Phil Heath and Frank Sepe join Mike O’Hearn to discuss IFBB Pro card entitlement in today’s bodybuilding.

Mindset is a vital aspect to being a champion regardless of the sport. It’s the very thing that separates a great bodybuilder from a legendary bodybuilder. It’s what makes the impossible possible. There has been much said about the number of pro cards being given out in modern IFBB pro bodybuilding. Does this create, subconsciously, an entitled mindset? It’s this very topic that Phil Heath and Frank Sepe discuss and debate alongside Mike O’Hearn. In Generation Iron and Barbend‘s latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show, Phil Heath and Frank Sepe break down how an easy pro card creates a false sense of accomplishment.

Frank Sepe is a fitness author, editor, tv personality and model that has been on the cover of over 100 magazines. Phil Heath is a 7x Mr. Olympia champion and considered one of the most legendary bodybuilders of all time. Both have accomplished incredible things throughout their career. But one other thing connects these two impressive athletes – they both rose to success in the final era before social media changed the sport.

Yes, the internet and some social media platforms were already present during their prime. Phil Heath’s reign as Mr. Olympia existed in a post-instagram world. But this was before the standard was set. Before the monetization opportunities of influencers became commonplace. It was a time of social media wild west.

It was also a time when IFBB Pro cards were given out far less often. Professional bodybuilding has grown significantly as a sport over the past decade – and a big part of that is thanks to internet, social media, and PPV streaming opportunities. But a larger sport also means more pro card opportunities. Increased internet presence means alternate success paths. Now more than ever – an athlete can stay in their own lane, or even their own world, and gain some form of success.

“To be honest, let’s call it the way it is… this generation, the majority of it that I have seen, are self entitled and delusional. They do two shows and expect a pro card.”

– Frank Sepe

Do more IFBB Pro cards mean more entitled bodybuilders?

Mike O’Hearn, Phil Heath, and Frank Sepe all agree that this has changed the mindset of modern day bodybuilders. A competitor can become a pro without having to face as much of a challenge. Without pro qualifiers bottlenecking into a fewer shows – athletes can win and succeed with less challengers. This also means as an athlete, the individual is being less challenged. Without that challenge – a winning physique is pushed less into greatness.

Frank Sepe points out various moments where he meets a young bodybuilder who acts condescendingly due to their pro card status. But the reality is that the bodybuilder has only competed in two shows total. Phil Heath agrees with this sentiment – as he too has spoken to or met young bodybuilders who act the same way. Heath calls this new generation “soft” because of this.

“I hate to say it man but as much as you’ve been in this industry and seen the changes over time… people overall just being kind of soft. You’ve been able to see that quite a bit. And what I mean by soft is entitled. They don’t really know the difficulties of what it was like to be a pro back in the day.”

– Phil Heath

Phil Heath, Frank Sepe, and Mike O’Hearn bring up examples of bodybuilding in the 90s. How at every Olympia qualifying show and nearly every pro qualifying show – bodybuilders would be facing against the best in the world. They make note that even the greatest of all time, bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman, had to face lower placings much more often before ever becoming pro or qualifying for the Mr. Olympia.

Continuing with the comparison, they note how Ronnie Coleman struggled for quite some time as a pro before finally tweaking his physique and rising up to legendary status. Today, with more pro qualifying shows, there are essentially more “backdoor” entries into a pro card.

Phil Heath also takes note of how different it was to actually be a top level pro before social media. Without Instagram or YouTube to build your own audience – you were funneled into a small selection of prime magazines. In order to get noticed in a big way, you had to get on the cover. That put you against nearly every other elite pro bodybuilder for just a handful of opportunities.

“I was probably the last Mr. Olympia to know what it was like to get on a magazine cover and then be at an airport and have people stop you. No one really does that now because of social media.”

– Phil Heath

Mindset combined with routine are essential to greatness

None of the comments made by Mike O’Hearn, Phil Heath, or Frank Sepe are meant to insult or criticize the individual work effort of today’s bodybuilders. To some degree, the change in mindset is out of this generation’s control. It’s the world they were born into. It’s a subconscious altering of how we view the world.

This just means that today’s bodybuilders will have to work harder to build the proper mindset. In order to challenge their own physique to new transformative heights, they can no longe rely on the pro qualifying circuit – nor can they rely on many of the Olympia qualifiers beyond shows like the Arnold Classic and New York Pro.

Phil Heath suggests that bodybuilders focus more on what makes them unique as a person and bodybuilder – and less focused on the title of being pro. Heath jokes that the first thing so many athletes do upon getting a pro card is add “IFBB Pro” into their usernames on social media. Some even introduce themselves in person by their title.

Sepe and Heath both agree that this mentality only creates an entitled expectation. Too many young bodybuilders expect sponsors immediately after going pro. Too many demand far too much respect just for having “IFBB Pro” in their official title. Even if they only competed once or twice.

Phil Heath emphasizes that fans (and sponsors) want to know your name more than your title. Know your personality, your passions, your outlook on the world. They also want to see how you can transform your physique in unique ways.

Heath points out that most bodybuilders only have two looks – off season and competition ready. But when you look at the best of the best like Ronnie Coleman, they have many many different looks. They can tweak the finest details of their body to create a frame they is wholly unique.

Wrap Up

At one point during the podcast discussion, Phil Heath mentions that in order to become the best in the world, you need to “increase the magnification” on the finest details of your body. This is hard to do if you don’t have other competitors pushing you hard enough to really focus in on those tiny details. Both the flaws and the strengths.

With more pro card opportunities available – bodybuilders have to be self disciplined now more than ever if they want to be more than just a champion in their time – but a legend throughout history.

You can watch Phil Heath and Frank Sepe’s full conversation in our latest episode of The Mike O’Hearn Show above. Make sure to check back every Friday for new episodes only on the Generation Iron Fitness Network or wherever podcasts are downloaded.

Derek Dufour
Derek Dufour has been managing all digital operations on the Generation Iron Network for over six years. He currently manages a team of editors, writers, and designers to provide up-to-date content across the GI Network.