#5 - Delusional New Publishers
Tough Guy: Every year perhaps five magazines - and web sites - are launched with lots of fanfare at the Arnold Fitness Expo or elsewhere. These mags last usually about two or three months and seemingly have the sole purpose of plugging a product line and this is probably why they don't last. The truth is, there hasn't been a new independent mag the last several years that has been successful. Most have far too little stand-alone content.
Robert "Fortress" Fortney: That's it right there. Supplement companies dominate bodybuilding right now and many put together magazines not realizing they have no staff of writers and editors to flesh out the mags with content. All they have is marketers. I mean, who wants to buy a magazine that's nothing but ads?
TG: Absolutely. Of course, supplement companies were always a part of the picture, but it wasn't so blatant in the past. Marketers are now the writers. The product is no longer the magazine itself. Rather, it's bottles of pills or protein powders. Enough said. What's next, Fortress?
#4 - No Talent (Writers)
RF: A lot of ghostwriters seem to be popping up in the mags. We are to believe that the athlete being featured wrote the piece. You and I know damn well that most bodybuilders can't string a sentence together.
TG: Let's not sugarcoat it - many can't speak in complete sentences! These articles read like a thesaurus. People actually believe these pros write the stuff! Web e-zines usually don't even have any educated writers on staff; they're usually "gurus". A lot of them don't even have much training experience, either.
RF: I think a lot of folks believe professional bodybuilders all know what they're talking about. Fact is, most pros get to the top, nowadays, because of drugs, genetics and half-assed training sessions. I've seen a lot of big names train and many would be surprised at how pathetic some of their workouts are. When you take enough drugs and have great genetics you can make so many training and nutritional mistakes. Look at Paul Dillett!
TG: No thanks. There's a proliferation of bullshit. It's just not good.
TG: And all this further perpetuates the notion that the marketers in the industry aren't real businessmen, the writers aren't real writers. Sometimes the athletes aren't even real athletes! Not in the true sense.
#3 - Too Much Porn
RF: There's far too much sex and porn-like pictures. I don't think any parent would want their children to see this stuff. But you know lots of young people view this material. Two or three of the big magazines feature endless "pictorials" and sex advice columns. And they're very graphic.
TG: A disturbing trend lately is having every issue a collector's issue featuring some porn-like photo section. The publishers beat the hell out of this marketing ploy.
RF: My favorite: Sexiest Boobs - or something like that.
TG: That's nice. One of the mags features quite graphic illustrations. In fact, very graphic! We're talking pics of guys with huge dongs hanging out and sexual intercourse. It makes little difference that this is illustrated.
RF: It's been said many times, but when you buy a bodybuilding magazine, you should be getting what you pay for. Buy a porn mag if you want porn. And if you aren't old enough to buy porn - well, that's the point. Kids shouldn't be seeing thong-wearing women with their asses in the air and reading advice on how to do them in the ass. It's not the Penthouse forum, to say the least.
TG: And we're not condemning all nudity. Let's face it. A lot of men look at pornography. But this kind of stuff dilutes bodybuilding. Hopefully men pick up a bodybuilding mag to get into a certain mindset. Getting an erection isn't part of that mindset.
RF: The whole thing only helps solidify the general public's perception that bodybuilders and the bodybuilding industry is sleazy. This goes back several decades to when people thought bodybuilders were homosexual. And look at the ads in the back of the mags! Sure, sex sells. But is it ALL about money?
#2 - Misrepresentation Of Top Physiques
RF: This is a big one for me. The magazines publish photos almost exclusively that show bodybuilders in top shape - shaved, cut, tanned, etc. This gives novice bodybuilders the impression that this is how the pros look all the time. We need to see how these men and women look 90 percent of the time. One supplement company is running "advertorials" featuring a big name pro in standard off-season shape but writing how he's lost his championship-level physique, coming back from a very depressed period of his life and using the company's fat-burning product to regain his former "glory". This guy is always a fatso in the offseason. Truth is, a pro bodybuilder's amazing contest condition is mostly the result of drugs.
TG: It's insinuated to the point where people believe. And it's sad that there are people who believe you can achieve a world-class physique with a can of protein. Certainly supplements can help. But they're not gonna make you look like Jay Cutler.
RF: Nothing wrong with supplements. They've come a long way. But they can't replace drugs.
TG: I would like to make the point that most of the training regimes of the pros are unrealistic for young lifters, too. The average person can't recuperate from such volume and frequency. There are even a lot of pros who take months off.
#1 - Advertorials
TG: It's almost a fight for legitimate writers to function in the industry now because of pressure from marketers. When you pick up a magazine nowadays, almost every article devolves into an ad.
RF: One of the top mags makes a point to feature every issue a "battle between the supplements". One month it's creatine, another it's fat burners. Anyone with even a bit of knowledge knows what company's going to win. It has nothing to do with real "competition". It's false advertising.
TG: I'd say 70 percent of the material in any given bodybuilding mag actually has an advertising purpose. These days it can be hard to tell what is an ad and what's not.
RF: I think we should end this with our feelings on what is the best (hardcopy) bodybuilding mag, overall, right now. I think FLEX.
TG: Certainly in professionalism. And also is writing and photo quality. Muscle & Fitness is professional, but also very diluted. It doesn't cater to the hardcore lifter.
RF: We all know it's biased towards the NPC and IFBB because of the Weider affiliation, but FLEX is very professional. It's a good mag with good material, overall.