The “Hardcore” Side of Bodybuilding: Addressing the Tough Guys
Bodybuilding. A sport of insane discipline, focus and dedication. A sport where you only get out of it what you put into it. A sport that challenges you to dig deep to find a reason to push forward when you have little left. A sport where you are “hardcore” by simply claiming you do it.
A sport where… wait-what?!
Sadly, this is the belief of many bodybuilders and weight lifters. There is this stigma with bodybuilding, a “tough, gritty” overtone to the sport that many gym-goers wallow in. The stigma itself is more of a draw for most than actually performing the work in the gym.
By simply going to the gym and moving some weights around you now have this permission to get tattooed-up and increase the vulgarity in your vocabulary. Now I know this is not the case for everyone, so before I start getting hassled for picking on my fellow meatheads out there, just hear me out.
I have been in my share of gyms around the country. Some have the fitness club vibe, while others let off that “welcome to the dungeon” image.
In my years of doing this, I never really worked out or trained with anyone before. I have done it by myself. Now this does not give me any clout over the next person, but I will tell you what I have done.
Even though I have somewhat of a “leave me alone” or “stuck up” personality in the gym, I still get to know the people who I share the gym with. The newbies, veterans, meatheads, crossfitters and even the employees. Gym is like church to me, everyone has a story and you should not focus on being perfect before you join. In this article though I am picking on the “tough guys.”
Picking on the Modern Tough Guys
Back in the golden age (60’s, 70’s, and some of the 80’s to me) bodybuilding was not really a “tough guys” sport. One’s build, of course, could intimidate people, but it usually stopped there.
Arnold brought more of a “cocky” image to the sport. Knowing he had a body that no one could match, he used that to his advantage to get into his opponent’s minds before a show.
But the 80’s and 90’s introduced this “hardcore” sunglass wearing, cut off denim shorts, combat boot kicking and bandana wearing image. Oh yeah, you also had to wear the gloves because the pros were doing it too (Gloves make everything look cool anyways).
As in any sport evolution is inevitable. But in the case of bodybuilding, it has not been the bodies that compete, but the image and persona that surrounds it.
This is where I would like to rewind back to where I said I “get to know” the people I share the gym with. It is hopefully what I gives me a lick of credibility from you the reader and also my limited but present knowledge of psychology.
I have met true tough people. People that started out on different slates than you and I. People who had very little to show for anything and no one to guide them or love them through and kind of issues in life.
People that struggled to find enough food to eat, or to feed their families. People that regardless of their circumstances, fought back to show their lives were theirs and they would not fall victim to the crap it has thrown at them. They relied on themselves and allowed others to open doors for them and humbly walked through them.
These are tough folks.
Gyms have a culture of people who lack in many facets of life. It is in this lacking they search to establish personal “kingdoms.” In some cases these kingdoms are the weight room.
They walk in, bringing along issues from outside of the gym, and in their own personality that they fail to approach and work on so they put it all, or hide it, in the gym. The weights become their savior. They put on some muscle and have folks looking up to them, and they feed into the image and vibe that the sport shoves down our throats.
The “broscience and meathead” culture. The need to lift. The “lift or die” life. The “stop being a pussy” life.
I can avoid my own personal demons and insecurities by building a shell of “hardcore” that people can look up to. I do not speak as a person who simply observes this. I speak as a person who portrayed this life and spoke to many men who deal with the same thing.
Don’t Feed the Need to be Hardcore
You see readers, you can be intense and develop a phenomenal build without being a loud mouth, tattooed-up, strutting around like you’re going to murder a tiger butthole. This is the counselor side of me talking to you now.
It is OK. Let it out. We know.
We know that the quiet guy who comes into the gym who is half your size but keeps to himself, maybe reads a text or two and smiles and even has his wife or girlfriend come up to him in mid-set and jokes around with him. I know, NO ONE MESSES WITH YOU IN MID-SET.
You envy that guy. You envy him because outside of your kingdom you have worked so hard to build for yourself, he has a life you could never quite get the hang of but want so badly. He basically, has a life.
Most of the “hardcore” folks only come off scary and mean because they are fighting so hard to keep up those walls to blind others from what is really going on. Trust me, it is not “hardcore.” It is “softcore.”
So damn soft.
There are issues that feed into this intensity which I would dare not question, but it is not coming from a healthy place. I once again, speak from experience.
My life has drastically changed in the past 6 years. Everything I talked about in this write-up I speak from not only from talking to many other fellow lifters, but my own life. I go to the gym now with a peace, not chaos inside of me.
My workouts are channeled more effectively while still intense. I am not there to intimidate. I am not there to “compete” with others or size them up. I am there by myself and most importantly for myself.
I know that lifting is a great stress relief and even a temporary coping technique. I just wanted to write this because life does not begin and end with weights.
I believe in this famous quotes from Henry Rollins, “The weights don’t lie.” But I also know one more thing, the weights don’t care about you or fix your problems. Remember, the heavier the weight the harder it falls.