Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. They give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote secretion of insulin, a hormone enabling cells to get the glucose they need. Insulin also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis.[26] Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains.[27] It is impossible to promote protein synthesis without the existence of insulin, which means that without ingesting carbohydrates or protein—which also induces the release of insulin—it is impossible to add muscle mass.[28] Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) just before, during, and/or just after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.[29]
The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and, approximately 12–14 weeks from competition, lose a maximum of body fat (referred to as "cutting") while preserving as much muscular mass as possible. The bulking phase entails remaining in a net positive energy balance (calorie surplus). The amount of a surplus in which a person remains is based on the person's goals, as a bigger surplus and longer bulking phase will create more fat tissue. The surplus of calories relative to one's energy balance will ensure that muscles remain in a state of anabolism.
Training to a point of momentary muscle failure, at which completion of another repetition on any given set is impossible despite your greatest effort, is the only way to force the body to resort to its biochemical resources sufficiently to stimulate real growth! One of the biggest mistakes I see being made in the gym is when certain individuals will end a set of an exercise just because an arbitrary number of repetitions has been completed.This will do very little to stimulate muscle growth. A set should be terminated only when your muscles have been forced to the point of it being inconceivable to produce 1 more repetition within a working set. I use the word forced because obviously, you know muscle growth doesn’t come easy and literally needs to be forced! Any degree of effort in a set that is less than 100% may yield a bodybuilder some results, but never to the same extent that all out maximum effort will.
Fat, including the much-maligned saturated fat, is necessary for building a rock-solid physique. It revs up testosterone production, provides necessary calories, and helps your joints endure the heavy lifting needed to spur muscle gains. Aim for at least 0.5g of fat per pound of body weight (90g for a 180-pound man), or 30% of your total daily calories. Divide that into equal thirds from saturated fats found in beef, coconut products, and dairy; monounsaturated fats from almonds, avocado, olive oil, and peanut butter; and fat-burning polyunsaturated fats found in fatty fish, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts. Avoid the trans-fatty acids found in fried foods.
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.[1] 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.[2]
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Another important part of form is using a full range of motion while doing the exercise, meaning you do not stop your bench press half way down. If you cannot complete the full range of motion you are probably using too heavy of a weight. Your motion should also be slow and controlled, avoiding jerking the weights, swinging the weights to get momentum, or bouncing the weights.
The Pull-up is performed by hanging from a chin-up bar above head height with the palms facing forward (supinated) and pulling the body up so the chin reaches or passes the bar. The pull-up is a compound exercise that also involves the biceps, forearms, traps, and the rear deltoids. A chin-up (palms facing backwards) places more emphasis on the biceps and a wide grip pullup places more emphasis on the lats. As beginners of this exercise are often unable to lift their own bodyweight, a chin-up machine can be used with counterweights to assist them in the lift.
If you've been competing for five-plus years, there is a quiet confidence that comes from knowing what you bring to the table. If it's your first time, don’t allow yourself to get rattled. Nerves cause cortisol to shoot up, which causes water retention and all kinds of other unwanted issues. If you’re well prepared and you have done all the hard work, it's time to enjoy the fruit of your labor.
Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.
If you have little experience of weight training and free weights, you may wish to start with the machine leg press instead of the squat, especially if you're not accompanied by a trainer, helper or spotter. Even so, there is no reason to be intimidated by the squat exercise. It need not be done in a squat rack or power cage with the big bar and free weights to begin with, although squatting with the bar alone is a good way to practice form. Dumbbells or small-bar barbells or a Smith machine can provide reassurance for the beginner. The same applies to the racked bench press with heavy bar, which can be substituted with dumbbells or lighter barbells. The key is not to lift too heavy too soon.
Warmups are important to get blood flowing to heart, lung, and muscles and lubricating (synovial) fluid loosening the joints ready for action. Each weights exercise should include a warmup with light weights and practicing the same form as for the workout weight. Sixty percent of your workout weight is about right for warmups. Stretching is not so important before exercise and is better performed after exercise. Some light stretches will do no harm.
Listen to your body. If you have a training day scheduled on paper but feel like rubbish, a day off focused on quality nutrition and adequate rest might actually improve your results. After all, you damage muscle in the gym; you build it with quality rest and nutrition. Pushing through when you're overly tired can be a recipe for disaster or injury. 

