Bodybuilding is about building aesthetic muscle, so bigger physiques have always been admired so long as they conformed to certain aesthetic standards. But as the late Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia, once pointed out, back in his era the majority of bodybuilding competitors did not have the genetics for really huge physiques. Champions of the past like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sergio Oliva were big, muscular men — but not able to develop to the level of the behemoths that compete for the Mr. Olympia title nowadays.

I remember standing outside Gold’s Gym in Venice back in the early 80s and listening to a bodybuilder complain that there were “no big men” left in the sport. Little did we know the near future would bring us Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, and then Ronnie Coleman, and pro lineups in which being 250 pounds made you one of the “little guys.”

What changed in bodybuilding to produce such advances in physical development? Why are so many bodybuilders so much bigger? Many ascribe the change primarily to anabolic drugs. But while there have been in advances in the chemistry of anabolic substances, those changes are not enough to account for how quickly or how far this development in increased size has progressed.

Here are some of the reasons I see that have propelled athletes to grow into the physiques we see on stage today.

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