Saturday, November 21, 2009

Classic Physique Building: Rethinking Size!

(Photo Above: Monty Wolford - Mr. Southwest 1949, Mr. Los Angeles 1951, Mr. Venice Beach 1951)

Perhaps the most destructive aspect of roid-based, mainstream bodybuilding today is its glorification of extreme, unnatural size! When some unfortunate person begins to accept the propaganda of the mainstream, roid-based magazines that Hulk-like physiques are something to admire and attain, then sooner or later this necessitates an acceptance of the associated, unhealthy, "drug/pharmaceutical culture" that makes such extremism possible.

Fortunately, in pre-roid Golden Age Classic Physique Building (of the 1940s and 50s), there was no glorification of extreme size! Instead, the goal was to attain an aesthetically-pleasing size and symmetry that was reminiscent of the beauty of the statues of the Ancient Greek and Roman gods! This necessitated an acceptance of a "culture of health and vitality" - which is why Reeves and the other champs of the pre-roid Golden Age (of the 1940s and 50s) were proud of their health and strength as well as their physiques! (Reeves would often say that his goal was to be the healthiest person alive!) What a difference in goals and cultures!

For classic physique builders of the Golden Age and today, this freedom from being obsessed with extreme size is liberating! Why? Because our size goals are realistic and attainable while pursuing health and vitality at the same time! Take a look at the photo above of the great Monty Wolford. This photo appeared in Fall 2009 issue of Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine). Who would not want a physique like his? It is healthy, full of vitality, with classic muscular size and symmetry! Is this kind of physique attainable and realistic? Let's look at his measurements:

Height: 5'8"
Weight: 168 lbs
Neck: 16"
Arms: 16"
Calves: 16"
Chest: 44"
Forearm: 12.5"
Waist: 28.5"
Thigh: 23.5"
Wrist: 6.6"

Monty did not need 18 inch arms like Reeves to look great. Why? Reeves was 6'1", Monty was 5 inches shorter. So to achieve a classic physique like Reeves, Monty's measurements needed to be smaller to match his height (and bone structure).

Neither Reeves or Wolford obssessed about extreme size. What for anyway? Do you want to look like a cartoon (i.e., "The Hulk") or would you rather look like a Greek god?! For modern classic physique builders (CPB'ers), the choice is not a hard one. Reeves and Wolford pursued classic size & symmetry, health and vitality! So do we!

So to achieve your classic physique, you need to follow a "culture of health and vitality" along with following pre-roid Golden Age methods of proper training, proper nutrition, proper rest, and persistence. Such a "culture of health and vitality" is not only good for the body, but it is good for your spirit and character and will set you apart and enable you to be a good example for others. In this way, classic physique building not only benefits you, but also will have a positive effect on those around you. What more could you ask for?


P.S. For a free, 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder zine (CPBzine) - a pdf zine (do-it-yourself magazine) patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (of the 1940s and 50s), just email your name, the name of your city (not your actual address), state/province, and country to That's it! Any info you send us is strictly confidential. We don't share info with anyone. So you won't get on any unwanted lists or receive unwanted, unsolicited, automated email - even from us!


Pratik said...

Its also interesting to note that Reeves mentioned in his book, that after a certain point in his training, (when he was still gaining muscle mass steadily, no less), he changed his focus because he did not want to get bigger - that would have simply spoilt his proportions.

Ibrahim said...

I would never ever thought that Monty Wolford had 16 " arms. And such a light weight at 168.
But it´s incredible that he looks much heavier.
He reminds me of Tony Sansone.
Very good muscular development but not heavy.

Johnny G said...

At some point in time something went wrong - I can't put my finger on it, but the bodybuilding scene went haywire, out of orbit - at some point bulk became acceptable and we can not put the blame just on the guys in the 60's it started before that - at some point bodybuilders wanted 20 inch arms 55inch chests and so forth - the question is WHY??? Why do we glamorize freakish looks - I feel in some ways that bodybuilding has always been a little odd and a subculture of men and some women who wanted to stand out from the crowd, and maybe just maybe the Reeves and so forth were starting to become the norm physique wise and for sure bodybuilders in any era do not want to be the norm to any one - I'm not going to cast stones at the current crop of bodybuilders, this just didn't happen over night, but a slow progression of never wanting to be the norm - so they capitulated, they did not yield to common sense, they became consumed of never wanting to be the norm - Once we got our first taste of the dunk shot in basketball and the more we seen of it we became consumed with not just the ho hum dunk shot and wanted to see the glass breaking, rim bending slams so why not bodybuilding, why should we be crucify them - we as over indulgent junkies want more from all our athletes - we wanted to see the long ball homers of the Sosa's and the McGuire's - the win at all cost mentality has to stop - so I say why not with us in some small way - So before we relegate our anger on these poor fools who got consumed with bigger is better, show them that sensible training, as well as diet and the non use of drugs is the way to go - True we get excited to see the freakish developments of todays stars, but as Steve Reeves once said who really wants to be 7 feet tall, true it is impressive but who wants to be that tall - so here we go again with one of my long on my soap box bloggs - I hope you all read it

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Johnny G raises an interesting point, "At some point, something went wrong...the bodybuilding scene went haywire..." (in referring to the switch to pursuing extreme size). I've been thinking about this for some time and haven't quite nailed it down. Certainly, the seeds that would lead to the desire for extreme size were sown in the Golden Age. Here are some ideas for possible discussion:

1. In the pre-roid Golden Age, there was an internal conflict between those who looked at bodybuilding contests as "pagent-like" and those that looked upon competitive bodybuilding as a sport. The idea of "bodybuilding as a competitive sport" won out - which is indicated by the dropping of the Mr. titles. But in sport, usually you are demonstrably faster, better, more skillful, etc, than your opponent. Perhaps this led to bodybuilders wanting to be "bigger than their opponent."

