To start, let’s begin with a little history on the idea of showing off your bulging biceps and pecs.
The origins of bodybuilding is typically attributed to Eugen Sandow of Prussia at the end of the 1800’s. However, he did his “showing off” of his physique in strength demonstrations and wrestling matches. After the turn of the century bodybuilding began to take shape in America and it really took off in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Charles Atlas was a big reason for this, among other factors. Some say young men wanted to look more like their favorite comic book heroes. Titles such as Mr. Universe and Mr. America emerged. And who can forget the famous “Muscle Beach” in Santa Monica, California. Soon movies were featuring these sculpted men and finally…yep the 1970’s brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The types of movements used to sculpt one’s body involve muscle isolation for the most part (I’m simplfying things here). Gyms around the country began using machines that helped isolate the muscles even more. A preacher curl bench allows for perfect isolation of one’s biceps. Cable machines can target specific back muscles, leg presses also isolate to some degree. Benches and seats that prevent large parts of your body from moving while certain muscles move weight with a cable or a bar is, by definition, muscle isolation.
Notice the history of body building is not very old. Bodybuilders are definitely strong, however, this has not been the historical way to achieve strength. Olympic lifts such as Deadlifts are used by athletes preparing for strongman competitions, not bodybuilding competitions. Let’s go a step further. I argue that strength alone still has not always been the ideal goal historically. Think about it. Cultures needed warriors, not athletes. A warrior needs to be strong, yes, but also he has to be able to maintain himself aerobically and anaerobically in battle.
Look at the shape of the actors in the image above. They are more in line with actual Spartan warriors over two thousand years ago. Notice they do not have bulging biceps or pecs even. They are ripped of course, but they have Functional Fitness. This is true because the actors trained at Gym Jones, which is a type of Functional Fitness gym in Utah. They did this so they would be true to history. Spartan warriors did not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, they looked like these guys.
Just because folks looked like the Spartan warriors two thousand years ago, why should people set that as their fitness goal now? We are not fighting battles anymore (well most of us). Why not sculpt our bodies like Arnold? Let’s be honest, both men and women find value in a well defined body. If these Spartan actors put on shirts, you might not even know they were ripped. If Arnold puts on a shirt you can’t hide his huge chest and biceps. It is obvious he works out. That does seem to be more attactive. I mean, maybe not Arnold for example, but men with huge biceps and pecs feel more attractive and get more responses from both men and women to reinforce that.
We have evolved and no longer need to have Functional Fitness, right? Ability to fight in a war = out. Muscles stretching your shirt out = in.
If you agree, just think about these few questions for me quick: How many folks have enough time to spend in the gym to keep their body looking like Arnold’s, let alone get there in the first place? How many guys look fat and flabby if they slack a bit on their bodybuilding? How many weight lifters are deemed obese by their doctor and complain that the charts are flawed because they don’t take into account how huge their muscles are? How many older men and women have back pain and injured shoulders from years of “pumping iron?” How many of us like to play sports? How many of us like to have a strong core to minimize injury as we age? How many of us would like to be active enough to run around the yard with our grandchildren?
I’m sure Functional Fitness experts out there would add a few more questions to the list. Bodybuilders are athletes and for some reason that type of body shape has become incredibly popular over the last 100 years. I am on a crusade to change the way people think about exercise and fitness. I want to see the gyms used by the masses to replace their machines with physioballs, ropes, medicine balls, clubbells, and kettlebells. We can keep specialized bodybuilding gyms for the actual bodybuilding athletes, which I know for a fact is not the majority of Americans. It is an elite sport and leave it to those elite athletes. For the rest of us, let the huge biceps go! And check out the core on those Spartan warriors (actors)!