Bodybuilding is a serious sport. The elite athletes have transformed their bodies into amazing specimens. These men and women have dramatically changed their lifestyles, altered their nutrition, and have reprogrammed their mindset so everything they do is focused on their next competition. With this being said however, it doesn’t mean that to lift weights you must aspire to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger or Rachel McLish. Bodybuilding can be an enjoyable activity for everyone, but to succeed at any level from beginner or recreational through highly competitive, there are basic guidelines you should understand.
Consult your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle, suffer from cardiovascular ailments, or have recently recovered from an injury.
Set your goals. Make them attainable and realistic, but challenging. Examples can be as specific as wanting to lose a certain percentage of body fat, or more general such as wanting to fit into your favorite pair of jeans by a particular date without having to hold your breath.
Identify possible obstacles and plan how you will overcome them. For instance, if you usually rush in the mornings, then plan ahead by packing a bag with workout clothes, your written routine, healthy snacks, etc. the night before and put it in your car. If you need to be accountable to someone, enlist the help of a family member or friend. If you know you often get stuck at work, have after work childcare concerns, have to get home to let the dogs out, etc., then exercise in the morning.
Write out your plan. Be specific.
Consider hiring a certified personal trainer to help get you started. This is money well invested. Take your time, perform due diligence, and choose one with similar philosophies as you.
Weigh yourself before you begin working out, calculate your body fat percentage, and take physical measurements of your body so you can monitor your progress.
Consider meeting with a nutritionist. Nutrition is an integral component of your success.
Know what motivates you and be honest with yourself. If necessary, establish a positive and healthy way to reward yourself when you reach your short-term and long-term goals.
Plan for the days where you miss a workout or eat food you shouldn’t have. Forgive yourself and decide ahead of time that you won’t do it a second day in a row. Immediately return to your schedule.
Choose comfortable, loose fitting clothes. Working out is not a fashion show. The gym is not a place to hook up with someone. If you are looking for a date, go to a bar.
Invest in a decent or better pair of shoes. Don’t wear the shoes you use to mow the grass. For strength training and light cardio, choose cross-trainers with good stability. If you regularly run more than 5K, also buy a pair of running shoes.
Wear cotton socks.
Leave your jewelry at home. Rings are easily bent, and bracelets and necklaces get stuck in machines.
Warm up before any routine. Do some type of light cardiovascular exercise for 5 – 10 minutes, and follow it with light static stretches.
Perform a combination of cardiovascular and strength training. This can be separated over different days or performed on the same day, but include both. They are necessary to improve your body holistically.
When weight lifting, start with major muscle sets, then move to smaller muscles.
Monitor your progress on your written plan. Don’t cheat – you will only be lying to yourself.
Use proper form. Always. Don’t be embarrassed to read the instructions on the side of the machine. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, but also don’t blindly assume that the guy with the biggest muscles is the most knowledgeable. Ask a gym employee or a trainer for assistance. If you let your pride get in the way, you could suffer an injury, or you might end up working a different muscle group which could cause problems if the imbalance continues.
Ask for a spotter. Don’t be a hero.
Don’t be intimidated in the weight room. Everyone – men, women, old, young, experienced and newbies – has a “right” to be there.
Stay hydrated. Drink water before, during and after exercise. If you find yourself thirsty, then you are already dehydrated.
Leave your ego at the door and compete against yourself. Don’t worry about anyone else. There will always be someone stronger, bigger, or faster.
Properly cool down after every routine. Keep your body moving to allow your heart rate to slowly drop, and then do some more light static stretches.
Don’t get caught up trying to take supplement “x” before the workout, supplement “y” during the workout, and supplement “z” after the workout. Keep it simple and stick with water at first. Within 45 minutes or so after you exercise, have a small meal, or meal replacement bar or shake that replenishes your body with protein and carbohydrates.
Understand the importance of nutrition and sleep. Both are integral to your overall fitness. Simply put, if you eat donuts all day, don’t expect to build muscles. And if you don’t get enough sleep night after night, don’t expect to build muscles.
And most importantly, celebrate your successes. Bodybuilding is a process. Some days you will be stronger and more motivated than others. Keep at it, and don’t give up!
From an early age, Sharon was encouraged to participate in competitive sports including soccer, basketball, track, softball, and volleyball. She has been an athlete and fitness enthusiast ever since. She explains that her parents instilled in her a level of self-confidence that has touched everything she does. See my profile page for more information!