Let's face it, as a bodybuilder, it's a fact that you will need to have certain things to reach your goals. You know that weights, for example, are a necessity and you just can't get there without 'em.
However, there are a few very important essentials of bodybuilding that are often left out of the picture, more frequently by beginners. So my goal in this article is to hit the major ones that are absolutely critical for your success as a bodybuilder.
This is probably the most common, while at the same time it is easily the most important. You are what you eat, it's as simple as that. I'm pretty sure that almost anyone that is reading this has heard this adage before, but most people don't seem to believe it's true, or at least it doesn't seem like they do. A lot of bodybuilders, particularly young ones, seem to think that as long as they workout like a monster and eat until they're full, they'll get big.
They eat a huge bowl of pasta one meal, and another meal might be a couple of hamburgers. Or they'll eat like crazy one day, and then forget about it the next day. When the results they expect don't happen, they usually blame it on their choice of exercises, then their intensity, and then of course you will hear the best bad excuse anyone ever created, "I'm a hard-gainer." Rarely does a young bodybuilder look directly at his or her nutrition. When I first started, I gained only 5 pounds in 8 months while using creatine and protein.
Although my strength increased pretty well, I was still looking to put on some quality mass. The problem was, I wasn't eating how I should've been. I had it in my head that I was going to put on muscle without gaining any fat - actually, I planned on losing a little bit of fat. So I limited my nutrition intake hoping to avoid excess calories. I was totally unaware of what I was doing. In the past few weeks, I have started to eat right and in the first 5 or 6 weeks, I gained about 5 pounds. This is just an example of how important your diet is- it is a must.
Sound Nutrition vs. Supplements
Another common and incredibly frustrating mistake that bodybuilders, once again particularly young ones, get themselves into is the "magic pill mindset." They often believe that, aside form weight training, supplements are the big factor in producing he greatest gains. But the truth is, the vast majority of supplements will help you very little if at all unless they are combined with well-planned training and nutritional programs.
The name speaks for itself- a "supplement's" purpose is to supplement your diet. Plain and simple: Supplements are not a substitute for a well-balanced nutritional program and a solid training program.
On the other hand, when the right supplements are combined with a good diet and the right training program, they can have a huge impact on you reaching your particular goal. Whether it be to lose weight or put on some serious muscle size and strength, supplements can help you get there. Now a lot of people are skeptical as to how effective they are, and I don't blame you. The truth is, a lot of supplements are a waste of money, but a lot aren't as well.
|WHAT'S YOUR GOAL?|
The best way is to get opinions, and believe me, I don't mean the opinions of the magazines and such, just use good judgment on who you choose to take advise from. Now, whether you buy something or not makes no difference to me, so listen to me when I tell you that some supplements really can reap some awesome benefits.
For the teens out there, if you do insist on taking supplements, stick to the basics and don't go crazy: Protein Powders, Weight Gainers, Creatine, and Glutamine. The one thing that I would tell you to take no matter what though, Multi-Vitamin.
Rest & Recovery/Sleep
How many of you reading this get 8 hours of sleep regularly? Well, if you're one of the many high school or college students that are trying to get huge for Cindy or for whatever reason then you better start getting those full 8 hours every night. It is so funny (and sad at the same time) when people seem to be proud of the big black bags under their stoned-looking eyes like it makes them tough or something. They're like, "I'm on 4 hours in the last two days"- I mean c'mon.
Well of course some people just literally cannot get these 8 hours because of their busy schedules, college students in particular, and it is totally understandable. But can all of you who don't get this sleep truthfully say that you are doing everything that you possibly can to weave in the time for adequate amounts of sleep every night? I highly doubt it. There is usually something that you can bump out of your day to make time for at least a short nap or something throughout the day.
Only you know deep down if there is something that you can do about this, so I'll leave that up to you to make the right choice. However, before I leave this subject let me mention something terrifying to those of you who may have been unaware: Inadequate amounts of sleep can actually affect your training! That's right, if you do not sleep enough you're training may suffer, and none of us want that right?
