T Nation

Why Bodybuilding?

Doesn’t bodybuilding seem a bit gay?

Sorry, I just began with that foolish statement to try and attract the attention necessay to get repsonses.

It might seem that this question belongs in the “building a better body” section of the forum, but it seems to me prior to the subject of that section: I want to know why people pursue bodybuilding, not how.

I ask for several reasons. In reading through several other threads in this section of the forum, I noticed that people here do try to give people meaningfull advice about more than simply their manner of weight training (sets, reps, exercises), and I find myself needing motivation, one way or another, with respect to bodybuilding—

I am generally much more interested in building maximal strength, but, in the course of such exercise, I have built a body that some find impressive. I also find that I enjoy this build, and sometimes wish to train to augment it (finally turn that 4 pack into a six pack, actually focus on arms, etc.). The problem is that I do not trust that this desire to improve the look of my body is good; It often seems vain, and it often seems unnecessary. Many peole mention attracting the oppositie sex, but I have noticed that most girls are impressed enough with just a decent body (which I already have), some are disgusted with bigger or more ripped bodies, many of the girls most attracted to me for my body are stupid and worthless, and finally, for every girl who will start flirting with me at a bar simply based on how I am built, there is probably another one who will not talk to me b/c she assumes I am a meathead. So I really doubt sex is the answer.

Thus, again I ask, why someone should bodybuild, or at least, if you have bothered to read my long-winded post, why do you body-build (of course powerlifters and others are welcome to reply if they have something relevant to say)?

I don’t consider myself a “bodybuilder”, so I may not be the best person to reply here. So I guess the question then becomes “why do I do whatever I do call it?”

Hmm… I’ve always been athletically active. Running, triathlon, bike racing… And always took it to as an extreme level as I could. Some years ago I hung up the bike to put the time into other ventures. So I needed to do something. Weight training seemed the most time-beneficial thing I could do. I knew I was going to gain weight, having given up a good portion of my aerobic activity, so I wanted to gain muscle rather than fat. Also, when I returned to a higher level of aerobic activity, I wanted the fat that I did gain to come off easier (due to the higher amount of muscle mass).

It has NOTHING to do with sex, or attracting women, for me. And I am not gay. I train alone at home, not in a gym, so it’s not even about one-upping some one else. I do it solely for me, just to push myself.

And I don’t look too bad for it.

Just gotta say: Good post, good question. I’d be interested in hearing some answers. Personally, I train for athletics, but looking good would just be nice side benefit. So I really couldn’t answer the bodybuilding question, although I gotta assume that many people do it because they like they way it makes them look. (in other words, not just to impress the opposite sex, but so they feel good about themselves).

Because we can? Because WE have the interest? Of course there will never be a definitive reason why ‘everyone’ or anyone chooses to BB. My reasons have changed. I started because of a girl. No real need to explore the specifics of that statement, just suffice that it was pretty much sexual, she thought I should be training more heavily, like her(she was a competitive FBB at the time)… I was recently complimented by a co-worker of hers when the co-worker asked if I was her husband(He is 6’4", 250lbs…you know what I mean) Meant to me that I looked good…
As for attracting the opposite sex, who knows what does… I was talking with 2 women on the weekend, one had been out with a fella who was a reasonably large guy, She was saying he was ‘brain dead’, zero or in a deficit position in the personality dept… They both started telling me what a great presonality I had… and how neat it was that I looked the way I did, but was in no way arrogant or disparaging because of it. Neither of these women has expressed an interest in dating me. The prettiest and youngest of the two had told me that she would have dated me if she had not started dating the scrawny cook she was with…
I have finally found a girlfriend, but she lives 8 hours away… apparently one of the few who is NOT intimidated by someone who looks like a model… There is this great debate about whether it is looks or personality that makes for the sexual attraction. I am here to say it is HORMONES guys… Chemistry is the key…
Bodybuilding has not made women knock down my door trying to get into my pants, regardless of the comments I get about just that. I just do it cause I like it… and I like the way I feel/look because of it… Starting with any other goal in mind is asking for disappointment.


