Several hundred tanned and oiled biceps. bulging like inflated balloons beneath the skirt. will be flexed in Edinburgh‘s Queen‘s llall later in the month. Teams from more than ten [European countries are hitting town for the International European Body-Building Championships. The top competitors in this Mr [iurope and Miss [Europe contest will get a crack at the world and universe titles later in the year.
John (’lements. the Scottish co-organiser of the event. who is himselfan international judge. described proceedings: ‘lnitially all competitors line up on the stage together and are examined from the front. the back and the side. They then do individual posing routines to music'. during which each body-builder attempts to show his or her good points. and tries to hide his or her bad points. Then all competitors are asked to perform certain poses and the judges are able to compare.
We are looking for muscularity with an aesthetic beauty — good lines. a balanced tnuscularity. There‘s no point. for example. in a man having big arms and thin legs. We want to see good grooming. neat swim-wear and a tan. We want people who look good. For women body-builders. one of the rules is that they have to retain their feminine form. They should be shapely. with no fat. No regard is paid to facial beauty. although obviously if two competitors are equal in everything else. that may cotne into it.‘
Public performances are. of course. only the tip of the proverbial ice-berg in the body-building world. At 20. Paul Rutherford. an instructor in (ilasgow and a body-builder who specialises in power-lifting. illustrates the level of commitment required. His story— seven-stone weakling makes good — is a typical one: ‘l've been weight-training and dieting for two and a half years. and in that time I've put on four stone — all muscle. 1 was incredibly skinny and weak at school. with no confidence. and l was often picked on. There's not much else I‘m good at. so I‘ll keep doing this for the rest of my life. You have to have tunnel vision really. As well as the usual work-outs. there's very strict training during the six weeks before a competition — and definitely no parties. drink. junk food. Sometimes you can feel really great. but there are a lot ofset-backs — tiredness. injuries. You can get really bad days and weeks.‘
As the Queen‘s Hall in Edinburgh prepares to meet
Europ ‘an muscle. Kristina Woolnough talks body building to John Clements. an international judge ofthe sport and ’aul Rutherford. instructorand self-styled power lifter.
The popular image of body-building as a slightly illicit activity. with macho and sexual overtones. is something that those involved try to refute. To participants. it is a serious sport. demanding very high levels of commitment. Rutherford said that the notion that male body-builders increase their muscle-size merely to impress women is ridiculous: ‘We do it to improve our physique. The huge sense of achievement I get from what I do is what drives tne on. The posing routine to music is simply to show the muscle groups. Body-building is about developing muscles at an even rate. People look funny if they‘ve developed their muscles unevenly. A good body-builder will look like a
John (‘lements casts the body-building net still wider: ‘Basically. anyone who exercises with weights is a body-builder. Some people find that they have the determination and the genetic gift to build tip. They get bitten with the bug. and they take it from there. There are many who never go on stage - the attitude has to be right. You need to be a bit of an cxhibitionistf
From its circus strong-man roots. the body-building phenomenon is pounding through the western world. drawing fitness-addicts to it like bees to a honey-pot. Magazines on body-building are flourishing and are constantly increasing in number.
and converts to the sport — both participants and spectators— continuallyswell the flock of muscledom. ‘lt's a massive industry — one of the biggest growth areas in the leisure industry. In terms of attracting audiences to contests. or shows ( they‘re called ‘seminars‘). they’re always completely sold out. The audiences really love it — the noise at a contest. as everybody cheers their favourite on. is extraordinary. We sometimes think it'll take the roofoff. People are much more responsive than at a football final' said ('lements.
The downside to competitive body-building and power-lifting is its known association with anabolic steroids. The dependency of many top contestants on the drugs is a fact of life. For Rutherford. this provides an added challenge: ‘I was told that you couldn‘t win a major power-lifting title without steroids. I'm going to prove that it is possible. I‘ve got every confidence in winning the British power-lifting championships. and then I'll go on to get the world title. Steroids are massively over-rated - they just don't make that much difference. It's really all down to your genetics.‘
At an amateur level. there are many male body-builders in Scotland. but not that many women. "There are a lot of large body-builde rs in Scotland. who pack on the size. rather than developing the quality. You‘ve got to have muscular balance and symmetry. and muscular definition. It‘s no good just being big. There are very few female body-builders in Scotland - many of the women who enter competitions just look fit. But the men‘s side of it is growing very fast‘ said Rutherford.
Professionals in Britain are a rarity. The majority of world-class body-builders — who can earn considerable amounts doing ‘seminars'. making guest appearances and in contests — are in the United States. All those participating in the Mr [Europe and Miss liurope competition will be amateurs. When finished with their ab-clenching. lat-spreads and trap-overs. and when the spotlight has swung away from their glistening torsos. they are probably just hairdressers or bank clerks waiting to get out.
The International European Body-Building ( ‘ltampiuns‘ltips are being held at the Queen '5 Hall. Edinburgh on Saturday 2 7 May at 7. 30pm.
64The List 19 May— 1 June 1989