Most bodybuilders would consider themselves hardcore or extreme, and this would typically be worn as a badge of honor.
Not only do you get to look awesome, but you are also viewed in an awesome light by the general public as a badass who is so invested in their physique that they were willing to do whatever it takes to get jacked and shredded.
I’ve definitely been in that position and felt those feels. I am extremely proud of how hard I work and thoroughly enjoy when that hard work is recognized.
But when a bodybuilder thinks about doing “whatever it takes”, they’re usually talking about the fun stuff.
Training hard and dieting like a champ might seem difficult to the average human, but not to us. When you put in the work and get the results, it becomes more of a delightful challenge than a soul-sucking workout or terribly bland meal.
To us, it really doesn’t take all that much. If you’re ready to embark on a contest prep journey, the habits are already established and ingrained.
And all that aside, there is a whole different type of work that gets overlooked — one that most bodybuilders are actually NOT willing to partake in.
It’s the mental and emotional work required to voluntarily lose the very thing you’ve been working for all long.
In my recent years of being obsessed with this sport, I have observed that the big question separating the amateur and the elite natural physique athletes is this:
Are you willing to spend most of your time looking “worse” than you do on show day?
How do you feel about body fat, bloating, and flatness? Are you so invested in muscle gain that you lose your abs in the off-season? Are you fine with weighing a lot more tomorrow in the name of an intense refeed that will help your prep run smoother in the long run? Are you okay feeling like a tiny string bean in your old t-shirts as you finish your fifth low carb day in a row?
In essence, are you willing to invest in your career, or are you so caught up in looking the part that you remain unchanged for years on end?
I truly believe I lost about three years of bodybuilding progress because I wasn’t ready to put in this kind of work. The grind of training and dieting was a walk in the park compared to the overwhelming task for me to weigh more than 135 lbs. In hindsight, I believe this was a short-term, amateurish view of my body and of the sport.
But the greats know this is just part of the game. They don’t “allow” themselves to put on body fat, they do it on purpose.
So, if you’re debating whether or not this sport is for you, please consider this. When you prep for the stage, it is only for the stage. When that time is over and your recovery diet begins, that physique will be gone. You don’t have to go overboard or become obese, but you definitely cannot keep the stage look forever.
To most people, you will look like an in-shape athlete. In the mirror, you think you look awful. But this is where the “whatever it takes” mentality has to come in. This is what separates the athletes from the exercisers.
As crazy as it sounds, the best stage physiques usually belong to those who are willing to lose them as soon as possible without hesitation.