Have you ever watched a bodybuilding competition and wished you had the same kind of physique?
Maybe you look in the mirror and, even if you’re already in good shape, you want to take it to the next level?
Or, perhaps you just want to see if you have it in you to become a defined bodybuilder. Whatever your motivation is you can, in fact, become a bodybuilder. You don’t need to do it for competition if you don’t want to. You may just want to do it to give yourself the ultimate self-confidence boost. Whatever your reasoning is as long as you have a focused mindset you can become a bodybuilder. Of course, it isn’t as easy as saying “I want to become a bodybuilder” and then do it.
What are the secrets of body building to get those desired results?
You’ll need some help along the way. If you have a coach at the gym you go to it’s a great idea to talk to them. They can give you personal insights and specific instructions for your own body type. But if you’re doing it on your own, here are a handful of the best secrets of bodybuilding that will help you reach your ultimate goals.
(Almost) Always Used Free Weights
Here’s a little secret you absolutely need to follow. You need to almost always use free weights instead of machines. Now, machines have their moments (we’ll get to that in a second), but free weights are king when it comes to training your body.
Bodybuilding isn’t all about putting on muscle. It’s about putting on defined muscle. With free weights your body not only trains the focused muscle your lift is targeting, but it works stabilizer muscles. These are connecting muscles attached to the target muscles that help keep the weights elevated.
Take, for example, a bench press using free weights and bench press using a machine (or a Smith machine). When you use free weights you have stabilizing muscles that activate to help keep your barbell level, or to prevent the dumbbells from arching over to one side or the other.
It keeps dozens of muscles fully engaged when you perform this kind of lift. With a machine it targets only the focused muscle and that’s it, which essentially cheats you out of some muscle work.
Additionally, when you use free weights you’ll hit the back side of your muscle groups. Sticking with the bench press, when you lower the free weights down you don’t just let the barbell slam into your chest (which would be a quick way to a cracked breast bone). You lower it down slowly.
This causes your back and your triceps to activate. With a machine this isn’t an issue so you are more likely to let the weight drop, which again cheats you out of working the secondary muscle groups (Mayo Clinic, 2018).
As we mentioned earlier it is almost always best to use free weights. We say almost because there are some exercises you simply can’t do with free weights. The cable machine at your gym is one of the best non-free weight options around. With this you can perform a number of exercises you can’t do with weights.
Basically, if there is the ability to do free weights over a machine, do free weights. If it isn’t an option, go to the machine.
Learn The Correct Form
Form is everything. There is a desire, especially when going to a gym with others around you, to put up as much weight as possible. Here’s a little tip to keep in mind though: nobody cares how much you’re lifting.
Do you care what the girl across the gym is lifting?
What about the guy next to you?
Nope. So sure, there might be an ego thing about lifting more than those around you, but nobody cares, and it will do you more harm than good if you don’t have proper form.
Two things will happen if you have bad form.
First, you’ll end up training the wrong muscle group. There are times where you want to train your traps and rear delts, but because your form is bad you end up working your triceps. Not that your triceps don’t need attention, but when you’re targeting your back you want to properly hit your back.
Second, you open yourself up to injury. When your form is bad all kinds of injuries can occur. If you round your back during a lift you might pull a muscle in your back or neck. Or you might pop something in your spine. Back and neck injuries will set you back weeks if you can’t do anything above your waist.
So whenever adding a new lift into your workout always begin with lighter weights and work your way up once you have the proper form down. There are mirrors in the gym and, surprisingly enough, they aren’t for selfies. They are for watching your form to avoid injury (Mayo Clinic).
You need to put on muscle mass. As a bodybuilder it will be a bit more defined, but one of your goals is likely to put on more muscle weight.
In order to do that you need to do two things. First, you need to eat more often. We’re talking every three or maybe four hours. This will constantly give your body the energy it needs for a fire-hot metabolism.
Don’t just have three large meals a day. That leaves too much time in between and your metabolism will start to slow down.
Second, you need to boost your protein intake. Shoot for about one gram of protein per pound you weight. As you increase your weight you’ll need to increase your protein intake as well. This also relates to the first step. You see, your body can only process so much of one thing at a time. If you weight 180 pounds, you can’t pack 60 grams of protein into three meals.
Your body won’t be able to process the protein as efficiently as it would if you ate five slightly smaller meals a day. So, instead of eating 60 grams of protein every five hours, you can eat 35 grams of protein every three hours.