Hugo Rivera, About.com's Bodybuilding Guide and ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, is a nationally-known best-selling author of over 8 books on bodybuilding, weight loss and fitness, including "The Body Sculpting Bible for Men", "The Body Sculpting Bible for Women", "The Hardgainer's Bodybuilding Handbook", and his successful, self published e-book, "Body Re-Engineering". Hugo is also a national level NPC natural bodybuilding champion. Learn more about Hugo Rivera.
Sandow was so successful at flexing and posing his physique that he later created several businesses around his fame, and was among the first to market products branded with his name. He was credited with inventing and selling the first exercise equipment for the masses: machined dumbbells, spring pulleys, and tension bands. Even his image was sold by the thousands in "cabinet cards" and other prints. Sandow was a perfect "Gracilian", a standard of ideal body proportions close to those of ancient Greek and Roman statues. Men's physiques were then judged by how closely they matched these proportions.
The focus when doing this exercise should be on activating the hamstrings. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart with your legs straight throughout the movement. This forces the brunt of the work to be done by the hamstrings. You are going to effectively hit the hamstrings, glutes and back with this exercise. The straight leg deadlift has helped build many ironclad physiques.
Perform 2 sets of each exercise for 10-12 reps and rest 1 minute in between sets. Move up to 3 sets after 4 weeks. At 2 sets per exercise the routine lasts 45 minutes if you rest 1 minute in between sets. At 3 sets it lasts 60 minutes. Do cardio on the days off (20-30 minutes) and also do abs (4 sets of Leg Raises and swiss ball crunches for 15-40 reps).
One scary-sounding study says your health depends on x, but another says it depends on not doing x. One writer says CrossFit kills people, but the people in those pictures all seem ripped and happy. But so does that woman in yoga class. And, let's be honest, so does the Shake Weight guy! So does that online writer guy shouting at you about intermittent fasting, high reps, low reps, high-carb, low-carb, no-carb, steady-state, or HIIT.
Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.
As a certified personal trainer in both commercial gyms and private settings since 2002, and as an assistant coach with the de facto gold standard multisport company in Boise, Idaho, Performance High, LLC., I have been afforded much exposure to the many different fitness communities, from bodybuilders to weekend warriors to enduroletes, whose personalities are all as diverse as their fitness goals.
As an example, let's say someone's goal is to go to the gym three days per week before work. A basic cue would be to place their gym clothes, post-training shake, and shoes next to their bed the night prior so those items are the first thing the person sees—or maybe trips over—when they wake up. The theory is that the cues will create a routine, and eventually, the person won't need the cue.
There are so many different supplement companies out there with so many different products. Magazines advertise countless products and are endorsed by numerous massive bodybuilders. Maybe the supplements work, maybe they don't. Let's just focus on the essentials that are proven time and time again by people like you and me and spare your wallet in the meantime.
The rest period between sets is variable according to your goals. For strength rather than muscle size (hypertrophy), longer rests are required—preferably about two minutes or more. For hypertrophy and elements of muscle endurance, shorter rest usually works best—around 45-90 seconds. Considering that this program is designed for a combination of strength and muscle building, you will rest for one minute if possible. Longer rests between sets are sometimes problematic in busy gyms but a longer interval than one minute is fine if that's what you require to continue.
The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and, approximately 12–14 weeks from competition, lose a maximum of body fat (referred to as "cutting") while preserving as much muscular mass as possible. The bulking phase entails remaining in a net positive energy balance (calorie surplus). The amount of a surplus in which a person remains is based on the person's goals, as a bigger surplus and longer bulking phase will create more fat tissue. The surplus of calories relative to one's energy balance will ensure that muscles remain in a state of anabolism.
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.
Processed and fried foods will be going bye-bye as part of your bodybuilding program. You'll need five or six small meals each day with lean protein to repair muscles, carbs to fuel your workouts and healthy fats to satisfy hunger. Lebo advises that you create meal plans for your week. Rest your muscles a full 48 hours before working the same muscle group and get plenty of sleep.
Train to muscular fatigue. Many people approach an exercise with a preconceived notion of the exact number of repetitions they will do for each set. (Ten seems to be a popular choice.) These misguided souls are training inefficiently and will never reach their full potential. When performing an exercise, your goal is not a certain number of repetitions. Do not start your set saying, "I'm going to do X number of reps." Depending on the muscle group and your particular athletic objectives, you will probably want to stay within a certain range of repetitions. However, your goal is to fatigue the muscle by performing each exercise (with good form) until you no longer can.
If you're 12 weeks out from a competition, you want to maintain as much muscle as possible while torching fat from every angle. This means low-intensity cardio – high intensity cardio speeds up your metabolism and burns fat very quickly, so you run the risk of burning muscle too, Terry says – either first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or immediately after your weights session, once you’ve depleted those glycogen levels.
A word about dietary supplements: They are big business. Some work, some don't, some affect performance negatively, some are hazardous and some are illegal and will get you banned in international sport. In fact, many are a waste of money and a con. Protein powder supplements, particularly whey-based supplements, do have a role to play for busy weight trainers. But cheaper solutions may be available.

