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Thread: training like a bodybuilder makes you look like a bodybuilder?

  1. #1
    Senior Member brihead301's Avatar
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    training like a bodybuilder makes you look like a bodybuilder?

    I will start off by saying that I've been a member of several bodybuilding/powerlifting/strength training forums for over 4 years now, and I've heard all of these things many many times before:

    - Do mostly compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, OH press, rows, dips, pullups, etc....to build maximum muscle

    - You're arms will grow just fine by doing heavy pushing and pulling exercises

    - A good routine starts off with doing heavy compounds, and maybe finishes with a select few isolation lifts

    - It is the diet that determines how you look, not the training

    - Train movements, not bodyparts

    Now, I've been a firm believer in all of those things for a while now, since they have been drilled in my head so many times since I have been reading all of these forums for so long. I have been following these methodologies as well.

    Now I'm going to go against the grain here, and say that I disagree with following these rules to a "T" if the goal is to look like a bodybuilder. No, I'm not disagreeing completely with the effectiveness of good old heavy compound lifts and a tight diet, but I am disagreeing with following the above pointers as gospel.

    I'm speaking through experience and observation of others. I watch the way the jacked and shredded guys at my gym train:

    - They do one or two "body parts" per day
    - They do about 3 - 6 exercises for each body part, many of which are isolations
    - They train a minimum of 5 days a week
    - They hold the belief that training body parts is a better way to get the "jacked and shredded bodybuilder look" rather then just doing a handful of compounds every session
    - They are in agreement that HEAVY is the way to train
    - They are in agreement that diet is very important when it comes to how cut you are, but the type of training also plays a very important role in how you look when cut.

    The two different types of looks I am talking about here are as follows. Take 2 people, the first person trains using the first set of methodologies (the strength athlete way), and the second person trains using the second set of methodologies (the bodybuilder way). Both people have good diets, and low bodyfat:

    1.) This person has a "bulkier, blockier" look. This person will not have as much of a pronounced V-taper. The person will have a huge back and torso. The arms will not be as "jacked and shredded" as that of the bodybuilder group (not to say that muscle separation and size won't be there, but this is just in comparison to the other group). This person, due to their functional, or movement based training will most likely be stronger and more athletic.

    2.) This person will have a huge upper body (chest, shoulders, arms, traps, upper back) in relation to their midsection due to the higher frequency of training each individual body part, and less emphasis on the "big three" lifts. The V-taper will be much more pronounced then people of group 1. The arms, when compared to those of group 1, will have much more muscle separation due to the high frequency of training each individual muscle or "body part".

    ---------

    I'm not saying either way of training is better then the other. I have just observed in real life, with real people, and lots of browsing pictures on the internet, that the type of training does result in a different look. I used to train like a bodybuilder, and I looked much different then I do now that I train like a strength athlete.

    With diet being constant, both "styles" of training will build size, strength, and muscle, but I honestly believe that training like a bodybuilder will result in a different looking physique then training like a powerlifter/strongman/oly lifter/football player/etc...

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  2. #2
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    Interesting observations. Here are some other things to think about.
    1) Muscle separation is a function of diet and not training. With lower bodyfat you can see the individual muscles better.
    2) Bodybuilders don't necessarily train each area with greater frequency than other strength athletes. For example, many bodybuilders will train each bodypart once per week, while many strength athletes will squat multiple times per week for example.
    3) You say the impressive bodybuilder types train a certain way at your gym. I've also found that nearly every person who makes no progress and is very small and weak (even after training for a long time) trains this way as well.
    4) Did these people always train this way? Did they start by building much of there muscle mass using basic exercises and then transition to the way they are training now?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Beverly McD.'s Avatar
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    Strength athletes incorporate every available muscle group to move the weight. Example...bench they use as much back and leg drive as they use chest, shoulders and triceps.
    BB isolate the targeted muscle group. They want to keep the other muscle groups from coming into play.

