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TRAIN LIKE A BODYBUILDER....BUT ONLY SOMETIMES
August 11, 2014
Hi,

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This past few weeks has been madness. Among many other things I have spent a great deal of my time packing and moving house. But I'm back. This issue is rather short and sweet, but the information is useful and may help you to eliminate a few preconceived rules and ideas, instead of being bound by them. Enjoy.

Bodybuilders have big muscles but they are poor athletes and only have muscles for show. We hear this above statement regularly by the "functional fitness" crowd. Bodybuilders are not functional, they are not as strong as they look and the training they do is only good for sculpting muscles that look good.

It's time to put that myth aside. I'm not a bodybuilder, however as a strength and conditioning coach, sprint coach and personal trainer, I have certainly used and dealt with just about every training method you can think of. I've done crossfit, I've been a high level sprinter, I trained purely for size (I wanted to be a WWF wrestler when I was younger) and I trained for a variety of sports. A valuable tool I learned was that training needs to be specific to the task at hand. Having said that, one gets greater gains in any domain of fitness and performance through cross training. In other words, you need to cultivate an attitude of open mindedness. Most of us have a specific training philosophy. This is a good thing in many ways, but it can be destructive. With specific training philosophies come rules and exclusions, even to the detriment of progress. If you train for "functional fitness" or athletic performance then it's likely you will be all about the compound lifts, to the complete exclusion and vehement dislike of any form of isolation in the weights room. By the same token, a powerlifter probably doesn't even think about doing any plyos and likely does not include much explosive power.

Now, back to the original point. Ah yes, the useless bodybuilder belief. Bodybuilders train uniquely different to any other athlete. The focus for a bodybuilder is to stimulate/activate specific muscles withing each training session in order to make all areas grow equally well and produce an all-round aesthetic appearance. Yes, they train primarily (even exclusively) for the way they look. But their are certain things bodybuilders do better than anyone else. Bodybuilders are far from being all show and no go. Most bodybuilders are incredibly strong in every single muscle in their body. Ronnie coleman could squat 800lbs for several reps. Some are martial artists, some are super flexible and some of them can perform acrobatic skills. And even though they train mainly for size and shape, their training inevitably ends up producing certain physical abilities, with insane strength at the top of that list of performance abilities.

Anyway, what are the things bodybuilders do well? How and why should the rest of the public, both athletes and regular Joe, incorporate bodybuilding principles into their program? Here are a few points...

1. Specific muscle activation - Ever had an injury that forced you to over-compensate with other muscles? For instance, you tore your hamstring, so you over-compensate with the glutes and certain muscles acting on the spine. The result, a long term imbalance. Bodybuilders train isolated areas of the body in a wide variety of creative ways. They know how to use one muscle and switch of others. In other words, the mind-muscle connection.

2. Muscle Balance - Bodybuilders can't win shows if one group of muscles is heavily over-developed and another area under-developed. Imagine a bodybuilder on the stage with massive pecs but tiny lats. For this reason bodybuilders train everything equally. They strive to be well developed in each and every area of their body. This leads to better and more free movement. You won't get injured as often or as easily if you are balanced.

3. Building MASS - Take a look at the top name bodybuilders, they are absolutely huge. This level of muscular development simply can't be achieved without an intricate knowledge of how anabolic activity occurs. When I say intricate knowledge I mean very very very detailed. Mass building is a well established science, thanks to bodybuilders tracking data and making changes to trainig methods, which are then passed on to others. Why is mass important? Most failed drug tests in high level sport are from anabolic steroids. There is a performance benefit to increasing muscle mass. Bodybuilders (both natural and enhanced) are experts at producing muscle mass, they do it better than anyone else. So it makes sense that using their methods for this purpose is best practice.

4. Getting lean - Bodybuilders have developed an almost exact science for getting super lean while maintaining insane size. They know exactly what to eat and when to eat it, they have the tools to get leaner than most people know how to do, and they can engineer it down to exact time frames. This is useful for any athlete.

5. Training intensity - Bodybuilders train extremely hard in the weights room, often pushing beyond muscular failure. For an athlete this is not the best approach in every single session, it leaves little resources for anything else. However there are phases throughout an athlete's training cycle that require this sort of training for a period of time. It increases lactate tolerance and massively improves anaerobic capacity. It also teaches the body to repair damaged tissue faster, leading to more rapid recovery.

Think hard about saying negative things regarding any type of athlete that is training for a different purpose than you, they likely have good reasons for it. If you're a powerlifter then you can't really compare it to crossfit. If you compete in strongman you can compare it to bodybuilding. Sprinting can't be compared to Olympic weightlifting. All training methods have a unique purpose. Often that purpose crosses over into other activities, just like the list above.

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Chris Lyons

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