Find out what other successful people are doing, and then go copy what they’re doing is a piece of wisdom you can use to apply to many areas of your life. Want to get better at public speaking? Go learn from other successful public speakers. Want to be smarter with money? Seek out people who’ve done well in this department and are trustworthy. Want to have a successful marriage? Go talk to couples who’ve been happily married for decades, not couples who’ve merely existed together for a couple decades. Finally, want to have a physique that you’re confident in whether you have clothes on or not? Go talk to athletes like bodybuilders and physique athletes. At first glance, having just mentioned “bodybuilders,” some readers are going to check out and not read on. That’s their loss. We can learn a lot from bodybuilders and other physique athletes because let’s face it, their whole competition is judged on how they look with very little clothing on.
Going down memory lane for a bit, here’s a story about my Father and my little brother and their journey from unfit to the bodybuilding stage.
Transforming yourself certainly doesn’t “have to” mean physically, although it should be part of your life’s success equation.
This is a picture of my Dad and Brother after a natural bodybuilding competition they did a few years back. Neither one of them had ever done one before, and it all stemmed from an uncomfortable conversation around the dinner table at Christmas.
You see, I’ve been a strength and conditioning coach and trainer for a long time, and when your loved ones start to let themselves go, I’ve never been afraid to have tough conversations with them, or anyone for that matter, to help steer them back towards a healthy lifestyle. It’s not that I enjoy having those conversations, but it’s because I believe in them, the truth, and it just doesn’t need to be sugarcoated.
Dad, once a fit guy, still had this idea in his head that he still was this fit guy and that he was “above average” as he put it for men his age. I stopped him dead in his tracks. I said, “Dad, you’re most definitely NOT above average. You’re below average.”
Because of that conversation, my Dad, who’s long been my hero, bowed up a little bit and responded like most people should respond when confronted with the truth. He changed! In that instant. He changed. So did my brother. He’d began to get soft too after his athlete days and most of his friend circle had nothing to do with health and fitness…..so, like most people, he was succumbing to the powerful pull of associations. He too, in that moment, changed.
Change happens in an instant. Change is merely a decision. The decision to change may take time, but once the decision is made, it’s time to change RIGHT NOW!
Does this mean you need to do a natural bodybuilding competition? No. But there’s something to be said about putting your money where your mouth is.
A real man backs up his word with bold actions. A real man responds to the truth he’s convicted of RIGHT NOW!
Above are some of the pictures from the competition days. I’ve also competed in a couple natural bodybuilding competitions myself as well as coached several others towards the stepping on the stage. It was a very challenging experience from a discipline standpoint, but it was also very educational.
It’s one thing to have a textbook understanding of things, but it’s a far cry from direct application in the real world. Throughout these coaching and competition experiences, a few things were revealed to me about living a sustainable healthy lifestyle while also remaining relatively lean.
That’s about the best segue there is to the 5 Bodybuilding Tactics that the Average Person Can Use to Look Better in the Buff.
If you’ve ever been around a physique athlete, man or woman, you know they don’t miss meals. They eat like clockwork and never miss their grams of protein. Moderate levels of protein intake generally hover around 1 gram per pound of bodyweight. On the higher end, some physique athletes will consume 2 or even 3 times their bodyweight in grams of protein (don’t worry, this is actually quite safe). To help you understand why they do these things is because protein (amino acids) is poorly stored in the body, and when we don’t ingest protein for long periods of time, our bodies will begin to search the one place where it can find protein (amino acids), and that’s by catabolizing muscle. In other words, if they don’t ingest enough protein in their diets, they will begin to lose muscle, and this isn’t a good thing when you’re a physique athlete or just a weekend warrior trying to lose fat and look better in the buff. Not only will eating moderate to high levels of protein help promote or retain lean muscle, but it will also help keep you fuller longer.
Take home lesson: Build every meal around lean protein source, or start trending towards 1g/lb of bodyweight
Many physique athletes train in the weight-room up to 6 or 7 days per week, while some can get by with 4 days per week. Most train 5(+) days per week. Their training programs are typically very rigorous, high volume, and segmented into chest/triceps, back/biceps, legs/shoulders/abs……..
Truth is, physique athletes understand intensity when it comes to strength training. You won’t find them (men and women both) using the bright colored furry dumbbells. You’ll find them using weight as heavy as they can lift for a given rep range. The total volume in their training is typically very high and would be contraindicated for most people, but training with the right volume and intensity is a great recipe for building/retaining muscle whether a physique athlete or not.
Take home lesson: Start strength training at least 3 times per week with a total body approach.
Personally, I didn’t perform a lick of cardio in either of the training programs leading up to the two competitions I competed in. Now, I wasn’t standing on top of the podium either when it was all said and done; however, it’s a mixed bag for bodybuilders and physique athletes on whether they perform cardio as part of their training or not. Some perform “light” cardio to stay in their “fat burning” zone. There’s a reason I used the bunny ears in the previous sentence.
Wear a heart rate monitor during your weightlifting sessions, and tell me you’re not getting cardio, so long as you’re not taking 5 minute rest periods scrolling and trolling on insta. If you’re super-setting (performing back to back exercises) and taking short rest periods, you’re heart rate will remain elevated for the entire session and likely hours after. Getting lean has very little to do with cardio, but it has a lot to do with gaining/retaining lean muscle tissue.
Take home lesson: re-prioritize your training time and spend more time strength training and less doing cardio. You don’t have to avoid it if you love it, but just understand that it isn’t superior; in fact, it’s an inferior method compared to strength training.
In order to lose fat, we must be in a caloric deficit. In order to not lose muscle, we must not go too far into a caloric deficit. Typically the best deficit is around 500 calories per day in order to lose fat, while not sacrificing muscle (so long as you keep the protein mod/high and strength train consistently). This is why understanding one’s body composition is imperative to having the best plan of attack. Typically this approach takes a much more meticulous approach to monitoring our calories and macros, but once you get dialed in, it becomes like anything else, autopilot. Most general population people just start to eat less, or do some sort of fasting regimen, or cut out complete food groups (carbs…cough, cough) and don’t pay particular attention to calories and macronutrients. This leads to many times no weight loss at all, and when there is weight loss, generally it’s unsustainable and people lose precious muscle along the way. In case you’re not noticing the trend here, but muscle is your best friend forever.
Take home lesson: Align your calorie intake and macronutrients with your goals and then monitor them for at least a month using MyFitnessPal and watch what happens.
I’m not saying I know tons of bodybuilders and physique athletes, but I’ve never met a single one that didn’t take supplements. Now, when most people think of supplements and physique athletes they immediately think of anabolic steroids and HGH. This creates a misunderstanding and perception of supplementation. In the natural bodybuilding and physique communities, they tend to take very high quality supplements that are banned substance free. This is where we can learn and apply some of the stuff for our own lives. Most physique athletes take the basics, and then perhaps a few other items, but let’s stick with the basic 5:
In busy lives, it’s difficult to get everything you need from food alone just to get adequate levels of several nutrients, which leaves nearly everyone with multiple deficiencies. This is the point of supplements, to bridge the gap between reality and optimal nutrition intakes.
Take home lesson: Supplements are very healthy and very beneficial. Use what you can afford (most people can simply swap out unhealthy food/drink purchases to pay for their supplements) and don’t expect miracles, but expect them to help.
So, there you have it…..5 tactics that you can steal from bodybuilders and other physique athletes, water them down a little bit, but apply them to lead a healthier lifestyle while looking better in the buff.