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If there’s an argument that gets more heated in our gym than bodybuilding training vs CrossFit training then we don’t know what it is.
Yet, both forms of training styles have benefits and drawbacks and you might even want to consider doing them both together – a sort of Bodybuilding CrossFit if you like. Here’s what you need to know.
We enjoy CrossFit but if you’re really about strength training (see our guide to strength training for beginners) then it’s probably not for you.
While you may see some muscle growth in your muscle groups, CrossFit athletes don’t tend to be bulky and if you intend to build muscle, you should be thinking about focusing on muscle gains rather than more general training like CrossFit gyms offer.
A CrossFit workout (called a WOD by keen Crossfitters) tends to follow a simple pattern of warming up, strength, conditioning, and then recovery.
That means you won’t get any hypertrophy (except by luck) which is the main feature of bodybuilding-style workouts because it’s hypertrophy that helps to build muscle. (Like with these awesome vegan bodybuilders on Instagram).
However, there’s no doubt that you will lose weight, gain some muscle and become fit when doing CrossFit.
Yes, we know, there are some veritable mountains of strength at the CrossFit games.
But, you should know that these people train for up to 5 hours a day (unlike most of us gym rats – who don’t have that kind of time to devote to working out).
They will also have far more specialized training regimes when compared to those in a CrossFit gym.
We would note, however, that unlike bodybuilding, training CrossFit is awesome for reducing body fat. If weight loss is your primary concern CrossFit beats bodybuilding, hands down.
That’s because there’s more cardio and fitness work in a CrossFit routine than in bodybuilding.
As we’ve just said, bodybuilding is focused on efforts to build muscle mass and gain muscle. That doesn’t tend to lend itself to losing weight.
That’s because though you will see fat loss, you won’t see any weight loss because muscles weigh more than fat does.
You’ll be in better shape if you get into the kind of fitness regime that bodybuilding offers but you won’t become lighter.
You also may not see a huge increase in endurance. The aim of bodybuilding is to bulk up like Arnold Schwarzenegger rather than to get that general “great shape” of cross-fitters.
So, with bodybuilding – you tend to adhere to body-part splits which allow you to focus on a particular muscle group.
You train nearly every day and often with weights, then you lift heavy weights using each group of muscles to do 4-5 exercises and do 3-6 sets of each exercise.
You won’t see a bodybuilder with chicken legs but they won’t have the same level of fitness as a dedicated CrossFitter.
And the CrossFitter may have some advantages when it comes to certain weight lifting techniques such as Olympic lifts. (See examples of the Olympic Lifting Movement here).
We wouldn’t suggest combining two disciplines into a single exercise routine. That’s because the key differences in each exercise become very apparent and workouts become less efficient.
However, we would strongly recommend that you opt for different forms of exercise on different days.
You can work with a fitness coach, for example, to tailor your CrossFit sessions to include a focus on hypertrophy which makes them better suited to gains.
This is particularly true if you have more time to spend on workouts than average – if you want to be the next Ronnie Coleman, you’re going to need to think about how you can reach the peak of your sport and by incorporating multiple approaches to fitness, you may find that your workout routing propels you past those who are only using a singular approach to bodybuilding.
CrossFit is an excellent form of high-intensity exercise and it can help you master big lifts and lose weight. With a little tailoring, it can even come to complement a bodybuilding regime.
However, if your objective is to achieve improvements in muscle mass and maximize muscle growth? Then you will find that bodybuilding will make you stronger and heavier than CrossFit can. The singular focus on diet, exercise, hypertrophy, and proper rest will always give you better muscle improvement than the more generalized routine of CrossFit.
If you’re looking to improve your fitness through bodybuilding, may we recommend these best bodybuilding books? They’re the perfect way to learn the compound exercises that lead to the functional movements that result in the perfect physique for a bodybuilder. You may also enjoy these bodybuilding documentaries.