Bodybuilding isn’t as popular as it was ten or more years ago. Women’s bodybuilding has died out almost everywhere and men’s bodybuilding is on a steady decline, particularly in non-drug-tested competitions. In fact, the men’s side has been in such a decline that the IFBB implemented men’s physique a couple of years ago to try to lure men back into competing. Men’s physique is a discipline where competitors wear colorful board shorts and do only quarter turns – no formal posing. Some feel that men’s physique has been successful because it has enticed more men to compete; however, others feel it’s been a disaster, since it’s more like a male-modeling contest than anything that resembles a sport, with some even ridiculing it by calling it “men’s bikini,” much to the chagrin of those who participate in it. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, you’ll agree that men’s physique isn’t bodybuilding.

The problems plaguing men’s and women’s bodybuilding can be traced to one thing: drug abuse. This is something Erik Alstrup talked about candidly in a video we produced with him almost five years ago. Erik is a former IFBB pro bodybuilder and is currently Physique Canada’s reigning national champion. In a nutshell, steroids are all derivatives of testosterone, a hormone that men have more of than women. Too much in either sex, however, is not a good thing. When women ingest them, they build big muscles, but they begin to take on male characteristics, including looking and even sounding like a man. When men take them in large doses, which is the norm in non-tested bodybuilding competitions today, and add in other drugs such as growth hormone and insulin, they usually wind up with bloated, freakish physiques that look more at home in comic books or special-effects movies than on a sporting stage – and it’s getting worse and worse every year as the guys take more and more drugs to get bigger and bigger. I remember talking to one magazine publisher several years ago who said:

In the 1970s, when someone saw a picture of Frank Zane or Arnold Schwarzenegger, they usually said, “I want to look like him.” Today, people see the winners and say, “I don’t want to look like them at all.”

As a result, anyone with half a brain stays clear of non-drug-tested bodybuilding, not only because of the way you end up looking, but also because of the health risks involved – the number of pro bodybuilders under 50 who have died in recent years is shocking. Don’t let anyone convince you that drugs won’t hurt you, because they will. Of course, there are a still a number of people who will throw caution to the wind and take drugs anyway, but most athletes steer clear of them, which is why there is such a decline on the men’s side of bodybuilding, and complete destruction on the women’s side. (Women’s bodybuilding is so tarnished, there’s no way to bring it back.)

But I see a bright side to this: in fact, an opportunity. The Physique Canada organization is seeing the opposite happen – since the organization’s inception five years ago, there has been steady growth both in terms of the quantity and quality of male bodybuilders, and it appears likely it will continue. The high point so far was last year’s Physique Canada Canadian Championships, held in October, which Erik Alstrup won. However, he wasn’t the only one who made an impression. On that same stage, I saw a number of young, earnest bodybuilders who have as much talent as they have brains and are representing the new generation of bodybuilders, giving it their all, going at it drug free, and making this sport grow and become exciting again. They’re doing it in Physique Canada, because it’s the only organization with a world-class drug-testing program, administered in and out of competition, making the competitive stages fair.

Alexandre Villeneuve
Alexandre Villeneuve

A perfect example of someone who is part of this new generation of bodybuilders is Alexandre Villeneuve, who is featured on our cover this month and who would have won the Canadians last October had Erik not shown up. Yet even though Alexandre had to settle for second place that day, he wasn’t disappointed, saying to me after the show that losing to Alstrup “was an honor.” Alexandre has what it takes to be a true champion. Other competitors whom I consider part of this new generation were with Alexandre and Erik on the stage that day: Mathieu Roy, Frédérik Therrien, and Jorge Martinez. They placed third, fourth, and fifth, respectively. That’s just to name a few. Physique Canada also has other top competitors who were not at that contest, but who did compete before it and whom we will be seeing in 2016, motivated even more because of how well the 2015 Canadians turned out. There are also plenty of new Physique Canada bodybuilders who have qualified at the Tier 2 and 3 levels and are now eligible for the Tier 1 Pro level – in that group there will undoubtedly be a few stars like Alexandre.

Tier 1 Pro top fourAlexandre Villeneuve, Mathieu Roy, Frédérik Therrien, and Erik Alstrup

While bodybuilding is dying elsewhere, it’s growing at Physique Canada – I believe it’s due to the strict drug-testing program and this new-generation of clean athletes who are competing at the highest level, maintaining their health, and inspiring others to do so as well, which will mean even more fresh faces in the coming years. Bodybuilding is not over yet – at least not at Physique Canada.

Doug Schneider Founder and Publisher