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Is Competitive Bodybuilding Healthy? Articles Database Articles by Writer Articles Written by Matt Canning Is Competitive Bodybuilding Healthy?

Competitive bodybuilding is very much unlike most other sports which fall into the fitness category. Many athletes can be praised for their speed or endurance as seen in running events or swimming, or any number of competitve sports where balance is required. As a result of needing a variety of skills to excel in these sports, a balanced physique is necessary. Muscle mass and strength is also quite helpful. During his prime, Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson was said to be able to bench press 440 pounds, and had successfully bench pressed 407 pounds for several repetitions. Clearly, his muscle mass and strength helped him excel as a champion runner. From sprinting to football to any number of sports, muscle mass and strength help and these levels of fitness can prove to be very healthy to the individuals participating in the sports.

Anabolic Steroids

At the Mr. Olympia level, bodybuilding requires the use of anabolic steroids to achieve the outstanding muscle mass and condition each competitor displays. Some will say that using steroids in moderation is not anymore unhealthy than drinking recreationally or eating junk food, and they may be right, but at the level of the Mr. Olympia, we can only imagine the quantity of drugs that must be consumed to be competitive. However, that is merely an assumption. Some bodybuilders have exceptional genetics, and some such as Lee Priest have confessed to using anabolic steroids, but in doses so low, your average gym rat will have followed the same mass building stack.


What is incredibly challenging for most bodybuilders is the dieting. Dehydrating themselves for the sake of retaining as little water as possible is terribly draining on both energy levels and on organs. The point of competition is sport, at the upper echelon of competitive levels, is not to be healthy, but to win. At least that is the mindset of thousands of competitive athletes around today. Where the distance between 1st and 2nd place is so small, it is necessary for athletes to push themselves to unhealthy extremes in order to maintain a competitive edge. Some bodybuilders today have dieted so hard that they have lost energy levels and muscle mass to achieve definition that may not have been necessary to win. There is a balance, even at the top levels of any sport, and sometimes even at those levels, you can go too far.

A Healthy Alternative for Top Bodybuilders?

Some bodybuilders will look far larger in the offseason as they do year round. On the other hand, how many pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shawn Ray, Chris Cormier, or Flex Wheeler have you seen where they are massively bulked? These athletes stay lean year round and are always within competitive weights. That said, the strain on their bodies of losing all that weight during the dieting portion of their training is not as severe as some other athletes who lose as much as 50-80 pounds when dialing it in for a competition. It seems apparent that what these athletes are doing is better for the body, and less of a shock to the system.

Is Bodybuilding Healthy for Recreational Athletes?

Yes! An unfortunate misperception of bodybuilding is that it is unhealthy for anyone doing it, which is a fallacy. The truth is, bodybuilding principles are perfect to apply for principles of all walks of life. Only at the upper echelon of bodybuilding competition does the possibility of it being unhealthy come into play. Don't let the media scare you into not taking up bodybuilding because of the reports which say athletes are unhealthy. Nobody is telling you to do the same things as the current Mr. Olympia competitors so don't be afraid. The key to success is BALANCE. Eat a balanced diet, get ample amounts of sleep and don't do more than you can handle. If you do so, an excellent physique and great health is your reward.

Take care,

Matt Canning

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