Fascination with Extremes
I recently read an engaging article on “The Fitness Black Book” website where the author expressed his great surprise that so many people still watch bodybuilding contests. He had assumed our fascination with hugely-muscled physiques would fizzle when the string of popular Arnold Schwarzenegger movies came to a close in the early 90’s. He contrasts the hulking image of an eight-time Mr. Olympia winner with the lean look of a Calvin Klein Obsession model and claims the slim fashion model sports a much better physique. He doesn’t understand why people find such massively over-muscled bodies attractive. He also finds some of the highly-muscled women bodybuilders a little scary…
Before we react let’s take a breath and remember that too much muscle remains a lot harder to achieve than too little. We cannot become hugely over-muscled by simple lethargy or neglect so it represents a far smaller risk of becoming a problem for us than getting too fat.
Too Much of a Good Thing
He makes some good points about too much muscle and a life that revolves completely around bodybuilding and eating 8 times a day. I have to admit the overdeveloped traps pictured on Mr. Olympia look like large tumors growing out of his neck that might somehow be dangerous. And while I admire well-toned women, there’s comes a point of muscular development where female bodybuilders cross the line from looking like women to looking like men. I find this a big turn-off. One of my favorite things about women is that they look like women! Just my personal taste I know…
Overboard in the Other Direction?
Are we going overboard, however, in the direction of lean? How much leanness can we achieve before becoming too thin? I don’t believe most of us find “skinny” bodies attractive nor the picture of perfect health. We talk about “lean muscle”. What the heck do we mean by that? Do we oppose this to fat muscle? Maybe we intend to contrast lean muscle with bulky or large muscle. Still, as much work as huge muscles take to achieve, have we become as obsessive about our aversion to too much muscle as we have about our fear of fat? Where do we find an ideal bodybuilding guide?
Not Enough of a Good Thing
I like muscle tone and the shapely lines that come with meat on the bones. I had a friend and colleague who had a great butt. Though she was never my girlfriend I still enjoyed looking at her rear end with its great, seductive curves. She had thick, shapely thighs and looked athletic and sexy as hell. Then she started working with a training coach and started on a low-fat diet. She lost her great behind and became just plain skinny. She trained hard, added some muscle and got “very lean” — but she had lost all her beautiful curves! This is nuts in the other direction. This is too darn “lean”. I’ll take shapely curves over straight thin lines any day. From then on, every time I looked at her I mused about how good she used to look. Who wrote her bodybuilding guide?
The Middle Path
Most of us don’t find excessive bulk attractive or healthy. Too much fat rarely rates high on the attractive or healthy scale. Not enough meat on the bones (too darn skinny) does not strike most of as attractive or healthy either. Obsessing about not eating enough becomes as imbalanced as obsessing about eating too much.
On one end we find the professional bodybuilder who looks like an over-muscled freak and at the other extreme we encounter the professional fashion model who has perfected that sleek, skin and bones look. Do our language and attitude reflect our search for a happy medium? Where are we heading? I know I’m not alone in appreciating shapely curves and the graceful swell of toned muscles.