Weightlifting and bodybuilding require much of the same, effort, commitment, and motions in the gym. Some might argue that weightlifting is an umbrella term for any sport or lifestyle that involves weight training in any form; however, at their roots, everyday weightlifting and bodybuilding are very different.
You might be wondering then, “What is the difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding?” “How do I know which is right for me?” “How do I get started?”… along with many other questions.
In this comprehensive guide, I will cover not only the basics but other avenues that will help you on your journey.
Ready for some Q and A? Great! Let’s get started…
ALL ABOUT BODYBUILDING
1. What is the difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding?
To answer this question, first, turn your eyes to the physique of an athlete that you admire. Impressive of course, strong as well… but if you were to turn your attention to a bodybuilding stage those two forms would be extremely different.
While bodybuilders are training for strength… they train for strength for mainly the aesthetic that it creates as muscles continue to grow. Think of it like this. Weightlifters train to use their muscles. Bodybuilders train to have muscles to show.
2. Do bodybuilders do anything differently than weightlifters?
Yes. Though they share similarities, bodybuilders and weightlifters are still different. In the way that they prep with meals to the way that they utilize the gym and outside aids, bodybuilders and weightlifters are best described as siblings but not twins.
3. Do bodybuilders use steroids?
That would depend on who you asked. Most competitions screen for such things beforehand or if there is any suspicion of use and the use of steroids could get a participant disqualified. However, it is no secret that many bodybuilders do use aids such as steroids to help them gain strength, burn fat and grow muscle mass faster. It is also important to note that not all competitions screen for steroids.
So to answer the question – some builders do utilize steroids. Meanwhile, others do not, just like some competitions check for steroids and others do not seem to mind if they were being used behind the scenes.
4. Do bodybuilders utilize any other supplements?
Almost every bodybuilder is on a steady diet of supplements. Some of the most infamous supplements out there are T-boosters, Creatine, and other muscle conditioning aids. Many of the supplements and shakes used are not without controversy. This means that not all of these supplements come with a complete safety profile.
For example, creatine according to the Mayo Clinic may cause a worsening of mania in bipolar patients who use the supplement as well as place users at risk for kidney disease, especially diabetic patients who do not know its potential dangers. Source
5. Who are some good examples of bodybuilders?
Probably the most prominent example of a celebrity bodybuilder is Arnold Schwarzenegger. With what many believed to be the perfect building physique, Arnold was not always an actor but a builder first.
Today, even in his 70s, he is still working out regularly. A few years back, Arnold was part of a scandal involving getting caught with steroids at the LA airport. However, he let the sweat roll off his back. As someone in the industry for so long, it did not seem to feel like a scandal to Arnold and his camp.
Another example of a famed bodybuilder who now focuses on healthy workouts and not unnatural building is Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Johnson admitted that he first started taking steroids when he was beginning to work out with his football buddies back in high school.
He now works harder to maintain his physique without steroids but notes that it is worth it to work out in a way that both gives results and is also healthy for his body.
This is especially important for him now that he has become a father over the last few years.
6. Why do builders tan to such an unusual shade of orange?
Ok. The million-dollar question… why do builders want such fake tans on stage? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of all their hard work? Wrong. A dark, dark tan accentuates muscle definition and makes you appear leaner in other places.
This is why so many builders not only look dark, but they apply it over and over which will then result in an orangish look. While it may not look natural in the grand scheme of the game, it is better to be fakely tanned than to let anyone have the upper hand on you on stage.
7. I’ve heard that some builders do not drink water for many hours before a competition. Is this true?
While not healthy, yes it is true. When the body dehydrates, the muscles become more defined. While it is not a healthy practice, you will find this in many competitions.
It is often not because people enjoy this practice but because if someone else is going to have this advantage, then they will want to have the same advantage. It is all about evening the playing field in bodybuilding and being the victor at the end of the day.
8. Is it hard to get started in bodybuilding?
Entering competitions is the easy part. It is the easiest part of bodybuilding – signing a sign-up form. The hard part is living the drastic lifestyle of being a builder, watching your food intake, taking part in supplements or steroids for some and doing the tough work that is required both in the gym and in your eating habits.
