Bodybuilding as a Way of Living

Bodybuilding in history

There is a long history of bodybuilding around the world, but it all started in Ancient Greece more than 2,000 years ago. Back then, the athletes used to lift stones and they improvised with different tools and methods for achieving the perfect body shape that would astonish everyone around them. They trained in the gymnasium, without any clothing on them. Their purpose was to improve their physical condition and to get better at the sports events they participated in. One noteworthy athlete was Milo of Croton, champion in the Olympic Games. He was known to carry a calf on his back, every single day until the calf turned into a bull. As the animal grew and developed, so did the strength of Milo. This is clear proof of the effectiveness of progressive training and increased resistance thanks to daily exercise and perseverance. The ‘Grecian Ideal’ has a strong influence on the modern bodybuilders, as a standard, they aim to achieve through hard work and dedication.

People in 11th century India continued to use some primitive forms of dumbbells to gain strength and shape their body. Their material of choice was stone, which made it affordable and accessible. By the 16th century, it became a usual activity to lift weights in India. However, this tradition was lost in Europe for many centuries and only in the late 19th century there were new developments and new interest for public display of strength. Weight training became a popular way to improve health and to get stronger. These strong men would travel and expose themselves to the large public. It was the beginning of a phenomenon that came to be known as the physical culture. It was entertaining for people to see strong men pulling and lifting great weights. But only the arrival of Eugen Sandow brought an interest in the aesthetics of bodybuilding. Largely known as “The Father of Modern Bodybuilding”, Sandow was born in Prussia in 1867. He made himself remarkable not only for his incredible strength but also for a muscle quality that was not found among the other bodybuilders of the day. The appearance of his body presented similarities with the modern bodybuilders nowadays. After amazing Europe, he became the “world’s strongest man” in America.

The old performance of muscle display turned into the posing routines used by modern bodybuilders. The audiences started to be interested in the appearance along with the strength these men presented. Sandow was also responsible for the first bodybuilding equipment (spring pulleys, machined dumbbells and tension bands) and for the first magazine ever that approached this subject, in 1898. Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture (Physical Culture being the original name) was an important step in this field, but the general interest was still reduced. Therefore, the magazine was closed in 1907. Weightlifting competitions started to appear in the last years of the 19th century. The first was in England, 1891, at the World Championships. There were other two weightlifting events during the modern inauguration of the Olympic Games. Royal Albert Hall in London was the host of another competition in 1901, which was the first major event regarding bodybuilding. Among the judges were Sandow, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sir Charles Lawes.

The legacy of Eugene Sandow lives forth on the Sandow statuette, given to the winner of the most prominent competition called Mr. Olympia. The physical culture was further promoted by Bernarr Macfadden, whose strong belief was that weakness is a thing to be condemned. He made efforts in being strong in every sense. Aside from writing many books about bodybuilding, he was responsible for another magazine that had strength as the main focus. Physical Culture Magazine stayed in publication for 50 years, being one of the most important publications for bodybuilders. The beginning of the 20th century had competitions for both men and women. Charles Atlas became famous for winning the “Most Perfectly Developed Man” contest in 1921, something that was made possible thanks to an ongoing tradition of bodybuilding competitions at the time. He later created his own physical fitness course named Dynamic Tension, with one of the most durable running adverts in history.

The premise of this campaign transformed the general overview on bodybuilding. It promoted the fitness program by showing that being skinny and weak is shameful. The advert showed a boy that was with his girlfriend, but a bigger teenager humiliated him. Frustrated, he turned to the physical course Dynamic Tension, working hard to get bulked and get big muscles. The advert shows him as a hero after beating up the bully. This marketing campaign was very effective because the general public started to accept it as a viable option for those who feel weak and lack strength. Comic book superheroes became popular during the 1950s and 1960s. People trained their muscles so they would look more like their muscular heroes. Bodybuilding developed more and more in this period. There were new competitions and magazines that took the subject and made it wildly known for the general public. Movies starred bodybuilders and actors were supposed to be very muscular so they can portretize characters such as Hercules, Samson and other heroes of legend.

Superior understanding of the science behind bodybuilding lead to improved aesthetics. There was a focus on nutrition and conditioning that would make the competitors look bigger and better. The goals were a lean look and extreme lack of body fat. Some started to use scientific approaches so they could improve their body shape and muscle mass. The movies that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger promoted bodybuilding for the general public. He had quite impressive results at competitions and at 23 years old he first won the title of Mr. Olympia. He was the new star of bodybuilding with 6 winning strikes of the title. This attracted the attention of filmmakers and the movie called ‘Pumping Iron’ popularized bodybuilding around the world. The 1980s was a period when many organizations were born and a lot of contests took place. The numbers of competitors were increasing and so was their muscle size. The balance, proportions, and aesthetics were not the most important aspects anymore, but size became the deciding factor for winning competitions. The trend continues today and bodybuilders become larger and larger every year.

What is bodybuilding these days?

