Palumboism has been the great aesthetic  problem in the heaviest bodybuilders for some decades now. In popular jargon, we know it as the exaggerated abdominal dilation or the "look" of the ninja turtle. It occurs especially in professional bodybuilders. Its exact cause remains a mystery. Some blame the abuse of doping substances such as insulin or growth hormone, hypercaloric bodybuilding diets or even certain exercises. What is the truth? Everything remains a mystery, but let's see the debate.

What is palumboism?

bodybuilder ninja turtle with swollen belly
The bodybuilder can have the abdomen like ninja turtles.

In this condition, the muscles of the abdomen become wide or dilated. Other internal tissues and organs (such as the stomach) are also said to increase in size. This gives the bodybuilder a bloated  abdominal look and makes it difficult to keep the abs close to the body.

Why is abdominal dilation a problem?  Because bodybuilding has always sought to maintain aesthetic lines. Maintaining a narrow waist in relation to the back, legs and arms has always been a primary goal for a bodybuilder. The belly really ruins the aesthetic of an athlete on stage. Every competitor must prevent and correct this dilation. Why happens? Anabolic steroids and the large amounts of food bodybuilders have to eat have been blamed mainly. However, we know that palumboismIt didn't exist in the golden age of bodybuilding and it's a more recent phenomenon. Doping substances were already consumed and a lot of food was eaten in the 1960s and 1970s. However, bodybuilding athletes of the time did not present bloated bellies. Therefore, there must be something else behind this condition. To understand what palumboism is , a picture is worth more than words. 

The potbellied bodybuilder did not exist in the golden age of sports

Bodybuilding standards changed over time. What at first was the competition to find the proportion and a harmonious body became a spectacle of exaggerated muscle mass. In Open bodybuilding, athletes are getting heavier. Lou Ferrigno , one of the biggest bodybuilders of the 1970s, weighed in at 130kg for his 1.96m height in 1975. Today, numerous 1.75m bodybuilders weigh that same or even more on stage. To understand this change, we must take into account that not only the way of eating (eating more) has changed, but also the substances that are used. 

Lou Ferrigno bodybuilder classic aesthetic
Lou Ferrigno .

Dave Palumbo, the bodybuilding father of palumboism

Dave Palumbo was the first bodybuilder in history with  bloating . Palumbo first competed in 1990. After him, we got to see a lot of other fat bodybuilders in photos and competitions. So we can say that this problem started in the 90's. Massive bodybuilders started having massive bloating in the belly relative to the pectoral.

Dave Palumbo with a distended belly
Dave Palumbo was the first  abdominal dilater in bodybuilding .

Despite being known for his abdominal condition, Palumbo was a bodybuilding myth in his prime, an entrepreneur and creator of the RX Muscle brand.

Palumboism causes

As bodybuilding is a fairly minority sport, there isn't much medical research on the typical "bodybuilding stomach" . The only anecdotal evidence is that this rare problem started suddenly in the 1990s and 2000s, when athletes started putting on massive muscle mass . Since then, it has been associated with various causes. Medical research has pointed to the following.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu and Frank Zane classic bodybuilders
Classic bodybuilders like Arnold, Franco, and Frank Zane didn't have bloated bellies.

Diet high in calories and carbohydrates could lead to distended abdomen 

Bodybuilders, especially heavy professionals using anabolic cycles, have to follow calorie-dense diets. Often these diets even exceed 6,000 calories. Doctors have stated that one of the causes of bodybuilder with bloated belly is overeating. Eating a large amount of food can lead to  bloating . However, this alone does not explain palumboism .

Overweight sedentary people suffer from enlarged stomach and abdomen, but we see that what happens with bodybuilders is something totally different. An overweight sedentary person will eventually reduce bloating when losing body fat. However, competing bodybuilders already have fairly low fat levels and visible abs. Even so, his abs look inflated and with the "ninja turtle" effect. 

The bottom line is that dieting high in calories or carbohydrates can contribute to the fat bodybuilder "look" we've seen since the 1990s. However, hypercaloric dieting must be accompanied by or be the consequence of other things. Why are modern bodybuilders capable of ingesting so much food or colossal weights of muscle mass? The answer may lie in the use of new, stronger doping substances that have been used since the 1990s. 

Human growth hormone as a cause of distended abdomen

In the heyday of bodybuilding , until the late 1980s, testosterone derivatives had been used to increase muscle size. In the decade that followed, it was discovered that growth hormone, or HGH (which had been used under medical control in children who had trouble growing), also built muscle mass in humans. 

HGH could make your biceps, chest, or quads grow. Of course, the hormone caused a growth of the entire body in general and not just the desirable parts. HGH hypertrophies the internal organs and the rectus abdominis. This gives the appearance of the bulging abdomen. Bodybuilders who have taken growth hormone  say they saw their head, ears and hands grow ( Rich Piana case ). 

Insulin in the bodybuilder with a swollen belly

Externally supplied insulin  is the other hormone and doping substance to blame for palumboism. Insulin was found to be a highly anabolic hormone, but highly dangerous when given uncontrollably to gain muscle mass. Let's remember what insulin is. It is a hormone that is naturally present in the human body. Insulin is used to transport nutrients to cells and obtain energy. It favors protein synthesis and, therefore, the construction of new muscle tissue. However, insulin also promotes the synthesis of fat tissue when there is an excess of calories in the body.

