Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Classic Physique vs Hulk-Like Physique: Waist Size

(Photos Above: Steve Reeves - Mr America, Mr World, Mr Universe on the cover of Your Physique magazine Jan 1949 issue; Below: Ronnie Coleman - Mr Olympia)

Another big difference between the classic physique of the Golden Age (the drug and hormone-free 1940s and 50s) and the "Hulk-Like" physique of mainstream bodybuilding is in the waist size. For classic physique builders, the ideal was to have broad shoulders and narrow waist and hips. They placed particular importance on this in achieving their classic symmetry.

For the drug and hormone-using mainstream bodybuilders of today, this ideal is gone. In the quest for sheer, extreme size, the amounts of drugs and hormones taken cause all muscle in the body to get larger - including that of internal organs in the gut. The consequence is "roid gut." As you can tell from the photo of Mr. Olympia (Ronnie Coleman) above, the huge waist is not because of fat. He has more muscular definition (lower body fat) than Steve Reeves. Yet the waist is huge because of the hypertrophic internal body organs (which have smooth muscle which grows in response to drugs and hormones).

In this post, we are focusing on waist size. But there are other differences in abdominal rectus size and shape between classic physique builders and mainstream (drug & hormone using) bodybuilders that we will save for another time.

So looking at Steve Reeves and Ronnie Coleman above, which body would you rather have?


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Are Protein Supplements Necessary for Building A Classic Physique?

(Photos Upper Left: Clancy Ross - Mr America 1945; Upper Right: Steve Reeves - Mr America 1947; Lower: George Eiferman - Mr America 1948)

Today, in the mainstream bodybuilding and natural bodybuilding mags, there is a lot of hype about supplements. Each advertisement tries to convey the message that if you take their supplement, it will give you a physique like the one in the advertisement. What they don't tell you is that the physique in the ad is most likely a physique which got that way by using drugs and hormones (not by using their supplement). Nevertheless, the hype works and people spend hundreds of dollars in supplements that produce marginal effects at best.

But what about modern protein supplements (powders, drinks, amino acids, etc) for classic physique builders? In bodybuilding circles, there is a lot of discussion concerning the various types of protein supplements (whey concentrate, whey isolate, cassein, etc) and which ones are best. But what is the truth? Are they necessary for building a classic physique?

The truth is "No - they are not necessary!" And we have the proof!

Protein powders and tablets were first introduced in the early 1950s (the second decade of the Golden Age). First, there was a product called "44." This was followed by Bob Hoffman's "Hi-Proteen" and Weider's "Hi Protein." These were all low quality, soy-based protein powders and tablets. Very few people today would even think of using a soy-based protein supplement for serious muscle building. Now remember, these were introduced in the early 1950s and it took a few years to become popular and widespread. So protein powders were not used by most of the Golden Age (1940s and 50s) champs.

Now look at the physiques above of Clancy Ross (Mr America 1945), Steve Reeves (Mr America 1947) and George Eiferman (Mr America 1948). These classic physiques were built BEFORE the invention of protein powders! So there is the answer. We could have posted more photos of other classic physique building champs of the Golden Age prior to 1950 as added proof (but we are limited in trying to keep our posts short and readable).

These Golden Age champs had no commerical protein powders to rely on, so what did they do? They ate high protein diets to be sure. Drank lots of milk. There was also, at the time (shortly after WWII), powdered milk, powdered eggs, and powdered soy, that they could mix into a drink with juice, raw eggs, and other ingredients (to create their own protein drink). Steve Reeves is known to have done this. But this was not a universal practice.

So what does this tell us? Modern protein supplements are not necessary for building a classic physique!

But does that mean we (at CPB) are saying not to use them? No. In our fast-paced world, it is often difficult to find the time to eat properly during the day (note that Steve Reeves was on the 3 meals a day plan, not the 5-6 meals a day plan that is more common today - both plans work). Also, it may be harder for some to digest the amount of food required to get sufficient protein for muscle building. So, we acknowledge that protein powders and drinks may be more "convenient" than eating the equivalent amount of protein in food.

Does the type of protein powder matter? Should we be concerned about the difference between Whey protein isolate by cold-microfiltration versus ion-exchange or micellular cassein protein, etc? No. The difference is marginal and probably not noticeable. Any decent protein powder will do. A homemade milk, egg, and soy drink worked fine for Steve Reeves. So don't worry. Whatever is more digestable for you is a better guide than obsessing over the results of scientific studies showing that this or that protein powder mix is absorbed better or quicker than another. But try to get the majority of your protein in your food.

In a previous post, we looked at Steve Reeves diet. But to briefly recap, he had his homemade protein drink for breakfast. For lunch he had cottage cheese, raisins, nuts, and a couple pieces of fruit. For dinner, he had fish or some other meat and a large salad. At times, he also included goat milk and carrot juice in his diet, and would snack on figs. If you estimate his protein intake, it was probably less than 200 grams. He was 6 ft. 1 in. and weighed 215 lbs. So he was probably getting less than 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. You can see by this diet that the quantity of food he was eating was not overwhelming either.

