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Men, muscles, and body image: comparisons of competitive bodybuilders, weight trainers, and athletically active controls
  1. T C Pickett1,
  2. R J Lewis2,
  3. T F Cash2
  1. 1The Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, Virginia Beach, VA, USA
  2. 2Old Dominion University/The Virginia Consortium Program in Clinical Psychology, Norfolk, VA, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Pickett
 Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, McGuire VA Medical Center, 1201 Broad Rock Blvd, Richmond, VA 23249, USA;


Objectives: To investigate body image and psychosocial adjustment among competitive bodybuilders, non-competitive weight trainers, and athletically active men.

Methods: Participants were 40 men in each of the three groups who were assessed on body composition and multiple facets of body image evaluation, investment and anxiety, eating attitudes, and social self esteem.

Results: Relative to the other two groups, competitive bodybuilders had greater body mass due to fat-free body mass. Although groups did not differ in their situational body image discomfort, competitive bodybuilders and weight trainers had a more positive global appearance evaluation and were more psychologically invested in their physical appearance. Compared with active controls, men in both weightlifting groups were more satisfied with their upper torso and muscle tone. Competitive bodybuilders reported more mid torso satisfaction than the other two groups. Competitive bodybuilders also wished to be significantly heavier than controls did and reported higher social self esteem but greater eating disturbance.

Conclusions: The findings suggest that competitive bodybuilders as a group are not more “muscle dysmorphic” than either non-competitive weight trainers or physically active men who do not train with weights.

  • BASS, body areas satisfaction scale
  • EAT, eating attitudes test
  • FFMI, fat-free mass index
  • MBSRQ, multidimensional body self relations questionnaire
  • SPAS, social physique anxiety scale
  • SUDS, subjective units of distress scale
  • TSBI, Texas social behaviour inventory
  • body image
  • bodybuilding
  • muscularity
  • weightlifting

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  • Competing interests: none declared