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Bodybuilding vs. Strenth Training: Is There a Difference?

Updated on September 22, 2012

What's the Difference?

If I had a nickel for each person that thought "bodybuilding" and "strength training" were synonymous, I'd be a rich man. Don't get me wrong, they are similar, but exactly the same; they're not. Athletes training for sports like basketball, football and countless others train (or should train) differently than bodybuilding athletes. The untrained eye might see no difference, but there are differences, and one major contrast in particular.

The Contrast

While bodybuilders and strength trainers both perform many of the same exercises, the goals are often different. Consider squats; bodybuilders will perform squats to build up the hamstrings, quads, and glutes and increase testosterone supply to the rest of the muscles in the body. A strength trainee will perform the same exercise with thoughts of exploding off the line of scrimmage or skying up for a rebound. There are several other exercises which sports trainers and bodybuilding athletes both perform, like benchpress, deadlifts, cleans and and rows, but once again for different reasons. Bodybuilders are attempting to increase hypertrophy (muscle size) primarily, while strength trainers are typically looking to improve sports performance.

The biggest difference that I see between bodybuilding athletes and sports performance athletes involves isolation exercises, or exercises that target a specific muscle group. For instance, if your're training for sports, you really want to work with compound exercises (or exercises that train multiple muscle groups) like squats, bench press, deadlifts, squat jumps, burpees, push-ups, etc. While bodybuilders will perform many of these exercises, they will also perform isolation exercises like bicep curls, chest flies, tricep extensions, deltoid flies, and a myriad of other movements that simply hit one muscle group. The reason for this is that if one can put an individual muscle under greater stress by isolating it, that muscle will grow bigger. However, training that muscle by itself will not help coordinate its contribution of strength with other muscle groups nearly as well as performing compound exercises. And the coordination of muscle groups is exactly what sports athletes should have in mind. Not only that, but take into consideration the sport you will playing. Football players use a burst of energy for several seconds, and then they get a short break of several seconds between plays. Basketball and soccer are more alike when it comes to duration; they are more endurance sports with an occasional all-out burst of energy required. All of this should be taken into consideration when training.

Thoughts For Bodybuilders

I've always found it useful to incorporate a variety of bodybuiding and strength training methods into my exercise routine, mainly when I'm looking to shred, or get super lean. I do this by adopting a collection of compound exercises into my regimen, but also incorporating plyometric exercises as well. These include movements that might go unused by the traditional bodybuilder, such as burpees, jump squats, and other variations of lunges and low squats that require explosive jumping. This alteration from the norm can prove to be very helpful in a relatively fast amount of time.


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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 5 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Good hub; yes strength training and bodybuilding are different. Though if someone is just starting out I would normally recommend they train for both using a medium rep, compound exercise only protocol. When a bit more advanced training would be altered depending on their specific goals, but with some variation of course.

    • jclaffee profile image

      Jesse Claffee 5 years ago from Winston-Salem, NC

      Thanks johnnymnemonic! Stay posted for more hubs.

    • profile image

      johnnymnemonic 5 years ago

      An excellent hub. You're probably very accurate in your estimation of richness based on the ignorance rate. :) I've been doing bodybuilding for some years now, but seeing no direct benefit of it to my everyday life, have made a permanent shift to active sports. I usually swim and am planning to take on tennis in mid-term. As you know, once you begin either of these sports or even start taking lessons from a pro trainer, they won't give you much of a clue about the required muscle training for the given sport. Hubs on the strength training for either of these sports would be of much use for me. We need to get away from clichés and learn what we actually should, but such experts don't show up everyday. Just looking forward to read'em!