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Training for Sport vs. Training for Bodybuilding

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By: Coach Jonathan Ortiz

Why do you train? Do you train for athleticism and performance or do you train because you want your nickname to be “Tyrannosaurus Flex”?

If you have ever attended a bodybuilding competition, you know that the winner of the contest has the best physique for their category. The size, definition, and shape of the muscles on the individual are the winning factors. If you’ve ever gone to a power lifting meet, you know that it’s not how the person looks, but how much weight they lift.

Bodybuilding (hypertrophy) and athletic training regimens are very different from one another and need to be thoroughly understood.

See, a bodybuilder goes into the gym focused on only one thing, stimulation of a certain muscle that is being targeted in their lifts, which will thus increase the size and shape of said muscle. In comparison, an Olympic lifter, power lifter, football player, or any athlete’s load during lifts is almost always heavy and fast to not only increase workload capacity, but also the speed at which it is performed.

A bodybuilder’s focus and goal are exclusively on the size of the muscles and not power, which is a combination of speed and strength. On the other hand, an athlete’s power output is critical to their performance.

When looking at the differences in how bodybuilders and athletes lift, you can tell that athletes are primarily focused on how much weight they can lift, all while lifting that weight as fast as possible. As a bodybuilder, the lift would be more controlled with additional focus on the eccentric phase of the movement. Time under tension is a bodybuilder’s best friend when lifting, whereas an athlete is solely focused on the arousal of the central nervous system.

Aside from professional bodybuilders and athletes, I think everyone has a little bit of both in their training. But people will usually tend to lean to one side of the spectrum.