be around a second grade level, which means that he'll be too confused and frustrated to beat me up when he tries to decipher the insult in the first half of this sentence's hieroglyphics. Another thing terrible nerds love to do is make distinctions between what particular obsessions can be "nerdy" or not. It's something like this that forces internet users to vomit uncontrollably whenever they see a picture of a girl holding a Game Boy, and leads an entire nation's worth of writers to come up with different ways to type "People are people too."
What, did you find a game about buying clothes? EAT STEREOTYPE!
At a weird point in the annals of human existence, it was decided that a fanatical argument about the pros and cons of Marvel and DC comics was trendy, but unless you were in a particular circle, the same fervor being added to a discussion about weightlifting was what cavemen did before they contracted nightclub bathroom syphilis. It's why, whenever a major sporting event occurs, you see a thousand memes, each one telling you that A) your friends have abominable senses of humor, and B) sports are for the simple-minded. You know, lesser folk who like to throw and catch balls, because being talented physically means having a mental handicap when it comes to enjoying actual exciting shit, like writing Facebook statuses about activities you know little of.
If you've ever listened to two bodybuilders discuss the proper way to perform deadlifts, it's like watching a comic book store riot erupt whenever someone says a negative thing about Guardians of the Galaxy. Seriously, if their trapezius muscles weren't so big, I would stomp on their glasses, stuff them into garbage cans, and then make out with all of their wives/girlfriends/moms/families. And that's not to say that bodybuilders aren't also interested in non-bodybuilding topics. I've had the same conversations about why Deadwood is the greatest show that's ever existed with people who are both extremely interested in bodybuilding, and people who aren't to an extreme degree. And they're all equally annoyed at having a friend who just won't shut up about Deadwood. What this boils down to is that bodybuilders are giant fucking dorks, and it's important, in the process of becoming a functional adult, to accept that a guy who can curl your body weight might know just as much about Doctor Who, as you do, despite the sleeveless shirt telling you otherwise.
"You were saying you had a problem with geeks? Let's talk."
They're All Ridiculously Exhausted
A few months before competition time, a bodybuilder begins cutting. After eating every bite of protein that they can find within the county limits, they begin decreasing their food intake. As someone who's watched many go through this, it's not a pleasurable experience, since, if you're like me, eating all the food that you want is one of the greatest ways to increase your morale. Problems that have plagued mankind for years would be solved if the people dealing with them had a cozy amount to eat. Suddenly, you have to tell yourself that you can't eat as much in order to look good, which means that you're about to become irritable, frustrated, and sexually aroused when you spot pastries. This allows competitors to lean out, and traverse the world without having to find a wide garage door in order to make it inside of buildings.
"Sir, it would probably help if you didn't carry the weights with you everywhere you went."
At certain intervals, they're allowed to have "cheat meals" and break their diet plan, but these rarely provide much relief, as they're so miniscule that they basically equate to letting someone who doesn't have electricity hear static. Their meal portions gradually get smaller and smaller until about a day or two before they go on stage, when they also have to cut most of their water from their diet. This dries them out, and makes them look "cut."
When I attended my first bodybuilding show, what I saw took me completely off guard. I expected a bunch of explosive frat boy hollers and maybe a running tackle at me if I didn't keep my guard up and my Dwayne Johnson mask firmly glued to my face. What I found was an entire hotel's worth of zombie-eyed men and women, all with Depression Era gaits, dreaming of the day that they'd get to enjoy pop tarts again. For a few minutes, I took intense satisfaction in being the most energetic person in a room full of testosterone. Me? The most virile? Little ol' Daniel? And now the hunter has become the hunted.
"What's the matter, buddy? You're lookin' mighty tired -- please don't hit me!"
They're then paraded on stage, where they pose in about as many ways as the skeletal structure can be posed, and this is something that doesn't help them get any sort of respite. That's because ...
The Shows Last Fucking Forever
You'd think, logically, that posing wouldn't take very long. It's just flexing, right? I do that in the mirror at home, and that barely lasts any time before I look behind me, see my dog watching, and misinterpret his doggy smile as mockery. But my bathroom posing doesn't include men and women's bodybuilding, physique, fitness, figure and bikini categories, and the various classes that go along with them. Mainly just a Men's Shame division.
Shows, especially those where a high placement might earn contestants a spot in larger, national shows, can last for hours and hours. And considering that there are two shows a day (one where you're judged, and the second where the actual awards are announced), you spend a lot of your day waiting around backstage, your life force slowly creeping from you, like worms from the body of the last person you loved, until you're finally able to muster up a tiny spark of energy and use it to pose as strongly and proudly as you can. The hot lights and the judging eyes don't do anything beneficial either. For a whole day, you're a gas station hot dog, unnaturally tan and slowly rolling along, under the gaze of hundreds of other people who will most likely find something better to eat.
"We need some mustard over here, STAT!"
Also, not all of the posing is the same. There is a time limit for personal routines, so that you're not watching the repeated openings of a Hulk Hogan match for ten hours, but men and women's bodybuilding, and the women's physique categories, usually lets competitors create their own routine past the usual "smile and extend one leg forward." At their best, these are fun because the competitors actually look like they're enjoying themselves, and can set themselves apart from the rest of the pack if they're creative with it. At their worst, a man with a grim expression pops his arm muscles for the entirety of an AC/DC remix.
Judges are then given the unenviable job of deciding which human puzzle is best put together. It would be great if there was some sort of obvious formula for this, but there isn't, which leaves a majority of the competitors, who have worked on their look for months and months, feeling bitter. There is an equal mix of the obvious choices for first place, and people who seem to be just then figuring out that the thing that they walked out on is a stage, and that they should be moving their arms and legs on it. They often pick favorites, which, when surrounded by people who aim to lift and swing the heaviest things that they possibly can, is what's known as a "suicide mission."
