Toney Freeman wants talented young bodybuilders to know it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

While it’s exciting to look at the top pro bodybuilders year after year, it’s also extremely important to look at the young upstart bodybuilders that will become tomorrow’s champions. In bodybuilding there have been many younger bodybuilders that show extreme promise, only to disappear after a year or so in the spotlight. In our latest GI Exclusive interview, Toney Freeman shares his tips for young bodybuilder on how to avoid burning out when attention starts to turn towards them.

During our conversation with Toney Freeman, we asked him who he thought were the most threatening young bodybuilders that will one day become champions. He struggled to pinpoint anyone in particular. That’s not because he didn’t think there were promising bodybuilders entering the stage. There are a few he has his eye on. But he also knows that it’s easy for hot bodybuilders to burn out fast.

He’s seen it before. A bodybuilder with incredible genetics and a lot of potential makes an impression early in their career. Everyone clamors that this person will be the next superstar. Then within a year or so – the person falls out of the spotlight completely. Eventually fans wonder what happened to the bodybuilder. It turns out that they burned out. That exciting potential faded due to lack of consistency.

Toney Freeman has seen this happen too often. He thinks this is because the attention triggers a young bodybuilder to pump the gas. They try to fast forward the process because of all the hype. This causes them to burn out. They make mistakes. They place low. The hype disappears. Suddenly their name is no longer on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Tony Freeman wants to send a message out to up and coming bodybuilders – “stay in your lane.” This might sound somewhat close-minded. True legends often push the boundaries of what is expected. That’s how they become great. But what Toney Freeman means isn’t to play it safe. He means that a promising bodybuilder needs to respect the process of bodybuilding.

There’s no real way to speed up progress. Some may have genetic potential that brings improvements on easier than others – but ultimately, it’s near impossible for a young bodybuilder in their 20s to ever look as impressive as a bodybuilder in their 30s or 40s. Muscle maturity and long term experience go a long way. In bodybuilding, time is one of the greatest weapons towards becoming a champion.

What Toney Freeman warns of here is a vicious cycle that is caused by both headstrong and passionate bodybuilders alongside excited fans. The bodybuilder with promise makes a splash, the fans overhype the bodybuilder, the bodybuilder starts to try to live up to that hype too quickly, and then the bodybuilder burns out.

Fans often expect too much too soon from bodybuilders. Big Ramy is a perfect example of this. Many fans claimed he would be champion as early as 6 years ago. He didn’t end up becoming Mr. Olympia until 2020. Part of that is due to his own struggle with conditioning. But another part of that is fans over-exaggerating his strengths and ignoring his flaws.

At the end of the day, the top 10 pro bodybuilders are all extremely rare and talented athletes. A combination of excellent genetics and incredible hard work. When a young bodybuilder suddenly shocks the world with an impressive physique early in their career it’s certainly exciting. But it’s foolish to think they will instantly jump the line. Ultimately, no matter how impressive they are, they are still in a league of at least 10 other incredible gifted athletes. Many of which have many more years of experience under their belt.

A combination of fan excitement and undue pressure put on young bodybuilders can burn them out fast. It can create expectations that were never meant to be accomplished in such a short amount of time. That’s what Toney Freeman is warning about.