Opinion: Why it’s Better to Train Like an Athlete To Be A Superior Bodybuilder

Athletics or aesthetics?

Bodybuilders. They’re the picture of strength and power in its physical form. When you look at superheroes, action movie stars, even models, they all scream chiseled muscle, the kind of muscle only bodybuilding can grant you. But the dirty truth that is never discussed is the level of performance bodybuilding grants an individual. Does it grant anything at all outside of some awesome beach muscles? The reality is something that few have a hard time coming to grips with.

Those chiseled, massively muscled behemoths that look like they came from another planet, well, their performance isn’t as amazing as you may think. There’s a clumsiness, a lack of coordination that lifting heavy weights alone simply can’t provide.

Now here’s the disclaimer: just because you do bodybuilding doesn’t mean you aren’t athletically inclined. But the reverse is also true. If you think you’re going to be an absolute boss because you engage in some bodybuilding training, then you’ll be sorely mistaken.

Let’s face facts, training like an athlete is far superior to training like a bodybuilder. This is all based on your goals of course, but I’d rather be agile and strong than have beautiful muscles and move like I’m sinking in quicksand. If you want to train to be the most chiseled, most impressive looking individual in the room, then of course bodybuilding is the best option for you. But if you want to perform like a superhuman, then your goal shouldn’t be just to build some muscle, but to build your athletic capacity as well.

Just ask yourself a question. Would you rather be able to jump high, run fast, and lift heavy or just look like you can?

Now, that’s not to say there’s no merit in looking the part. The beautiful part about being open minded is that you don’t have to be stuck in one particular frame of mind. But I’ve found that choosing a proper order to proceedings will greatly effect how well the experiment ends up.

Do you train for athletic ability first or focus on the aesthetics out of the gate?

Frankly, while either order is sufficient, I’m leaning towards training athletic, functional movements over bodybuilding to begin with. Working explosive movements like sprints, vertical jumps, jump squats, medicine ball slams, etc. is a great base to start from. Explosive moves like these ensure that when you do decide to pack on the muscle through bodybuilding, you won’t just be a mass monster without any athletic base to support all those gains.

Choosing one frame of mind over the other should never be the case. Striving for balance in all things is just a smarter way to game plan. Don’t discard athletic performance for aesthetic muscle. Don’t avoid building quality muscle because you think it will hinder your athleticism. Marry both together and it’s sure to be a long lasting relationship.

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Managing Editor at Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. Check out his InstagramTwitter and Facebook to keep up with his antics.

Managing editor of Generation Iron, Jonathan Salmon is a writer, martial arts instructor, and geek culture enthusiast. He has been writing about bodybuilding, combat sports, and strength sports for over 8 years. Check out his YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Sound Cloud for in-depth MMA analysis.