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Many bodybuilding books presume that the aspiring physique champ will be happily hell-bent on throwing themselves into the hardcore bodybuilding lifestyle and committing everything they have to the cause of building huge slabs of Ramy-Esque muscle by any means necessary. Unfortunately, such hard and fast guidance may only serve to dissuade the otherwise devoted lifter from giving them all and reaping the rewards of what should, in essence, be a healthy lifestyle choice. What Chris Harrison has instead done with his remarkably insightful The Good, the Bad, and the Heavy is to lay out the reality of high-level competitive bodybuilding–how, should we choose to become serious about hitting the gym with a view to achieving an ultra-lean and freakily massive physique, we also run the risk of falling victim to musclebuilding’s darker side. This ‘darker side’, this untethered reality of serious bodybuilding, is uncovered and disseminated to ensure that the decision to compete can be done so with sound information and a realistic understanding of the demands of competitive bodybuilding (not a sugar-coated version of the ‘truth’).

Packed with sound advice on the best ways to safely and effectively build a contest-winning bodybuilding physique without alienating loved ones and risking life and limb, this book gives an honest and oftentimes confronting analysis of ‘what-it-takes’ for those who’ve perhaps found themselves questioning whether the iron game is for them. Among its many insights you’ll learn about:

  • How bodybuilding can be a catalyst for good: The ways in which an effective eating and training regimen can radically transform the individual from unhealthy and overweight to lean and physically and mentally on the top of his or her game.
  • The different competitive options available to those who wish to own the stage but may not have the genetics or desire to gamble their health and wellbeing on a mass at-all-costs mentality.
  • The best ways to maintain perspective in an oftentimes extreme and cutthroat industry: Why the most successful competitors are often those who have learned to separate bodybuilding from other aspects of their life.
  • How to foster healthy relationships when striving for success in one of the most selfish, time-consuming and demanding of sports.
  • The foundational elements that lead to long-term bodybuilding progress: Why patience, commitment and an emphasis on hydration, sleep and other such ‘basics’ remain the true keys to a fulfilling and long-lasting bodybuilding career.
  • How to pick the right people to support your training endeavours: From training coaches to life partners, this book puts front and center the importance of cultivating mutually supportive relationships.
  • How to avoid common distractions and how to properly manage time to get the most from your commitment to the bodybuilding lifestyle.
  • The reality of performance-enhancing drugs and how to safely and effectively navigate the dangerous and oftentimes damaging pitfalls of steroid use. Here Harrison provides a detailed framework for how to cycle on and off steroids while mapping out many of the factors a competitor must consider before committing to a steroid regimen.
  • In the contest prep process–from offseason to pre-and post-contest, an useable and highly detailed blueprint for competition success is provided. This information alone may save both beginner and advanced competitors thousands of dollars, a great deal of time, and much trial and error.

Rather than drawing solely from personal experience, Harrison has enlisted, wherever pertinent, the expertise of individuals with lived experience and informative insights to support his own hard-earned advice. Here, his mother, Karen Harrison, an ER nurse and long-time supporter of Chris’ bodybuilding endeavours, provides her personal take on the dangers of high-level bodybuilding and what she considers being good and bad of a life committed to sculpting the body beautiful. As well, IFBB Pro Alfred Voit and his wife, Shauna Voit, weigh in on how best to maintain a healthy relationship while traversing the travails of the competitive bodybuilding lifestyle. Their advice and insights serve as an invaluable cautionary tale for those who desire to be as committed to their life partner as they are to building a contest-winning physique.

Photo By: David Ford

Harrison correctly states that bodybuilding is among the most difficult sports to prepare for and compete in. He further believes that a competitor will only be as good as the people he or she surrounds him or herself with. His major goal, in discussing various aspects of the bodybuilding lifestyle (a 24/7 ‘occupation’ that requires a superhuman degree of focus and commitment to sustain), is to help the dedicated bodybuilder (aspiring and seasoned alike) to understand the truth about the industry into which he or she has installed him or herself. In the process, he details challenges that few other such writers and athletes are willing to touch upon (including how to deal with the “post-show blues” that often make getting back into bodybuilding mode extremely difficult).

Two further such areas are social media and bodybuilding politics.

Though a driver of much growth within the fitness and bodybuilding arenas, social media also presents a challenging conundrum for those committed to capitalizing on their gym efforts. Here Harrison explains how best to establish and balance a social media presence that attracts followers and enhances one’s career trajectory with the common propensity to becoming a slave to the screen. Managing time on social media while cultivating and maintaining a professional online standing is also discussed.

Photo By: David Ford

Bodybuilding politics, the bane of many a competitor, is also given an unflinchingly detailed airing. When it comes to placing high, a worthy physique may not always be a competitor’s biggest calling card. In fact, the complete bodybuilding package extends to how well athlete markets him or themselves, behave in a professional manner and shows vulnerability and honesty (particularly onstage and on social media) to those with whom they wish to develop professional and personal relationships. Harrison discusses why these underrated contest-winning factors are important and how to avoid a range of commonly associated problems less politically astute competitors might face.

While he lays out the full reality of bodybuilding, including much of its ugly side, Harrison’s overall message is to never compromise on consistency, dedication, integrity, hard work, and focus when it comes to training, diet, and presenting oneself in a professional manner. By reading this book, you’ll be better positioned to enter the training trenches without making career or potentially life-threatening mistakes along the way. Step-by-step you’ll be guided through the oftentimes murky world of competition physique competition. However, by absorbing and acting upon its insights, you’ll be less likely to become another bodybuilding casualty. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with a formidable physique and the knowledge needed to display it to its fullest.

This is a must read book for anyone thinking abut taking up bodybuilding. Chris is Real.

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