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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.
Grab a barbell with an overhand grip and hold it at shoulder height. Keep your elbows up high and your upper arm parallel to the ground. Slightly bend your knees and drop down while keeping your torso upright and avoiding leaning forward. Explosively extend your knees and hips as you drive the barbell overhead and stand up tall. Slowly lower the barbell back to your shoulders before repeating.

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If you decide to join a gym, know that you're not expected to know how all of the equipment works right off the bat—or what to do with it. Be sure to take advantage of the free orientation so you can learn how to properly use everything that's offered and set up a basic strength-training program. At the gym, machines are preferred for beginners, because they're quite safe: Most require little coordination and offer more stability than free weights while performing the movements. 

You may recruit more muscles than just the group you're focused on. Getting back to dumbbell presses, you not only use the pectorals, anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder) and triceps, but you may need other shoulder and back muscles to coordinate and hold your body steady during the exercises. Likewise, if you're doing standing front raises, you will naturally recruit muscles in your abdomen and back to steady your body.
The Upper Body B workout starts with pull-ups. Use an overhand grip. If you are unable to do pull-ups, you can do lat pull-downs or some form of assisted pull-up in its place (still using an overhand grip). It’s fine. However, you should make it your eventual goal to be able to do pull-ups and actually work towards eventually doing them here. These are still to be done in front of your head… never behind the neck. Also, if you are someone who can already do 3 sets of 6-8 pull ups, then you need to add weight. Search around online for what’s called a “pull-up belt” (also called a “dip belt”) and buy one. It will allow you to add additional weight to body weight exercises like pull-ups and dips. It’s one of the only training products I fully recommend, and when your own body weight becomes too easy for you, it’s a requirement for progressive overload to take place.
Game meat used to be a big part of the American dinner—bring it back. Bison, elk, ostrich, and venison are among the best muscle-building foods. Besides having a superior protein-to-fat ratio that helps pack on lean mass, most game is grass fed and has plenty of room to roam. This produces more fat-burning omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid. Look for game meat at farmers’ markets or order at eatwild.com. Also, keep an eye out for game meat jerky, a stellar, protein-packed snack option.
BMR can also be estimated simply by multiplying body weight by 10-11 calories per pound or 22-24 kilocalories per kilogram. So, someone weighing 150 pounds has a BMR close to 1,500-1,650 calories per day. If you're pregnant, add 300 calories to your estimated calorie needs (don't take "eating for two" literally!). If you're breastfeeding, add 500 calories.

The intensity of a workout was often adjusted by decreasing the amount of rest taken between sets. By training faster, bodybuilders would automatically train harder. Arnold was rumored to train with so many sets and so quickly that he would need three sets of training partners that he would alternate with workouts in order to keep up with him. With the decreased rest periods between sets and the increased volume of the workout, bodybuilders could get into top contest condition without the use of cardio.


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Action: Starting in an upright position (without locking out your knees), contract your quadriceps muscles and slowly lower into a squat position. Once you reach the bottom movement (where your upper legs are just below parallel to the platform), press the sled back to the top without “locking out” and repeat the movement. Make sure to keep your abdominal muscles tight and your lower back planted firmly against the rear padding to avoid a back injury.

The third and final phase of the “25% Stronger” program helps you max out your strength levels by gradually decreasing the volume of your workouts while increasing the amount of weight you move. You’ll begin the last phase at the top end of the strength range (seven reps). Each week, you’ll perform fewer sets and reps - five of five, four of four and finally the last week in which you perform three sets of three - so your body is fresh for the final tests in Week 13.


In the 12th week of the program, performing three sets of three on all exercises will provide a barometer with which you can measure your improvement. Then, in the 13th week, you’ll test your three-rep max (3RM) on five major strength lifts. If you performed the 3RM test before you began the program (see “Testing Your 3RM”), you should be looking at roughly a 25% improvement on all five lifts.
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