If you want to become a bodybuilder, or just want to pack on some serious muscle tissue, there are some things which cannot be ignored. These are the core fundamentals (the 10 commandments if you like) that are set in stone…
10 Golden Rules of Bodybuilding
1. Progressive Overload
In order to build muscle you MUST get stronger. If you look at some of the best bodybuilders over the last 30-40 years: Kia Greene, Phil Heath, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzenegger – they were all freakishly strong. In order to get bigger, get stronger.
In order to build muscle you have to consume the perfect amount of protein, carbs and fats. Too many calories and you’ll gain fat, too little calories and you won’t build muscle. As a general rule of thumb it’s best to consume high protein and high carbs on training days, and then high protein and higher fat on rest days. Protocols like carb cycling are really important when it comes to building muscle.
Supplements are only a small part of the puzzle BUT an important part none the less. Protein shakes can be a great way to increase your protein intake. Other supplements such as creatine are hugely beneficial for bodybuilders in order to gain strength and speed up recovery.
Arguably one of the most important fundamentals. You need protein to build muscle. Foods like chicken, turkey, steak, eggs, cod, salmon, tuna, etc all contain around 20g of protein per 100g. Most bodybuilders will eat at least 200g of protein per day – that’s around 1kg of meat/fish per day (although their diet is often supplemented with shakes).
Go hard or go home. You need to push yourself hard in the gym. It’s not a natural thing for the body to keep building muscle; you have to force an adaptation, and the harder you train, the bigger your muscles will grow. It’s about taking sets to failure and giving 110% in every workout.
Nutrition, sleep, massages, foam rolling, stretching – can all play an extremely important role in bodybuilding. Yes you need to train hard, BUT you also need to recover, so that you can keep training hard. The most important recovery strategies that all bodybuilders should aim for are: 8 hours of sleep per night, and good nutrition (no alcohol, enough calories, enough protein, minimal junk food).
It’s extremely important to log your workouts. Many of the pros are aware of what weights they lifted in their previous session – with the aim of beating it in their following workout. You need to keep a lifting journal – so that you ensure that you’re progressing. When your strength plateaus (which it will) you can then reassess and look for ways to progress forward. You should always track your workouts.
8. Mind-Muscle Connection
Bodybuilding involves getting muscles to swell up with fluid (known as the pump) and creating metabolic damage. Thus top bodybuilders are great at isolating individual muscle groups, helping to achieve a better contraction and pump. This is called ‘mind to muscle connection’ – it’s something Kia Greene always talks about. It’s not always about the amount of weight lifted BUT how you lift it.
Whilst the most successful bodybuilding training programs all contain similar exercises i.e. deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups, military press, barbell row, etc, etc – it’s important to rotate your training cycles – to prevent burnout and to give your muscle(s) a new stimulus. Most bodybuilders will change their routine slightly at least every 8-12 weeks. This is also what’s known as ‘shocking’ your muscles into growth.
To be an elite bodybuilder you need a coach. Pretty much all of the top pros have coaches. Whether that’s a personal training bodybuilding coach, or a nutritionist, or a posing coach (or all 3!)… they all have extra support to help them win that 1st place trophy. If you want to build muscle hire an expert, you’ll get there in a fraction of the time it takes compared to going it alone. I would choose working smart over working hard every time.