Is bodybuilding sinful?

Recently an apologist on this website condemned bodybuilding, although she didn’t exactly make it clear whether she believed it to be sinful or not, and it made it clear that her response to the question was her opinion. Here is the link to the question and answer:

This left me confused, so I wanted to see if anybody here could help me out.

If you don’t know what bodybuilding is, here is a link:

And this is a website that I frequently used back when I used to weight-lift a lot:

Nothing wrong with working out and being a strong muscular person. However, I definitely agree with this person about bodybuilding.
I really don’t see it as being anything more than self-glorification and vanity. A male body builder spends tons of time and hard work building a hugely muscular body so he can shave and wax his body to show it off in front of other people in some contest to see who has the biggest and most defined muscles. Sounds like a beauty contest to me, but with muscles. And yes, I think beauty contests are sinful, vain, and a slap in God’s face. The people who compete on prettiness are exalting their own beauty, instead of being humble about it as God intends us to be.

Oh, and the picture of the female body builder is just sad.

The probability is quite high that this activity would lead one away personally or others away from God.

Staying in shape is one thing. Spending an inordinate amount of time and effort to develop a body beyond any need for service, for work seems a near occasion of sin.

I pointed out somewhere else…working out, may yield many opportunities for useful exchanges among people about a variety of topics, including our Lord. I think it boils down to intent. If the intent is reasonable care of the body…as a means of temperance, taming the will, self-mastery of passions of the body, fine. If the intent is draw attention to oneself then that’s not a good thing. If it causes others to envy, to fantasize, to draw their attention away from God, again, not a good thing.

God gave us a body to work, to serve Him, and others. That seems like a reasonable test to decide whether body building is a pursuit of holiness or not.

By her reasoning being a model or beauty queen would be wrong too.

One can body build in order to emphasize the wonder of the human body God made, to glorify God in showing others how strong God made man to be, and as a prefigurement to bodies we will have at the resurrection. Just as one can do with modeling.

Well maybe being a model or a beauty queen IS wrong?

Honestly glorifying your own beauty and winning prizes for being subjectively more beautiful than some other girl is a terrible thing! The very idea seems contrary to principles of humility and self-respect.

As for models, if depends. If the point is to show off the clothes (as long as they are modest) it’s fine, but if the model has to wear immodest clothes, act inappropriately, or if the modeling is centered around the person’s body (swimsuits) I think it would be wrong.

As for you last sentence, well, I don’t it’s very relavent. Yes you might be able to body-build for that purpose, but it doesn’t remove the issues of modesty, and humility. That one tiny exception doesn’t make up for the inherent problems.

I don’t think this is an easy question to answer without some qualifications.

There’s bodybuilding and then there’s BODYBUILDING.

In some sense, this is not much different than other physical contests…who’s the strongest, who’s the fastest, who can jump the highest, etc. We give prizes for those activities, and for the most part they’re not questioned as immoral.

I think some take bodybuilding as a erotic or sexual titilation sort of thing. While there are undoubtably those who oogle bodybuilders of both sexes, many see it as a sport…no more, no less.

I’ve competed in several (bag)piping contests, and nobody has ever questioned my need to show off my…snuffle, chortle “skill” :smiley: even though I took home a blue ribbon one year.

Methinks it’s really important to look at motivation when considering the moral implications of bodybuilding. Competitions can be motivation for improvement, regardless of the sport or activity, and if seen as such would seem to be morally acceptable. However, there is a line that must not be crossed, a line that may not be all that clear and that is of vanity.

If a person bodybuilds as a sport, i.e. sees it that way, trains proportionate to their time available (doesn’t take time away from family, etc.), doesn’t use harmful suppliments and anabolic steroids, trains intelligently so as not to do long term damage to their joints, ligaments, and other parts and does not obcess over the way they look, it does not seem to be morally objectionable.

