The argument – and confusion -- over what strength training and body building actually encompass, which is better and how they’re different dates back to the beginning of the sports themselves. The fact is, though they may have some superficial similarities, bodybuilding is completely different than weight training, with completely different techniques and goals.
Body Building Basics
Body builders focus on sculpting each individual muscle to perfection, and getting the most strength out of each one. Body builders are far less interested in their ability to lift heavy stuff and far more interested in creating a very specific physique – one that’s balanced, sculpted, proportional, and -- though bulky -- has a very low fat percentage.
While some strength trainers keep a lean form through cardio exercise and diet -- or actually seek to build muscle on a skinny frame, in general, they don’t lift weights to achieve and display a chiseled, perfected physiques. Their primary focus is to build strength and endurance. Some serious athletes use strength training to help them excel at sports. For others, weight lifting is the sport. And for still others, strength training is just a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle – and for good reason. Combined with aerobic activity, strength training helps reduce hypertension and promotes cardiovascular health. It also helps build lean muscle mass. Lean muscle mass helps burn calories more efficiently, which supports weight loss, and helps the body process sugar more effectively, which can reduce the chances of developing Type 2 diabetes.
What the Differences Mean
This difference in goals and priorities lends itself to a difference in techniques. Bodybuilders tend to use high repetitions of slower movements at lower weights -- a method that slowly sculpts muscle and gives it a more refined power. Strength trainers use quicker motions at higher speeds, with fewer repetitions at heavier weights. This leads to less defined muscle with a more explosive movement power.
Body builders isolate individual muscles and take great care to develop them to a certain size and thickness, while strength trainers work to develop whole-body strength through the use of muscle groups. This means that, while a weight trainer may be able to lift a large amount of weight using five or six muscles (something a body builder likely can’t do) a body builder can do far more using a single muscle than most weight lifters can.
There is some common ground among strength trainers and body builders. Many body builders start out with strength training, as it gives them a solid foundation for achieving their aesthetic goals. In addition, some body builders periodically engage in strength training to make their fitness routines more well-rounded. And, whether the novice weight lifter is a body builder or a strength trainer, the physical results tend to be the same for the first couple of years as the body acclimates.