This way your body always has protein to pull from, which helps rebuild your damaged muscles, building your muscle mass and keeping your body running on high energy (Huffington Post, 2017).
Recovery Time Is Key
Over training your muscles is one of the worst things you can do. When you lift a muscle group and hit it hard your muscle fibers will tear.
After completing your workout the body will get to work. It will begin pulling from the protein you have consumed and the blood in your body will transport the protein to the damaged tissue in order to repair it. This is how the muscles slowly grow in size.
However, it takes time for the muscles to be fully recovered. If you were to go back to the gym the following day and work a similar muscle group you’ll be tearing down muscles that haven’t fully recovered yet. If you continue to do that you’ll never put on any kind of mass.
So, if you’re going to the gym every day and wondering why you’re not putting on any kind of mass size this may just be it. You should never work the same muscle groups two days in a row. And, ideally, you’ll give those muscle groups at least 48 hours before working them again.
The second part of this is you need sleep. Your body repairs itself when you sleep. It does what it can while you are awake, but you have more organs running constantly, not to mention your muscles are in constant movement so the blood is pumping throughout the body, which takes the body’s attention away from repairing damages.
So make sure you can get your sleep in. Shoot for eight hours a day. If that’s simply not possible do not go under six. If you start going under six your body will struggle with repairing itself and you won’t see your desired bodybuilding gains (University of New Mexico).
Create a Workout Routine and Stick To It
Depending who you ask you’ll receive a dozen different kinds of workout routines. There will be the old school bodybuilders who tell you to work your upper body every other day and your lower body on the days in between.
Then there are others who prefer a push/pull/lower body routine. This particular routine focuses on all “push” movements on Monday, which include anything where you are physically pushing weight away from your body.
The “pull” day on Tuesday is the opposite, where you perform lifts where you’re pulling weight toward your body. Then you do legs on Wednesday and repeat the series.
Still, others will have you focus on the front of your torso on Monday, the back of your torso on Tuesday, and again legs on Wednesday. And finally there are those who prefer to go extremely hard on a muscle group each day.
So you’d do chest on Monday, shoulders on Tuesday, legs on Wednesday, back on Thursday, arms on Friday, and so on.
Everyone has their reasons for the workouts. Sometimes it comes down to how much time you have, as you may simply not have the time to perform a complete upper-body workout every other day and feel like you’re completely torching your muscles.
Whatever workout routine you decide to go with you need to stick with it. Once you start skipping days it will be all for not. It’s like trying to learn a new language. You need to do some every day.
Ever try to learn a language where you study it once or twice a week? It just doesn’t work (WebMD, 2019).
Change It Up
Here is one of bodybuilding secrets not enough people know about. If you go to the gym you probably see the same people doing the same lifts. Sure, there are a handful of lifts you should do, but not varying up how you lift is a huge detriment.
Well as you perform the same exercises your body will adjust to what you’re doing. It will anticipate the lift, which is a problem when you’re going for strength and size gains. There is a reason why so many people hit a wall with lifting. The body has become so accustomed to your lifts it won’t allow you to go further.
What you need to do is change up how you lift, which then will confuse your body.
Spent the last few weeks (or months) benching with a barbell?
Use individual dumbbells. You won’t be able to put up as much weight but you’ll activate all new stabilizer muscles. You also can do down lower, which increases the stretch, burns more calories, and keeps your body guessing. Maybe you do the classic skull crusher lift for your triceps.
Well put your bench into an incline position and use a single dumbbell instead. This adjusts the angle of your lift (it also forces your elbows to stay in, so your triceps are truly set on fire with this exercise). Even by changing up your grip or hand placement you’ll confuse your muscles enough to activate muscle growth and strength gains (The New York Times, 2020).
Ideally you want to try to switch it up every few weeks or so. This will keep your body on its toes, keep your strength gains going and your size gains going as well. Plus it helps keep your workout interesting. Because the last thing you want is for your workout to get boring.
These are some of the “secrets” to bodybuilding, but in reality it all comes down to your mindset. You need to be willing to put in the work at the gym. To do the lifts that burn your muscles. To put up that extra rep when your body wants to stop. And you need to be willing to focus on your diet.
Weight training, and really any kind of fitness routine starts and ends in your brain. As long as you can focus on what you’re doing you’ll be good to go. And, from there, you’ll see your results start to pour in.