20 Epic Changes in Fitness in the 20 Years Since Body of Work Premiered

Body of Work by Bill Phillips EAS NutritionIt was the summer scared by the death of Princess Di that we wrapped work on what is still arguably the most inspirational fitness documentary of all time, Body of Work.

By any calendar 20 years is a good chunk of time. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long until you find your VHS copy of Body of Work and realize you can’t even play it!

A lot has changed in the world in the two decades. Yet, the movie has aged incredibly well. Still evoking emotion that can anyone off the couch and moving.

Just last week I sat in for a live-cast with Bill to talk about the movie, the time and chat about some of the way the world — most specifically the world of health and fitness has changed since the movie.

This got me to thinking about some of the biggest changes in health and fitness of the last twenty years. Here’s a list of 20 epic changes that have come to fitness in the last twenty years…

I’d love to hear from you what you’ve seen and perhaps some I have missed. Enjoy…

1. iPhone F#&ked uFocus

I don’t recall exactly the phone I was carrying in ‘97 but I’d had the old Motorola “brick” back in the day. What I know for sure is that no one was carrying a phone in the gym back then. There was no screen to stare at, no selfie to take, no Instagram to post.

When you went to train, you trained. Music was on the main system and it was you and the weights. That’s it. You carried your training plan — if you had one — on paper. That was the technology. Paper.

Now, I hate to sound like a “get off my lawn” ol’ guy but give paper and focus any day over this screen scratching obsession we’ve got now.

Focus is essential to your training and particularly to the “flow state” you really want to feel. Old school beats new phone in my book.

2. Carbs Take Heat

Once upon a time it was said, “fat is incinerated in the fire of carbohydrates.” Not so much any longer…Carbs have become the real “C word.”

I’ve seen carbs come and carbs go. Atkins was really round two for carbs. Now we’ve got cave man paleo and the latest soiree into keto. With the possible exceptions of fats in the early 90’s no macronutrient has taken a greater pummeling than carbs have in the last twenty years.

Ah, but is it perhaps justifiable carbocide? Well, while I’m trying to stay free from too much commentary for this fun reflection, let me just say that I think it’s a little extreme. And what you can be sure of, be it Atkins, paleo, keto…is: This too shall pass.

3. Rise of The Box

If you’d have told me there was coming a strength sport — not powerlifting nor a muscle packed beauty contest, I’d have had a hard time buying it. Ah… Crossfit.

Yes, Crossfit simply took off — and with it “boxes” (the Crossfit lingo for small gym) began popping up on every damn corner. So it feels. I still have my challenges with Crossfit (better word than “issues”) but there is no arguing it’s been successful and a great boost to fitness.

Hats off to the entire Crossfit movement. My one word of advice would be, try not to take it all so seriously. Relax a little. Have some fun.

4. Bodybuilding Grows… Bigger?

What I mean is bigger, not bigger. You know? Let me try this…

Bodybuilders keep getting bigger. I don’t think I could have imaged, 20 years ago, that they would be bigger but somehow bigger they seem to do. As for a “sport” (easiest word to use here) I’ve been half waiting for it all to die yet, continue on it does.

As an activity (vs. sport) I do think it grows some how. Yet, on most all but the highest levels, it seems that the advent of Physique class is actually where the movement is — the growth. At times I wish that physique were a thing back then — it might have held some interest for me. But the shorts… What is with them damn shorts.

Lose the shorts, already! 

5. Health Food Gets Fast

My Favorite — Joe’s NIKKO Salad

Twenty years ago fast food was, well, fast-food. As in… Yikes! You know, McDonald’s and such. Today, access to healthy foods, fast has exploded. Even most the places that sold that fast-crap offer a variety of healthy options.

In the interest of transparency, 20 years ago we — here in Colorado — did have Tokyo Joes, my all time favorite and our family go to. Fortunately, Tokyo Joes is expanding and until you get yours, there are many other go to healthy eats.

Take a moment and think about what the terrain of healthy food really looked like two decades ago? No wonder we were packing our meals. Damn.

Lucky us! Now let’s use it.

6. Creatine for LIFE

Twenty years ago creatine was in its infancy—an amazing, powerful, profitable baby but still very young. There was already considerable research dating back decades that supported the power enhancing benefits of creatine.

If you’d have asked me then if creatine would be 100 times more impressive—with a rapidly growing body of science—in 2017, I’d have said, “You crazy.” And yet, turns out creatine is crazy—crazy good!

It literally is every few months that another life enhancing benefit for creatine is found in research. Strength, power, sure… but cognitive, anti-aging…. The body of work for creatine is beyond impressive and still growing.

My advice is, don’t wait for the next proof-point. Get it now. And don’t fall for the “new advanced” creatines of kitchen sink formulas. Go with the best stuff, that works and is oddly, the cheapest. Pure creatine monohydrate — and I always suggest going with CreaPure brand from Germany. It’ll be on the label. Don’t use anything else.

Oh yes, and take it every day.

7. Zen Meet Strength

“Abs, abs, abs…” the photographer, Kal barked at Bill and I in the opening scene of Body of Work. For as long as man has sought to refine and define the body, it’s been “about the body.” A focus and fascination with all that the eye can see.

Yet, for those who have gone deep enough down the rabbit hole, it is impossible to ignore that there is so much more than something physical going on here. You can even find Arnold speaking to the mystery of the experience in the classic Pumping Iron.