People have a specific image in mind when they think about bodybuilding. It seems to have everything to do with huge muscles, oils and tanned athletes posing in front of a jury. There’s a lot going on behind and to the competitions. In bodybuilding, there is no real shortcuts and success is dependent on hard work and perseverance. Bodybuilding is usually defined as the use of progressive resistance exercise made with the purpose of controlling and developing the body’s musculature. It requires smart training sessions, in accordance with the established goals of each bodybuilder. It’s the sport that will make the body fit and proportionate. Working out leads to getting more muscle mass and shaping the entire body. Anyone can work on their appearance, but the level they will achieve will depend on their purpose and motivation.

Aside from its impact on the body, it has incredible benefits for the mind. This is one of the sports that focus mainly on the shape and proportions of the body. The competitions are not physical in their essence, which is one of the reasons bodybuilding is not considered a sport by many. However, the process involves a lot of physical exercises, therefore, in essence, bodybuilding can certainly be considered a sport. In both amateur and professional competitions, the bodybuilders are evaluated in lineups while doing specific poses. The judges rank them on their symmetry, proportions, muscularity, and conditioning. The poses are actually a large part of the training before competitions and bodybuilders might even spend half the time perfecting them for better chances of winning. The idea behind these poses is that each of them accentuates certain muscle groups. Thus, judges can easily evaluate the work of the competitors.

However, bodybuilders understand the work involved in the process. It takes commitment and dedication to improving the physical appearance in such extreme ways. There are different ways and methods to train for competitions, but it is basically a combination between a lot of exercise for gaining muscle mass, fat loss, dehydration, oils, and tanning. The muscle groups need to be as visible as possible, so exercising is not the only part of the process.

In order to become a professional bodybuilder, the athletes first take part in amateur competitions. If they win at that level, they have access to professional competitions and they get the opportunity to win monetary prizes. Like any other sport, sponsors can also offer money to the bodybuilders if they reach certain levels of performance.

The life of a bodybuilder is organized and it may take sacrifice to obtain the desired results. Body perfection can’t be achieved with partying and consuming harmful substances. That’s why it’s important for any athlete to be certain of their ambitions and to make sure they have the right lifestyle for it. Aside from a good deal of moderation in every aspect of their life, there’s a lot of focus on nutrition, rest, and supplements to get the shape and the appearance they want. It’s not limited to being a physical activity because bodybuilding is actually a lifestyle.

Approaches to bodybuilding

The main idea behind bodybuilding is muscle stimulation with the purpose of growing muscle mass.

The exercises target specific groups of muscles, but a resting period is necessary for the enlargement to take place. It usually takes about 48 to 72 hours between exercising certain muscles in order to achieve the best results. The recuperation period is critical for allowing muscle cells to regenerate and repair. Bodybuilders can train daily, but over training can be damaging and they won’t get the results they want. That’s why it is so important to make a schedule and respect each of the components that have effects on shaping the body. Although it’s not necessary, some bodybuilders take part in competitions and compete against other athletes. Others choose to lift weights for their own benefit, which is just as great. The goal of professional bodybuilders, in general, is to get an aesthetically pleasing body, with visible muscle groups and symmetry. There’s great focus on achieving a balance between huge muscles and appearance. The poses are specific for each competition and the bodybuilders train to show their muscles in the most advantageous angle. They practice and perfect them because the jury will judge them on these aspects.

Bodybuilding is different from other sports that involve getting huge muscles. It emphasizes the importance of conditioning and size, with very little regard to physical strength. That is more important for strongman, weightlifting and power lifting competitions. People who are truly serious about bodybuilding follow regular training routines. They gain mass continuously, by increasing the weights and the number of repetitions. After they reach the weight they want, it’s time for sculpting the muscle groups and shaping the body. The goals of athletes can be achieved either by using moderate weights for extended periods of time, followed by heavier sets, or by lifting heavy weights for fewer repetitions. The opinions differ and each person should decide what works best for them and for their purpose.

It takes a lot of preparations for bodybuilders, especially when they intend to compete. There are different methods of getting in the right shape, but it usually consists of the following phases:




This is one of the most used techniques to gain muscle. During the off-season, when there are no competitions, the goal is to gain a lot of mass. There’s also fat accumulation, which has to be gone until the competition. After the desired shape is obtained, bodybuilders need to maintain it and continue to improve it. The bulking phase implies a caloric surplus. Each athlete should choose their goals and keep in mind the time frame they have before competing. Gaining weight by increasing the fat tissue is normal. Another option is to try a ‘clean bulking’ approach, meaning that the purpose is to gain weight without gaining fat. The increase of muscles is the most important part of this process and some bodybuilders prefer to work on that area instead of bothering later with losing fat. During the cutting stage, the goal is to lose fat while muscles remain the same size. There has to be a balance between the speed of losing weight and the amount that is lost, otherwise, bodybuilders could also lose muscle mass.

