What Does It Take To Become A Bodybuilder?
You have more to learn than you think!
Competing in a bodybuilding show has perhaps become the new cool thing to do. From my experience, this is a common trend with the new kids on the block: you sign up for a gym membership, lift some weights, guzzle down a protein shake, and behold, over the coming first few months of your weight training endeavors, you begin to notice some pretty startling and rapid changes to your physique. This might spark some feeling of invincibility within you. Changes like becoming bigger and fuller, the unravelling of hidden vascularity, as well as the emergence of visible lines that brings out muscle detail you only thought was possible in your wildest superhero-like dreams. Once you experience these changes, it’s really not a surprise that many develop the deep desire and curiosity to take things much further and see how far they can truly push the boundaries of what their body is capable of.
Ok, well here is the problem, these changes the new guys experience are nothing more than what I like to call ‘beginner gains’ or, the honeymoon period of weight training. It happens all the time! If you have never utilized any form of weight training before, your body undergoes an intense amount of stress and the only way to successfully survive and overcome it, so you don’t die of course, is to rapidly adapt. So really, these sudden superhuman- like changes you observe and become excited about in the first months of your training is nothing more than your body simply doing what its biologically been programmed to do: ‘adapt to survive’. But here is the kicker, whatever you do, no matter how optimal or sub-par your training and nutrition is, your body will always change with lighting speeds the first months of stepping into the gym. Why am I telling you this? Well the point is, too many people get hooked on these initial changes and see them as clarification for being ready to take it to the next level and compete in a bodybuilding show. Let me tell you now, if you see it this way, this is a recipe for disaster and disappointment. While you might have made some great changes in the first few months of training, you have to realize you still have so much more to learn, training and nutrition-wise, before committing to the stage. Too many people fall into this ‘beginners trap’ jumping the gun and ultimately crash and burn far before ever reaching the stage. Let’s avoid this!
Making it to the stage requires a lot more than simply lifting weights and eating protein. It requires a huge amount of knowledge, and not just about nutrition and training, but also about your own body and how it changes and responds with time. If you want to present your best possible physique on stage, you have to spend a lot of time (think years, not months!) refining and developing your craft: accumulating knowledge and seeing what works and what doesn’t. Of course, this also depends on your genetics and general fitness level before you start. Still, for most of you, ‘time to learn’ is going to be your best asset to become successful in this game.
Know Your Training and Nutrition Inside-Out!
Being on stage means presenting your best physique: one with plenty of muscle to show, pleasing separation and, low levels of body fat to display that well-earned muscle. To achieve this, knowing your training and nutrition inside-out is an absolute must. You can’t just wing this! Like I mentioned, building muscle is more than lifting weights, there actually needs to be a method to it. To build maximum amounts of muscle, then lifting weights with the purpose of increasing your total volume over time (reps x sets x weight) is going to your golden ticket to the stage. Today, the science is undisputed. More reps, weight and sets over time, is going to be the primary driver of muscle growth. Like the eight-time My Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman said ‘‘everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but no one wanna lift heavy-ass weights’’. Let’s just say Ronnie had the right idea here: lift heavy and lift a lot. If you want muscle, then that is what you have got to do.
Building muscle is great, but you can’t step on stage if you can’t see it! Getting down to those low levels of bodyfat is going to take a high level of nutritional precision. No room for error here! That is; track, track, track and guess what? More tracking! Get your weighing scales at the ready. Know your daily calorie requirements and how much you are putting into your body. Although you don’t have to be a whizz kid of physics to be successful on stage, it does help to know that eating less will be required to lose fat. Guessing will simply be like trying to ride a dead horse: you won’t go anywhere, and you won’t see any physical changes! Lastly, don’t forget the types of calories you are consuming: carbohydrates, fats and proteins (macronutrients). Again, you don’t have to argue with science here, it is clear cut: for maximum muscle growth and retention you want to typically aim for a daily protein intake of approx. 1.6-2.2g/kg bodyweight. Once your protein is set, then you can adjust and fill your remaining carbohydrate and fat intake calories to your required daily calorie intake. Fats will optimize your muscle building hormones and carbohydrates will provide the fuel that is going to push you through those grueling workouts. There is no one size fits all, but take my advice, get everything in for optimal progress! Competing is already demanding enough without cutting out whole macronutrients. Don’t do this!
Mental toughness makes the champion
Getting to the stage is no easy task. If it was, everyone would do it. Forget about all the smiling faces on social media, let’s stick with reality for a second. Not only is competing physically taxing, it can also be mentally draining. When you are in prep mode, everything becomes about the competition. Everything that you do, how you train and everything that you eat, your mind will always be weighing in on all of this and how it is all going to influence those 90 seconds on stage. Trust me, this gets very tiring by the end! Even the most experienced and knowledgeable bodybuilders will experience mental deep points. But the most successful competitors are able to accept that this is all part of competing. They don’t go into competing thinking it’s all smiles and happy faces like on social media. They keep the perspective real and by knowing what might come, helps them better prepare for any mental pressures coming their way. Those that quit half way, do so because they simply do not prepare for the oncoming mental pressures.
Article written by Stephen Moreton