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Bodybuilding vs Crossfit: Ending the Feud

What’s Better?

It’s important to understand that one form of exercising isn’t better than the other.  How you train should be specific to your overall goals.  I’ve been on both sides of this coin.  The aesthetics of bodybuilding are superior to that of any other form of training.  However, I’ve never been more metabolically conditioned than when I was when doing Crossfit.  

It amuses me when you see the instagrams, tiktoks and other videos about bodybuilders jabbing at folks that do Crossfit and visa versa.  Bodybuilders look at Crossfitters down their noses because the exercises they do aren’t true to form and lead to more injuries than actual development.  Crossfitters look at Bodybuilders sideways because all that muscle is just for show and isn’t as functional as theirs.  

Before we dive into it further, let’s establish what each one actually is.

These types of workout focus on the development of functional movement and metabolic conditioning.  There is more emphasis here on speed, power and endurance training.

These types of workouts are focused on controlled, slow movements with moderate weight in order to encourage blood flow to the muscle and increase size.  The focus here is not only to tear down the fibers (myofibril hypertrophy), but to increase the volume of the muscle cells (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy).

Benefits of Crossfit

The goal of Crossfit is to be multi-functional.  Crossfit training focuses on developing a well rounded athlete to excel at many facets of fitness from running, swimming, weightlifting, plyometrics, gymnastics and many other areas.  Simply put, the goal is to complete the most amount of work in the least amount of time, regardless of what obstacles are placed before you.

Some of the best benefits are:
     1. Function – Daily tasks like gardening, rearranging a room, moving up stairs, and carrying a child are improved through functional exercise.  Muscles working together efficiently over and over to become better at the movement. 
     2. Heart Health – Crossfit workouts are geared to increase heart rate and sustain it over intervals or a period of time.  This greatly improves cardiovascular and metabolic conditioning, so the body can maintain this work over a longer period of time.
     3. Fat Loss – High intensity interval training has been shown to burn more fat over time than your normal cardiovascular exercises, and is more time efficient.  
     4. Improved Strength – Bodybuilding does this as well, but is focused much more in Crossfit.  Compound lifts are performed very often and from moderate to heavy weight.  Performing these lifts safely and consistently contributes to great improvements in strength.
     5. Improved Athletic Performance – If you are an athlete, Crossfit is more efficient than bodybuilding at improving power.  Work over time is what Crossfit is all about, and any athlete can benefit tremendously from this type of exercising.

Benefits of Bodybuilding

On the opposite end of the spectrum is Bodybuilding.  Both compound and isolation movements are performed, and the focus becomes all about the specific muscle being worked rather than muscles working together.  

Maximizing both myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is what Bodybuilding is designed to do.  If you truly want to look your best, bodybuilding is what you need.  That’s not saying that a Bodybuilder won’t be able to put as much work in as a Crossfitter.  Not at all.  Most bodybuilders are stronger than their Crossfitting counterparts in certain exercises.  Sustained work over time is where Crossfitters will have an advantage, and that’s only because they train that way.  In my opinion, most bodybuilding physiques will be better than one who does Crossfit.

Some of the best benefits are:
     1. Gain Muscle Mass – Isolating muscles while working out, and dedicating a great deal of time on that muscle group allows a Bodybuilder to focus all of their efforts on increasing the size of that muscle.  The goal is to limit how much the surrounding muscles aid the lift, which in turn places more stress on the targeted muscle.
     2. Body Composition – The goal of a bodybuilder is to have a well-developed physique.  When Crossfitters train, they’re just focusing on Bench Press.  When a Bodybuilder trains, they’re focused on bench press, incline press, dumbbell press, flies, decline press and more.  They want every aspect of their muscle to be well developed, giving it that chiseled, square look.  
     3. Strength – It’s not just about developing size in Bodybuilding.  In order for a bodybuilder to make significant improvements to their physique, they most focus on tearing down the actual tissue rather than just increasing volume.  Because they spend so much time developing a single muscle, significant stress is placed upon it over a short time and it must adapt to the increased resistance over time.  Even though they don’t with extreme loads like Olympic lifters, they naturally increase strength over time as they increase the loads.
     4. More Attractive Appearance – Let’s face it, the body’s the catch the eyes of most are the ones of bodybuilders.  Yes, there are Olympic athletes, football players, MMA fighters and Crossfitters that have great physiques.  But nothing compares to a stage ready bodybuilder.  If you’re looking to be the standout figure in the room, bodybuilding is where it’s at.
     5. Significant Fat Loss – While all forms of exercising are great for shedding unwanted body fat, Bodybuilding’s primary focus is showing the muscle.  Greater emphasis on gaining muscle (the more mass you have, the more calories you burn) and a more precise nutrition plan allow for a detailed look that supersedes that of any other sport. 

So Which is Better for You?

Again, that depends on you.  I prefer doing both, myself.  I care about how I look, but then get mad at myself when I can’t sprint a lap around the track.  So there are some days when I’ll incorporate longer, continuous workouts to develop my conditioning.

It’s really time to throw the stereotypes aside.  Both have their benefits and drawbacks.  It’s simply what’s preferred by you.  If you’re goal is to get big and maximize muscle strength and size, shoot for Bodybuilding.  If you’re goal is to become more athletic, Crossfit is the road for you.  

Or…. experience a bit of both of a rounded appearance and athletic body.  The most important thing to keep in mind is that both require long term commitment in order to see great results.  Every athlete, whether you’re a bodybuilder, professional athlete, Crossfitter, climber, etc., have all achieved their results through time and discipline. 

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