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Strength Training Equipment
The purpose of the following article is to educate
readers on the different approaches to strength training.
Strength Training Exercises
Bodybuilding Facts and History
Bodybuilding is a sport in which the goal is to increase muscle size and
definition. Famous competitors include
Lou Ferrigno and
Ronnie Coleman. Bodybuilding increases the endurance of muscles, as
well as strength, though not as much as if it were the primary goal.
Bodybuilders compete in bodybuilding competitions, and use specific
principles and methods of strength training to maximize muscular size
and develop extremely low levels of body fat. In contrast, most strength
trainers train to improve their strength and endurance while not giving
special attention to reducing body fat below normal. Strength trainers
tend to focus on compound exercises to build basic strength, whereas
bodybuilders often use isolation exercises to visually separate their
muscles, and to improve muscular symmetry. Pre-contest training for
bodybuilders is different again, in that they attempt to retain as much
muscular tissue as possible while undergoing severe dieting. However,
the bodybuilding community has been the source of many strength training
principles, techniques, vocabulary, and customs.
Bodybuilding, strongman competitions and other sports are illustrations
of how the basic principles and methods of strength training can be
applied to achieve very different goals.
Early years Eugen Sandow
The "Early Years" of Western Bodybuilding are
considered to be the period between 1880 and 1930.
Bodybuilding did not really exist prior to the late 19th century, when
it was promoted by a man from Prussia (Germany) named Eugen Sandow, who
is now generally referred to as "The Father of Modern Bodybuilding". He
is credited as being a pioneer of the sport because he allowed an
audience to enjoy viewing his physique in "muscle display performances".
Although audiences were thrilled to see a well-developed physique, those
men simply displayed their bodies as part of strength demonstrations or
wrestling matches. Sandow had a stage show built around these displays
through his manager, Florenz Ziegfeld. The Oscar winning 1936 musical
film "The Great Ziegfeld", depicts this beginning of modern
bodybuilding, when Sandow began to display his body for carnivals. The
role of Sandow was played by actor Nat Pendleton.
Sandow became so successful at flexing and posing his physique, he later
created several businesses around his fame and was among the first to
market products branded with his name alone. He was credited with
inventing and selling the first exercise equipment for the masses
(machined dumbbells, spring pulleys and tension bands) and even his
image was sold by the thousands in "cabinet cards" and other prints.
Sandow was a strong advocate of "the Grecian Ideal" (this was a standard
where a mathematical "ideal" was set up and the "perfect physique" was
close to the proportions of ancient Greek and Roman statues from
classical times). This is how Sandow built his own physique and in the
early years, men were judged by how closely they matched these "ideal"
proportions. Sandow organised the first bodybuilding contest on 14
September 1901 called the "Great Competition" and held in the Royal
Albert Hall, London, UK. Judged by himself, Sir Charles Lawes, and Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle, the contest was a huge success and was sold out and
hundreds of physical culture enthusiasts were turned away. The trophy
presented to the winner was a bronze statue of Sandow himself sculpted
by Frederick Pomeroy. The winner was William L. Murray of Nottingham,
England. The most prestigious bodybuilding contest today is the Mr.
Olympia, and since 1977, the winner has been presented with the same
bronze statue of Sandow that he himself presented to the winner at the
First large-scale bodybuilding competition in
On 16 January 1904, the first large-scale bodybuilding competition in
America took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The winner
was Al Treloar and he was declared "The Most Perfectly Developed Man in
the World". Treloar won a $1,000 cash prize, a substantial sum at that
time. Two weeks later, Thomas Edison made a film of Al Treloar's posing
routine. Edison also made two films of Sandow a few years before, making
him the man who made the first three motion pictures featuring a
bodybuilder. In the early 20th century, Bernarr Macfadden and Charles
Atlas, continued to promote bodybuilding across the world. Alois P.
Swoboda was an early pioneer in America and the man whom Charles Atlas
credited with his success in his statement: "Everything that I know I
learned from A. P. (Alois) Swoboda."
