How to Become a Bodybuilder

So you want to be a bodybuilder! Good choice – their is no other sport that has the potential to improve your body from head to toe so dramatically. At the same time, it will make you far healthier on the inside. But it will only do those things if you do it right.

In this article, we provide a blueprint to becoming a bodybuilder the right way.

OK, let’s get started. . .

Warning: The content on and the information included in this article is intended for entertainment and informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Prior to buying anything, check that it is compliant where you live with your current government laws. We frequently mention research chemicals that are not made for human consumption. Therefore, before purchasing any product for personal use, consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first.

The Starting Point

 The first step on your muscle building journey involves taking stock of where you’re at right now. It’s a bit like those pre-tests that you used to take at school. You want to find out the following:

  •     Your raw weight
  •     Your lean body mass
  •     Your body fat percentage
  •     Your key bodily measurements (chest, waist, upper arms, thighs, calves)

 You will want to get hold of a good set of scales. Ideally your scales will have a built-in body-fat function. If not, get yourself a set of body fat calipers and follow the instructions on how to use them. If you are planning on joining a gym, you can expect a fully body analysis and fitness test on your first session. So, whatever way you accomplish it, you will need to find your body fat percentage.

 Once you have your overall weight and body-fat percentage you will be able to calculate your lean body mass. Simply multiply the overall weight by the body-fat percentage. Then subtract the fat amount from the total weight to get your lean body mass.

Here’s an example:

  • Raw weight =165 lbs
  • Body-fat percentage = 18%
  • Actual Body-fat = 29.7 lbs
  • Lean Body Mass = 135.3 lbs 

Now you know exactly where you’re starting from. You’re in a position to monitor every ounce of muscle gain – as well as how much fat you’re losing.

 Next, you’ll need a decent tape measure with which you can take your key muscle measurements. Take the measurements around the mid part of the muscle and be as accurate as possible.

Machines or Free Weights

In your local gym, you will find a mixture of free weights (barbells and dumbbells) and weight machines. When you use a machine for an exercise it helps you to follow the ideal exercise path more closely than when you use free weights. On the other hand, machines are not as multi-functional as free weights. The frame of the machine doesn’t allow for ideal exercise position for all body types. Nor does it promote functional strength. In addition, machines cannot provide anything but an approximate match between a person’s strength curves and the machine’s resistance curves.

Work-Out Recommendations

  •     Use machines for the first 6 weeks of your training in order to learn how to perform the movement
  •     After that, opt for free weights for your basic movements like squats, bench press and deadlifts
  •     Use machines and cables as secondary movements to provide isolation of the working muscle

 Meet Your Body

Successful physical transformation is all about knowing your body and how to build, shape and refine every part of it. To do that you’ve got to be familiar with your muscles. The difference between a bodybuilder and a guy who lifts weights is that the bodybuilder systematically works every muscle group int heir body. 

In this section, we’ll provide an overview of the key skeletal muscles that you will be working with, from front to back.

Front of Body

  • Shoulders (Deltoids): A three headed muscle that features anterior, middle and posterior portions. The shoulders are involved in every upper body movement as they perform the actions of abduction and adduction (pulling the arms away from and toward the body). The deltoids are also capable of rotation.
  • Chest (Pectorals): Two muscle groups comprise the chest – the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. These muscles perform adduction (pushing the away from the body) as well as medial rotation.
  • Biceps Brachii: There are two heads to the biceps, the long head and the short head. It is able to perform two function – flexion at the elbow and supination at the elbow. The Brachialis is a small muscle that runs from the ulna to the elbow. It assists with elbow flexion.
  • Forearm (Brachioradialis): The forearm’s key function is elbow flexion.
  • Abdominals (Rectus Abdominis): The abdominals consist of the rectus abdominis, the external obliques and the internal obliques. The rectus abdominis is involved in flexion of the trunk. The external obliques allow for lateral flexion of the trunk as do the external obliques.
  • Thighs (Quadriceps): The rectus femoris runs along the mid-thigh area. It performs flexion and extension. The vastus muscles run on either side of the femoris and perform extension of the leg. The adductors are situated close to the hip joint and allow for adduction, lateral rotator flexion and medial rotation.
  • Calves: The Gastrocnemius forms the main part of the calf muscle. Its job is to allow for flexion at the ankle. The soleus muscles run below the gastrocnemius on either side of the lower leg. It assists in ankle flexion.

Back of Body

  • Trapezius: The trapezius runs between the neck and the shoulders, all the way down to the lower spine. It allows for upper elevation of the scapula, as well as adduction and depression of the scapula.
  • Lats (Latissimus Dorsi): The lats have their origin at the lower four ribs and insert on the medial side of the humerus. This muscle provides the much sought after “V” shape to the upper body. It provides for extension, adduction and medial rotation.
  • Middle Back (Rhomboids): The Rhomboids have their origin at the spine and insert at the scapula. Their function is adduction of the scapula.
  • Lower Back (Lower Trapezius): The lower trapezius allows for depression of the scapula.
  • Glutes: The gluteus maximus, medius and minimus provide for extension, lateral rotation and abduction of the lower body.
  • Hamstrings: The hamstrings are comprised of the rectus femoris, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus muscles. They provide for extension and flexion of the upper leg.