  4. #4
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Dr. Ken has talked about this before in some of his articles. He said that when you go to a bodybuilding show, you can tell the guys that train differently. The guys that train with a lot of isolation and bodypart splits look like just a collection of bodyparts. All the muscles are there, big and pronounced, but they look like somebody just stuck the muscles on the frame. When you see a bodybuilder that has a base in strength training, they carry a "look of power" and the body is in harmony, thick everywhere.
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    I agree some what, but I think DIET is the key here between the two differences, more than anything else. The reason for bodybuilders having a relatively smaller waist is because of diet.

    I've seen quite a few pictures of powerlifters deciding to diet down and do a bodybuilding show. After a few months of cutting, a lot of them end up looking just as good, if not better, than the rest of the guys on stage.

    Also, a ton of bodybuilders train DC style, which is very low volume, heavy sets, compound movements.
    Last edited by jAy_Dub; 11-24-2009 at 08:55 AM.


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    One more thing. I think the key point of your observation is that those with impressive physiques trained heavy. Unfortunately this is lost on many beginners. They are focused on triple drop sets and how to turn their pinkie out just right doing DB curls and lose sight of the fact that getting stronger on the big movements will build a base of size faster.
    That's one of the reasons we tell people to stick strictly with the big movements at first. If you give them "permission" to do a couple isolation exercise, within two weeks they are adding 5 isolation movements for every bodypart.

  7. #7
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    And let us not forget...an average person will be more successful putting on muscle with an abreviated routine based on the compound exercises. Most will not be very successful with a volume/split/isolation routine. There are however exceptions to this, just vist the gym and watch everybody training that way. You'll see guys that have spun their wheels for years and you will see those "jacked" guys as you call them.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member skinny99's Avatar
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    One thing that I have noticed as a new guy reading and learning alot is there are also two types (atleast) of bodybuilders! One that still lifts real heavy and squats and pushes their whole body! And one that is much more upper body focused,not really trying to get big,it appears the most successful are the latter that incorporate some compound and some isolation movements. Powerlifter style lifters just want to get bigger and stronger mostly! They have a want to push,pull and carry heavy stuff.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member brihead301's Avatar
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    Well, the people I am talking about are a few guys at my gym that have been training that way since they started lifting. I have discussions with them a lot about types of training.

    Like yesterday, I did deadlifts, front squats, RDL's, and some weighted situps. Two of my buddies were doing "chest and tris" day. They did flat bench, incline bench, pec dec fly machine, incline flies, tricep pushdowns, skull crushers, pushups, dips between bench, cable flies.....then some cardio.

    Neither of these guys really give a s*** about their legs, just their upper body appearance. But they both have huge, ripped arms, shoulders, chest, traps, and back with a very small waist. It actually looks kinda silly on the one guy because his torso is so small from lack of squatting/deadlifting, but his "mirror muscles" are f***ing ridiculously huge.

    As I said, we are all in agreement that the diet is what makes you cut, and allows for the muscle separation to be seen, but I still see a pretty significant difference in body proportions depending on the type of training one does.
    Last edited by brihead301; 11-24-2009 at 09:00 AM.
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  10. #10
    The Flyfisher rbtrout's Avatar
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    I've trained both ways and both have their merits. It all depends upon your "final goals" of lifting. I think the wise person that wants to be a bber would train both styles - keeping the big, compound movements that really build the muscles (if eating enough) AND doing some iso work after the compounds are done.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member brihead301's Avatar
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    ^^^^I think Heavybomber is probably one of the best examples of someone that does it the "wise way".
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  12. #12
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    You also have to wonder how much they are holding back on their size potential by not building up their legs and back.
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  13. #13
    Senior Member brihead301's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    You also have to wonder how much they are holding back on their size potential by not building up their legs and back.
    So true! I've actually talked to my one buddy about this several times. He has an injured back (which I swear is due to his imbalances from not squatting and deadlifting), and he says he will never squat or deadlift again.

    But I keep telling him that he would be a freakin monster if he would just devote some time to those 2 lifts (he already is a monster, but he would be ridiculously bigger if he squatted/deadlifted).
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  14. #14
    The Flyfisher rbtrout's Avatar
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    It's amazing to me how many guys I know that say their back is weak and they have "back problems". I've had back problems all my life, so why not strengthen all the muscles of the back, glutes, hammies and stomach to give better support? I still have to go to the chiro a couple of times a year, but not like I did before. My chiro (a lifting buddy) has noticed that I don't have to come and see him nearly as much as I did before deads (I've always squatted).
    Give chalk a chance.


