Oscar Mairs Article 9

Oscar Mairs Article 9

Question asked by a fan.

“What is the process of building the ideal body to you? Is it a science? Or is it an art?”

In today’s fitness discourse you often hear of modern bodybuilders being criticised for being drug-built freaks. Yet those same critics look back to the physiques of bodybuilding’s golden era to praise pioneers like Arnold and Frank Zane. The two eras produced athletes with different ideas of what the game was all about. Arnold thought it was an art, he likened himself to a sculptor. Whereas Dorian Yates saw bodybuilding as a science. Both athletes were phenomenal in their own right, but which approach appeals to you the most?

Raymond Chandler said that “The truth of art keeps science from becoming inhuman. The truth of science keeps art from becoming ridiculous.” This encapsulates the issue. Athletes like Phil Heath are considered inhuman, their development defies belief. Yet the ‘truth’ of the distinctively hardcore approaches of Serge Nubret, Sergio Oliva and Franco Columbu allowed us to perceive those athletes as more relatable and realistic individuals.

As technology advances, it is becoming more apparent that there are scientific principles of muscular hypertrophy. It is possible to calculate the most efficient process to build muscle. You can count calories, you can measure the tension the muscle is under while training and there are a number of new chemicals available to aid the development of physiques. But should bodies be made in laboratories? Should you conceive of yourself as a machine?

Thinking of building your ideal body in scientific terms is optimal, but it is dehumanising. It takes the fun out of it. Tracking your macros is ideal, but constantly adding up numbers drives you insane. It makes it increasingly difficult to enjoy a meal from a restaurant, or dinner with friends. Training by numbers is important for strength and muscle gain, but nothing beats those workouts where you train to release the day’s frustrations. Those sessions where you channel negative energy out through repetitive motions and leave feeling refreshed and revitalised. It feels healthier to conceive of yourself as a living breathing sculpture, rather than a fleshy machine.

But like Chandler said, you need balance. Find a happy medium. Employ some scientifically optimal tricks in your nutritional and training arsenal, but enjoy the process. Bodybuilders from the seventies enjoyed healthy social lives. They partied, they drank, they didn’t count calories, but they trained hard as hell and loved life. Learn to love the process. Don’t make life too hard for yourself. Remember that fitness should contribute to your life, it should not control it.

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