Notable early bodybuilders
bodybuilders in the early history of bodybuilding prior to 1930 include:
Earle Liederman (writer of some of the earliest bodybuilding instruction
books), Zishe Breitbart, Georg Hackenschmidt, George F. Jowett, Maxick
(a pioneer in the art of posing), Monte Saldo, Launceston Elliot, Sig
Klein, Sgt. Alfred Moss, Joe Nordquist, Lionel Strongfort (Strongfortism),
Gustav Fristensky (the Czech champion), Ralph Parcaut, a champion
wrestler who also authored an early book on "physical culture," and Alan
C. Mead, who became an impressive muscle champion despite the fact that
he lost a leg in World War I.
1970s in Bodybuilding
In the 1970s, bodybuilding had major publicity thanks to Arnold
Schwarzenegger and the 1977 film Pumping Iron. By this time the
International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) dominated the sport and
the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) took a back seat.
The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion,
who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The
NPC has gone on to become the most successful bodybuilding organization
in the U.S., and is the amateur division of the IFBB in the United
States. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU sponsored
bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its
Rise of anabolic steroids
This period also saw the rise of anabolic steroids used both in
bodybuilding and many other sports. To combat this, and to be allowed to
be an IOC member, the IFBB introduced doping tests for both steroids and
other banned substances. Although doping tests occurred, the majority of
professional bodybuilders still used anabolic steroids for competition.
During the 1970s the use of anabolic steroids was openly discussed
partly due to the fact they were legal.However the U.S. Congress in the
Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 1990 placed anabolic steroids into
Schedule III of the Controlled substance act (CSA).
World Bodybuilding Federation
In 1990, wrestling promoter Vince McMahon announced he was forming a new
bodybuilding organization, the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF).
McMahon wanted to bring WWF-style showmanship and bigger prize money to
the sport of bodybuilding. McMahon formally dissolved the WBF in July,
1992. Reasons for this probably included lack of income from the
pay-per-view broadcasts of the WBF contests, slow sales of the WBF's
magazine Bodybuilding Lifestyles (which later became WBF Magazine), and
the expense of paying multiple 6-figure contracts as well as producing
two TV shows and a monthly magazine.
In the early 2000s, the IFBB was attempting to make bodybuilding an
Olympic sport. It obtained full IOC membership in 2000 and was
attempting to get approved as a demonstration event at the Olympics
which would hopefully lead to it being added as a full contest. This did
not happen. Olympic recognition for bodybuilding remains controversial
since many argue that bodybuilding is not a sport.
In 2003, Joe Weider sold Weider Publications to AMI, which owns The
National Enquirer. The position of president of the IFBB is vacant
following the death of Ben Weider in October 2008. In 2004, contest
promoter Wayne DeMilia broke ranks with the IFBB and AMI took over the
promotion of the Mr. Olympia contest.
In the modern bodybuilding industry, "professional" generally means a
bodybuilder who has won qualifying competitions as an amateur and has
earned a "pro card" from the IFBB. Professionals earn the right to
compete in sanctioned competitions including the Arnold Classic and the
Night of Champions. Placings at such competitions in turn earn them the
right to compete at the Mr. Olympia; the title is considered to be the
highest accolade in the professional bodybuilding field.
In natural contests bodybuilders are routinely tested for illegal
substances and are banned for any violations from future contests.
Testing can be done on urine samples, but in many cases a less expensive
polygraph (lie detector) test is performed instead. What qualifies as an
"illegal" substance, in the sense that it is prohibited by regulatory
bodies, varies between natural federations, and does not necessarily
include only substances that are illegal under the laws of the relevant
jurisdiction. Illegal Anabolic steroids, Prohormone and Diuretics, under
widespread use by professional bodybuilders, are generally banned by
natural organizations. Natural bodybuilding organizations include NANBF
(North American Natural Bodybuilding Federation), and the NPA (Natural
Physique Association). Natural bodybuilders assert that their method is
more focused on competition and a healthier lifestyle than other forms
The first U.S. Women's National Physique Championship, promoted by Henry
McGhee and held in Canton, Ohio in 1978, is generally regarded as the
first true female bodybuilding contest - that is, the first contest
where the entrants were judged solely on muscularity.  In 1980 the
first Ms. Olympia (initially known as the "Miss" Olympia), the most
prestigious contest for professionals, was held. The first winner was
Rachel McLish who had also won the NPC's USA Championship earlier in the
year. The contest was a major turning point for the sport of women's
bodybuilding. McLish turned out to be very promotable, and inspired many
future competitors to start training and competing. In 1985, a movie
called Pumping Iron II: The Women was released. This film documented the
preparation of several women for the 1983 Caesars Palace World Cup
Championship. Competitors prominently featured in the film were Kris
Alexander, Lori Bowen, Lydia Cheng, Carla Dunlap, Bev Francis, and
Rachel McLish. At the time, Francis was actually a powerlifter, though
she soon made a successful transition to bodybuilding, becoming one of
the leading competitors of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
In recent years, the related areas of fitness and figure competition
have gained in popularity, surpassing that of female bodybuilding, and
have provided an alternative for women who choose not to develop the
level of muscularity necessary for bodybuilding. Rachel McLish would
resemble closely what is thought of today as a fitness and figure
competition instead of what is now considered female bodybuilding.
In competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders aspire to develop and maintain
an aesthetically pleasing (by bodybuilding standards) body and balanced
physique. The competitors show off their bodies by performing a number
of posedowns - bodybuilders spend time practicing their posing as this
has a large effect on how they are judged.
In contrast to strongman or powerlifting competitions where physical
strength is important, or with Olympic weightlifting, where the main
point is equally split between strength and technique, for bodybuilding
competitions it is the, size, shape and symmetry that are the important
factors during competition. The different types of competitions entail
different training and dietary regimens.
Cutting and bulking
The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive
bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the
"off-season") and approximately 12-14 weeks from competition attempt to
lose body fat (referred to as "cutting") while minimizing the loss of
muscle mass. Generally this involves reducing calorie intake and
increasing aerobic exercise while monitoring body fat percentage.
The precise effectiveness of the cutting and bulking strategy is
unknown, with only limited observational case studies on the subject. No
studies involving precise hypercaloric feeding combined with resistance
exercise have been conducted.
Many non-competitive bodybuilders choose not to adopt this strategy, as
it often results in significant unwanted fat gain during the "bulking"
phase (particularly for those who do not use anabolic steroids). While
competitive bodybuilders focus their efforts to achieve a peak
appearance during a brief "competition season," most ordinary people
prefer to maintain an attractive physique year-round. Anecdotal evidence
suggests that a proper training program combined with a modestly
hypercaloric diet with proper macronutrient balance can produce steady
gains in size and strength, while avoiding significant increases in body
In the week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders may decrease their
consumption of water, sodium and carbohydrates, the former two to alter
how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in
the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and
diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading to increase the
size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is
to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins. The
appearance of veins are further enhanced immediately before appearing on
stage by darkening the skin through tanning products, applying oils to
the skin to increase shine and some competitors will eat sugar-rich
foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step is the use
of weights to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their
Bodybuilders use three main strategies to maximize muscle hypertrophy:
Strength training through weights or elastic/hydraulic resistance
Specialized nutrition, incorporating extra protein and supplements where
Adequate rest, including sleep and recuperation between workouts.
Weight training causes micro-tears to the muscles being trained; this is
generally known as microtrauma. These micro-tears in the muscle
contribute to the soreness felt after exercise, called delayed onset
muscle soreness (DOMS). It is the repair to these micro-trauma that
result in muscle growth. Normally, this soreness becomes most apparent a
day or two after a workout. However, as muscles become adapted to the
exercises, soreness tends to decrease.[
The high levels of muscle growth and repair achieved by bodybuilders
require a specialized diet. Generally speaking, bodybuilders require
more calories than the average person of the same weight to support the
protein and energy requirements needed to support their training and
increase muscle mass. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined
with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a
contest. The ratios of food energy from carbohydrates, proteins, and
fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.
Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. Carbohydrates
give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery.
Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other
slowly-digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable
fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as
high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places
the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy
as fat rather than muscle, and which can waste energy that should be
directed towards muscle growth. However, bodybuilders frequently do
ingest some quickly-digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or
maltodextrin) after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen
stores within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Protein is probably one of the most important parts of the diet for
the bodybuilder to consider. Functional proteins such as motor proteins
which include myosin, kinesin, and dynein generate the forces exerted by
contracting muscles. Current advice says that bodybuilders should
consume 25-30% of protein per total calorie intake to further their goal
of maintaining and improving their body composition. This is a widely
debated topic, with many arguing that 1 gram of protein per pound of
body weight is ideal, some suggesting that less is sufficient, while
others recommending 1.5, 2, or more. It is believed that protein needs
to be consumed frequently throughout the day, especially during/after a
workout, and before sleep.There is also some debate concerning the best
type of protein to take. Chicken, beef, pork, fish, eggs and dairy foods
are high in protein, as are some nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. Casein
or whey are often used to supplement the diet with additional protein.
