Should we talk about bodybuilding in this column? We ask because many people don’t think bodybuilding is a real sport.
Egypt came first in the African bodybuilding championship held here last week and is readying for the Mediterranean championship next month. The achievement should not be overlooked but it doesn’t answer the question: Is bodybuilding a genuine sport?
Personally, I think not. Sport of any kind must include athleticism, must involve skills. What is so skillful about eating a lot, resting a lot and lifting weights for the express purpose of forcing some of your muscles to protrude abnormally out of your skin? Then splash oil on yourself for that shiny look and show off your body to a panel of judges in poses so promiscuous you would make the centerfold of Playboy. That’s a show, a spectacle, not sport.
Bodybuilding is not an Olympic sport, is never included in TV, radio or newspaper sports news. And anabolic steroid abuse is widely considered to be rampant, especially among teenage competitors because, as critics argue, the pressures on teens to resort to steroid use is much higher since their muscle development may not be fully mature.
Still, bodybuilding has its supporters and a history. Bodybuilding is generally considered to have started in 1880, promoted by a man from Prussia named Eugen Sandow who is generally referred to as The Father of Modern Bodybuilding . Sandow is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed an audience to enjoy viewing his physique in muscle display performances.
The period between 1940 and 1970 is often referred to as the golden age of bodybuilding because of changes in the aesthetic for more mass, as well as muscular symmetry and definition, which did not characterize earlier years. This was due in large part to the advent of World War II, which inspired many young men to be bigger, stronger and more aggressive in their attitudes. This was accomplished by improved training techniques, better nutrition and more effective equipment. Several important publications came into being, and new contests emerged as the popularity of the sport grew.
The perfect physique is close to the proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues from classical times. Men are judged by how closely they matched these ideal proportions.
The most prestigious bodybuilding contest today is the Mr. Olympia, first held in 1965. He who wins is The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World.
Bodybuilding has contributed to the success of many public figures worldwide. Examples include Charles Atlas, Steve Reeves (notable in his day for portraying Hercules and other sword-and-sandals heroes), Arnold Schwarzenegger (California governor) and Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk).
Several Egyptian bodybuilders are also globally successful such as 1983 Mr. Olympia and IFBB (International Federation of Bodybuilding) Hall of Famer Samir Bannout, IFBB legend Mohamed Makkawi, five-time World Amateur Champion and two-time World Games Champion Anwar El-Ammawi, six-time World Amateur Champion and the 1999 Egyptian Male Athlete of the Year El-Shahat Mabrouk (Mabrouk holds the IFBB record for the most World Amateur Champion titles) and Esmat Sadek, awarded the Most Improved Bodybuilder Award during the finals of the 2002 IFBB World Championships held in Cairo.
All these sultans of sinew must eat something like one to two grams of protein per pound of body weight per day (around half a kilo a day of meat or chicken – that’s just the protein part of the diet). They usually have five to seven meals every two to three hours. They also sleep around eight hours a night and must find time for a daytime nap.
That sounds like a lifestyle of snooze and stuffing your face, not a full-fledged athlete.