In these last two decades since Body of Work debuted—in concert with the growing embrace of meditation and mindfulness—the knowledge and connection of the “mind-body” and flow states has grown.

I hope that I may take some credit for adding to this growing body of work for it’s been 17 years since I first started teaching my own “Zen of Strength”Focus Intensity Training techniques to live audiences. F.I.T. is quite literally the gateway to flow-state strength training. This East meets West practice brings the mindfulness of meditation, the flow of yoga, with the sharp intensity of martial arts into old-school weight lifting.

For however crude the brutal act of building muscle may look, at the highest level of concentration and connection, a final full-force rep of the bench press is no less a mental miracle than the perfect golf shot.

Try bringing the force of your focused mind in present moment flow and see how powerfully it changes everything, including your body. 

8. Supplement Insanity

Twenty years ago there was EAS or… well, EAS. Of course, we had competition. The shelves were filling fast as the entire industry was experiencing boom times.

Today, not sure where to find EAS but as the ol’ saying goes, “a walk through GNC looks like an explosion in a paint factory.”

I think there are two new supplements for every man, woman and child in the US released each year. And while there has always been those who struggle with ethical issues, the growth and ease of access to becoming a “supplement kingpin” has made these moral, ethical issues more prevalent than ever.

Today, it is more challenging, confusing and downright dangerous to choose any supplement out there with confidence. You’ve got pre-workouts stacked with stimulant pharmaceuticals left on the science chopping block in the 1930’s. There are more attempts to put the punch back in the creatine market with new formulas and wild, unsubstantiated claims than there are punches in a Mayweather fight.

The One and Only…. HP!

There are top selling categories of products where the entire category is a fail — in that they simply do not work. It’s total BS. Yet, if you are in the business how do you not get into a hot category? Damned if you do. Double damned if you don’t. So everyone does.

Clearly, with EAS you can offer us some credit and assign some blame — but I can attest that we always knew right from wrong and while one can debate, now, if HMB really “works like Deca” that is nothing more than Monday morning quarterbacking.

At EAS, we always followed the science and lead with science. A little bit of real science would go a long ways for the riff-raff that threatens to bring the entire industry down, every damn day.

Tip: How do you best, most wisely navigate the supplement insanity today? Simple, find a high-integrity, experienced expert whom you can trust — and follow their lead, and advice. Sure, there are a few brands you can follow but almost every brand will mix in a little crap with their cream. Most. Not all.

9. Fifty is Thirty-Something

“Age is just a number,” said someone in their 30’s. Yet, thanks to strength training, sound nutrition and a growing body of people following a “body for life” lifestyle, 50 is no longer a scary number.

As I said in Strength for Life, you can get away with murder in your 20’s, you can bumble your way through most of your 30’s but how you live your 40’s will dictate how you live the rest of your life. Your margin for error gets smaller and smaller. Momentum matters. And clearly, the sooner you adopt a “strength for life” model, the stronger, leaner and younger you will live.

Age is a number but the years either pile on or wash off your back—based on your lifestyle. It’s your call.

10. Muscle Goes Mainstream

Twenty years ago we had Arnold and Sly, leading the way in muscle at the movies. Clearly, it was working but they were the exception. Today, we see muscle on the TV, in nearly every movie, in the executive office, even in politics. It’s no longer some weird fringe thing that may be a sign of a wounded ego, it’s cache to carry the lean mass.

Consider the evolution of 007, James Bond. As great as Sean Connery was as Bond, it’s almost unwatchable today as you try to dispel belief when you see what a scrawny, unfit body he was rocking. Fast forward to Daniel Craig — who trains his ass off to fit the lean, strength we now all expect from Bond.

In the 90’s, I recall the hours I’d spend on the phone with Sly, while he was shooting movies and seeking the next great breakthrough. Traveling to sets to line up his workouts. He would often share me as his “secret weapon” and while some in rock would take my advice, often the movie folks would feign interest then just fade away.

These days, be it the likes of the Rock or a female fashion model, celebrity trainers like the iconic Iron Mike Ryan are getting top dollar and booked years out. Yes, things have changed. And muscle is a coveted asset than can open doors and change the game for anyone.

That is the END of PART 1.


Share and Enjoy


Tags: , , , ,


Leave a comment
  1. Marc Anthony August 30, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

    I enjoy the articles…

    Question about the Creatine…I stopped taking the Monohydrate because of the bloating…no matter how much water I drink.
    I’m 50, and like you said, there’s little margin for error or bloat.

  2. Andrew Brown August 30, 2017 at 4:22 am #

    Thanks for this informative read Shawn. I still use the body for life success journal at times when I go into the gym, and when I don’t use that , it’s paper and clipboard . Phone stays in my locker where it always will be. I think you touched on an important point with several of these , especially crossfit . Exercise at its root for me is about doing something I enjoy and can repeatedly do for a lifetime . I think a lot of people try hardcore programs like crosscut but can get burned out or turned off by the extremes it fosters in people’s mindset with regards to health . That’s what I loved about body for life , strength for life , and the holistic approach to health . It’s about long term sustainability and finding joy
    In what drives you. The exercise is the catalyst to greater things in life not the main event itself . Thanks !


  1. 20 Epic Changes in Fitness in the 20 Years Since Body of Work Premiered (Part 2) | Strength for Life | Shawn Phillips - August 31, 2017

    […] Here’s Part-2 of this fun 20 year reflection on fitness and nutrition life. Here’s PART 1 to read and enjoy first. […]

Leave a Reply