How do you start a bodybuilding journey? Both men and women have long wanted a muscular body for thousands of years. Going back through history, we find muscular sculptures in Rome of powerful men, all of whom look like bodybuilders.
There is hardly a hero in the movies or TV that doesn’t boast a muscular body on the big screen. Muscles convey authority, power, discipline, hard work, and capability. Also, they make you look like an alpha male or female.
If nothing else, a muscular physique is admirable, desirable, and attractive. But how can you attain this type of build? The answer lies in bodybuilding. When you try to lose fat or build muscle, you are bodybuilding. Thus, everyone who is trying to get into shape is bodybuilding.
If you’re new to the world of weightlifting or bodybuilding, you probably don’t have the slightest idea of where to begin. Don’t feel bad. Even the actors and bodybuilders with the most impressive physiques had to start from scratch. We’re here to help.
Please keep reading for our top 11 tips for starting your bodybuilding journey.
1. Identify your body type and dietary needs before you do anything else.
One of the essential bodybuilding tips is understanding and accepting your limits. Also, you must determine your needs before you set your goals. There are three primary body types (or somatotypes) – ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. Understanding your body type helps you define your goals. Also, it shows you how to uses your genes for bodybuilding.
The Three Somatotypes
Ectomorphs are naturally long, thin, and lean. Lingerie models desire this body type. But, it is challenging to build bulky muscle with this body type. Skinny body types have a hard time gaining weight and putting on mass.
Endomorphs are on the other side of the spectrum. They gain weight incredibly quickly (which includes both fat and muscle). These individuals make great powerlifters and football linemen but struggle to stay lean.
Mesomorphs are the happy medium. These people are athletic and strong. They make the ideal bodybuilder because they can gain and lose weight with relative ease.
Understanding Your Dietary Needs
It’s often said that weight is lost in the kitchen, not the gym. In bodybuilding, muscles are built in the gym, but what you eat has a profound effect on your gains.
Based on your body type, you need to adjust how you eat to achieve your bodybuilding dream. If you have trouble gaining weight, you’re going to need to eat A LOT. If you’re an endomorph and want to stay lean, you’re going to have to work hard not to gain fat along with muscle mass. Finding the right amount of calories and protein to eat will determine your bodybuilding journey.
Find your daily calorie needs based on your BMR or basal metabolic rate. If you can find a BMR calculator that takes your body fat percentage into account, it will be the most accurate.
2. Define your bodybuilding goals right after you identify your needs.
To be successful in any life area, you need to define a list of goals to reach. Without goals, you may progress, but without any purpose or direction. Use SMART goals to guarantee success. SMART goals use information that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific.
Identify your ultimate goal, such as competing in a bodybuilding show or obtaining a particular physique. We recommend creating a vision board to keep yourself motivated. Sharpen your ultimate goal by providing specific information, for example, competing at Mr.Olympia in 5 years. A SMART plan does not give you any wiggle room. You either succeed, or you fail.
However, remember to take your body type into account when bodybuilding. For example, if you’re a 5’7″ ectomorph, you’re never going to look like The Rock. But that’s not to say you can’t achieve an impressive physique.
Once you sharpen your ultimate goal, break it down into milestone goals. These should be a few months apart so that you can celebrate small victories as you progress. This will also keep you motivated and moving forward. Also, convert them to SMART goals as well.
3. Invest in a trainer or coach when you are new to bodybuilding to save time and money.
Becoming a bodybuilder doesn’t happen by accident. You have to know what you’re doing in the gym. You can’t expect to walk into a weight room without little or no experience and start throwing around weights like the best of them.
Just as importantly, lifting weights improperly can lead to poor results and serious injuries. For this reason, we highly recommend hiring a personal trainer or weightlifting coach if you’re new to bodybuilding. They can teach you:
- Proper lifting form
- Effective exercises for each muscle group
- How to create a workout program
- How to prevent injuries
- And more
Even the most common weightlifting injuries can affect you for months or years. Thus, it’s best to take the appropriate steps to avoid them. Also, learn from the best bodybuilders. Read their stories to discover tips and tricks that can take your journey to the next level. Why reinvent the wheel when someone else already built it for you. Here is a list of the best bodybuilders and how they did it:
4. Don’t neglect flexibility and mobility because bodybuilding is a reflection of what your body can do.
One of the best ways to avoid injuries is by maintaining your flexibility and mobility. If you never had either, now’s the time to start working on it.
The more you lift weights and increase your muscle mass through bodybuilding, the tighter and less flexible your body will become. However, incorporating a daily stretching routine to increase your flexibility and mobility will keep you limber, regardless of how big and muscular you get.
We also recommend warming up properly before workouts using mobility drills. These will improve your functionality and minimize injuries.
5. Focus on compound movements because your body is made of many parts that work together.
A successful bodybuilding journey focuses on the most effective exercises. These are known as compound movements.
Compound movements incorporate multiple joints and muscle groups in each lift. They call on the most muscle fibers while also improving balance, symmetry, and functionality. The primary compound exercises in bodybuilding are:
- Barbell squats
- Barbell deadlifts
- Weighted lunges
- Bench Press (incline, decline, and flat)
- Shoulder press (seated or standing)
- Bent-over rows
- And more
These exercises belong at the beginning of your workouts when you have the most strength and energy.
6. Implement progressive overload theory because you can’t bodybuild without it.
A bodybuilding career relies on one major component – consistent progress. This is especially important for beginners who are starting from square one. This is where progressive overload theory comes into play.
Progressive overload is the science of making manageable progress over time for significant gains. The simplest example would be adding five pounds onto your max barbell squat every week. After a year, you would be lifting 260 pounds more.