I understand your statement about feeling good about oneself up to a point: even when i am by myslf, I do not like it when my stomach is big enough to push against the waiste of my shorts, and generally, I do not like ot feel soft. But once again, I wonder if this is appropriate. I mean, of course one should feel bad about being an ugly fat ass who provides an eyesore to all onlookers. But that is not exactly what I’m talking about here. I am more concerned with the type that is already, by any reasonable account, well built and fine to look at, and who still is concerned with improving the body even further. --why not focus on health, strength, endurance, but rather on appearance?

I sort of asked C.T. about this during his little guest forum thing, and he answered with the enjoyment he derives from experimenting and controling his body. I can relate to this also–I derive much satisfaction from controling my body, but once again, I wonder most about the fact that sometimes I am preoccupied with controling the appearance of my body over the function.

I would like to be able to better appreciate bodybuiliding, to pursue it with a clean conscience, but it is hard to do so, when it seems to originate in insecurity about others’ opinions, vanity, or something else of a baser nature.

I started out doing all this for functional strength gains. I just wanted to be stronger than I was. In the process, I significantly improved my physique. So, now, my motivation is to never look (or feel) like I did before I started lifting. I, also, don’t mind the attention I get now. But, I’m married so I don’t want any trouble.

I would say because it gives you the most bang for your time. It is the only activity that gives my body a lean athletic look while still not eating perfectly. Nothing else works! People who just run, practice yoga, bike, play tennis etc. do not always have a good body although they are in good shape physically. I also like the more hardcore physique that I can achieve when I eat a bodybuilding diet, which is every summer.

Also, just as important is the confidence, structure, and discipline it gives me. These carry over onto other aspects of my life. The other thing that carries over is the strength and muscular endurance. Examples of this are helping people move, helping a boss move a desk, or helping my father-in-law carry some dirt for his garden. They huff and puff from these relatively small tasks while I have barely put out any effort. Why age into a physical mess?, when you can age with strength and endurance and have a great quality of life. Come to think of it, quality of life may be the best reason.

Form Follows Function.

Train like an athlete or to improve your performance on the field, and you will develop an asthetically pleasing physique as well.

You can have both and not participate in “bodybuilding.”

I like what Shugs said in an old article, it think it was Merry Christmas, Bob. Shugs said he wasn’t a “bodybuilder” persay, but he dedicated almost his entire day to building his body into a lean, muscular, athletic piece of work. So, I sort of use that definition to explain my training. I am building my body to look, feel, and move the way I want it to.

Why do I do it? Why does anyone do anything? It’s choice. I chose a long time ago to not be fat, lazy, and weak. I’m a very goal-oriented, hard-working, competitive person. I want to look good mostly for me, but I’m not going to not be happy that girls are checking me out and other lifters are asking how I train. Moreso, it’s how one feels and moves. I like being about to run up a few flights of stairs and not change my breathing. I like knowing I can lift a heavy box by myself so I don’t need to have someone help with a simple task.

Awesome question.

Interesting thread. I’d like to add a few more reasons. Originally, I started lifting mostly to improve my appearance, but now I call that “getting prettier” (like people who only work arms and chest). Things have changed though-I don’t even do curls anymore. But bodybuilding/weight-training is the best thing I’ve found to correct my very bad posture. And after I realized what a great feeling working out in the gym can give, I got hooked!

Wow, that IS a good question! There are going to be many interesting posts here.

I think it really is a lifestyle, a choice. It teaches you discipline, teaches you to be goal-oriented, teaches you to take control of yourself. It gives you self-confidence, it gives you strength (inner AND outer). Physically, mentally, and emotionally, nothing reaps greater benefits than exercise!!! And the good body that comes along with it? Some of you may have been labeled ?vain? or ?superficial? because of all the time and effort you put towards getting and keeping a ?good body?. IMHO, being happy about the way you look is just one of the essential steps to total wellness. I can?t see anything wrong with that!

I appreciate all the responses thus far, and I hope that they keep coming. They have all been quite positive.

I am, however, missing something, which probably has a lot to do with those who have so far responded: namely, for those who do focus on bodybuilding, whether it be some of the time or all the time, what is the specific difference that justifies bodybuilding over say powerlifting–both build discipline, more general athleticism, etc. so why choose to focus more on appearance?

I would be especially interested to hear from those so commited to bodybuilding that they use AAS and/or strive to develop similar bodies to those who compete (even some natural competitors look pretty freaky–at least with a shirt off, my pale and slightly hairy 4-pack looks tremendously different from the tan, shaven, veiny, abs of a natural competitor, let alone a Mr. O contestant.

