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.



Johnny G said...

great answer to this question of the differnce between the two..great answer

Leo Angelo said...

I thought I was the only one who tried to equate natural bodybuilding with classique physique building but couldn't get over the still freakish look of those natural bodybuilders of today, with their bulging veins and cadaver-on-display-at-a-medical-museum look. Thank you for pointing out the difference between the classical ideal of the 1940s and 1950s and today's natural bodybuilding.

- CPB - said...

Hi Leo, are not alone! There is a definite difference in appearance between the classic physique builders of the pre-roid Golden Age and natural bodybuilders of today.

If judges of natural bodybuilding contests and the natural bodybuilding mags promoted the classic physique ideal of the pre-roid Golden Age, then it would be a different situation. However, my guess is that they are too tied up with the supplement companies that have an interest in promoting an unnatural "roid" look - which (according to them) can only be acheived by taking their supplement.

Just flip through a recent issue of Natural Bodybuilding and Fitness magazine and see how many ads there are that are selling supplements with "roid"-sounding names! This will tell you a lot about the ideal they are trying to promote.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Anonymous said...

classic physique > natural bbing of nowadays