Written by Mike Pratt
If you don't know me already, you'll soon gather that my objectives and philosophies for my own training are all based around building and maintaining an athletic physique that has enough muscle size to stand out from the average body and a low enough body fat to make it sustainable within the parameters of my busy everyday life. While also being able to maintain my performance levels in terms of speed, movement, muscular endurance and energy levels. For me, gone are the days when how I looked was the only objective as a former competitive bodybuilder. Where being as big and as strong as possible was the only goal that mattered and involved me reaching some heavy maximum lifts in the gym, such as for example 600lbs in the squat, 400lbs plus for reps in the bench press and bent over rows of 400lbs for reps which for me personally was crazy heavy, also this type of lifting was constant for years, as I took great pleasure in battering my body.
Another phase in my career was as a physique model of 200lbs, the visual outcome was my sole objective once again! Only this time staying lean at incredibly low body fat levels for sustained amounts of time became an obsession and generally speaking not a healthy one. Again I maintained this lifestyle for many years. In both cases of my past training they were at the extreme end of the spectrum and by the time I hit my mid thirties it was becoming apparent that nearly 20 years of extreme training and dieting had started to takes its toll on me, along with other things becoming priority such as marriage,children, business commitments and so on. I still loved training so much as it was and always will be a part of my life, I changed a few things around and adjusted my whole mindset towards longevity and balance between looking healthy and feeling well, whilst still enjoying all the aspects of weight training and a bodybuilding lifestyle.
These days I find it quite amusing when people who know me from back then see me and are shocked that I am not walking around at 250lbs anymore with 20inch arms and they look at me like I have a disease. Or those people from my modelling days who are shocked I don't walk around in that condition all day every day! Where as when people who are unaware of my past seem to greet me with "you look well" or "your looking fit" or my favourite compliment is when the young bucks don't believe me when I tell them I am 46 years old, I like that one,as it shows me that the way I am living and training is doing what it's supposed to do and has been for over the past decade.
I have referred to my personal training methods these days as Skinny Muscle training and there are a few reasons for this but that is for another article, as I know a lot of people have been curious.
For the sake of this article what do I mean ? Do I mean I don't like bodybuilding ? No absolutely not. Let me clear things up so you don't get confused. I see bodybuilding and being a bodybuilder as two different things. Firstly I regard a bodybuilder to be a person who actually competes in bodybuilding competitions and to do this regardless of the level they are at, the mentality is first to put on as much size as possible and when this phase is over they enter into a cutting phase or 'contest prep' as it's called to eventually compete on stage against other bodybuilders. To do this successfully at this level the extreme conditioning or low levels of body fat are incredible and are way beyond the everyday guy or athlete with a six pack. You see a six pack for a competitive bodybuilder is the norm and great abdominals are nowhere near enough of an asset to win a competition. A bodybuilder will nowadays require striated gluteus (ass) and just about any other body part that they can develop to this level of conditioning. In my opinion whether it's your bag or not bodybuilders are the most impressive individuals on the planet when it comes to the level of mastery they have on building muscle mass whilst achieving extremely low body fat levels and no other athlete in any sport come close. Their level of dedication, drive and level of detail applied to training and nutrition is unrivalled and I admire anyone that can achieve what they do, they have my highest level of respect and I can vouch for that personally from my past, as I know what it took myself to achieve the level of physique I did and I was no where near what you would call a top level physique. Now does this mean I want to look like the current bodybuilder today? No! However I do want to build enough muscle and I do want to see my abdominals with a fine pair of shoulders which by the way I believe the majority of the every day gents outside of the competitive physique culture would like to look like, especially in today's bombarded image conscious media. It's almost become part of fashion for more and more guys to look as great out of the clothes as you do in them.
My Skinny Muscle training concept represents exactly that and is indeed in my eyes still bodybuilding but with a swanky name that is aimed to attract more and more every day chaps to the wonderful art of weight training and building a strong,healthy, athletic and maintainable physique that is sustainable, while understanding it's not about being the biggest, strongest or the most ripped. In my opinion the best way to attain this still requires the art and principles of bodybuilding, the only difference is not to the extremes of the competitive bodybuilder or physique model.
I loved every single minute of my time competing as a bodybuilder and I also enjoyed the modelling side although not quite as much! I am proud of the level of physical development that I reached but more importantly it's much more than that. It's about the journey and the experience of all the great aspects of living a certain lifestyle and what a special part of anyones life the gym can be.
You see I refuse to settle on an attitude that if you don't want to be a competitive bodybuilder and be huge and ripped or a male model you should stay away from the gym. I promote the very idea that you can build a better body and there are many amazing life skill benefits to everyone,that are born out of the body building life style and I want to play my role in making as many people as possible aware of these benefits.
The fact is, as much as the fitness industry is growing, there are still a majority of people out there that actually don't know the difference between bodybuilding as a life style, the concept of bodybuilders and the sport of bodybuilding. They see the word bodybuilding and just associate it with a picture of being huge, cut and veiny which ladies and gentlemen is certainly not the case.
For me the real beauty of understanding bodybuilding training as a tool, and an art, to which you can build a body to improve the way you look and feel. That what it's about and there are many ways to go about changing your body in a healthy and structured way, using the wonderful tools available in the beautiful world of weight training.