This article will take you 6 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
This article will take you 6 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
Today, we’re going to talk about how great natural competitions are!
Seriously, the concept of natural competitions is awesome: what is the best shape that the human body can achieve?
Unfortunately, they’re not all so natural. It’s not new: the bodybuilding industry has always involved the use of performance-enhancing drugs… but today, they have become even more popular and mainstream than ever.
Meanwhile, drug testing in bodybuilding hasn’t really improved, creating problems for those who wish to keep it natural and fair.
We’re going to talk about the state of the fitness industry, the natural bodybuilding industry, whether or not it is worth competing today in natural competitions (if real natural competitions exist), and how you should approach competing in this industry as a natural.
Last, we will discuss the way we wished the industry was, and the way you could help us make it better!
Table of Contents
1- The state of the fitness industry
Before talking about the natural bodybuilding community and its competitions, let’s take a look at the fitness industry as a whole.
In my opinion, the fitness industry today is very marketing and drug-use oriented. Like in many other industries, we hardly promote trust, and here in the fitness industry there is also rampant drug use/abuse.
This has got us to a point where we barely believe what we see or hear – it’s hard to find reliable information between fake natties, marketing-pushed products, and the will to make money above anything else.
Overall, the fitness industry is not very honest and finding the truth is a hard task. That’s why I write on this site – because we all need better information and better communities!
The natural bodybuilding community is, in my opinion, one of the gems of the industry. However, it’s not all bright and natural bodybuilding is not perfect, but I believe with natural bodybuilding we get closer to the truths of fitness and the values of a good fitness industry.
From what I see, the natural bodybuilding community is looking for more honesty. The practice of natural bodybuilding forces you to be serious with your training to get results, and to understand the sport well. If you want to go far, there is no other way around than becoming knowledgeable at the sport.
Natural bodybuilders with good training experience realise most clearly what’s wrong with the industry, hence me saying the natural bodybuilding community gets closer to the truths and good practices in the sport.
That’s also why natural bodybuilding needs more visibility – it’s the pure standard that the whole fitness industry should follow (when it’s done right).
Unfortunately as mentioned, right now, that’s not the case. Natural bodybuilding is hidden, there aren’t the good values representing the fitness industry, and we can see the damage in the low-trust and misinformation-filled culture.
Natural bodybuilding is barely visible, hidden by most of the negative noise the fitness industry represents today.
2- The state of natural bodybuilding competitions
As a result of the state of the current fitness industry, the natural bodybuilding community and competitions are suffering.
Less good natural bodybuilders, a relatively small official natural bodybuilding community, more drug use, no accurate drug testing…
a) Drug testing is not accurate, it’s easy to pass drug testing
Let’s be honest, drug testing isn’t the most accurate of sciences, and this makes it hard for natural bodybuilding competitions to develop and gain trust. It’s been said before that a drug test is just an IQ test for athletes.
Performance-enhancing drugs have become so popular that no organisations are genuinely able to cope with real drug-testing. It’s also expensive and these competitions benefit from spectacle – so they’re a little lax on the testing protocols.
The word natural is often a lie when it comes to competitions. Because of poor drug testing, these all-natural competitions aren’t actually all that natural. When you are competing, you can never be sure whether or not you are facing “equal” opponents, which can be demotivating.
This leads to spirals where people decide not to compete because they can’t expect everyone else to be natural. That reduces the size and visibility of the sport, which reduces money for drug testing, and thus more unnatural guys on the stage – starting the whole cycle over.
People who use PEDs can sometimes pass the tests because it is easy to fool them. Or in some cases, these individuals might have used performance-enhancing drugs for 10 years and just stopped at the right time a few months before the show – the drugs are out of their system when they take the test.
A lot of natural bodybuilders who have trained hard and naturally to compete are left struggling in unfair competitions. It’s a sad state of affairs when natural athletes can’t get rewarded for their hard work. This certainly slows down the natural bodybuilding world.
There is less enthusiasm for it and no trust in the system…
b) Lack of trust in competitors
The way the industry works at the moment actually demotivates real natural bodybuilders from competing. Those natural “non-natural” competitions because of bad drug testing definitely bring natural bodybuilders down.
Who wants to compete in an unfair game?
It’s a vicious cycle: an industry with more important drug use, more unfairness, less natural competitors, less trust in the natural potential… natural bodybuilding is dying!
There are competitors, but not as many as there could/should be based on the popularity of natural bodybuilding physiques! Amazing shapes come out of these contests and the Instagram movement towards aesthetics – smaller, proportionate bodies (like natural bodybuilders!).
There also probably are a lot of decent natural bodybuilders who don’t want to participate because of this lack of trust. It’s not rare to see great natural bodybuilders with impressive physiques around the gyms, they just don’t bother competing. I myself have never felt like competing in a natural bodybuilding competition mostly because of these issues.
I know how hard this is to cut down and to be ready for a show. Taking the risks to compete in an unfair competition isn’t worth it right now (in my opinion).
There’s been some recent controversy proving these points in the industry lately. We’ve seen the famous influencers Mike Thurston and MattDoesFitness make a video where they announce they’ll participate in a natural bodybuilding competition. At this point, it gets close to provocation. These guys aren’t lifetime naturals – they don’t belong on that stage!