However, would also seem that it would be somewhat difficult, depending on an individual’s circumstances, to meet these admittedly arbitrary criteria (I just pulled them off the top of my head).

Methinks that one can tell a lot about another person’s sense of vanity. I used to spend a lot of time in the gym working out. The more serious bodybuilders would dress modestly, both in the gym and out. Perhaps they KNOW that they’re bigger than everyone else ;), but I think that many of them didn’t have to show off, and used competition as a motivation to keep themselves fit.

OK, let me look at this from a different perspective…

Let’s say there is a sport (running for instance) and the athlete spends a great deal of time working and training.
The athlete works to be the best against others in their sport that work and train towards the same goal.

We do not think of the runner as prideful or inordinately sinful, so why should we think this of a bodybuilder?

I would agree that there is a danger of pride, but let’s be serious here. That danger is in every sport. That danger is in any activity.
We can look at several professional sports to see pride having taken over. Bodybuilding is no more or less at risk.

How many of us have run into some high minded wonk (within debate of these forums perhaps) that has developed their knowledge and power of debate to a degree not matched too often, and so often are now guilty of pride themselves?

Pride is not specific to sport or activity. It can come whenever someone trains to a degree others do not match.

I cannot see bodybuilding to be any different.

While I mostly agree with you, I think you’re missing the main objection about bodybuilding. In most sports that I can think of, the mind and body is trained to meet and overcome certain challenges, and the training is designed to boost practical performance and ability on the field, track, or arena. In bodybuilding however, the point is NOT to develop practical speed, strength or endurance, but to develop sheer muscle mass. Contrary to what you might think, pro bodybuilders are generally not that strong, and in fact, strongmen who do feats of amazing strength are generally much smaller than bodybuilders because their training is designed for practical strength.

I think like most other things, body building and modeling will be wrong depending on your own disposition and character. If you are the type to revel in your own looks, then you should stay away from either. If you are the type who thanks God for the body He gave them, you can try then to glorify God by taking care of the body He gave you and showing others that it is God who provides strength and beauty, again, as a pre-figurement to the resurrection bodies we will have.

It is not an inherently evil act. Actually when brought down to it, it is no different than putting on makeup or doing your hair. Though the effort is different, the disposition of the person may or may not make the action in and of itself sinful.

Whether it is pride in one’s speed, strength, endurance, ability to jump, throw a javelin or body image, vanity can exist in all sports. What makes it vanity is a person’s disposition and intention, and whether or not they admit to themselves that in the end, it is God who gives them these gifts, not themselves.

wow, great responses! I tend to agree that it really does depend on the individual, and his/her own disposition and intentions.

But is it sinful to want to be muscular? I mean, I’ll be honest, I am a 19 year old male in college who enjoys weightlifting and sees it as such a great way of relieving stress. My favorite part about it is being able to see how my body responds to the things I do - changes in diet, changes in pace in the gym, different exercises, etc - and being able to track that progress day by day, month by month, and observe those incredible changes in the appearance of my body. It’s truly incredible. But I would be lying if I said that wanting to look “bigger” and wanting to look good wasn’t part of my motivation as well. Is it really vain to want to be, for a lack of a better word, “buff”?

Taking care of your body is one thing, pushing it beyond healthy limits for impractical purposes is quite another. Look up some pictures of bodybuilders, and think about the actual purpose of all their years and years of training.

Also, I think you are ignoring the fundamental difference between bodybuilding and “real” sports. Generally speaking, the training and dieting in most sports is for the purpose of making that person better at that sport. In bodybuilding, the training and dieting IS the sport, which doesn’t make much sense. That’s like saying eating contests or beauty pageants are sports. When have real sports ever been about physical appearance?

Oh and to the person above me. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be muscular. It’s especially something a lot of younger guys like to do. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be muscular and strong. IMO it should be the practical kind of bulk, but that’s not necessarily the motivation. :stuck_out_tongue:

I have thought about this subject often because I have very good friends - both non-Catholics - who are pretty serious BB’ers. I do not think it is intrinsically sinful. The one friend is a woman and she is a narcissist of the first degree and likes the attention and the exposition of her thinly clad - albeit well formed - body.

