Bodybuilding DVDs for the most part are kinda lame productions in my opinion. Training in itself, isn’t much of a spectator sport, and watching someone rep a weight is about as interesting as watching paint dry. Apart from a few notable pros, most celebrities/athletes within the sport aren’t the most articulate of cats, have little to say, and are generally boring to listen to.
Most of the Mitsuru Okabe produced pro vids are usually stock standard productions. Lacking any kind of narrative or documentary-esque structure, we are simply left with what amounts to a guy pointing a camera at his subject and flicking the record switch. We get a look at the pro training, the pro at home, the pro eating, the pro talking about his home or training or eating…..rivetting stuff to be sure! I find most bodybuilding dvds to be on a par with porno productions – you get to see lots of naked flesh, there’s no identifiable narrative, the stars lack charisma, and they generally have no ‘replay-value’ once you watch them once.
I suppose most of the appeal of these vids is the visual nature of a superhuman freak doing his thing, and living a life that most of us working stiffs can only look on in either envy or utter disdain over the waste of it all. A life dedicated to absolute narcissm at the expense of everything else is surely one of the key markers for the end of that civilisation.
The only other reason I might watch a standard bodybuilder’s DVD of the Mitsuru Okabe ilk is during a very low calorie dieting phase. Apart from the visual motivation, the brain really isn’t in the mood to be overly taxed with Inception-esque plot twists and David Lynch like character development. Watching mindless repetitions set after set has a somewhat soothing effect, and there is many a time I have used an Okabe DVD for afternoon insomnia, just so I could sneak in a nap.
The following is a list of titles that have seen the light of day in my DVD player beyond more than one viewing. I’ve either picked up something interesting from them in the way of tips, or been entertained by the way the film/documentary has been constructed.
1) Bodybuilders Reality– I haven’t watched the full series and probably don’t intend too, but this reality-series investigates a day in the life of pro Lee Priest. Mostly we see Lee doing all the things any Okabe DVD would show, however Lee is very funny in parts and doesn’t mind speaking his mind on a variety of politically incorrect topics. Footage of him from his younger days provides a rare treat for fans who rarely get to see just how far their idols have become. Judging by Lee’s genetics when he was younger, and his equally short, but muscular mother, this guy was born to bodybuild and probably started by doing chin-ups in the womb.
2) Shawn Ray – Final Countdown – Shawn was blessed with one of the most beautiful, complete and pleasing physiques before the current ‘Attack of the Bloated Clones’ fully ceded any future for the smaller, aesthetic physique (Dexter Jackson’s not withstanding.) Why Shawn didn’t walk away with at least one Sandow trophy is definitely a mystery for the ages. Shawn was also blessed/cursed with the gift of the gab, and can talk, and talk , and talk about any topic that comes to his mind. Shawn describes his approach to contest prep without really giving any secrets away whatsoever. He’s one of the rare bastards who can get away with doing pretty much whatever he wants inside and outside the gym and still make stunning progress. Pretty much a genetic phenom even in his younger days, Shawn was one of those guys born to be a bodybuilder.
3) Blood & Guts – Dorian Yates – Before Ronnie Coleman’s unbelievable DVD hit the shelves, Dorian’s “Blood & Guts” was the definitive ”hardcore” lifting video. Shot in grainy black and white, there is very little talking or self-aggrandising. Dorian invests an amazing amount of intensity and energy into every set, and until Ronnie Coleman’s “Unbelievable” DVD made it onto the scene, this DVD epitomised the hardcore approach to training.
4) Power Unlimited – This documentary takes you into the world of Powerlifting providing a very comprehensive look at the history and evolution of the sport and its main competitors. I found the interviews of both famous and regular powerlifting enthusiasts to be fascinating as they dedicate their lives to the goal of lifting as much weight as they can. It was also interesting to see Mark Bell, one of the Bell brothers from “Bigger, Faster, Stronger” make an appearence.
5) I Want to Look Like That Guy – Unknown regular guy, Stewart accepts the mammoth challenge of first getting in shape and then competing in a bodybuilding contest. Under the tutelage and guidance of natural pro Jeff Willet, Stewart transforms his physique and shows how difficult”looking like those guys” you see in the ads are. Quirky, informative and enjoyable.
6) Raising the Bar Trilogy – Reviewed this before in my depth here – Enjoyable as far as bodybuilding documentaries go. Pulcinella is definitely nuts. Dedicated, but nuts.
7) Bigger, Faster, Stronger – Probably one of the best documentaries around presenting a balanced look at the steroid issue in today’s culture. This documentary follows the story of 3 brothers, all who are involved in the iron game in some way, two of which are using steroids. It looks at the cultural influences, the politcal debate, and they hypocrisy that surrounds the illegality and demonisation of these drugs. First rate interviews with guys like John Romano, Ben Johnson, Karl Lewis, Greg Valentino and many iron-notables. Amazing documentary that everyone interested in sports or physical culture should check out.
8) Raw Iron – The Making Of Pumping Iron – I’ve left the original documentary that started it all off the list purposefully because I think that anyone familiar with iron game has seen it once or like most afficionados, multiple times. On the release of the 25th Anniversary DVD of the movie, this documentary was also included as a behind the scenes release which explained how the concept evolved along with a lot of extra footage. I hear they have hundreds of hours of unreleased footage contained in the vaults. Considering Zane and a few others were totally cut from the final production, I’d pay any price to see all that extra footage. This was quite an emotional viewing for me when I first watched it. Seeing those old guys get together in the same room, made me realise how fleeting this life, and especially youth really is. Corney in a wheel chair, Louie still the sad caricature stuck in the past trying to prove himself to Arnold for validation. Gotta make the most of it while you still have it for sure.
9) Skip Lacour – Packing on Muscle Max OT Style – Jefff Willet also has a similar DVD that shows his use of Max OT principles. Skip is very much into the Anthony Robbins, mental performance approach to defeating the limiting beliefs that often confront such an insecure driven activity such as bodybuilding. People want to discredit Skip by claiming that he’s not natural. I don’t doubt that he is. He is just one of the truly rare genetic phenoms who backs up his approach with iron clad discipline, mental focus and hard work. A motivating model to follow. Skip’s adherence to Max OT takes a very low volume approach that I don’t necessarily agree with personally, but it works for guys like him and Willet (if they truly follow that system year round) What I learned about watching this DVD is that you don’t have to be a hardcore form junkie necessarily. Skip’s form is pretty loose on some exercises and his primary focus is slinging the weight for the desired number of reps.
10) Secrets of the Pros – Milos Sarcev – Milos learned a lot of his tricks of the trade from notable strength coach Charles Poliquin, so his description of how to perform exercises to gain more bang for the buck is worth watching. The way he articulates exercise performance is very simple to understand and would be good model for personal trainers to emulate when talking to clients. Unlike Skip and some of the other ”move as much weight as possible” guys, Milos is all about feeling the weight as opposed to moving heavy poundages. The nutritional seminar DVD is very droll and doesn’t contain anything revolutionary beyond the beginner and intermediate level. (Some of his comments are over generalisations, and in light of all the research and anecdotal evidence emerging regarding intermittent fasting, quite possibly, flat-out wrong.)