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  15. #15
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbtrout View Post
    It's amazing to me how many guys I know that say their back is weak and they have "back problems". I've had back problems all my life, so why not strengthen all the muscles of the back, glutes, hammies and stomach to give better support? I still have to go to the chiro a couple of times a year, but not like I did before. My chiro (a lifting buddy) has noticed that I don't have to come and see him nearly as much as I did before deads (I've always squatted).
    I've had the same experience. I have a documented 40% permanent disability in my back. Since squatting and deadlifting I don't have any more problems, unless I do something really stupid.
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    Senior Member Sidior's Avatar
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    I have to give another vote for diet as well. Most dedicated bodybuilders just keep a lower bf then many powerlifters and because of this it is much easier to see their shape. I still think for any but the most advanced trainees the best gains will be made on focusing on the simple compound movements.
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  17. #17
    Strongman Tom Mutaffis's Avatar
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    I have observed similar trends in advice that is provided on many forums, but also witnessed the discrepancies when you look at how the majority of trainees workout in the gym. My opinion is that a hybrid method is actually the most effective for general training (balance of strength/size).

    Here are my thoughts on weight training:

    • Powerlifters / Strength Athletes Train Movements, Bodybuilders train bodyparts. Your goals should dictate what you pursue, and it is possible to combine the two.
    • The number of days per week that is optimal for training depends on a number of factors. These factors include current strength levels, intensity, recovery abilities (diet, performance enhancers, rest, etc.), and overall volume.
    • Both isolation movements and compound movements have their place in a bodybuilding routine. For strictly strength-focused athletes then isolation movements can be replaced with 'accessory' movements.
    • No one program works the same for every individual. Some people can deadlift every week or squat 2-3 times per week while others need one week of rest between each lower body compound movement workout.
    • Diet will determine your bodyweight and body composition, but training is a contributing factor to the overall amount of muscle mass that can be maintained.
    • Genetics are very important when you look at bodybuilding. Some guys could have the worst training/diet and still look great while others can do everything right and will make slower progress than those with better genetics. Just because someone is in shape does not mean that they know what they are doing or should be considered a resource. This would be like asking a mechanic to fix your car simply because he has a nice car.
    • Direct arm training is important if you want big arms, but you can still build relatively large arms without direct training. If you decide to include these movements should depend on your priorities.
    • A strength base is important for bodybuilding. Someone who can squat 300 lbs will ultimately be able to build larger legs than someone who can squat 200 lbs, assuming that all other factors are equal.

    I think that is about it.
    Last edited by Tom Mutaffis; 11-24-2009 at 10:12 AM. Reason: Formatting - Added Bullet Points.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Clover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbtrout View Post
    It's amazing to me how many guys I know that say their back is weak and they have "back problems". I've had back problems all my life, so why not strengthen all the muscles of the back, glutes, hammies and stomach to give better support? I still have to go to the chiro a couple of times a year, but not like I did before. My chiro (a lifting buddy) has noticed that I don't have to come and see him nearly as much as I did before deads (I've always squatted).
    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    I've had the same experience. I have a documented 40% permanent disability in my back. Since squatting and deadlifting I don't have any more problems, unless I do something really stupid.
    I'm in the same camp. I crashed my dirtbike at around 120km/h (~70 miles an hour for you yanks) and messed up my shoulders and upper back pretty bad.

    I spent a year not wanting to do anything but lay down and that pretty much made it worse. Chiropractor told me to strengthen my back so I've been trying.

  19. #19
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Mutaffis View Post
    Just because someone is in shape does not mean that they know what they are doing or should be considered a resource. This would be like asking a mechanic to fix your car simply because he has a nice car.
    The reverse is also true. There are guys out there with pathetic genetics and only mildly built bodies that have a wealth of knowledge to pass on.

