With a vast supply of bodybuilding advice available, it can be ever confusing deciding which advice to follow. Here we have devised a simple 5 step guide to bodybuilding in a vain attempt at covering all the bases.
A healthy diet
Review and take note
Supplementing your system
A Healthy Diet
For many bodybuilders or athletes in general, a good diet is the single most important aspect of their regime. Firstly, there are many dietary myths that can be uncovered here. Secondly, a good diet should consist of 3 things: Protein (30%), Fat (30%) and Carbohydrates (40%). How and where you get these ingredients is essential but first, with all advice given, decide how seriously you are taking bodybuilding before deciding on the right diet for you.
If, like many people, the gym is an extra-curricular activity, something to help you stay in shape and keep up appearances, it may be more difficult for you to stick to a strict diet. If bodybuilding is an obsession and you wish to achieve maximum gains, a good diet can make or break these gains. Whatever you level of application, 90% of the time, a basic dietary guide should be adhered to.
Eating large meals 3 times a day is in no way the most beneficial way to feed your body and can result in many negative side-effects. Instead, eat 5 or 6 meals a day, evenly spread, to ensure your body never starves itself of any essential vitamins or nutrients. It also allows the body to absorb and process foods more effectively, without overloading the digestive system. Before and after workouts are also essential times to give the body to right amount of protein needed to boost energy levels and encourage protein synthesis. Remember, if your body needs certain nutrients, it will get them anyway it can and if that means using your own protein supplies to repair damaged fibres, your muscles literally feed off themselves.
Avoid the junk
It is more important than ever to avoid the well-known junk foods out there in order to keep energy levels up, keep fat levels down and enjoy an active immune system. Over eating stodgy foods such as white bread, or saturated fats such as red meats, fried foods and sugar can cause dangerous imbalances in the body and whether you like it or not, the body will attempt to re-address that balance.
There’s constant debate regarding exactly how many calories athletes or bodybuilders need to maintain high energy levels without piling on the pounds. The amount of calories people need varies grestly depending on factors such as weight, physique, exercise etc.. However, many bodybuilders would recommend your calories intake to be around twice the recommended amount of 2,500 a day.
There are also a number of fad diets out there aimed at shedding the pounds but a healthy, balanced diet should ensure you gain muscle whilst keeping the weight off. Eating less or no carbohydrates may help you lose weight in the short-term, but can cause many problems long-term including a lack of energy to ensure physical demands are met. Eating little fat can be equally or more dangerous and stunt any attempts you make in the gym to gain muscle. Essential fats can be taken from sources such as fish or seeds and nuts, without the artery clogging effects of saturated fats.
You should be drinking an absolute minimum of 8 glasses of water a day. However, if participating in cardio-vascular activity, this amount should be drastically increased. The body needs hydrating in order to function and remember, you aren’t going to gain weight long-term if you drink too much, your body will simply find a way to flush it out and flushing out your system could never be a bad thing.
How many times have you seen someone warm up for a weights session by having a 5 minute jog on the treadmill followed by a few stretches? Firstly, a quick run or cycle will do very little for you apart from get the heart pumping and warm you leg muscles up. Secondly, stretching alone is also an ineffective way of preparing your muscles for heavy lifting and over-stretching has also been shown to reduce muscle strength by upto 15.%
Instead, simply use light weights to ease your muscles into the exercises you are about to perform after some light stretching.
Compound vs. Isolation exercises
Compound exercises are a set of techniques that target a selection of muscle groups and enhance a greater proportion of your physique in one movement, for example, the squat or pull-up. Isolation exercises such as the bicep curl target specific muscle groups and not much else. It is important to ensure a combination of these techniques utilising several compound exercises alongside specific isolation exercises to hit all necessary muscle groups.
Utilising a degree of exercises and targeting specific muscle groups, it is common knowledge that the most effective way to gain muscle is to lift heavy weights over a low number of reps. This means finding the right weight for you and completing the movement between around 6-10 times. Remember; don’t aim to lift the weight a set number of times. If you reach ten reps with relative ease, the weight is most probably too light.
Gym routine changes
One of the most important pieces of bodybuilding advice we can offer you is to constantly change your routine. It doesn’t matter if this means alternating muscle groups, using different equipment or changing muscle exercises, it is important to constantly review and change the way you train.
The reason for this is that the body is extremely clever. After following a certain routine for any number of weeks, your body will adapt to with great efficiency. This will mean every session you follow will cause less gain for you physically and although you may notice degrees of improved physicality or strength, most improvements will be a result of your muscles adapting to carry out an exercise more efficiently.
The muscle is extremely complex and there are a number of exercises you can take advantage of to hit the muscle in different ways to get more complex reactions than simply repeating the same basic set of exercises.
