During the golden era of bodybuilding (1960~1980), the primary focus was developing an aesthetic physique.
The bodybuilding culture was drastically different, as it was widely accepted as a form of art.
What a line-up, right? The top dog of the golden era was no other than Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Just look at that. This physique was quite literally FLAWLESS. And that is exactly why Arnold won the Mr. Olympia contest 7 times.
In the movie documentary “Pumping iron”, Arnold himself mentions that the focus back then was not really on the performancing enhancing drugs, more so than the training.
Well, it wasn’t long until 6-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, introduced “The mass monster”.
The late 20th century was a pivoting point for the sport of bodybuilding, as these massive, bulky physiques started showing up more and more.
Bodybuilders started having different goals, always wanting more and more.
The sport became a matter of who will be the biggest, which of course, required massive quantities of steroids.
The side effects
When a healthy habit turns into a dangerous obsession, you get exposed to a number of risks.
A relatively new phenomenon, linked to the abuse of performance enhancing drugs is the “Bubble gut”.
The distended gut is blamed on many things, such as insulin and growth hormone.
Nonetheless, whatever the case is, it has become such an epidemic, that it threatens to destroy whatever is left of bodybuilding as we know it.
Now, without further ado, let’s take a look at the worst cases of the bubble gut syndrome
#10 Scott Steiner
You may be thinking “Wait, what? Steiner isn’t even a bodybuilder, he’s a wrestler!”.
And while that may be true, it is a fact that he often shows up in a variety of bodybuilding articles and videos.
The once “Best built man” however, is now facing the consequences.
Besides the bubble gut, he also has a chest that literally splits in the middle.
His fans cannot really understand what’s going on with his chest which is why it still remains a topic of discussion.
Now let’s see some actual bodybuilders
#9 Phil Heath
Phil Heath is one of the most complete and impressive bodybuilders of the 21st century.
He has won 7 straight Mr. Olympia titles and has battled off rivals like Kai Greene.
He is the youngest on this list, currently at 39 years of age.
Now, even though his musculature matured as his bodybuilding career advanced, his bubble gut got out of control at one point.
During his last couple of Mr. Olympia contest, he actually REGRESSED. His fans were quite disappointed to see that their idol gets worse and worse with each year and that’s why they called him out.
On the picture we can clearly see that his first olympia win in 2011 was his best shape.
Over time, the mid-section literally faded away, which accounted for a worse overall look.
Arnold Schwarzenegger himself got mad and said
“Now, it’s more like a bottle shaped body, more than a V-Shaped body”
After Phil’s last olympia, where his bubble gut almost spilled, he admitted that he actually has a hernia, which he will be working around and hopefully, coming back to stage.
#8 Jean Pierre Fux
Besides the funny-factor of his last name, Jean Pierre was famous for enduring a heavy weightlifting accident.
That accident during a 700 lbs squat attemptalmost ended his career.
Now, an experienced trainee like Jean knows how to handle such a situation.
After his knee cap snapped off, Jean knew that he is more likely to save his tendons if he straightens his legs.
And that is exactly why it is what he did after they took the weight off of his back.
Afterwards, he spent two weeks in a hospital and was bound to a wheelchair for a long time.
People suspect that the causes of his bubble gut were the time off of the gym and the amount of drugs he took afterwards to rebound.
#7 Kai Greene
The many-times runner up Kai Greene was probably Phil Heath’s biggest competition throughout his entire winning streak.
He has had a tough childhood, living in the foster care system, but it was not long before he found his passion for bodybuilding.
It is kind of sad to hear such amazing stories, but at the same time, witness the severity of the bubble gut syndrome.
Bubble guts seem inevitable for high-end bodybuilders and there is really nothing they can do about it.
#6 Ronnie Coleman
If Phil Heath is the most successful, recent bodybuilder, then Ronnie Coleman was the most successful bodybuilder of the 90’s.
Having won 8 Mr. Olympias in a row, he reigned for nearly a decade.
On top of that, he holds the record for the most IFBB professional wins, at an immense number of 26.
Currently, Coleman is 55 years old and retired.
Even though Ronnie is not in his top shape, it is sad to see that such a big specimen fell a victim to the bubble gut syndrome and heavy abuse of his body.
As of now, Ronnie Coleman is recovering after multiple spine surgeries and double hip replacements, caused by his immensely heavy workouts.
#5 Markus Ruhl
At 5’10” and 310 lbs, Ruhl is considered one of the biggest bodybuilders to have ever lived.
Now, the metrics of bodybuilding success are symmetry, size, leanness, vascularity and proportions.
Even though Ruhl had a distended bubble gut, his enormous upper body kind of managed to hide it, which is why he was never shamed for his gut.
He will forever be in the hall of fame of the most massive, freakish bodybuilders.
#4 King Kamali
King Kamali is a 47 years old, Iranian bodybuilder, but currently located in New York city.
However, 47 years old is pretty much the upper limit for bodybuilders, at which age they retire, due to the abuse they impose their bodies to.
Well, that’s not the case with Dexter Jackson, and he is indeed an exception to the rule!
Nicknamed “The persian pearl”, King Kamali has a degree in exercise physiology, meaning he should know better than anyone why he has a bubble gut and how to fix it.
However, it appears that most bubble gut cases appear in older bodybuilders, as opposed to younger ones.
So, Perhaps it has more to do with age more than anything else.
#3 Greg Kovacs
At 6’4” and an off-season weight of 330 pounds, Greg was the biggest bodybuilder in the second half of the 1990s.
His measurements were standing at 25 inches for the arms, a staggering 70 inches for the chest and 35 inches for the legs.
That however, didn’t help hide the obviosu bubble gut towards the end of his career, like in the case of Markus Ruhl…
Greg Kovacs died of heart failure in 2013 at the age of 45.
#2 Big Lenny
The internet-famous bodybuilder “Big Lenny” is well known for having the most severe case of palumboism and bubble gut.
For those of you who don’t know, palumboism is basically the regress and deformation of a bodybuilder’s musculature.
As mentioned, Lenny’s gut is so insanely distended that at this point, it is his most distinctive “trait”.
Even though he’s big, the disproportion in his midsection appears to be something that completely cancels out his aesthetic factor.
To see Lenny’s opinion on the matter of bubble gut and steroids, check out the video at the bottom!
#1 Dave Palumbo
Above, we mentioned about palumboism. Some people believe that it should be called “Big Lenny-ism”, however, the truth is that it originates from Dave Palumbo himself.
Dave Palumbo, who is way past his prime, just like most people on our list, is famous for transitioning the term “bubble gut” to “Palumboism”.
He is also well known for representing the mass-monster era way more than the “Aesthetic bodybuilding era”.
As mentioned, Mr. Palumbo is a retired bodybuilder, but he still works in the industry.
As of now, he is the CEO of RX muscle and is also the editor of the Muscular Development Magazine
A LOT of bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts suffer a type of body dysmorphia. That is essentially reverse anorexia, where the individual will never experience satisfaction with how big they are.
Such obsessions lead the trainees to the decision to enhance with steroids and ultimately in the long term, they experience side effects such as organ failure and the so-discussed bubble gut.
It is important to mention that you literally can’t argue against the fact that the golden era bodybuilders are superior by all measures, compared to modern bodybuilders.
And that can be clearly seen on the picture above, where The Austrian Oak (Arnold) is compared to the biggest bodybuilder of the early 21st century- The king, Ronnie Coleman.
We encourage you to aim for a physique, balanced between size, leanness, vascularity, proportions and symmetry, without reaching any extremes!
Check out the video below, where you can see details about the above-mentioned bodybuilders!