Many natural bodybuilders in the comments state that this is the reason they’ll never compete in natural bodybuilding competitions. This is what Geoffrey Verity Schoffield, natural bodybuilder, clearly stated, under MorePlatesMoreDates’ video about the topic. We can’t trust the system.
In today’s industry, a lot of folks don’t understand that if you’re not a lifetime natural, you shouldn’t be allowed to enter natural bodybuilding competitions.
Maybe I’d rather compete in non-natural bodybuilding shows and see how far I can go as a natural, which could make it “funnier”, more challenging. If I feel this way about it, I’m sure others do, especially since I’m a big advocate for natural bodybuilding!
3- What to do if you’re natural in this industry
a) Don’t get discouraged from competing
While I don’t want to compete, I recommend everyone who ever thought about it should. It’s a way of improving the state of the industry by saying “I’m going to show everyone just what is possible naturally!”.
We need more guys like this who want to compete as a test of themselves and who have the courage to step up and put on a great show. It’s a hard process and you might be on an uneven playing field but – if you really believe in natural bodybuilding and its principles – then do it!
So many natural bodybuilders want to compete! However, it’s easy to get discouraged from doing so by looking at the state of the fitness industry as mentioned above.
There are still ways to enjoy the competitive world as it is as we will see right now. You just have to be completely committed to your natural potential and the long-term process of building muscle and getting cut.
b) Natural bodybuilders going for non natural shows? Why not
So called natural competitions aren’t that natural since drug testing isn’t accurate. Although, you have more chances of being around other natural bodybuilders at a natural competition than an open competition. Open basically means drug-using, which is why we have a split between tested and untested comps..
Non-natural competitions are at a numeric majority next to natural competitions since that’s what most of what the sport is about nowadays. As mentioned above, you might as well measure yourself to non-natural individuals for your own motivation, challenges.
Look for natural bodybuilding federations which look serious and not too “corrupted” or go for open shows with enhanced amateurs and see how you do if that’s something you find interesting.
Sometimes, it’s as simple as looking at the stages during competitions and seeing if there are guys there who are clearly on drugs. It’s a rough approach but you’d be surprised how often it works.
c) Natural bodybuilders going for the best natural bodybuilding competitions
All hope isn’t lost!
As a natural, you should look for the best competitions out there – the ones who do their best to keep it natural. While it’s hard to find those types of competitions doing so, it doesn’t mean that some organisations don’t do it well at all.
I am critical of the industry but it’s worth shouting out the people out there already trying to improve things. That’s why I’ve put together a whole article on the best natural bodybuilding federations for guys taking their natural bodybuilding competitions seriously.
The key to more chances of competing in a real natural bodybuilding competition is to look at the winners from previous years and ask yourself these few questions:
- Do they look natural or enhanced?
- Do the overall competitors look natural?
- What do people say about these competitions?
- How consistently do they get guys transitioning to enhanced?
If you get positive feedback from these questions, it’s a good indication that the federation is doing well and that you’re going to be happy with what you paid for entry.
While some of the natural bodybuilding competitions are spoiled by enhanced or previously enhanced bodybuilders, it doesn’t mean it’s always the case – but you’re just never going to be certain.
It should be obvious, but don’t just go for the one with the big prize pool – that’s the highest risk of steroid users, usually. If you’re really into natural bodybuilding for the discipline, personal growth, and glory, then you might have to suck it up and avoid the big cash pools early on!
d) Don’t jump on steroids, the risk isn’t worth it
Sure, have fun going to non-natural competitions but stay natural!
Going the non-natural route is a decision which can leave you frustrated when long-term side effects start appearing. Now for those hesitating on what to do, it’s important to remember before that it’s easy to look at social media and be tempted to take performance-enhancing drugs but the ugly truth is often hidden.
Lately, it’s easy to come across quite a lot of people sharing their stories on how they have felt there was no point in doing natural competitions as the competitions so often aren’t natural.
They’re then forced into feeling that they might as well start their first cycle. This is incredibly concerning as this “if you can’t beat them join them” attitude sometimes isn’t their first choice or in their best interest. It’s basically why we have these problems in the first place: people who don’t stand up for natural bodybuilding or write it off as a waste of time.
Not just that, but many regret it afterward.
Jumping on the other side of the bodybuilding world can lead to dire consequences from which there can be no coming back. On the other hand, some people may argue that the use of performance-enhancing drugs can be beneficial if it is controlled and done in the right way. This is hardly believable, especially from a health perspective!
Feeding your body with these drugs even by controlling won’t change the fact that this is poison. The idea of training and getting fit is to lead a healthy lifestyle, steroids will help you get huge, but they come at the cost of health, money, and long-term sustainable gains.
Obviously the less you take, the fewer the risks there are but, even in small quantities, these drugs can still cause permanent damage to your body. If you wish to lead a healthy, successful fitness journey, you’ll need to stay natural.
4- How could the natural competitions be improved?
a) Knowledge is key
I believe the natural bodybuilding world could be more knowledgeable.
