T Nation

Changing of the Guards


Nowadays, it seems as though everyone on this site is training to improve their athletic performance instead of just for "lookin good nekkid".

Keep in mind that there's absolutely NOTHING wrong with that - I'm just wondering what happened to all the original bodybuilders that used to post on this forum (so many moons ago)

I believe that JB has even commented on the fact that so many lifters are now lifting sandbags, dragging sleds and performing Max Effort lifts when they should be training like bodybuilding of they want to look like one.

I've also noticed a big shift in the types of articles that have been published over recent years versus the initial years.

"Back in the day" rarely did programs incorporate olimpics lifts, now they seem the norm.

Again, not an attack on anyone, just an observation.

Is there anyone out there still training just for looks?


I guess you can say I am. I also do it for general health too, but since I am a full time worker, father, and husband, the days of dedicating all of my time to sports are all but gone. So, yea, I do for looks and to keep me physically healthy.


I used to train mostly for looks, but that's changed in the last few years. I think it changed for two main reasons: first, I began working in a field where physical strength and performance made me better at my job, and quite possibly keep me safe and alive some days, and second, I realized that working out solely for looks becomes unfulfilling after a while. To stay motivated, I need to know that I'm working out for more than just big biceps and a small waist.

There's also the fact that while training for performance, improved appearance is going to be a side-effect. If you go to the gym and do deads, squats, and the other big performance-enhancing movements, they're going to do great things for your physique. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work the other way around..


I don't think it is anything as serious as "changing of the guards". I feel it is much more of a cycle or a trend. Many newbies seem to now believe that bodybuilders don't train for strength. I don't know who started this, but while the goal in bodybuilding is to look better, most bodybuilders are also concerned about their strength levels. The ones doing the best in the sport are also the strongest. Johnnie Jackson, Ronnie Coleman, and Branch Warren come to mind.

I train for strength and eat for size. It is that simple. I personally don't know any huge guys who lift light weights. If they do exist, I wouldn't place them in the majority. I know my training has produced results in size and strength for me. Doing kettleball training just to fit in with a growing trend wouldn't make any sense to me. If the majority of guys doing so were so much more developed than me, I would briefly consider it. Training like a bodybuilder works for size and strenth. I am not sure why some seem to think this isn't the case.


I could be wrong, but I think they believe they are advancing beyond the basic foundation of bodybuilding. The problem with that is beginners need a foundation. Also, that basic foundation helped build some of the strongest and most well developed people on the planet. Some things don't need to advance beyond simple structure...because they work.


If strength over size is the current attitude of the members here, you wouldn't be able to tell it by the articles that are presented here. Dave Tate - a really, really strong sumbitch - has a two part article talking about hypertrophy. Almost everything Waterbury writes has leanings toward hypertrophy. The list goes on and on.

I tend to think, like ProfX, that this is merely a fad. And like the metrosexual, will slowly lose favor with the masses such that T-Nation members will soon be back to the business of getting huger and stronger.


I agreem it seems like just about everything on this site now is about strength and conditioning. I even have some friends that come to this site a lot and they make fun of me for caring about how my body looks and not worrying so much about strength. There is a wealth of information on this site, but sadly if you are looking for body building workouts you won't find much recent info in the articles.


I always thought looks was a byproduct of training to be healthy and improve athletic performance...if done right (training for performance) you really can't have one without the other....


Gyms are full of people who aren't growing any muscle but are getting stronger. There are skinny and normal looking people in the gyms round my way, who are quite strong for their size. They just aren't eating enough to gain mass. I reckon when these people don't grow they concentrate on strength and eschew the mass bit, sour fuckin grapes. Not all the time though, if you were an athlete or were only interested in getting strong then fair enough. I don't think its all clear cut.


I always thought the same, but lo' and behold, apparently to some, big muscles are weak muscles. It seems as if this has either died down somewhat over the past week, or the ones promoting the idea are simply posting less.


