Question: How does Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique at its peak compare to the physiques of today’s top bodybuilders?
Answer: In order to compare bodybuilders of today to Arnold at his peak you must understand the differences in science as well as the training knowledge and years of experience that the bodybuilding competitors have now vs. then.
So let’s start with the top bodybuilders of today. The top bodybuilders of today are some of the biggest and hardest bodybuilders known in the history of body building. Now can we say that they trained harder today than bodybuilders from Arnold’s time? Not really. In actuality, bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger started training earlier in life than most bodybuilders of today.
What you find nowadays, is science aiding in the progression of an amateur bodybuilder’s career allowing him to become Mr. Olympia or close to it in a shorter amount of time than in the past.
Let’s talk about Arnold and bodybuilders from his time. Most bodybuilder’s from that era did not have the leg size that they do today. This only allowed a small percentage to make the top 5 in the Mr. Olympia. Nowadays, there are many competitors who, because of science, can attain leg size that they normally would not have been able to.
Genetics used to play a bigger role in the sport. Not to say that science wasn’t around then, but you had to already have developed most of your muscle in order to be competitive. Today, someone who’s never stepped in a gym could add on 30-60 pounds and be rock hard within 5 years. And then completely lose that muscle after retiring.
If you notice today you can find bodybuilder’s from Arnold’s era still walking around with muscle, such Robby Robinson or Lou Ferrigno. On the other hand, a lot of bodybuilders of today have disappeared or are deceased.
Arnold at his peak would not compare in overall mass and conditioning (hardness) but that’s a science issue. It has nothing to do with genetics, work ethics or the bodybuilders diet. Comparing these two generations is like comparing a race car from the 50’s to a race car of today.
The Current State of Bodybuilding
Over the past decade, bodybuilding has changed in a way that has diminished its popularity. New categories have sprouted up – those being Women’s Bikini and Men’s Physique which have become extremely popular and is now dominating at the amateur level. When the Figure category was introduced in the early 2000’s it was beneficial to women who could not perform gymnastics which was a requirement in the Fitness category.
So in a way this was a good thing but what has transpired since then has worked against the sport of bodybuilding. Men’s Physique is one of the newest categories at the amateur and pro level. This too has opened doors for a lot of guys who otherwise would not have the opportunity to be competitive in the sport let alone become IFBB pros. Unfortunately, many who have entered this category do not understand the work that is required by bodybuilders to compete or become a pro and the years it takes to even get to this physical level.
A lot of the Men’s Physique competitors come from backgrounds that vary but can include beach body model type, ex-surfers, basketball players, etc,. I’m not saying bodybuilders don’t also come from these backgrounds, but anyone who has taken the journey to become a bodybuilder knows the amount of years of training and eating it takes to step on an amateur stage and compete. This new generation of Men’s Physique guys have received higher accolades in less than half the time most seasoned pro bodybuilders have had to endure with no credit.
With all of this going on, the bodybuilding community has gone down in numbers with most of the competitors either giving up or joining the Men’s Physique category in order to receive some of the awards in the fast paced ascension to get to the IFBB world. Where does this leave the future of bodybuilding?
Well, bodybuilding seems to be in peril and even though we have had recent champions with more acceptable waist lines, it seems the problem of bloated mid sections is on the horizon again. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has come out ridiculing the heads of the IFBB for not demanding more aesthetically pleasing top Mr. Olympia competitors. While other top pros have debated that Arnold himself is to blame for rewarding such physiques in the past.
One of the main problems this new found category of Men’s Physique has created is total ignorance when it comes to the art of bodybuilding and the importance of balance, overall proportion and the years of blood, sweat and tears that are put into creating such a physique. It seems as if bodybuilders are popping up everywhere and the word bodybuilding is synonymous with anyone who does any type of physical training – from Cross Fit to Power Lifting people and everyone else on Bodybuilding.com.
The respect for what was started by people long ago is lost. The industry is selling itself out for money. I can understand things change and companies have to make profit but that can only go so far before the industry self destructs. If some integrity isn’t retained by the powers in charge of the sport of bodybuilding and a demand from all competitors to push themselves to the level of bodybuilding isn’t restored then bodybuilding will cease to exist.