Waist Wasteland

Have you noticed how the waistlines of competitive bodybuilders seem to be expanding with each passing year?

It could be argued that as physiques get bigger, waistline measurements will grow commensurately in proportion. Although this may be true to some extent, I think that this answer is an oversimplification of some underlying, and perhaps startling, reasons. I believe that the waistline of the average pro bodybuilding competitor is growing disproportionately to other bodyparts, and that the root cause of this expanding waistline phenomenon can be found in a paradigm shift that has occurred in recent years in the collective bodybuilding psyche.

Let’s “look under the hood” of the bodybuilder’s mind for a moment. Why do any of us start bodybuilding, anyway? Let me suggest two reasons: one, because we don’t like the way we look, and two, because we are overlooked and not getting enough attention. After all, if we were only built like a brick house, we would get all the attention and respect that we deserve from others— and ourselves, right?

Most of us hardcore bodybuilders then, start out with this “handicapped” self-image. So, to overcome our perceived inadequacies, we train like hell, and eat tons of anything that we think will fuel our muscle growth. We eagerly embrace the bodybuilding lifestyle. We are rocketed into euphoric giddiness whenever we step onto the almighty scale and see that we have gained another pound; or when we strap on a measuring tape to witness its snake-like uncoiling into larger and larger digits. Bigger is better, and size rules, dude!

It’s a power trip. How many of us men have fantasized about walking into a room, and immediately commanding the attention of all present, especially women? We want to be imbued with the raw masculinity and power that big, rippling muscles radiate. We want to feel superior. And the way to nirvana is through “size.”

Small wonder that we become bodybuilding junkies: “reverse anorexics,” if you will. We love being big! We’re never big enough. Heck, I have met men with twenty-inch arms who thought they still looked small! All aspiring bodybuilders care about is being big, muscular, and powerful. Fortunately, most of us grow out of this mindset, and become more comfortable with ourselves and others.

Back to waistlines. In their unquenchable thirst for sheer size, some bodybuilders lose track of that elusive, yet so important, physical quality called aesthetics. They get so busy slapping size on major bodyparts like their back and legs that they forget that balance plays a major role in making a physique beautiful. True, attaining bigger muscles requires lifting heavier weights. Heavy basic movements like squats, bent over rows, and deadlifts, while providing maximal results, also tax the stabilizing muscles of the torso including the internal and external obliques. And over development of these bodyparts is a quick ticket to “waistline wasteland.” Add to that the insidious, intestine-enlarging side effects of growth hormone that is commonplace in the pro ranks, and you have the recipe for “Brutus Belly.”

The waist is the bridge that creates harmony between the upper and lower bodies. A big waist destroys the differential between the upper and lower body, giving a blocky appearance. And in my opinion, a big guy with a big waistline looks like a powerlifter! No offense, powerlifting friends! Looking like a powerlifter is not bad in and of itself, if you are a powerlifter. A thick waist has a useful function in this sport. But a powerlifter in posing trunks should not be held up as the physical ideal of the sport of bodybuilding.

Now what really concerns me is the trend amongst the bodybuilding public to accept a big waistline in a competitive bodybuilder as being something normal. And that’s where I believe we’ve had a paradigm shift in the collective bodybuilding psyche. I am actually starting to believe that hardcore bodybuilders are beginning to view the waistline as one of many muscular groups where size is acceptable! What, a big waistline as something desirable in a physique? Why not? Why not target the waist as an area to grossly over-develop too? After-all, if it can be made BIG, it can’t be bad!

Bodybuilding for lines, symmetry, and aesthetics has already become relegated to the past, a soon-to-be-forgotten art practiced only by purists. By the way, wanna bet that nobody in the top five at the Mr.Olympia last year had a waist measurement of 30 inches? I’m willing to bet a hundred bucks that there were a few measuring in at 36 inches or more! Go figure.

Tip of the month

  • The number one problem that most bodybuilding enthusiasts have with their diets is compliance. If you just can’t seem to find the time or energy to consume five or six meals per day, try using a meal replacement like any of our Lean Body powders or Ready-to-Drink products. These can make it easy to “stick with your diet” and get the necessary protein and nutrients your body needs every 3 hours for maximum growth.
  •  Having trouble “feeling” the exercise in your chest when you do benchpresses? Try keeping your ribcage expanded throughout the exercise. This should not be mistaken for the exaggerated arch that some beginners are so fond of incorporating into their bench presses. By keeping the ribcage expanded during this exercise, you put the pectoral muscles in a position where they can better and more fully contract. Here’s another tip: don’t “lockout” on each rep; instead opt for a slow, pumping motion that keeps tension on the pectorals high.

Until next time, I am

Your Lean Body Coach™
Houston, Texas

About the Author
One of the world’s most well-known and celebrated bodybuilding legends, Lee Labrada holds 22 professional bodybuilding titles, including the IFBB Mr. Universe. He is one of few pro bodybuilders in history to consistently place in the top four at the Mr. Olympia competition (the “Super Bowl” of bodybuilding) for seven consecutive years—a feat he shares with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has appeared on the covers of more than 100 bodybuilding and fitness magazines and has been featured on CNBC, FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and ESPN as a fitness and nutrition expert. Lee was also inducted into the Bodybuilding Hall of Fame, is an Internationally known best selling fitness authos and holds a Bachelors of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. For more about Lee please visit his page here: Lee Labrada’s page.