Rag on the Mags #3 - Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010

Rag on the Mags #3 - Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010

‘Rag on the Mags’ is a feature in which we will to review the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications as they come out each month (normally before they hit the newsstands).

The basic idea here is that we will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue.

You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.

Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010

It has been awhile since I have picked up an issue of Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness, so I thought this new ongoing column might be a good opportunity to revisit the mag. Magazines covering drug-tested bodybuilding have a real tough battle, but these guys have hung in there as a quarterly mag.

Trying to sell natural bodybuilding to the teenage audience is a tough sell, with Kai Greene and Branch Warren posing in their full pharmaceutically-engorged, angrily-grunting, brains about to hemorrhage glory on covers on either side of the shapely middleweights adorning this mag. Okay, to be honest, there are not side-by-side, NB&F is jammed a row or two behind them in the dark recesses were low-distribution mags go to die.

It’s unfortunate, because the magazine provides role models that the average gym-goer could identify with, possessing genetics that are more in line with the norm (and, of course, expectations that are more likely to be met without the use of “enhancements”).

In order to make the move forward to bigger circulation, the first thing they need to do is drastically improve the magazine’s photo support. Many of the photos look a bit “off,” almost as if the person choosing them is selecting the worst photos from each photo shoot — weird facial expressions, bad angles, poor lighting, you name it. Many of the other photos are… well, just sorta gay looking — guys training in posing trunks or short shorts, smiling wistfully at the guy spotting them… I suspect the athletes are a bit embarrassed once their issue arrives on the stands. They have at least cut down on the excessive oil use from five to ten years ago. The photo of Clarence McGill on the cover with pink trunks on is a good example. It’s not screaming hardcore (at least not the hardcore we want to see in a muscle mag).

A little background on the machinations of NB&F. Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness is run by the Exercise Media Group. They also produce such watered-down duds as Exercise for Men Only, Men’s Exercise, and Best Body. The magazines are published by the elusive Cheh Low. I have never seen him make a personal presence in the magazine so I just picture him as Keyser Sözeh (as played by Kevin Spacey).

Following strategies from the Joe Weider playbook, they also started their own bodybuilding federation, the INBF (amateur) and WNBF (sort of professional with low price money).  This in itself is not a bad thing and should seem a step in the right direction. Natural bodybuilding is (much like powerlifting) fractured into dozens of federations, with every president wanting to be chief and various officials bickering over interpretations of the rules and drug testing procedures. Rather than covering all natural competitions (which would serve the athletes), they restrict coverage to their own competitions. Even worse, when their best athlete, three-time WNBF Universe winner Dave “Texas Shredder” Goodin appeared  in IronMan, which would have done nothing but served the cause of natural bodybuilding, Goodin was reportedly given a three-year suspension from their federation. Talk about a PR debacle!

Well, on to this issue. We start out with an editorial by Rich Fitter. I’m not sure when this guy took over from Steve Downs (as mentioned in my review of the May issue of Powerlifting USA, he is now the ad-man for MHP), but Fitter looks like a slightly younger incarnation of Downs. His bland writing and company-line spiel is identical. This editorial “Putting out the Fire with Gasoline” (pg 12) shows a lack of perspective on Fitter’s part.

He starts out talking about how diverse opinions are good, bemoans a negative forum post thread by an athlete critiquing the company-owned INBF/WNBF, and then states, “The editorial freedom I allow may create some waves among the bodybuilding community…” but that seems to be relegated to just the diet, supplementation and training aspects, certainly not any discussion on the operating procedures, rules or future growth with which the in-house federation is run. You have athletes dieting for twelve to eighteen weeks and training an entire year in prep for one of your contests. I think they have earned a say in their sport.

Dr. Joe Klemczewski has been a long-time contributor here and I was glad to see he was rewarded with an “Ask Dr. Joe” column (pg 16).

