Strength training: I don’t want to look like a bodybuilder

A lot of the people I work with come to me wanting to be fitter, get a bit stronger and change their body composition.

A lot of my clients have never done this kind of exercise before. Still stuck with the myths of what strength training actually is.

When talking about strength training there are a lot of people out there who automatically have a vision in their head of the Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno days of bodybuilding.

But things have changed.

People are being educated about the different ways to achieve goals.

The bodybuilding days are much less significant to people now and instead they’re understanding the concept of becoming a more rounded athlete.

Bodybuilding is based and judged on aesthetics not performance.

Now I’m not saying this is wrong by any means so don’t twist my words with this, it is purely personal choice depending on the individuals goals. If that’s the way you want to go then fantastic.

But most people don’t need this type of training. Instead people need their body to move correctly, they need good mobility (which is often sacrificed with body building) and they want to be able to use their strength in their daily lives.

Getting stronger for one person might be being able to stand up from a chair without having to use their arms, for some people strong might mean being able to carry 2 animal feed sacks from the store room to the field.

Take strong man training for example. This is all based on performance. The athlete needs to be able to move in order to pick up certain objects and move around the events.

Crossfit athletes need to be agile and flexible in order to perform their events. Olympic lifts like the snatch and the jerk both need excellent shoulder mobility and range of motion. Something you don’t get in bodybuilding.

In fact I’ve coached bodybuilders who want to learn the Olympic lifts and they just don’t have the range of motion to perform them so we have to do a lot work to increase their flexibility and reduce the tightness which takes a long time.  

Martial art athletes need to be agile and react quickly so they need to be light and lean as well as being strong.

When you look at the body shape of the different types of athletes above they all differ hugely.

This is because they need to use their strength in different ways.

I got into an argument online with somebody a while back because I was asked if I could coach a teen who wanted to build some strength. And as usual in the lovely world of social media someone came on and told me, that strength training was bad and as soon as you stop it turns to fat and you go all flabby and the teen was better doing martial arts.

After a little bit of to and fro-ing I then understood that this person instantly thought of bodybuilding when strength training was mentioned. I explained that strength is different for everyone and even martial arts athletes do strength training.

I also explained that it’s scientifically impossible for muscle to turn into fat and explained that the reason they look ‘flabby’ after years of coming away from bodybuilding is because they have lost a lot muscle mass and the skin is now loose, exactly the same as people lose a significant amount of fat. The skin can only stretch so much before it starts to lose its elasticity and won’t shrink back completely.

Different, people, different sports all need strength training but it needs to be programmed according to what they need to achieve in their sport.

Strength doesn’t just mean bodybuilding. In fact bodybuilding is more based on hypertrophy…which a different kind of training anyway.

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