Working out makes people obsessive. You’ll either know someone who gets up at 6AM and fits in a gym workout, a swim and a bike ride before clocking into work. Or maybe it’s someone who swears that indoor climbing will completely change your life. Or it could be that guy you always see in the shared kitchen at uni guzzling protein shake after protein shake.
Bodybuilders are in a league of their own. You’ll see them on Instagram doing something like lifting someone above their head without breaking a sweat, or crushing a melon with just their thighs or simply being able to say that their biceps are the size as the head of a small child.
Although eternal bragging rights and getting compared to Arnold Schwarzenegger all the time might sound like a walk in the park, the other side of it – foregoing a social life, risking injury and eating a restricted diet every day of your life – doesn’t make getting super jacked sound all that enticing. So we talked to some super buff guys about dedication, not fitting into clothes and asked them the all important question: Why, exactly, did you decide to get so buff?
DAVE CROSLAND, 50, HUDDERSFIELD
Hi Dave. How did your super buff journey begin?
Dave Crosland: As a kid I was always a bit fascinated by He-Man characters or muscle men. And I’d watch films particularly if they had bodybuilders or big guys in them. So from an early age, I liked that look and I wanted to emulate it.
So when did you start?
At 15, I started messing around with weights and I joined my first gym. I found that I could do it and I was quite good, too. Strangely, I enjoyed the personal challenge as well as the pain. Although I liked the big-looking physiques, that wasn’t my only driver, so the size is more a bonus of the training that I enjoyed. So I was pushing myself in the gym and I found that I grew really well.
Are you currently the most muscular you’ve ever been?
No, my biggest was about six years ago. My best was probably 365lbs. I was big and I was strong, but I could also still move. When I started to go over 380lbs, that's when the size started to have a very big impact on how I live my life. You don't fit in anything.
I mean anything. Clothes, cars, buses, trains.
What are the biggest misconceptions about really ripped guys?
I mean obviously, drugs do play a role but I think people think that it's all drugs and there's no hard work. There's a huge amount of work involved and if you're going to be the best at anything, or you're going to push the limits on anything, it requires huge amounts of dedication.
MOTELEOLA MAKINDE, 28, LONDON
VICE: When did you first start taking getting big seriously?
Moteleola Makinde: In early 2013. I started the gym to try and become big – whether my execution matched my intent in the early days is another story.
What made you want to become super muscular?
Aesthetically, I’ve always preferred the look instead of being slim. I feel more confident in and out of clothes.
Why did you start taking it seriously?
I would say competing in bodybuilding made me take it all more seriously as I wanted to present my best.
What's the biggest misconception about bodybuilders or muscular men?
From modern media, it would be our vanity, although I try not to care about what has not been said to my face.
What's the best and worst thing about it?
For me, the best part is constantly getting to challenge yourself in the gym and setting new benchmarks to continuously beat is very exciting. The worst part is injuries. I would say I am blessed to have not been injured many times, but as you can imagine it’s not fun to be away from your happy place.
TOM HEMMING, 25, OXFORDSHIRE
VICE: Why did you decide to become super buff?
Tom Hemming: I think everyone is similar in that it’s a low self-esteem thing. So I’d probably say, as vain as it sounds, getting muscular was initially down to just wanting to attract girls and then it became more of a passion and obsession as time went on.
Who inspired you?
My cousin who is a semi-professional footballer, he was very very fit and athletic so he was my first inspiration for getting into the gym in general. In terms of bodybuilding, a gentleman called Dorian Yates [a professional bodybuilder and six-time Mr Olympia winner].
So when did you start taking it seriously?
Around six or seven years ago. It was only really when I lived in California for three months and trained at Gold’s Gym and saw all the bodybuilders there that I thought, ‘This is the path I want to go down and this is the physique I want to build and the lifestyle I want.’
Has being a bodybuilder changed your life?
It has changed my life massively. It’s now my career, my lifestyle and 90 percent of my friendships are through bodybuilding or the gym. I met my partner through the gym and now we’re having a baby. So yeah, it’s changed my life radically and I’d say for the better, because I had quite an extreme personality before this. I’d like to think bodybuilding has steered me away from a lot of potentially negative situations that I could have been in.
What are the biggest misconceptions about very muscly men?
The major one is that we’re all cocky and think that we’re above everyone. The majority of people I know in bodybuilding have come from a low self-esteem background. The majority of my friends are introverts and we actually don’t like other people looking at us. It’s more so to do with self-development, rather than what people view us as. That being said, it does come out of a little place of worrying about that other people think.
SAMSON DAUDA, 35, ESSEX
VICE: Why did you decide to become super buff?
Samso Dauda: I used to play rugby and my teammates would say I had a great physique and should start taking it seriously. I met my partner at the gym and then started competing six months later and came first.
Your first bodybuilding competition made you fall in love with it?
Well, before any of this, I was a very shy person. I wouldn’t take my shirt off at the beach and when playing team sports, I didn’t want to stand out too much. Obviously, when you’re in a competition, you’re pretty close to naked. It took 20 minutes for me to psych myself to do it, but when that spotlight hit me, it was like I became a completely different person.
So bodybuilding has helped with your confidence?
Absolutely. I wouldn’t have been able to do something like this [interview] before. From travelling the world and meeting new people, I’m more confident in myself.
Are you still a work in progress or is this as muscular as you’d like to be?
I’m just getting started, honestly. Bodybuilders can peak in their 30s or 40s, some even compete in their 50s. So there’s definitely still time for me to progress.
OK. What’s the biggest misconception about bodybuilders?
That it’s all vanity. For some people, it might be but for me and others, it's about discipline. I don’t go out, I watch what I eat too. I know every drop of water and gram of protein I have to eat. There’s a lot of dedication. It’s not just about being the biggest you can be either, it’s more about symmetry.
Would you say getting jacked has changed your life then?
Definitely; it’s my job now. I was a builder before and then not long ago I was signed to be a professional bodybuilder. I couldn’t believe it. I was like ‘You will pay me to go to the gym and work on myself all day?’ I’m incredibly lucky to be able to support my family this way too.
All interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.