Is natural bodybuilding a lifestyle? Do we train to suppress a fear of feeling small; perhaps it’s to attract a mate? Or is it a primal need to increase strength and confidence?
The ego is a powerful force in how we perceive ourselves. So why is it that men and women pick one of the hardest physical, nutritional and mental disciplines known to the west, it's simple: if you’re honest with yourself and not afraid to work your ass off, natural bodybuilding is going to show serious results!
Bodybuilding isn't about fitness: it's about Gritness, a complete overhaul of building a new person inward and outward will often be the biggest and most gratifying gift we can give ourselves.
Bodybuilding has its fair share of challenges and frustrations, training success can feel elusive in the enormous ocean of information and opinions. a big part of natural bodybuilding is: never give-up; because when the true colours begin to reveal themselves in the mirror, you alone will have yourself to thank!
Most male natural bodybuilders want to get stronger and bigger period! Whereas women often want to increase muscularity to complement muscle tone with aesthetics complimenting chest/shoulder to hip and waist ratios.
has its fair share of bumpy roads, walls and plateaus. Getting training and
dietary information from elite sources can end in confusion or less than adequate training results?
There’s a culprit hiding in plain site that has been sabotaging natural body building since the sixties and it’s not your fault!
ESPN the IFBB and other professional competitive bodybuilding contests, magazines and social media, can often bombard natural lifters with misinformation: relating professional training to natural.
As long as these empires endorse and exploit the use of drugs in bodybuilding, confusion will exist.
It’s only natural that the natural guy looks to the pros for training advice, while supplement/advertising companies know one obvious thing that you may not...
Enter the 3 shuns - information, inspiration and motivation – are the 3 weapons these empires use on Natural Bodybuilders to funnel and build false hope.
There are far more natural up-and-coming guys out there on the street than there are pro-competitive bodybuilders, the competitive elite are often exploited by these big companies to do one thing: make money off of you!
Be choosy with your information sources and choices, the reality of putting on 60 to 70 lbs. of muscle like the pros - is not the reality of the natural guy. But...
If you want to get bigger, turn heads, win the affection of the opposite sex, fill out your t-shirt, or make yourself almost unrecognizable in the mirror then -
lets look at 10 different ways to increase training success - try to be honest as you check them off, ask yourself do you incorporate most or all of these strategies in your training?
If you incorporate 4 or less of these, consider adding some others and shorten the distance to your goal!
All too often I witness guys with plenty of enthusiasm, followed by mediocre effort; there are not many jobs that you will ever work at as hard as bodybuilding; if you want to see serious results!
Texting or critiquing others in the gym mentally or focusing all your effort on your (1RM) just to show the ladies your lifting prowess, yields only small results as a natural lifter.
Natural bodybuilding has a limitless universe of bad habits you can pick-up that greatly reduce success; the secret in bodybuilding is to pick-up the best ones! Turn your Yawn into Brawn, be aggressive and get serious about what you do!
Never be envious of others successes – improve on your own!
1. Do training programs and techniques the Pro’s use work for the Natural Guys?
The exercise movements in the bench press, squat and barbell curl work the same for everyone. What is not the same, despite what the Pro’s profess is tainted - for the non-competitive natural guy.
Natural bodybuilders often believe the actions and words’ leaving the lips of the top Pro’s - mimicking exercises and training techniques even trying to match poundage ratios... understandably, is awe inspiring to any natural guy. But, the Pros have the home advantage...
endless hours in the gym honing their physics; they’re very genetically gifted and they use pharma’s – allowing them to train longer and heavier giving them the
ability to heal faster than any natural lifter and many are paid for it.
The IFBB., supplement and endorsement companies pay them to tell you it’s their way or the highway, leaving the natural guy hoping or guessing for a false reality in building lean muscle mass.
This article is not about taking any shots at the pros as I've met some myself, they are hard working and deserve their fame/recognition.
The amount of work that goes into there training, nutrition and contest preparation for the most part-is unequalled. Natural Bodybuilding differs on a magnitude - beyond comparison.
