CrossFit vs. Bodybuilding (Which Is Better?)

May 13, 2023

CrossFit is a high-intensity, functional movement workout regime that challenges the body to adapt and excel across various disciplines. On the other hand, bodybuilding is the art of chiseling the body into a masterpiece through focused and specialized exercises. But which is better?

CrossFit is a sport of functional fitness focusing on high-intensity circuits of various exercises. Bodybuilding focuses on maximizing muscle mass to display on stage. Which is better depends on your training goals.

But these aren’t the only differences between the two sports, and there are plenty of benefits to both to consider.

What Is CrossFit?

CrossFit is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) combining a range of movements from various sports such as Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, Strongman, and gymnastics. These exercises are performed in a high-intensity circuit format with little to no rest.

CrossFit was initially created for first responders and military personnel who require a range of physical qualities like strength, speed, and endurance to perform their job [1].

CrossFit has become a professional sport as the sport has grown, with athletes dedicating their lives to becoming the best at competitive functional fitness.

But the rise in popularity and ease of access has given birth to a strong recreational CrossFit scene where you can participate at your local CrossFit gym.

Benefits Of CrossFit

Can You Do CrossFit And Bodybuilding Together

Learn A Range Of Exercises

CrossFit uses exercises from many sports. In one class, you’ll learn the Olympic lifts (snatch and clean & jerk); in the next class, you’ll be a Strongman carrying heavy kegs. Mixed with these heavy movements are bodyweight skills from gymnastics.

You’ll climb ropes and walk on your hands during the Workout of the Day (WOD), giving you day-to-day training variation. If you suffer from training ADHD, CrossFit is for you.

Improve Endurance

As CrossFit includes HIIT, you’re improving endurance performance and cardiovascular health. Research shows you reach 95-97% of maximum heart rate during popular WODs, similar to high-intensity treadmill running [2].

You get a mix of aerobic and anaerobic conditioning, developing well-rounded endurance capabilities. You’ll be able to go longer and harder with consistent training.

Get Big And Strong

CrossFit classes a typically structured to include time focused on developing strength and size. This is usually at the beginning when you are fresh to learn a new skill and maximize loads being lifted. It could be heavy squats, deadlifts, or Olympic lifts.

Further, many WODs include strength training exercises like pull-ups or kettlebell swings, which will build muscle.

Be Part Of A Community

CrossFit leads to a higher sense of community, satisfaction, and motivation than other exercise activities [2]. You’ll typically see the same group of people regularly attending the same class times, allowing you to build relationships with the people you’re suffering with.

What Is Bodybuilding?

Bodybuilding is the pursuit of building extreme amounts of muscle mass and displaying it on stage with symmetry. Bodybuilders go through cycles of bulking and cutting to do this. Bulking phases are for building muscle, but with this comes fat gain.

Cutting phases for competition involves losing body fat while maintaining as much muscle as possible to be the most defined and muscular on stage.

Bodybuilders will train mainly by isolating muscles to maximize muscular tension. Being strong on compound exercises is not a concern.

Benefits Of Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding vs CrossFit

Maximize Muscular Development

This is what bodybuilding is all about—maximizing muscular development through hypertrophy training. Bodybuilders aren’t concerned with how much they lift. All that matters is how big they can get.

Their training methods reflect that with many machine-based exercises to isolate muscle groups with high volume. Being athletic is also not a concern, and instead, bodybuilders will spend their time perfecting their posing to display their physique to the judges.

Get Lean

At some point during your bodybuilding career, you will have to get lean to show the new muscle you’ve built. Having low body fat is great for your health to a certain point. Getting completely shredded is not great for your health.

However, losing body fat will only benefit you in the long run if you are bodybuilding recreationally.


Bodybuilding is a sport of longevity. Because the training style doesn’t involve lifting very heavy loads and other athletic tasks, this type of training can be performed in older adult phases of life. And building or maintaining muscle mass as you age is vital for overall health.

Learn Discipline

Bodybuilders are the most disciplined strength sports athletes. Outside of the one or two hours in the gym, they must resist dietary temptations as they eat clean, hitting their calorie targets daily. Straying off their diet too often adds too much fat mass, making the cutting phase harder.

