You Won’t Look Like One with Strength Training
“I don’t want to
“I don’t want to
look like a man!”
“Won’t I look
like a bodybuilder?”
Have you thought any
of those when the subject of strength training has come up?
I know I did when I
was first introduced to strength training.
I can actually
remember complaining to my dad for over an hour that the Gym
Instructor I had met had me on all the weight machines. “Surely I
should be doing cardio to burn the fat off? I don’t want to bulk
up. I want to slim down.”
I obviously know
But, it is a common
will make you bulky. It will make you look like a bodybuilder.
So, I thought I’d
write a page describing to you exactly what a bodybuilder is.
Because, honestly, you don’t become one by accident.
It’s a conscious
decision you have to make.
You’re not going
to look like a body builder, or a man, or get bulky by including
strength training into your workout routine.
What you will get is
firm legs. Toned arms. A flatter stomach (if you watch what you eat
as well). And a bloody strong body.
So, let’s take a moment to discover exactly what a bodybuilder is. And I think you’ll see that it’s completely different to strength training.
The ultimate goal of
a body builder is to build muscle mass. Big muscles.
The bigger the
Because the bigger
the muscles and the more visible they are, the more competitions
they’ll win. That’s if they’re a competitive bodybuilder that
is. Pro bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some just do it for
But yes, they’re
ultimate goal is to have as much muscle as possible. Physical
appearance is the key when it comes to body building.
training, nutrition and lifestyle are all geared around that goal.
To look the best
when they stand on stage. To have the most muscle definition.
If you’re not sure
what a bodybuilding competition involves...bodybuilders show off all
of they’re hard work in front of judges.
They go on stage,
strike a pose, at different angles, usually ones that give most
muscle pump, and they’re judged against the other body builders in
So, how do they get those big muscles…
One thing that
strength training and bodybuilding training has in common is that
they use weights.
Just a little side
note, you don’t need weights to build strength, but it is the most
But, that is where
the similarities end. How you use those weights depends massively on
whether you’re training for physical appearance, the bodybuilders,
or physical performance, strength trainers.
So let’s look at the main differences:
You might think that
heavy weights are used for both bodybuilding and strength training,
but it’s not actually the case.
Heavy weights are
reserved mainly for strength training.
Bodybuilders tend to
favour lower weights.
I mean this is all
relative. What a seasoned bodybuilder can to lift might seem very
heavy to us, but it’s not to them.
The heavier weights
are great for building strength, but for building muscle size, you
don’t want to be lifting to such a degree.
It’s all about how many reps you can do with a particular weight. Which leads me nicely onto the next point…
The training session
of a body builder and strength athlete also differs massively.
We talked about
weights above, and how heavy they are is relative to how many reps
you can do.
For strength you
should be aiming for a weight you can lift for about 5 reps.
Technically it’s 1-5 reps, but you don’t want to be training at
your one rep max level too often. So, for a general strength session
I like to stick around the 5 reps mark.
It’s 5 reps for 5
sets, with about 2 minute rest in between.
which is the fancy name for muscle growth, you want to aim around
8-12 rep range.
So, you’d find the
weight you can comfortably lift for about 10 reps.
And that’s for 3 sets with about a minute rest in between.
The type of
exercises that are done are also a massive difference.
concentrate on isolation exercises. So, they would take one body
part, isolate one group of muscles and do an exercise that just
targets those. Think bicep curl to work your, you’ve guessed,
Strength training on
the other hand tends to focus more on functional exercises. Movements
where more than one group of muscles is being used.
The difference comes
down to the difference in the primary goal.
looking for bigger, more defined muscles. So they have to do workouts
that will build those muscles individually. Exercises that will
target all of the muscle fibres.
But with strength
training, you’re working towards building functional strength. A
stronger body. And you’re stronger when you use more muscles.
Let me give you more
of an example:
The type of
exercises a bodybuilder would do include bicep curls, shoulder shrug,
calf raises. Obviously they wouldn’t just do these, and yes they do
utilise compound exercises, but they are much more focused on
building individual muscle groups.
The type of
exercises a strength athlete would do, squats, deadlifts, push ups.
