The topic of today’s blog is based on a personal observation. There seems to be a growing divide between those wanting to train for functional purposes and those for aesthetic appeal. To me this is a matter of personal choice, and further I believe bodybuilding style training (hypertrophy training) has value and is a needed component in strength, long term athletic development and rehabilitation programs. I personally don’t see the harm in wanting to look good, but I do hold a persons physical ability as a far more important measure.
Thinking back on the times where my fitness levels were tested in real life, strength, mobility, stability,endurance/resilience and power were at various times and to various degrees the most needed components. Having said that, I also like looking good and I’m not sure when exactly bodybuilding got a bad rap. If I was to speculate, I would say somewhere around the time “Fat Shaming/Fit Shaming” became a thing. (There is some future blog material)
Recently I came across a post from a trainer that took a firm stance against training purely for aesthetics. Whether this applied only to those that wish to improve their physical appearance, or also includes those with aspirations for physique,bikini of bodybuilding competition is unknown. The trainer does have a history in physique competition so they are well aware of the training and dietary demands and presently is far more interested in strength development, therefore their physique appears quite different. In the case of competitive bodybuilding, symmetry and mass are are held to a higher priority than how the body functions. It is my opinion that of all the iron sports (Olympic lifting, Powerlifting, Kettlebell, Strongman and Bodybuilding) Bodybuilding is unique in that the fact that the competition bears zero resemblance to the training. It is also in my opinion the least forgiving in the dietary component. Just like the others, it is a lifestyle and bodybuilding has stood the test of time as an effective means of training. Having a exceptional physique does not necessarily translate to physical skills.
My initial thoughts when reading the trainers comments were cynical. Essentially the trainer states that she shouldn’t be judged for what she looks like on the outside (which I agree)… only to turn around and judge those that train for aesthetic purposes. I’m of the belief she sticks to her opinion as a means to justify eating what she wants. (TRUTH TIME: I eat what I want too, but I keep a good balance of things)
A young Arnold performing the Front Squat A bodybuilder may not be stronger than a similar sized power lifter, but the training methods differ according to the specific adaptations they wish to gain. Bodybuilders have historically made use of the same compound exercises power lifters use (bench press, squat and deadlift) and power lifters and strongmen cycle hypertrophy training into routines to minimize injury and improve lift performance.
Going a bit deeper, there are only so many people truly wishing to be competitive bodybuilders, or are even blessed with the favorable genetics. Most people simply want to look better naked,have less fat,more muscle and be able to physically do what they want to do. In this regard, bodybuilding training is certainly an option.
I ask,is it too much to ask for both? Can a natural program (bodybuilding specific or otherwise)produce strength and performance gains that also help create an aesthetically pleasing physique? The answers to both I believe are yes,however your genetics dictate your potential.
Eugen Sandow 1867-1925
The physique attained by Eugen Sandow predates anabolic steroids, which first saw use in the early to middle 1930’s. In addition to his chiseled physique, Sandow was a performing strongman and there are accounts of him bent pressing 300lbs/136kg.
Edward Aston, 1910 Worlds Middle Weight Weightlifting Champion
- One-hand clean and press of 243lbs/11okg
- One-hand clean to shoulder of 250lbs/113kg
- Two-hand clean of 282lbs/127kg
- Two-hand jerk of 311lbs/141kg
- One-hand snatch of 180lbs/141kg
- Fatbar Deadlift 496lbs/223kg These are Impressive numbers even by the lifting standards of today, especially for a man approximately 5ft 7in 170lbs/77kg At the elite athlete level there is no denying that the CrossFit athletes don’t present exceptional physiques. Their training places huge demands on the body and its energy systems. For the non-competitor, I believe CrossFit is a good choice for both fat loss and cardiovascular training but there will also be gains in strength and power. The amount of visible lean muscle visible on this athlete indicates to me that her bodyfat percentage is a low double digit number. Female bodybuilding contestants can hit the stage in the single digit numbers. Either way it too A LOT of training and dedication to reach that level. At 75 years young, Ernestine Shepherd is the worlds oldest female bodybuilder. I can safely state her hypertrophy is quite not simply for aesthetic appeal and quite functional in her daily life.