Thursday, October 1, 2009

Steroids, Supplements and the Decline of True Physical Culture - By Sean Toohey

Originally Posted on the old NaturalStrength.com site on May 16, 1999

A few months ago, there was a long discussion on one of the internet bodybuilding boards about the use of anabolic steroids. Most people, on reading that opening sentence are thinking, "So? That ain't a surprise!" They are right. It isn't a surprise. And that is a shame. The use of anabolic steroids has virtually destroyed what was once the greatest sport on earth! I'm talking about lifting weights here... not "bodybuilding" per se. Call the whole endeavor, "physical culture" and you are on the right track.

Way back when men decided that they wished to be bigger and stronger, the advice was relatively simple to get. The difficulty in learning the craft of physical culture wasn't so much in getting good advice as it was in finding someone who knew what lifting weights was! There wasn't this whole infrastructure of nonsense that there is today, and the crazy advice wasn't plastered on four out of five magazines on every newsstand. If someone went to a gym, and that gym happened to contain a few bodybuilders, the advice was readily available... whether the goal was to gain or lose weight. More importantly, the advice worked. Today, you can go just about any place in the world and find a gym. A gym full of pumpers and toners - and guys that take anabolic steroids because without them, they don't grow muscles.

I had a conversation with a 'roid boy once. Basically, I explained that not only were steroids unnecessary but they were something that was ruining the sport. He asked me to explain myself. I explained that you could get as big as you wished just by lifting properly and eating correctly. After all, that is what the old-timers did! He laughed in my face and said that no old timer would win contests today! I mentioned that Doug Hepburn would blow most guys out of the water with his strength feats. He wouldn't hear a word of it. But he had struck a chord and I realized that the truth behind much of what we are experiencing today (having to do with performance enhancement) was linked directly to the almighty dollar.

Athletes are marketable products. They are marketed for one reason only - they win medals or games, and that makes money. Nobody wants to pay money to see a mediocre performance, and advertisers certainly will not pay top dollar to attach their names to a loser. Unfortunately, with performance enhancing drugs, many athletes become losers when they refuse to start taking them. The end result? The athlete feels that he or she has no other option but to start using.

One of the major issues directly linked to steroid use is food supplementation. Not that long ago, Weider was taken to court over his claim that his Anabolic Mega Packs (nothing more than vitamins) were as potent as anabolic steroids. The link in this situation is quite clear... promise the results of drugs, without having to use. The problem once again, is that the use of drugs is driving a sale. More specifically in this case, it is the promise of the benefits of drugs without the terrible side-effects.

The horrific appearance of today's bodybuilder is freakishly absurd. In every single glossy magazine about bodybuilding, you are looking at people who's grossly unnatural development is a result of DRUGS, not training. The training that these guys do is so silly that most of the bodybuilders would grow better just leaving it out altogether. Those that actually DO train properly grow to such proportions that it renders them freaks for life, and takes a dastardly toll on their health. Read that again... most professional bodybuilders are actually so idiotic about their training, that it is a disadvantage. The drugs they take are more than enough to make up the difference!

Now, when a neophyte lifter tries to learn about lifting, where is the most readily available source of information? Well, either the largest guy in his gym (who is genetically blessed, using drugs, or both) or from the magazines. What does he learn? He learns that he must "pump up" performing enormous amounts of useless work. The incredible volume of this information is such that even a well founded and clear argument against such training tactics will fall on deaf ears. You can actually explain the sound and reasonable principles behind lifting weights to a pumper, and they will admit that it makes sense... but they will continue to "blast," "bomb," and "blitz" their way to "behemoth biceps." All according to the muscle comic books. Most of the young guys fail on routines like this. How bad is it? If one out of a hundred new gym members keeps their membership for more than two years I'd be surprised.

So why is the turnover so high? The information is BAD, plain and simple. But, you see, you don't need good information to grow muscles if you are taking enough drugs to cure the muscle wasting that is caused by having a nuclear warhead detonate right next to you! You just need the drugs. It is absolutely disgusting. AND, it is getting worse.