So save your money and use protein supplements sparingly and for convenience. A good multivitamin is also helpful. To build a classic physique, you need proper training, proper nutrition, and proper rest. You don't need expensive, modern, high-tech supplements (which will decrease your pocket book size and not substanitally increase your muscle size)!


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Classic Physique Building vs. Natural Bodybuilding

(Top Photo: Modern Natural Bodybuilding Competition; Bottom Photo: Reg Park and Steve Reeves in a relaxed posed during a Golden Age Competition)

If you have been following our CPB Blog, you might have asked yourself "What is the difference between "classic physique building" and "natural bodybuilding?" "Are they the same thing?" Our answer is "unfortunately - no."

To better understand our answer, it might be helpful if we list what we like and what we don't like about "natural bodybuilding" as we find it today. Before we do, however, we must say that natural bodybuilding is the one bright spot on the fringes of mainstream bodybuilding. So we are sympathetic, in general, to their movement. But natural bodybuilding is not, in general, the same as the "classic physique building" of the Golden Age (1940s and 50s).

What we like about natural bodybuilding (NB):

1. NB promotes drug-free weight training and lifestyle.

2. NB preserves and provides contest opportunities for those interested in drug-free competition.

3. NB can act as a kind of "half-way house" to rehabilitate former drug & hormone-using mainstream bodybuilders who want to give up the "juice" but still compete in bodybuilding competitions.

What we don't like about natural bodybuilding:

1. NB over-emphasizes the use of supplements and their mags feature the same drug & hormone enhanced physiques in the same supplement ads that appear in the mainstream bodybuilding mags.

2. NB does not have the "classic physique ideal" in terms of body symmetry and definition.

3. NB competitions try to mimick the mainstream bodybuilding competitions and so there is an abundance of "classics" and "internationals" and "championships" instead of the Golden Age "Mr. City", "Mr. State", "Mr. Regional", "Mr. America" - type system. So it is hard for the general public to follow NB competitions and to have a sense of the hierarchy of "who is best."

4. NB mags ("Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness" and "Fitness & Physique") are too "contest-oriented" (thus they have limited ability to attract a wider audience).

5. NB history seems to begin with Chet Yorton. In the NB mags, there seems to be no acknowledgement or "connection" with the Golden Age. The Golden Age seems as little valued in the NB mags as it is in the mainstream mags.

6. NB tries to exist within the mainstream bodybuilding world and so you might find an NB article or column here or there in some of the mainstream mags, or you might find an NB forum here or there among the mainstream bodybuilding websites. But the reality is that NB'ers are "marginalized" within the mainstream BB world. They are referred to as "natties" (a diminutive) and are tolerated, but not really valued in that mainstream BB world.

So while we (at CPB) are sympathetic to the NB movement, we have to say that natural bodybuilding and classic physique building are not the same thing. Among the things discussed above, perhaps the clearest difference is in the ideal that each holds with respect to "physique." From our perspective, the NB ideal seems to be a smaller version of the mainstream bodybuilding ideal. So among NB'ers we often see (from our perspective) over-developed traps, quads & adductors, the same air-brushed tans, and the same "ripped, cadaver"-overly defined look which doesn't give the skin that "healthy glow" look of the Golden Age champs.

Despite everything, our hearts go out to the NB'ers. They, at least, have the courage to forsake the drugs and hormones. We wish, however, that instead of trying to exist within the fringes of the mainstream world, they would divorce themselves from that world, adopt the classic physique ideal, and help us rebuild a new Golden Age of Classic Physique Building.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ben Weider: Classic Physique Builder and Golden Age Giant (1923-2008)

(Photo above: Ben Weider - Classic Physique Builder and Golden Age Giant)

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Ben Weider, who passed away (in October, 2008) from an undisclosed illness at the age of 85 in Montreal, Canada. Ben, along with his brother Joe, was instrumental in establishing the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building in the 1940s and 50s.

Although others (like Bob Hoffman, Perry Rader, and all the champs, etc) also played an important role in the Golden Age, no one can deny that Joe and Ben Weider, with their magazines (Your Physique, Muscle Power, Muscle Builder, Mr. America, etc), exercise equipment, supplements, muscle building courses, their federation - the IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilders), and their tireless promotion of the benefits of weight training played an important and even pivotal role in sustaining the Golden Age through two decades.

Joe and Ben were a team. Joe was the creative force and Ben's role was promotion - in particular, the promotion of their federation (IFBB) founded in 1946 and bodybuilding (then, it was truly classic physique building) in general.

Although Joe and Ben would preside over the downfall of classic physique building with the advent of steroids (in the 1960s), we (at CPB) nevertheless recognize their great achievements in the Golden Age - which never would have been the same without them.

Ben was also a Napoleanic scholar and made important contributions in historical studies. We are truly sorry to see him pass and salute his good work and accomplishments! He was a classic physique builder (as you can see from his photo above) and truly a giant of the Golden Age.