Looking back to my first venture into physique competition in February 1961, it has become increasingly obvious how much the standard has improved up to the present day. I sometimes wonder whether some of the competitors of that time would even be considered worthy enough to enter present-day competitions.
In the time of Steve Reeves, Jack Dillinger, Clancy Ross, etc. (not forgetting our own Reg Park), these were men who were so far ahead of their nearest rival, that in most of the competitions they competed, it was just a question of who was going to be placed behind them.
Not so today, where even amongst the top physique winners there is only a small marginal improvement over their nearest rival, a fact which is endorsed from one contest to another by the varying opinion of the judges.
I think some of the main reasons for this rapid improvement is due to the expansion of physical culture in this country and the inclusion of the many top bodybuilders to our contests, i.e. Paul Wynter, Wilfred Silvester, Albert Beccles, Gordon Van Sertima, Phil Wood, Beresford Morris, etc.
These are all men with world class physiques who have been dominating a lot of the top contests of recent years. Another reason is the modern training techniques that are being advertised from America and developed in this country.
All these factors culminate in forcing the standard higher and higher, in that today, the novice competitor now has to have a physique just to be worthy of competing, that 10 years ago would have placed him high amongst the honours.
I think most of the “Old-Timers” would agree that physique contests are definitely a lot tougher today.
A real eye-opener in this respect is studying the competitors in Junior contests. Their physiques are so mature today, that the saying “An old head on young shoulders” can be reversed to “A young head on old shoulders” with regard to these competitors.
One of the problems in the setting of new standards, apart from that of making it harder to improve on is that in this impatient world, the younger bodybuilders in their eagerness to keep pace are easily tempted to try anything that will take them on the road to success, by way of the shortest possible route.
As we all have been made aware of recently, the biggest problem today in bodybuilding is tissue drugs. While it is not my intention to digress onto the subject in this article, it is as well to realise that it is because of the fierce competition in modern bodybuilding today, that these artificial aids are being sought.
My advice is to remember nothing is lasting that is easily gained, because although these drugs may or may not give you added muscle size, it will only last as long as the drugs are taken — as soon as you stop, the body returns to its original metabolism. This is a subject that I would like to pursue further in a future article.
In conclusion, one wonders whether the standard of future physique contests will show us a line-up of bodybuilders each one a replica of Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Jack Dillinger, Clancy Ross, etc. I sure hope so — but my sympathies lie with the judges.