There’s no technique to this tip or advice we can give you, it’s as easy as that, rest! Ever heard the expression, ‘you grow outside the gym’? Well, it’s true. Although the hard work is put in at the gym, it’s when you come out the gym your body really gets to work repairing those damaged muscle fibres and preparing you for the next workout.
Overtraining is extremely common in bodybuilding and despite several sports supplement aiding recovery times; your muscles still need resting. For example, whey protein and creatine supplements aid protein synthesis and help your body repair your muscle fibres quickly and more effectively, but they still need that time to repair. Testosterone boosters such as Tribulus can enable your body to rejuvenate natural testosterone levels quicker, but your muscles still need time to repair.
Working you’re an individual muscle to its maximum output, especially during split body sessions when you are concentrating on isolated muscle groups, your muscles can take upto 5 days to recover properly. That’s not to say you should only train each muscle group once a week, but be extremely careful when going back to a muscle group within a couple of days. If the muscle is still stiff, or it’s difficult to stretch out, listen to what your body is telling you, you need more time to recover.
So what’s the most effective way to train without over-training. The method used by virtually all serious bodybuilders is to split their body into muscle groups, and train each of these muscle groups each time you train. Your muscle groups can be split into 6 basic parts: Chest, Back, Shoulders, Legs, Bicep and Tricep. By training 2 or 3 of these groups each session, you prevent over-training and give each muscle group the rest it needs.
Review and take note
If you are serious about bodybuilding, or want to maximise the time you spend in the gym, it is important to constantly review your training. Finding out what works and what doesn’t is crucial to ensuring you are getting the most out of your gym membership. Whether you find a split-body routine best for you, or complete body workout 3 times a week, it is important to find a routine and style that suits your own needs and body type. Don’t feel you have to cover every exercise, there are a number of routines and exercises that will benefit each muscle group so finding a set you prefer shouldn’t be too difficult.
Different body types will react differently to a variety of exercises.
Set realistic targets
Having realistic targets and ideas about your level of development can have a positive impact on your training. It is impossible to know how well your body will react to bodybuilding and it is even more difficult to estimate your body strength as a result of it. Instead, be realistic in what targets you set yourself and choose ones that are more obtainable, such as training 4 times a week. It may be that you want to your strength level to increase by a certain percentage each month but be careful how you set these and make sure that if you do set yourself goals, they are clear goals you know how best to achieve, otherwise you’ll only confuse yourself.
Most importantly, don’t panic if you don’t meet these targets. Different bodies and metabolism rates react extremely differently to others. Some people can gain muscle easily, some can eat what they like and not gain weight, whatever your body type, with the right degree of effort, diet and supplementation, you will make gains in some form, the trick is consistency and effort.
Review, Review, Review
So you’ve found what exercises work best for you and set your targets, how do you measure them and how do you know that the time and effort you are committing to the gym is reaping you fruitful rewards?
By tracking your progress and having clear, identifiable goals results in added motivation when you can clearly see the fruits of your labour. People who don’t have clear methods of reviewing their progress can often be confused or de-motivated as to how much they have actually achieved.
You can do a number of things to measure progress or keep track of your routine.
Journalise your workout including the different exercises you tried, how they felt and how long your workout sessions were etc. Equally, keep a journal of your diet, seeing how different foods affect energy levels or simply keeping track of your calorie intake. Take measurements or photographs of your body are probably the easiest way of seeing actual evidence of weight loss or muscle gain.
Supplementing your system
As we always insist, sports supplements are a way of supplementing you diet, not replacing it. No meals should be skipped and replaced with a Protein Bar or Drink . Supplements are there to give your body a much needed helping hand in getting the most out of your training, getting the right nutrients at the crucial times and helping your muscles repair and recover in the quickest time possible.
The sports supplements available on powermyself act as a booster to the right foods you should be taking and in no way supplement your body to unnatural levels. Bodybuilders need additional calories, protein and carbohydrates to repair and recover your body and ensure your energy levels are met, all of which supplements can help achieve in conjunction with your diet.
As much as gains can be made by putting time in the gym and eating well out of it, supplements no doubt offer that additional advantage that the right amount of foods simply cannot. Products such as Whey Protein and Creatine are designed to get to your muscles faster and work more effectively at encouraging protein synthesis and activating satellite cells in you body.
The same can be said for keeping hydrated. For around an hour in the gym, water will keep you hydrated and sustain energy levels. However, after around that time your body begins to tire and lactic acid starts to build in your muscles and you need an extra boost of energy i.e. sports drink.
pic: courtesy of Dayo Audi (IFBB Pro & Mr Universe)