Whey protein is the type of protein contained in many popular brands of
protein supplements, and is preferred by many bodybuilders because of
its high Biological Value (BV) and quick absorption rates. Bodybuilders
usually require higher quality protein with a high BV rather than
relying on protein such as soy, which is often avoided due to its
claimed estrogenic properties.Still, some nutrition experts believe that
soy, flax seeds and many other plants that contain the weak
estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens can be used beneficially as
phytoestrogens compete with this hormone for receptor sites in the male
body and can block its actions. This can also include some inhibition of
pituitary functions while stimulating the P450 system (the system that
eliminates chemicals, hormones, drugs and metabolic waste product from
the body) in the liver to more actively process and excrete excess
Bodybuilders usually split their food intake for the day into 5 to 7
meals of roughly equal nutritional content and attempt to eat at regular
intervals (normally between 2 and 3 hours). This method purports to
serve two purposes: to limit overindulging as well as increasing basal
metabolic rate when compared to the traditional 3 meals a day. However,
this has been debunked as the most reliable research using whole-body
calorimetry and doubly-labeled water finds no metabolic advantage to
eating more frequently.
The important role of nutrition in building muscle and losing fat means
bodybuilders may consume a wide variety of dietary supplements.Various
products are used in an attempt to augment muscle size, increase the
rate of fat loss, improve joint health and prevent potential nutrient
deficiencies. Creatine is probably the most widely used
performance enhancing legal supplement. Creatine works by turning into
creatine phosphate, which provides an extra phosphorus molecule in the
regeneration of ATP. This will provide the body with more energy that
lasts longer during short, intense bits of work like weight training.
Although some believe creatine may cause cramps. This is highly debated
within the body building community.
Performance enhancing substances
Some bodybuilders use drugs such as anabolic steroids and precursor
substances such as prohormones to increase muscle hypertrophy. Most of
the substances require medical prescriptions to be accessed legally.
Anabolic steroids cause muscle hypertrophy of both types (I and II) of
muscle fibers caused likely by an increased synthesis of muscle proteins
and are accompanied with undesired side effects including hepatotoxicity,
gynecomastia, acne, male pattern baldness and a decline in the body's
own testosterone production, which can cause testicular atrophy. Other
controlled substances used by competitive bodybuilders include human
growth hormone (HGH), which can cause acromegaly.
Although muscle stimulation occurs in the gym lifting weights, muscle
growth occurs afterward during rest. Without adequate rest and sleep,
muscles do not have an opportunity to recover and build. About eight
hours of sleep a night is desirable for the bodybuilder to be refreshed,
although this varies from person to person. Additionally, many athletes
find a daytime nap further increases their body's ability to build
muscle. Some bodybuilders take several naps per day, during peak
Overtraining refers to when a bodybuilder has trained to the point where
his workload exceeds his recovery capacity. There are many reasons that
overtraining occurs, including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of
recovery time between workouts, insufficient sleep, and training at a
high intensity for too long (a lack of splitting apart workouts).
Training at a high intensity too frequently also stimulates the central
nervous system (CNS) and can result in a hyper-adrenergic state that
interferes with sleep patterns. To avoid overtraining, intense frequent
training must be met with at least an equal amount of purposeful
recovery. Timely provision of carbohydrates, proteins, and various
micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, even
nutritional supplements are acutely critical.
It has been argued that overtraining can be beneficial. One article
published by Muscle & Fitness magazine stated that you can "Overtrain
for Big Gains". It suggested that if one is planning a restful holiday
and they do not wish to inhibit their bodybuilding lifestyle too much,
they should overtrain before taking the holiday, so the body can rest
easily and recuperate and grow. Overtraining can be used advantageously,
as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of
time to super compensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as
"shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet
athletes. However, the vast majority of overtraining that occurs in
average bodybuilders is generally unplanned and completely unnecessary