CrossFit vs. Bodybuilding: Which Is Better?

Building Muscle

Bodybuilding is superior to CrossFit for building muscle. The entire sport is geared toward this premise. CrossFit is about functional performance over many tasks. Bodybuilding aims to become the most muscular and shredded individual on stage.

Does that mean you won’t build muscle doing CrossFit? No. You can build muscle doing CrossFit, but you’re unlikely to become very muscular without bodybuilding training.

Getting Fit

CrossFit is better for general fitness and endurance. Bodybuilding doesn’t have an endurance component as part of the competition, so cardio is typically restricted to walking to maintain muscle mass without impacting lifting.

CrossFit will have you performing multiple high-intensity circuits in the form of WODs to develop cardiovascular fitness.

Fat Loss

Is CrossFit Good For Bodybuilding

Fat loss is a by-product of consuming fewer calories than you burn. However, what many people don’t consider is to lose weight properly, you must maintain as much muscle mass as possible. To do this, you must lift weights as you build muscle.

Bodybuilding training achieves this. CrossFit does not. Therefore, bodybuilding is a better option purely from a fat loss perspective.

Athletic Development

CrossFit is superior for athletic development than bodybuilding since you spend all your training time learning new movements. You’ll be able to jump over boxes, walk on your hands, and climb ropes repeatedly.

Bodybuilders find these movements difficult since they don’t train them. Further, they are usually heavier since they maximize muscle mass.


CrossFit has injury rates of 0.74 to 3.3 per 1000 hours of participation which is similar to elite Weightlifting [3]. Elite bodybuilders see an injury rate of 0.24 per 1000 hours of participation, making it a far safer activity [4].


CrossFit gyms typically charge >$300 per month to participate in group classes. Bodybuilders can train out of commercial gyms ranging from $10 – 50 per month, making it a much cheaper pursuit.

Space & Equipment

CrossFit and bodybuilding require a large space and plenty of equipment. CrossFitters need a rack, barbell, bumper plates, dumbbells, kettlebells, pull-up bar, and cardio equipment. Bodybuilders often replace these with machines for different body parts.

However, both sports can be done with minimal equipment, such as a barbell and plates. It just takes a little creativity to make the most of not having much.

Can You Do CrossFit And Bodybuilding Together?

You can do CrossFit and bodybuilding together, but you won’t do either effectively. Instead, you can use bodybuilding style training to build muscle for CrossFit. This way, it’s a complementary part of training, not a separate sport.

Trying to train enough to compete well in CrossFit and doing the same for bodybuilding will leave you burnt out and making no progress.

Is CrossFit Good For Bodybuilding?

CrossFit is not suitable for bodybuilding. If you aim to step on stage extremely muscular, you should not do CrossFit. Eating more food cannot make up for the energy it takes away from your bodybuilding training.

For cardio, you should be walking to minimize stress and have more energy for lifting.


CrossFit and bodybuilding are almost two polar opposite training styles. CrossFit focuses on high-intensity circuits with performance and movement as its priority. Bodybuilding focuses on building muscle with aesthetics and being as big as possible as it’s priority.

Bodybuilding style training can complement CrossFit, but CrossFit doesn’t complement bodybuilding. So make your choice based on which you enjoy most!


1. Meyer, J., Morrison, J., & Zuniga, J. (2017). The benefits and risks of CrossFit: a systematic review. Workplace health & safety65(12), 612-618.

2. Claudino, J. G., Gabbett, T. J., Bourgeois, F., Souza, H. D. S., Miranda, R. C., Mezêncio, B., … & Serrão, J. C. (2018). CrossFit overview: systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports medicine-open, 4(1), 1-14.

3. Wagener, S., Hoppe, M. W., Hotfiel, T., Engelhardt, M., Javanmardi, S., Baumgart, C., & Freiwald, J. (2020). CrossFit®–development, benefits, and risks. Sports Orthopaedics and Traumatology36(3), 241-249.

4. Siewe, J., Marx, G., Knöll, P., Eysel, P., Zarghooni, K., Graf, M., … & Michael, J. (2014). Injuries and overuse syndromes in competitive and elite bodybuilding. International Journal of sports medicine35(11), 943-948.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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