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Bodybuilding is the process of developing muscle fibers through the combination of weight training, increased caloric intake, and rest. Someone who engages in this activity is referred to as a bodybuilder. As a sport, called competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders display their physiques to a panel of judges, who assign points based on their aesthetic appearance.

Arguably the most famous bodybuilder in the world is Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose Hollywood acting career was launched after his success in bodybuilding. His acting career was boosted by his appearance in the bodybuilding documentary film Pumping Iron after winning the 1975 Mr. Olympia title. This film also helped another bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno, to get the part of The Incredible Hulk in the 1980s TV series.


As a sport of aesthetics, bodybuilding can be traced back to the 11th century in India where athletes created their own dumbells (called Nals) out of stone and wood. There is also evidence that they created the first kind of gyms around this period.

Early years

Bodybuilding did not really gain popularity until the late 19th century, when the sport was promoted by the German Eugen Sandow - who is now often refered to as the "Father of modern bodybuilding". He is credited with inventing and selling the first machine made dumbells. Sandow organised the first ever bodybuilding contest on September 14, 1901 called the "Great Competition" and held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, UK. Judged by himself, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle the contest was a huge success and was a sell-out with hundreds of fans turned away. The trophy presented to the winner was a bronze statue of Sandow himself sculpted by Frederick Pomeroy. This statue (known as "The Sandow") has been presented to the Mr. Olympia winner since 1977 [1].

In the early 20th century, Bernarr Macfadden and Charles Atlas, continued to promote bodybuilding across the world.

The "Golden Age"

The period of around 1940 to 1970 is often refered to as the "Golden Age" of bodybuilding due to the judging emphasis on muscular symmetry and definition (rather than size) and before the widespread use of steroids and other supplements. During this time training techniques improved, more publications hit the shelves, and more contests were held. In this period bodybuilding was typified by Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California, US.

Due to the rise in popularity, the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) added a bodybuilding competition to their existing weightlifting contest in 1939 - the next year this competition was named AAU Mr. America. Around the mid-1940s most bodybuilders became annoyed with the AAU since they only allowed amateur competitors and they place more focus on the Olympic sport of weightlifting. This caused brothers Ben and Joe Weider to form the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) - which organised their competing IFBB Mr. America which was open to professional athletes.

In 1950, another organisation, the National Amateur Bodybuilders Association (NABBA) started their NABBA Mr. Universe contest in England. Another major contest, Mr. Olympia was first held in 1965 - this is currently the most prestigious title in bodybuilding.

Initially contests were for men only, but the NABBA added Miss Universe in 1965 and Miss Olympia was started in 1980. See Female bodybuilding#History for more.

1970s onwards

In the 1970s, bodybuilding had major publicity thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the 1977 film Pumping Iron. By this time the IFBB dominated the sport and the AAU took a back seat.

This period also saw the rise of anabolic steroids both in bodybuilding and many other sports. To combat this, and to be allowed to be an IOC member, the IFBB introduced strict doping tests for both steroids and other banned substances.

The IFBB is currently attempting to make bodybuilding an Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and is attempting to get a demonstration event at the Olympics which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This remains controversial since some argue that bodybuilding is not a sport since the actual contest does not involve athletic effort. Proponents argue that the posing routine requires skill and preparation.


Arnold Schwarzenegger

For biographies of professional bodybuilders see list of professional bodybuilders and Category:Bodybuilders

In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders aspire to develop and maintain an aesthetically pleasing (by bodybuilding standards) body and balanced physique. The competitors show off their bodies by performing a number of poses - bodybuilders spend time practicing their posing routine as this has a large effect on how they are judged.

A bodybuilder's size and shape are far more important than how much he or she can lift. The sport should therefore not be confused with strongman competition or powerlifting, where emphasis is on actual physical strength, or with Olympic weightlifting, where emphasis is equally split between strength and technique. Though superficially similar to the casual observer, the fields entail a different regimen of training, diet, and basic motivation.

The main organization that promotes, funds, and judges bodybuilding competition is the International Federation of BodyBuilders. They organise bodybuilding's most prestigious competition - Mr. Olympia.

Contest preparation

The general strategy adopted by competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and approximately 3-4 months from competition attempt to lose body fat (refered to as "cutting up"). In doing this some muscle will be lost but the aim is to keep this to a minimum. There are many approaches used but most involve reducing calorie intake and increasing cardio.

On the day before contest, some bodybuilders attempt to dehydrate themselves to make their muscles more defined. However, some experts argue against this since it can reduce blood pressure which affects the vascularity (size of the blood vessels). Bodybuilders also increase their electrolyte consumption (potassium and sodium) to reduce the risk of muscle cramps when on stage.

Right before performing on stage bodybuilders will apply various products to their skin to improve their muscle defintion - these include fake tan (to make the skin darker) and various oils (to make the skin shiny). They will also use weights to force blood to their muscles to improve size and vascularity.

Female Bodybuilding

Main article: Female bodybuilding

In the 1970s women began to take part in bodybuilding competitions. However, they often face difficulties for a number of reasons:

  • The standards for judging of women bodybuilders changes almost every year.
  • They are criticized and viewed negatively for not conforming to traditional ideas of feminine beauty and gender roles.
  • Female bodybuilders are given prize money that is often a quarter or less of what is given to male bodybuilders.