The other is a male who considers himself an artist and we had this conversation. He considers his weightlifting as a paintbrush; he sees his body as a canvass and he does compete but not for size just to be bigger than the next guy. In fact, he competes, but often loses to the bigger guys, but it doesn’t bother him because he is more into the asthetics of proportionality, balance and formation.

In the former case - and I think he is unique in that field - and although he is agnostic, I think he has his head on straight in that he is not motivated by vanity but in creating.

Just a thought…

Some people even do it as a job and get paid for it professionally. Body building is legitimate.

bodybuilding a sport and along with every sport there is always the opertunity to boast and be vain. I would not call bodybuilding a sin you are training your body to respond a certain way which is what athletes do.

Ummmmm…also symetry and definition, but your point is well taken.

The obvious question then is ***why ***you want to look bigger, i.e. buff. As a sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment or of vanity?

True, but plenty of people get paid to do immoral things. Not trying to say BB is immoral, I don’t think it is, but I did want to mention that.

But the actual Body Building part (off season) is not unhealthy, and an opportunity for penance. In fact that is when they are most health conscious. The judging part is a little hard because they must lose as much fat as possible while maintaining muscle, so they starve themselves and eat very little (an opportunity for fasting and penance), much like a boxer who starves himself to make weight.

It’s ok if you don’t see it as a legitimate sport. But I will have to disagree with you when calling it intrinsically evil. Look at the opportunity for penance and fasting that these people can do everyday. Surely they can save many from souls by training their bodies and offering their sore, achy and tiring bodies as penance.

I have an old classmate on Facebook (a woman) who is now a body builder and competes -and posts all her body building pics online. They wear a minimal amount of clothes -as in itsy bitsy bikini and high heels.

Funny thing is she commented on a pic I had of a group of us in junior high school, about how in embarrassing the picture was and how dorky we all looked -which, by the way wasn’t even true. We were just average 14/15 year old kids -its kind of an awkward age -braces and whatnot but normal. I’m thinking how backward is it that she embarrassed by a picture where I think she actually looks very pretty and not by the dozens she posts which leaves very little to the imagination -and to me look rather sleazy.

Working out is one thing -competing, I just don’t see how one could be modest and compete.

I am very heartened by the many very sensible responses to this question. I was expecting ‘righteous’ condemnation. Congraulations folks.

Like it or not, bodybuilding is a sport and as such you have competitions. Every body builder strives their hardest to achieve the best they can. The analogy in the New Testament of how a sportsman strives to do his best is applied to Christians who must also strive for a goal… a much greater goal!

I’ve been working out and doing physical training for years and it is my chief interest. I try to make my body as efficient and also as flexible as possible and have employed a personal trainer for years to make sure that all my training is as professional as possible. You become aware of the importance of the types of food you consume. My main motivation is keeping myself fit for work - heavy duty nursing - and at the age of 60 I can outpace and lift as good as a 30 year old. I rarely feel exhausted at the end of a working day and, thank the Lord, I am rarely sick.

Anyone who does weights, cable and endurance will tell you that it is almost torture most times - you really suffer - and you push yourself as far as your body will safely take you. I offer all the pain to the souls in purgatory.

As for immodesty, well some people are immodest no matter what they do for a living. The other thing is that I don’t know anybody who lusts over bodybuilders or weightlifters… we might admire what they have achieved but lust…err, no.

The obvious question then is ***why ***you want to look bigger, i.e. buff. As a sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment or of vanity?

I guess in order to answer this question I would have to ask a question: I hear a lot of people talking about vanity all the time, but I’ve never really heard a proper definition for it. What IS the difference between wanting to be buff for a sense of self-satisfaction or for vanity, exactly?

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