In the modes of LockdownWhen gyms close their doors, it seems that the ideal of a beautiful body is even more unattainable than before. Inevitably, the question also arises: when did the gym become a basic institution subject to state restrictions during a pandemic?
For many, the situation is paradoxical – “sport is health”, say fans and perhaps intuitively associate the trained body with the optimal shape of the living organism. It is no coincidence that in the Bulgarian language “to be healthy” is synonymous with “to be strong”.
However, unlike the classic sports (swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, etc.) in which the proportionate, proportional muscles are displaced in the background in front of strength and endurance, fitness culture has a peculiar cosmetic character.
Brad Montgomery of Western Bulldogs trains in a gym (Photo: Getty Images)
The concept cosmetics and cosmetically comes from the Greek cosmeticsē tekhnē or letters. the art of arranging harmoniously; to create a harmonious order. The ancient Greeks inextricably linked the abstract idea of space – beauty with the highly developed, proportionally – symmetrical muscles of the male body.
Weight training counteracts all the resistance of the earth’s forces and makes it possible to grow muscle groups. This is a controlled modification of the body through technical exercises that have a creative character. Hence and cosmeticsē tekhnē.
Therefore, the gym (oriented mainly for men) is a kind of beauty salon or place where men can become beautiful. Many of you will probably feel uncomfortable with this. Cosmetics and beauty are activities traditionally attributed to women. For the first time in modern history, men are placed in women’s shoes, namely that they must meet certain aesthetic criteria in order to be successful in society.
Mr. and Mrs. Britain from the Health & Strength league – Terry Parkinson and Norma Walker (Photo: Getty Images)
According to the provocative feminist philosopher Camille Palia, the idea of beauty is a male projection. In bodybuilding, knightly armor from courtly literature is transformed into muscle mass. The proverbial expression is “man of steel,” from the English “man of steel,” which reflects this transformation.
While commodity capital, expressed in expensive cars and branded clothing, is available to few, athletic appearance and well-developed muscles allow many boys to gain social status and attention through their bodies. Maybe that’s why bodybuilding became part of the American dream in the 1950s.
Bodybuilder Reg Park in 1955 (Photo: Getty Images)
The transition was extremely fast in California, where the so-called “Muscle beach” or that part of the beach of Santa Monica, where bodybuilders and acrobats trained on their own and organized in original beauty contests. The Muscle Beach became an incredible attraction, and people gathered to see poor proletarians with tight buttocks display their bodies. In that native fitness space, people are divided into “watching” and “showing”.
The film industry was one of “viewers,” but soon shifted to “showers.” If someone makes a strong enough impression on the right person, he can rise financially and participate in films in which the body, not the acting talent, was important.
Arnold Schwarzenegger at the Cannes Film Festival in 1977 (Photo: Getty Images)
Since then, there has never been a shortage of audiences when someone is afraid to expose themselves, and the social platforms of today, such as Instagram and YouTube, have been successfully exploited to capitalize on the muscular body. A niche for professional “fitness enthusiasts” is emerging in the market economy of Western culture, which is growing into a multimillion-dollar industry.
Frame from the movie “Battle of the Titans” (1961) – Steve Reeves and Virna Lizzie
Steve Reeves (1926-2000) is an icon from the time of the so-called “Silver Age of Bodybuilding”. According to Arnold Schwarzenegger of the Complete Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, crowds followed Reeves as he walked along the beach – “people who knew nothing about him just stopped and looked at him in amazement,” but he was generally an introvert.
The young Steve Reeves (Photo: Vintagenewsdaily)
A scene from the movie “Hercules” (1958) with Steve Reeves
“It was not easy to talk to him,” Schwarzenegger said.
“He communicated with the outside world only with the aesthetics of his body.” Reeves is one of the successful bodybuilders who has made a stunning career in cinema with 19 films and, although with unprofessional acting experience, has become one of the most beloved and recognizable faces of the seventh art of the 50s of the last century.
Bodybuilder and later actor Steve Reeves arrived for the premiere of “The Last Days of Pompeii” in Paris in 1959 (Photo: Getty Images)
In modern Bulgaria, fitness culture is widely popular. The intuitive expectations that the Bulgarians will relax after the end of the quarantine are not justified. Contrary to the global trend towards obesity in the “progressive” West, Balkan men and Bulgarians in particular demonstrate an aesthetic attitude towards their bodies.
It is no coincidence that at the national stadium “Vasil Levski” in Sofia there is a quote from the greatest ideologue of aesthetic education – Friedrich Schiller.
Bodybuilder Reg Park demonstrated the size of his biceps in front of the South African ballerina and his wife Marion Park in 1995 (Photo: Getty Images)
According to the specialist Nikolay Tsankov from Movement Academy, the essence of modern fitness is an increase in muscle mass.
“There is nothing else. At the moment, every growing amateur aims at only one thing: to become stronger, bigger. It doesn’t matter how he achieves it; he does not seek to develop another quality… not to mention that the older ones want the same. In order to train for health, you must have a clearly defined goal, you must have some habits, a vision of how you develop and how it turns out.
Simply lifting weights is not a health workout. Even coaches in most cases neglect health at the expense of the other and then come to us to rehabilitate them. (…) Women want to lose weight – always! Men want to become like Schwarzenegger and their goal from the beginning is to have breasts and biceps, to look good in the mirror for their own ego.
Bodybuilder Reg Park pretends to “pump” biceps through his finger (Photo: Getty Images)
During Zhivkov’s socialism, the cult of the body was a state ideology. Although unaccustomed to Arnold Schwarzenegger posters on the walls, future bodybuilders of the 1990s grew up surrounded by titanic monumental bodies depicting proletarian heroes and Soviet liberators like Alyosha, whose stone-immortalized physique is not inferior to that of classical bodybuilders. the so-called “Golden age”.
Bodybuilder Reg Park demonstrated his body size to the South African ballerina and his wife Marion Park in 1995. (Photo: Getty Images)
At the beginning of the new millennium, the trained body entered the Bulgarian popular culture through the hit song of the Argirov brothers “It’s ready!”. The music video of the emblematic duo overlaps the modeled muscular body of the stripper – bodybuilder Peter or Pesho, as he was known to all.
He worked on foot in the avant-garde Sofia club Spartakus, where he was spotted by the Argirov brothers. He later became part of the legendary erotic ballet Maximus, but turned to be the bodyguard of face X, for whom he was shot.
Two dancers at the cult New York club “Studio 54” (Photo: anothermag.com, @Dustin Pittman)
Regardless of the kovid pandemic, fitness culture will be preserved as the main way for men to achieve perfect beauty in their bodies.
The Balkan man identifies with his body, similar to the ancient Greeks. He identifies his self with his success in the gym. And there is nothing superficial about that. The biologically beautiful body is a universal language and refers to the vital forces of nature.
The winners of the titles Mr. Beautiful Body and Mrs. Beauty in 1956. (Photo: Getty Images)
Today, the marble gods of the pagan Mediterranean have been replaced by the new muscular gods with living flesh. In its original essence, fitness culture remains a dream industry!
Mitko Markov is a graduated philosopher from Sofia University “Kliment Ohridski”, has an interest in anthropology and research on masculinity. He has published in some leading scientific journals. You can follow it in Instagram.