Muscle Building Nutrition 

When it comes to making changes to the way your body looks, nutrition is almost everything. The reason is simple; it is because we are the product of what we eat. Our food provides the building blocks to create either fat or muscle. It doesn’t matter how hard we train or what exercises we do; unless we are fueling our body for the addition of lean muscle tissue, we will not succeed.

The Macronutrients 

Your food is made up of both macro (big) and micro (small) nutrients. The 3 macronutrients are:

  •     Protein
  •     Carbohydrate
  •     Fat

Each macronutrient contains calories, which is a simply of measure of energy. Proteins and carbohydrates contain 4 calories per gram, while fat contains 9 calories per gram.

You need all three macronutrients. However, when it comes to adding lean muscle tissue to your body, protein is the most important. That’s because the amino acids that protein is made of are the construction material that muscle tissue is made of. If you are not getting enough protein through the foods you eat, your body will struggle to repair and rebuild the muscle tissue damage that has been caused by your training.

Aim for the following macronutrient ratio:

  •     50% carbohydrates
  •     30% proteins
  •     20% fats 

To be able to build muscle, you need to be in what is called an anabolic state. To get in and stay in that state, you should be consuming a quality source of protein every three hours.

The best sources of lean protein are

  •     Eggs
  •     Chicken
  •     Salmon
  •     Tuna
  •     Grass-fed Beef.

Fats & Carbs Are Important, Too

Fats and carbohydrates are also essential for muscle building. When it comes to fats, you need a plentiful supply of the Omega fatty acids, especially Omega 9 and Omega 3. Here are some great sources . . . 

  •     Avocado
  •     Almonds
  •     Coconut Oil
  •     Olive Oil
  •     Grass Fed Butter
  •     Wild Caught Salmon

Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of fuel. You need them to power your way through your workouts. While you should avoid simple, sugar filled carbs, it is important to get a plentiful supply of complex starchy carbs, fruits and green leafy vegetables. The following carb sources should be prominent in your diet:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Brown or Wild Jasmine Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Bananas
  • Mangoes
  • Apples

Pre-Workout Nutrition

An hour and a half before your workout your schedule have a whole food meal that consists of fast digesting lean protein and a medium release carb source to provide a steady release of energy throughout your workout. Avoid anything that will give you a quick energy rush (such as sugar loaded foods or too much caffeine (more than 300 mg).

Sample pre-workout meal:

  •     Grilled tuna – 200 grams
  •     Sweet Potato – 1 x medium
  •     Avocado – 1/3rd

Post- Workout Nutrition 

After your workout, your body is in need of two things:

  •     Carbohydrates to replace the glycogen used up during your training
  •     Protein to repair the muscle tears that have occurred during the workout

The most immediate need is for carbs. Immediately after your workout is the one time of the day that you can safely eat a small portion of simple carbs to restore those glycogen levels. This could be a few Gummy bears or a slice of apple pie. Just keep it small and make sure that you have earned the right to down these sugary treats.

Sample Daily Menu

  • BREAKFAST: 7:30 A.M. 3 eggs; ¼- to ½-pound beef patty; 2 pieces buttered toast; 2 glasses milk 
  • MIDMORNING SNACK: 10:00 A.M. half sandwich, meat; 1 hard-boiled egg; 1 glass milk 
  • LUNCH: 12:30 P.M. 1 meat sandwich; 1 cheese sandwich; 2 glasses milk; fruit 
  • MIDAFTERNOON SNACK: 3:00 P.M. 1 hard-boiled egg; 3 slices cheese; 2 glasses milk 
  • SUPPER: 6:00 P.M. ½ to ¾ pound ground beef; baked potato with butter; salad; vegetable (corn, beans, peas, etc.); 2 glasses milk 
  • BEDTIME SNACK: 9:00 P.M. Protein drink: 2 glasses milk, ½ cup nonfat milk solids, one egg, ½ cup ice cream. Mix in a blender. 

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The Next Step: Customization 

The above program will move you from beginner to seasoned weight trainer. Use it during the first 12 weeks of your training. By the end of that 3 months you will have totally transformed your physique. You will also become a lot stronger and your cardiovascular fitness level will soar. You will also have built and delineated the outer muscles of your body.

You will now be ready to take your training to the next level.

