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It had been a month since Randy had started to specialize on his arms, calves, and upper chest, and the results were already starting to show. His arms only measured a quarter inch larger, but the shape was starting to come out with an especially more pronounced peak to his biceps and a 'sweep' to his triceps. I actually hesitate to use the qualifier 'only' when I refer to that quarter inch, because that's a hell of a gain in a month. Hell, if I could add a quarter inch every month for the next ten months, my arms would be as big as Ronnie Coleman's!
I think a lot of us have our minds warped by ads and articles making outrageous claims of growth. Yes, 'before' using Super-Nitric-Pump Andro 5000, the guy is slumped, pasty white, and doesn't have much of a physique going on. He looks ready to jump off the nearest bridge. Lo and behold, check out our man in the 'after' photo.
Instead of relaxing, he's flexing hard. Rather than looking forlorn, a shit-eating grin paints his face, as if he has six or seven Playboy Playmates waiting for him back at home. A bronze tan has replaced the white fish-belly skin tone, and that clump of curly hair on his chest and stomach has been neatly shaved off to reveal all sorts of striations and veins.
The ad copy will proclaim such incredible accomplishments as, "Gained 30 pounds of muscle, lost 30 pounds of fat! Added three inches to arms! Increased bench press by 250 pounds! Sold his soul to Satan in exchange for eternal youth and riches!" Oh wait, they usually don't have that last part.
I have attempted to expose the scam being perpetrated in these types of ads before. All you need to do to re-create the same results is take some decently-built bodybuilder and have him intentionally stop training, eat a bunch of crap, let his body hair grow, and stay out of the sun or tanning beds for a few months. That's all it takes for that Adonis-like body to regress back to something more closely resembling the average slob in the gym. This is when the 'before' pictures are taken.
Now, let's get that bodybuilder and whip him into top shape! Often, this coincides with a big contest the guy is going to compete in. He gets back on his training, cardio, and good eating (and often, his 'special' supplements), and Shazam! Eight or ten weeks later, our guy is the picture of muscular perfection. Snap the 'after' photos at this point and put your print ad together, giving all the credit to the product being advertised as being responsible for this transformation.
Those of us who have been around the game a while won't fall for this chicanery, but there are a whole lot of beginners and intermediates out there who lap it up like my dog Chewy gobbles down peanut butter any chance she gets.
It wouldn't be so bad if the only result were that they plunk down their cash on a lot of questionable supplements, but I think the worst thing is that it convinces the person that he is an utter failure if he doesn't reproduce a similarly spectacular outcome with his physique in that short time. Randy had seen way too many of these ads, as became clear one Saturday when we were training arms on his volume day. He flexed a bicep in the mirror and scowled.
"They still don't look that big," he pouted.
"Young buck, what the hell is wrong with you? Maybe it's because I don't see you more than once a week lately, but your arms are definitely bigger and have better shape than they did just last month." Randy digested that for a moment, but was determined to shoot down any attempt at a compliment or encouragement. He was a master at this, as most bodybuilders are - he has a long way to go before he reaches my level of deflecting sincere compliments.
"Well maybe, but they're still nowhere near big enough. Maybe I should do that routine I saw in the magazine where you can add two inches to it in one day."
I knew the article he was referring to. It claimed that by devoting an entire day in the gym to arm training, hitting the biceps and triceps every hour on the hour for six or eight hours, you could indeed increase their girth by two inches. Some of it was temporary inflammation from beating the crap out of them all day, the author conceded, but he insisted that most of the gains were permanent.
I try to keep an open mind, but this one reeked of bull. The only sure-fire way I knew of to add two inches to your arms would be to shoot them up with about a quart of Synthol each - which is something I am vehemently against.
Call me old-fashioned, but I thought bodybuilding was about training hard to build muscle, not just sticking a needle in the muscle and pumping it up with oil to make it look as if it's grown.
Besides which, the results of Synthol were usually glaringly obvious, as the arms and shoulders, the most commonly injected areas, took on a lumpy, misshapen appearance that brought to mind such tragically deformed characters as Quasimodo the Hunchback, and John Merrick, the Elephant Man. And we all know what happened to Merrick - his skeleton was eventually bought by Michael Jackson and displayed at his Neverland Ranch! Talk about a fate worse than death itself (This is false - learn more).
"Randy, forget about these crazy quick fixes, seriously," I admonished him. "Muscle growth is a painfully slow process, even under the best circumstances. Right now, by having you specialize on your weaker bodyparts, we are putting those muscle groups on the fast track to growth. At the rate you are going, I predict you will make more gains in your arms, chest, and calves in the few months you do this than you would have in over a year of regular training." Randy still didn't seem satisfied.
"I guess, but I really need twenty-inch arms and calves."
"Yes, I know, we all do, and I am still trying to hit those numbers. I think the problem is that when God was passing out the genetics for big arms, I was stuck in the bathroom due to some bad nachos at the cafeteria in Heaven. My guess is that the cheese went bad."
"Huh?" Randy was at a loss. "What are you talking about?"
"Never mind," I said, "It's not your problem. Listen, you will eventually get those measurements, but it's not going to happen for your first contest next May, sorry to break it to you. It may take you two, three, maybe five years until you get close to the size you want to be. I don't want to scare you away from bodybuilding, but most of the top guys in the IFBB and even at the National level have all been training hard for at least ten years, many of them for as long as fifteen or twenty years."
"Oh man," Randy moaned. "I'm going to be an old man before I'm huge!"
"I resemble that remark!" I shot back, self-conscious of being 35 now and staring down the barrel of Forty (the red Corvette and 19-year-old blonde can't be too far off now). "You have to remember that bodybuilding is a sport unlike most others. In sports like figure skating, tennis, and gymnastics, most athletes hit their prime in their teens and early twenties and after that are only suited for skating around in a Buzz Lightyear costume on Disney on Ice, or doing 1-800-COLLECT commercials with Carrot Top."
"I hate that guy," Randy interjected.
"I know, everyone does, that's not the point here. The point is that as long as you keep improving, you are succeeding. If muscle came fast and easy, anybody could look like a champion bodybuilder. But few do. You have to be tremendously dedicated and work hard for many years to build an outstanding physique."
"Ugh, there you go with that many years thing again, you're killing me."
"I tell you, the time passes by before you know it, kid. It literally seems like yesterday that I was your age and still trying to figure all this stuff out - without a great, cool, mentor like me, I might add."
"Yeah, I know, you're the greatest, Ron," Randy said unconvincingly.
"Really? Aw, thanks. Anyway, as long as you constantly continue to evaluate what needs to be improved in your physique and keep coming up with solid plans in limited time periods to make those improvements, you really have nothing to worry about."
Randy flexed again, but the pump in his biceps had gone away. Luckily, he had a few more sets to go and would regain that tight swollen look in his arms we all get off on.
"Hey, do you think you can get next Tuesday off from work?" I said out of the blue. Randy furrowed his brow.
"I don't think so, why?"
"I was thinking of hanging out here in the gym from six in the morning until ten at night to train calves. I bet we can put three inches on those puppies!" I cackled like a maniac as I settled down on the preacher bench for a set of single-arm dumbbell curls.
"You can be such a jackass sometimes," said Randy.
"Maybe so, but I am the greatest jackass of them all!"
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