So, is it easy to get started? Yes. Is it easy to keep going? No, however, if you are passionate about it, just like anything, you will find a way to make it work.
9. Where can I learn more about bodybuilding?
One of the best places to get information, find like-minded people and build community is through the use of bodybuilding forums. While it may seem cliche, you can not only read about others’ journeys, but you can ask questions that you may not know the answer to.
If you already attend a gym, it is also a good idea to make friends with other builders that attend your gym as well. At first, you may feel a little silly if you are a beginner, but remember that these men or women were once beginners too and in most cases, they will be happy to share what they know.
They may be willing to take you under their wing, introduce you to their trainer or give you some excellent pointers to get you going in the right direction.
Last but not least, consumer all of the information that you can about bodybuilding through articles, books, and podcasts… make sure that you are reading articles, books or listening to podcasts that are reputable.
You always want to ensure that you are lifting safe and taking supplements that are safe as well as eating in a way that is good for your body not just your building.
ALL ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING
1. How do I know if weightlifting is for me?
Weightlifting is for everyone! No – honest! Unless you have medical or physical limitations that prevent you from lifting heavy objects, weightlifting can be done safely even in most cases of chronic illness or injury.
Just be sure to always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen if you have underlying conditions – especially those that involve ligaments, muscles or back conditions. The last thing that you want is to harm yourself. Always lean on the side of safety.
If you have a limitation, remember that there may be many ways around them and if there is not, there are other things that you may be able to utilize to become more fit.
Many exercise programs are set up to not only to put you in better shape and tone up muscles, but they are also crafted especially. For instance, many people who use wheelchairs have excellent workout routines that they can do from a seated position.
This involves cardio and weight training. No matter your limitations, it is all about perspective and learning how you can make something work for you even if it is not what you imagined. Even those without medical limitations still can have other limitations that make certain movements hard. This goes to show that you should never be too hard on yourself.
If you are afraid to start a weightlifting regimen on your own, you might consider joining a local gym who staffs a professional trainer on the premise. They can teach you proper form so that you do not harm yourself in the learning or growing phase. They can also show you alternate ways to do traditional lifts that may be limited to you at the moment.
While it can be more expensive to do so, you can also have a professional trainer come to your home. However, most trainers at the gym are less expensive and sometimes even come free with your membership to your local gym.
If you are not sure, ask. It never hurts, and it is even a good idea to call around ahead of time before joining a gym so that you can know there is a trainer on hand if you ever do want to book a session.
2. How do I get started on becoming a weightlifter?
It is straightforward, actually. To get started all you have to do is pick up a weight and lift it. I am just kidding. While this is mostly true, you will want to learn proper form from a trainer, books or videos online before you get started.
However, always make sure that you are reading or watching from a reputable resource. Anyone can claim to be an expert online so always do your research first.
A good foundation not only prevents you from obtaining an injury, but it also sets you up for overall better muscle gains and better strengthening over time. The main goal of weight training for you may be to get stronger and to define your muscle tone.
Others will want to see bigger muscles and strength too, so you will want to decide what your goals are as you get started, although you may find, as many do, that you “catch the bug” and want to increase weight size continually. No matter what, you have to start out knowing the basics and build your way up to larger weights to prevent injury.
Yes, it is good to lift heavy to build bigger muscles faster…, but if you are not conditioned to lift 200 pounds yet, you could seriously injure yourself by trying to go so hard in the beginning.
A good rule of thumb is to continue to add small increments of weight to your lifts as time goes on. This may be weekly for some or every few days for others. If you experience any pain… go back to the weight you were lifting before. (This does not mean soreness from a workout but the pain from an injured muscle or ligament.)
If you are straining too hard to lift the weight that you are currently lifting, you could injure yourself and find yourself stuck in the bed several weeks which never built anyone’s muscles up.
It is better to acknowledge that you need to return to a lighter weight than to acknowledge later one that you wish you would have listened to your body while sitting in a doctor’s office. You NEVER want your training to send you there.
