Crossfit approach: Performance oriented. Get faster and stronger. Do fundamental exercises like squats, deadlifts, and presses, which will produce strength that translates into real life activities. Do more work in less time, use proper form, and train your body to be an athletic machine. Build strength, power, endurance, and athleticism.
Bodybuilding/general gym approach: Work out to look good. Do silly things like bicep curls and leg extensions. Use the elliptical machine for cardio. Work your muscles groups individually, in isolation from the body as a whole. Whack off to yourself in the mirror.
And now that I have this new crossfit mentality, I have to admit... I'm a little embarrassed. I'm embarrassed because for so long, my only motive for working out was to look good; I can't believe I was ever so vain. And this is, in my now older and wiser mind, not the way to look at fitness. It gives me and everyone else in the performance realm a bad name... including crossfitters, power lifters, track athletes, endurance athletes, and anyone else who has real, substantial goals that aren't rooted in narcissism. Unfortunately, most avid gym-goers are still stuck in this bodybuilding mentality, only working out for aesthetic purposes, to look good for others. In other words, they're not doing it for themselves... they're doing it for other people. And here's what's wrong with it.
Finding your motivation in impressing others is completely unsustainable.
I've experienced it first hand. You see, before I found crossfit, I was stuck in this cycle...
1.) Become obsessed with working on my body and make myself look good (approximately 3 months)
2.) Grow completely bored with it, yet still go through the workouts since I'd already come so far (another 3 months)
3.) Realize I don't care about the gym as much as I did 6 months ago, stop going completely (1 month)
4.) Get fatter and softer, lose both muscle and self confidence, revert to step 1.
Why did I become bored? Because my motivation didn't come from within. I was working out so other people would look at me and think one of two things… either “He looks great, I wish I looked like that,” or, “Wow, he looks hot, I’d love to bone him.” Yes, seriously. What I’ve learned is that girls don’t care if you have a six pack. Or if you have big shoulders. Guys don’t either. Sure, a nice body can be sexy. But you know what’s even sexier? Confidence. Confidence in yourself, confidence in your body, and a general I-don’t-give-a-shit-what-you-think-because-I’m-comfortable-in-my-own-skin attitude. And real confidence, much like motivation, doesn't come from the opinions of others... it comes from within.
Crossfit builds real confidence. Just try it. The first time you're able to string together a series of double-unders, or when you do your first muscle-up, or when you hit a new PR (personal record)... when you accomplish something you never even thought was possible, you'll feel it. You simultaneously realize that a) you're awesome, and b) your opinion is the only one that matters. And it's real... because you're doing it for yourself, not for someone else's meaningless opinion of you.
The bodybuilding approach doesn't make you faster, stronger, or a better athlete. It just makes you fake.
In fact, there's a good chance it'll make you less athletic. I fell victim to this myth when I first began to lift weights. I expected that with my new found muscle, I’d automatically be better at sports. I expected to step on to the football field and have a leg up on everyone else; I thought I would dominate in pickup basketball. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It made me slower and less coordinated. You see, being really strong on the leg press machine and being able to press 300 pounds on the chest press machine don't exactly translate to real world strength. Neither does lifting a weight slowly to increase the muscle's time under tension. And neither does doing something retarded like the seated shoulder press... call me next time you need to push something overhead without using your legs or hips. Just stand the fuck up. These things may build you muscle, but that muscle has no practical use. It's all for show. You're still slow, clunky, and you probably couldn't do anything that requires real life strength, like carrying someone out of a burning building. Not unless they were strapped to a cable crossover machine at least.
What is aesthetic beauty without something real to back it up? Does it matter how big your legs are if you couldn't outrun my grandma? No. Not in my opinion. You’re a paper tiger, and you can’t hide behind that front forever. Bodybuilders are like girls who wear too much makeup. Take Kim Kardashian, for example. Yeah, I ran into her once. She wears an absurd amount of makeup. It may look aesthetically pleasing, but the idea that you need a mask to make yourself feel confident enough to go out in public… there’s nothing more unattractive. I don’t care how hot it makes you feel, it's not you, and hence it's not hot. If you don't look good without makeup, then you don't look good, that's my philosophy. The same is true for bodybuilders, or even your average gym rat. The muscles are their makeup. They may look good on the outside, but they may as well be sporting total body muscle implants, because they can't do anything substantial with them. It's just fake, and I can't stand it.
Crossfit, on the other hand, places functionality over aesthetics. We care most about what we can do with our bodies, rather than how we look because of it. We care about our 400m time, or how many kipping pullups we can do, or how much we can deadlift. We don't really care about how our backs look while we do it. Okay, maybe just a little bit. Crossfitters do look good, but we have substance behind it. Those muscles actually serve a real-world purpose. It's just more real. And that's sexy.
Okay look, if bodybuilding is your thing, that's great. I'm not here to rain on your parade; this is all just my opinion. But I've been there. I spent years working out with the sole intent of looking good, and I can tell you that it's a dead end street. It is indeed the cul-de-sac of fitness. But if you really like taking pictures of yourself half-naked and putting them on Facebook so everyone can see how hot you look, then by all means do it. It's too vain for me. It makes me feel like a tool. And it's oddly feminine. It makes me feel like a little, girly tool.
I'm just happy I found crossfit. And I'm never looking back.