Bodybuilding is 24/7, period. It's a sport where athletes must utilize cardio and strength training, bulking and cutting. Diet is much more important in bodybuilding than powerlifting. Bodybuilders must come up with a nutrition plan consisting of the right combinations of food, drink, and supplementation.
All this is done to sculpt your body into a physique that holds the most amount of muscle while shedding body fat and water. For the judges, it doesn't end with musculature. You're also being judged on symmetry, vascularity, skin tone, posing, posture, music, and attitude... I could go on and on.
Step One: Goal-Setting & Training Cycle
As in powerlifting, bodybuilding also has a peaking phase. Most bodybuilders use the off season as the bulking phase and attempt to put on as much muscle mass as is humanly possible. During the last eight to twelve weeks before a show, the cutting phase takes place. It is in this cutting phase that the metamorphosis begins to take place. Some bodybuilders change so much in appearance that they sometimes look like different people when they step up on stage.
When I compete as a bodybuilder, what I like to do is eat and train as a powerlifter until the last eight weeks before a bodybuilding contest. Then I start my cardio and circuit training, while cutting my carbohydrate intake. At this time, my training becomes instinctive; I'm constantly changing things up. Our bodies readily adapt to our environment. This means that we need to vary the foods we eat, the supplements we take, and the exercises we do in order to continue seeing results.
I vary my cardio training daily. I also never do cardio over 20 minutes at a time. I make sure that I have at least 48 hours of rest between muscle groups when I weight train. Some days I go heavy and do 10 reps and other days I go light and do 50 reps. It all just depends on how my energy level is on that day.
Step Two: Bodybuilding Diet and Supplements
The bodybuilding diet is mostly composed of high protein, low carbohydrate and low fat intake. What your doing is fooling your body into burning protein as fuel instead of carbohydrates. Like the powerlifting diet, the bodybuilding diet requires that you eat every couple of hours. What's different are the kinds of food you can eat. Most people can't understand how a bodybuilder can constantly eat and still lose body fat.
Because you're restricting the variety of foods that you would normally eat when preparing for a bodybuilding show, it's even more important for bodybuilders to use nutritional supplements. At the top of every list should be a good multivitamin. Again, I use Animal Pak as it contains vitamins and minerals plus a lot of other goodies.
Finally, the trick in bodybuilding is the same as in powerlifting. You have to find the right combination of elements that work for you as an individual. With bodybuilding, experimenting with your diet and training is the key.
Step Three: Rest
Have you noticed that, throughout this article, recuperation is mentioned everywhere? That's because rest and sleep are that important. Without it, your body can't heal. And healing is growing. When we work out with weights, we're breaking down our muscles. In order for them to get bigger and stronger, you need to recuperate.
Most bodybuilders who are getting ready for a contest usually adjust their sleep cycles; they may sleep two or three times a day. Combine this with the types of foods consumed during this time, and you'll notice that your energy levels will come in short bursts throughout the day. Afterward you must rest and re-fuel. Are you beginning to understand why preparing for a bodybuilding contest is 24/7?
Step Four: Contest Prep
Posing suits, posing routines, music, tanning... There's a lot to consider here. Practicing your posing routine is part of your training. You have to go through your mandatory poses each day (you should hit each pose for at least one minute at a time). Some bodybuilders go to great lengths preparing for a show and a lot of work is done outside the gym. Many have their suits specially made. Many others have their posing routines choreographed by professionals.
Some even take gymnastics and dance classes so they will be more balanced during their minute and a half posing routine on stage. Bronze or copper-colored skin tone has been proven to show the musculature under the bright stage lights so many may resort to hours of tanning sessions. Thanks to today's technology, some of this time is eliminated through sunless tanning products.
Step Five: Mental Prep
This step could also be considered a part of your contest prep, except that bodybuilding is a mindset and a way of life. Once you make the decision that you want to compete in bodybuilding, you must be committed 100 percent. You don't go into this sport halfway. It's all or nothing.
Step Six: Discipline
Discipline. This word is an understatement for serious bodybuilders. Even if you don't plan on competing in bodybuilding, but just want to change your way of life, try going through a few of the steps I outlined above. It's not easy. Even so, lifting weights and doing cardio, along with selective eating habits, can dramatically increase the quality of your life.
