“Many trainers and coaches often claim they don’t use bodybuilding concepts because they don’t want their athletes to become like bodybuilders. We feel this view lacks common sense because anyone in their right mind knows damn well that doing some biceps curls and leg extensions won’t turn you into Ronnie Coleman anymore than running hill sprints and wearing 80’s sweat bands will turn you into Walter Payton!”– Nick Tumminello

Years ago the concept of “bodybuilding” had both good and bad associations. Building one’s body to be stronger and healthier was a good thing. Somehow, though, people associated exercise with not having spent enough time doing hard labor at the job. Statements such as, “Oh if you want exercise,.. I have some logs that need moving”, were very common. Improving one’s appearance and health by “lifting weights”, was considered vain and frivolous as well. There was not an association between improved health, longevity, physical strength, orthopedic efficiency, cardiovascular function and just leading an average life. People who trained in the very few gyms that existed were often considered freaks and narcissists.

While there were certainly iconic figures in strength training and fitness world like Bob Hoffman, John Grimek, Jack LaLanne, Steve Reeves and Joe Weider, the man who changed everything was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He, with his charisma, charm and ability to endlessly answer ignorant questions from talk show hosts, single handedly, gave permission to lift weights, get strong and look better. It was OK to improve yourself. Arnold strongly believed the focus that allowed him to become the best, also allowed him to become a major actor, author and governor of California. 


Realize as well that there was some stigma attached to taking action to improve oneself. Heroes in movies, history or mythology were always pictured as more muscular and athletic. We must somehow believe that they arrived this way through perfect genetics, a lightening bolt from the Gods or perhaps the “Super Soldier Formula”, in Captain America’s case. To actually set goals, work hard, rearrange priorities and manage our lives by weightlifting or bodybuilding wasn’t fair. Of course at that time, training for sport was considered, ‘not fair’. You simply showed up and tried hard. If I won, I was better than you. For you to practice was cheating. This drama existed between brawling and Asian Martial Arts. It also existed in rock climbing when climbing legend Tony Yaniro specifically trained for his assault on “Grand Illusion” in 1979. He set up specific routes on his training for to build the specific strength necessary for this 5.13D route. At the time, other climbers simply climbed and smoked weed.

With the era of Pumping Iron and to a smaller degree, Nautilus gyms via Arthur Jones, lifting weights to get bigger and stronger became mainstream. In fact, the “Rise of the Machines”, allowed for a 20 minute workout with no loading of weights on a bar. Nautilus Machines had a pin that you moved up numbered weight stack. How efficient is that?


Then as time went on, there was a difference of opinion. As Spinoza said, “No matter how thin you slice it, there is always two sides”. In the lifting world there was a group who trained for looks and a group that trained for strength. Remember, years ago these men had limited facilities and trained side by side. They both did similar exercises, but the emphasis was slightly different. Some athletes competed in both strength and bodybuilding. Take a look at the photos and see if you notice  anything but athletes working hard.


You see, if you are working hard, progressing towards your goal and focusing on positive outcomes, why is it, “Non Functional”? Why the need to moralize physical movement with the application of resistance towards a goal of better health, better performance or even quality of life? Is there some specific need to limit choice or somehow eliminate the idea of self expression? Certainly not.

Some examples of those who crossed the scary line between body shaping and function? Sure. How about a Pro Wrestler who came from a family of pro wrestlers. He’s a former college football player who flirted with playing in the Canadian League. Now he is an action movie star. In between films he still wrestles and during Wrestlemania he tore a adductor and abdominal muscle off the bone. It required surgery. I’m sure due to his masculine nature and career choices he jumped into Wall Ball and Mud Races to do rehab. What do you think?


Then there is a man considered by many to be the strongest human to walk the earth. He competed in Highland Games, Strongman Competition and Powerlifting. As we well know, the deadlift or any clean or carry puts tremendous pressure on the biceps. So his response was Kipping Pull Ups or Muscle Ups? Well, maybe instead an old standard.


The bottom line is that “building the body” is not a bad thing. Your purpose or outcome is specifically up to you. Don’t stigmatize exercise. Don’t moralize movement. It’s FAR harder to actually think for yourself than train on blue machines with cams or Rx a WOD in knee socks and tattoos.