Before and After Photos in Fitness Magazines
By Brian Johnston
Some supplement companies will go to any lengths to
prove their products' effectiveness. But sometimes the
evidence isn't quite what it's cracked up to be. Before and
after photos are the most compelling means by which to
convince a person of steroid-like gains.
Often the before photos show the bodybuilder in off-season
condition; fat, bloated, with pale skin. Hardly inspirational,
but true to life. And photos are sometimes reversed. In one
instance a supplement company presented a photo of a
fitness model in top condition, declaring it the ‘after' photo.
Beside it, the apparent ‘before' photo showed the model in
her last trimester of pregnancy. Anyone who is familiar with
the model's history is aware that the before photo was, in
fact, the after photo.
The same trick was used by an ex-professional bodybuilder
from the 1960s. Interestingly, his jowls sagged more and
his face looked older in the before photo. Apparently his
supplement line not only increases muscle, it may be the
proverbial fountain of youth!
Before and after photos from every day individuals sell a
product best. They represent people like you and me...
average weight trainees hoping to make dramatic changes
in short order. But these photos are also highly dubious. In
order to look as bad and as good as possible, the models
employ several tricks.
The before photos nearly always have the subject
slouching, frowning, pale skin, dull lighting, gut extended,
and with no muscle pump. The after photos use harsh
lighting with good shadow contrast, tanned skin, upright
posture with lats and shoulders spread wide, muscles
tensed, smiling with well-groomed facial and head hair, and
a muscle pump. It also is known that duct tape has been
used to pull back obliques/love handles in order to make
waists appear even smaller and shoulders even wider. The
same trick works under their arm pits, to make the pec line
more pronounced and sharp.
And so, are you truly seeing what the person has
accomplished and while on supplement ‘x'? Hardly; what
you are witnessing is an illusion of posing and photography
skills of the model.
One winning competitor in the EAS Physique
Transformation contest in 1999 did look good if contrasting
his before and after photos, losing twelve pounds of fat. He
also, however, lost six pounds of lean tissue! Ignoring the
fact that he won, it could be said that his program was a
failure and that he did the opposite of what exercise was
originally intended to do, e.g., increase lean tissue/function.
But it is to these unhealthy extremes that one sometimes
experiences in order to make a dramatic difference in a
contest that allows only 12 weeks. After all, 12 weeks is not
a long time, particularly for advanced trainees more so than
novices. For the advanced, there is not much muscle to
gain and to produce good before and after photos requires
extreme loss of fat - besides slouching, frowning, and no
pump or tan in the before photos.
Unfortunately, many people (particularly novices) who are
unaware of the benefits and application of long-term
planning will burn out on such an endeavor, perhaps
quitting exercise all together. After a 12-week stint of near
overtraining (if they haven't done so by the contest's end and
if not understanding how to train), they conclude they cannot
tolerate another 12-weeks of further self-inflicted torture, let
alone another three years.
Not everyone entering these contests understand that it is a
short-term solution... to see how far the body can be pushed
as quickly as possible. After that point, training must take
on a more cyclic structure. This means maintaining most of
what was accomplished during the physique transformation
followed by ‘easier' off-season training and peaking
infrequently thereafter. Fat loss may continue after the
contest, or prior to another peak, but 100% mental effort and
extreme demands may only account for 8-12 weeks total
throughout the year once reaching an advanced stage.
Training throughout the remainder of the year can still be
tough, yet tolerable and never as demanding.
I don't believe most beginner trainees realize the
importance of cycling or what needs to be done after a
physique transformation challenge. Most magazines don't
talk about it, nor do bodybuilding books. They present
general ideas and expect you to lift happily ever after. It is for
this reason that physique transformation contests and
magazines as a whole produce greater failure than success
in. The thoughts of maintaining or bettering one's physique
after 12-weeks of grueling effort is enough to shatter
anyone's motivation. Believing that you must continue
training in a similar manner (something to which we have
all fallen victim) is the best guarantee to exercise
Interestingly, can you imagine the loss in profits that
supplement manufacturers (magazine owners) are
encountering due to frustration of their readers and the
thousands dropping out of exercise - or perhaps no longer
purchasing that magazine and the supplements it
endorses. If sound training information were provided,
particularly long-term application, there would be more
successes and supplement purchases from advanced
trainees. Rather, supplement companies are hoping and
expecting a new generation of customers to make up for
those recently lost – short-term solutions for a quick buck.
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Brian D. Johnston is the Director of Education and President
of the I.A.R.T. fitness certification and education institute. He
has written over 12 books and is a contributor author to the
Merck Medical Manual. An international lecturer, Mr.
Johnston wears many hats in the fitness and health
industries, and can be reached at info@ExerciseCertification.com. Visit his site at http://www.ExerciseCertification.com for more free articles.
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