    Great list by the way.
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  20. #20
    Squat Heavy, Squat Often Cards's Avatar
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    I think one giant variable that's been over looked here is time. Of the people who have been observed in the gym, do we know their length of training? It's hard to assume that all people in the gym have the same training experience. So, what's not to say that a person who does powerlifting wont look like the bodybuilder who's been doing upper body his entire life. On the professional level it's extremely different, but for natural gym goers the difference may be minimal.

    My training partner and I train extremely different. I lift heavy and few while he lifts with high volume. We argue about supplements, he takes protein and creatine, I only eat food. We've both been going to the gym for the same amount of time. The only thing we have in common is intensity and our lifts are almost identical.

    While I have no facts to support this other than what I've observed over the past 3 years, as long as you're smart with your training and dedicated, training style isn't a big deal, unless professional.
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    Senior Member Raleighwood's Avatar
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    I've put on roughly 20 lbs, from 160 to 180lbs, in the last two months from focusing on heavy compound lifts followed by accessory work such as chin ups, dips, sleeve presses, and varied high volume isolation exercises (curls, front raises) at the end of the work out.

    Before this, I was stuck at 175lbs. My emphasis was much more on isolation.

    There are many variables in how people progress, it's hard to identify everything.

    IMO, it would make sense to move the heaviest weight possible, strategically; when trying to get bigger/stronger. Thus, heavy compound lifts should be the foundation of your program.
    Last edited by Raleighwood; 11-24-2009 at 02:28 PM.
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    Senior Member bass slayer's Avatar
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    When most people think of bodybuilders I think they tend to focus on the training they are doing 10+ years down the road when they are huge and ripped. Alot of people dont realize that they are doing all the isolation and volume to shock their muscles in new ways. Just because they train that way now, doesnt mean they always train that way. They probably built a frame from compound lifts and then when they built there mass up and had muscles to actually focus on and isolate, worked from there. You cant isolate muscles you dont have.
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  23. #23
    Chubbs McGee Auburn's Avatar
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    I've never put much care into sets, reps, or even exercises for different goals. I don't even know if I'd put a big difference between powerlifting and bodybuilding as far as training goes.

    I just see black and white. There is training hard, and then there is the alternative. There is no such thing as an isolation exercise when the load gets heavy enough.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by bass slayer View Post
    . Just because they train that way now, doesnt mean they always train that way. They probably built a frame from compound lifts and then when they built there mass up and had muscles to actually focus on and isolate, worked from there. You cant isolate muscles you dont have.

    Bingo. This goes back to what I said some time ago about "training like the big guys" and the reasons for why this does not tend to be a successful strategy unless you are one of the big guys already.

    We'd see a lot more "big guys" were this not true.

  25. #25
    Team Chesticles! Unholy's Avatar
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    I'll chime in here having just competed in a show and really having a strong interest in lifting for aesthetics for many years.

    First thing is first. I'm offended that you are grouping bodybuilders with the big chest/biceps asshats that walk around with toothpick legs.

    If you have ever been to a bodybuilding show you would know that legs win shows.

    There are plenty of guys in my gym that walk around in shirts 2 sizes too small and train upper body using machines and a 1-2 bodypart a day split.

    These are the guys that look the same, year after year. They look pretty good in a tight t-shirt or wifebeater because their arms usually overpower the rest of their physique.

    The lack symmetry and proportion. I can tell you that all of the guys that compete at my gym, and there are quite a few. Train hard and heavy. And you bet your ass they are squatting, benching, lunging, pressing, dipping, rowing.

    Some of the most popular routines that real BBers use are Max-OT, PHAT (Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training), DoggCrapp, Upper/Lower Splits, P/RR/S (Power/Rep Range/Shock), HIT, etc. The routines you see in the bodybuilding magazines? Those are used mostly by the pencilneck guys that buy the magazines in hopes of looking like the guys in the pictures, or the 250lb monster in the photo who is running 5g test/week and eating 8000 calories a day.

    Diet will be more of a determining factor than anything in how one looks, esp in the long term. The smart trainee will switch up their training style, utilize all rep ranges, and not be afraid to experiment what works best for them.

    To say that bodybuilders tend to train using only isolation exercises is a blanket statement.
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