2. Are their food supplements that are as effective as steroids that have no adverse health risks?
The answer is no! The guy/gal using Pharma’s has the home advantage as mentioned. Synthetically increasing testosterone levels from performance enhancing drugs have no equal in building lean body mass, this is why their used on the competitive circuit.
Everyone’s different, some supplements, (like steroids), work well for some, while others don’t. This largely has to do with variations in (genetic receptors) which are passed down from birth.
Experimenting with training cycles, rest, intensity levels, nutrition, supplement type and dosage, all play a big part in what works to enhance training success. (This is why tracking training progress, tells you when somethings working).
Supplements are usually safe for consumption and don’t hold jail time or fines if your caught using them.
3. If I take a Training Hiatus will my hard won muscle mass turn to fat?
No! Fat is adipose tissue meaning: this is a survival mechanism as a nervous system response to storing excess calories for future use, (probably an ancestral response to survival in lean times).
Muscle is active tissue and varies considerably from fat; ‘active tissue’ is the opposite of fat, it increases in size with resistance training while fat cells atrophy/shrink as stored calories become expended.
Fat tissue is stored energy: active tissue, along with the brain and central nervous system are the main culprits of energy consumption.
The end result if you take a break from training is: muscle tissue/size will return to your natural genetic pre-disposition (how you were before). Some muscle shrinkage does occur, but you will still retain some of your new muscle mass.
4. Should Women train differently than men as Natural Bodybuilders?
Except for obvious differences in the sexes such as; re-production, estrogen and body fat levels – our muscle structures are very similar.
Because women have naturally
lower levels of testosterone than men and higher levels of estrogen, commonly does not allow women to increase muscle mass like that of men.
There is little reason-why women should train any different than men, if there were any differences in training strategies a female natural bodybuilder may want to enhance glute to waist development.
Whereas males may want to improve on shoulder to waist development to increase proportions of masculinity: ultimately, these are cosmetically rendered by cultural and sex development preference.
Commonly witnessed in most gyms, guys tend train to heavy sacrificing form and women don’t train heavy enough.
The old media stigma is still attached to women, “if you lift to heavy, you’ll get huge), nothing could further from the truth... Cup-cakes make you huge, not effort.
5. Are the training elite the best source to consult on bodybuilding?
Surprisingly; these people are not always a good source of training information, this is a misguided belief, popularized by western society where “looks, likes and contests won” count for everything and consequently is believed!
Big arms and
a narrow waist doesn’t assure knowledge, Often an extraordinary physic can be
achieved if your naturally very genetically gifted coupled with the use of an
extensive drug program, can produce jaw dropping results in bodybuilding.
This still does not transcend that these people are knowledgeable on physic development.
Consequently a hard-working he/she natural bodybuilder with average genetics just (like 95% of us), that have built a great physic through old-fashioned ‘hard work and experimenting’ will obviously have experience and something to teach with a great knowledge base to draw from.
Surprisingly you can often find men and women just like this in your own gym.
6. Why does the Steroid Topic Stay Elusive in Bodybuilding?
This is the million dollar question especially for the confused natural lifter. Why is almost everything muted, blacked-out and covered with make up on steroids in competitive bodybuilding?... It’s because there illegal and not yet socially excepted in our societies.
Top pro bodybuilders can’t discuss steroid use at any length for fear of:
This is just the start for competitors;
worse than that is jail time, fines or criminal record.
Magazines, popular web sites, Television, social media all realize an unlawful and negative social stigma attached to performance enhancing drugs.
Running the risk of even pretending that steroids are safe, could easily lower TV or magazine ratings, obviously not worth popularity or the financial risk.
Like most things in the world of sports, competitive Bodybuilding is about image.
7. Does a Killer pump equate to increased Muscle Mass?
A fair to good pump can be achieved preforming almost any exercise aggressively and repetitively. Riding a stationary bike at a good pace for 1 minute will give the legs an incredible pump.
Light to moderate resistance in most exercises beyond 10 reps will achieve a decent capillary pump.
