Film Review: Generation Iron

This is a must documentary for all bodybuilding fans. You get a real taste of what it takes to become one of the best bodybuilders in the world. Written and directed by Vlad Yudin, and narrated by the gravel growl voice of Mickey Rourke, this film rivals Pumping Iron for bodybuilding intensity.

You see the technicalities of posing, where the heavily tanned contenders go through their moves on stage (double bicep, front lats, side chest, back double bicep, back lats, favourite ‘most muscular’).

You learn about the founders of modern bodybuilding, Joe Wieder (1919-2013) and his brother Ben, who created the Mr Olympia contest (which Arnold Schwarzenegger won a staggering 7 times). Joe Wieder also co-founded the International Federation of Bodybuilding (IFBB). With a retail empire of supplements and weight-training equipment, Joe Wieder was probably the most successful bodybuilding entrepreneur in history.

Mr Universe 2012

We go behind the scenes in the build-up to the ultimate bodybuilding competition, with defending champion (and former pro basketball player) Phil Heath leading the pack, and winning the title again.

Three men have dominated this competition since 1998: Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler and Phil Heath. The only exception was in 2010 when Dexter Jackson took the title.

2012’s line-up is impressive:

Kai Greene

Nicknamed ‘The Predator’, Kai is Phil Heath’s main rival, and the contest comes down to these two man-mountains, with clear blue water separating these two from the rest. Kai is amply rewarded as runner up with big prize-money. Kai’s main outside interest is as an artist, and he paints mainly pictures of bodybuilders on large canvasses.

Branch Warren

Born in Texas, Branch won the Arnold Classic in 2011 and 2012. His personal trainer is George Farah (the ‘pro-maker’), who motivates and monitors him all the way.

Dennis Wolf

The only German in the 2012 final line-up, Dennis is inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Dennis went on to win the 2014 Arnold Classic.

Hidetada Yamagishi

This Japanese bodybuilder is one of the shortest, but well-proportioned. His nickname is ‘The Dragon’.

Ben Pakulski

This big Canadian won Mr Canada 2008. He has created a successful online business selling his Mi40 muscle building programmes, and he gives motivational speeches worldwide. In this documentary you see him using the latest technology to assess his training and body composition, with men in white coats watching him train, reminiscent of the Rocky film where Dolph Lundgren undergoes hi-tech training while Sylvester Stallone does it all hard-core outdoors in the snow.

Roelly Winklaar

Trained by Dutch former female bodybuilder Sibil Peeters, who he calls ‘grandma’ or ‘trainer from hell’, Roelly has great genetics but seems to lack focus and discipline.

Toney Freeman

From Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Toney  (now big on YouTube), is nicknamed the X-Man for his slim waist and big shoulder and legs. He made the top 5 in the 2008 Mr Olympia.

Victor Martinez

‘The Dominican Dominator’ was trained by Victor Munoz, and won the Arnold Classic in 2007.

Bodybuilding tips

There are many nuggets of bodybuilding wisdom in this film. ‘You’re only one major injury away from career-over’ is one. And in Kai Greene’s words, ‘Your body represents your focus and dedication’. The top bodybuilders make a fortune, while thousands of hopefuls languish in financial difficulties if they don’t find additional sources of income.

One of the personal trainers emphasises the importance of staying relaxed and keeping stress at bay. The stress hormones can take the edge off the best physique, so a positive outlook, regular massages and meditation are key to staying on top of your game.

I was expecting more on the subject of nutrition, but this key element of bodybuilding seemed to take a back seat in this film.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and author of the Fitness4London blog.