He is a WNBF pro known for his conditioning and his ability to get other drug-free athletes in top shape. In response to a carb intake question, JK gives a nice explanation of how carb restriction affects bodyweight via water loss and gain and how that can be misleading. He advocates controlled restriction of carbs, but warns that too excessive a restriction can be counter-productive. In another question, he is asked if there is really any difference between simple and complex carbs during when the carb gram content is identical. As an experienced dieter, JK explains the importance of volume as certain sources (rice, oats) are more filling. The mental aspects of dieting are therefore, every bit as important as the math.

“Supplements” (pg 18) by Rich Fitter is a raving endorsement for a MuscleTech product. Is it a coincidence that they bought 28 2/3 pages of ads (in a 152-page magazine) and he happens to like them? Is that what he was talking about with his “editorial freedom making waves in the industry”? Apparently so. 

WNBF pro Kurt Weidner discusses “Longevity” (pg 26) and how one must adapt their training to the advances of age (and repetitive stresses of the gym). He recommends the inclusion of therapy and preventative maintenance (unfortunately I have yet to meet a lifter that takes this seriously until their body sends them some sort of sign that its necessary). He recommends becoming a master of adjusting form, varying stance, line of pull or grip to work around minor strains and injuries, limiting poundages on exercises when necessary and compensating through higher reps are slower more controlled execution. His appeal for smarter training does not reveal any revolutionary ideas but it did reinforce some important concepts for old codgers like me.

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WNBF Pro - Kurt Weidner

In the rhetorically-titled “Want Bigger Biceps?” (pg 32) Sean McCauley rehashes some oft-told concepts beginning with the role of genetics as a limiter of biceps size and shape. He explains the need for using increasing heavier weight, sufficient rest and some lower intensity work to avoid over-use injuries but give no real practical applications, not even any guidelines.

WNBF World Champion Jim Cordova has a great build but in the photo used in his training column (pg 50), he bears a remarkable resemblance to American Pie’s Jason Biggs. Anywho… Cordova gives us a number of strategies for using push-up variants to build pecs (Just like Jason Biggs gave us a very strong reason to avoid eating pies). It was a well-written article.

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WNBF World Champion Jim Cordova vs. American Pie Star Jason Biggs

“Handling Losses” by WNBF World Champion Brian Whitacre (pg 56) gives a great perspective on how the champion does not rest on their laurels but use losses as impetus towards renewed improvement. In “Living the Dream” (pg 66), author Albert Khoury profiles Rob Moran, in a well-written story.  Shaun Clarida describes the training and nutrition adjustments he made in “Ventures of a World Champ” (pg 68). Laura Anne Rega gives us a profile on coverman Clarence McGill that is well-written. Albert Khoury profiles Best Body champ Amber Walker (pg 80) but the photos again hurt this feature and do no justice to the athlete (she suffers from the shiny forehead syndrome common here). Tracie Euker, in a feature by Pete Dombrosky (pg 104) escaped that same reflective fate.  These features are all light mixes of info and inspiration and may serve those wanting to follow in these athletes footsteps.

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Rob Moran

Dr. Joe Klemczewski returns in a research compendium “Science or Fiction?” (pg 74) and a revisiting of his previous article ten years earlier (I recall reading it) on “Non-linear Periodization” (pg 76). Dr. Joe really saves this mag and I particularly like the NLP article. He is a deep thinker with both the blend of academic study and gym-time observations that I appreciate.

Mary Gillis dispels “The Myth of the Fat-Burning Zone” (pg 108), although I’m thinking that has been dispelled numerous times long before this redundant article. The latter section of the magazine is basically fluff not worth pouring over in detail, unless you want to know how to make Creamy Chicken Enchiladas (Spoiler Alert! Greek Yogurt is the key).

Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness has the $6.99 cover price of the major magazines, but at roughly 150 pages it does not contain the polished presentation or meaty info to justify the expenditure. If Joe Klemczewski took a three-month sabbatical I don’t know that he would have a magazine to come back to.

Written by Steve Colescott

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums - Rag on the Mags #3 - Natural Bodybuilding & Fitness: August 2010 discussion thread.

About Steve Colescott

Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.

He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.

With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.

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