We talk to a lot of people who read about the positive benefits of weight training and want to start training with their own home gym.
So many training styles
For those just getting started, the variety of different sports can make it difficult to know where to start. Bodybuilding, powerlifting, powerbuilding, weightlifting, crossfit and more. Where do you begin?
In fact it can even get a little confusing. Once you factor in terms like explosive training, agile strength training endurance training and so on, it's easy to understand why some people just choose to go to the gym and ask an expert.
So we thought we would break down the differences between some of the most popular forms of weight training. In this multi-part series, we'll investigate the differences between each sport. While they all involve lifting weights, you'll see how they are vastly different - both with their training methods, as well as the expected outcomes.
Whether you're a beginner or seasoned veteran, knowledge of other disciplines can be a very useful thing. For starters, it can help mix up your training programs to break monotony, a common problem when you're training day in, day out, trying to achieve a goal that might be moths or even years down the track. It also lets you target your goals more effectively, and makes selection of of your gym equipment far easier.
Part 1 - Bodybuilding
I've never been a massive fan of bodybuilding, probably because I love my carbs so much. It’s a complicated sport where you build muscle mass for a large portion of the year.
During this phase you have to eat a lot to feed the muscle during intense workouts. Then you have to shed the fat with painful dieting – which usually involves restricting carbs like bread, pasta, rice which are all staples for me.
Getting on stage
Competitive bodybuilding is a strange sport. In fact for the uninitiated, it would be the last thing anyone would think of doing. You need to oil yourself up, stand in front of a crowd wearing your trunks or briefs, and have every inch of your body critiqued by the judges.
Of course there's a bit more to it than just standing there. It involves performing numerous poses, designed to display different muscle groups. Typically a posing routine is performed to music as well.
To work out the winner, bodybuilding is judged based:
- Muscle mass
- Muscular proportions
- Muscle definition
- Symmetry of the muscles
- Stage presence
You must have low body fat levels in order to be able properly display muscle mass, proportion and symmetry. In the hours before getting up on stage, competitors even drain their bodies of water! This makes the competitor look even thinner so that more muscle detail can be seen.
Prior to this, there is a load of preparation that goes into training, diet and practicing for the posing.
Training for muscle gain
Bodybuilding training is completely different from Power lifting and Weightlifting. With Power lifitng and Weightlifting you are working up to your peaking phase. The idea is to time your training so you can hit your peak ability just around competition day by gradually increasing load and reducing reps. The aim of course is to try and lift maximum weight on competition day.
Bodybuilding however requires you to gain as much muscle as you can in the off-season. This would be Winter for those who don’t compete (and like to show off at the beach). Workouts are quite short compared to the ones in strength sports.
45 minutes per day is enough for you to slowly progress and add lean muscle mass. Rather than going for a PB (personal best) you would try to lift moderate to heavy weight for as many reps you can. This allows you to achieve more muscle fibre tears which is how new muscle is built.
Sound a bit too good to be true? 45 minutes a day of training, getting a pump every workout, and seeing your progress in the mirror? So what’s the catch? Diet and Cardio, words that very few Power lifters know. The dream comes to an end when you have to shed the excess body fat.
Building muscle in the kitchen
During the "bulking phase" you would adjust your diet so that you would consume more calories than you are burning and if done properly you would gain size, strength and muscle mass. However, it is not as easy as it sounds, I’ve met quite a few people who are struggling to put on muscle mass.
There are two ways to diet.
One of them is dirty bulk – which basically consists on eating whatever you want and as much as you want to get the calories you need, also it is way cheaper to eat junk food. This is only for people with fast metabolisms!
With dirty bulking it is extremely easy to take in significantly more calories than you actually need when bulking. You can only put on so much muscle per week, as a natural lifter. You can put on more muscle if you are new lifter compared to an experienced lifter, but still the amount of muscle you can gain a week is capped.
What happens with all the calories your body doesn’t really need? They will get stored as fat. It isn’t a very healthy approach, and yes I know it might be for a limited time but you are definitely not doing your body any favours.
