Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Geeky World of Body Building



  • What is the signifigance of C6H12O6 and C5H10O4 being so similar? 
  • Why have some Branch Chain Amino Acids been utilized in an attempt to treat certain cases of Hepatic Encephalopathy? 
  • Why is friction an important factor to take into consideration when utilizing this equation: W=fR,1? 

Review those (rhetorical) questions that I posted for just a moment. What type of the person do you think would be most familiar with the answers to those questions? I polled a pretty wide group of people for their replies. Most, if not all, said something to the effect of biologist, biochemist, doctor, or research specialist. However, each of the three questions make up a fraction of knowledge which the majority of dedicated bodybuilders posses. Surprised? You shouldn't be.


I have recently begun my bodybuilding journey with a good friend, and I personally come at this topic from an artists perspective. I've been involved in the performing arts for decades. I've studied photography, mural painting, some light clay work at Penn State, multiple styles of drawing under different instructors (including courses at Carnegie Mellon & an advanced Art/Jazz Academy program at Slippery Rock University), multiple styles of acting, seven forms of dance, and even four forms of martial arts (not counting some weapons training). (And he's humble, too! -Ed) I currently make my living as an actor, dancer, model (and writer in some respects). I have been performing for approximately 25 years. I see art in so much of the world around me. It's gorgeous! And I try to go through life with a kind of wonder and creative investigation with everything. Most of all now, as I truly begin my journey with bodybuilding, what I'm discovering is as a self proclaimed geek, dork, and performing artist is that I have more in common with bodybuilders than I initially thought. The more I get to know them, and the more I get to know about them, the more I appreciate them. I'm finding that the true committed bodybuilders are threefold; sportspeople, scientists, and in many forms artists. AND they have qualities similar to that of Michelangelo.



I'm sure it is common knowledge that Michelangelo had a lifelong anatomical interest, which was expressed in much of his work. 15th & 16th century artists went to great lengths to study human anatomy. Oftentimes, they were encouraged to participate in cadaver dissection and analysis to better inform them on reproduction of the human body in their art. This same concept is utilized in bodybuilding. By studying the human anatomy, different levels of it's biochemistry, how it reacts to these, and how physics contribute to muscle building/general health is actually quite complex.
I recently sat down with a master trainer at Equinox gym who holds the following degrees: BA in Molecular Biology and Genetics, a BS in Polymer and Synthetic Chemistry, and an MS in Material Science. He explained in layman's terms some of the complexities of bodybuilding and things that bodybuilders have to learn, and it blew my mind. As I pondered just a few of the simple facts he espoused to me about a muscle's initial 60% L-Glutamine loss upon engagement, and also protein synthesis, I realized that this type of anatomical study was the same those 15th and 16th century artists utilized. They studied science to inform their art. I was astounded and artistically inspired.



Now, more on the art of bodybuilding. True bodybuilders, I'm finding, are artistic visionaries. They create a vision of how they want to sculpt their body and find ways to bring it to fruition. My consultation with this talented and beyond knowledgeable Equinox Master Trainer also covered the topic of body sculpting. He called it body sculpting because like the artists of Michelangelo's time, I was informed that if I wanted to sculpt something beautiful, I needed to take a very focused and analytic approach to each muscle and how I wanted it to look. This would include angles, types of motion/movement, friction, timing of movement, types of weights to utilize, positive/negative weight, and nutrition (I won't even go into what he said about biochemistry). This way, I could mold the muscle as if I were an artist using clay. When I further analyzed many of the movements, I found that it was almost as if some of the movements were like that of a dancer. I compare this because I took note to the fact that I wasn't able to go into the gym without utilizing at least a portion of my dance training to accomplish what I was being instructed. They were uncannily similar. I also noticed that many artistic works of great artists were referenced by bodybuilders. As they sought to sculpt their body in those images. Throughout all of these observations, I realized that it really was as if they were creating art themselves.


Lastly, for me, comes the sport. Some of the adjectives to describe a sport consist of; discipline, challenging, competitive, & healthy. Many bodybuilders have made huge gains in multiple areas of their lives out of their disciplinary study of the sport (and art in some cases). Some examples include:

  • Zyzz (aka Aziz Shavershian) who was always described as the "skinny kid." He utilized bodybuilding as a way to improve his confidence and 'impress girls.' However, when interviewed years later he stated, "I can safely say that my motivation to train goes far beyond impressing people. It is derived from a feeling of having set goals and achieving them and outdoing myself..." He used the discipline and challenge of bodybuilding to transform his perspective and his life into a more healthy one.
  • Lou Ferrigno, who suffered from a 75-80% hearing loss during childhood, said that his hearing loss shaped the sense of determination in his youth. This type of discipline is seen in many bodybuilders and it's not mistake that Lou came in second on his first attempt at Mr. Olympia, and also won IFBB Mr. America and also IFBB Mr. Universe. Without that discipline and determination, he may not have been able to make such strides in bodybuilding. And without bodybuilding, he may not have had the necessary physical coping strategy to process such adversity. 
  • Lee Labrada, born in 1960, went to college to study civil engineering. The college's equipment he utilized was beyond basic, but he was able to use his discipline and the challenge of not having much, to improve his health and compete. He went on to win 13 bodybuilding competitions from 1982-1992, and currently holds 22 titles all together. Bodybuilding definitely laid groundwork and was a catalyst for success in his life. He now works to spread his message of educating people to lead healthy lifestyles.


So, to bring this all together, I found that although I'm a self proclaimed geek, dork, and artist...I have a lot in common with bodybuilders. They are sometimes science geeks. They are sometimes dorky about what they love, and they are often times artisans about their bodies. They utilize their passion to champion challenges in their life. And the effects, like many of the things I love in art, comic books, and performing in my life, have just as profound affect as bodybuilding does in the bodybuilders life. The passion that fuels those who are truly committed to this (sport? art? science?) can be powerful as any inspiring comic book character, and I am honored to get to know more about it. It just goes to show, the passions of geek-dom really can be universal.

Brian J. Patterson is an actor, writer, dancer, and now bodybuilder who splits his time between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

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