The TRUTH about ‘BODYBUILDING’: The Sport, the Science, the Philosophy.


How many of you have come across a bodybuilder? What do you think is a bodybuilder? “A guy with huge muscles is a bodybuilder” is the stereotypical dummy answer. And this stems from the fact that there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding bodybuilding.
So lets try to deconstruct it to its MOST BASIC ELEMENTS and understand it.




the act or practice of exercising, lifting weights, etc., so as to develop the muscles of the body.
Origin: 1900–05;  from the verb phrase build  ( up one’s body.


By extending the definition, we can see that anybody exercising in any form to develop a certain set of body movements and muscles, is a bodybuilder – whether it is male or female, young or old, sportsman or dancer, sick or healthy, able or disabled.


In competitive and professional bodybuilding, bodybuilders display their physiques to a panel of judges, who assign points based on their appearance.
Bodybuilders prepare for competition through a combination of dehydration, fat loss, oils, and tanning which combined with lighting make the definition of the muscle group more distinct.
Some well-known bodybuilders include Charles AtlasSteve ReevesReg ParkArnold Schwarzenegger, and Lou Ferrigno.
Currently, IFBB professional bodybuilder Phil Heath from the United States holds the title of Mr. Olympia. The winner of the annual Mr. Olympia contest is generally recognized as the world’s top professional bodybuilder.
Lets take this example: who do you think WON?
Phil Heath on the Left or Jay Cutler on the Right?

Bodybuilders are judged on the overall quality of their muscular development.
Judging is based upon the presentation of:

    • Mass
    • Definition
    • Proportion
    • Symmetry
    • Stage Presence
    • NOTE: The judges at the pro levels also take into account your previous history, your genetics and are in the know of your strongest and weakest muscles – tracking your development all through the years.

The perception of muscular size, has been the foundation for bodybuilding since the beginning of the sport. Yet, mass is only a merit when accompanied by the remaining qualities.

Indicates the degree of muscularity brought about by the absence of subcutaneous body fat. Defined muscularity is necessary to fully display the development of the physique. Definition is only of value when it allows massively developed muscles to be displayed.

Implies an even balance of muscular development in comparison to each muscle group. Theoretically, a “strong body part” can be just as detrimental as a “weak body part”. Bodybuilders must strive for equal development between all muscle groups.

A misnomer, is commonly used to depict “proportion” or expressed to indicate an aesthetic quality throughout the physique. Although, in its strictest definition, symmetry denotes equal development of muscularity on both right and left sides of the physique.

 Stage Presence:
Includes posing performance and other factors influencing general appearance such as skin tone, grooming, charisma, and poise. Effective stage presentation is essential to display the physique to its maximum potential.

This display by Kai Greene is an epic example of taking body building stage presence to another level of ‘performance arts’:


Scientifically speaking, Bodybuilding can be broken down to 3 key elements:


genes are the basic blueprints of every living body. Every human body has its own gifts and limitations. If you must have observed people, you must have noticed that people from certain regions grow taller, shorter, bulkier, fatter, get heavy around the hips, have a large butt, have larger calves, have greater endurance, have greater capacity for higher altitudes and so on. all these characteristics are mostly genetically primed.
Your genetics are the core blue print that you build your body on.
In a sculptors words – the genetics are the nature of rock/soil that the statue is being build/moulded out of.
The most common genetic attribute that affects bodybuilding is the body shape:

No matter how much training you put in and nutrition you supplement, you body will not entirely defy its genetic code which primarily regulates the hormonal and cellular behavior of the body. (that is the link where the controversial usage of steroids in professional bodybuilding comes it. and unless you are a professional bodybuilder or athlete or actor/model you should not even resort to it as the cost to effectiveness ratio is way too expensive in terms of health benefits and money)
to get into details about how genetics affect bodybuilding, read this article:

The other tip of the bodybuilding triangle is nutrition. Simply explained by the term ‘you are what you eat’, nutrition is often the most overlooked part of bodybuilding. Since nutrients are the core building blocks of every cell in your body – proteins, carbs and fats are pretty much the brick and mortar of your physique. So even if someone has the genetics to be massively well built, but is starved in a prison, he will turn skinny and weak. And if the same guy is put on a macdonalds diet, he will most definitely bloat out of proportion. but that’s the simplest way to put it.
Nutrition in itself is a complex science. On a proper bodybuilding regime every nutrient you put in your body is calculated as per need. Durning gain season or off season for eg, bodybuilders load up on carbs to help them build muscle and generate strength require dto push their bodies to the max. Then durinf ON season or while ‘cutting down’ they often move to an entirely ketogenic diet that consists of only proteins and fats.
besides the basic nutrients, body building also requires other additional nutrients to aid joints, boost anabolic activity, boost ATP within their cells to generate energy, cause vaso dialation for better pump of blood into the muscles, and many more.
Along with nutrition comes supplementation. because it is highly improbable for people to get all the nutrients they need in their food all year long and every day. supplementation makes this task simpler and more effective. Supplements are not magical potions – they are just highly absorbent nutrients – that will help your physique build itself in the way you train your body to.
FOCUS on the word ‘SUPPLEMENT’ and you will know exactly what it means. It by no means replaces the hard work that a bodybuilder has to put in to build his physique. it only supplements those efforts with the right nutrition.

