Bodybuilding can be heaven, or it can be hell, and you make the choice. Now, that’s a bold opening statement that nearly every serious bodybuilder can relate to. What I really mean by heaven or hell, however, is that we can either enjoy every moment of life as a bodybuilder or we can train in vain, push ourselves too hard, succumb to drug use and get in over our egotistical, self-centered heads.
There is more to life than just muscle, the pump, and being shredded. A bodybuilder who starts out on the right track with proper goals, training, and diet will succeed in the sport no matter how big he or she becomes. Success is a journey, not a destination, so we must stay in balance day to day and train with great awareness of our own bodies instead of imitating the actions of others in hopes of achieving what they seem to have.
For the natural bodybuilder, the attitude of big, bigger, biggest must go out the window. Why? Because it is basically a drug-induced attitude. Only one man in 10,000 can pile on pounds and pounds of “natural” muscle year after year, and even then such people must face the reality that, conservatively, they can only gain 10 to 20 pounds of pure, lean muscle (not body fat) overall. In other words, we must eliminate from our consciousness forever the idea of starting at 160 pounds of bodyweight and hulking up to 230 pounds and then cutting back 10 pounds to get shredded. We “naturals” must be very realistic in order to survive.
Even with reasonable goals the natural bodybuilder still faces a tough challenge to add solid muscle year after year. It takes hard work, patience, and determination to do it drug-free.
The four major factors that determine the size potential for a natural bodybuilder are genetics, diet, training routine, and supplements. Sleep, sunshine, general health and mental attitude are also factors, but they are not the primary ones.
Genetics comes first because this is really the single largest determining factor for you in your quest for size, cuts, and shape. Anyone who has ever trained in a gym knows exactly what I mean by “good genetics.” We’ve all seen guys who pump weights haphazardly, eat junk food, party hardy, sleep very little and still look incredible. (They may feel horrible, but they look great!) At my gym, I’ve seen guys who were massive (by natural standards) and cut to ribbons who practically lived on pizza, Ding Dongs, Ho-hos, Twinkies and chocolate milk. And these were not drug-induced physiques! I’m talking natural all the way.
Given these examples, what is the average bodybuilder with average genetics to think? There we are, eating six perfectly spaced meals each day, training on the ideal split system, sleeping good, drinking plenty of fluids and taking every natural anabolic supplement available, yet we still can’t even compare to these milk and Twinkle monsters. It’s enough to make you want to retire, eat junk food and take up bowling, unless you’ve got your head on straight. The right goals and attitude can help us see through this visual nonsense and become real winners in our own genetic right.
The point of this article is to lay out a more wholesome approach to bodybuilding that, when applied, will help you make muscular gains steadily and naturally. It’s really tough to be in a gym filled with men and women who are drug users and maintain a positive attitude about yourself and your goals. It puts your integrity and inner peace right on the line. As with cocaine, alcohol or any other drug you choose to avoid, however, it takes guts to say no and be the winner in the long run.
Now let’s get down to business, and I’ll show you how to turn the body you have into a leaner, more muscular physique that will be with you for a long and healthy life. I had a conversation in my gym with a young man who wanted the secrets to getting big. My reply was, “Be patient, be aware and be purposeful. Forget all that you know, and come to the gym fresh each day, eager to learn.” So the first key to being a successful natural bodybuilder is to be in tune with your reason for becoming a bodybuilder. By this I mean, ask yourself why you are working out, and be honest. What will you do with a more muscular body? If your reply is to get more dates, be tough, win a trophy or get people to like you, then you’re only flexing your ego. On the other hand, if you say that you want to improve your health and look and feel great so that you may have a better life, then you’re right on.
Once you’ve got your goals on straight, you’re ready for a natural training, diet and supplement program that can’t fail.
Workouts must be consistent and intense, and regular five-to- 10-day layoffs every six to eight weeks are a must to help you avoid overtraining. Also, do not overtrain on any given day by doing set after set after set until exhaustion makes you throw in the towel, leave the 15-to-20-sets-per-bodypart routines to the pharmaceutical physiques. Common sense is required if you want to make regular gains and avoid injury. Train hard when your body tells you to, and lighten up when a rest is indicated. And don’t be afraid to miss an occasional workout. You won’t dry up and blow away. In fact, you’ll probably grow a little from the added rest!
A common mistake I see in the routines of many natural bodybuilders is what I call the more syndrome; more weight, more sets, more reps, more training days, more intensity, etc. This attitude will only lead to a “blaster disaster,” which translates into big-time body burnout. I know because I’ve been there.
The greatest secret I can give to you is to advise you to train and live each day as you would for the rest of your life. Ask yourself, “Can I eat and train the way I presently do at the age of 60? If not, then it’s time to examine your training habits.
Here is a routine that I put my fitness clients on. I personally endorse it as being effective for making gradual gains in size, month after month, year after year. It’s a four-day split, and you can complete each workout in approximately one hour and 15 minutes, including aerobic training. Most exercises are basic and should be performed with spotters when needed. You should fail only on the last set. Use the following training sequence: day 1, day 2, day off; day 1, day 2, two days off.
Time yourself on each workout aim and keep them under one hour and 15 minutes. Rest periods should be approximately one minute between sets and three minutes between bodyparts. Look for the pump so that you are sure the muscle is being worked correctly. No pump means no growth potential.
Chest, Back, Shoulders, Waist and Calves
- 15 minutes on the stationary bike, Stairmatster or treadmill at 75 percent of your aerobic capacity.
- Incline bench presses
- Cable flyes
- Lat pulldowns (front)
- Lat pulldowns (back)
- One-arm dubbells rows
- Seated close-grip pulley rows
- Seated calf raises
Stretch 10 minutes
Arms, Legs, and Waist
15 minutes of aerobic as described above.
- Seated dumbbell curls
- Preacher curls
- Reverse-grip EZ curls
- V-bar pushdowns
- French presses
- Close-grip bench presses
- Reverse-grip pushdowns
- Wrist curls
- Non-lock squats
- Hack squats
- Leg curls
- Leg extensions
- Standing calf raises