Without a doubt, the maintenance is one of the most difficult parts of the bodybuilding process. It requires dedication and control, so the muscles remain as large as before and there is no loss that could affect the results in competitions. To get in the perfect shape for competing, bodybuilders reduce the carbohydrates, sodium and water intake in the week before the contest. Water is removed from the diet the day before, so it’s not retained to give the body a swollen aspect. Also, diuretics can be introduced to make this more efficient. To get even bigger muscles, the carbohydrates are brought back into the menu. The essential thing is to get lean muscles, with clearly delimitated muscle groups and visible veins. That’s why bodybuilders use oils for giving the skin a shiny aspect, tanning lotions for darkening and exercise for being pumped before getting on the stage.

The lifestyle of a bodybuilder

Weight trainingTo get big muscles, bodybuilders need to exercise a lot. There are many hours spent in the gym lifting and sweating, so the results are totally worth it. When the muscle is being trained, the strain is causing micro traumas into the muscle fiber which can also cause soreness after the exercise session. The repair of these tears is what actually makes the muscle grow larger and larger. Adaptation to this routine leads to less pain and more gain.

However, adaptation is not always such a good idea because athletes could reach a plateau and advance much slower. A solution to avoid this is to change between two different types of training. The first is called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy and it’s done by increasing the number of repetitions. The result of this is getting larger muscles, something that any bodybuilder hopes for. To balance the training and improve the physical strength, athletes can increase the weight they lift, leading to myofibrillar hypertrophy. Both methods are very efficient in muscle gain, but a combination of them is desirable for getting over a plateau.

Nutrition – Because bodybuilders consume many calories during their workout sessions, it’s crucial that they maintain a balanced diet and they keep in mind their body’s requirements. It’s difficult to sustain such a lifestyle without the appropriate nutrition intake. Muscles also need the nutrients in order to grow and develop correctly. The number of calories a bodybuilder needs is above the standard. They need plenty of support from their diet and energy to get through intensive exercises. The number of their meals can reach 7 in a day. Aside from sustenance, they need additional calories to gain muscle mass. It’s not enough to eat anything, though, because the appropriate food brings the best results. It’s very important to choose the right fuel for the body. The diet should consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Protein is required by muscles, for the growth and repair process. It’s suggested to be consumed after the workout because that’s the moment when the body is more receptive to its incredible benefits. The quantity depends on each person’s weight, but it should constitute about 20% of the diet. For a slower digestion and the feeling of being full for longer, 50% of the diet should consist only of carbohydrates. Not only they provide plenty of energy, but they also stabilize the blood sugar levels. Compared to sugar, there are fewer chances of gaining fat from carbs. Even though many people are terrified of fats, they are crucial for vitamin absorption and hormones building, such as testosterone. 30% of fat in the diet should be enough for any athlete, but a careful selection of unsaturated fats is recommended.

Supplements – There is an enormous selection of supplements for bodybuilders, but their purpose differs according to the ingredients they consist of. The main aspects or goals that can be improved and which are required for optimal health are:

building larger muscles

decreasing fatty tissue

increasing testosterone production

improving joint health

raising the energy levels

Muscle growth is influenced by multiple factors and each person should first establish their goals. By adding supplements to the diet, the organism receives extra help and it can function a lot better, with the condition that supplements are safe and they don’t have side-effects.

Rest – Considering that muscles grow after the exercise are over, the resting period is vital for more reasons. First for energy recovering purposes, then muscle repair and development and for keeping a healthy body without exhaustion. Each night should consist of 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

The benefits of bodybuilding

Being a bodybuilder means that you have taken all the factors into consideration and that you are decided to shape your body exactly how you want it. It’s a difficult task, but the results will be satisfying. There are many benefits of physical exercise and lifting weights is certainly one of the best ways to obtain the body you want. It can represent a complete transformation that’s impossible to get without the necessary motivation. The physical benefits are quite intuitive. Raising your heart rate improves circulation and it strengthens your heart. You will be at lower risk of developing cardiac diseases, obesity, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. It’s a great way to develop all the muscles on your body and achieve perfection. Physical health is felt and seen on individuals who work out and shape their body through sweat.

Regular exercise improves memory and power of concentration. It gives you a state of well-being and it boosts your mood. You will be less stressed, anxious and you will also have fewer chances of depression thanks to your workouts. Aside from that, you will gain self-esteem and confidence in your own abilities, both physical and mental. You will feel better, stronger and leaner. Blood flow is strongly influenced by this sport, so improving your circulation will help your entire organism. Better blood flow means larger muscles, better health and increased cognitive functions. Each part of your body will benefit from bodybuilding. By adding physical activities to your daily routine you boost your chances of staying healthy for longer. Lifting weights will get you the body you want and it will bring your muscles to a whole new level.

You’re the only one who can decide what you wish to obtain. Whether you work out in your free time or you train hard for competitions, you will be a changed person with a whole new set of principles to guide you. Even though it’s an entire process that can take years, your body deserves to be treated right and to achieve the optimal conditioning. Bodybuilding is not just a sport, but a lifestyle that’s worth the sweat.