This is something that has received quite a bit of controversy over the past few years as bodybuilding has grown in popularity. Is bodybuilding an actual sport, or is it mostly a “beauty pageant”, as those who criticize the sport like to call it.
Well to find that out, it would be pretty helpful to look at the definition of sport.
If you look up the definition on Google, the noun “sport” means:
Google Search, 2019
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
So if we go solely off of this definition, I would say that bodybuilding most certainly IS a sport. Posing involves physical exertion as well as both gross and finite motor skills. The individuals taking part in the competition receive scores against one another in order to determine the victor.
Alright, it’s sold. Bodybuilding is a sport.
Hold On, Not So Fast
You really thought that was the end of the story? Here at Scholarly Muscle, there’s always multiple facets to the argument!
What sets bodybuilding apart from other quote unquote “sports” is its lack of objectivity.
What I mean by this is that bodybuilding judges come from various origins, backgrounds, upbringings, and experience. With this in mind, there are multiple ways that the competition can go. You can have the same exact two competitors standing next to one another, and two different judges could declare a different victor, simply because of the differences they both have in their experiences.
It’s All Objective
In most sports, both team and individual, there’s a clear winner and a clear loser. This is usually defined by a point system, though they usually vary, they mostly work the same, with the highest amount of points, runs, goals, etc. winning (with the exception being something like golf where the lowest score wins).
No matter the bias of the officials, coaches, or whomever else, the winners and losers of these events are very clear (barring any sort of scandals or cheating of course).
Here’s Where It Gets Tricky
The part of bodybuilding that gets quite tricky lies in the fact that the preparation and training for the event can be considered objective.
Training for competition involves weight training, cardio, diet manipulations, supplements, etc. These are all very objective measures:
- Weight Training: load, volume, sets, reps, rest time, etc.
- Cardio: duration, intensity, speed, incline, intervals, etc.
- Diet: macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, meal timing, etc.
- Supplements: timing, dosage, cycling, etc.
All of these factors are quantitative sets of data that can only be analyzed for what it is: data. So can you judge bodybuilding solely by the training methods associated with it? Or can you only judge it based off of the competition itself?
It’s Probably Not a Sport
I think most people would say that it’s not a sport due to the fact that you must judge it off of the competition itself, which I would completely agree with. And even though the argument of subjectivity vs. objectivity isn’t mentioned directly in the definition of sport, it’s heavily implied, at least in most people’s minds. Because of this, I don’t think it’s worth arguing any further because…
Who the Hell Cares?
Does it really matter if it’s a sport or not? If you enjoy doing it, and you view it as a form of entertainment, then why does a simple classification affect whether or not you garner enjoyment out of something?
For some reason, this really affects people (especially bodybuilders), feeling the need to heavily defend the fact that it is in fact a sport. When you think about it, there’s a lot of things going against it in that argument.
Let’s take powerlifting for example, what I believe to be the most closely related strength sport to bodybuilding. I’d say this is the objective version of what bodybuilding is. Training styles are similar (but most certainly not identical) and a surplus of muscle mass is standard for these activities.
However, in powerlifting, judges score based off of the weights lifted across the three lifts of the deadlift, bench press, and the squat. There’s clear criteria as to what constitutes a successful attempt and what doesn’t, and there’s clear rules established as for what’s allowed and not allowed to be used, such as particular pieces of equipment or aids.
When it comes to bodybuilding, there are many more factors at play that hinder its objectivity. For example, during the “most muscular” pose, bodybuilders are allowed to hit their choice of various poses that constitute it as a “most muscular”. Because of this, this allows them to hide their weaknesses and showcase their strengths more easily. Yes, there are standard rounds of symmetry and comparison that take this into account, but still, it’s something that should be noted.
Do What You Love!
So at the end of the day, who cares?! Do what you enjoy, and if it’s a “beauty pageant”
If you guys enjoyed this article, please let me know what you think! Do you think bodybuilding is a sport or not? And why do you think so?
Boston-born bodybuilder currently residing in the beautiful city of Tampa, Florida in pursuit of a Master's Degree in Exercise & Nutrition Science. Competitive NPC Classic Physique athlete with a passion for strength training, health, well-being, and the science that makes it all possible. I want to sift through all of the B.S that's out there to provide you with the best information possible for you to achieve YOUR goals, whatever they may be. Human physiology is an amazing thing, let's find out what the human body is capable of!