3. What should I be eating to see my muscles grow?
To gain muscle mass, a lot more of your gains will begin in the kitchen than at the squat rack or smith machine. What you eat is more important than what you are lifting or how you are doing it… or even how much you can pick up.
Protein is the main ingredient for building stronger, healthier muscles. Protein synthesis is the process of protein being drawn into muscle fibers. This makes your muscles grow and helps you to see results in the mirror.
Also, you will want to eat a balance of healthy fats and oils to condition your body further to grow, become stronger and to perform better. Chicken or fish is a favorite of many lifters. Peanut butter is also a great choice because it not only has healthy oils in it, but it also contains protein.
You may find that you enjoy getting your protein and other nutrients from a shake for the convenience of it all, however, it is better to get the nutrients from real sources if possible because it is easier for your body to digest them since they are natural.
Whey protein is a word you will hear a lot in the gym, and it comes in a powder form. Many lifters use it to supplement their diet or to take to the gym for a post-workout meal.
If you notice that whey protein makes you feel ill at your stomach, you may be allergic to the whey inside the product. In this case, other forms of protein may be better for your digestive tract like vegan proteins that also come in a powder form.
Health food stores also sell products high in protein like bars, cereals, and other on-the-go snacks. If you can believe it, you can even get potato chips with up to 13 grams of protein in them as well as gummies that carry a whopping 20 grams of protein.
The only issue with health foods designed to pack so much protein in them is that a lot of these foods may not taste so great. This is why you have to try a few different items and other brands to see what you like, what you don’t like and what makes you want to gag.
The truth is that a lot of these items are not very tasty at all. However, many are. On the other hand, some are neither good nor bad and just tolerable. If results are what you are looking for though, trying them out cannot hurt.
In addition to the health food items that we discussed, your grocer’s freezer aisle also typically has ready-to-eat meals that contain high amounts of protein as well as healthy fats and oils.
Most of these are chicken dishes, and you would be surprised at how good they taste to be a health food product of this nature. From sesame seed chicken to Italian dishes, there is something for everyone.
3. Do I have to use machines too if I am going to see results?
Nope. Although many machines today are a great addition to your workout plan, many lifters are dead set on doing things the old school way… using nothing but plain old iron.
You can get quite the physique without using fancy machines to add to your gains. However, machines can be beneficial if you do want to use them in your daily grind. It is all up to each lifter how they will design their workout routine and their body in the long run.
To give you an example of a few good weightlifting exercises that use machines, cabled machines are always a great addition to your workout because they can reach areas of tension that iron alone cannot. The cable pulls, twists and pull-downs are all a great way to see your body grow and become more defined.
You can get a pretty good workout from cables alone if you do not have time to load and unload the bar. Remember a lesser workout or a shorter workout is always better than no workout at all. So, if you must… always go for the shorter workout as opposed to none at all.
4. Do I need a spotter when I am lifting?
YES, you do. This has happened to the best of them – even guys who can seem to lift a bus. People think that they do not need a spotter on hand because they grow strong enough to feel confident in what they can lift.
The most appropriate exercise this goes for is the bench press and for a very good reason. A heavyweight falling on your neck or chest could greatly injure you and if you have a spotter with you… you can easily have them take the weight, and you will not take away an injury.
However, imagine that you are alone and that you have accidentally dropped the bar on your neck, head or your chest. Not only are you injured, but you are alone, and you have no one to get help for you or help you move the bar. This has caused deaths in the past. So always be smart even if you do not enjoy working out with others to see.
If this is the case, work out at a gym anyway where people are around and can help you if something were to go wrong. You do not have to speak to anyone… consider the presence of others as a safety measure.
While we are at it, it can also be hard to place a barbell back on to a squat rack – just as it can be hard to place a bar back on a bench – so if you are lifting heavy remember this.
Yes… you could let the weight drop, but you do not know how it will land, if it will harm you, hit your back, your legs, injure your neck or hurt someone around you. If you are exercising at home, it could also drop and damage your flooring. This is not inexpensive. This is also something to keep in mind before you go sans a spotter.
