In his phenomenal book "The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business," Charles Duhigg dedicates an entire chapter to what he labels the "habit loop." Without giving away any spoilers—I'm not kidding, it's a book that will melt your brain, and you should read it—Duhigg explains that one of the most fail-proof ways to create a habit is to preface the behavior you want to reinforce with a cue.
Other bodybuilders, such as Casey Viator and Mike Mentzer, used less sets in order to get more recuperation. They would limit the number of sets per exercise to only 3 and would also do less exercises to train each muscle group. This would bring their total number of sets down to 10-12, about half of what the high volume trainers would use. Mentzer was often quoted as only doing a total of 5 sets per muscle group.
This program is designed to manipulate repetitions for each exercise. You’ll do three sets per exercise, decreasing the weight while increasing the reps on each successive set. For the first set, do six to eight reps, then go to eight to 12 reps for the second set, and finish with 12 to 15 reps on the final set. This reverse-pyramid progression allows you to nail the strength, muscle-growth and capillarization components of each movement, ensuring complete development in an elegant time-saving workout. Remember that the first set of each exercise is always the heaviest, so make sure to warm up thoroughly before moving on to your first working set. When performing dips, do as many reps as you can per set. Rest for only 45 seconds after each set.
In contrast to strongman or powerlifting competitions, where physical strength is paramount, or to Olympic weightlifting, where the main point is equally split between strength and technique, bodybuilding competitions typically emphasize condition, size, and symmetry. Different organizations emphasize particular aspects of competition, and sometimes have different categories in which to compete.
Of course, no one was born pressing 500 pounds or squatting 700 pounds – it takes time to build this kind of strength. Assuming your form/technique is in place, you'll want to incorporate some low reps and heavy weights into your program. For example, do 10 sets of squats for 3-4 reps each, or 8 sets of 5. In other words, in order to build strength, keep your weight heavy and use low reps for a high number of sets. Squatting your bodyweight is a bare-minimum requirement for a beginner (or twice your bodyweight for an intermediate-level lifter).
The exercise order should be maintained as above, busy gyms notwithstanding. This order has been designed with large muscle group, compound exercises first, the smaller muscle isolation exercises following and with alternating ‘push’ and ‘pull’ to achieve a session that alternates muscle groups and modes of action as much as possible to enable maximum rest and recovery of the various muscle groups. Some compromises were required. Don’t get too hung-up if you can’t achieve this sequence. It’s not always possible to access equipment when you want it in gyms. In the scheme of things, it’s not fatal.
Assess your skills. Consider hiring a fitness trainer to work with you at a gym or at your home if you're a beginner. It's difficult to learn on your own how to lift weights from a book or even a video. You can do it, but the hands-on approach with a trainer is superior. You don't need to use the trainer forever, either. You can start by having the trainer design a plan for you and show you how to do it, and then depending on your skill, you might only need a couple of sessions and then a periodic follow-up with the trainer, say, once every one to two months. Learning how to lift weights properly will give you the confidence you need to lift on your own and get stronger and stronger.
Of all our diet tips for bodybuilding, consuming more protein is amongst the most important. Use a variety of protein sources to obtain your daily recommended amount, focusing on whole foods like poultry, dairy, eggs, fish, and lean meat. Unfortunately, greasy hamburgers and fattier cuts of meat like prime rib don’t count. To supplement your meals, use a quick and convenient protein powder. You can add it into your breakfast, bake it into granola bars, or perhaps prepare a post-workout shake.
Warm up prior to and stretch frequently during your workout. Before participating in any athletic activity, you should raise your peripheral body temperature. Get your heart beating and increase the blood flow to your extremities by participating in 5 minutes of a low intensity cardiovascular activity. Following your warm up, stretch your muscles gradually to a point of mild discomfort, not outright pain. Never bounce. Instead, hold stretched positions for about 20 seconds. Rather than limiting yourself to a pre-training stretch, continue to stretch during and after your workout to promote circulation. By increasing blood flow to your muscles, waste products like lactic acid are rapidly removed to help prevent soreness. In addition, more blood-borne nutrients are available for energy and growth.
One aspect many new bodybuilders look into is protein shakes. These are a quick and convenient way to take in more protein and calories, but they aren't necessary. If you have a hectic lifestyle and can't always make time to eat a meal, a shake may be useful. But otherwise, you should be able to get all your protein and calories from whole foods. When pushed for time, trainer Nate Green recommends a simple, healthy, high-calorie shake consisting of almond milk, bananas, whey protein powder, coconut and a greens supplement. Have one or two of these per day if you can't fit in solid meals. Adjust meal serving sizes to fit your calorie needs and aim to split these calories among three meals plus a couple of snacks. Should you find you're struggling to hit your calorie goal, add in more calorie-dense foods such as nuts, nut butters, dried fruit, whole milk and olive oil.
“Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips, feet facing forward. Look straight ahead with your arms out in front of your body. With chest out, shoulders back, and abs tight, slowly lower your butt down as far as you can. Make sure your knees do not push forward past your toes. Weight should be in your heels, not your toes. Return to starting position, without rounding your back as you stand, and complete 15-20 reps.”
In the third week of the program we step it up to a three-day training split: Train all “pushing” bodyparts (chest, shoulders, triceps) on Day 1; hit the “pulling” bodyparts (back, biceps) and abs on Day 2; and work your lower body (quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves) on Day 3. As in Week 2, you train each bodypart twice a week, so you’ll hit the gym six days this week.
A good pair of legs is as important to the body as a good set of wheels is to a car. But like a quality set of wheels, strong, healthy legs come at a high price. So, don’t take the following powerful exercises—especially the sissy squat—lightly. Because this is an incredibly intense workout that will turn your thighs into killer wheels. Serious focus and intensity are required.
I now know that was a mistake. An eight-week Australian study that found that doing one of four sets of bench presses to failure produced double the strength gains compared to lifters who didn't take any of their sets to failure. But in a follow-up study, the researchers found that doing more than one set to failure on the bench offered no additional strength gains.
So when you get to that point in your leg workout where you're completely dead but have to finish an insane drop set, then you need to go to the gun scenario. Would you finish the set if there were a gun pressed against your temple? Hell yes you would, so do the damn set! As an advanced lifter, it's not supposed to be easy or "fun" and you might even puke. Just man up, find your happy place and do your damn set!
Also, make sure to bring about sufficient variety in your routine once every 2 months or so. These are some generic rules for starters. If you can follow them you should be on the right track. By that time you would have had enough experience or made enough friends in body building who knows the craft better than someone who is not into it but has only a general idea of the proceedings.
Liz Neporent, an exercise physiologist and the president of Wellness 360, a New York City-based corporate-wellness-consulting company, suggests the following seven exercises, which work most of the major muscles in your body. Do one to three sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of the exercises, resting no more than 45 seconds between sets to keep the workout challenging.