"I am Chad Muscle, Conqueror of Logs!"
They're All Using Social Media to the Fullest
Many bodybuilders attempt to earn money through sponsorships. Sometimes, these sponsorships are from supplement companies, where the bodybuilder shows just how positively that the performance enhancers have effected their lives, and how successful the company has helped them to become. In order to get a sponsorship, they have to get their name out there, but the trouble in this harkens back to the "awful nerd" problem, where it's been decided that a bodybuilder's methods of trying to establish a career is somehow less worthy of being noticed and open than someone who does it in a way that Oscar Wilde would go insane for.
"Current mood: Huge."
If I write a blog post, I'm just trying to practice my writing, or add a few short pieces to my portfolio. I'm not being especially annoying, because I'm a kind of artist, and artists are special. We're so full of feelings that, if we happen to be a bit overbearing, no worries. That's just our quirky temperaments, because we're artists, and we get a pass for being grating individuals. If a bodybuilder works hard, and posts a photo of themselves, they're goddamn stupid jocks who are cluttering my news feed and making me feel like garbage. Why would you hit me right in my sob spots, flex goblins? What's your problem? Leave me alone with your non-aggressive tactics.
Hey, if you want my support, buddy, you'd better change your diet to Twinkies.
Bodybuilders leave no stone unturned when it comes to marketing themselves. Go to any bodybuilder's Instagram page, and they will have fine-tuned that thing for maximum exposure. The amount of hashtags that they use is enough to drive Chris Hardwick to insanity. Every word that might relate in the slightest to fitness is added. If someone looks for "chocolate," they'll find a picture of that bodybuilder, because that bodybuilder had a chocolate protein shake the day before. If you look for "#outofshape," you'll probably find them too, because irony and sarcasm help fill in those hip advertising blanks.
They're All Supportive of One Another
Preparing for a show is difficult. And it's kind of hard to approach the general public and ask "I'm trying to get as impressively defined and muscular as possible, while limiting the actual, necessary nutrients that enter my body. Does this make any sense to you?" You get used to the rigors of working out twice a day and limiting your calorie intake to chicken breasts and the loneliest pieces of asparagus that one can find, but it rarely ever becomes fun. While it's definitely a passion, it's hard to emotionally break even when it comes to this specific kind of self-torture. Thus, bodybuilders tend to form tight knit groups, constantly encouraging one another. In a way, you could say that they're ... spotting each other. You know, like at a bench press at the gym. My Dad is terribly displeased with everything my career has turned out to be.
But, no, seriously. You know -- when the guy stands behind the lifter ...
If two or more people from the same gym are entering a competition, one might think that their training time is spent glaring intensely while they do tricep pushdowns into sweaty infinity. They might try to Tonya Harding another competitor, using a dangerous system of weights, pulleys, and a suspicious trail of pre-workout powder leading to it. This kind of animosity doesn't usually form though, and if it does, it's probably because it came out from the thing that catalyzes most problems: some person was just bein' a dick.
And when they're this big, all you can do is compliment their excellent sabotage.
While mainly providing the simple comfort of being friendly to someone who's also decided to submit themselves to misery, competitors also help each other with posing practices, and finding the proper trainers and coaches. You can tell who the competitors are that went into it alone, because it looks like they developed their poses in a bubble. Their movements are stiff and awkward, which stems from their only feedback being what looks passable in their own starving minds. People who have had the support of competitors tend to be much more confident and looser on stage. Despite the years of exercise that they've put into it, a few competitors will go up looking like they're hoping that all of their chin ups will translate into kickass Dragon Ball Z powers. Being able to consult the advice of other competitors ensures that you have a less chance of doing theatrical sign language for the blind.
They Don't Exclude You for Being Fat/Skinny/Small/Daniel
The amount of assholes you meet in life is astronomical. But you don't necessarily find a higher ratio of assholes to normal people the moment you step inside of a gym, or go to a bodybuilding competition. The ratio remains consistent wherever you go. Your preconceived notion about what bodybuilders are going to be like is usually what turns everyone's hair spikier and everyone's skin an even more unnatural shade of orange whenever you step inside a weight room. If you walk into a situation thinking "All of these people are going to be assholes and that's just it, because the world is black and white, and I'm trapped within my own brain," you will find nothing but assholes.
I don't want to discount the percentage of the population that spends their waking hours being relentlessly mocked for their misshapen, drooping calves, and unable to sleep at night because the winner of Mr. Olympia peeks into their bedroom windows in the evening to whisper discouragement to them. Those people might exist, and, if you're one of them and reading this, I'm sorry for all of my attempts at psychologically hurting you.
Please don't ass-murder me with its crushing, vice-like grip.
An "Us VS. The World" mentality is way easier to create and cultivate than an "Us & The Good Parts of the World" one. It's also a way more challenging one to thrive with, as you've decided that you and people "like" you are way better than the "dudebros" who are destined to give you unlimited smirks and wedgies if you bump into them. When I finally wanted to see if I could get my body in some sort of aesthetically pleasing condition, I turned to the people who knew what they were talking about, and it was a slight revelation to find that they weren't going to try and convert me into a cult that worshipped at a golden bust of Schwarzenegger. They were willing to help and offer advice to get me to where I wanted to be, like decent people would.
And not once did they try and pull my pants down in front of a girl that I had a crush on. Not even fucking once.
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For more from Daniel, check out 5 Famous Actors Who Play the Same Role in Every Commercial and The 5 Unexpected Downsides of Working at a Movie Theater.
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