Mr Olympia takes place for the 50th time this week. Fitting to this joyous anniversary is Tutorial Thursday #20.
Are you still bodybuilding or are you training yet?
Are you one of the guys that keeps their focus on their outer appearance? Are you training isolated muscles in the gym? Do you measure your body fat percentage regularly and spend hours in the bathroom because that’s where the mirror is? Or can I interest you in some functionality instead of all the body sculpting?
Bodybuilding is a sport!
And, if done professionally, it’s a high-performance sport! This is something that most of the ambitious fitness enthusiasts seem to forget. The targeted sculpting of individual visible muscles is really only useful if you want to participate in competitions that pit you against other bodybuilders and in which you can earn prizes. Basically, if I was a bodybuilder and needed to conform to a specific kind of aesthetics. But why is it that so many people in gyms all around the world place so much weight (pun intended) on especially this kind of training?
For one, because society dictates it! Women have to look like they were just walking out of a photo-shoot for Vogue and men must have a close resemblance to Brad Pitt in the movie ‘Fight Club’. Thus, there is a daily competition of looks. Psychologists speak of the so-called ‘halo effect’. It has been a proven fact that we tend to ascribe more positive attributes to strangers when they are more attractive. This is the perfect fit for our fast moving, performance oriented, ‘faster, higher, further’ society in which professional and social success is the most important goal. Thus, looking fit becomes the means to an end. But what about actually being fit?
What is functional?
I ask you: should the end not be the daily performance? Don’t we rather need our whole body for our daily chores and tasks, therefore, all muscles, sinews, ligaments, and other structures? Or does a bigger biceps help when your home is on the fifth floor (with no elevator, of course)? Does bench pressing improve my ability to lift heavier objects from the floor into the trunk of my car? I will go out on a limb here and claim: NO!
The problem is that performance is still seen isolated. If I wanted to get stronger legs I would have to train the leg extensor and leg flexor individually. The fitness industry was simply inspired by anatomy. For every muscle there is a machine in which you place yourself so the rest of the body by no means has to work at all.
We say: for a general fitness that should make the daily tasks easier bodybuilding makes no sense. Training freely with your own bodyweight, free weights, or other small pieces of equipment is preferable. The body will also change with this kind of training. The difference is: it will change into an athletic, efficient, more suitable for daily use, home for a happy and content soul.