What is bodybuilding – everything you wanted to know about this sport

ByJoe Louis

Mar 27, 2021

Bodybuilding is a sport in which athletes compete not in strength, agility and speed, but in body aesthetics. The athlete builds muscle, burns fat as much as possible, dehydrates, if required by the category, applies makeup and demonstrates his body on stage. Some people think this is a beauty pageant and not a sport. However, bodybuilders are awarded sporting titles and ranks.

In the USSR, bodybuilding had a different name – bodybuilding. He was called “athleticism”, but it did not take root. Initially, it served to popularize healthy lifestyle, but today it is a huge industry, part of which has been integrated into fitness, and the other part has nothing to do with it.

General information and the essence of bodybuilding

Anyone who goes to the gym is engaged in building the body, which is the essence of bodybuilding. Even if he does not perform on stage, does not learn to pose and does not seek to compete in body aesthetics, he is a lover of bodybuilding if he uses the classic methods of this sport:

  1. Weider’s Principles for Muscle Building.
  2. Combine strength training, diet and cardio to shape a specific look.
  3. Goal-setting in the spirit of body shaping, not setting goals for yourself in terms of strength, speed or agility.

At the same time, methodologists from fitness in every possible way try to distance themselves from bodybuilding due to its “unhealthy” reputation. Yes, to build up super volumes, bodybuilders use pharmacological drugs, which in sports are regarded as doping. Almost no bodybuilding federation has a sufficiently high quality doping testing system. And somehow keeping an eye on this and not allowing “unnatural” athletes is irrational, since this will lead to a decrease in the entertainment of the competition and the income from their organization. And even those who talk about “natural” training often use steroids and just lie.

Bodybuilding History

Bodybuilding has been known since 1880. The first beauty contest for athletic physique was held in England in 1901 by Eugene Sandov.

In our country, it originated in athletic societies – the so-called clubs for men of interest, where considerable attention was paid to health improvement and weight training. The first workouts were more like weightlifting, kettlebell lifting and powerlifting. There were no simulators, and the athletes set themselves the goal of becoming strong rather than beautiful.

In the mid-50s of the last century, bodybuilding “went to the masses.” Competitions began to be organized, clubs for classes were already in almost every major city in Europe and the United States. Sport separated from weightlifting, and independent shows of bodybuilders appeared.

Sports gained popularity in the United States as soon as bodybuilder Steve Reeves began acting in films. Numerous bodybuilding magazines, Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe competitions have appeared. By the 70s of the last century, tournaments had acquired a completely modern look – athletes pose on stage and do not perform any gymnastic or strength exercises.

Types of bodybuilding

Today bodybuilding is divided globally into:

  • amateur;
  • professional.

Amateurs participate in tournaments ranging from club championship to world championship, investing their own funds in preparation. As a rule, they do not receive any significant bonuses for their winnings, although the prize money at tournaments of the national championship level has been growing lately.

You can become a professional bodybuilder by winning a qualifying tournament and receiving the so-called Pro Card. Professionals get the right to compete in major commercial tournaments with cash prizes (including “Arnold Classic” and “Mr. Olympia”), but their main source of income is contracts with sports nutrition firms, clothing brands, payment for filming in magazines.


The following bodybuilding federations are currently the most popular:

  1. IFBB is an international federation that hosts tournaments, including Olympia in Las Vegas, USA. In Russia, its interests are represented by the Russian Bodybuilding Federation (FBBR).
  2. WBFF is also an organization with international status, but smaller. But the show element is more developed there. In women’s categories, for example, different fancy costumes are allowed, there is a compulsory appearance in dresses.
  3. NABBA – more like the IFBB in nominations and categories, but does not have such a large and well-known tournament as Mr. Olympia.
  4. NBC is a new Russian Federation of Modern Bodybuilding and Fitness. NBC is distinguished by the presence of a separate nomination for posing, open judging, large prize money and compensation for traveling to international tournaments, competitions among beginners and Paralympians.

Next, consider the disciplines on the basis of which bodybuilding competitions are held. Each federation may have its own additional categories, so we will only focus on the most popular ones.

Классический бодибилдинг

Men’s disciplines

This includes:

  • bodybuilding men;
  • Men’s Physique, or beach bodybuilding;
  • classic bodybuilding.

