The Role of Bodybuilding in the Transformation of Grief

Grief is a universal human experience associated with loss and bereavement. The price we pay for love. The symptomology of grief closely resembles depression, and they frequently co-occur. Exercise is considered an effective intervention used in the treatment of depression and in the promotion of positive mental health but its use can also go to extremes. Bodybuilding might be considered one such extreme where the goal is to develop musculature beyond functionality and for aesthetic merit. In men, the bodybuilding process is of interest as it is an example of very challenging external self-development and growth, but has not yet been explored in the context of potentially being a process of internal self- development and one of transforming grief. In order to understand more about male bodybuilders and the potential relationship between bodybuilding and grief, the present work explores coping with and transforming grief in male bodybuilders. The aims were to explore male bodybuilders’ lived experiences and perceptions in order to better understand the psychology involved and better inform health interventions. A qualitative approach has been taken with eight participants using semi structured interviews. The thematic analysis provided the following superordinate themes: Precipitating factors, coping mechanisms, developing self, health and wellbeing and psychosocial influences. Within each theme sat smaller themes which begin to tell the story of these male bodybuilders’ motivations. Wide ranging, from simple enjoyment to more complex accounts of using bodybuilding as a means of managing the difficulties of daily life, including grief. It is concluded that male bodybuilders’ motivations are varied, complex and personal and that interventions must be tailored as such. The current work begins to give male bodybuilders an academic voice and highlights the need for further research.

Foster, Emma (2019) The Role of Bodybuilding in the Transformation of Grief. Masters thesis, University of Gloucestershire


Leave a Comment