You aren't going to get much stronger without any increase in muscle size. You are limited in that regard. I don't know any 140lbs people benching as much as me for reps. While they might exist, it damn sure isn't the norm.


What I mean is, they aren't looking like bodybuilders, but handling decent poundages. Sure they added 'some' muscle, but for all their efforts, they could have gone about it another way.


What is "decent" to you? I ask because I am not seeing "decent" poundages being lifted in my gym by anyone who isn't serious about also adding some size as well. Even any powerlifters I know are big guys. I do agree that for those strength training as if they are avoiding size seem to be putting in more effort than they see in returns.


For example I saw a guy doing full rep deadlifts with 308lbs and then 352lbs (remember we have 44lb plates) knocking out sets of 6 to 8, three or four times. He must have weighed about 165 at about 5'10. He was strong for his size. I know he is keen of gaining mass because we have spoken.

Group of young lads, doing bench with about 250-280 and they were thin as string beans, just the other day. Ok not a huge weight but for skinny lads of about 17 ?

Saw a guy decline benching 398lbs this morning. He is about 5'8 and 170 lbs. Doesn't have much mass at all. Its calorific intake, or the fact they overtrain or any number of things that means they can gain strengh but not mass.

These people are training like bodybuilders and doing higher reps, everything that would point to initiating hypertrophy but its not happening.

But for many people I know strength gains have been relative to size increases at least most of the way. Funnily enough these guys were savvy enough to read up on nutrition, supplements and rest rather than just hitting the gym and thinking that would be the only thing they needed.


I'm definitely just for looks.


It's just a question of ends justifying means. The average person would prefer to look better nekkid, perform better on the court/field, work fewer hours, live longer, make more money... i.e. not very specialized. Prof. X indicated it was cyclical, I believe this one is more permanent. He's right that bigger muscles are generally stronger, but the spoiler is that there is a point of diminishing returns.

To be the absolute biggest isn't easy, is very specialized (not so much in ability, but time and resources), and there's very little relative payoff (pro or amateur). To be better in a variety of activities provides you with a variety of payoffs, in a variety of magnitudes, that is very general but customizable to the individual. Classical bodybuilding can't compete IMO.

Also, stringency and nomenclature are issues; you say "athletic performance" vs. bodybuilding. I'd say bodybuilders vs. MMA fighters is roughly equal. I'd say bb vs. strongmen is roughly equal. But bb purists vs. MMA enthusiasts or bb purists vs. MMA and Strongman enthusiasts? No contest.

Lastly, as a "bb purist" or "competitor" (or strongman competitor, or MMA fighter...), at some point you can "grow out of T-Nation". At some point, you learn what works best for you and your goals, once you've learned that, T-Nation becomes a distraction or takes on a different function in your life. As a bb, if it doesn't build lean mass, you don't need to look at it. As a MMA, lean mass, total mass, quickness speed, agility,... as a strongman same (or similar) things. Not only more reasons to train certain ways, but more reason to pay attention to T-Nation as well.


No exactly an old hand around here, but I've got a theory:

The phrase "functional strength" is roughly equivalent to "street smarts."

We all know utter morons who claim to be "street smart." This phrase, much like FS, means nothing at all. It's just a little piece of pride to cling onto when one realized that one is not actually smart. Are we supposed to be impressed that you know how to not get mugged? Doesn't make you smart.

As with "Functional Strength." This, again, is a totally meaningless phrase. You're strong enough to function? EVERYONE--except spinal cord injury victims and so forth--is strong enough to function. That guy in your office cramming his third Ho-Ho in a row in his maw? He functions. The lady who takes the elevator up one flight of stairs? Functional as hell!

This term is the 2005 equivalent of "core strength". It must be stopped before it reaches critical mass and occupies my squat rack.


I agree. Very good post Harris. I was thinking along those same lines.



I think we may need protest signs with a picture of a kettleball crossed out.


Maybe a t-shirt that says "Functional Strength is for Pussies"