The final and most popular side of the bodybuilding triangle is training. The human body is one of the most adaptive machines in the world. As you train it, it shall become. and this feature plays a huge role in bodybuilding. There are thousands of training regimes worldwide that promise to build a certain type of physique – but stripped of its fancy marketing terms and broken down to its most basic levels, bodybuilding training can be broken down to just 5 distinct components:
3. ENDURANCE (or what is commonly refered to as CARDIO training)
(even of these there are various versions which also include agilty, co-ordination, balance, accuracy and flexibility.  but since we are talking about BODYBUILDING, we’ll stick to the bodybuilding 5. )
different sports call for focusing on different training regimes. but competitive bodybuilding mostly focuses on training that leads to muscular hypertrophy. Though classical bodybuilding relied more on real strength training and powerlifting for the same, modern day bodybuilders train focussing purely on hypertrophy neglecting relative strength gains and real functional value.

This interview with competitive bodybuilder Nizar Dawoodani effectively explains the corelations between the nutrition and training routines of competitive bodybuilding:

irrespective of what sport you are building your physique for, STRENGTH AND ENDURANCE are the two most important segments of training.


BodyBuilding has been a part of every culture and every civillization. Body Building in itself means to BUILD the body – whether it is to improve performance in young age, to develop specific abilities or to prevent the effects of aging by combating the degenerative effects of age with exercises. Yoga, sports, strength straining, martial arts – all are kinds of body building routines aimed at building the body into its desired form and funtional capacity.
But somewhere over time in the modern world, the term BODYBUILDING got  restricted to just competitive bodybuilding and large musculature. That is not Bodybuilding. that is just a part of the whole universe of bodybuilding – a publicized fragment of the universe of bodybuilding that has come to represent the whole philosophy of bodybilding at its extreme levels today.To keep track of it, if you notice, even bodybuilding competitions till the 80’s aimed at musculatures that were symettrical and aesthetic in its human form – like the greco roman sculptures and paintings of ages past. The ideal of the human physiology. But with the advent of rampant use of GH and Ergogenic aids, the sport was taken into a different direction all together – a direction which led to the extreme nature of the competing bodies today.

But even in this scenario, the bodybuilders physique is the highest peak of development of the human body – which is why it has all the acclaim. if leonardo da vinci had access to the modern bodybuilder’s well developed physique, he would definitely use it to study the human anatomy.
But sport aside, whether its competitive or not, body buildign in any form depends on one major principle – DISCIPLINE.
Whether you do yoga, pilates, ballet or strength training without discipline  you wont attain any benefit that is worthy of the method. Eating right, following the techniques right and dedicating yourself to the methodology and the routine forms the foundation of bodybuilding in any form. So even today, whether its in the army, at a fat loss camp or in a personal home routine, the first thing that will always be stressed on is discipline. If you have to devote a certain time to it a certain method a certain habit to it, you have to. no excuses.

Overtime, Gymming, yoga, or training – martial arts,sports or other wise becomes like a religion. it gives you peace, it helps you focus, it helps you organise the chaos of life, detach yourself from external situations and focus on your regime towards a purpose. Its not just beneficial physically but also mentally, intellectually and emotionally.
Many people find it higly relaxing and soothing. patients with adhd and manic depressive disorders and bipolar disorders have found it beneficial to workout. and tests have proven these effects too.
Today, gymming or working out have become social behaviours and are beinfg more and more widely accepted as social behaviours. And thats not something new – infact in the 1900’s a sect called muscular christianity had also developed where people used to get together and work out in the gym together in the name of god. India has its own league of ‘hanuman bhakths’ who used to to the same. The shaolin temple monks are another example.

Even today indian wrestling is closely rooted to religion and society. And the time is not far when people will realise why it was made so and why it should be so.
Afterall, body building is not just a sport of a phase, its a philosophy of continuous creations and improvement. a Kaizen, if you may, for the human body – the temple of human life.

– Pushkaraj Shirke


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