There is an argument for strength athletes to focus on some isolation exercises. Especially when there are imbalances in the body. But their main training sessions would be focused on these, and any other, compound movements.
And then we come
onto the final part of the how a bodybuilder trains, their program.
Because yes, that’s different as well.
Bodybuilders tend to
They can do this
because they focus on different muscles every session.
So, for example,
Monday would be chest, shoulders and triceps. Tuesday would be back,
biceps, abs and forearms. Wednesday would be legs. And the same
pattern might be repeated on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with a
rest day on Sunday.
This is called a
training split, just in case you’re interested.
Strength trainers on
the other hand would tend to focus each session on one compound
movement, with accessories exercises and a good cardio finisher
thrown in at the end.
So, it might look
like, Monday deadlifts, Wednesday squats and Friday bench press or
You’ll notice the
strength training program isn’t everyday.
programming you could do a strength session everyday. But keep in
mind you’re utilising much more of your body’s major muscle
groups in each session. That means they are all going to be fatigued.
You’ll also be
taxing your central nervous system a lot more with compound
movements. You’re going to need more rest days with strength
But don’t worry,
you’ll still be burning calories.
With the heavier workload and more muscles being worked, your body has to work harder to return to normal, or homeostasis.
each is another huge difference between them and a strength trainer.
have to drop body fat. They have to drop it to low levels. And the
most effective way you’re going to do that is to have a very
structured diet concentrating on caloric intake and your intake of
protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats.
Just a note here,
everyone should have a proper diet. Whether or not you want to get to
the low levels of body fat that a bodybuilder has to achieve.
Whatever your goals
are, but especially if they involve weight loss or fat loss of some
description, watching what you eat is really important.
There’s an old
saying. It’s a trite old saying, but it is true “You can’t out
train a bad diet.” And basically it means it doesn’t matter what
you’re doing exercise wise, if you’re nutrition isn’t great
you’re not going to see results.
The other important
aspect of nutrition when it comes to strength training is for
recovery. Refuelling your body is essential.
So, let’s get back to a bodybuilders diet.
Firstly, why do they need to get to such low body fat levels?
Because we need to see those muscles.
You can spend hours, weeks, months in the gym, but if there’s too much fat covering those muscles they’re not going to be seen when our bodybuilder steps on stage.
Burning that fat is another important part of being a body builder.
Just in case you’re interested I’ve dug up some numbers about body fat percentages. And this image for UP personal training gives a great visual.
You might notice that women just can’t get down to the low body fat percentages as men. We need more fat on our bodies than they do.
The body fat of a male bodybuilder is 3-5%.
The body fat of a female bodybuilder is around 10-12%. That’s actually the amount of essential fat. The fat use ladies need on our bodies. Below that is not a good idea.
The body fat of an athlete is 14-20%.
The body fat of your average fitness seeker is 21-24%
And the body fat of your average Joanne is 25-31%
There are two main
phases when it comes to a bodybuilders nutritional needs. A building
muscle phase, also known as a bulking phase. And the getting rid of
the fat phase, also know as the cutting phase.
Both phases need
Even in the bulking
phase. It’s not just about eating as much as they can. It’s about
eating the right stuff. Protein, making sure they get all of the
essential amino acids. Healthy carbohydrates, but not too many. We
want any excess calories to be used to build muscle not to increase
body fat. And of course healthy fats.
The cutting phase,
as you’ve probably guessed, is all about cutting those calories
down. Eating fewer calories will ensure that body fat is being used
But again, it needs
careful monitoring and preparation.
You don’t want to go too low. Because then your body will be using that hard earned muscle that you’ve just built. And we wouldn’t want that would we?
I hope that shows
you just how dedicated you have to be to be a bodybuilder, and look
like a bodybuilder.
You don’t become
one, or get the bodybuilder look like accidentality.
It’s a decision
that you have to make.
A lifestyle you have
to, consciously, lead.
Strength training is
not the same. And it won’t have the same outcomes.
Yes, if you use
strength training along with a balanced, calorie conscience diet, you
will have a toned and firm body. But you won’t look like a
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