Bodybuilding is a sport in which the main objective is to develop and improve one’s musculature in an effort to maximize aesthetics for the purpose of appearing as physically impressive as possible.
Male and female athletes showcase their best look on stage every year and physiques are judged on muscle size, symmetry, and conditioning which are essential for a complete package.
The training consists of implementing progressive overload and time under tension to break down muscle tissue which initiates the repair process, resulting in bigger and more dense muscle otherwise known as hypertrophy.
So, rep ranges are typically higher than what strength athletes train with although maximal muscular development requires progressive strength improvement, therefore, all rep ranges are necessary. But bodybuilders also tend to train using more single-joint, isolation movements since aesthetics are the main goal here.
Diet must also be very detailed with an ideal ratio of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) to support muscle growth, fuel workouts, and lose body fat. This is another aspect of bodybuilding which differs greatly from strength athletes who although follow a good diet plan, do not have to be as precise with their nutrition.
But bodybuilding is a hugely popular sport around the world and the purely visual element draws millions of spectators to competitions and events every year.
Bodybuilders still focus on the multi-joint, compound exercise for building mass and strength. But, some exercises are definitely interchangeable since being proficient in certain movements is not a requirement.
Although the conventional barbell squat isn’t 100% absolutely necessary for building huge legs, it should be a staple exercise for anyone who is able to safely and effectively do it without knee and back pain.
So, with that being said, the back and front squat variations are both extremely effective for loading the leg muscles, although the quads are typically the dominant mover.
And because bodybuilders are not judged by range of movement, there’s no need to squat butt to ankles unless you have the mobility and structural means to do so. But even then, it’s not necessary to squat below parallel for the purpose of building muscle.
Also, it’s generally agreed upon that higher rep ranges are more ideal when the goal is hypertrophy, although all rep ranges are important. Therefore, training is usually much different than how strength athletes would program the squat.
The bench press is the ultimate chest builder because you can load the pectorals with a lot of weight to create a maximal growth stimulus, which is the idea right?… correct.
Now, most people can safely and effectively execute the barbell bench press with proper form and lifting a weight that is manageable. And it’s hard to beat the conventional bench press for getting a big chest.
But dumbbells are a perfectly effective alternative and you’ll even improve the development of your stabilizer muscles while having the ability to get an even better chest contraction due to the freer range of movement.
And that’s the beauty of bodybuilding… you can use many different tools and it doesn’t matter as long as you’re able to get optimal results.
Cables, machines, and anything in between are also very valuable when it comes to building your physique.
You might be thinking… “squat, bench, and now the deadlift… this is starting to look like a powerlifter’s routine”.
Well, until we find exercises that are better than the big three (big four if you count the overhead press) for developing muscle and strength, there will be no differences in exercise selections.
The deadlift is an entire-body movement that works your lower and upper body in addition to your core muscles. And most would argue that it does so better than any other exercise when talking about an ‘overall’ builder.
But no one could disagree that it’s the only movement which will allow for the human body to lift its absolute limit in weight. And there are really no substitutes for using a straight barbell although a trap bar and dumbbells can be viable alternatives.
Then as far as variations go, conventional with a double overhand grip will be best for most people, while a mixed grip has its place and the Sumo deadlift is used by many people successfully.
The overhead press for shoulders is what the bench press is to the chest. It’s the best way to overload the deltoids and it still works the upper chest to a degree along with the triceps which are always involved in pressing movements.
The dip is a superior exercise for tricep and chest develop. You can use your own bodyweight or add more weight to really challenge yourself. Maintaining an upright torso will target recruit more of the triceps to execute the movement while leaning forward will shift more of the weight toward the chest.
It’s the undisputed, best upper body bodyweight exercise for developing the back, biceps, and forearm muscles. The pull-up/chin-up is non-negotiable and should be a staple for those who desire to experience maximum overall development.
The row is right up there with the best back exercises because it’s a superior movement when training for overall development. There are many different variations although free weight movements using a barbell and/or dumbbells are undoubtedly the most effective.
Bodybuilders also utilize isolation movements (e.g dumbbells curl, tricep pushdown, leg extension, direct core work, etc) for each muscle group for maximum muscle development although secondary to the main lifts.