The key difference in your program will be that, rather than training the body in two halves (upper and lower) you will be training just two body-parts in a single workout, apart from legs which will involve 3 body-parts. The following combinations work well together:

  • Chest and Triceps
  • Back and Biceps
  • Thighs, Hamstrings and Calves

Intermediate Training Tips:

  •   Always work the largest muscle group first (chest, back, thighs)
  •     You should spend about 20 minutes training the large muscle group (3-4 exercises, 2-3 sets of each)
  •     You should spend about 15 minutes training the smaller body-part (2-3 exercises, 2-3 sets each)
  •     Vary your rep range between 4 and 12
  •     Keep your rest between sets at about one minute
  •     Drink water and / or a protein shake with added creatine during the workout
  •     Train each body-part twice per week, ensuring that you leave 48 hours between each session.
  •     Make compound exercises (Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Press, Bent Over Rows) the foundation of your training.
  •     Use dumbbells as much as possible to promote balanced development and to recruit stabilizer muscles.

5 Intensity Techniques

Partial Reps

Partial reps are just what they sound like. They involve finishing off an exercise by doing only a part of the full range of motion associated with that exercise.

For example, suppose you’re doing dips. When you reach the point at which you would normally not be able to press yourself up to the starting position if you went down all the way, you would squeeze out a few more reps just going down part way.

Giant Sets

A giant set is three or more exercises for the same body part performed back-to-back without rest. This is an incredibly intense form of exercise. Often the three or more exercises address different segments of the target muscle group. 


Pyramiding involves doing a series of sets, increasing the weight and decreasing the number of reps in each successive set. This technique is most applicable to compound movements that enhance functional strength. It’s most effective if performed with a partner providing forced reps.


In any exercise, any muscle can act as prime mover – the target of the movement – synergist or stabilizer. The goal is to tire the prime mover before the synergists give out. This can be difficult in some exercises. In the bench press, for example, the prime mover is the pectoral muscle group. The synergists are the triceps and the anterior deltoids. These smaller muscles are smaller and weaker than the pectorals. They are weak links and are likely to fail before the pectorals have received optimal stimulation. This is not very efficient.

The solution? Start by doing an exercise that tires the prime mover without tiring the synergists. Then immediately move to the main exercise. The prime mover will be pre-exhausted, making it temporarily weaker than the synergists. This allows the prime mover to get the full benefit of the movement without being short changed by the failure of the synergists. Here’s an example of pre-exhaustion in action:

Your prime mover is the pectorals, with the exercise being the bench press. The synergists are the anterior deltoids and the triceps. In order to pre-exhaust the chest, do a set of flyes on the bench press bench, going for 12 slow reps. Focus on isolating and stretching the pecs in the bottom position and squeezing them at the top. Immediately after your last rep, drop the dumbbells, and lie back down on the bench. Grasp the bar and move straight into your bench press. You’ll immediately notice that the pecs are taking more of the workload. That’s because you have temporarily made them the weak link.

Pre-exhaustion training will require that you drop the weight on your bench press. You won’t be able to lift as much, but your pecs will working a lot harder.

Descending Sets

Descending sets involves doing four to six sets of an exercise with no rest. The normal rep range is between 6 and 8. On each succeeding set you reduce the weight slightly. The easiest way to perform descending sets is by standing in front of a rack of dumbbells. Start with the heaviest weight that you can handle for 6 reps. Grasp the weights and perform your 6 strict reps. Now place the weights back in the rack and grasp hold of the next set going down the rack. Perform another six reps. Keep working down the rack until you have completed your required number of sets.

Descending (or strip) sets can also be performed with a barbell. Ideally, you’ll need two spotters. If you are doing the bench press, start with a weight that will allow you to eek out 6 reps. Then rack the bar as your partners strip 5 pounds off each end of the bar. Now pump out another six reps. Continue this process, going down in gradations of 5 pounds each time.

From now on you will change your routine every 6 weeks. By following the principles presented in this article, you will be able to design your own training programs designed to get you closer and closer to that ideal physique.

Final Word

Congratulations, you now have a complete template that will allow you to create a bodybuilder’s physique. You have discovered how to eat to support your body transformation efforts and supply the energy that you need to power your workouts. You’ve also learned the exact moves you need to take in the gym in order to optimally target your muscles to stimulate the muscle growth response.

Of course, learning how to create a new body is not enough. Now that you’ve taken in the knowledge, it’s time to put that knowledge into action. So, go grab a calendar and mark next Monday as the first day of your bodybuilding lifestyle. Then circle the four days of your workouts for the next six weeks and then put the calendar on your fridge door. After every workout, use a marker to cross it off as you daily make progress toward your body transformation goal.

Spend the rest of this week restocking your fridge and pantry in order to fuel your path to success. 

Then, get yourself psyched, schedule your workout times and get ready to get serious about creating the new you!

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Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen | Writer

Steve Theunissen is a seasoned fitness professional with 25+ years of experience. He has multiple certifications from the International Sports Sciences Association, including Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Certification, and Strength and Conditioning Certification. He's a knowledgeable and experienced bodybuilding coach, combining his passion for fitness with his writing skills to educate and inspire. Whether starting out or looking to take training to the next level, Steve Theunissen is the ideal coach to help reach fitness goals.

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