The composition of your calories matters when you are bulking, you need to know how many grams of protein carbs and fat your body needs and where they are coming from. Junk foods are usually soaked in saturated fats, sodium and various dodgy additives. Unfortunately, due to the composition of the dirty food you are not getting enough protein and getting an excess amount of fat and carbs.
Eating clean to look good year round
The other way of bulking would be clean bulk. It consists small frequent meals, needless to say it is way harder to follow and keep your calorie numbers up. Instead of Maccas you would have chicken with rice and veggies. The main advantage over the dirty bulking is that you will feel better and healthier, and you will look good all year round rather than just for one month (professional athletes spend whole year preparing for one competition).
But it is extremely hard to follow a clean diet plus it is nearly impossible to eat right and enough every single day. You will also be spending a lot of time in the kitchen. Preparing healthy meals takes a lot more time than swinging through the drive through! So rather than skipping out on meals I would suggest replacing the calories you are missing out on with a bit junkier food (healthy alternatives would be almond or peanut butter in your shake).
As bodybuilding is focused on muscle mass, proportion and symmetry you need to isolate different muscle groups in order for them to grow. Your foundation muscle will always be based around heavy compound exercises like squats, bench press, lat pulldowns, seated rows and deadlifts. Your body’s way of adapting to the physical stress would be to get stronger and bigger, those exercises would give you the most muscle fibre tears and your body would release hormones to promote the desired muscle growth.
On these heavier lifts you will be doing lower reps to build strength. But typically, you won’t be going below 5 or 6 reps. Powerlifting and Weightlifting involves doing triples and singles. When you are focusing on muscle growth, which is also known technically as hypertrophy, you will be operating in higher rep ranges. Normally between 8 to 12 repetitions.This is what you would do in the offseason. When you want to sharpen up your physique it is time to work on the detail.
Time to get shredded!
To work on symmetry, you will be performing isolation exercises which target smaller muscle groups. Examples would be side lateral raises for shoulders, preacher curls for biceps or lying leg curls for hamstrings.
To put all this training together to build your best physique, the training regime is split up into body parts. So you might train Back and Biceps one day, Chest and Triceps the next then Legs and Abs. Depending on how many times you want to train a body part this may mean 6 days in the gym.
On top of this, to display this hard-earnt muscle, you need to be stripping bodyfat with strict dieting and cardio. Cardio is usually a low impact activity like walking on the treadmill, cross trainer, exercise or stepper that gets your heart rate up. You can’t do too much intensity or otherwise your body will cannibalise the muscle. Combined with the weight training, be prepared to be spending a lot of time in the gym!!
But what is really punishing is the diet. To get your bodyfat to low single digits is absolute torture for most of us who love their food. You have to put yourself into a calorific deficit – consuming less energy than you are using – to burn off the unwanted fat. Given the amount of training you are doing be prepared to be hungry all the time.
To stick to such a rigid diet you need to be carefully controlling the calories you are consuming. This requires carefully calculated food selection and preparation. Flavour usually equals calories, so be prepared to also consume a lot of plain tasting meals. You will be dreaming of food all day long!
BODYBUILDING – A TRUE SPORT OF DEDICATION
You can see by now that Bodybuilding requires a lot of passion, dedication and most importantly discipline. It may sound like a very vain sport – you are strutting around showing off muscle – but there is more to it than that.
Bodybuilders love training with weights and building muscle. Competing is a way for them to show off their hard work and dedication. It is just like a guy building up a car and showing it off in a car show. There are different elements to a car – paint, motor, interior, suspension etc. Each detail needs to be worked on to a standard to meet the criteria for the show. Bodybuilders are doing the exact same thing to their bodies.
So, if you enjoy working your muscle until failure and you can follow a strict training and diet plan, bodybuilding is for you. However, if you enjoy lifting heavy and can’t resist a slice of cake or just like your muscle to have some kind of function other than visual, powerlifting or weightlifting might be for you.