1 - Self Evaluation
First you need to do a brutally honest evaluation of yourself in order to find your weaknesses and what you want to change or improve on. As stupid as it sounds, stand in front of a full-length mirror and analyze. Do you want
Make sure it's a realistic and attainable goal - something that can be achieved in a year's time. Write these long-term goals down in order of priority or importance.
2 - Baseline Measurements & External Evaluation
You can't know where you're going until you know where you are coming from. With that said, get baseline body measurements by soliciting a trainer at your gym or at a local University. These should include girth measurements at various locations on your body preferably with a tape measure with a tension spring. Record your bodyweight with a balanced and trusted scale wearing as little clothing as possible.
Also have your bodyfat percentage tested by a trained and competent professional using either skinfold calipers or underwater weighing. These girth, bodyfat, and bodyweight measurements should be taken all at once. Make sure the date as well as the time of day is recorded.
It's also a good idea to have someone take photographs of you against a solid colored wall while wearing shorts short enough to show your thighs (if you're not shy you may want to consider wearing bodybuilding trunks). If you have a body part(s) that you really want to change you may want to zoom up and focus on that area for a few shots.
Take photos of you relaxed from front, back, and sides as well as some flexing poses from different angles and that focus on the areas you want to change. Ideally you should take these photos the same day that you have your body composition measurements done. You can store these photos and all other baseline information on your computer's C drive for easy access.
But be sure to have the dated hard copies or the pictures and information backed up to a disc and stored in a safe and unforgettable place. The pictures and body composition information may also help you with setting your long-term goals - you may find that your bodyfat percentage is higher than you thought or see areas that need improvement that you didn't notice standing in front of the mirror.
If you are considering competing in a bodybuilding show or you are simply looking to have a more symmetrical and aesthetic physique like a bodybuilder, then I would recommend you find a bodybuilder at your gym (who's physique you feel is well-proportioned) or a trainer (who has bodybuilding experience) and have them look at you and give an honest opinion of what areas of your body need work.
You shouldn't ask friends that are bodybuilders unless they can be brutally honest with you and tell you how it is straight up.
3 - Setting Short-term Goals
Now that you have established your long-term goals. You need to devise clear, well-defined, realistic, and dated short-term goals that will lead to that long-term goal. Without setting periodic short-term goals you are setting yourself up for long-term failure.
For instance, a long-term goal of "I want to be 10% body fat" might have a short-term goal of "I want to lose 2 percent bodyfat by February 13th".
If you did achieve your goal, great. Reward yourself and then set another short-term goal that will lead you on your way to your ultimate goal. Think of short-term goals as steps on a staircase and the long-term goal being the top step - each accomplishment of a short-term goal gets you that much closer to your long-term goal.
Often times, (especially bodybuilders constantly wanting to improve their physique and take it to the next level) once you get to that top step you may find that there is another flight of stairs that you want to climb or another long-term goal you want to achieve.
If you didn't achieve your short-term goal find out what it was that prevented you from doing so and correct it. In this case, did you slack off on your cardio, did you lose focus after a few weeks, was your diet lackluster, did you go out partying with your friends too often, was your fitness program not designed correctly, did you get sick, etc. Do whatever necessary to avoid or correct whatever your problem was.
Write down your short-term goals in addition to your long-term goals. You may want to date your short-term goals on a calendar, and hang the calendar in plain view somewhere so as to constantly remind you. You may also want to record information for each days workout on the calendar.
For instance if you are trying to lose body fat, you may want to record how many calories you approximately burned doing cardio each day knowing that a pound of bodyfat equals 3500 calories.
Use our calorie calculator! Click here!
4 - Make Steps Toward Short-term Goals a Priority
The baby steps needed to accomplish your short-term goals need to be made a priority. Weaknesses require priority and to not be put on the back burner or as an afterthought. Is what you are doing conductive to achieving your goals, if not change it so it is?
That means that if your legs are your weak point and it's leg day don't blow it off to bench press or do some hammer curls - in fact maybe you should train legs twice per week if they are a priority.
If your looking for that all-elusive six-pack, instead of scheduling your abdominal training for after your workouts and then possibly blowing it off because you are too tired, you should do abdominals first thing when you are fresh and so you have no choice but to do them.
Schedule cardio-only workouts to strip off the fat covering your abdominals so that it doesn't get blown off after a workout as well.
Don't set yourself up for procrastination and the failure that ensues. Take care of business first and don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today! Find some enjoyment in things that you may not particularly enjoy.
I don't particularly enjoy training legs and they can be easy for me to blow off, but I just remind myself how glorious that pump in my quads, hams, and glutes is going to feel by the end of the workout, how I can get it over with and not have to worry about it for another 6-7 days, how much strong and muscular gluteals and legs will compliment my physique and long term-goals, as well as attract attention from the opposite sex. Women can be good motivators!
5 - Tips for Adherence
Write reminders to yourself and hang pictures on a calendar to inspire you to work harder and to stick with your program. Put them on the fridge, cupboards, as wallpaper on your computer, on your cell phone, near your weights or cardio machine if you workout at home, etc.
This will inspire you, keep you focused, and remind you why you are working so hard, what you are working toward, and what the reward(s) will be.
6 - Reward Yourself
Avoid burnout by rewarding yourself. Bodybuilding is hard work and a lifestyle but it should also be fun. Don't neglect your social or emotional health - everything in moderation. Don't get too overzealous and kill yourself in the process of achieving your goals.
In some instances less is more. Have a light workout day or give yourself a cheat day. Or maybe even have one cheat meal per day if you are eating relatively clean at least 5 times per day, as you should be. Whatever works for you.
7 - Reassess Your Baseline Measuremets and Your Goals
Have periodic body composition measurements as well as photos taken regularly to assess your progress and reassess your goals. When re-testing, try to have the same tester and at the same time of day in order to keep the variables to a minimum and the results as accurate as possible.
After re-testing, maybe your goals will change. Maybe your original goal was to gain weight and in the process you've gained a little too much extra bodyfat and now you want to lose weight (bodyfat). Repeat the goal setting steps.
Following these steps will help you to achieve your goals as well as set you up to be a bodybuilding success. START WRITING DOWN YOUR GOALS RIGHT NOW!