“Bodybuilding” is a word that may conjure up thoughts of drugs, the idea of taking things to an extreme level and being excessive in nature in general. All of this is basically true, and bodybuilding as an idea has never been anything but exactly what the word means “building your body”. It doesn’t mean ‘being healthy’ or ‘being fit’, it’s not about performance metrics, or ‘fair play’ or anything else. It’s just building a body, pure and simple.
I think a degree of confusion enters the picture when people try to match bodybuilding with health. But ‘health’ is essentially a meaningless term unless you define it’s parameters and boundaries and what you actually mean when you say the word. Most people can’t really put their finger on what they mean when they say the word ‘health’ or ‘healthy’ and especially so when they try to link it to bodybuilding in some way.
The inherent disconnect between the words ‘bodybuilding’ and ‘health’ give rise to the need for another words…enter ‘fitness’.
“Fitness” has two well accepted uses/definitions.
1. The survivability/adaptability of genes or an organism within it’s environment that allows it to successfully reproduce.
2. The ability of the heart muscle to deliver large volumes of blood to working muscles over an extended period of time is referred to as ‘cardiovascular fitness’.
It seems to me that the word ‘fitness’ gets used to describe all manner of things related to exercise, diet, performance, sports, and bodybuilding to describe things that it cannot describe.
Is a distance runner ‘fit’ compared to a powerlifter? Or are they both ‘fit’ for their chosen sport?
When you think of the word ‘fit’ or ‘fitness’ you likely have a mental image of a specific bodyshape, a lifestyle, the physical abilities of this imagined person and what the are like.
You probably imagine someone who has relatively low bodyfat, is muscular but not too big, can run 5k in a decent time, can lift above average weights, doesn’t smoke, only drinks occasionally, and maintains what most would call a ‘clean’ diet.
No doubt this is essentially the image that the ‘diet and fitness’ industry is selling. The word ‘fitness’ ends up being taken to mean more than its true definition. It becomes an idea of an entire life and identity instead of the true definition of what it really means (see definition 2 above).
“Bodybuilding” on the other hand is a term that tells you exactly what it’s trying to describe “building a body”…this includes all the warts and not so noble ideas that might come with it including drugs, extremism, and the odd subculture that surrounds it. And in most cases, bodybuilders don’t mind at all as they’ve never set out be the most ‘fit’ person, or the most healthy person…all they ever wanted to do was build their body…and that is exactly what they’re doing.
I think we can borrow identity and ideas from both words. I like building my body, I also like the idea of building up some degree of cardiovascular fitness for whatever potential ‘health’ benefits it might have and general sense of vigor and well being it might help produce.
However I don’t care to be the biggest or the fittest, as these are never ending paths.
You should always be looking for a balance between building your body, and building up your level of cardiovascular fitness.
Finding the sweet spot that produces the body and performance you want given the time you are willing to spend should always be the goal.