Young People Ask . . .
Should I Go In for Bodybuilding?
“HEY, SKINNY!” Such a taunt merely confirms what you’ve already noticed in your mirror—you have just not ‘filled out’ the way some of your peers have. Or perhaps you are chided because of being a bit on the heavy side. In either event, you may seriously have considered taking up bodybuilding.
Nowadays many men—and a growing number of women—have gone in for bodybuilding. Granted, there is nothing wrong or unusual about wanting a better build. We all like to present a pleasing appearance. Parents magazine points out: “The image an adolescent holds about his body is not unimportant. Body image is part of self-image. It can affect a person’s self-confidence and what he does and does not do in life.” But is bodybuilding the answer for you?
Things to Consider First
“What you see is not always what you get in regard to body image,” says Dr. James P. Comer of Yale University’s Child Study Center. In other words, we often tend to think of ourselves as taller or shorter, or heavier or lighter, than we really are.
Could it be, then, that you have an incorrect view of your body and do not really need to bodybuild at all? Why not confide in your parents, a good friend, or even your family doctor, and get their opinion? And give yourself time! Some simply develop later than others. Besides, your real friends like you just as you are.
Though outward appearance is important, it isn’t everything. A prophet of ancient Israel, sent by God to a family of many sons to anoint one of them as a king, thought he must surely have found the right man when he saw one son of striking physical form. “But Jehovah said to Samuel: ‘Do not look at his appearance . . . because mere man sees what appears to the eyes; but as for Jehovah, he sees what the heart is.’” (1 Samuel 16:7) It takes more than a fine physique to rule a nation well, doesn’t it?
“But,” you say, “I just want to look like others my age so I’ll be accepted and not be made fun of.” True, no one likes to be ridiculed because of his appearance. However, will bodybuilding solve your problem? As Bill, a student, explains: “Where I go to school, I’d say eighty percent of the boys work out with weights. It’s pointless because what happens is the standards just go up. If no one worked out, then the people who had less manly chests would be just as unhappy as they are now. It escalates.”
The point is, when bodybuilding becomes competitive, there will always be some who are more developed than others. Thus, you may spend a lot of time developing your body with weights and still end up being frustrated, trailing behind your peers. “But at least I’d be healthier,” you say. “Fitness is a good thing.”
“Beneficial for a Little”
While a Christian youth may see little value in bodybuilding, exercise that includes the use of weights can contribute to having a healthier body. For that reason, even the Bible acknowledges that “bodily training [training as a gymnast, or exercise] is beneficial.” (1 Timothy 4:8) Some medical studies agree. So does Mike.
Mike admitted that he did some bodybuilding as a teenager “to be stronger and more manly” in appearance. However, at age 36 he began using weights again for a different reason. After six years at a desk job, and gaining 25 pounds (11 kg), he found working out with weights to be a great way to ease stress and help take off excess weight. “Now,” he says, “I feel mentally and physically better, have regained a lot of lost strength and trimmed off the extra weight.” Yet, he told Awake!: “At the same time, you have to keep it in perspective.” Why does he say that?
He explains: “A little is good. I keep it to about 45 minutes twice a week. After all, there are more important things to do in life.” On this need for balance, Bill, quoted earlier, says about his school chums: “Everybody spends an hour a day working out when they could be doing something far more enjoyable and useful.” So, there is the possibility of getting carried away with what started out rather innocently.
Dangers and Risks
Yes, there are dangers and risks. In an article on weight lifting, Changing Times said: “Heading the list of risks is lower back strain caused by arching while you lift. Also common are tears in the cartilage of the knees.” In addition, there are the risks of tendinitis and osteoarthritis, the latter particularly at the shoulder joint. According to the Changing Times article, these risks are “common in those who train with heavy weights, even if they are in their late teens or early twenties.”
Additionally, girls will have to take into account the problem of impaired or abnormal menstrual function that can result from overexercising. Most girls have a hormonal and genetic makeup that does not tend to make them muscular. Thus, if their purpose in working out with weights is to develop a muscular body, they have to work out longer than most males.
Women also have more body fat than men do. And some girls have gone to extremes in dieting to reduce this natural body fat in order to attain a lean, muscular appearance. However, improper dieting can pose a serious threat to good nutrition. Commenting on the appearance of one famous woman bodybuilder, Newsweek said: “For all her muscles, she looks drawn, tired and downright sickly.”
Idolizing of Self
Bodybuilding has been called “a fanatical sport” by some involved in it. “What it’s all about is pushing the limits, seeing how big you can get,” says one bodybuilder. In an essay in Time magazine, Lance Morrow observed that dedicated bodybuilders, “male or female, tend to be zealots. So much self-torture in an essentially narcissistic cause demands, after a point, a kind of religious fanaticism.”
Narcissism is an idolizing of self and of the bodily form. Easily, bodybuilding can become just that, an idolizing of self. Yet the Bible counsels: “Flee from idolatry [of any kind].”—1 Corinthians 10:14; 1 John 2:15-17.
What Will You Do?
So, then, consider the matter seriously. What you finally do must be your own decision, made with the knowledge and approval of your parents. (Ephesians 6:1-3) In particular, do not overlook the importance of honestly analyzing your motives. One definition of “bodybuilding” is: “The developing of the physique for competitive exhibition.” Is that perhaps your secret desire?—Romans 12:1, 2.
If you do decide to exercise with weights, don’t forget the need for balance—both in the time and in the effort you devote to it. Remember, “severe treatment of the body” is not spoken of favorably in the Bible. (Colossians 2:23) Besides, excesses cause injuries.
For certain weight-lifting routines, never work out alone! Serious injury or death can and have occurred when some have foolishly violated this rule. Likewise, any exercise involving the use of weights should not be done without consulting a physician if you or your parents have any concerns about your physical condition.
It is also vital to watch your associations. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Don’t let yourself be talked into using so-called harmless drugs to speed up your body development. By ‘not thinking too highly of yourself,’ you can curb the inclination to want to become a famous “body.”—Romans 12:3.
Either way—bodybuilding or not—what about the importance of giving time and effort to mind building? Why not devote some of your time to developing a healthy, well-trained mind and heart that will have the favor of God and men? When young, you have a mind just waiting to be exercised to robust proportions. After all, “’Tis the mind that makes the body rich,” said Shakespeare.
[Blurb on page 14]
Some girls have gone to extremes in dieting to attain a lean, muscular appearance