Bodybuilding-The Least Athletic Sport

By Nick Murray

The premise of bodybuilding is simple: a “sport” involving intense exercise to maximize muscle growth and the aesthetics of the human body. The highest tier of bodybuilders participate in bodybuilding competitions where  they perform specific poses demonstrating the “symmetry, muscularity, size, conditioning, and posing” of their physique. Body building began as a method of pursuing the peak human form and thereby a healthy and sustainable body. In the 20 years since the beginning of the massive thighs and shoulders aesthetic that now permeates the bodybuilding world, steroids have taken over and blurred the lines of natural bodybuilding. Anabolic Steroids such as testosterone and trenbolone allow users to gain more lean muscle mass than a natural human body would otherwhile be able to generate while losing fat ultimately achieving a more “perfect” physique. 

This more perfect physique has since had innumerable detrimental effects on the health of body builders. Excessive and persistent use of steroids exhausts the liver leading to serious liver injury and potential tumors. In addition, increased muscle mass can cause wear to tendons. Anabolic Steroids can also cause thickening of the blood and increased blood pressure. This can result in serious heart issues such as heart attacks as well as increased aggressiveness.

Oftentimes, bodybuilders focus so much on achieving perfect physiques they fail to address other key elements of health such as cardio and flexibility. Look no further than videos of popular bodybuilder Larry Wheels running on a treadmill. Viewers will be quick to notice his stiff running form and visible exhaustion after performing what many would consider a jog for roughly 20 seconds. Retired bodybuilders such as Ronnie Coleman also experience serious consequences for pushing their bodies to the limit. Coleman is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, winning Mr. Olympia eight times, but is now limited to a wheelchair as he has almost entirely lost his ability to walk due to several knee surgeries and herniated disks from his time lifting. 21 bodybuilders are reported to have lost their lives to heart attack while still competing, likely due to the use of Anabolic steroids stress on the heart. One of the most notable deaths in recent history is that of 22 year old social media influencer and bodybuilder, Aziz Shavershian, known as Zyzz, who died of a heart attack. While bodybuilding is safe when performed without use of steroids and proper attention towards other aspects of health, the unfortunate reality is that young, competing bodybuilders are often willing to sacrifice their long term wellbeing in exchange for short term gains and potentially higher placements in competition.

Many body builders and people involved in the community have called for stricter regulations of steroid use in bodybuilding competitions. While the agency overseeing the Mr. Olympia competition adopted the World Anti-Doping Code in 2003, performance enhancing drugs still run rampant in body building competitions. Fear of health impacts has pushed many young lifters away from the sport. If current and retired bodybuilders wish the sport to remain popular and competitions to continue drawing in contestants, stricter regulations need to be passed and the attitude towards steroids must change to discourage athletes from sacrificing their well being for marginally better gains.