Female Fitness and Figure

Closely related to female bodybuilding (often held as part of the same event) is female fitness and figure competitions. Whereas female bodybuilding is judged on muscle size, fitness is judged on the competitor ability in a number of strength and flexibility exercises, and figure is judged purely on the physical form (there are no muscle flexing poses).


In order to achieve muscle growth (hypertrophy), bodybuilders focus in three main lines of action:

Resistance weight training

Resistance weight training causes microtears to the muscles being trained; this is generally known as microtrauma. These microtears in the muscle contribute to the soreness felt after exercise, called Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It is the repair to these microtrauma that result in muscle growth (anabolism). Normally, this soreness becomes most apparent a day or two after a workout.


The high levels of muscle growth and repair achieved by bodybuilders require a very specialised diet. Generally speaking, bodybuilders require anything between 500-1000 kilocalories (2000 to 4000 kilojoules) above their maintenance level of food energy while attempting to increase lean body mass. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a contest. The ratios of food energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.

Bodybuilders split their food intake for the day into 5 to 7 meals of roughly equal nutritional content and attempt to eat at regular intervals (normally between 2 and 3 hours). This allows greater absorption of nutrients and increases basal metabolic rate. This process is also valuable for those wishing merely to lose fat.


Having a large proportion of the diet come from carbohydrates gives the body enough energy to deal with the rigours of training and recovery. Bodybuilders require complex carbohydrates, which release energy more slowly than simple sugars. This is important as simple sugars cause an insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat rather than muscle, and which can waste energy that should be going towards muscle growth. However bodybuilders do ingest some simple sugars (often in form of pure glucose or maltodextrin) post-workout to replenish glycogen stores within the muscle.


It is recommended that bodybuilders receive 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of lean body weight (2 to 5 g/kg) to help the body recover and build. These protein sources should be of a high biological value such as steak, chicken, fish, soy, milk, whey, or egg whites. Chicken, whey, and egg whites are often preferred due to their relatively low fat content. Many bodybuilders prefer to get their daily protein requirement from foods first and then from supplementary protein powders. The key times for bodybuilders to intake protein is immediately following a workout and before going to sleep.

Vitamins & minerals

Bodybuilders almost universally take a multi-vitamin each day. Essential fatty acids (including omega-3s), which the body can not synthesize, are also consumed. As with all supplements, it is preferable to get the vitamin and mineral requirement from whole foods, though this is not always convenient.


Main article: Bodybuilding supplements

Supplements can help muscle gain, although some are unproven and many are ineffective. One supplement which has been proven to help bodybuilders gain and maintain size (without unhealthy side effects) is Creatine. Like all supplements, these only help if used in conjunction with a solid nutritional base and weight training program.

Some bodybuilders may use drugs to gain an advantage over results due to natural hypertrophy, especially in professional competitions. Although many of these substances are illegal in many countries, in professional bodybuilding the use of anabolic steroids and precursor substances such as prohormones are sometimes essential to competing in world-class competitions. Most steroids allow the human body to be in a more anabolic state. Some negative side-effects accompany steroid abuse, such as liver damage and a decline in the body's own testosterone production, which can cause testicular atrophy and possible infertility.

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) and insulin are also used by some of the larger bodybuilders. HGH is incredibly expensive compared to steroids, though, while insulin is very readily available yet fatal if misused.


One of the biggest problems bodybuilders can encounter is when a state of overtraining is reached. Overtraining is the phrase used when a bodybuilder has trained hard over the course of a training schedule and is extremely fatigued due to lack of required rest from previous workouts. This is in most cases very bad for a bodybuilder, as it can decrease muscle growth and inhibit strength gains. Respecting recovery is the most important thing for bodybuilders working out to get big.

When the human body has undergone intense exercise, the immune system will lag due to the recovery phase it will be consequently undergoing. This means the human body will be more likely to catch a virus or a cold, and nothing cuts through a bodybuilding schedule like a bad cold. This is most important if one encounters overtraining, as the body is extremely fatigued and is really open to sickness. Reaching overtraining is detrimental in all situations.

However, there has been argument to say that overtraining can be beneficial. One article published by Muscle & Fitness Magazine stated that you can "Overtrain for Big Gains". It suggested that if one is planning a restful holiday and they don't wish to inhibit their bodybuilding lifestyle too much, they should overtrain before taking the holiday, so the body can rest easily and recuperate and grow. But in most cases, extreme fatigue from overtraining should be avoided.


The third component to extraordinary muscle building is rest. Without adequate rest and sleep the body does not have an opportunity to recover and build. About eight hours of sleep a night is essential for the bodybuilder to be refreshed and ready for the next session. Additionally, many athletes find a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to direct resources toward repairing and building muscle fiber.

Most bodybuilders train every day (professional bodybuilders several times a day) and it is important that sufficient recovery time (usually 2-3 days) is allowed between training the same muscle groups. Bodybuilders therefore design their training programs to allow time for recovery and growth.

See also


External links


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