Bodybuilding is broad, which is why I say bodybuilding is whatever you make of it. Although bodybuilding is a sport in itself, it can also be considered a way of life. You could choose to compete or pave your own path, thus crafting a better version of yourself. Unfortunately, the bodybuilding lifestyle invokes several misconceptions, most of which will be covered in this article.
Overall, bodybuilding is a microcosm of fitness, one that is just a little more detailed. The remainder of this article will provide you with everything you need to know for a basic understanding of bodybuilding.
Upon mentioning bodybuilding, most people think of the 7-time Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger or the aesthetic Frank Zane. Generally the first thing that comes to mind is muscle, and lots of it. Guys like Arnold and Frank Zane would be nothing without frequent hypertrophy training. Hypertrophy training is when you train to build muscle mass, and it is a key component of the bodybuilding lifestyle.
When training to build muscle mass, you generally perform between 8-12 repetitions per set and between 3-4 sets per exercise. You should be using weights that challenge you, but that you could still control for each repetition.
As a rule of thumb, it is always better to start light and focus on engaging your muscles. eventually you will see strength gains.
For compound exercises like the bench press, squat, and deadlift, you might hear to train at a certain percentage of your one rep max. There will be a separate article published about the one rep max and percentage charts, but if you’re a beginner I recommend to focus on learning.
I always suggest a push, pull, legs program where you have the choice of training three or six times each week. Beginning each workout by hitting your compound exercises for 3×5 (3 sets of 5 reps) at 80-85% of your one rep max is a great way to prime your muscles. You then follow this with your 4-5 accessory exercises in the hypertrophy rep range.
Example Of A PPL Hypertrophy Split
Below is a theoretical push pull legs hypertrophy training split. You can use this template as a starting point if you wish. I purposely left the accessory lifts blank because they are based on personal preference, but they should correspond to the day you’re hitting. Furthermore, exercises like the leg press on leg day or core/arms after each workout is up to you. You could also swap squats for leg press, as long as you are doing one or the other.
How you choose to train is completely up to you. However, it’s worth noting that a majority of people living the bodybuilding lifestyle train in a similar fashion. With a PPL split you can ensure that the body is being trained optimally.
A key aspect in bodybuilding is maintaining a lean physique, and this is not possible without eating clean. In my personal opinion, it’s wrong to tell someone they cannot eat certain foods when trying to lose fat. Realistically, you can consume anything you want because it all comes down to your caloric intake.
To lose body fat, you need to be in a caloric deficit. This implies that each day you are burning more calories than you are consuming. Before you start making changes to your nutrition plan, you should calculate your TDEE and BMR. TDEE is total daily energy expenditure, or approximately how many calories you burn each day based on certain factors. BMR is your basal metabolic rate, or the amount of calories you need for your body to function at rest.
There are plenty of calculators to use on the web, or you can do a google search for formulas and do the math yourself. You can click here to use a calculator that I have personally used to get an idea of my TDEE and BMR.
Understanding Your Numbers
The number you receive for your TDEE is essentially the amount of calories you consume to maintain your bodyweight. Although it’s not completely accurate, it’s definitely a good starting point. From this number, you can subtract 500 calories to lose one pound a week, or you can add 500 calories to gain a pound a week. Assuming that your macronutrients are in check, you will only be losing fat or gaining muscle.
There is more information pertaining to these topics in our bodybuilding category, but this information alone will allow you to change your physique drastically. Eating clean is the difference maker between top-tier physiques and your average 18% body-fat gym-goer. If you choose to take the bodybuilding lifestyle seriously, then changing your nutrition is a must.
Stay Natural As Long As You Can
If you follow bodybuilding at all, you’re likely aware that performance enhancing drugs play a huge role in the sport. Unless you are trying to be an IFBB pro, please stay natural. Yes, it will take a long time to reach your natural limit, but your body will thank you.
I strongly believe in natural bodybuilding. Everything I preach on this website can be executed without steroids. Even if you do choose to compete, steroids are not always necessary because there are now drug-tested competitions.
The damage that steroids do to your body is generally permanent. Using steroids irresponsibly can require testosterone replacement therapy for the rest of your life. Although it is definitely a personal decision, I will never advise the administration of steroids to benefit your training.
Closing Remarks - Staying Consistent
If the bodybuilding lifestyle is appealing to you, one thing you must remember is that consistency is key. Rome was not built in a day, and this is the same mindset you should have when training.
If you are new to bodybuilding, it may take a while to see noticeable changes in your physique. Despite this, you should notice results within three to four months of starting a program. If six months have gone past with no gains, you may need to reanalyze your situation and make changes.
There is a saying that it takes 21 days to break or form a habit. Being consistent will help propel you to further success. Soon, you will realize that you are being consistent unintentionally. Living the bodybuilding lifestyle can represent periods of trial and error. However, once you determine what works best for you, you can truly make a difference in your physique.