The classic male form historically juxtaposed a
with a warrior's iron will, raw sexuality and a sense of honour at every turn. For two-thousand plus years, dating back to Ancient Rome's Galata Morente, through Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, to the very near present-day, notions of proportion were constant.
During the earliest stages of
, the sport remained true to this philosophy with regard to the historical vision of physical development as well as the subtleties of a strong, warrior spirit and sexual confidence. Strong, powerful, bold, confident-these were the men of bodybuilding's founding history. Though they blazed the trails within the earliest stages of the "physical culture" and the "iron game", they stayed true to the roots of the classic male image.
It will seem foolish to some, but to this day I recall my earliest training sessions, the nervous sense of wanting to impress, wanting to show I belong, while also soaking up the sights and sounds like a newborn. It does not fit the image of today's exercise facilities but these old "iron joints" were private temples in their own right. To be a part of the inner sanctum, you passed through gauntlets of steely-eyed work and dedication to the iron. Akin to the half-dozen raw egg breakfast, now immortalized by Sylvester Stallone in 1976's Oscar winning Rocky, these old iron "temples" had a personality all their own. Yet each one had some obvious similarities and it took time, patience and a lot of work to become part of this "congregation".
In this, I am reminded of Renaissance scholar, Francesco Petrarca when he noted to Giovanni Boccaccio, Augustus' axiom, "whatever is being done well enough, is being done soon enough".
Be patient, quality takes time and time is a needed elixir to the finest recipes. Yet, simply being patient was not the lone route in the classic iron game as application was a way of life. You have to be patient for results, but results only come to those dedicated to the iron.
Is this the greatest difference of "then" and "now"?
Before I go deeper into this series, I should note these descriptions are not based upon faded memories or wistful visions of my youth but on a carefully scripted translation of my old training journals. From my earliest training days, I have kept journals to record each session's events and through an extremely good turn of fortune roughly twenty years ago I found my earliest notes. From these little gems, from a time long before home computers, the information super-highway and cell phones, this series emerges. They can be a bit rough, I've deleted names so
(drought stricken summer), the iron sweats as another plate is pushed tight on the sleeve. Collars screwed tight, locked in. No spot, step back. Eyes closed, see the lift. Fill the lungs, it's mine, this is what I do. Nestle the bar across the shoulder, hoist from the racks, short step back. Silence. Do the lift, again, again, again, rack. Need air.
Day after day, this is what gyms-no, those great iron joints of the past-were. I scan my notes, volume after volume, but there are no points of simply bodybuilders or athletes, we were a brotherhood. Cheering on someone before competition, telling your training partners you will be at their game.
The brotherhood of the iron did not stop at the door or the final rep in a mind-numbing set. It weaved through every part of your day and needs reinvigorating as we enter part two of In Pursuit of a New Golden Era of Bodybuilding.
The development of the classic physique requires key ingredients, exercise methodology and diet, to be done equally to perfection. Though it is easy to look at the glaring differences within training over the last thirty-plus years, and trust me, they are remarkable at that, diet and the approach to diet has changed equally.
It is a dated expression and will likely stir the memories of few readers but we were the "health nuts" of a different generation. There is a remarkable sense of irony that while many contend that today's era has the absolute best of nutritional science at its disposal, the connection to "strength and health" has been lost. Please do not mistake my use of words because there is something deeply ironic in writing of bodybuilding in 2010 and realizing that at the roots of the iron game "Strength and Health" are deeply connected but now seem far apart.
To resurrect those ideas, it is necessary to look not only at diet but what may be the hidden secret of why the era is so vastly different in this area, what diet represented to you.
Though "dieting" is nothing new for those in bodybuilding, the modern habit of taking a "
" phase towards the boundaries of obesity has nothing to do with the past. The iron warriors of the past had respect for their bodies and though it might be cliche, the old bromide holds true: You put garbage in, garbage comes out.
There it is, the one notion that might be the ultimate difference in "then and now" with diet. It is a matter of self-respect. Pushing aside the horrendous use of controlled substances that distend the abdomen or further reliance on drugs to shed massive amounts of fat, put on through the lack of dietary "respect", those of our era chose a style of life that promotes overall fitness, health and, yes, a desire to be strong and powerful.
Do you have the self-respect to be this modern age iron-warrior and to rekindle bodybuilding's golden age?
Join me in part three of In Pursuit of a New Golden Era of Bodybuilding and get ready to train.