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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

ICONIC BODYBUILDING PHOTOS Dorian’s Gym Photos — the day bodybuilding changed forever


I have written a few posts on this blog that are part of a series entitled, “Bodybuilding Photos That Are A Part Of Me” These are photos that I’ve seen in bodybuilding magazines and are particular to me, and to a certain time in my life. They are not necessarily famous photos (although some are), they are mostly photos that impressed me in my early bodybuilding days. Take for instance this striking photograph of Berry de Mey and Erica Mes. Although a lovely photo, it is not a particularly famous shot, but it made a huge impression on me at the time. I have never forgotten it and am still struck by it even now. Perhaps more so than ever, in the light of what was waiting in the wings for the sport of bodybuilding.

Berry de Mey and Erika Mes — this photo made a huge impression on me in my teens.

This post is part of a series entitled, “Most Iconic Bodybuilding Photos”, photos that every bodybuilder will recognise, and remember feeling amazed by.

The time in bodybuilding that most interests me is the 70’s and 80’s, from the 90’s onwards — while the top guys were increasingly mind-blowing and mesmerising — something was starting to go very wrong in the sport of bodybuilding.

The subject of this post, the photos above of Dorian Yates, were taken in 1993, three weeks out from that year’s Mr Olympia, and they stood the bodybuilding world still. Stopped it in its tracks. No one — NO ONE — had ever looked that way before!

Take a look at the pic below. A pretty accurate comparison of Yates in 1992 (already a Mr Olympia winner) with Yates of 1993. An astounding difference!

It is not just his muscle size, although that is incredible! To make such a massive gain at that stage of one’s career was unheard of, a novice bodybuilder would have been thrilled with the amount of muscle Dorian packed on in a single year! His whole look is different, everything has grown, including his stomach (even though he is just as lean), and his face has changed too. Basically the bodybuilder on the left resembles how top bodybuilders have always looked, the bodybuilder on the right is something totally new.

And we were amazed, and enthralled, and in awe!! We thought that he was a one-off, that only this incredible man could look this way. How wrong we were!

Now, every top competitive bodybuilder has this look. We have lost the beauty, the dignity of bodybuilding. Gone is the Greek Ideal, the pursuit of aesthetic perfection, the idea that the muscular male body was actually beautiful! It was mass at all costs. And the costs were great; huge “growth guts”, and loss of symmetry with every body-part developed to the absolute max without any reference to the surrounding muscle groups. We have lost the look of health and well-being. Part of the attraction of a physique like Arnold’s was that he looked so healthy, and full of energy and life!! He literally embodied the concept of vitality!

Where did we go wrong? How did we get from this image of bodybuilding as healthy and aspirational, to bodybuilding as it is today?

The guys are now ultra-ripped, getting their body fat down to 2 or 3%! The drugs they take — the usual anabolics — plus Human Growth Hormone, insulin and thyroid medication, etc., produce an unnatural, grainy, look. When I look at these guys they are hardly human anymore, they seem to resemble some sort of crazy post-apocalyptic bug or insect. Their use of high doses of Human Growth Hormone has resulted in distended bellies and distorted faces, as GH causes everything to grow, bones, intestines and cartilage, not just muscle.

What a mess! Dorian piled muscle onto his frame without thought, resulting in a shambolic physique.

Lee Haney was the last Mr Olympia who looked normal, or natural, someone whom most bodybuilders could relate to and aspire to look like. He had masses of muscle, but was well-proportioned, shapely and pleasing to look at. The picture of Lee below is actually one the photos in my “Bodybuilding Photos that are a part of Me” series. Looking at this marvellous photo now, Lee looks quite small in relation to today’s top guys, but I remember being amazed with how huge he looked at the time. Just take a look at him! Muscular, lean, tight waist, healthy! What an inspirational man! The same cannot be said for the majority of top pros competing today.

As much as those pictures of Dorian were amazing and ground-breaking — at that time — in the years that followed it became clear that they were the death-knell for the bodybuilding body that so many of us have loved and aspired to, all our lives.


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