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Can Pro Bodybuilding Go Mainstream? Part One.

Think back to when you were a kid and remember a few of the many sports that you enjoyed playing. Did any include bodybuilding? Probably not. Here are some reasons why bodybuilding will never be mainstream.

Part 1 | Part 2

Playground Flexing

There have been many discussions over the years regarding how the general public receives bodybuilding. Some pros seem to be waiting for the day when they'll be household names. Realistically, that'll never happen. Let's find out why.

kids Think back to when you were a kid and remember, just for a moment, a few of the many sports that you enjoyed playing. Football? Baseball? Soccer? Dodgeball?

How about bodybuilding? Surely you remember playing bodybuilding on the playground don't you? When your dad came home from work he'd ask, "So did you win the posedown over Frankie today?"

"Nah, Frankie won that again... But I won the symmetry round today for the first time!" "Good boy! Maybe tomorrow you'll win the posedown - if you try your hardest!"

It sounds ridiculous doesn't it? Except for an occasional impromptu bicep comparison, kids don't play bodybuilding. They just don't. And they won't in the future either. This is a pretty good indicator in itself why pro bodybuilding will not go "mainstream."

For The Dogs

I've got another illustration to strengthen my case. As a graphic designer, I work with clients from various businesses and industries. In order to produce an effective piece of material for the client, it often helps to do a little research on their industry.

dog One recent job I worked on was designing magazine ads for a lady who breeds dogs and takes her best studs to dog shows across the country.

As I found out, this industry has a large following. People spend lots of money to find who has the best looking dog. To my untrained eye, however, all those dogs look alike.

I started to think of the similarities between judging dogs and judging humans, I mean bodybuilders. It's a selection process to find which dog or person has the most perfect body physique, I guess you could say.

So why do national dog show competitions find themselves broadcast on cable networks like ESPN and national bodybuilding competitions do not?

To answer this question, try a little experiment. Find a photo of a cute, cuddly dog in a magazine. Bring the magazine to work with you. When there's a crowd of people by the water cooler or in the break room, take out the magazine and show them the photo.

Tell them you're thinking of getting a dog like the one in the photo. I guarantee a positive response. You'll hear how cute the dog is and someone will know the breed, how much they eat, and where to buy one.

Ronnie Coleman
Click Image To Enlarge.
Ronnie Coleman.

The next day bring in a magazine with a photo of Ronnie Coleman hitting a back double-bicep shot with his trunks hiked up revealing his striated glutes. Tell the same group of people at the water cooler that you would like to look like Ronnie in a few years and see what kind of reaction you get.

I guarantee this time the response will be negative and they'll ask why you would ever want to look like that. That's why dog shows are on ESPN and Ronnie Coleman is not.

Don't get me wrong - I love the sport of bodybuilding. I've been training for more than 25 years. Arnold won his last Olympia in 1980 when I took up the sport. I've been a competitor in the NPC, AAU, NANBF, IAB and a few other natural organizations where I had to buy a membership card just to compete in one of their shows.

What Do NPC And NANBF Stand For?
NPC stands for "National Physique Committee, Inc." Visit their website at

NANBF stands for the North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation. Click here to visit their website.

I've also been a personal trainer, a physique judge, and I've trained many athletes who have won state-level contests. I also publish an online magazine called "I'm A Bodybuilder". When it comes to the sport of bodybuilding, I've been around the block once or twice.

Overcoming Stereotypes

A few years ago, I was channel surfing and came across a show with Barbara Walters and a few other women sitting around a coffee table discussing various topics. I don't remember the name of the show. (Actually, I don't I think ever knew the name of it.)

I was about to turn it off because it wasn't really interesting and my finger was just dying to push the button to watch the next channel for five or six seconds. As my finger almost pushed the arrow button, a picture of a GQ magazine cover flashed on the screen. It was a black and white photo of a very muscular guy in a pose holding a discus.

Barbara Walters made some comment like, "Wow, he's in good shape. He must be gay." And the rest of those old women sitting around the coffee table agreed with her and then they immediately went on to their next topic of discussion.

fat guy, belly
"So, if a man decides to take care of himself
and he stays in shape, he has to be gay? You have
to be a beer-guzzling, lard-butt male to be straight?"

I sat there for a minute stunned and thought to myself, "So, if a man decides to take care of himself and he stays in shape, he has to be gay? You have to be a beer-guzzling, lard-butt male to be straight?" Needless to say, I changed the channel. I decided to watch some infomercial - a show of much higher quality than the Barbara Walters program.

We've Come A Long Way, Baby?

About five years ago, former Mr. World, Steve Davis came walking into the lobby of the newspaper where I worked. He was taking out some advertising for one of his businesses. I looked out into the lobby and recognized him right away. (My manager took a quick glance when I mentioned his name. He happened to be her math teacher about 20 years earlier.)

I went out and introduced myself and told him that I remembered reading about him in Muscle & Fitness in the early 80's. We chatted for a few minutes and then he went out to his car to get a book he had published on bodybuilding. He autographed it and when he left, I brought the book back into my department where people started paging through it.

There were two photos of Steve that caught one girl's attention. They were before-and-after photos from around 1980. In one photo, he weighed about 250 lbs. in a bulking phase and in the other photo he was a ripped 210. To my surprise, the girl in my department thought he looked better at 250 than he did at 210.

Frank Zane Frank Zane Frank Zane
Click Image To Enlarge.
Notice The Different Physiques Of Frank Zane.

I was amazed! She explained that he was just too muscular when he was ripped. She preferred a bulky football-player-like physique. Many other people agreed with her.

If a bodybuilder like Steve Davis was too muscular 25 years ago, where does that put the current crop of mass mongers with deep striations and veins popping out all over the place?

Steve Davis was trying to emulate Frank Zane's style of physique, which is a much more athletic and aesthetic type of build compared to today's behemoths with paper-thin skin. It comes as no surprise then that huge, freaky bodybuilder physiques of today aren't very appealing to the general public.

Need For A Spokesperson

Dorian Yates ruled the bodybuilding world during the 1990's with six Mr. Olympia wins. Although many people (with lots of time on their hands) still argue on Internet forums that Flex and Shawn should have beaten him, the fact remains that Dorian has six Sandow trophies.

Yates had a powerful and rugged physique forged with high-intensity workouts in a gym that resembled a dungeon. He brought pro bodybuilding to a new level and introduced the era of the freaks. Dorian was also criticized for not being a great spokesperson for the sport.

Dorian Yates Dorian Yates
Click Image To Enlarge.
Dorian Yates.

He was accused of hiding out in England and doing nothing to promote the sport of bodybuilding. Well, he lived in England. That's where his home was. Should he have moved to Venice so he could be more visible to all the media who are constantly bothering the rest of the pro bodybuilders for interviews on shows like Entertainment Tonight?

With the exception of the publicity from the Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan scandal, I don't recall too many articles on news or entertainment shows featuring celebrity pro bodybuilders. So even if Yates had tried to be this wonderful spokesperson, there's not a lot of opportunities for a 300-pound bodybuilder to convince the general public what he does for a living is really neat!

Craig Titus & Kelly Ryan Scandal Audio Player
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Pro Bodybuilding Weekly

Bob Cicherillo and Dan Solomon from Pro Bodybuilding Weekly discuss the Craig Titus/Kelly Ryan Murder Scandal. Download it to your iPod also!

Stayed Tuned

This is only part one. I've got more coming in the second installment. Your curiosity has been piqued, so I won't make you wait too long. You'll find my survey results interesting and I'll tie everything up in the end and even include an opinion on the new pro bodybuilding league that's on the rise.

Part 1 | Part 2