How Come Bodybuilders Aren't Olympic Champions?

I was in the library today, and happened to see a copy of “Muscle and Fitness”-thisis one of those bodybuilder magazines. anyway, the guy on the cover had massive muscles-they were literally bursting through his shirt! The though then struck me-olympic weightlifters look NOTHING like this guy-they look fat and rather unhealthy 9to me). So, if a body-builder type spends hours in the gym and has these enormous muscles, why aren’t the bodybuilders breaking records in weightlifting, swimming, and other sports where muscular strength is important?:confused:

Steriods. Go look on ESPN when they have a “NATURAL” bodybuilding contest. The difference is shocking. W/O steriods it is hard to get that massive body,

Olympic weightlifting–or powerlifting–is concerned with strength only; it’s all about how much you can lift. Bodybuilding is a more cosmetic endeavor, not unlike a beauty contest.

As well as the steroid problem (which, no doubt, many bodybuilders would deny even occurs) their appearance in competition is significantly affected by extreme dietary behaviour and the use of diuretics to remove subcutaeous fat and water from tissues. The object of this is to exaggerate the appearance of the muscles but is very debilitating and unhealthy. Not part of the Olympic ideal.

As Torgo has said, strength is not the object of bodybuilding, and although all that gym work means they’re probably much stronger than you or me, an Olympic standard weightlifter would probably leave them trailing.

The Olympic movement has built up an ugly reputation for including non-athletic and silly activities* in The Games recently (especially as demonstration sports), but apparently even they have limits.
*If anyone out there objects to me describing waterskiing as silly, I say that the last thing the Olympics needs is yet another sport that takes a panel of judges to tell you who won. The same thing applies to bodybuilding.

It’s probably not as apparent in the heavyweight class but Olympic caliber lifters must also have a good deal of quickness and agility in addition to brute strength, unlike bodybuilders.

If the OP is wondering why a guy as muscular as a prize winning body builder isn’t recognized as an “atheletic/physically” superior speciman or record breaker in some sports–ask yourself this–

what altheletic champion besides a body builder or wrestler ever looked like Mr. Universe?

Muscles that hypertrophied aren’t the the best build to have–otherwise: EVERY althete would like Mr Universe.

And besides body builders and PRO wrestlers, what althelete looks like that?

Bodybuilding does nothing to develop any particular athletic skill. It is solely a means to achieve a specific and rather disconnected set of manifestations of appearance. One need not have any flexibility, coordination, or even particularly great strength to be a bodybuilder, and becoming one will not help you to gain those things.

The type of development that is typified by contest winning bodybuilders is not congruent with the body types of any particular sport, because it has no association with any particular activity of physical endeavor aside from highly isolated muscle group exercises. Generalized whole body exercise will not provide you with a bodybuilder type of physique, no matter how intensely you do it. But it will give you much greater general strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. Those things apply well to sport.

Look over the Decathlon field, next Olympic cycle. These athletes are as close as you will come to the real thing in total physical development. Running, jumping, throwing, and the pole vault use the abilities of the whole body. If you could find a decathlete who was a competition swimmer, and a gymnast, you would have the perfectly developed body to look at. I doubt he or she would win any body builder contests.

You might check out the bodies of Navy Seals, and Army Rangers, next time you see them, as well. They generally don’t look like the muscle magazine guys. But they could probably carry one up a hill most of the afternoon, and it wouldn’t matter much if he wanted to go, either. :wink:


Rule of Reason: “If nobody uses it, there’s a reason.”

About water skiing as an olympic sport, I have not heard what types of skiing they are going to have as a demo event. If it is trick skiing I agree that it should not be allowed since it is another judged event that can lead to disputes, but if it is slalom skiing or jumping I think it would be a good olympic sport, or at least as good as many that are included now. In slalom skiiing it is who can make it around the most buoys with the shortest amount of rope, no judging of any kind. Likewise in ski jumping its who can jump the farthest, no judging.

If you have access to ESPN2, watch the World’s Strongest Man contest - they show them regularly. A few times there have been professional bodybuilders competing, and they are always blown away by the just plain massive, but less defined (and even sometimes fat), guys.