Bodybuilding men

Men compete in age categories:

  1. Boys under 23 can compete in juniors.
  2. For athletes over 40 years old, there are categories for veterans: 40-49 years old, 50-59 years old, over 60 years old (only for international competitions, at the national level and below for veterans, category one is over 40).
  3. Athletes of all ages can compete in the general category.

For further breakdown of all participants, weight categories apply:

  1. For juniors it is up to and over 80 kg (at international competitions – 75 kg).
  2. For veterans at international competitions in the 40-49 category – up to 70, 80, 90 and over 90 kg. For 50-59 years old – up to and over 80 kg. Over 60 in international and over 40 in smaller competitions – one absolute category.
  3. In the general category: up to 70, 75 and in increments of 5 kg up to 100, as well as over 100 kg.

The judges evaluate the volume of muscle mass, the harmony of the physique, symmetry, the degree of dryness, the general aesthetics and body proportions, the free program.

Classic Bodybuilding

Men’s bodybuilding over 100 kg are “monsters of mass”, often having nothing to do with ordinary visitors to the halls and spectators of tournaments. However, it is their competitions that are the most spectacular (you can recall the same “Olympia”). The discipline of mens physicists has become more popular among the participants lately. But this category is disliked by fans of this sport for the lack of working out the muscles of the legs and the general image. A lot of people don’t like guys who style their hair and tint their eyes in front of the stage.

Classic male bodybuilding is a compromise between mass monsters and beachgoers. Here proportional athletes compete, which are closer to the standards of the “Golden Era” of bodybuilding. Often the “classics” are former beach bodybuilders who put on more mass and work their legs.

The classics of the IFBB use height categories, and based on the height, the maximum weight of the participants is calculated:

  • in the category up to 170 cm (inclusive) maximum weight = height – 100 (+ excess by 2 kg is allowed);
  • up to 175 cm, weight = height – 100 (+4 kg);
  • up to 180 cm, weight = height – 100 (+6 kg);
  • up to 190 cm, weight = height – 100 (+8 kg);
  • up to 198 cm, weight = height – 100 (+9 kg);
  • over 198 cm, weight = height – 100 (+10 kg).

There are also junior and veteran categories.

Men’s Physique

Mens physicist, or beach bodybuilding, as it is called in Russia, was originally invented to popularize bodybuilding. As time went on, young people left to do CrossFit, no one wanted to be like the monsters of the mass. The average gym goer wanted to look a little more muscular than the “underwear” male model. Therefore, the IFBB took drastic measures – in 2012, they gave access to the stage for those who look a little more muscular than the haute couture models.

Mens physicists take to the stage in beach shorts, they are not required to work out their legs. The nomination assesses the proportions “shoulders-waist”, the ability to stand on stage and pose. Excessive massiveness is not welcome. That is why this type of bodybuilding can be considered the most suitable for beginners, and only then you can build up mass, go to the classics or into the heavy categories.

Many bodybuilders were against this discipline because of the shorts. Nevertheless, building intelligible legs is a whole art, and now everyone who has just been in a “rocking chair” for a couple of years and is gifted with good genetics can perform.

Women’s disciplines

Women Physique

What is female bodybuilding? These are also monsters of the masses, only girls. In the “Golden Era”, girls appeared on the stage, rather resembling modern fitness bikinis or athletes of body fitness and wellness. But later, masculine ladies appeared, performing with a mass, which an experienced visitor of the rocking chair would envy, harsh “dryness” and separation.

It is clear that it is impossible to squeeze all this out of an ordinary female body, and the girls use steroids. To accept or not to accept is everyone’s choice, but public opinion is against the girls, not the guys. The peak of the popularity of female bodybuilding in the classic form came in the 80s. Then the IFBB gradually began to introduce new disciplines to give the opportunity to speak for those who do not want to get too carried away with pharmacology.

The very category of bodybuilding women in 2013 was renamed Women Physique and began to focus on less muscle mass, however, to me, this discipline is still the most “muscular” of all women. There is a division by height – up to and over 163 cm.

Body Fitness

Bodyfitness is the first response to overly muscular and masculine girls on stage. Formed in 2002. Initially, this discipline required a wide back, a narrow waist, well-developed shoulders, dry abs and rather expressive legs.

