I started my competitive bodybuilding career at the ripe old age of 13. I started not unlike many of you, basement gym, 1 weight set, little to no knowledge. Granted, the knowledge and information available to you today is MILES ahead of what I had to work with back in 1979. The best we had to go on was what the current issue of Muscle Builder (M&F), Muscle Training Ill. or Ironman had to offer.
I'll give the "old school" crew one thing: They always stressed the importance of developing a good foundation. Much like laying a good, sound and strong "floor plan" for a house, building your physique should be no different. The key lies in your choices of exercises, nutrition, supplementation and recovery.
Exercises - Learn More
The main objective in building a quality physique should start with the "look" you wish to display. If you are planning on being a competitive bodybuilder, then your objective should be in creating as much of a balanced physique as your genetic limitations allow. Many guys I've seen over the years made the mistake of sloughing off when it came time to train the parts they didn't like, or weak points.
Seems counter productive?and it is, but as much as It would seem like common sense to pay special attention to a lagging body part, we've all seen the guy at the gym that elects to wear sweatpants even if it is 98 degrees outside. It's a lot easier to cover the underdeveloped wheels than to display them and hear the ridicule that's sure to come from your buddies. "Last time I seen legs that skinny, there was a message attached to them!" or "You could sue those things for non-support!" you get the idea...
If your not particularly wide, focus your attention on the delts and upper lats. If your legs are up and down, place emphasis on close stance leg movements to target the outer sweep. If your arms are under par, concentrate on hitting the outer biceps. If you have a big neck, your shoulder width will not be as prominent. If your waist were not small naturally, I would suggest limiting your abdominal work, and NEVER train the obliques.
Recovery - Learn More
This is probably the most under rated factor in the quest for muscle. Not much attention was given to recovery in the old days. The old school dictated that you should beat yourself into the ground If you wanted to win. We used a 6 on 1 off schedule training body parts twice a week... three times if it was a weak point. When hunkering down for the final 4 weeks to a show, we would actually add exercises to our routine. What we ended up with as we look back now was a beat up, depleted, overstrained athlete wondering if it was all worth it.
Notice the size difference in today's bodybuilders (Left: Bob Cicherillo) & bodybuilders for the 60's (Right: Dave Draper).
The one thing everyone was forgetting was that it's actually the recovery process that is responsible for your gains, not your training! Let me put it to you this way, nobody ever got big in the gym, you don't build muscle while training, your actually breaking down muscle tissue.
It's thru the recovery process that you build back up all that muscle you tore down in the gym. Over training is just as detrimental as under training and probably more so. Recovery is a two-part process, however, the second part being nutrition.
Nutrition - Learn More
Nutrition is another factor in the recovery of muscle for maximum gains. We certainly knew about carb loading/carb depleting, increasing your protein, etc. BUT, what we didn't pay much attention to was our nutrition in the "off season". In my teenage years, I never dieted. NEVER!
It was my opinion that dieting would only make me smaller, and I was only interested in getting bigger. (Of course, the metabolism of a 13-year-old kid can overcome a lot!) Nonetheless, I can't help but wonder how much BIGGER and STRONGER I could have been if I had the knowledge of eating clean, and eating to GROW.
In see most young guys today still not taking in enough protein. I suggest getting 1-1/2 g. of protein per body pound. Easy math: if you're 180 lbs, take in at least 180 g. of protein per day upwards to 270 g. top ends. Remember, anytime you increase your protein you increase your WATER intake.
Supplementation - Learn More
Lets call it what it really is... steroids, gear, juice, anabolic, roads, etc. I'll start by giving you MY personal profile when I started. As I stated in the first section, even though the guys I grew up with in the gym were old school, and much older than I was. They always stressed the importance of BUILDING A BASE.
Yes, steroids were available, and cheap. They were pretty much a locker room secret, and used only by powerlifters, olympic lifters, football players, and high-end track athletes. It hadn't become fashionable to be used in other sports like tennis, swimming, cycling, etc...
I knew about steroids. I wasn't interested in them for a few reasons. First, I listened to the guys in the gym. They knew a hell of a lot more than I did. Second, I was already beating kids 4-5 years older than me (I won my first show at 15). And didn't see them as necessary. Third, I was scared shit to try them.
I trained from 13-21 before I decided to take the next step. Almost nine years I trained natural. No drugs, no supplements, no dieting. I won over 13 titles; even then it was a huge decision I had to make. I had a conversation with the owner of our gym, Jim Rockell. I knew I could trust Jim to give me the guidance and honesty I was looking for.
I only had two questions:
- Can an athlete make it to the pro ranks without the use of AS?
- Did I have what it takes?
The first question, he answered without hesitation. No!
The second question was a little more difficult to answer and I remember Jim's answer like it was yesterday. "I can't tell you whether or not to get into that? That's a personal decision only YOU can make. I will tell you this... you have built quite a good base over your teenage career, and if anybody's got what it takes, it's you."
I've always remembered that answer from Jim, and always respected him for his guidance from that point, and still do today.
Based on my own experiences as well as numerous other guys I grew up with, competed with and general knowledge I've picked up over the years, it's my opinion that one must build a base naturally for a number of years.
First, the gains you will make are yours to keep. Lean tissue, built up over years of consistent training will stay as long as you do... in the gym.
Secondly, taking AS too early in your career will give you a false sense of what you really have when it comes to REAL muscle.
I've seen too many young guys over the years that came to the gym, started right up on the juice, blew up 25 lbs. and watched as their "physique" disappeared as their supply did likewise.
Third, this is only a personal note, but I never seen the sense in taking anabolic for sh!ts and giggles, just to look big at the bar. If you intend on playing pro ball, becoming a pro BB, or otherwise make your living in a chosen sport, then it's a decision you have to make, but by this time your knowledge and experience will be much greater, hopefully leading you to a safer journey and one you can be proud of.
Bottom Line: Take the time to do things right and build a solid base BEFORE ever being in a position to take it up a notch. You'll thank yourself for the physique you can keep.
A Thirteen-Year, Overnight Sensation To Becoming A Pro!