2. The idea of bodybuilding as a "competitive sport" was promoted largely by the Weiders who sought to gain recognition by other sports organizations including the Olympics.

3. Steroids in bodybuilding was preceeded by Soviet weight-lifters who used steroids to beat their competition. So, given the "bodybuilding as sport" mentality, it was an easy jump for the bodybuilders (beginning largely in 1960) to pick up on the steroid use by weightlifters and then seek to apply it to gaining their own advantage in competitive bodybuilding. In other words, they were just engaging in sports activity (taking steroids) like their weightlifting cousins.

So my question is, "Did viewing bodybuilding as a competitive sport, rather than a pagent-like activity, sow the seeds of extremism?"

- CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

You know Anthony you make a good point for the select few - there are a ton of bodybuilders out there who never compete - most people who want to lift weights as bodybuilders do it to stand out from the crowd (look at me) so as time goes on it becomes more extreme - you and I have had our differences on the time-line when steroids or testostrone first appeared, but the question isn't the use of steroids, but the mind set why those who choose to pursue bodybuilding to begin with - You wrote a really GREAT article about the differences between natural bodybuilding & Classic Physique bodybuilders, so it isn't just about the steroid minded pursuers, but what makes them look at freakish development as an ideal - I bet if we had a heart to heart talk with todays bodybuilders who compete or do not compete that they have no idea what a Classical Physique should look like - they have been spoon feed thru the years the freakish looks from magazines on what ideal is!!! Still I say if given a chance to compare Classic & todays nonsense looks it might be interesting on what todays young people might choose - some will choose the extreme, but maybe some will choose more often the Classical because it is achievable and that where we can make head gains, letting them know that it is more possible to look Classical then freakish - It is like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader where Vadar says to Luke come to the otherside - So to all those Luke Skywalkers, don't do it !!!!!!!!

Johnny G said...

UPDATE - UPDATE - 10 people in the Harrisburg, Pa area have been arrested for selling and distributing bodybuilding drugs - the one guy might get the max since he is a repeat offender (25years in jail)- how stupid can people be (25 years in the pokey)- nothing else can be said - I know 3 of the people - nice people beleive it or not, but with criminal records tied around their necks for the rest of their lives - they were helping other people destroy their lives with drugs and now theirs are destroyed, I guess I really do not have much sympathy for them - STUPID !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

brendon patrick said...

Hey Anthony, and everyone,
I was reading the other day something said by Serge Nubret (I don't know where he stood on steroids. I don't think he was in favor of them, but don't know)
He stated that he thought bodybuilding was "an art form". Nice thought. Perhaps not "macho" enough for some.
It might be nice to once again be referred to as"physical culturists". Working for an attractive, healthy, muscular body, all in one package.
A thought provoking post Anthony.

Ibrahim said...

One word:


I think they misunderstanding the quote: Live for the moment.

For me working out is a passion.
But i want to do it my whole life.
Is it not fabulous if you still can do stuff you were doing in your youth?

- CPB (Blog and Zine) - said...

Hi Brendon and Everyone,

Brendon makes a good point! We should return to the use of the term "physical culture" and perhaps future classic physique building contests (it is nice to dream) can be considered "physical culture contests" as a thing of its own separate from the competitive sports world.

The more I think about it, the more I see the seeds of the downfall of the Golden Age in the attempt by Weider (and others) to try to make bodybuilding a "mainsteam" thing by promoting it as another "competitive sport."

In competitive sports, the goal is to outperform someone (whether in individual or team sports). Whether it is tennis, football (both American and European/World types), hockey, ping-pong, swimming, etc, the goal is to score more goals, or to be faster, etc, than others. No one wins by aesthetics. It doesn't matter how beautiful one's tennis swing is, or how aesthetic-looking an attempted goal is. Even an aesthetic figure skating performance might lose out over a less aesthetic, more athletic performance. But, at least in figure skating, it is the performance of skill at the time that is compared to others.

So, in a quest to be considered as "athletes" in a "competitive sport" perhaps it led to a quest to beat the opponent objectively by being bigger! Sure, other elements were there, but clearly the rewarding of bigger physiques really took off after the Golden Age (in 1960). In the ensuing "one-upsmanship," classic proportions and lines were lost, and the very extreme physique emerged (all this with the help of roids).

At the same time, the Mr. titles (sounding too "pagent-like") were dropped in favor of contest names which sounded like horse racing and other sports. So we now have contests called "Invitationals", "Championships", "Classics", "Cups", etc.

The end result is that bodybuilding now (whether roid-based or natural) is more marginalized among the general public than ever before! The public can't relate to extreme, unhealthy-looking physiques and there is no way they can follow the contest schemes/hierarchy (e.g., What does it mean to the general public that someone wins the Arnold Classic? Yet, everyone would understand what a Mr. Universe title means).

So in trying to "mainstream" bodybuilding in the Golden Age, instead perhaps they unknowingly sowed the seeds which would lead to the quest for extreme physiques and eventually "marginalize" bodybuilding as a cult/fringe kind of activity that now has passed beyond the understanding of the general public (compare that to Reeves day when everyone, everywhere could admire a Mr. Universe as a matinee idol!).

Any thoughts?

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

Happy Holidays All - Hope the site picks up after the New Years with a little more interaction - good having discussions & debates about training - Talk to all of you after the New Years - Johnny G

K'n Gourou said...

I hope there will be some updates soon. To all CPB'ers happy Holidays!

jim said...

That Johnny G fellow makes a lot of sense. He should be on talk radio .

Johnny G said...

Talk radio, mmmmmmmmm only if I can get paid the money$$$$ Howard Stern is being paid