But from year to year the requirements change, and the girls sometimes become “large”, on the verge of a physicist, sometimes thin, without volumes and “dried up.” In this category, the standards are closest to fitness, but the acrobatic free program is not required. Before the advent of bikini, it was the most accessible female discipline.

The rules here also provide for height categories – up to 158, 163, 168 and over 168 cm.


Fitness is just that very athletic direction, for the sake of which sports are interested in those who do not consider posing on stage to be sports. Here it is necessary to present a gymnastic program or dance. The acrobatic elements of female fitness players are complex, they require gymnastic training, and the requirements for the form are quite high. This sport is best suited for those who did rhythmic gymnastics as a child. But many achieve heights in it, and having come without such preparation.

The judges evaluate both the form of the athletes separately, within the framework of posing, and the complexity and beauty of the free program. Our most famous athlete in the fitness category is Oksana Grishina, a Russian woman living in the USA.

Fitness Bikini

Fitness bikinis and Wellness and Fit-Model that spun off from it became “the salvation of the layman from bodybuilders”. It was the bikini that attracted ordinary women to the halls and gave rise to the fashion for pumping the buttocks and minimal study of the rest of the body.

In a bikini, you don’t need to dry too much, a large mass of muscles is not required, and in general, a minimal hint of their presence and an overall toned appearance is enough. But here such an elusive criterion as “beauty” is assessed. Condition of skin, hair, nails, general image, style – all this matters for the most popular nomination today. Similar categories – height (up to 163, 168 and over 168 cm).

Bikini has generated a decent amount of scandals. Self-confident girls began to climb on stage almost from group fitness classes. Then major competitions were forced to introduce pre-selection.

Wellness are those athletes who are too “muscular” for a bikini, but have a lagging top and dominant legs and buttocks. The category is popular in Brazil, but we are just beginning to develop. Fit-Model (fitmodel) – girls who are closest to ordinary visitors of the halls, but they show not only their shape, but also the skills of a fashion show in evening dresses.

Natural bodybuilding

These are separate competitions and federations. Competitions are hosted by the Australian International Natural Bodybuilding Association, the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation, the Athletes Anti-Steroid Coalition and several others.

It is not so spectacular, but it is extremely popular in the USA. In natural federations, both bikinis and body fitness are performed, men’s classic categories, which makes cynical people think that only the name is from the natural.

Nevertheless, a visitor of the gym with experience and good genetics can create a competitive form without steroids, it’s just that this path will be much longer than the usual one. And even then, it is worth hoping only for categories with low weight or mens physicists, but not for heavy ones.

Therefore, natural bodybuilding is more suitable for all those athletes who do not strive for performances, but are engaged for themselves or their health.

Benefits and harms

No other sport has given so much to the development of healthy lifestyle. You can tell a person a hundred times that strength is useful, and cardio will make him slim, but until he sees role models, all this is useless. It was bodybuilders who led a lot of people to fitness classes and continue to motivate ordinary people.

Bodybuilding is useful because:

  • motivates to exercise in the gym on a regular basis;
  • helps relieve stress and physical inactivity;
  • improves the functioning of the heart and blood vessels (subject to the presence of cardio load);
  • increases joint mobility;
  • allows you to preserve muscles in adulthood;
  • fights osteoporosis in women;
  • serves for the prevention of diseases of the pelvic organs in both sexes;
  • avoids domestic injuries;
  • protects against back pain that accompanies office work with a weak muscle corset (provided the correct technique and the absence of huge weights in deadlifts and squats).

The harm lies in the popularization of not the healthiest eating behavior (drying) and anabolic steroids. The 70s are called the “steroid era”, but never among the common people there was so much information about anabolic steroids as in our time. There are entire media resources that teach the use of steroids for the purpose of pumping the body.

Also, do not forget about injuries – this is a fairly common occurrence. Almost every athlete who has been in the gym for several years has had at least some kind of injury.


Competitive sports are contraindicated:

  • people with chronic diseases of the kidneys, liver, heart;
  • severely injured ODA;
  • metabolic disorders caused by diseases of the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thyroid gland, pancreas.

However, practice shows that both diabetics and those who have experienced dialysis act. In each case, you need to discuss contraindications with your doctor.

Amateur bodybuilding without steroids and hard dryers can be regarded as a form of fitness and is quite healthy. You cannot exercise during exacerbations of chronic diseases and during common colds, and you also need to take rehabilitation after injuries seriously.