I read somewhere that after not getting enough sleep on a regular basis, your motor skills are just as impaired as if you had a few beers. Now, you gotta think, what would that do to your mental performance throughout the day, let alone your workouts? So c'mon, get some sleep tonight.
More Is Better/Overtraining
The term "gym rat" is applied to those who seem to be in the gym all day but do the same thing every time for very little- if any- results. Every time you go to the gym, they seem to be there, doing the same things every time. But the sad thing is, a lot of them are only slightly bigger, week after week. You wouldn't call some huge, "don't stand beside me within four feet when I flare my lats or you will have guy who's there often a gym rat, because obviously he knows what he's doing there.
The simple concept that the "gym rats" have obviously missed here is that you can't just pound at your muscles for hours at a time, set after set, day after day, with the same exercises, and expect your muscles to grow. However, notice that I did say day after day. I am a very firm believer that in order to achieve continuous growth, you must subject your body to various types of shocking methods, and working out for 2 or 3 hours straight or twice in one day on occasion is a shocker that I know works.
But the fact still remains, you simply will not grow if you continue to do either of these examples day after day. You need to go to the gym with training on your mind. That way you are in and out, not messing around between sets and taking forever. The only thing other than that you should have on your mind are things that help to motivate you to train even harder, anything else you should leave at your house and deal with when you get back.
And if you have a problem you are currently dealing with, assuming that you have the available time to go to the gym and train, I guarantee that you will be able to handle it much better after ridding your mind of stress through an intense workout.
Flexing & Posing Between Sets
Believe it or not, but flexing your muscles between sets is a very important part of your workout. Flexing and posing between sets keeps blood flowing into your muscles, keeping them warm and pumped. This will also lower the risk of injury. Also, if you're considering competition, you have to have complete control over your muscles, as well as possess the ability to hold a pose for extended periods. Otherwise, your muscles will cramp up.
The only way around this is to practice posing and familiarize your muscles to this kind of stress. Now I must warn you, some people in the gym will look at you like you think you're tough or something, but you have to learn to ignore them. So the next time you're in the gym, rather than standing around in between sets, go in front of the mirror and flex- it will do you more good than you might think.
I train at home, but whenever I do happen to go to the gym, I never see any guys stretch. They stretch sometimes before they play basketball, or run, but I never see any of them stretch before they enter the weight room. And it's not like they do it between sets, they seem to just throw the whole stretching thing right out the window.
Now, maybe this is just a coincidence, like there's something in the water or something here in Toledo, but if this is common all over, then a lot of guys are really missing out. I really hope it's not a macho thing, like stretching is for women. If these guys think that flexibility is for girls, then I feel very sorry for them.
Look at some pictures of Tom Platz, for example, he had enormous- wait, more like inhuman - legs, and he could do the splits no problem, or touch his head to his knees. Stretching increases your flexibility, which can lead to more muscle recruitment through better form and greater range of motion, and at the same time it greatly reduces the risk of injury. Stretching also prevents soreness and promotes faster recovery between workouts, which you can take advantage of for more growth.
When is it best to stretch? Because warm muscles stretch better than cold muscles, the best time to stretch is after a brief warm-up session. Try doing jumping jacks for a few minutes, then start to jog in place for a few minutes. It takes a total of about 5 minutes, and prevents injury like you wouldn't believe. Now you can begin to stretch. Don't bounce or throw yourself into position, just ease into it, and hold it just at the point before you feel a kind of pain.
It's a good idea to stretch the muscles you are working between sets, along with the flexing I mentioned earlier. Do this enough and it will become second nature. Finally, after your workout is over, stretch the muscles that were involved. This is my favorite part, I mean this feels good, especially on the quads after bombing them with squats.