Most of the tips out there seem to be coming from non-natural bodybuilders which in most cases is different from training as a natural bodybuilder.
This makes it difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t be doing, and what kind of results you can expect. Those bodybuilders with great genetics and a good response to the drugs in some cases simply don’t have to do as much work to get much bigger than any size a natural person could ever dream of reaching.
Those using the same training techniques without performance-enhancing drugs are never going to see the same amount of progress as those who might have made the choice to use them. Remember to keep your advice specific to your physiology – drug users have a completely different tolerance for training and recovery habits than the rest of us.
This leads to natural people not pushing themselves because they aren’t motivated to do competitions. Going to the gym is just a hobby. Although in many cases, it feels like people wish bodybuilding would be more than a hobby, but that’s just not possible for most people- even those taking steroids and competing in the untested competitions!
Lifestyle gets in the way and the drive to compete and climb to the top is not there.
If there were greater rewards and a bigger audience in natural bodybuilding, I believe that maybe more gym-goers would try to make a living out of it and train longer and harder in the discipline, which could lead to bigger communities and better knowledge. The hard part is that this requires more interest and commitment from the competitors.
Natural competition organizers are doing their best to improve the knowledge that’s out there and increase the popularity of their events with the natural training community. It’s not an easy task and it comes at a great cost. It’s something that the community and industry have to work on together as a whole to eliminate the problem.If one day like me you wish to go to fair natural competitions, we can all do our part by encouraging natural bodybuilding!
b) A better industry before better drug testing
I believe fixing the industry first would be better, rather than trying to fix drug testing. It’s not just about competitions, it’s also about everyone’s health.
Otherwise, it feels like fishing with a hole in the net.
A better industry and more awareness around steroid use, more natural bodybuilding visibility, would reduce the amount of people doing these things.
Of course reliable drug testing could be very interesting to help the natural competitions we have today, so those who are using something aren’t tempted to come and steal the show. However, that’s expensive so we need to make the change at a cultural level first to improve the industry and make competition more honest.
And as mentioned above, better information, better knowledge, would help having better participants in terms of the people who want to join a natural competition.
Then in terms of drug testing, an accurate way of testing would highly help narrowing down the number of cheaters who want to compete in natural competitions.
There are some interesting ways of creating more accurate drug testing.
c) Better drug testing methods
Better drug testing yes, but how would that come out? What kind of better drug testing can we do? Do we have methods today that are better?
We can play on many factors to make it better. The first one is obviously to find some accurate testing that doesn’t fail us. The second would be to use frequency and randomness in testing.
The Carbon Isotope Radio test (CIR) is a way of checking where carbon atoms came from and if their current combination is the result of exogenous hormones like steroids. The molecular weight and sources are different and this test can flag issues.
The only problem is the price of the test at $400-700 per sample, which can be prohibitive when natural bodybuilding organisations tend to be short on cash. They’re definitely not going to start adding that $$$ expense to your entry fee!
This sort of testing would help us better detect those people who’ve been using the drugs for many years and come to natural competitions as “clean”. But we need to find cheaper versions.
Randomness in drug testing is probably one of the best ways of making sure the people that are about to compete in natural competitions are natural, or are at least natural in 6-12 months prior to the competition, which is better than nothing.
By testing them frequently, every 2-3 months, but without letting the person know when the drug test will be, you’re closer to the truth and there is less room for cheating.
Of course the people wanting to compete would have to be ok with such frequency which should be fine for a true natural bodybuilder who’d rather get tested often to make sure they’re competing in a fair place rather than not.
Last factor: recognising natural physiques and selecting more accurately
Another factor would simply be to have experienced bodybuilders recognising physiques so we can filter better at first. As an experienced natural, I can usually recognise a steroid physique in very most cases.
I am sure other experienced natural bodybuilders can easily recognise steroid physiques, whether they’re big or small physiques, there are signs which don’t fail us. Although no one can be 100% sure this could help filter down, this does risk putting out competitors with excellent genetics and conditioning.
If the person is just an elite natural bodybuilder, he will understand that it’s normal for him to go through more important tests to ensure he is eligible. Stringest testing is great and we can focus on these after the fact tests that focus on testing people who win, rather than just the whole field.
Now it’s probably not very ethical and that’s just an hypothesis, an idea, but at some point the industry needs serious change. We’ve had too much unfairness under the laws of those who use chemical “support”!
Most of this article presents suggestions for a better industry, specifically the natural bodybuilding industry.
From my experience of lifting through the years and what I wish we could see from the perspective of an enthusiastic natural bodybuilder. An ideal industry would reduce unfairness.
Today, the industry has become really unfair because of performance-enhancing drugs. Not only has it become unfair, but also unhealthy. The goal is not to totally get rid of the enhanced divisions, the sport was built upon them, but to clear up the separation between drug users and natural bodybuilders!
The fitness industry could do with more balance but it’s going to be expensive to find that, unless we start the change ourselves. A new generation of natural bodybuilders is the cure: people who work hard, believe in natural health and fitness, and show up at competitions to show off amazing natural physiques.
Maybe that could be you – if you work hard, build that discipline, and read Natural Flex 😉
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