Bodybuilding vs. Crossfit – What’s the Difference?

Posted on February 12th, 2017 at 12:32 am by


If you are someone who is new to working out, you may be wondering what the difference is between bodybuilding and crossfit.  It’s an easy source of confusion for many since they both involve grueling gym workouts.

Crossfit is a relatively new thing in the world of fitness sports. For many years you could divide gym rats into one of three categories: bodybuilders, powerlifters, and those who were interested in general fitness.


Bodybuilding, as the name implies, is a sport that involves working out for the primary purpose of aesthetics.  Bodybuilders seek to increase the size of their muscles and do so in a way that is balanced and visually pleasing.  In other words – they want to look good.

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Image courtesy of nenetus at

Many bodybuilders are also interested in working out to stay in good health, but for many this is often a secondary consideration.  Bodybuilders typically incorporate a wide variety of exercises into their training regimens to make sure they work their muscles from a variety of different angles to ensure even growth.


Powerlifters work out for a very different reason.  Instead of being concerned about developing their muscles for aesthetics, they are primarily concerned with increasing their strength.  They want to be able to lift as much as possible in a few exercises like deadlifts, bench presses, and squats.  The primary purpose is to win powerlifting competitions.  Powerlifters tend to concentrate on just a few core exercises instead of routines with many different exercises.

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General Fitness

Those who work out for general fitness tend to spend a lot of time working out on cardio equipment.  Developing big muscles or strength is typically not something they are interested in.  Many fitness aficionados do train with weights, but they are often more interested in developing their muscle tone than muscle size.


Crossfit can best be described as a cross between powerlifting and general fitness.  The stated goal of crossfit is to prepare its athletes for “the unknown, and the unknowable.”  Crossfit athletes incorporate a variety of exercises designed to increase strength such as squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, and others. They also do a lot of cardio.

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at

The Difference

The key to understanding the difference between bodybuilding and crossfit is to examine the goal of the athletes who participate in each sport.

The ultimate goal of bodybuilding is to increase the size of an athlete’s muscles as much as possible while retaining a high degree of symmetry and proportion. Most bodybuilders are casual participants in the sport and do not compete, although some do enjoy competing to see who has developed the best physique.

The ultimate goal of crossfit is to become as physically fit as possible.  It does not focus on increasing the size of the muscles, although many do gain mass in the crossfit program.

Which One is Right For You?

Determining whether to focus on bodybuilding or crossfit in your workouts ultimately depends on your goals.  Ask yourself why you are interested in working out.  Are you primarily interested in improving your physical appearance, or are you interested in becoming as physically fit as possible? Once you know for sure which goal is more appealing to you, you will then be able to make an informed decision and adjust your workouts accordingly.


The author is a freelance writer based in the greater Nashville area. Click here to learn more about him.


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