Is “Recreational Bodybuilding” a Thing?

My preferred lifting style is hypertrophy-based. Strength is fun to brag about, but at the end of the day, what I’m really inspired by and enjoy is having larger muscles. And I have no plans to ever step on stage.

Do I still get to call myself a “bodybuilder?”

Does being a bodybuilder mean I already meet a certain aesthetic? Is appearance even a reasonable way to determine that I’ve put in enough time, dedication and learning to the sport?

I know I’m not alone in this uncertainty. I keep thinking back to Andrea’s comment in this episode of the 3DMJ Podcast about how once she called herself a bodybuilder, she felt pressured to look like one.

What does a bodybuilder even look like? We forget when we imagine them that they don’t all look stage-ready all the time. It would, in fact, be counter to their goals to be that lean all the time. A certain level of body fat and energy intake is necessary to create the physiological environment for building and maintaining muscle. So, our image in our heads, the insta-bodybuilder or physique competitor, is a snapshot of a moment in time.

But even knowing this, I admit, I’m hesitant to call myself out loud a recreational bodybuilder. I think I’m afraid people will use it to evaluate my physique. I’m afraid they will look me over and think, “she isn’t that lean” or “she isn’t that muscular,” and then conclude that I’m deluding myself or wasting my energy or otherwise judge my results. I realize this says a lot about myself and the work I can continue to do. I like how I look. I like my muscles. But, I struggle to see it as “enough to count.” So, I’ll keep working on that!

I think of myself doing bodybuilding the way someone else might play on a kickball team. It may not be competitive, but we’re still doing the thing. I lift about 6 hours a week and spend a fair amount of time taking care of myself in other ways to help reach my goals–making sure I get enough sleep, prepping healthy, protein-rich foods, and learning all the time about how to do better.

I want to believe that any of us who feel connected with the term can call ourselves bodybuilders. What makes the work valid is our energy and focus over time, not the measure of our biceps.

Got something to say about calling yourself a bodybuilder? I’d love to hear from you! Yes, we have a comment policy.

Feature image credit: another bomb image from Alora Griffiths, via Unsplash

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