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What is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding isn’t just a competitive sport. You can be a bodybuilder too! Learn all about the basics and what it takes to transform your body.

What is bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding isn’t just for those looking to compete. If you have goals of improving your health and body, then you can be a bodybuilder too. We’ll walk you through the basics.

What comes to mind when someone says they’re a bodybuilder? You probably imagine someone flexing their big muscles, chiseled abs, and strutting around stage at a bodybuilding competition. It’s a professional sport, yes. But that’s not all bodybuilding is meant to be.

Are you a stay-at-home mom who’s looking to tone up after having kids? You can be a bodybuilder. Do you have goals of building muscle and getting fit outside of your 9 to 5? Also bodybuilding. Maybe you’re a grandparent who just wants to be healthy enough to run around and play with your grandkids. You can be a bodybuilder too.

It doesn’t matter your profession or what stage of life you’re in. In your own respective way, you can be a bodybuilder without being a professional and competing on stage.

Andre Adams, professional bodybuilder, Ironmaster athlete and home gym owner, NASM Master Trainer

What Exactly Is Bodybuilding? Is It a Sport or a Hobby?

According to good ol’ Merriam-Webster, here’s the definition of bodybuilding:

The development of the body through exercise and diet, specifically: the development of the physique for competitive exhibition.
As we discussed, you don’t have to compete to be a bodybuilder (although you can if that’s a goal of yours). Whether you want to compete professionally or have body goals you want to reach, bodybuilding is all about getting fit, transforming your body, and shaping it to look the way you want it. That’s a process we all can engage in. So, to answer the question about if bodybuilding is a sport or a hobby—it really is both.

The 3 Pillars of Bodybuilding

You want to feel good when you look in the mirror, right? And improve your aesthetics? To reach your fitness goals with bodybuilding, there are 3 important pieces you want to consider:

  • Strength training

  • Nutrition

  • Recovery

Each piece plays a pivotal role in helping you “build your body up,” and ultimately, achieve the success you want. You can think of each part like this:

Results are made in the gym (strength training), revealed in the kitchen (nutrition), and maximized while resting (recovery).

Bodybuilding Strength Training

It’s the exercise piece, and bodybuilding 101 starts with strength training (aka resistance training). But what exactly is it? Strength training involves exercising with your own bodyweight or using devices like dumbbells or machines to build muscle, burn fat, and gain strength. It challenges your body to grow, adapt, and become more fit.

The best way to maximize your results is by following a structured workout program and sticking with a consistent routine. In fitness circles, you’ll hear about something called a “bodybuilding workout split.” That’s just when you split your workouts up by body part.

Here are a few of the more popular bodybuilding training splits:

  • Upper body/lower body split: Alternate workouts between your upper body and lower body.

  • Push-Pull-Legs (PPL): You work your push muscles one workout (chest, shoulders, and triceps), pull muscles another workout (back, biceps, and traps), and have a leg day for your entire lower body.

  • Total-Body Split: You train your entire body with each workout on this split.

  • Body Part Split: With this split, you train one or two body parts per day. For example, Monday could be chest day, Tuesday—back, Wednesday—legs, Thursday—shoulders, etc.

One strength training principle you definitely want to be familiar with is progressive overload. Your body and muscles are smart. If you do the same workout over and over again—same weight, same reps, same rest periods—eventually your body will adapt and stop progressing.

Instead of seeing your progress stall, progressive overload helps you challenge yourself and continue improving. Ways to implement progressive overload include increasing your weight, volume, training frequency, time under tension, or decreasing your rest time in between sets during your workout.

Bodybuilding Nutrition

Simply put, you just can’t out-train your fork. There’s not a workout on this planet that can make up for a poor diet. If you eat like crap and fill up on garbage, it’ll show in your workouts and through your physique.

You want to make sure that everything’s in check with your macros and micros. Your diet should be a balanced one filled with plenty of the three primary macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats).

  • Protein: Lifting weights break your muscles down and start a process in your body called “protein synthesis.” This is when your body makes new protein to help your muscles rejuvenate from your workouts. Getting enough protein is important for building muscle and helping your body recover.

  • Carbs: Working out depletes your body’s glycogen, which gives you energy. Carbs help replenish your glycogen stores.

  • Fats: Healthy fats—like fatty fish, avocados, or olive oil—are an essential part of any bodybuilding diet. Without healthy fats, all the vitamins and nutrients you consume would just run right through you. Healthy fats also give a boost to your HDL (high-density lipoprotein aka “good cholesterol”). HDL contributes to growth hormone production, which is essential for building muscle.

By the way, your bodybuilding diet isn’t limited to the food you consume. Make sure you’re drinking water and staying hydrated.

Bodybuilding Recovery

Your bench press pump and leg day burn are all you need, right? In actuality, your muscles grow in your time outside of the gym when you’re not working out. If you don’t get enough rest and make workout recovery a priority, what you do in the gym won’t mean squat (no pun intended). Not to mention, you’ll probably be sore as all get-out.

The number one piece of recovery is getting enough sleep. Sleep impacts so many areas of your life—from your energy levels and how well you concentrate—to your eating habits and even your stress levels. Any one of those things can impact how much muscle you build or fat you burn. The CDC recommends getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night but you might need more than that if you’re training hard.

The other big slice of the recovery pie involves relieving muscle soreness and re-energizing your body. Massage, ice baths, sauna, foam rolling, and cryotherapy are some of the tools you can use post-workout to increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and help speed up recovery so you can attack your next workout with intensity.

Becoming a Bodybuilder Summary

If you have a goal of transforming your body and building it up in any way, then you are a bodybuilder. You don’t have to compete. You don’t have to go on stage.

Here’s all you need:

  • Commit to a structured workout program that follows progressive overload

  • Follow a nutrition plan that focuses on the right combination of macros (protein, carbs, and fats) and micros to reach your fitness goals

  • Get enough sleep and use tools like massage, ice baths, and cryotherapy to speed up recovery

Doing those three things with consistency can help you improve your health and reach your body goals.

New to your fitness journey or looking to spice up your current workout routine?

Give these workouts and exercises a try:

Chad Richardson, author for Ironmaster home gym strength training equipment

About the Author

Chad Richardson is a freelance writer from Cincinnati, OH. It’s actually been rumored that Chad came out of the womb doing bicep curls, so it should come as no surprise that he enjoys creating content to help others get in shape and live healthier lives. When he’s not in the gym impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger, you can probably catch Chad at a local bar with some friends, frustrated with his hometown Red Legs’ inability to stay above 500 for a whole season. His philosophy on life? Take action starting TODAY on that thing you’ve been putting off...Not tomorrow, next week, or whenever you feel motivated...A small step might not seem like much right now, but even small steps add up to a mile eventually.
Website: Chad’s Business Website
LinkedIn: Chad’s LinkedIn


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