Once again, I should reiterate, part of me desires to train somewhat like these men do, but part mistrusts this desire, and it sometimes seems to me that such dedication to bodybuilding is bad.

Well Floobadoo:

Where do I begin ? I cannot speak for all the lifters out there but I have noticed that most of the posters and readers of T-Mag are predominantly focused on strength and power; a great body is a great side/fringe benefit.

Mogwai hit it on the head with his comment.

For me, I truly slipped into bodybuilding 5-7 years ago shortly after I broke up with a long term girlfriend (my highschool sweetheart) I just walked into the U of T gym one day in a depressed funk and started doing lat pulldowns in my jeans… gradually over the months and years I became the guy that the gym staff would ask, “Are you training for something ?” since I was so gymcentric I would be doing the workouts between classes…
I liked the feeling that lifting gave me and the transformation my body was undergoing. I quickly came to realize that this would be a lifelong pact with myself, a path to follow and maintain.
It’s shameful the people who remain sedentary and think it’s the norm to be so. A good game of Xbox Live is fun, sure, but so is getting a PR on the bench press or squat.
Nothing beats having a girlfriend’s friend look you over and say to your girlfriend, “Your boyfriend ? He has a great body” :slight_smile:
If functional strength training leads to aesthetic benefits, then so be it.
Sorry to be long-winded but yeah, as all the above posts have mentioned, those participating in lifting and bodybuilding reap greater benefits than those “who live in the grey twilight, neither knowing victory or defeat”

My reason is solely to look good period. I’m married so it’s not to attract other girls although I still don’t mind getting the looks. I do want strength too but only if it will help me look better. I want to be big, lean, and looking good. It is all for the asthetics. I tan, shave/wax, etc. Am I vain? Maybe, but I’m also healthy and strong as a result of my hobby. I really don’t give a crap what anyone else thinks either because I do it for myself. Will I eventually do steroids to help me look even better? Again, maybe. If I think I can’t get any bigger naturally. But as a tall ectomorph I’ve got a long way to go before being too big is a problem.


I have no idea what you look like now, but you describe yourself as a tall ectomorph with a lot of room for improvement, so I am lead to ask, do you think you will still want to look better and better ad infinitum: is there any limit to your pursuit of good looks (also, would you consider plastic surgery)?

To others, I would love to hear from some more hardcore bodybuilders on why they do it.

It’s intense, it’s painful, it’s hard work, you limp around in agony after a hard workout for days…this is what I consider fun!!

[quote]floobadoo wrote:

I have no idea what you look like now, but you describe yourself as a tall ectomorph with a lot of room for improvement, so I am lead to ask, do you think you will still want to look better and better ad infinitum: is there any limit to your pursuit of good looks (also, would you consider plastic surgery)?

To others, I would love to hear from some more hardcore bodybuilders on why they do it. [/quote]

I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with my physique. It will definitely be a lifelong process to build and refine it. Am I pleased with it now? For the most part. Am I satisfied with what I’ve accomplished thus far? Absolutely not.

The only type of plastic surgery I would consider doing is ab-etching surgery. I’m at the end of another cutting cycle (approximately 7% bf) and I still don’t like the small fat deposits that remain on my abs and love handles. Yeah, I could get down to 4% bf and they would be minimized but why? First I would potentially sacrifice more muscle to do that. Second, I’m not as big as I ultimately want to get so why try to get that lean now. And three, it’s a real pain in the ass to get that lean.

I’ve been through three cutting cycles in my short bodybuilding lifestyle pursuit thus far (2.5 years) and I just try to gain as much muscle as possible in between until I’m getting too fat again. I’m getting better at what works for my body during cutting and bulking cycles. I just have a bitch of a time putting on muscle.

After a year I’ve netted out 6-7 lbs of muscle. This is from last year at being 7% bf during the summer to bulking up and cutting back down to 7% bf again during this summer. So there is no water, fat, etc. to account for this weight gain. This is pure muscle. I thought like most people that “oh yeah, I’ve gained like 20 lbs of muscle no problem” during last year’s series of bulking cycles. Never mind that I gained 2 inches on my waist during these multiple bulking cycles. I’ve realized what true muscle gain is compared to just weight gain. Will I get better at gaining muscle vs. fat this year than I did last year? I believe so. I’ll let you know in a year.