A good - extreme pump does not necessitate new
muscle growth! This gets debated even hotly in some circles - so why the
The pump itself commonly gets the credit for several reasons.
First: as the muscle begins to gorge-itself on blood and oxygen, lends thought to the muscle growing.
Second: you appear bigger in the mirror.
Third: the body releases endorphins, stimulating a higher than usual sense of well-being and euphoria.
The fourth: would be the burn, the old saying, (if it isn’t burnin it isn’t doin any good), is really only a build-up of lactic waste-not a signal of new muscle growth, so how can this feeling not be signalling new growth?
Contrary to popular belief the pump is a by-product of anaerobic-resistance training.
For the natural guy using resistance that commonly keeps your rep range between 5 – 8 reps puts the natural bodybuilder in the building range. Ultimately, increased muscle stress by increasing resistance/tension is what should be coveted not the pump itself.
Guys that use pharma’s – defiantly will experience great results in growth from the pump itself... so again, be careful where you get your info, (because not all that glitters is gold).
8. Eat lots and you’ll get Huge?
No! There’s a big difference between Humpty-Dumpty huge and Arnold huge. Getting enough quality calories from your Macro’s is important to building quality size.
Nutrition in the beginning has to be closely monitored; studies have shown that
25% of increased muscle size can be attributed to protein synthesis, if
ingested from quality sources.
Natural lifters men/women should approach this question carefully. If you have a fast metabolism - are slim to skinny, try starting with 3,000 to 3,500 Cal’s per day.
Keeping gym work the same – if you’re not gaining, introduce slowly by 150 to 250 Calories, every week and a half, always introduce big changes slowly, allowing the body an adjustment time.
9. The longer You Train The bigger You’ll Get?
The answer is No! Keep in mind from the Pros to the natural guy Overtraining is real: but, over training is also a word that’s overused.
Too reach an
over trained state you have to be pushing the limits. Heavy training intensity
with high volume sets and poor nutritional habits succeeded by little, or no
rest days can put the body and mind into an over-trained-state.
If nutritional requirements/calories are met, the average intermediate lifter should see progress on 7 - 8 sets per body part depending on which ones your training, with 2 - 3 days’ rest before challenging the same body parts. Advanced lifters can bump this up to 8 – 10 sets per body part if current conditioning allows.
There are shades of Gray in any over training advice – as everyone’s needs and athletic ability vary, this is why periodization training works well for most serious lifters.
40 – 50 minutes of strength training (with 4 – 6 reps), with extended rest between sets 3 – 4 mins., stimulates Myofibrillar hypertrophy ; 6 – 8 weeks of this type of training is usually enough to promote new growth/strength, with at least a one week break at the end - after this, try changing to...
35 – 45 mins
per body part - of Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy training is used to create a pump this
type of (10 -12 reps with 12 to 15 sets - if your advanced), per body part usually
produces good results using high volume training between strength training
Muscle responds to change in stress: rep speed, tempo, altering resistance, changing training angles and intensity; train smarter by resting well between training sessions, if you’re training heavy take longer, you grow in bed not in the gym!
10. Do I have to Get Super Strong to Get Big?
This: is another great question that often doesn’t get asked enough, surprisingly; there’s not always a direct correlation between strength and size.
All of us vary in the genetic department, often strength
is inherited; if you’re born with exceptionally well attached tendons/ligaments, contributes largely in how strong you can become.
Nerve and nero-pathway and natural strength-bridging development handed down from birth can be another reason some have exceptional strength over the rest of us.
Try to avoid false assumptions, just because someone’s naturally strong does not always insist that they will be big.
Some guys are strong in the bench press with weak looking pectoral development, but have great shoulders, where others may be strong in the dead lift but have weak back or leg development.
I’ve trained with countless athlete’s and all too often I witness natural bodybuilders that are very strong that don’t always have excess muscle, resulting in both a gift and a curse, so...what gives?
Naturally strong bodybuilders - men and even women have a tendency to let their strength do the lifting, forming poor lifting habits.
This is Natural bodybuilding-the art of increasing strength enough to use greater resistance, ultimately maximizing muscle stress, to increase tissue size.
