There are many different types of workouts and training regimens. With so much variety, it’s hard to know which one is the best option.
That’s why it’s important to know several options. But how? We’ve put a few options side by side for you to find out which one is right for you.
For example, one of the hottest workouts is CrossFit. But is it better than traditional bodybuilding training?
I will lay a comparison between bodybuilding training and CrossFit. You will discover what they are, what their differences are and which one is the best for you.
What is Bodybuilding? The art of sculpting your body
By definition, bodybuilding is (basically) the search for aesthetic improvement through a quality diet and targeted exercises. It is focused on the growth and development of your muscles. It is a sport mainly practiced by people who wish to increase their muscle mass and control their physical appearance. The goal is to reduce body fat as much as possible, increase muscle mass and develop strength.
Weight training is a specific practice that focuses on the development of each body part. Each muscle is worked individually, from shoulders to calves. A training program consists of high-intensity resistance training to build muscle and conditioning. How does it work? With weight lifting and proper nutrition. A workout targets a major muscle group, with a wide range of exercises to work every fiber in it.
Most exercises can be performed in different positions, to attack the muscle in a slightly different way each time. And while bodybuilding can also includes cardio training, most bodybuilders are cardio-aversed and won’t do it consistently.
What is Crossfit? The Search for Optimal Fitness
Crossfit is a training program that involves high-intensity functional movements and focuses on overall fitness. It is not a specific program designed to focus on one particular aspect such as strength or aesthetics. Crossfit aims to simultaneously improve an athlete’s endurance, cardio, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination and accuracy. The goal? To make you as physically fit as possible.
A Crossfit workout consists of a WOD (which stands for Workout Of the Day) performed in a group. A WOD exists in easy and extremely difficult versions. It is a sport that is suitable for all levels of fitness, from beginners to advanced. Almost anyone can do a cross-training session, adapting the difficulty, the load and the number of repetitions.
Each Crossfit workout is progressive and is simply about working at your own pace, setting your own goals and achieving them in your own way. No matter what your level, you’ll be at the top of your game. The WODs mix bodyweight exercises (push-ups, burpees, air squats, …), cardio (rowing, jumping rope, running, swimming, …), weightlifting (snatch, clean, front squat, …) jumps and much more. All of this makes for a short, high-intensity session, working the whole body for optimal overall fitness.
Crossfit vs Bodybuilding: The Main Differences
Type of workout
Bodybuilding workouts are mainly done in a gym or at home with weights or weight machines, while Crossfit is done in a Box (a Box is a Crossfit gym) and/or outside. This is one of the positive aspects of Crossfit: you can do many different activities (running, swimming, bodyweight exercises, weightlifting, etc).
In strength training, your workout tends to focus on one body part per day, usually 5-6 exercises, 3 sets per exercise with low reps per set (5-8-10) in general.
It is usually based on sets and reps, which can be performed in a circuit (with no rest between sets) or with rests – these compounds can vary, depending on people’s goals.
For example: 4 sets of 8 reps of bench press with x amount of rest (or circuit).
Bodybuilding training is usually done in the gym, weights and other equipment are used, with exercises that focus on specific body parts.
The training is adapted to the body type (endomorph, ectomorph and mesomorph) and the different goals of each person.
At the end of a bodybuilding training, it is easy for the person to know exactly which muscles or muscle groups have been worked. In CrossFit, it is much more difficult.
It is based on functional movements, to prepare athletes for their daily activities.
The goal is to make people “fit” and capable of anything.
Many things are worked: flexibility, endurance, strength, coordination, speed, balance…
In CrossFit, several muscle groups work at the same time, thanks to exercises corresponding to body weight movements, weight lifting, gymnastics or cardiovascular endurance.
Cardiovascular endurance is perhaps the biggest difference between the two: in bodybuilding training, vascular endurance is not the most important, but in CrossFit it is fundamental due to the intensity of the training.
While bodybuilding training is done in reps and sets defined in a training plan, and the training time depends on the individual, in CrossFit this is different.
In CrossFit, my friends, there is no rest time for anyone (or very little).
It’s about taking it to the limit, with the guarantee that you’ve worked your entire body!
It’s often a race against the clock and against the prescribed requirements.
Here are typical Crossfit workouts:
Do as many rounds as you can in 20 minutes:
- 5 pull ups
- 10 push ups
- 15 air squats
Perform 21-15-9 reps of the following movements, for time:
- Deadlifts @ 225lbs
- Handstand push-ups
Location and type of equipment
Bodybuilder typically trains in a usual gym. They will use machines (multi-function and Smith machine), free weights and barbells (Bench press, squats…).