Form Vs. Heavy Weights
I'm positive that anyone that has ever been to a gym on a typical day has seen someone using a weight that is, judging by their form, obviously too heavy in order to impress someone, or just to satisfy their ego.
However, it is pretty understandable why it is so common. The thing is, a lot of beginning bodybuilders start because they have been picked on, always called wimpy, or something of this nature. So when they start to work out, they desperately want to fit in with the crowd as fast as possible.
The gym is the place they've come to get away from the torture they feel they go through in school, so a lot of them feel that if they don't use heavy weights here, they won't fit in with the gym crowd, and then the gym will just be another place where they are just looked down upon. However, this is just one reason you see people doing this. The "popular" guys in school will do this too. They want to look big and bad and the easiest way is to accomplish this is to be strong in front of their peers.
So they lift weights that are too heavy for proper form to be executed, and this makes absolutely no sense. Now it's a little more understandable when someone does this on occasion, maybe because their girlfriend is with them, but to go to the gym day in a day out and do this crap?! -A waste of time! Why not do it right so in a few weeks you can do with strict form what you are doing now with terrible form?
Then, a few more weeks down the road, you will be able to lift with strict form, weights that back when you started, you weren't even able to cheat reps out with. It makes much more sense to just lift what you can handle for good, solid reps, and watch your strength increase.
Also, you can injure yourself badly if you're not careful. Form was developed on exercises in order to blend the best possible isolation of a specific muscle group with the least amount of vulnerability to injury. Just like when you hear people constantly say, "lift with your legs not with your back," you're not instructed to lift a certain way just for the hell of it, it's for your protection.
Take deadlifts for example: If you perform a deadlift with your back in rounded position, you will put unequal pressure on the intervertebral disks of the spine. They are compressed on one side and extended on the other. Keeping your back straight and tight, with your head up prevents this, thus greatly reducing the risk of injury. Bottom line: Train safely.
A good training partner is another valuable asset to your training, but before I go over the benefits that one can provide, let me just give my opinion of what constitutes a "good" training partner. Motivation is definitely the most important quality. He has to want it as bad as you. He has to be there with you every time.
Everybody has those days, and when it's your turn, he has be there slap you around or do whatever it takes to snap you out of it and get you pumped up and ready to go to war. It's also good to share the same goals. If you're training specifically for mass and he's going straight for definition, then it's going to be more difficult than if you were both geared toward the same thing. Ideally, try and find someone who is as close as possible to your size.
This will work to utilize one of the best natural tools you possess: Competition. This friendly competition will magnify both of your intensity levels exponentially. You'll find your adrenaline pumping when he does 2 more reps than you did in squats, and you'll forget all about the burn you feel in your legs when trying to outdo him.
Arnold Schwarzenegger puts it perfectly: "A training partner who helps you make faster and better progress is a good one; A partner who holds you back in any way is a poor one." One thing you must remember is that you and your training partner live on a two-way street. Everything you expect from him, he should expect from you, and you should be happy to give it to him.
There are methods and principles you simply cannot follow without the assistance of a good training partner. When it comes to raising intensity, training partners can be a huge help. Forced reps are the perfect example- the whole concept of a forced rep is for your partner to assist you in finishing a rep when you are no longer able to complete it yourself. The safety factor also comes into play here.
You should always have someone around when you are working out intensely, especially when going heavy or performing an exercise that puts you in a particularly vulnerable position, like bench presses or squats. Also, you cannot overlook the little things. For example, it would take a long time for someone to learn all of the things that my cousin, who is my training partner, knows when it comes to working out with me.
Whenever I pump iron with someone I don't have much training experience with, the workout usually isn't half as good as with my cousin because I'm constantly having to explain or demonstrate something to him. There is a deep camaraderie that develops between you and your training partner, and I would recommend that everyone experience it, as well as the benefits that accompany it.
Once again, if you have any questions, just email and I'll be glad to answer them.