This is why natural bodybuilding is referred to as the Grind: Keeping the movements smooth and deliberate, using a full range of motion with enough resistance, forcing and squeezing the muscle to do one thing...
CONTRACT on every rep! That’s the difference between pure strength and building pure muscle.
11. If training heavy makes you big, why not train heavy all the time?
A good question that deserves an honest answer.
When you’re young life can feel like you’re invincible: but, the body has a nervous system, with tissue that connects the bones and surrounds the joints, making these areas the weak link in the lifting chain and prone to injury from excessive stress.
Essentially; this tissue is what limits all athletes; heavy training over time with or without adequate rest will take its toll. The body simply can’t take it!
One of the all-time mass monsters of the 90s was ‘Dorian Yates’, he trained so heavy
continuously he literally tore his body to pieces and had to retire.
The nervous systems response is always to shut down certain areas to keep essentials like heart, lungs, liver, brain and pulmonary systems active when stress becomes too much.
When the body is put under immense stresses the nervous system and white blood cell (tissue repair) system can’t keep up.
This trickles down into everything, allowing sickness and other scourge’s to move into the host and take over if rest is not abated...not good!
This is why natural bodybuilders should adopt a more stream-lined principle, by resting and cycling different training intensity’s, helping the body adjust and adapt to these new stresses over time.
This always provides new stimulus and enthusiasm as your training progresses and evolves.
Forcing the body to always train heavy might be what you want; but the nervous system has its own agenda (keeping you alive), this response to big stress from continuous heavy training is to protect you from you! And that is Bodybuilding incarnate!
12. What makes muscle 'Grow Big' for natural lifters?
After All: Isn’t This the Reason Were All Here? There’s the hard truth or the cotton candy version?
this depends on you! Most lifters that I see training naturally think their more advanced than they really are. The reality of building muscular size and
strength is not that complicated or glamorous!
Natural bodybuilding is about ‘mental tenacity’! You can’t build large muscles by making excuses, complaining, focusing on what others are doing, or allow obstacles to get in the way of training progress.
Failure is important and emanate in bodybuilding, the smart ones learn from this by changing and adapting their training and often go on to develop amazing natural physics - while others/most, don’t learn, become discouraged and give–up or quit.
Natural bodybuilding has it's fair share of does and don'ts, it looks easy reading it here, doesn’t it? Just like 'Moses' commandments' - reading and applying are 2 very different things.
Or - if you prefer the cotton candy truth:
try what the fashion magazines say to sculpt your body... 10 minutes once a week and you’ll have wash board abs.
The Raw Truth in natural non-competitive Bodybuilding is: it’s a life style! It’s anything and everything that you want to bring to it. Natural Bodybuilding can be a ‘cruel mistress’, meaning: this is not an easy road to seeing fast results or gratification.
Bodybuilding is like a good marriage - you can never get more out than you put in. Ultimately teaching us about ourselves; it can be a powerful plate of armour that surrounds us in confidence and higher self-esteem.
As your training and development evolve, confidence often ensues, allowing you to take on different athletic, educational, relation-ship or job opportunity challenges.
This can often be a game-changer by levelling the playing field, giving the confidence to the natural lifter to succeed.
This is why Natural lifer’s - men and women are admired, even for those who never set foot in a gym know... it’s not easy, if it was, everyone would be built!
Natural bodybuilding is the way of the future... your future.
Don’t let yourself become discouraged by the size or stigma of the pros, many of their lives are not as glamorous as you may think: I have lots of old muscle mag back issues from the 70’s and 80’s, and you might be surprised at how many of them are dead; and it’s not from old age!
Try not to put such a definite time line on muscle gains as a natural guy/gal, Natural Bodybuilding is just that: Building or creating a bigger more aesthetically pleasing body, hurrying the process and tearing it to shreds trying to get there, is not bodybuilding!
After over 35 years of Natural Bodybuilding I always found achieving a new goal was exhilarating and rewarding to reach: but, the real pearls came from the experience of each journey towards those goals... because experience is what builds every Natural Bodybuilder.