Female bodybuilders may resort to external insulin injections to maximize their protein synthesis and, in other words, gain double the muscle mass. When bodybuilders combine insulin injections with HGH and other substances, the fat stored behind the stomach increases. This fatty tissue is known as visceral fat and is responsible for the fat bodybuilder  appearance .

Are bodybuilding exercises and a bloated stomach related?

Experts say that in addition to high-calorie diets, the stress and fatigue of bodybuilding training can contribute to palumboism . Long-term stress affects the nervous system and leads to adrenal fatigue. Also steroids can enlarge the abdominal muscles.

So, should I worry about having this problem if I do gym exercises or to strengthen the abdomen? No. There is only evidence of excessive growth of the abdomen when under the effects of cycles with anabolics. It is true that some exercises can hypertrophy the abdominals, but this hypertrophy will never be excessive in a natural bodybuilder. Exercises like crunches or squats can never make you look like a  fat stretched bodybuilder .

To conclude, we can say that excessive exercise in the gym can enlarge the abdominal muscles, but this only happens when the bodybuilder is taking doping substances.

Conclusion on the causes of distended stomach in bodybuilding

Abdominal  dilation in bodybuilding  does not have a single cause, but several. Normally, it is a combination of all or several of the factors that we have explained. Palumboism can occur  from HGH, external insulin or even by combining these two hormones with other steroidal substances. Fatigue caused by bodybuilding diets and exercise can increase abdominal dilation, but this happens when doping substances are taken. 

Can abdominal dilation be treated in bodybuilding or palumboism?

At the moment, there is no specific medication or therapy for this condition. Doctors do advise the following to the bodybuilder suffering from this problem:

  • • Stop taking steroid and training substances for a while. 
  • • Abandon the hypercaloric diet with excess carbohydrates.

If the body does not return to normal after following these measures, the affected person will have to seek help from a doctor who specializes in athletes who have abused HGH and other steroids.

Problems associated with palumboism

Swollen bellies are not only an aesthetic problem . This condition can be accompanied by gynecomastia (enlargement of the mammary glands in men). Due to the increase in tissue size, palumboism has side effects such as stretch marks. The steroid substances that cause the condition can also cause the testicles to decrease in size.

The condition can cause problems such as joint pain, swelling in the hands and feet, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs, muscle weakness, and fatigue . The best way to prevent the condition and its symptoms is never to use doping substances that can cause them.

Bodybuilders with swollen bellies

Hundreds of bodybuilders from the 1990s and 2000s have suffered from the problem of bloated abs. Before you leave, stay with us to see some curious examples.

Dave Palumbo and his bloated abdomen

The American bodybuilder from New York was the first to show a strange belly. He was nicknamed "Jumbo" ("Giant") because he weighed almost 136 kg in competition. He was competing from 1995 to 2004. Out of curiosity, he never became a PRO. He founded the supplement company Species Nutrition and the bodybuilding magazine RXmuscle.

Scott Steiner

Scott Steiner wrestler with swollen belly
Wrestler Scott Steiner .

He is a WCW (professional wrestling) legend. He was nicknamed "Big Poppa Pump" due to his large size. When he gave up his wrestling career, his physique began to decline. His belly seemed swollen and inflamed. It is well known that professional wrestlers use doping substances and human growth hormone. 

Branch Warren

Branch Warren belly pregnant bodybuilder
Legend Branch Warren has a dilated belly.

One of the best known IFBB professional bodybuilders of all time. He was famous for his heavy and brutal workouts and great explosiveness. Because of his incredible workouts, Warren was prone to injury. In his last competitions, Branch Warren suffered a hernia and had a swollen belly . Warren probably used HGH to speed muscle gain and recovery.

Greg Kovacs presented an unsightly palumboism

palumboism before and after Greg Kovacs
Palumboism before and after Greg Kovacs .

There was never a giant of muscle quite like Greg Kovacs . He was 1.93 m tall and weighed 150 kg. Unfortunately, he was the second best-known case of palumboism and died at the age of 45 in 2013. The Canadian bodybuilder could outshine even the famous Markus Ruhl, who was already quite big.

Was Kovacs perhaps the fattest bodybuilder ? At age 40, he began to have a dilated abdomen, which ruined his impressive physique. This was caused by the substances he was taking for his competitions. Why did Greg Kovacs die? The cause was heart failure.

Big Lenny, Dilated Bodybuilder on YouTube

Big Lenny dilation abdomen palumboism
Big Lenny is one of the best known cases on the internet.

Big Lenny is 1.93m tall and weighs between 136 and 150kg. He is a bodybuilder and is part of the YouTube channel The Delray Misfit , where he shows the day to day of him and his friends from the gym (as Jason Genova) in Delray Beach, Florida. Lenny has been on steroids and growth hormone. He has a significant case of bloating . 

Kai Greene

Even world-class bodybuilders and Mr. Olympia winners, like Kai Greene , have occasionally displayed a swollen belly  like a ninja turtle. It is another case of how certain substances are being abused today.

kai greene pregnant
Kai Greene with the pregnant bodybuilder look .

As you can see, palumboism is a tragedy and an unnatural state of the human body. What some anabolic substances can do is truly amazing. Is modern bodybuilding standards to blame, which seeks "mass monsters" without regard to the health of athletes? And you, what do you prefer? Tell us. Do you like physiques with classic lines or the giants of the latest Olympias?

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Tags: Bodybuilding