However, in programming, progressive overload takes on many forms. Here are some examples, using barbell squats as the highlighted lift:
- First Week – 3 sets of 10 at 100lbs
- Second Week – 3 sets of 10 at 105lbs
- Third Week – 3 sets of 10 at 110lbs
- First Week – 3 sets of 10 at 100lbs
- Second Week – 3 sets of 12 at 100lbs
- Third Week – 3 sets of 14 at 100lbs
- First Week – 3 sets of 10 at 100lbs
- Second Week – 4 sets of 10 at 100lbs
- Third Week – 5 sets of 10 at 100lbs
You can customize these examples based on your abilities. For example, if you feel comfortable adding reps and weight, do it. The primary goal is to perform better than you did the week before, every week.
7. Create long-term programming because bodybuilding is a journey, not a race.
One of the essential bodybuilding tips is understanding that it’s a long journey. You’re not going to make massive gains overnight. It takes a dedicated effort over time.
As such, you need to create long-term programming. If you change up your program every couple of weeks, you’re not going to see consistent results. We recommend sticking with an individual program (doing the same routine each week with progressive overload) for at least six weeks at a time.
However, sticking with the same program for too long will result in hitting a plateau. It’s important to change up your routine. This includes:
- Different sets and reps
- Different lifting styles
- New exercises and exercise variations
- Different muscle groupings for each day
Finally, implement a de-load week before starting a new program. Do your regular exercises at about 60-70% intensity. This will keep your muscles active while encouraging recovery. It is crucial to start your new program at 100%.
8. Write everything down and track your progress. Only what you measure will grow.
Sticking to long-term programming on your bodybuilding journey is pointless if you’re not tracking your progress. You can’t know how to improve on the previous week if you didn’t’ write it down. It would be best if you saw exactly how many reps and sets you did, and with what weight so you can improve your numbers.
This forced growth is the foundation of progressive overload theory, and it doesn’t work without a workout journal. You can also use a workout journal to look back several months so you can marvel at how much you’ve grown over time. It will shock and inspire you to see where you started.
Tracking your progress also includes monitoring and following your diet. We recommend using a program like myfitnesspal to make your life easier.
You can scan barcodes and look up the foods you’re eating to know many calories you’re consuming. It also breaks down the macronutrients of each food (proteins, carbs, and fats). Finally, this app will tell you how much salt, sugar, fiber, and other nutrients are in your diet.
9. Find the right balance between power and endurance to enhance your bodybuilding journey.
One of the most complex bodybuilding parts is finding the happy middle ground between brute strength and muscular endurance. There are two opposing schools of thought here.
The first is that natural bodybuilders’ only way to get bigger is by focusing on pure strength. In some aspects, this is true. Your muscles must get bigger and stronger to adapt to greater workloads, which results in increased mass.
An alternative theory, however, suggests that the best growth occurs with time under tension. This indicates that muscle growth is optimized by performing more reps and focuses on the “pump” of weightlifting.
In truth, both theories are accurate in their own right. Lifting exclusively with low reps and heavyweight increases your burst strength by focusing on fast-twitch muscle fibers. Alternatively, high reps with lighter weights increase your slow-twitch muscle fibers.
To get maximum results, we recommend doing both. You should incorporate heavy lifts at 3-6 reps, medium lifts at 8-10 reps, and light lifts at 12-15 reps. You can also use various burnout methods, such as pyramids and drop sets.
10. Focus on your weaknesses, not your strengths, because your weaknesses will be the thing that takes you down.
One of the biggest mistakes beginner bodybuilders make is spending too much time on the lifts that please them. These are the lifts that they’re good at or the lifts that make them feel good about themselves. Traditionally, newbies focus on upper body lifts and work their legs as an afterthought.
However, focusing on your strengths and not addressing your weaknesses can lead to significant asymmetries and imbalances. For example, you don’t want to have a stacked upper body with little chicken legs. This is where the famous saying “friends don’t let friends skip leg day” comes from.
Correct your weaknesses and asymmetries as soon as possible.
If you struggle with specific exercises (upper body or lower body), it means you need to put more effort into the associated muscle groups. Often, these problems come down to core strength or stability muscles.
You can improve muscle symmetry, stability, and overall strength by making free weights the staple of your programming. Machines and cables are excellent for adding variety to your workouts. However, they don’t make your stability muscles or core muscles work to maintain balance.
Relying too heavily on machines will lead to a lack of functional strength, symmetry, and stability.
11. Commit yourself to resiliency and consistency because a bodybuilding journey takes you up a set of stairs, not an elevator.
Having a successful and progressive bodybuilding journey comes down to your mindset. How committed are you to your goals? Is bodybuilding one of your top priorities?
If you want to make significant gains, you must make a considerable effort. If you’re skipping one or more workouts every week or consistently making concessions on your diet, your road to success is going to be rough-going.
It may sound overly-dramatic, but you need to adopt a warrior mindset. No matter how long your day was, how tired you are, or how badly you want to go home and play video games, it would be best if you got your workout in first.
This resiliency is vital to your progress. The second you allow yourself to make excuses, you start taking steps away from your goals. Also, commit yourself to your workout program and your nutrition plan.
Ready to start your bodybuilding journey?
If you’re looking to build muscle mass and look like the actors or bodybuilders you admire, it’s time to start your journey. Remember, if you’re going to commit, you need to commit fully.
Also, if you need a little extra guidance, we can help. Please take a look at some of our workout programs and diet plans to best meets your needs. And feel free to check out some of our other articles for more detailed expert advice on bodybuilding.