Gaspari Nutrition

Ron Harris

Advice from pro bodybuilders: gold or garbage?

"Pro's are the best source of advice."

"Pro's are the worst possible people to ask for advice."

Neither of these statements is entirely accurate, all the time. It really comes down to which pro is the one giving advice. Before I even get into that, let me explain the very unique situation our particular sport is in relative to other sports.

Bodybuilders and bodybuilding fans often lament the relative lack of popularity of our sport, and the fact that there is far less money in it for the athletes than more 'mainstream' sports like pro baseball, football, basketball, golf, hockey, etc. They blame the scarcity of TV exposure for much of it, mistakenly believing that if only bodybuilding events were televised on networks like ABC, NBC, and ESPN, as they actually were for many years; pro bodybuilding would suddenly skyrocket in popularity and sponsorship money from the heavy hitters like Nike, Coca Cola, and Toyota, for example. I hate to break it to you, but that's never going to happen. Here's why.

Bodybuilding is the only sport where most of the fans are also participants at some level. Not all of them compete of course, but many aspire to and most at least live the lifestyle that involves training hard, eating every 2-3 hours, and striving to develop the best physique possible. This is totally different from other sports fans. Millions of people watch football or baseball on TV and simply appreciate the athleticism of the players and the action on the field. They don't aspire to play like them, or spend hours every day themselves trying to become better football or baseball players. Mainly because there is no action in bodybuilding competition - posing really isn't all that thrilling - its appeal is limited to the rare few that appreciate and who are inspired by the best-developed physiques on the planet.

Another thing to consider is that in other sports, it is understood by the fans that they are watching elite athletes who were born with a certain talent that was groomed and developed over many years of practice and great coaching. Football, baseball, and basketball fans are well aware that not anyone can play at the pro level. Millions of kids all across the USA and in other countries aspire to be pro athletes. Only the best of them go on to play for Division 1 colleges and universities, and then only the best of those college players are drafted by professional teams.

But in bodybuilding, the myth has always been that anyone can be a pro if they believe in themselves and work hard enough. I am very sorry to be the bearer of bad news to those who subscribe to this notion, but it's not true at all. The best bodybuilders all have superb, rare genetics that are a combination of the right bone structure, muscle belly lengths, muscle shape, and the ability to build extreme amounts of muscle size without much bodyfat. Another prevalent myth these days is that with enough drugs, anybody can mitigate genetic shortcomings and advance to the level of looking like a pro. Drugs are widely used in our sport, but the cold hard truth is that without the right genetics in the first place, you still won't have the same look as the guys on the magazine covers. That's not to say anyone can't improve and develop the best physique he or she is capable of. It's just that without those rare gifted genetics, your end results won't be the same as those who lucked out with the right DNA.

Back to the original topic now. Are pro's the right people to turn to for advice or not? This depends on the pro.

Some pro's put a great deal of thought into their own training and nutrition, and some of them have even made careers after retiring to coach other bodybuilders and help them reach their goals. Dorian Yates is a prime example of that. Dorian is a true 'thinking man's bodybuilder,' and I would also put Evan Centopani and a few others into that category.

Then you have other pro's who I won't mention by name that never really had to put a whole lot of thought into the why's of what they did. They simply trained hard and ate the way they saw other bodybuilders did, and they grew and grew. In many cases they also experienced tremendous response to drugs far beyond what average users do, which is another genetic component we don't talk much about. The bottom line is that they never had to apply effort into extensive experimenting and researching to see results. This is doubly true in most cases where a pro has a standout bodypart. I will say that usually they are the absolute worst people to ask about how to bring up that specific muscle group if it's stubborn. For example, Mr. Olympia Phil Heath has nothing to offer for anyone whose arms are a weak point. His were enormous from within just a few months of training, and for most of his pro career Phil has had to actually NOT train his arms - or else they get too big and make his chest and shoulders look smaller!

Most pro's do have something to offer because they have dedicated their lives to building the best physique they can. Some of them have had to figure out how to get past certain problems, such as bringing up stubborn bodyparts or gaining muscle with a very fast metabolism. Those who are also coaches or trainers usually have a good amount of experience dealing with helping the genetically average reach their goals. Other pro's are not as helpful and can't really relate to what the average aspiring bodybuilder faces in terms of trying to gain muscle and lose fat, only because they never had to face those challenges. This is not to say that they didn't work hard for their results, only that as long as they did work hard, the results always came.

Personally, I don't think it's fair that we expect pro bodybuilders to be able to help us with our own training and nutrition. Do baseball fans demand that Miguel Cabrera help them play ball like he does? Is Joe Flacco expected to teach everyone how they can be a Super Bowl winning NFL quarterback? Of course not. It even sounds ridiculous to read that. Yet bodybuilding fans do look to the top IFBB Pro's to share their techniques and 'secrets' so that they too can look like them.

So who should you listen to? That's a heck of a question that we could debate for weeks. Personally, I would lean toward those with a great deal of experience helping others - people with a proven track record of achieving results with those of us who didn't hit the genetic jackpot and who aren't on every PED known to man. Some names that come to mind include John Meadows of Mountaindog Training, Dante Trudel of DC Training, and Hany Rambod of FST-7 Training. They are known for their more famous clients, but many thousands more 'regular' guys and girls have also achieved tremendous results with their ideas and methods. Not to toot my own horn, as I am not a coach per se and don't work one on one with bodybuilders, but I have had to learn a thing or two myself over the last 30 years to take a very genetically average body and transform it into a national Heavyweight competitor in the NPC.

So advice from the pro's - is it gold or garbage? It can be either, and it certainly can't be said that it's always one or the other. Many pro's have a lot of valuable knowledge and experience to pass on. Others, not so much.

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