Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Classic Physique Builders - Stop Obsessing Over Body Fat %!

(Above Photo: Classic Physique Builder Bob McCune - 1947 Mr. Muscle Beach - 2nd, 1949 Pro. Mr. America - 2nd, 1949 Mr. California - 2nd)

These days, it seems that many weight trainers immersed in the mainstream bodybuilding world obsess over their % body fat! On many internet forums, you can even see beginners discussing their body fat % goals (trying to get it down to single digits) - even when their accompanying photos show that they are no where close to attaining a classic physique in terms of mass and proportion! This is nothing new. In the Dec. 1952 issue of Your Physique (one of Joe Weider's Golden Age muscle mags), Reg Park said this: "In fact, it is common to hear many novices talk of definition development before they have even built the foundations of a good physique"!

For some perspective, in the pre-roid, Golden Age (the 1940s and 50s), % body fat was never discussed! Steve Reeves, Reg Park, George Eiferman, or any of the other Golden Age champs never obsessed over their % body fat! There were no articles in the Golden Age muscle mags discussing % body fat! Yet, look at how fantastic their classic physiques looked!

Of course, they did discuss "muscular separation," "definition," and "skin thickness." They certainly knew that in order to look their best before a contest, they would have to increase their definition by changing their diet and their training routine. This brings us to our main point: build your physique to classic size and proportions first, then strive for classic definition! Again, here is Reg Park (same article) making the same point:

"A programme which is designed to produce greater muscular separation is what is commonly known as a 'SPECIALIZATION' programme. It is NOT for the newcomer to bodybuilding. It IS for the advanced man, the guy who has a couple of years training under his belt and wants to IMPROVE his appearance."

And even when they undertook specialized training and changed their diet for increased definition, they still did not obsess over % body fat. So what did they strive for? It wasn't single digit body fat % or extreme vascularity! They strove for classic muscle separation and defined abs. They knew that their skin was expected to have a "healthy glow" about it, so they didn't strive for an extreme cadaver-like look. They probably had no idea what their body fat % was, yet look at how fantastic their physiques were!

For most of us non-competitive, classic physique builders, what can we learn from this? If your body weight is fairly normal then strive to build your overall mass to classic physique size and proportions first. You will probably gain some weight around the middle (it's tough to gain mass without gaining some fat), but don't worry unless it is excessive. Once your neck, arms, calves, chest, and thighs have reach classic size and proportions, then work on classic definition. When you get to that point, don't obsess over body fat %! Who cares?! It doesn't matter whether your body fat level is 10%, 13% or 15% - as long as you have that classic, Golden Age look of health, vitality, muscularity, power, and symmetry! Let the mirror be your guide! Chances are very good that if you can see your "six pack" and don't have a "spare tire" around the middle, then your definition will be just fine!


P.S. For a free 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine) - a pdf zine patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid Golden Age (1940s and 50s), just send us an email to cpbzine@gmail.com and give us your name, the name of your city (not your address), state or province, and country. That's it! All info you send us is strictly confidential and you won't find yourself on any spam lists, etc. (you won't even get automated emails from us)!


brendon patrick said...

A good ,sensible post! I can not help but think of Steve Reeves diet when he was competing and wanting his waist to be tight and small!! It's NOTHING like the diets of the mainstream competitors today. Was he lean and defined? I think so!!
I was looking at an old video of Steve recently, as he was oiling up for a posing film. At one point his abs stood out in bold relief, and he was NOT even flexing his abs!
There is a lot to learn from the early, non-steroid barbell men.
Perhaps they could help us to simplify our lives a little.

Ibrahim said...

We can see that everything got so complicated these days.
The technology improved much but not much has changed.
When you don´t know the 40´s and 50´s of bodybuilding or don´t like it, you follow the mainstream bodybuilding path. I think that you need a certain bodyfat percantage to for health. Steve Reeves etc. looked more human, sorry mainstreamers but now bodybuilders just have exploded muscles, it does not look good, healthy and most of them get leaner after they retire.
You don´t need that much mass and so much definition like mainstreamers. When the mainstreamers would compete in an athletic bout against the cpb´s they would not have a chance.
I saw several roid pumped athletes bodybuilders sprint, doing calisthenics and it looked real bad.

Johnny G said...

Clarence Bass who wrote the Ripped books in the 70's 7 80's was and still is shredded head to toe, but I have to say he has no shape- granted he looks ripped, but he looks like a little skinny old man without any shape from a distance or even up close in clothes- I think Steve Reeves was called the Shape at one time when he was in the service, maybe I'm wrong but Classic Physiques are all about looking in great shape up close and from a distance as well

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny,

I don't think you are wrong! A classic physique is indeed different than just looking "shredded." In fact, classic physiques look "muscular" but not "shredded" at all! Instead, they still retain a healthy level of body fat that gives the skin that "healthy glow."

The classic physique had a column-like neck, broad shoulders, deep chest and back, narrow waist and hips, that classic "V-taper," straight-looking thighs, and neck, arms, and calves of the same measurement. It was symmetrical, muscular, and the picture of health! It looked great in or out of clothes! This is how the Golden Age champs looked.

But notice, that even the men's fitness mags of today feature "ripped" physiques, but not classic physiques as described above.

This is the value of doing something like Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine)- to give people access again to "Golden Age Champs and Golden Age methods that can build Golden Age physiques!"

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

P.S. Note that we don't use the term "old school" to refer to classic physique building. Why? Because there is no "new school" of classic physique building! There is simply pre-roid, Golden Age classic physique building - which we want to revive and continue! :)

Johnny G said...

and again here we go about todays magazines brainwashing people to think that oversized muscle freaks are the way to go - I remember quite a few years ago my wife and I were at Ocean City, Md at the beach there and there was these two HUGE bodybuilders and I mean HUGE, a Caucsian guy and the other guy was African American strutting their stuff and my wife who has a keen eye said that they were way overly developed - just beside them this extremely good looking young black guy was there with his daughter - he was about 6'1" 205 lbs pounds of well developed built(athlete threw and threw) - my wife said to me, now that guy looks GOOD!!!!I told her to put her eyes back in and to quit drulling..but she was right, this young guy look like a Spartan and not a Freak...so there we have it - what looks good to the average person and what is a reallistic goal on what to acheive as well