Bodybuilding, as pointed out already, doesn’t have strength as its goal - just cosmetic hyperdevelopment of muscles. Yeah, those guys are pretty strong, but not world-class weightlifter strong.

You also have to consider the fact that the body builder physique development you see on display is with the muscles deliberately pumped up and inflated for maximum show. A non-pumped up bodybuilder looks a lot more like a normal well developed athlete and not necessarily the monsters they appear to be on stage.

Also the monster physical strength you see at the worlds strongest man type competions has a lot to do with grip strength, leg strength, and muscle attachment points. Body builder hands and forearms are strong, but compared to the strength contest contestant’s meaty paws their hands look like little boy’s hands. Also look at how thin the ankles and buttocks are in bodybuilders vs the lifters.

The upper levels of sports are very specialized. The Olympic athletes are very very good at their sport. They are not very good at unrelated sports, though their extremely competitive attitude will help them even there.

The diving team would not win a gold metal in basketball. The basketball team will not win a gold medel in diving.

Bodybuilding is just another very specialized activity.

Great answers have been given already, but let me add just one other point. It’s almost impossible to get to the low body fat levels of a professional bodybuilder during a contest without losing some muscle. When you’re powerlifting, you want as much muscle as possible, cause that’s where strength comes from. So that’s why powerlifters are very rarely what you’d consider cut.

FYI, not everyone who has the bodybuilder’s physique is on steroids. Some people just have a natural gift for hypertrophy.

I saw a professional trainer for a bodybuilder on tv. This trainer said they look great, but ‘are weak to the core’ I always wondered what that meant, & I guess I know now.

My father used to be into weightlifting, and this is what he has told me. The bodybuilders do excersize that involves repeatedly lifting heavy-but-not-so-heavy weights zillions of times over anf over again. The weightlifters lift really-really-heavy weights a relatively small number of times (rpeating this again after they take a break). The muscles of the bodybuilders get a bigger workout and get more developed, but they don’t significantly improve their strength which is not pushed to and beyond its limit.

It’s a bit more complicated - apparently there are two types of muscles that can get worked out - strength muscles and endurance muscles. The bodybuilders have much more endurance muscles and the weightlifters more strength muscles. So if there was an olympic sport testing the type of endurance feats described above the bodybuilders would indeed do better than the weightlifters. But in a sport that simply tests how much weight you can lift one time, they don’t rate - that’s not what they train for and excel in.

Not true, ski jumpers are awarded points for distance and style.


Not quite. You only have one set of muscles, but you can train for strength or endurance. Different types of training have a different effect on the muscles, but everyone’s using the same ones.

Also keep in mind that the a bodybuilder’s muscles may not be as big as they look. Since their low body fat levels allow you to see more of their muscles, they look larger. This isn’t saying that they’re not large; just that your perception is somewhat skewed.

No, there are two types of muscles: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. I’ll let someone who understands the difference better than me explain them.

Two types of muscle fibers. Fast-twich is the type that produces a lot of power in a short time, but they don’t last. It’s also the type that make you have big muscles. That’s why sprinters have these huge legs.

Slow-twich fibers keep on going, but they don’t produce power. Marathon runners are all very skinny.

It’s a completely different ballgame. The world’s strongest men look somewhat fat.

Before a competition or a photoshoot, bodybuilders don’t drink water for many hours/days and take diuretics to make their muscles get dehydrated. Generally, they are physically stronger than the average person but not nearly as strong as a hardcore weightlifter.

A weird analogy that comes to mind involves supermodels. The world’s prettiest supermodels might be pretty, but they usually have tons of health issues (bulemia, anemia, etc.). The same goes for bodybuilders.

Gymnasts come close to Bodybuilders. They usually lose with lower body development. In the upper body they look closest to natural bodybuilders.

BTW Pro Wrestlers don’t often have the ab development needed for bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding is odd as it isn’t a sport and it isn’t an art (to be an art would mean individuality…
bodybuilders all strive to achieve the same thin waists, big chest etc… artists strive to be different… many painted in Picaso type style but they don’t strive to copy Picaso identically.)