CrossFit vs. Bodybuilding – Bulging Biceps or Badass Fran Time?

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Blazing fast workout times or a huge and defined physique.

Which one appeals to you?

Everyone wants to have that incredible body and most people want to be fitter overall. The question then becomes which is going to get you to that desired body type and level of fitness?

And so we begin the debate of CrossFit vs. Bodybuilding.

In this article I am going to walk you through my thoughts and experiences on CrossFit vs. bodybuilding and what are the advantages and disadvantages of both.

I will help you make the decision on which is better for you. I will even lay down my option on which is better overall!

muscular man doing pull ups at CrossFit gym

What is CrossFit?

CrossFit was started by Greg Glassman in the early 90’s in Santa Cruz, CA. Greg Glassman came up with a training program that he thought would be best suited at preparing athletes for the unknown and unknowable of life. He wanted to create a fitness program that specialized in producing non-specialist with respect to human performance.

CrossFit mixes powerlifting, gymnastics, Olympic weightlifting, running, rowing and any other functional physical exercise or functional movement you can think of.

When a workout, commonly called workout of the day or WOD, is created then the exercises are mixed in as many combinations or patterns as imagination can create.

The time and rep schemes are also varied as much as possible. If you are looking for some WOD ideas at home check out these options!

This creates an environment where the body cannot become accustomed to what is coming and the body has to be in a ready state at all times.

Greg Glassman has famously compared this to a firefighter never knowing when he or she may have to carry a victim out of a burning building or when a police officer may have to chase a suspect over a long distance.

Life does not happen on a prescribed routine like traditional workout programs and his argument was that people should not train like that either.

man training at the gym wearing compression shirt and headphones

What is Bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is thought to have originated in the late 1800s and the man most credited with creating the sport of bodybuilding is Eugene Sandow.

Where CrossFit is most concerned with human performance bodybuilding is most concerned with the size and definition of the musculature.

Bodybuilders focus on exercises that will help to grow and define their muscles. Make no mistake about this though.

If a bodybuilder wants to get larger muscles he or she must lift heavier weights.

So in essence bodybuilders often utilize more compound movements we see in powerlifting and Olympic lifting, such as the back squats, bench press, and deadlift.

These compound movements help to build size which all bodybuilders need more of!

Where bodybuilding shifts away from powerlifting and Olympic lifting is in the use of accessory lifts and movements. Bodybuilders want to utilize moments like shrugs and calf raises to help build additional size and create definition in their corresponding mussels groups.

These are movements that CrossFit rejects as nonfunctional outside the walls of the gym.

woman doing exercise on a lat machine in gym

So Which One?

When debating CrossFit vs. bodybuilding the answer comes down to your goals.

That’s right – what do you want?

This should be the first question you ask yourself before you pick up your first dumbbell or walk into your first CrossFit box.

Do you want to run a sub-six-minute mile? Or do you want huge pecs? Do you want a sub 3 minute Fran or do you want a ripped set of lats?

The answer to those questions will ensure you’re happy with your given training program and that you stick with your chosen training program and that will ultimately dictate you getting results!

When making a decision, keep in mind what each program can and cannot do.

female athlete performing weight lifting exercise at gym

CrossFit can deliver elite performance but it may not be the best program for delivering elite muscular size.

Bodybuilding can create very large and well-defined muscles but it may not be very helpful with cardiovascular endurance.

CrossFit can deliver a very well rounded athlete in many areas of fitness. Bodybuilding may be able to create further increases in muscle mass so that strength gains can continue.

Notice I used words like “can” and “may” in the paragraph above. That is because neither of these programs will work unless you work!

No matter what way you choose to go, be sure that you are putting in the work to see those gains that everyone so strongly desires.

Now the question everyone has been waiting for.

Which One is Better? CrossFit vs. Bodybuilding?

female crossfit athlete exercising with dumbbell

My answer is CrossFit. Here is why I choose CrossFit.

While bodybuilding may create incredible size gains and physiques – that’s about where it stops. CrossFit will help to build an overall better physical human being.

When utilized safely and effectively CrossFit can push the level of human performance to levels unheard of before.

Something like when the CrossFit games came along and showcased the potential of elite CrossFit athletes.

CrossFit can be done anywhere and can be very easily set up in a garage with a multitude of equipment options.

In addition, CrossFit has an extra benefit in that if you train consistently and eat a well thought out and healthy diet, your physique can also change in a positive way as well.

While no one, including myself, is saying that CrossFit athletes will be as well defined or as larger as elite bodybuilders, CrossFit athletes have incredible physique as well and all that is a byproduct of their training, not the ultimate goal.

The Main Idea

In summary CrossFit vs. bodybuilding is a hotly debated topic all over the interwebs.

The end answer really comes down to what your goals are.

If you want to get big and ripped then bodybuilding may be the way to go. If elite human performance is your goal then CrossFit will help take you there.

In addition, there is no rule that states that you cannot try one and then try the other at some point down the road.

Just give your choice at least six months of consistent work to ensure those GAINS!

If you’re looking to get started in CrossFit and want a few resources to help jumpstart your journey check out this link to help you get started.

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