Big, distended guts! If there's one topic that I get asked about all the time, it's stomach distention. This is a phenomenon that has been prevalent in bodybuilding for decades. It isn't just limited to the professional ranks; it's a problem with amateur bodybuilders as well. I am going to take the bull by the horns and discuss the factors that I feel have caused stomach distention in both myself and others. Learn from other's mistakes and incorporate it into your own protocols.
I feel the chief culprit in my own distention was the quantity of food I had been eating. Let's put this into perspective, I was eating enormous volumes of food in my quest to be the first 400 pound bodybuilder. I was consuming 800g of protein, countless carbohydrates and all the fat that came with that food; it was all food, I didn't use shakes. There was no off switch to the eating; there couldn't be. It follows that, as a direct result of the volumes of food that I was consuming, my stomach stretched and appeared distended. My stomach lining, under all that pressure, was forcing my abdomen to protrude and over extended periods of time my abdominal muscles started to force outward as opposed to in. The lesson that I would humbly impart to competitive bodybuilders is that you should eat just enough to be in a surplus. Do not try to bulk up too much in the off-season. Additionally, I would strongly recommend that you be cognoscente of any food allergies, i.e. gluten. I never realized it, but I have gluten intolerance and it caused a lot of bloating and discomfort.
Neglecting Core Training & Heavy Lifting:
I was a silly bastard back in the day. I had the audacity to use my bloat for stability; you've probably done it before too. In my estimation, lifting heavy and not focusing on pulling in my abdominal muscles contributed greatly to my distention. I would think that it plays a factor with many bodybuilders. I performed some heavy lifts regularly with no regard to keeping my abdominal wall tight, rather I let it out. It wasn't as stylish as it is now to pay attention to your core muscles. There were no BOSU balls or heavy emphasis on core training, we didn't think about it. I never gave any thought to strengthening my core along with the rest of my body. I was flat out old school – ab training was for women and right before a contest. Unfortunately, I was wrong. This is one of the main reasons for herniated belly buttons. Iron freaks don't want to waste time training abs, we want to lift heavy but it comes at a price. As we build all that muscle and neglect our transverse and supportive muscles in the abdominal girdle, something will give out. And, when it does, it is those muscles that cause the herniated belly button. I have one still, but since I have been incorporating core work, I am finding that it is flattening out dramatically. I'm not going to sit here and name names, but flatly, do core work and keep your abdominal wall strong. It will pay off on stage dramatically.
There is something that none of us can really control and that is the structure that we are born with. Some of us are gifted, others are not. Structure also effects waist thickening and distention. I think most people have found that athletes with short torsos and longer legs have these issues much more commonly than a long torso, short legged bodybuilder. I happen to have a short torso. Some others that have a short torso are Ronnie Coleman and Kai Greene. I don't know if you have noticed, but we all have had issues with distention. Kai is getting his distention virtually gone through hard work and becoming aware of it.
I'm sure that you all know that drugs have a place in causing distention. I don't really need to get into that, it is common knowledge. The thing is, I believe that it only has a small role in distention. If it was a huge cause of distention then every pro bodybuilder would have huge distention. There is never one reason for a problem in bodybuilding or in life in general. It is much easier to blame it on drug use than to sit back and fully analyze the situation. I hope this article helps some guys out there battling with this issue and that they find some of the information useful in reversing the process. There are definitely ways to minimize the effect. The key to bodybuilding and this problem is to be honest with what you see happening in the mirror. If you see that your stomach is becoming distended, do something about it, don't let it get out of hand. Don't willfully ignore the problem, it won't go away and it will get worse. Be honest with yourself as a bodybuilder, tear through your ego and really take a look. If you are looking distended, do something about it. It won't go away by itself and it doesn't look good.