5. Should I stretch before I workout?
Yes, you should. This kind of goes for any workout. However, it is especially crucial for weightlifting that you be well stretched and ready to hold heavy amounts of weight.
You need to stretch to keep from injuring yourself more than anything. You should also stretch after your workout to help in the recovery process and speed healing. Never skip out on stretching to shave off time. Your body needs it to reach a full range of motion and to keep you safe during heavy lifts.
6. Are there any tricks to growing bigger muscles faster?
Of course! While there are no shortcuts and every muscle gain will require hard work, there are a few ways to see results faster, and we are going to touch on several different methods that may help you in your fitness journey:
- Switch it up. Do not stay stagnant.
You cannot do the same routine every lift, every day, and expect to continue to see results. You have to mix it up. Muscle memory happens, and it happens fast. This is just where your muscles learn what to expect so that they can adapt to your daily life and help you to do what you need to do.
This is great for caveman days. However, you want your muscles to be confused. By that, we mean you want your muscles to keep being challenged. This is where your muscles will grow, and you will become stronger. That is the ultimate goal.
To do this, you do not always have to switch your entire routine. Just add in other movements, variations or add strength bands to your workout. This targets small muscle groups and helps you to see better results.
Bands mixed with weights are always a great combination. Trainers who focus on seeing fast results will often have their clients integrate these bands into their heavy lifts.
This even goes for Olympic lifters. Every muscle fiber counts… even tiny little spaces that we can not reach with regular lifts. This is where bands come in.
On the other hand, if you are stuck in your ways, did you know that merely moving around the line up in which you do your everyday lifts can also confuse your body? Change up your weight size being lifted.
Go super heavy on one lift and then light on the next. The trick is to keep your muscles guessing, and if you can do this, then you will see results much faster than if you stay at the same old story.
- Make sure to rest.
Your muscles will need time to rest and recover after a workout session. However, most people do not take the time to rest their bodies when they first get started. They believe that the harder that they go in the weight room that the quicker that they will receive the results that they want.
This is all well and good… but it is simply quite the opposite. You cannot grow bigger muscles constantly trying to grow bigger muscles in the way that most beginners believe they are built.
If you do not rest your muscles, they are not going to grow, and they are merely going to make you wonder where you are going wrong. First of all, we need to understand the mechanics of weightlifting itself and how it even works, to begin with, to make you stronger as well as to give you larger muscles that you can be proud of.
When you lift weights, the tension that builds makes small tears in your muscle fibers. The idea here is that we want those fibers to grow back bigger and stronger. However, it is required for several things to occur for this to be able to happen.
First of all, we have to see the progressive overload occurring. This means that we have to add more and more weight as time goes on so that we can continue to challenge our bodies to grow into the bodies that we want. Progressive overload is what makes muscles get bigger and bigger as well as stronger and stronger when we work out at the gym.
If you stay at just one weight limit, you will not see growth, but you will maintain size. This is ok for some if you do not wish to grow bigger muscles but to maintain the ones that you do have.
Second of all, we need to take in protein and other nutrients to see our muscles grow. Protein, as we stated before, is the main ingredient for growth. Protein synthesis helps your muscles to grow bigger by drawing protein into broken fibers. This then helps muscles to grow back bigger as they heal up.
Rest is what makes our bodies heal. Some people need just a day off from working for one muscle group. Others require several, and this can depend on your body’s unique makeup or simply how heavy that you are lifting. Those who lift heavy, heavyweights may see that they can only workout out that way once or twice a week because they need that much of recovery time.
It boils down to this. If you do not rest, you are essentially starting from square one with every single workout that you do. You are working, you are lifting, you are sweating, and you are your hardest. In doing this, you are breaking down fibers. Now, what creates muscle is the healing and rebuilding of those fibers.
So if you work out the same muscle group too close together, you are tearing your muscles over and over without allowing them to grow. This is like going to work only to hand your paycheck back to your boss. It simply makes no sense.
As you can see, there is a difference between weightlifting and bodybuilding. The one that you choose can only be decided by what works best for you. Never let anyone tell you which is better. Both are great ways to take care of your body and develop a lifelong passion that you can be proud of.
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