The gym is our solace, our temple and our place to build ourselves up. But are we only building up ourselves or also stoking our ego by lifting weights that we simply can’t lift properly?!
While lifting heavy is advocated amongst bodybuilding circles, it’s important to know that the need to lift correctly and heavy outweighs, no pun intended, the need to just lift heavy. How many times have you seen a curl bro trying to cheat curl more than his bodyweight? Believe me the biceps do not grow like this.
To understand this bewildering phenomena we need to understand the spirit of competition that the gym invokes in almost everyone. Whether it be running on the treadmill or on the squat rack, everyone wants to outperform the other and this is precisely when bodybuilding becomes ego building. Our only competition is ourselves, not the person next to you because there are a billion things different with him/her. Living conditions, genetics, nutrition, years and training are just some of the factors that play in to the weight that one can lift. Besides, this isn’t weight lifting, where you are looking for mechanical advantages to lift the most amount of weight. Bodybuilding is all about the concept of time-under-tension where the muscle is exhausted by various techniques.
Form then, becomes critical in one’s physique development. So the next time you are curling, use your biceps and not your entire body to lift the weight up.
The competition that I earlier spoke about is rampant. Gym goers are trying to better themselves by outfitting their friends. Let’s take an example so you understand. If two people are working out together, but one has trained for 3 years and the other has just joined, it’s highly impractical for the newbie lifter to attempt to max the 3 year veteran. This is going to be a sure shot way to get yourself injured. Try to set PR’s (personal records) and like any advanced lifter who understand the difference between bodybuilding and weight lifting, log in your weights, bettering yourself daily and thus employing progressive overload successfully.
I’ll be first to admit that there are certain exercises where the partial range of motion, uses time-under-tension (TUT) that will help significantly in your gains. This however will only happen once you understand the full range of motion and can use TUT to exhaust the muscle group. Yes, cheat curls help, but even the great Arnold used this as only a muscle shocking technique. Regular use isn’t recommended. Full range of motion can also teach you a thing or two about muscular anatomy. While squatting deep and using full range of motion, you will understand how to activate your glutes, how to work your hamstrings and quads while keeping your core and lower back tight. Right off the bat, this means that you need to touch the bar to your chest, while bench pressing and overhead pressing, keep your elbows locked while doing skull crushers and bend your back while doing almost any ab exercise.
By now we’ve successfully answered the question that ego lifting isn’t the way to go although the bigger question, “are big muscles the sign of a big ego?”, is still unanswered. While I am not going into whether bodybuilding is unhealthy or not, after form you need to understand that every movement is broken into two ways. Going up, the eccentric or the positive movement is one side of the story. The neglected, dicentric, coming down or the negative is the one in question.
Did you know- The chest is worked 50% greater on the negative movement rather than going up
This move is highly neglected because pulling or pushing the weight up is the only concern of ego lifters. If you slow down the negative, you put more stress on the muscle because the fibers endure more stress trying to endure the weight.
The ego, believe it or not, is the most apparent when you are making your diet. People firstly believe that their kidneys are made of titanium and thus have over 250grams of protein. This is truly not required. 1gm of protein per pound of lean body mass is more than enough for muscular development. The ketosis diet is the most abused because apparently high fat now means you can have all the junk in the world.
This is most apparent for flexible dieting or IIFYM (if it fits your macros). Yes, a chocolate cake can fit into your daily macros and no one is stating you can’t cheat once in a while but if you think you’re going to grow on eating pop tarts and jalebi, you’ve got another thing coming. Bodybuilding vs Ego Building. You choose the route you want to take.
This is it. The achilles heel of almost any person who is thorough in his or her field. They have extremely limited hindsight and thus are not receptive to feedback. Just because you’ve been lifting weights for years now, doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it correctly and even if you have there can always be room for improvement. So asking whether is bodybuilding an ego building practice is incorrect because this ego comes in almost every habit and profession. Be it writing, rocket science, technology or bodybuilding. The higher the experience, the higher the ego and the less receptive to feedback one will be.
I’ll be honest here. Vanity comes in when you’re naturally squatting 150kg for reps. However a lifter telling me I was bending towards the right slightly while squatting is feedback that could’ve gone two ways. Firstly I could have told him to stop advising me since he doesn’t even squat that much or I could incorporate that feedback into my training. Needless to say, you know what I did, and now because of that the squat is at 170kg. In the battle between bodybuilding vs ego lifting, bodybuilding will and should always win.