What Will It Take to Fix the Bodybuilding Industry?

by Matt Weik

It’s going to appear that I’m on top of my soapbox, and I am. You have the choice to continue reading or simply bypass this article all together. Either way, I’m fine with that. I’m about to be real with everyone. Many of you know me as the writer who is factual yet funny—this article will be factual, but there will be no humor present. Why? Because I’m angry. I’m fed up. I’m disgusted. Some may say I’m shitting on the industry, but shitting on the industry right now would probably make it cleaner. We are in trouble. And something needs to change, and change today.

A dark alley

This industry is turning into a dark alley, my friends. What used to be fun and enjoyable is turning into suspicion at every turn. We are walking down a dark alley where temptation and abuse lurk behind every shadow. While not the norm, it’s still there. I’m not even talking about steroids. To each his or her own. I’m not here to judge this industry for steroids. After all, it’s because of them that we have mass freaks walking among us and evolving the sport—putting butts in seats.

However, the sport itself has been drifting out to sea lately and before long, it will go down over the horizon with the sun. Being a bodybuilder isn’t easy. The long hours in the gym. The enormous amounts of food needing to be consumed. The focus and determination to keep your head on straight. Yet, not everyone is comfortable in their own skin. Many bodybuilders these days are in constant pain and discomfort. So, they start down the path of painkillers. Or worse, they dip into narcotics to separate themselves from reality for just a little bit. It’s a slippery slope. And as we all know all too well, the outcome isn’t always favorable.

Where do we go from here? We let this industry change while we sat back praising the mass monsters who stand before us. Not truly understanding what’s going on in the back of their mind or in their life. All we see is the posing. The smiles and striations. The deeply cut abs and sucked in faces. We admire those physiques. Yet, behind the smile is a dark and empty place for some competitors. Bodybuilding is the only thing they know and care about. It’s how they put food on their table for their famly.

What started out as a health-driven sport, has turned into a win at all costs mentality. It’s taking its toll on competitors. Sure, comparing the likes of the Golden Era to the new generation of bodybuilders is like comparing apples and oranges—there’s a clear differentiation. If you ask most professional bodybuilders today, they’d die doing what they love—it’s an obsession. But where that rabbit hole leads to can be a very dark place.

The sun will rise tomorrow. Right?

After darkness falls, soon the sun will once again brighten the skies and bring everything back to life. Unfortunately, not everything. With so much uncertainty in the industry, I’m not sure the sun will continue to shine upon us in years to come. While the dedication from competitors is apparent, their livelihood and longevity begins to come into question. Is this really good for their body? Even being 300 pounds with a low body fat takes its toll on the body.

Many bodybuilders suffer from sleep apnea. Their necks become so large that it’s basically choking them—causing their passageway to resemble a straw. Breathing becomes difficult. Heck, being that big even makes wiping your own butt a challenge. When will we reach a point in our industry where we get back to health? I’m ok with competitors being open about the cycles they take in the off-season and what they do when preparing for a contest. But will we ever see the sport of bodybuilding get back to its roots of health and fitness? I’m talking specifically about bodybuilding, not men’s physique, or figure, etc.

I’m not saying the sport was ever truly focused solely on health and fitness, as we all know the sport was designed for competition. But the win at all cost mentality these days seems to be doing more harm than good on the sport of bodybuilding.

To touch on steroids a little bit, we are seeing more and more focus from law enforcement to shut down the supply and distribution. Ok, whatever. Again, I’m not for or against the use of steroids by anyone. I feel like we have worse drugs on the streets that we should be worried about rather than people injecting anabolics into their body to help build muscle. But, if you’ve been paying attention to the news this year, you have heard more about arrests from steroids rings, and distribution channels, and tainted supplements, etc. than ever before. This industry is opening itself up for a complete shakedown. This new era of bodybuilding is built off of the use of anabolics to help put on the size needed to be a top competitor. That’s the world we live in—right, wrong, or indifferent. But as an industry, it’s putting a huge target on our backs.

We are bringing attention to this sport due to the actions of those within it—and I’m not talking about good attention or praise. I’m not sure how to stop all of this. It’s compounded for so long that the task of putting the pieces back together on a sport we all love seems daunting and damn near impossible.

For the love of the sport

As I now sit here on top of my soapbox looking at all the people I probably pissed off, I reflect on all the good that this industry has brought to me. It wasn’t handed to me, rather I went out and created the life I wanted based on my love for health, fitness, and the sport of bodybuilding. While I’ve never graced the stage with any professional, my roots are deep in the sport and I have admiration for the dedication needed to stand in front of those judges on stage. I’ve sat in the audience, yelling with excitement. I’ve even worked beside many professional bodybuilders during my time in the supplement industry.

I’m not sure how to fix this. There isn’t a Band-Aid large enough to cover the wound, it’s way too large and way too deep. At this point a tourniquet might be our only option, and that’s used as a last resort—but that’s where I feel the industry is right now. Like I said earlier, we have a target on our back. I’m not here to preach what is right or what is wrong. I’m also not naïve to think that I can change the world, let alone this industry. Some of the issues we see in our own can be said about other professional sports as well, it’s just talked about more in our own industry.

What I do know is, my path leads to helping change lives. Educating those who idolize Olympia champions and envision themselves one day stepping up on that stage. A dream that so many have, yet so few ever accomplish. I’m uncertain for our future. I’m not sure where we go from here. I’ll continue putting out content. I’ll continue helping people who seek it out.

I want everyone to sit back and realize how good we have it. We all get one life to live and how we spend each 24 hours in a day is our own prerogative. We can lift each other up or burn this bitch to the ground—we all get that choice. Our industry is on fire my friends, and I don’t have enough water to put it out. We need to come together, support each other, and bring back the sport that we all love and end this stereotype that demonizes bodybuilders. Too many people have lost their lives in this industry, some of them for stupid and selfish reasons. Our industry is no different than any other industry, yet it’s the one we live in—therefore, it’s the one we speak about.

I’m not looking to cause conflict or expose our industry, we all know what lurks in the shadows. All I want is for those in this space to remain healthy, make wise choices, and fulfill their dreams.