Before and After Photos in Fitness Magazines

Some supplement companies will go to any lengths to

prove their products’ effectiveness. But sometimes the

evidence isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. Before and

after photos are the most compelling means by which to

convince a person of steroid-like gains.

Often the before photos show the bodybuilder in off-season

condition; fat, bloated, with pale skin. Hardly inspirational,

but true to life. And photos are sometimes reversed. In one

instance a supplement company presented a photo of a

fitness model in top condition, declaring it the ‘after’ photo.

Beside it, the apparent ‘before’ photo showed the model in

her last trimester of pregnancy. Anyone who is familiar with

the model’s history is aware that the before photo was, in

fact, the after photo.

The same trick was used by an ex-professional bodybuilder

from the 1960s. Interestingly, his jowls sagged more and

his face looked older in the before photo. Apparently his

supplement line not only increases muscle, it may be the

proverbial fountain of youth!

Before and after photos from every day individuals sell a

product best. They represent people like you and me…

average weight trainees hoping to make dramatic changes

in short order. But these photos are also highly dubious. In

order to look as bad and as good as possible, the models

employ several tricks.

The before photos nearly always have the subject

slouching, frowning, pale skin, dull lighting, gut extended,

and with no muscle pump. The after photos use harsh

lighting with good shadow contrast, tanned skin, upright

posture with lats and shoulders spread wide, muscles

tensed, smiling with well-groomed facial and head hair, and

a muscle pump. It also is known that duct tape has been

used to pull back obliques/love handles in order to make

waists appear even smaller and shoulders even wider. The

same trick works under their arm pits, to make the pec line

more pronounced and sharp.

And so, are you truly seeing what the person has

accomplished and while on supplement ‘x’? Hardly; what

you are witnessing is an illusion of posing and photography

skills of the model.

One winning competitor in the EAS Physique

Transformation contest in 1999 did look good if contrasting

his before and after photos, losing twelve pounds of fat. He

also, however, lost six pounds of lean tissue! Ignoring the

fact that he won, it could be said that his program was a

failure and that he did the opposite of what exercise was

originally intended to do, e.g., increase lean tissue/function.

But it is to these unhealthy extremes that one sometimes

experiences in order to make a dramatic difference in a

contest that allows only 12 weeks. After all, 12 weeks is not

a long time, particularly for advanced trainees more so than

novices. For the advanced, there is not much muscle to

gain and to produce good before and after photos requires

extreme loss of fat – besides slouching, frowning, and no

pump or tan in the before photos.

Unfortunately, many people (particularly novices) who are

unaware of the benefits and application of long-term

planning will burn out on such an endeavor, perhaps

quitting exercise all together. After a 12-week stint of near

overtraining (if they haven’t done so by the contest’s end and

if not understanding how to train), they conclude they cannot

tolerate another 12-weeks of further self-inflicted torture, let

alone another three years.

Not everyone entering these contests understand that it is a

short-term solution… to see how far the body can be pushed

as quickly as possible. After that point, training must take

on a more cyclic structure. This means maintaining most of

what was accomplished during the physique transformation

followed by ‘easier’ off-season training and peaking

infrequently thereafter. Fat loss may continue after the

contest, or prior to another peak, but 100% mental effort and

extreme demands may only account for 8-12 weeks total

throughout the year once reaching an advanced stage.

Training throughout the remainder of the year can still be

tough, yet tolerable and never as demanding.

I don’t believe most beginner trainees realize the

importance of cycling or what needs to be done after a

physique transformation challenge. Most magazines don’t

talk about it, nor do bodybuilding books. They present

general ideas and expect you to lift happily ever after. It is for

this reason that physique transformation contests and

magazines as a whole produce greater failure than success

in. The thoughts of maintaining or bettering one’s physique

after 12-weeks of grueling effort is enough to shatter

anyone’s motivation. Believing that you must continue

training in a similar manner (something to which we have

all fallen victim) is the best guarantee to exercise


Interestingly, can you imagine the loss in profits that

supplement manufacturers (magazine owners) are

encountering due to frustration of their readers and the

thousands dropping out of exercise – or perhaps no longer

purchasing that magazine and the supplements it

endorses. If sound training information were provided,

particularly long-term application, there would be more

successes and supplement purchases from advanced

trainees. Rather, supplement companies are hoping and

expecting a new generation of customers to make up for

those recently lost – short-term solutions for a quick buck.

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Brian Johnston

Author: admin

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