I usually coincide my cutting cycles so they end during the summer. This accomplishes two things. Again, my ultimate goal is to look good so summer time is the best time to shave off the fat to see what I’ve built. And second, I need to prime my system so to speak for the next bulking cycle so I can effectively gain more muscle vs. fat by starting lean again.

What I’m going to try this time around is to go a little slower in the weight gain, do longer bulking cycles and intersperse them with maintenance and cutting cycles in between to see if I can maximize muscle gain and shed fat more frequently. The problem I ran into this last year is I went on bulking cycles then maintenance cycles and then more bulking cycles. Well by the 3rd or 4th cycle I was gaining way too much fat vs. muscle. So it’s a constant experiment.

Will I ever do ab-ethcing surgery? I honestly don’t know but it is something I think about. But this is definitely the only plastic surgery I would ever consider doing.

Okay, I’ve been podering my answer to this question for a while, so here goes…hopefully this is somewhat concise.

First of all, I second everything that jaybvee said. He described my situation very well, too- from how I got started (bad breakup) to the constant “what are you training for?” question to loving the sound of “hey, your girlfriend has a great body.” :o)

Second, floobadoo, it seems as if you’re having trouble with bb because you think it’s a purely aesthetic endeavor. I don’t believe that it is. Sure, the end goal is to present the best-looking physique on the day of a competition, but the effort that goes into that result is hardly a pretty site (as anyone at my gym can tell you!), and is just as difficult in its own way as any other competitive arena you could choose. Also, I have to tell you that no bodybuilder, from IFBB pros to novice natural cometitors, looks the same on an everyday basis as they do at a competition. So by comparing yourself to these people on the day of a competition, you might be slighting yourself a bit.

As for my own input as to why I do this, quite frankly I love it. I want to do things that I have a passion for. I do things that I can excel at, but will challenge me; that other people will respect me for doing, but, more importantly, that I will respect myself for doing. Both grad school and bodybuilding fall into this category, and that’s why they are the two major defining areas of my life.

I started bodybuilding because I was told I had an aptitude for it, and I continue because I know that if I put the effort into it, I can excel. This is a constant learning experience for me, and it’s a painful one. But in my mind, no goal is more rewarding to reach than the one that takes everything out of you. For some reason I’m addicted to this game of manipulating training, diet, and many other variables to make by body look the absolute best it can. When I competed for the first time last fall, at the end of the most exhausting, gut-wrenching, and fulfilling day of my life, everyone asked me repeatedly, “was it worth it?” All I could do was laugh/cry simultaneously and tell them that I would do it again in a heartbeat. So I guess that’s the moral of the story for me- if you feel passionate about something, you have to do it. I’m planning to compete again this fall, and while I know the agony that competition prep will inflict on every aspect of my life, I can’t wait to be on stage again and know that I did everything I could to make the body I have look as good as it can at that point in time. :o)

Wow, good post buckeyegirl! I have to say that for myself, it’s purely aesthetic. Besides, the lifestyle is so goal-oriented that it’s hard to be depressed; even when everything else in your life sucks, you always have the iron waiting for you. There is always more room for improvement, you are never perfect. But I think that it is the “seeking perfection” which is important here. I also think that it is interesting that several folks started getting serious with BB after a tough break-up. So did I, in a way. And it is too late to turn back. I mean, once you have achieved a certain degree of success in this, it seems impossible to go back to being the way you were. There is something innately GOOD about what we do in the gym and the way we control our diets. Maybe it comes down to being able to exercise control over yourself, you know, that expression of willpower or something. Uh… boy did I just ramble on here. I guess that it is more than aeshetics then.

The thing about weightlifting and bodybuilding is that it parallels life so well. Everyday you live your life you’re going to have a let down, a failure. Bbing and weightlifting offer you that same risk. It’s all about making yourself a better person by staring yourself down in a mirror after a failure and convincing yourself that that same failure will never… ever… happen again. Once you have the ability to convince your heart, mind, and soul of this, you damn near have life conquered.

Simply put, I weighlift/bodybuild because it makes me a better man in every sense of the word.