Sports: Natural Born Bodybuilders

Few have the discipline to become professional bodybuilders, and even fewer are willing to do it without the shortcuts provided by steroids. But that’s the goal of natural bodybuilders like Shane Butler, who train strenuously and sacrifice greatly to achieve their body’s full natural potential.

Many athletes get into bodybuilding from their experience in other sports. “As they train hard for a sport such as wrestling, football, baseball or track, they develop a physique worthy of bringing to the stage,” Butler says. Some people get into the sport from physical therapy as they rebuild and recover from an injury.

Butler has been competing and lifting since seventh grade. He is a member of the International Fitness and Physique Association and competes all over the country. “Competing on stage makes you feel alive! Your senses are heightened, and it’s exciting. It’s the reward for all the hard work,” said Butler. “Physique competition is all about the appearance of the body,” Butler says. “It does not matter how much I can bench press, just how much it looks like I can bench press.”

The first category in competition is symmetry, which means being equally developed top-to-bottom and side-to-side. The second is muscularity, which refers to the size of the muscles and how well-defined they are. The object is to bring as much muscle and as little fat and water to the stage as possible. The final category is presentation, which is about posing and stage presence. In symmetry and muscularity, you are judged against your class, from first to last. In presentation, you are given a score of 1 to 4. The scores are added and the lower the score, the better.

“To win, you have to look well-proportioned, leaner than the rest of your peers and hard as nails,” he says. “Most of us do not wish to intimidate anyone. As drug-free bodybuilders, we wish to inspire athletes to take their bodies to the limit without using steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs that may be harmful.” Those types of drugs can cause health troubles ranging from kidney and liver problems to hormone imbalances.

Not only is bodybuilding more difficult without steroids, but there are also limitations. “You’re not going to grow as big,” he says. And daily workout sessions must be shorter. “For a drug-free bodybuilder, about an hour, hour-and-a-half is all you can take.” Steroid-users may bulk up more and be able to spend more time in the gym, but Butler says it’s not worth it. “They’re all going to pay for it down the road, most likely,” he says.

Diet also is an important part of training. “We treat our diets like science experiments,” Butler says. He measures and/or weighs everything he consumes. He tries to eat 1.75 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates per pound of lean body mass and diets like this for more than 16 weeks before competing. “It is strict and takes tons of discipline,” Butler says. The food he misses most? Pizza. “The leaner I get, the more I dream about pizza and just ruining the whole diet,” Butler says.

“For most physique athletes, training is very time-consuming,” he says. Bodybuilders lift weights five to six days a week for 45-90 minutes a day, year-round. The cardio routine is dependent on body type, but the average bodybuilder starts 12 to 16 weeks before the competition in 30-minute sessions three to five days a week. They increase the time and frequency to two 45-minute sessions a day, five to seven days a week. “As competitors, we train very hard,” said Butler. “Before training, we sometimes get anxious, or even noxious thinking about what we are about to put ourselves through. After training I feel a sense of accomplishment, just like completing a project.”

A workout session is a stimulant for the muscles. When you work a muscle beyond what it’s used to, it forms micro-tears. When you sleep, the muscle heals, but it rebuilds in a way that it can adapt to the type of strain that caused the damage. Thus, the healed muscle is bigger and stronger than it was before the workout. Taking a season off from competing also can be a good way to add muscle. Butler is doing that this year. He’s not missing any training, just not dieting down or doing near the amount of cardio.

Celebrating the efforts of natural bodybuilders, the Natural Mr. and Mrs. Central Oklahoma competition is set for August 13 at UCO in the Nigh University Center. The morning show will start at 10 a.m. and the night show will begin at 6 p.m. The competition will include bodybuilding, figure (a category of physique competition for women), bikini and Xtreme Fit categories. For women, a figure competitor should not be as muscular as a bodybuilder.
There is more emphasis on overall shape and elegance.

“Our goal is to be the best we can be,” Butler says. “Most of us view it like this: Our bodies are a gift from God and maintaining our bodies in the best condition is our gift back to God.”

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