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Bodybuilder or CrossFit? Which Is Best?

I have a masters degree in sports science and around 10 years experience in personal training and sports research.


I think firstly it would be best to explain my background in both of these particular subjects. I trained in bodybuilding and trained clients in bodybuilding for around 7/8 years. In my younger years, around 16-18 years old, I wasn't very dedicated and didn't take it very seriously. When i was around 18 years old i decided to take it more seriously and started training a lot more, eating a lot better and researching new ways to improve my regime.

This carried on until i was around 23 years old, which is when i was introduced to CrossFit. I fell in love with CrossFit straight away and ditched my usual bodybuilding routine to pursue my goals. I would like to mention however, although i stopped bodybuilding myself, i still continued to train my clients in bodybuilding.

After around 4 years of CrossFit, i now work as a sports coach and some times i help coach the classes at my box but i only train a couple of competitive bodybuilders on the side. I would like to share what i have found to be the differences between these 2 ways of life.

The General Difference

If you know anything about CrossFit and bodybuilding, then you'll know there is vast differences in the way athletes work out. For the most part, somebody who is want to build muscle for a bodybuilding competition, will work on tearing the muscle fibres in the body to promote growth. On the other hand, a CrossFit athlete is more likely to work on strength and fitness to be able to lift heavier weights or to perform workouts longer and faster.

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Different Workout Routines

To start a bodybuilder is more than likely to perform a split workout routine. This means breaking up your body into muscle groups such as legs, shoulders and chest, then working on building these muscle groups separately in different workouts. This is to allow adequate rest for each muscle group, to give them time to recover and grow.

Differently however, CrossFit will genuinely involve full body workouts that you will perform day to day. The top level of CrossFit athletes are believed to workout up to 8 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week! Which sounds absolutely crazy considering that most of their sessions will involve all muscle groups. I guess it's just a testament to how naturally gifted the top athletes are and how much effort they must go through to recover so quickly.

My Own Experience

When transitioning to CrossFit, i think the hardest thing i found at first was the technique involved in a lot of the movements. With bodybuilding you are concentrating on muscle growth and that's all, so in doing so you perform strict movement to isolate certain muscles. In CrossFit on the other hand, you perform gymnastics, callisthenics, Olympic lifting and even more different ranges of motions. The issue i found is that a lot of the exercises, to be efficient, require you to perform them more free-flowing and not strict at all.

Another problem that i found at first was the fact that i was losing muscle mass. In my opinion, due to the sudden high volume of cardio i was performing, my body began to burn some muscle and i gradually lost some size. Saying this, on the other hand, some people may prefer to be of a smaller, leaner stature. I would also like to mention that over the years i have gradually built up my calorie in-take and i now have gained my muscle mass back, whilst remaining quite defined.

One last thing, which genuinely shocked me, was the increase in strength. I had trained bodybuilding for years performing movements such as bench press, squats and deadlifts ect. Then once i began CrossFit, I was breaking my own personal records in strength on so many movements it really did astound me. My opinion is that due to the range of motions i was putting myself through, my strength was coming from increased flexibility and working my muscles in ways they never would have before.

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CrossFit, Positives And Negatives


  • Constant increase in strength and fitness.
  • Variety of workouts to keep it exciting.
  • A huge range of exercises and lifts to learn.
  • Techniques and stretching is taught very well, which is vital in fitness.


  • Full body workouts can leave you highly fatigued.
  • May cause you to lose muscle mass.
  • High-intensity workouts too often can leave you open to injuries.

Bodybuilding, Positives and Negatives.


  • Main way of building muscle mass and definition.
  • Simple techniques can be used for full effectiveness.
  • Will also help you build your overall strength,


  • Workouts can become repetitive and boring.

    Strict movements may not fully work some muscle groups.

    A lot of bodybuilders plateau after so many years.


In all honesty it's hard to declare a winner between both workout regimes. Simply if you want to look good and build or define your muscles, then i would recommend bodybuilding. On the other hand if you are more interested in getting strong and fit, then i would recommend CrossFit.

For me, i did enough bodybuilding over the years and now i am enjoying my time in CrossFit. Saying this though, it certainly doesn't mean i won't begin bodybuilding in the future, as i believe i will do once again in the coming years.

I hope you enjoyed this article and i thank your for reading.

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