A Crossfit gym is typically called a “box”
Usually these are large rooms, such as a warehouse, and have very little equipment compared to traditional gyms.
These materials are used to perform the WODs (workouts of the day) defined by the coaches.
Crossfit and strength training also vary in the amount of time spent training. A WOD usually lasts between 10-30 minutes, but you can be completely cooked with a 10-minute WOD. In an AMRAP (as many reps / rounds as possible) for example, Crossfiters train against the clock. Their goal is to perform the most reps in a set amount of time or to complete a certain number of reps as quickly as possible.
Strength training does not focus on timing. Muscles are specifically worked under different levels of tension by varying the tempo of the movements. This can be done on the concentric or eccentric phase of the movement, or both.
Depending on the individual’s goals, a bodybuilding workout can last approximately 45 minutes to 2 hours.
In addition, the person is free to define the time to perform each exercise.
Warning: Some people spend hours and hours in a gym but they don’t always know why they are doing. Several hours of training is not always beneficial or advantageous. The body needs rest!
A Crossfit training is usually 1 hour.
This will include a warm-up (10 min), a strength portion (20 min) and a metcon (metabolic conditioning) portion (20 min)
For those who don’t have much free time, CrossFit can be a good option!
Group vs. individual
Crossfit is known to be a social sport. Practiced in a group, everyone motivates each other and interactions at the Box are numerous. Many Boxes organize barbecues, trips to Crossfit Games competitions, etc. This is also one of the reasons why enthusiasts are so passionate about Crossfit.
With weight training, you also have a similar community, but with a sociability that varies from gym to gym. In weight training it is important to choose a gym where you feel comfortable, it is important for your motivation and well-being in the gym. As everywhere, there are gyms where the atmosphere is good, and others where the atmosphere is more superficial or focused on competition.
Generally, it’s a solitary workout (or with a gym bro). Although athletes can socialize and even learn from each other, each person has their own personal training plan and goal, taking turns using the equipment.
Unlike a regular gym, where individual workouts are more common, in a “box” there are groups and no one is placed above another. The WODs are defined and are the same for everyone (always respecting the limitations of each person).
This is why in Crossfit we sometimes use the word “tribe”.
Objectives and results
There is also a difference in the results and physical appearance of the two sports. Bodybuilders tend to have more muscle mass than Crossfiters, and Crossfiters tend to have more athletic bodies.
Crossfit targets almost every muscle group through the same exercise. For example, the famous Thruster exercise uses the muscles of the legs, core, back, chest, arms and shoulders at the same time. In strength training, an individual exercise is needed to target each muscle group in the body, which takes more time to train your entire body.
The objectives for this type of training vary between :
- Improving muscular endurance
- Increase strength
- Gaining volume
- Lose volume (e.g. lose abdominal size)
- Gaining muscle
- Lose fat
- Define muscles
- Stay in shape
The training is always varied, intense and one of the objectives, besides improving your physical condition, is to overcome and become a better version of yourself. Trying to achieve the defined WODs, to overcome yourself and the group, to break records…
The other goals mentioned above, come as “extra”.
Both practices are (in general) accompanied by a balanced, healthy and adapted diet. That is to say: A diet rich in proteins, good nutrients and antioxidants, which provides the right calories and limits fatty foods. Nutrition is essential when it comes to sports, especially in bodybuilding and Crossfit.
When you are working intensely on your fitness, you need to eat nutritious foods to survive the daily workout. Most Crossfiters see nutrition in its purest form: fuel. In bodybuilding, daily nutrition is generally more calculated and even sometimes borderline scientific: Weigh your food, supplement according to your needs, etc… The goal? Repair muscle fibers, recover and maximize muscle growth.
Crossfit vs. bodybuilding: the verdict
The choice really depends on your goals. If you want to target specific muscles to build, shape and sculpt your body, weight training is the way to go. Choose Crossfit if you want to take a more holistic approach to your fitness. But in the end, it doesn’t matter if you prefer Crossfit or strength training.
What matters most is that you are diligent and consistent in achieving your goals. You can choose any practice you want as long as you are comfortable and passionate about it.
Remember, self-discipline is the key to reaching your goals! Both Crossfit and bodybuilding can be practiced by anyone who wants to be fit and healthy. Choose the path that motivates you the most and stick with it!