Are the days of colossal, vein-popping bodybuilders a thing of the past?

Ben Tatar weighs in on the seismic shifts rattling the foundations of the bodybuilding world.

Gone are the days when muscle mountains roamed the expo halls, drawing crowds with their sheer size.

Today’s fitness landscape is vastly different, with a focus that has dramatically tilted towards health and sustainability over sheer mass.

In this revealing blog post, we’ll dive into Tatar’s perspective on why the titans of muscle have become a rarer breed at events like the Arnold Classic, where once giants walked.

From the industry’s pivot to digital engagement to a cultural shift in beauty standards, we explore the multifaceted reasons behind this trend.

Strap in for a thought-provoking journey through the evolving ethos of bodybuilding, where health reigns supreme and the freakishly large are becoming folklore.

1. Are the Days of the HUGE & FREAKY Bodybuilder Dead?

Ben Tatar: The industry has changed. It has a broader appeal. I think the main reason is that health is seen as paramount and most people don’t see the huge freaks as healthy.

Here are five additional reasons why the freak count is down:

1) The competitors at the 2018 Arnold were much smaller. William Bonac from the Netherlands who won the 2018 Arnold Classic weighed 233lbs! Hidetada Yamagishi competed at 220lbs. This is very different from the Ronnie Coleman day who stood over 360lbs in the off season and competed over 300lbs with 2.8% body fat!

2) The former well known bodybuilder pros are now all over 50 and aren’t huge anymore.

3) Many of them passed away at a relatively young age.

4) The booths are much more digitalized now, while in the past they featured freaks to get people to the booths. People ask you to sign up or to show them that you are following their social media account in exchange for product samples or gear. They don’t need the freaks there for that.

5) Being a freak is less fashionable today. Even when we post the biggest freaks in the world, they get thousands of hate comments.

So, yeah, there has been a big drop in the number of freaks. I predicted this would happen many years ago.

The HUGE & FREAKY Bodybuilders still exist, but the industry has gone more in a health and fitness direction.

2. Name the TOP 3 Celebrities you saw at ASF 2018?

Ben Tatar: Actually, the celebrities count was also way down. The celebrities were mostly at the kids’ expo.

The celebrities were Ronda Rousey (who took a picture with Ben and the Critical Bench shirt,) Arnold of course (who is well out of his prime,) and seven time Mr. Olympia, Phil Heath whose Autism charity event I attend every year.

3. Were there more MEN or WOMEN in attendance at this year’s Arnold? Why do you think?

Ben Tatar: Well, the industry has become a lot more female. In the past you would see many muscular men walking around who aspired to be freakier! Today we might see an out of shape Mom with an out of shape daughter walking around who might be a fan of the TV show “The Biggest Loser.”

There were also video game stations at the convention. Many of the old school bodybuilders hate this and think the sport is watered down. On the other hand, many fans like how the industry has become digital because it gives them a much bigger platform. The fans have the power for the first time over most of the freaky and jacked.

Female empowerment I believe is the root reason as to why the industry has gone in a female direction. The new big slogan in the fitness industry is “strong is the new pretty.” Social media adds to the intensity. I think there are thousands of reasons why the industry has become more female. Here are five additional reasons:

Many females love social media. The Arnold Event gives them lots of opportunity for pics with social media fitness names.

Since the industry markets social media, females love using the hashtags in regards to the event! It enhances their popularity.

The ASF weekend has sports that appeal to women as well as men such as strong woman, crossfit, yoga and many more competitive events. The female sports are happening just as much as the male sports.

Social trends and social fashions have changed. During recent times, we have Planet Fitness commercials saying “we accept everyone at our gyms except big lunks.” Where in the past you had 6’2 353lbs Bill Kazmaier lifting big weights and screaming during commercials. There are many social fad examples which change attendees.

The fitness industry is now less of a magazine era. Powerlifters would go to get featured in Powerlifting USA magazine, and bodybuilders would go to get featured in hardcore muscle magazines. These magazines only really welcomed the freaks!

4. What event at the ASF was a BIG hit? What event bombed?

Ben Tatar: Probably the kids’ expo was a big hit because that’s where the celebrities were.

The Arnold after party was probably the event that bombed. One of the reasons it bombed is because it attracted fans looking for celebrities who weren’t there.

The celebrities were going out for dinner with their companies, going to the gym, or to night clubs. Arnold does go to the after party but he is on the stage with a microphone and security guards.

I learned one of the secrets to Arnold success is to work AGAINST the crowd rather than with the crowd.

5. Ben, you an ASF guru, an expert….List your TOP 10 ASF experiences and tell us ‘why’ they were great.

Ben Tatar: Sounds great, Chris. It feels special to still be going even during the 30th Arnold Sports Festival.

10 Special Moments:

1) The first Arnold was where it all began. It was at a time when the industry wasn’t marketed everywhere, and it was like this little paradise of which I was one of the few who knew. There were a lot more big celebrities, and there were no lines or short lines.

2) Hotel room parties… I did everything including setting world records for lifting the models! I would paint the models…. I had a complete blast many times when I created my own stuff.

3) I set some Arnold Records such as doing 40 pull-ups with the 50lbs perky jerky vest, benching a 230lbs bamboo barbell 36 times, and doing 60 pushups in 50 seconds wearing a 50lbs dog bag.

4) The Old Jason Dwire after parties were special. These were the private celebrity parties where the fans went to the advertised “party with the pros.”

5) My earlier days and all my screaming…. I would go on camera and scream “YAAAAAAAAA!!!” I will just never forget my wild energy when it came to Arnold Weekend.

6) A special moment was getting my first media pass many years ago. I have had it every year since. It makes it much easier to arrive in the expo before the crowds, and that’s my favorite expo time.

7) The good friends I have met during so many different times. I have deep moments looking back at all the great friends I have in the industry. It would take a book to write.

8) The Phil Heath Makeitfit events for Autism are always great. It’s amazing that the Arnold weekend can make a difference and go beyond fitness.

9) The fun I had with all the celebrities, freaks and models.

10) When I started doing the Event, I needed some help because I was very young. Then I was able to do the event independently and a lot more efficiently.

There have been so many great moments from watching dreams come true, making lifelong friends and just the energy of having the best all in the same venue! I’m so grateful for having the ability to experience thousands of great moments! Thanks for the interview, Chris!



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