Bodybuilding Doesn’t Have Anything To Do With Fitness

Thirty-five years ago the term “body building “ was synonymous with fitness.  But in 2008 these terms are mutually exclusive.  If your personal trainer is a bodybuilder, you should move on.

Back in the halcyon days of the mid-1970s bodybuilding rode into the public eye on the muscular back of Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Pumping Iron.”  Filmmaker George Butler followed Arnold and his fellow competitors as they prepared for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests, and this half-documentary, half-scripted movie is largely responsible for bringing bodybuilding to the masses.  Thanks to Arnold’s personality and physical presence, and the interesting mix of characters that comprised the supporting cast of “Pumping Iron,” bodybuilding single-handedly kicked off a fitness craze, the effects of which are still being felt today.

The problem with this is that bodybuilding has nothing to do with fitness.  In the mid-70s people saw these massive guys lifting massive weights (ignorant of the fact that steroids were producing the massive physiques) and living this Spartan life-style and figured that this was the way to be fit.  Without anything to compare to these guys and their lifestyle, it seemed obvious that lifting weights, following a strict diet and hanging out at the beach was the way to go.  At the time, these guys were living a healthier life-style than most people, even with using steroids.

In 2008 – and really for the past 25 years – bodybuilding has moved farther and farther away from the ideals that guys lived by back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.  Since at least the ‘60s body builders have relied on steroids to create the physiques that have set them apart from the guy on the street.  As time passed guys started using more drugs, higher doses and new substances that helped them get bigger, stronger and freakier.  The workouts and diets became less important as the drugs took on more of a role in the development of muscular men and women.

Bodybuilders were using human growth hormone back in the mid-‘80s, almost 20 years before most people ever realized that HGH could be used to enhance performance.

Bodybuilding is based on a fatally flawed training philosophy, a philosophy that places importance on appearance rather than function and breaks down natural, multiple muscle group movements into less-efficient and less-effective component parts.  Personal trainers who fancy themselves bodybuilders are doing their clients a disservice as they implement training programs that rely on machines that work single joints and single muscle groups.

Working on equipment that affects a single muscle group is a waste of time.  Exercising while sitting down or lying down is foolish and for older members of the population is dangerous and potentially injurious.  Yet many personal trainers will tell you that people who have trouble with balance and stability need to use equipment.   This misinformation is based in bodybuilding-style thinking.

And at the root of the matter, bodybuilding would not exist if not for the steroids and human growth hormone that are responsible for the physiques that are featured in advertisements and articles that appear in just about every fitness publication.

Unfortunately, bodybuilding-based personal trainers are the last to know that their methods are obsolete and counter-productive.  There are actually “nationally recognized” personal training certifying organizations that use bodybuilders as poster boys and girls.  One of these organizations advertises their program in all of the major fitness magazines, and their ads actually feature 15-year old pictures of a male body builder doing biceps curls wearing only cut-off overalls and work boots.

In 2008 this kind of nonsense should not be recognized as legitimate personal training/fitness education, or as a worthwhile way to exercise.

Bodybuilding is the least effective method of training.  The only thing that bodybuilding is better than is inactivity, and there’s more than enough evidence that even the most sedentary of folks – both young and old – can benefit from training by doing total body, ground-based exercises.  The protestations come from the devotees that bodybuilding has helped so many people, when the reality is that people would be even that much better off if they had followed a valid training philosophy.

Rather than accept reality, move on and progress, bodybuilders continue to cling to the antiquated, out-dated methods of the past and ignore the reality that surrounds them.  Check out any current bodybuilding or fitness magazine and you’ll find routines that feature nothing but machine-based exercises.  And really, you don’t need to know how to do 5 different biceps exercises.  The biceps are just about the smallest muscle group and you don’t need to spend any real time working on them.  Bodybuilders have never understood that using total-body, multi-joint, ground-based exercises are the best way to develop strength and, by extension, a person’s physique.

If you want your arms to get bigger – and get super strong in the process – learn how to do pull-ups the right way, without wrist straps.  Learn how to do hang-cleans and dead lifts and the snatch.  Performance over appearance.

Before people knew any better it was understandable that bodybuilding was equated with fitness.  Now people know a lot better.

Professional certifying organizations such as the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) support and publish research that has advanced the field of conditioning and personal training to the point where real fitness pros know that performance-based methods of training are the most efficient and effective ways for all segments of our population to train.

Bodybuilding personal trainers want their clients to believe that biceps curls, triceps extensions, squats done in a Smith machine and leg extensions and leg curls are the best use of their time and effort.  The thought process goes that if it works for John the Juicer, it’ll work for John Doe.  Nothing could be further from the truth or reality.

As a matter of fact, the rest of us should ignore anything and everything that bodybuilders do.  From the obsession with appearance – and appearance as the main marker of success – to reliance on nutritional supplements with dubious pedigrees, and the core philosophy of the training methods, it’s time for bodybuilding to be put in the scrap heap of history.


  1. LandruBek June 28, 2009
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