1) “Lift weights like there is no tomorrow.”
I have this in quotes because, word for word, this was one thing a bodybuilding judge, who I really respected, told me after a show and it has stuck with me through the years. It’s extremely simple, almost stupid, advice…. But it has really defined how I’ve approached this journey.
Too many people, I think, worry about which exercise is better, high reps or low reps, high volume or low volume, overtraining or undertraining, etc. I know I’ve done it… But honestly… Just go in there, lift weights as intensely as you possibly can.
Whether you choose high reps or low reps, just be intense, put your all into it. Don’t over think and don’t over complicate things.
Lift lift lift. And STAY CONSISTENT! Do it day in and day out, don’t stop lifting weights, you’ll figure out everything else as you go along. You’ll figure our your diet and you will continue to fine tune it with time, you will figure out what you need to do if you want to compete, but no matter what, just keep going into the gym.
Do machines, do free weights, do hammer strength, switch it up, try different things and see how you respond. But just keep doing whatever you need to do to get in the gym and get that work out in.
2) Consistency is the single most important factor when it comes to natural bodybuilding
This is piggybacking on that first item… but that includes being consistent with your training, with your diet, with your recovery, with everything pertaining to how you build your physique.
How many of you have had that friend that goes into the gym for a number of weeks and actually makes some decent progress, really packs on the gains, then takes a few months off and vanishes… then starts training again, and back and forth, back and forth, on and off, on and off.
In the end they just end up being stuck in the same cycle without really anything to show for it.
Bodybuilding can get extremely boring sometimes, and it takes foreverrrrrrr… Especially in natural bodybuilding…. It takes forever to move that needle and really make some significant gains, especially if you have been at it for a number of years.
But you have to find a way to make it fun and you have to love it to keep on going. You have to be passionate about it if you are going to stay consistent.
While there is still a lot of flexibility in the lifestyle, flexibility with the diet, with the training, etc… holistically you have to stay consistent.
You don’t need to put your life on hold to be a successful bodybuilder. But at times you will need to make some sacrifices.
I’ve turned down parties and dinner plans because I was prepping for a show, or needed to get up early to work out, I’ve also partied and went out clubbing until 5 am and found some time to train the next day.
You shuffle things around and you find a balance. Some mornings I get up and I don’t feel so good, I think to myself, I can skip and make it up another day, but then I think, what if I feel even worse tomorrow.
Sometimes I’ve gone in when I was sick, and left feeling so much better, sometimes I’ve gone in when I was sick, and I leave feeling worse.
Sometimes I’ve gone in when I was sick, and cut my work out short because I just felt like death. Everyday is different.
Mike O’Hearn once said in a video of his…. “Do your best for that day, not for your lifetime, but do you very best for that day.” We’ve all had days when we are sooooo unmotivated to go in, try not to cave to that… sure it’s ok to take some time off, but don’t abuse it. Consistency is key!
3) There is not one single exercise that you ABSOLUTELY have to do to get bigger.
This is blasphemy in some bodybuilding circles, but I truly believe it. There isn’t any specific exercise that you HAVE TO DO in order to avoid being doomed to eternal scrawniness.
Now, there are some exercises that are certainly more effective than others, but that doesn’t mean you have to do them if you don’t like them or if they make you uncomfortable, etc.THERE IS ALWAYS AN ALTERNATIVE.
Don’t like squats, leg press, don’t like barbell bench press, try hammer strength, don’t like barbell rows, try a seated wide grip rowing machine.
About 10 years into training I decided I would only do exercises that I enjoyed. This came at a time when I think I may have been getting burnt out, so I went in everyday only doing exercises I enjoyed.
Don’t get me wrong, I still kept everything balanced, and found ways to hit all the muscle groups, but I just focused on the things I love, and I go to the gym and do what I love, and I put my heart and soul into it!
4) Do not confuse motivation with discipline.
Even more piggybacking on the note about consistency… I know there are days we could be REALLY unmotivated to go train, and its fine to take some time off every now and then, but at I’ve said it’s also really easy to abuse this.
Something I do if I’m COMPLETELY unmotivated is what I call “Fuck around in the gym day” – basically I’ll just go in and train completely haphazardly… light weight just to get the blood flowing, random exercises with absolutely no structure or sense. just hop around from machine to machine just trying different things, eventually my competitive nature kicks in, and I start to go heavier, I start to get a good pump, I start to instinctly put some structure into the work out.
There have been times I walked into the gym extremely unmotivated and I end up leaving 2 hours later having completed a phenomenal work out, a switch happens at some point and I get into a good swing.
5) I am still unsure if my dirty bulks throughout the years helped or hindered me.
But I have some thoughts… I would say that I have spent the majority of the last 20 years walking around looking more like a linebacker than a bodybuilder (Unless I was prepping for a show)…. Maybe an Offensive lineman when I got up to 275 lbs lol!
Nowadays, I’m more focused on staying lean but I’m still making great progress with respect to strength and even size.
Many have asked me if I think my several years of heavy bulking attributed to my progress and size today and I honestly don’t know. Would I have made the same progress if I stayed lean and built size slowly? It’s hard to answer that, but surely there has to be a middle ground somewhere.
It was cool to get up to 275 lbs and I was strong as a freaking ox… at the same time I think a big mistake is that I stayed at that weight for way way way too long, and I started to get sloppy, and lazy, People could always tell I worked out, but I was certainly a permabulker, and folks wondered, is this guy just a powerlifter? a wannabe sumo wrestler? You compete in bodybuilding? what? how? etc.
