Why do some bodybuilders go all the way to the professional ranks of bodybuilding competition, while others never venture past amateur status? Are there any particular physical and mental attributes that allow a person to progress to the very zenith of bodybuilding competition? In my own case, while I competed as an amateur bodybuilder commencing at age 15, and won or placed in a number of regional and state contests on the East and West Coasts, I never ascended to professional status. I opted to retire from bodybuilding competition at age 24. The reason for that involved a few factors. For one, I got into bodybuilding mainly for the health aspects in the belief that engaging in bodybuilding would keep me healthy. That type of thinking was odd in a 12-year-old with no particular health problems other than chronic asthma. Nonetheless, I looked at bodybuilders as supreme examples of health. After all, how could you develop such muscle mass if you weren't healthy? I knew nothing about steroids and other drugs that were just emerging in bodybuilding at the time I got into it. Indeed, back then, lifting weights wasn't considered a particularly healthy activity. My own doctor warned me not to lift weights because it would "give me high blood pressure and heart disease." Ironically, the obese, chain-smoking physician who provided such dire admonitions died less than two years later from a heart attack, or as he might have called it, "a myocardial infarction."
I ignored the physician's advice and began to train regularly. For the first three years, I trained at a community center that had a small weight gym that was open to men only three days a week, with the other days being exclusively for women--none of whom lifted weights back then. But it turned out that I was on the right track in training my whole body three days a week. Prior to lifting weights, I had developed a muscular foundation by doing chins and sit-ups, a practice that I began in Summer camp at age 11. I eventually was able to do 200 repetitions of leg raises while hanging from a rafter (not literally hanging, of course!)followed by 3,000 sit-ups. I used to force my hapless younger brother to sit on my legs to hold me down when I did my sit-ups, which wasn't fair to him, but then again, I was only 12 years old and didn't realize I was engaged in bully behavior. My abdominals were nothing short of spectacular with this regime. While spot reducing is a myth, I nonetheless managed to lose all the "baby fat" that I had on my waist. But when I started lifting weights at the community center, that's when the real gains began. According to science texts, you can't develop much muscle during prepubescence due to a lack of sufficient testosterone production, which . . .