Those guys that refuse to take drugs can now take garbage that is close enough to a steroid that it only needs one slight change to make it one. People like Mark McGwire are touted as heroes even after publicly admitting to using "pro-hormones" to enhance their athleticism. What kind of message is THAT sending to kids? Sales of compounds that are not just useless, but dangerous is easy to do! So called, "fat burners" contain stimulants that have killed people who have an unknown sensitivity to them. It is beyond me why ANYONE would bother.

Basically, things have now gone over the edge. To the new trainees, you are either "toning" or you are a bodybuilder. And if you are a bodybuilder it is commonly believed that you must use both food supplements and drugs! The funny thing is, only in the last few years have bodybuilders become large to the point that they exceed what is capable without drugs. They are also dying in numbers that are far too high for their demographic. I have heard kids say, "I need to buff up man, I need some juice!" Believe me, they weren't talking about orange juice.

So what do you do? Well, for one you begin to train honestly. You do not succumb to the temptation offered by the false-fix of drugs. It isn't even a fast fix. Squatting hard, eating big and dieting off the fat will get you in shape faster than any super-program that requires drugs to make it work. Think of it this way. The muscle magazines say that a 10 pound gain of lean tissue per year is a phenomenal amount of progress for a bodybuilder (assumed to be using drugs). Well, by following a 20 rep breathing squat program, Dr. Randall Strossen put on 30 pounds of muscle in six weeks! Unfortunately for the world at large, supplement companies have been so dishonest that the public has been conditioned not to believe outrageous claims... even though in this case they are true!

And make no mistake! The companies that are selling supplements are directly linked to the drug industry. The supplements today are actually advertised as mimicking steroid-like gains! Consider this fact as well - it is not in the best interest of a bodybuilding product manufacturer for you to make gains. If you did, you would cease to purchase the miracle supplement that got you there. And if you don't take the supplement at all, but opt for steroids, the company will still gladly pay you to endorse the product.

How closely linked are these "bodybuilding" companies with other sports? Well, EAS has members of the National Football League endorsing products, as many other supplement companies do. And EAS is one of the companies that produces and distributes "pro-hormones" which are nothing more than "almost steroids." Essentially, the industry that claims to be providing instruction on strength, health, and well being, is pushing a series of events that are leading the world to either get no gains at all, take risky drug-like supplements, or opt for the drugs themselves. And the bottom line here is that the walking advertisements of this industry aren't even bothering with the first two options. THEY just shoot up syringes full of anabolic agents to the tune of nearly $50,000.00 per month and PRESTO! Instant gains.

So what kind of gains are these guys getting by doing the drugs? Are they that much better than the gains of the pre-drug, golden era of physical culture? No. They aren't. Bodybuilders today are ugly freaks. They looknothing like the well developed, incredibly strong people from the early years of this sport. Funny thing... the measurements haven't changed all that much. It is the appearance that is altered so significantly. Bloated, drug-engorged muscle is horrifying to look at, weak, and freakish. Weak? Yes weak! The lifter's of old could destroy today's crop of lifters in a contest! How is this possible? Let me explain...

Men from the golden age of strength didn't bother with drugs. They didn't bother will "isolation" work and "pumping up." They lifted weights in such a manner that they built incredible physical strength... and not just the ability to demonstrate strength either! They actually improved their body's capacity to tolerate exercise by working such things as their lungs, connective tissue, and stabilizing muscles. They applied themselves diligently and progressively... and the end result was a body that would not get injured, would not soften up and lose size if exercise was dropped for a few weeks, and they lived productive and healthy lives. Compare that with today's crop of athletes (if you can call them that). Today you have nothing but injuries, high blood pressure, weak stabilizers, tendon and ligament problems, heart conditions and early deaths. And that is among a group of people that are supposed to represent the HEALTHY benefits of training with weights!

Andre said, "Image is everything." Andre was wrong. The image of the drug bloated monster, the image of the lighting fast athlete, the image of the greatest football player, or the fastest runner - these things are often just fakes. REALITY is everything. And the reality is that you can do it without drugs. You can be bigger, stronger, faster and live longer and healthier without drugs. You can break records without drugs. You can make the industry thrive again. It is up to everyone on an individual level. And it is a choice you must make - to stay clean, and stay strong.

Your children are counting on you.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
BODY • MIND • SPIRIT

Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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