Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

about us





Bodybuilders are made in the school playground

Bodybuilders are not made in power gyms and fitness centres. The psychological make-up of many bodybuilders is formed at an early age, in the school playground, psychologists at Warwick Medical School in England discovered.

The psychological tests and statistical analysis that they did showed that insatiable desire for more muscle bulk is the result of bullying. According to the psychologists, not all but many bodybuilders suffer from a syndrome referred to in the textbooks as muscle dysmorphia: they may look physically impressive, but nevertheless have the feeling that they are not big enough or that they are too fat.

Bodybuilders are made in the school playground
They look better than 99 percent of their age mates, but they are still ashamed of their body. It's perhaps therefore not surprising that studies find a relationship between muscle dysmorphia on the one hand and steroid use, health complaints and heavy training programmes on the other.

The psychologists at Warwick looked for a relationship between bullying and muscle dysmorphia. In the book Little Big Men by the anthropologist Alan Klein, bodybuilders recount how they were bullied as a child and how they started weight training to overcome their feelings of inferiority. The psychologists asked one hundred male bodybuilders to complete a questionnaire on bullying and used specific lists to determine whether they suffered from muscle dysmorphia [MDI] - and psychological disorders as a result of being bullied. This is referred to as global psychopathology in the graph below, which summarises the psychologists' findings. The disorders include depression, compulsive obsession and anxiety.

Bodybuilders are made in the school playground

About twenty percent of the bodybuilders in the study had been a victim of bullying as a child. Among these bodybuilders, a high degree of obsession with muscularity resulted in global psychopathology. Among the bodybuilders that had not been bullied the relationship was weaker.

An unhealthy obsession with muscularity is by no means widespread among bodybuilders, the psychologists conclude. Most bodybuilders train hard, but this does not disrupt their life.

"Our findings show that many bodybuilders achieving the same physique do not show disordered body perception", the psychologists write in their conclusion.

Psychology of Sport and Exercise Volume 9, Issue 5, September 2008, Pages 595-604.