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What can CrossFit Athletes Learn from Bodybuilding?

As the functional fitness community has evolved in the past years to embrace intensity as a goal in and of itself, we have seen more and more people suffering from burnout and injury.

It’s time to shift the pendulum back, help people define what intensity is right for them, and show them alternative ways of training that keep them functional, but also honour age old training principles that help people stay healthy, balanced and strong. This article shows what lessons CrossFit® athletes can take from Bodybuilding in order to improve their own health, fitness and performance.


The mind muscle connection is the first stage in strength development.

Creating nervous system connections to the muscles is what we see babies do as they develop. Their movements start out a little uncoordinated as they try to figure out how to get their brain signals to coordinate with the movements they want to achieve.

Source: OLIMP

Then those movements smooth out over time as the brain development occurs and mind-muscle connections happen. At that point they can begin to get stronger and support themselves more and more.

The same process needs to happen with athletes and in fitness.

When an athlete introduces new movement patterns, it is vital to ensure the static strength or stability strength is there to support strength development. Isometric and static holds are the environment where it is easiest for an athlete to feel what is working. When you remove the egotistical perspective, flexing your muscles in the mirror is essentially the same as well. It augments the mind muscle connection.

Source: OLIMP

As we develop into more advanced athletes, it is also worthwhile to revisit these static patterns almost as if you are rebooting your computer. It helps deepen these connections and correct any hardware misfiring that might be going on.

The knock-on effect is better control over your body and your muscles. Learning how to activate your lats properly may be another piece in the puzzle that gets that first muscle up. Firing your glutes effectively will have huge benefits for your squat, and consequently, all Olympic lifts.

Optimise your training and nutrition


First, it helps to understand a little bit about why bilateral or barbell movements have been a bias in the past many years. The barbell has been popularized in the past 10 years by CrossFit® more so than any other fitness movement. Additionally, think of the practical aspect. Barbells take up less space in the gym than a full set of dumbbells. It is easier to supply a class of 20 people with barbells than with 20 full sets of dumbbells.

Source: OLIMP

Unilateral training has been a key principle in strength and conditioning programs for years.

Our joints move independently of one another in most movements of life. They must apply different forces at different times. Training unilaterally allows us to ensure we are developing our joints equally. Most athletes have a stronger side based upon how they have moved throughout their lives. Training with barbells or bilaterally sometimes doesn’t expose these imbalances or help to correct them. Therefore, unilateral training needs to be a staple in most CrossFit® athletes training.

Useful Unilateral Bodybuilding Exercises

  • Single arm dumbbell shoulder press (seated or standing)
  • Lateral raises
  • Cable lateral raises
  • Single arm overhead extensions
  • Single arm tricep cable pull downs
  • Single arm dumbbell curls
  • Cross body cable woodchops
  • Kneeling landmine press


Bodybuilding teaches the value of volume training at moderate intensity levels. A typical bodybuilding routine consists of loads that are not near maximum for the athletes, performed over longer sets and time under tension.

Source: OLIMP

When coupled with full range of motion, this principle helps build strong tendons and ligaments around joints and supports the faster, more dynamic contractions that happen in CrossFit®.

This has many benefits. The development of healthy, strong tendons and ligaments is essential for optimal movement patterns, control, stability and all strength-based exercises. Tendons and ligaments take time to strengthen and volume training at moderate intensity is a great way to achieve that aim.


Eat like a Bodybuilder

Bodybuilding places a huge emphasis on the importance of protein for muscle recovery and growth. This is also vital for CrossFit. The word protein originates from the Greek ‘protos’, meaning ‘the first’.

Source: OLIMP

Proteins are the basic building blocks of the human organism. All tissues and organs contain proteins. In addition, proteins also fulfil vital signalling functions in the neural system.

The Amino acid tryptophan, included in the proteins from chicken or turkey meat, is necessary for the production of serotonin, which is an important neurotransmitter, and melatonin, which regulates the sleep cycle.

Albumin is a reserve protein, which regulates the distribution of nutrients and maintains blood pressure in the capillaries. Low albumin levels can signal liver disease or problems with processing the nutrients. A high level of albumin is typical during dehydration.

Transferrin is a transport protein for iron. It is related to immunity-boosting lactoferrin, which can be found in whey protein supplements with lower degree of processing (concentrate).

The 100% Natural Whey Protein Concentrate from Olimp provides 27 gram of protein per serving, perfect for maximising muscle growth!

Source: OLIMP


Suitable for those, who want to improve their performance. Take post-workout, mixed with water for faster absorption.

  • Contains at least 90 grams of protein per 100 g.
  • Undergoes further filtration which minimizes the content of carbohydrates and fat but also filters out some of the bio-active substances (depending on the level of processing).
  • Faster absorption than WPC.
  • Higher price than WPC but contains higher quality protein.

Source: OLIMP

Choose the right protein for you

CrossFit® is unique in the way that it draws from many different disciplines such as endurance, gymnastics, running and Olympic weightlifting. But bodybuilding style intensities, styles of training and exercises, performed with full range of motion, can prove tremendously useful for the CrossFit® Athlete.

Improve your health and performance now 

Further reading

  • The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding – Arnold Schwartzenegger
  • The Poliquin Principles – Charles Poliquin

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