Rich Gaspari has seen bodybuilding progress through the years and worries the artful aspects of the practice have fallen by the wayside. In a recent Fitness, Fame & Fortune Podcast, Gaspari argued why bodybuilding should be considered an art form, not a sport.
Artistic expression and bodybuilding go hand in hand. For as long as the sport has been around, competitors have crafted unique posing routines to complement their respective physiques. There is no doubt bodybuilding has changed since Rich’s time on stage. After wrapping up his tenure, mass monsters were slowly taking over the top of the Men’s Open division.
In the 1990s, Dorian Yates proved mass and conditioning to be an Olympia-winning combination. Following Yates’ six-year reign, another massive albeit conditioned bodybuilder took his place as Ronnie Coleman made his ascension into the history books with eight Sandow trophies.
Many believe Hadi Choopan’s win at the 2022 Mr. Olympia show signaled a shift to conditioning and balance in bodybuilding. Gaspari thinks the sport has temporarily lost its artistry and blames dull posing routines.
Rich Gaspari Says Bodybuilding Is Not A Sport It’s an Art Form: ‘It’s Something That’s Subjective’
In Gaspari’s opinion, the subjectivity of bodybuilding makes it an art form, not a sport. He supported his argument by comparing it to other sports like track and field, where an athlete reaches a finishing line following a contest.
“You talked earlier about what is bodybuilding, is it a sport or an art? I consider it an art form. Do you have to go through physical training to get to this art form, yes you do. You’re building a statue by throwing clay to build up your chest or your shoulders but what are you doing? You’re displaying your body after all this physical exertion that you’re doing to build that body. Is it really a sport? It’s something that is subjective.”
“You really don’t sit there and run through the finish line and pick a winner. When someone argues with me that it’s a sport, I say it’s not a sport. It’s an art form. You have to go do the gym to get to look like a certain way to be that art form but is it really something that you can say I don’t know.
I can’t really say anything about sports because in the Olympics you got curling, which I think is a ridiculous sport, throwing that thing across the ice. Could bodybuilding be considered a sport, in that sense sure, since curling is a sport, why not bodybuilding. I kind of think when people tell me I said it’s art form, it’s not a sport,” Gaspari said.
According to the 59-year-old, artistic expression might have been lost but he believes Classic Physique is resurrecting the concept.
“A lot of what you’re doing is training, but people don’t see what it takes to make that body. The dieting, the training, the tanning, all the preparation it takes to get ready to go on that stage. That’s the part that it’s all the stuff that comes together to get you to be that bodybuilder on stage. I mean – I spent hours posing too because it’s good that lately that the art form is coming back because of Classic Bodybuilding but for the last couple of years, the last five or six years it was lost, it was a lost art.”
“Back – go five, six, eight years ago, bodybuilding posing was completely lost. I thought the routines were shit. The only guy that really posed that gave a good show was someone like a Kai Greene. That still saw something in that even though there wans’t – I guess they didn’t score it. Back when I posed or when I competed, they did score the posing round.”
Industry expert John Ramano also drew attention to the lack of vacuum poses in the Men’s Open division compared to the Golden Era of bodybuilding, which hosted the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, the late Dave Draper, and Lou Ferrigno.
“Ferrigno was famous for that, think of the huge guys from then that could do a vacuum. Draper, Arnold, Louis, all these guys that we talk about – Mentzer – he was pretty big at one point still sucking up a vacuum,” added John Ramono.
Before wrapping up, Gaspari underlined how busy Venice Gold’s Gym was and likened it to a circus.
“It was such a show [at Gold’s Gym Venice], guys like Lyle Alzado, you knew Lyle Alzado, he was nuts, the Barbarian Brothers — guys if you went to this gym back then, it was a circus. It was a circus. You really couldn’t train in that – I would train, like I said, train in the valley, I would go to World’s Gym with Lee and he would never want to go to Gold’s.”
Rich Gaspari is far from the first retired pro to highlight how the Men’s Open has changed over the years. Perrenial Olympia contender Lee Labrada pointed out that symmetry, proportions, and balance have been ‘tossed to the side’ as of late. Moreover, he took issue with the lack of creative posing routines and described the Open class as ‘tanks clunking’ between each other with no transitions.
RELATED: 63-Year-Old Lee Labrada Looks Jacked in Father-Son Posing Session with Hunter
Samson Dauda’s win at the 2023 Arnold Classic revived the importance of balance, symmetry, and posing in the Open. Nevertheless, Gaspari is adamant that bodybuilding should be considered an art form, not a sport.
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