When it comes to the question of how to become a bodybuilder, there’s only one true path that will get you there: hard work. The journey from being a beginner bodybuilder to a pro is long and tough. That’s not to say you can’t do it, however.
When you start bodybuilding, you simply need to make sure you’re starting the right way, doing bodybuilder workouts for beginners rather than jumping straight to extremely heavy weights that can damage your muscles if attempted without proper preparation and training.
In this article, we’ll take a look at everything you need to know if you’ve ever walked past all those massive dudes by the weights rack in the gym and thought ‘you know what? I want to be a bodybuilder too’.
We’ll cover everything from nutrition, to workouts, to rest days and supplements. So, let’s get started with our bodybuilder’s guide!
How to become a bodybuilder: The ultimate bodybuilders guide
Find Your Motivation
Bodybuilding – shock horror – isn’t easy. It takes grit, and there will be times on your bodybuilding journey where your motivation will be low and you’ll want to give up. You need to find your own sense of purpose and motivation when you begin bodybuilding – something that will keep you going when the chips are down.
For many people, this is simply to sculpt their body into the best form possible. For others, it’s to set personal bests and smash records. Some people do it for health reasons, while others do it simply because they want to look good.
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All reasons are valid if they motivate you to keep going!
Avoid rookie mistakes
Many people, when just getting started in bodybuilding, attempt to bulk up too fast. While it’s common to hear terms like ‘bulking’ in the gym, this is more the domain of experienced bodybuilders who know how to pack on muscle quickly and efficiently.
Don’t expect the same results when you’re first starting out; instead, focus on getting your form perfect and slowly moving up the weights. That way you won’t hurt yourself so easily when moving onto higher weights and more intense training programmes.
Work out between three and four times a week
Overtraining is when you are working out so often that your muscles don’t have enough time to repair themselves and to grow. It’s easily done, and a common mistake among new bodybuilders and gym-goers in general.
You don’t need to work every muscle of your body every day; in fact, by doing so, you could be slowing your growth by a large factor.
Instead of daily workouts, opt for working out three to four times a week. For the classic 1960’s bodybuilders, it was thrice weekly, although this was largely due to gyms being split between men and women on separate days, which meant more wasn’t really feasible—unless you had a home gym.
Today, four times a week is the norm for bodybuilders.
Four times a week is an ideal amount, firstly because it allows you to target your upper body on two days and your lower body on two days, and secondly because it leaves your muscles plenty of time to grow and heal. Remember, although it can feel as though you’re not doing anything useful on your rest days, those are, in fact, the days when your muscles are growing. So leave them to get on with their business in peace!
Of course, for the beginner bodybuilder, your career and daily routine will be a big factor in determining how often you can train. When you’re just starting out, three days a week will be ample for you to begin gaining mass and growing your muscles, while still being able to fit in the rest of your life!
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Get the movements right
Okay, now let’s take a look at the sort of exercises you want to be doing when you’re training to become a bodybuilder. Whether it’s an upper body or lower body day, begin with basic exercises for each body part.
Do two different exercises per body part (for example chest, shoulders, triceps etc), aiming for 3 sets of between 8 and 12 reps for each exercise. If you were going to work out your shoulders, for example, you do 3 sets of 12 reps on shoulder press, and 3 sets of 12 reps on lateral raise movement.
If we’re talking chest, then it would be 3 sets of dumbbell press, followed by 3 sets of dumbbell flies.
The reason it’s not yet necessary to add a bunch of more complex exercises is that, especially as a beginner bodybuilder, many secondary muscles will be used when doing these more basic moves. Now, here is a more detailed idea of the sort of basic moves you should be looking at doing for each body part.
Back: One pulldown movement, such as lateral pulldown, then one seated pull-in movement. Again, these will also help strengthen other areas of the body.
Legs: Legs are simple enough (though that certainly doesn’t mean easy). Do leg curls, leg extensions, and leg/calf presses. You should be aiming for a weight that leaves you feeling pretty exhausted after 3 sets of 12.
Arms: You don’t need to spend a long time targeting your arms, as many of the other movements detailed above already hit them. Try supersets for your arms—alternating sets without rest in-between. This could be cable curls, alternated with tricep pushdowns, in 3 sets of 10. Trust us, you’ll feel the burn.
Abs: Hanging leg raises are great. They engage all your core muscles, and can really bring about that definition we’re all aiming for.
Cardio: If you’ve anything left in the tank after, hop on the treadmill or exercise bike for 20 minutes after, keeping a steady pace.
Get your diet right
All the training in the world won’t do much good if you’re not fuelling your body properly.
Discipline in the kitchen is just as important as discipline in the gym.
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To start, cut out sugar, and reduce your intake of carbohydrates, fried food, and white flour products such as white bread. Boom – you’ve made an impact already. Next, you’re gonna need to eat a lot of protein. And we mean a lot. Think tuna, chicken, egg whites, steak and other kinds of fish, sitting on a bed of salad alongside a small amount of brown rice, or a baked potato (you do need some carbs, after all).
As for supplements: whey protein is great for helping to get that daily protein intake nice and high.
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