Since time began, I always had a huge amount of respect for bodybuilders. Despite the controversy and conflict of opinion the sport seemingly naturally entails and attracts, there is little doubt about it: elite-level bodybuilders are unbelievable competitors; prodigiously abnormal to the extent it's either ludicrously impressive or downright disgusting, the sport seems to divide contrast of perspective like no other on the planet. What's evident, however - and is ubiquitously acknowledged by all sane individuals - is that the discipline, work-ethic and motivational capacity to reach such astounding levels of body composition, is phenomenal. It really does take a driven human being to push themselves to what is seemingly an implausibly attainable physique.
With that being said, is that enough to receive the accolade of the 'hardest sport in the world'? While this question will forever differ in regards to an individuals answer based on personal experience and natural bias of opinion, bodybuilding certainly has some aspects that make it a lot tougher than many other's: at the highest level, it's a 24/7 job. (Note: We are referring to elite-level competitors, not just your average joe's or jane's).
Then you go onto the quantity of aspects that have to be managed in order to be successful in bodybuilding: nutritional preparation, very intense training schedules, adequate rest and intense micro-management of opposing, negative influences - all these factors have to be combined with often meticulous anabolic strategies and a slew of drugs (for the non-naturals) and their prospective effect on all the aforementioned principles. Clearly, you have to be a very disciplined, organised individual to succeed at elite level bodybuilding; and like any other top sport, genetics will ultimately provide excellent synergy for those who stay committed to the required attributes.
Sound exhausting? Ask any elite bodybuilder and they'll often tell you it is. To be at the top of your game and compete with the best in the world, you definitely have to sacrifice a lot of social elements in your life. Drinking alcohol? Forget it. A social rendevous at your local pizza place? It's out of the question. It becomes apparent that to reach be an elite level bodybuilder, you have to make major social sacrifices given the imposing social restrictions it can potentially burden you - with unless your only real friendships are other guys who compete in the same sport and follow the same lifestyle.
The flipside of the whole argument, is that while other sports at the elite level can allow you to be a lot loser on the organisational principles in regards to nutrition and drug manipulation to succeed, the training frequency is often a lot more strenuous and generally higher than bodybuilders. Add this to the fact that bodybuilding is inherently really just a battle against your own body (although that proposes a whole new debate altogether on what truly is elite level competitiveness) whilst other sports put you head to head often in a battle of physical and technical prowess and intelligence against another individual, and clearly you'll get some heated debate following.
So, while internally bodybuilders will often believe they are the hardest training competitors, the reality to most other athletes is quite different: just what are they exactly competing against? The most physically gruelling and competitive individual sports all fight against each other physically, mentally and psychologically - can the same truly be said of bodybuilding? Whilst I am merely stirring the pot in this article myself, I would venture to say no, it does not include these factors to anywhere near the extent other sports such as MMA and long-distance running do.
Bodybuilding may well be one of the most difficult, disciplined sports in terms of organisation and quantity of factors managed, but it has some serious convincing to do before it's considered the 'hardest sport in the world' in my opinion.
With that being said, I'm eager to hear your thoughts - so discuss these on our forum here and share your views with our other members!