You can make all the money in the world, but if you don't take care of yourself, you won't live long enough to enjoy it. And whether it's in the gym or outside it, you have to enjoy what you do.
Powerlifting is a sport that involves three lifts: squat, bench, and deadlift. The winner in each weight class is the athlete with the highest total for the three lifts. Over the last 25 years, I've learned through trial and error, that there is much more to this sport than just pushing or pulling a weight up and eating everything in sight.
Step One: Goal-Setting and the Training Cycle
In order to reach a maximum level of strength, start by choosing a date or contest so that you can set a goal for your training. As a general rule, eight to twelve weeks is a good training cycle. The most popular cycle uses a progressive, pyramid-type method. In other words, during the first week of training, you would be doing more reps than sets and by the last week, you would be doing more sets than reps. For example, during the first week, you might do three sets of 10 reps (3 x 10). By the last week, you might be doing five sets of one rep (5 x 1).
During the first part of the training cycle, you will be concentrating on conditioning. You will increase your endurance by doing multiple repetitions with a medium-heavy weight. You should also concentrate on various "assistance exercises" to aid in strengthening the smaller, stabilizing muscles. By the end of your training cycle, you will be handling close to maximum poundage on the three power lifts. When this happens, you will do less assistance work and allow for more recovery time.
Step Two: Powerlifting Diet and Supplements
Dieting has always been misunderstood as another word for starvation. Dieting is nothing more than controlled eating. The weight class you want to compete in will determine the types of foods you can eat. In general, a diet consisting of high protein, high carbohydrates and medium fats is perfect for the strength athlete. Timing and portions are key elements in dieting.
Eating three balanced meals each day might be good for the average person, but if you want to become a competitive athlete, you need more food as fuel to pack on size and to help your body recover from grueling workouts. What I suggest is starting the day by breaking your breakfast down into three or four smaller meals and only eat portions every two or three hours. You should then do the same for lunch and dinner.
By eating more frequently and regularly, you're keeping your body continuously fueled. A steady source of fuel means your body will be able to recover more quickly. Speaking of recovery, I want to mention that there is no magic pill alone that will make you bigger or stronger. There are many nutritional supplements that have been proven to help with strength gains. I use Universal's Animal line of supplement packs. It's what works for me and has for nearly 20 years! Animal is the name I trust.
Step Three: Rest
It wasn't until after I had worked with sleep disorder doctors that I learned just how important a good night's sleep is for recovery, not to mention good health. Several factors play a big role in sleep patterns. A few examples include the types of foods you eat, the times you eat them, your daily activities, and stress levels. Weight can be a factor too.
Heavier individuals have a tendency to snore more from breathing disorders caused by neck muscles relaxing around their windpipes during sleep. Many people suffer from lack of sleep without knowing the reason. If you're continuously feeling sore, achy and fatigued, I suggest seeing a specialist
Step Four: Contest Prep
When preparing for a big lift, you can't ignore the topic of equipment. This is a sticky subject, one that has drawn much debate among powerlifters over the years due to the constant advancement of powerlifting equipment. This equipment includes such items as squat suits, bench shirts, and knee wraps. Regardless of how you feel about this topic, if you're going to use equipment, doesn't it make sense that you should train in the gear you're going to compete in?
I like to train at least eight weeks with the gear I'm going to wear in a meet. This way, I can make any needed adjustments and learn how to use it properly, which in some cases, is a feat in itself.
Step Five: Mental Prep
Here are a couple of tips to help you prepare mentally for your lifts. Write out a schedule of what numbers you want to hit each week as you progress toward a meet. By doing this, you can concentrate on your numbers all day and mentally prepare yourself for that heavy weight. Monitor your daily activities so as not to overexert yourself. When you're doing a heavy lift, form a mental picture of how you want that lift to feel and look before you actually do it. Try to do your first warm-up just like your maximum lifts on the platform.
Finally, have you ever heard that ignorance is a form of strength? If you're having a mental block with a certain number, have someone else load the bar for you. If you don't know what you're lifting, there's nothing to hold you back mentally. Many lifters use this mental trickery all the time, and it works. Remember, while your body is the foundation, it's your mind that allows you to lift the weight!
Step Six: Discipline
While I mention this last, it's the most important. Discipline is the most important aspect of this sport. If you can maintain discipline and follow a planned regimen, you can become a champion in this sport, or any sport.