Did getting so big have it’s advantages in building muscle and my current form, sure I think so, but I think there would’ve been a ton of advantages if I just stayed a bit leaner as well. Maybe not as lean as I am now, but somewhere in the middle.
6) Having simple taste and not drinking has made things easier…
I don’t drink, never have, and I have never been drunk in my life, I think that has made things much more manageable on me with respect to bodybuilding.
I also have fairly simple taste, I’m not a big sauce and condiments guy in general, and actually enjoy plain food, this has also made things easier for me whenever I needed to cut down, or even bulk up…. I never needed to cook elaborate meals to get by.
On the other hand…. I have a major sweet tooth (see past post from a few weeks ago when I outlined one of my refeed…..er….. cheat days). This has made it hard hahahaha I’ve never been that guy that eats clean all the time. Now I do, and people think – wow I must love eating all this low calorie food… no not really… I love looking the way I do, that’s why I do it, but trust me, I’d much rather be chowing down on a bunch of chocolate chip cookies, then some chicken and broccoli. Just have to engage the suck if you want to stay lean lol
7) Don’t overcomplicate and overthink things.
And despite saying that, I have often over complicated things throughout the years, and I still do from time to time, but I’m learning that I don’t need to. Not always at least.
You need structure, you need to be scientific about it, you need to understand things, but there can still be a balance. Don’t sweat every single little detail but at the same time, don’t be overly lax, find a balance. Everything you can do to make progress, even by 1%, is worth it, but don’t beat yourself up about it.
8) I’ve always been a very high protein consumer
And I think that was a factor in how my journey has played out, but it’s not something I continue to do… So when I say high, I’m talking, around 300 to 400 g of protein… HOWEVER, only in the last year and a half did I do a dramatic cut, and now take anywhere from 160 to 180 g of protein.
This transition happened because I wanted to try a new approach to dieting and essentially cutting weight and getting lean while still eating up to 270 g of carbs on some days… It worked, and I keep asking myself why I didn’t cut my protein this low sooner, I’m energized, I’m lean, I’m still strong as hell, and still making progress with the weights. It’s been great.
But then I ask myself the same question as the earlier point about extreme bulking, Would I have made all this great progress through the years if I kept protein lower? I can’t answer that. But I can tell you that based purely on the last year and a half, I wish I had done dropped it sooner.
I’ve tried so many different diets. All of my contest preps were pretty much high protein , moderate fat, and low to no carbs depending on the point in time during my prep. I gradually decreased the carbs as I got closer to the show. But as I mentioned at the very top, now I only take in around 1 g per lean body mass.
9) I’m really glad I never crossed over to the dark side…
I shouldn’t really call it the dark side because I don’t really care if people use steroids or not… plus if you count my one time stint with M1T over 10 years ago then i guess you could say I did cross over once… but what I’m trying to say is that I’m so glad that I’m currently a natural bodybuilder and that steroids were never a staple or a necessity in my bodybuilding career.
There were many reasons I never fully went into it, first it was the legal aspect… But for a number of years I lived in countries where it was legal and still, I chose not to do it… It eventually became because of health concerns, then stigma, then I don’t even know why… I just didn’t want to add yet one more thing to have to worry about or think about.. but now it’s purely a pride issue.
And yes, I am fully aware users work just as hard as us naturals, some even harder especially when you get into the top ranks of the NPC or the IFBB… But still… for one reason or another, being natural is something that makes me so proud. I always joke with my wife and tell her I’m am more proud of my bodybuilding accomplishments than I am of my PhD. Bodybuilding and my physique is something that I literally built myself, with my bare hands, hard work, discipline, and tremendous consistency. But this is a good Segway to my last point.
10) It doesn’t feel like it sometimes but there are so many things in life that are much more important than bodybuilding
That’s right… I hate to admit it, because I certainly don’t practice what I preach… But putting things in perspective, unless you are a top 5 Olympia competitor in which this is your livelihood, most likely this is just a hobby… Or better yet…. a lifestyle that you’ve chosen and dedicated yourself to.
Again… Even I find it very hard to accept this… take for example our current situation with the Coronavirus… I think the number one thing I have complained about has been the gym being closed (and obviously I understand why and support the decision)… thankfully I have enough to get by at home for now… But in retrospect I should probably be worried about other things….
Will the kids manage without in-person schooling for this long? Is my job at risk? Is our mental well being going to be impacted by this? Will we get Coronavirus? Will someone we know get it? I should probably be thinking about any of these things… But no… I’m thinking… How long will it be until I get back to the gym. And maybe it’s a good distraction, but again….putting things into perspective, that’s fairly low priority.
Another example for you, in 2014 I had Thyroid cancer, and I had to have surgery to get it removed, my first question to the doctor as I was coming out of anesthesia… When can I start lifting again? Meanwhile my awesome wife was asking the important questions, what are the follow up procedures, risk of spreading to lymph nodes and recurrence, medication needed, etc etc. And here I was logging onto bodybuilding forums from my hospital bed to read about the latest bogus work out fad or the latest contest results.
There are many many many things in life that are so much more important than bodybuilding, maybe I’m writing this as a reminder to myself… But this doesn’t mean that we all should have to go and give up this sport or lifestyle that we love, it just means that we have to find the right balance so our life is complete holistically and full in all areas beyond just how big our muscles are.