Bodybuilding Workouts Vs Athletic Training Which is Better For Body Transformation?

If you take a look around, you'll see that bodybuilders are some of the leanest people on the planet. After all, most fitness magazines contain bodybuilders exclusively (or people who practice bodybuilding methods).

Even the majority of fitness authors and personal trainers have a background in bodybuilding. So it is safe to say that bodybuilding methods clearly work well for physique transformation.

Now that we have established that, let's put that aside for a second and consider the physique of an Olympic sprinter.

I think it's safe to say that they tend to be very lean, muscular and well-proportioned. So obviously their training methods, while predominately geared towards maximizing their athletic performance, are extremely effective for developing an awesome body as well.

It's important to note that bodybuilders and athletes train totally different. This begs the question, "Which type of training is better for physique transformation?"

That is the exact question to which I have dedicated my life's work to. To best answer this question, I'll share with you a little of my own personal story. When I became serious about training some 20 years ago, I started out using bodybuilding methods exclusively.

Bodybuilding was my passion at the time, however I also had a burning desire to train professional athletes for my career.

My desire to work with athletes led me to seek out and learn from all of the top strength and conditioning coaches in the world. After every trip, I would take back what I had learned and practice the techniques until I had perfected them.

All of this practice did not allow much time for me to do my traditional bodybuilding routines. So slowly but surely, I found myself relocating away from bodybuilding methods and moving more towards athletic training.

As you can see, I have a tremendous amount of experience on both ends of this spectrum, which is why I can make a fair and accurate comparison between the two.

Instead of just giving you my bottom line results and opinions, I would like to break down each of the main differences between these two completely different approaches.

Under each category below, I will explain how bodybuilders and athletes train differently. Then I will share with you my personal experience with both methods.


Bodybuilder- Bodybuilders opt for lower intensity / longer duration cardio workouts. It is typical for a bodybuilder to do three to six 30-45 minute cardio workouts per week. Their exercises of choice tend to be: treadmill walking, stationary biking, stair stepping and elliptical work.

Athlete- Athletes opt for higher intensity / shorter duration workouts. Typically, they tend to perform three sessions of 10-15 minutes of inteval interval-based cardio per week. For those who do not know, interval training basically means that the athlete works hard for a short period, and then rests for a short period (the length of each period is usually pre-determined before the workout begins).

This cycle is then repeated for a prescribed number of sets, or "intervals". Athletes' exercises of choice include: sprinting, jumping, sparring, or playing their sport.

Author's Note: Both of these methods burn calories, which helps reduce body fat. The bodybuilding method of lower intensity, machine-based cardio is best for those who have a lot of injuries, are very overweight or are generally uncoordinated.

This method does, however, require a greater time commitment. Because it does not increase metabolic rate after the workout is over as much as interval training does, you will need many sessions per week to see significant results from this form of cardio. Oh, and one more thing: this type of cardio can also be quite monotonous. So if you get bored easily, this type of cardio might not work for you long-term.

On the other hand, let's take the athletic method. This method requires a much smaller time commitment because of the lasting effect that the higher intensity training has on your metabolism.

Once one of these interval workouts is completed, you will continue to burn fat for up to 48 hours. Can anyone say "time efficient"? What's more, these workouts are fun and exhilarating, making athletic cardio a clear winner for me, and for most other people as well.

Exercise Selection

Bodybuilder- In an attempt to "bring up their weak body parts" bodybuilders often opt for isolation exercises. Chest flyes, concentration curls and leg extensions are all part of the bodybuilder's arsenal.

Many of these exercises do little to stimulate your metabolism and create a fat burning effect.
Additionally, since these isolation exercises work only one small area at a time, you must do many different exercises to get a complete workout, which again leads to a greater time commitment.

Athletes- Athletes, on the other hand, are more concerned with function. And since the body was not designed to have each muscle and / or movement pattern isolated, they rarely perform isolation exercises like bodybuilders do. Instead, they focus on movements that engage the entire body, just like what would normally happen during a sporting event.

These exercises have a huge metabolic cost and rev up your metabolism much more that a chest fly could even dream of doing. Also, because they work so many muscle groups simultaneously, they are very time efficient.

As you can tell, I favor the use of exercises that work the entire body over isolation movements. That being said, there are times, where an isolation exercise can be effectively used to supplement the use of the more result-producing exercises.

Rep Speed

Bodybuilder- Bodybuilders tend to use a slower rep speed in an attempt to "feel the burn". It is not uncommon for a bodybuilder's full repetition to take 5 or more seconds to complete. Multiply that by 12 reps in a set, and you find that a given set can last up to one full minute.

Obviously, slower rep speeds increase how long a muscle is under tension, which many experts claim to be a key factor in producing positive training results.

Athletes- On the other hand, athletes focus on explosively accelerating through the movement. An athlete's rep will typically last one or two seconds. Although athletes will control the weight eccentrically to increase safety, they will always accelerate the concentric portion of the rep.

Author's Note: I have a very strong opinion on this point. I can say unequivocally that there is NO need to ever do slow tempo training unless you are a raw beginner or are rehabbing an injury. An explosive intent during each repetition activates a maximal amount of fast twitch muscle fibers, thus leading to phenomenal gains in strength and functional hypertrophy.

There are many additional differences between the two training disciplines, but to list each and every one of them is beyond the scope of this article. For this particular discussion, I wanted to explain the top three differences between these two training philosophies, and how each one can affect your bottom line results.

So integrate some athlete training into your routine today and rev up your metabolism, have fun during training and quickly develop the athletic physique that the pros have!


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