Because if everyone was ripped, it wouldn’t be epic.
Bodybuilding is like a little clique. If you’re in, you have all the great information. If you’re not in though, you’re left scouring the net for information that may or may not be trustworthy. Being around pro bodybuilders most of my life, I can tell you first hand that most of the information is heavily guarded. Seriously, if everyone knew every trick, then seeing someone who is huge and ripped just wouldn’t be so damn epic. When I say “trick”, I’m really referring to knowledge that’s been amassed from years and years of dedication, experimentation, and research. Oh, did I mention hard work? That being said, let’s dive right into the 7 secrets bodybuilders don’t want you to know.
Bodybuilders know it’s not about the weight
We’ve been visually trained since the first time we looked at a fitness article online or saw a photo of bodybuilders for the first time, that lifting heavy weight equated to growing into giant a bodybuilder. Article after article, Instagram photo after Instagram photo, showed us pro bodybuilders lifting enormous amounts of weight while their physiques looked contest ready. Keep in mind, lifting heavy and using your fast-twitch muscle fibers is important to the overall growth of your muscles – HOWEVER – what we see in bodybuilding articles and photos is far from how the pros train on a daily basis.
While the pros can throw around heavy weight with no problem, if you look at their daily routine (and ours), it consists of doing higher reps with less weight, and immaculate form. Take Kai Greene for example, Mr. Olympia runner up multiple years in a row, while he can push huge amounts of weight, he can be found lifting lighter weights than you would expect. As Kai says, “The weight will come”. What this means is that if you start lighter and do more reps, you will force more blood into the muscle cells. Doing this stretches the muscle fascia and also allows more nutrients into the muscle cell, allowing muscle repair (and ultimately growth) to occur.
Most of our team here at Body Spartan will do sets within the 12 to 20 rep range. The higher reps with strict form allow us to get a serious, skin splitting pump in whatever muscle group we’re working. Many times we will incorporate drop sets and super sets. Drop sets are where you finish your final set for a certain exercise at the heaviest weight you can do and then immediately lower the amount of weight you are using and do an additional set. Sometimes we will even do two or three drops in a row – basically it’s one long set where we continue to drop the weight as our muscles start to fail. A super set would be two different exercises performed back to back without any rest in between. So for example, on your next back day, you might try lat pull-downs and super set them with seated cable rows. If you do 15-20 reps for each exercise, without rest in between, and do three or four sets like this, we promise you’ll have a pump like never before.
Now, there is something to be said for lifting heavy. If you want to gain muscle you should always lift as heavy as possible and just barely be able to get all of the reps. So if you are trying to get 20 reps, you will want to pick a weight where your muscles are starting to fail around 14-16 reps. You should be STRUGGLING to get the last few reps – but still keeping good form.
Also, you will definitely want to mix in lower reps and heavier weight but just not all the time. If you go in and lift for your one rep max every time, sure you may be strong but you’ll be neglecting your slow twitch muscle fibers and you won’t grow nearly as much as if you had trained both. Even Arnold said that he enjoyed lifting for 1-rep max’s every now and then, but he didn’t do it all the time. Mix in some heavy lifting with lower reps in the 5-10 rep range here and there to be sure you are targeting both types of muscle fibers and maximizing your growth.
Bodybuilders don’t bulk and shred at the same time
As bodybuilders, one of the things we hear the most is “I want to get huge and shredded”. Well, the reality is you can’t do both at the same time, and here’s why. If you want to bulk, you need carbs and lots of them. Carbohydrates are what stuff your muscles full of glycogen and allow them to produce large amounts of strength, power, and endurance. In keeping with the first item on our list, you’ll be able to lift heavier for more reps, for a longer period of time when you have carbs in your system. You’re muscles are going to grow at an exponential rate when you eat and work out this way.
To shred, you have to cut your carbs and reduce your overall calorie intake. The goal is to deplete your muscles of as much glycogen as possible so your body will resort to burning it’s own energy source, which is body fat. You won’t gain nearly as much muscle, if any at all, while you are in a carb-depleted state. You will however, drop body fat like a bad habit.
To get the best of both worlds and retain some strength and avoid your body eating away at muscle for energy, you will need to “re-feed” about once a week. In other words, you will want to ingest carbs once a week and replenish your glycogen stores. This will help retain some strength and minimize muscle wasting.
There is no quick and easy route to “huge and ripped”. It’s constant cycles of bulking and shredding over and over again to gain as much muscle as possible and then lose as much body fat as possible while avoiding muscle wasting.
Nutrition is 80% of the game
Hands down, this is the biggest secret for bodybuilders. We discuss this in serious detail in every one of our programs because understanding this secret AND implementing it is paramount to success with any fitness goal. You have to eat the right amounts of the right types of foods on a regular basis. We’ve found that most people eat about three times a day and snack in between. We’ve been taught and trained since we were children that eating our “three square meals” a day will keep us healthy. What science has shown, as well as our own personal experience, is that if you eat more frequently in smaller portions, your body will utilize the nutrients more efficiently. We shoot for five to six meals a day, spaced about 3-4 hours apart.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can eat donuts 6 times a day and be healthy. You will want to get your macros dialed in to begin with. You can either try to do it yourself, which is where so many people fail, or you can have a professional do it for you. Side note, all of our workout programs will custom calculate your macros for you so there’s no guessing how many grams of protein, carbs, and fats you need for each meal.
Bodybuilders prefer Real food over protein powder
The common question asked of bodybuilders is “What kind of protein do you take”. Yes we love our protein, but we especially love protein from organic sources (meat, fish, poultry, etc.). The reason real food beats powders is because the complexity of the protein. Real food offers more nutrition than a shake will. Yes you can supplement more into your shake to make up for what you are lacking but that’s more work for your body to do before it gets the benefits. Real food also allows you to consume your “complete proteins” which is all 9 aminos that make up a protein. Shakes are great for lowering your calorie intake but should only be used as a supplement and not a meal replacement. If you are low on your protein intake by a dozen or two, than a protein shake is beneficial. But for overall nutrition and building muscle, real food is the best for you.
Real fat burners don’t exist anymore
We have all heard of the magic pill that makes your fat disappear. The truth is that there isn’t a pill that does it for you. There are thermogenics and niacin releasing supplements that essentially boost your bodies function and allowing it to work a little faster, but what happens when you stop? You gain the weight back and some. Bodybuilders are able to shred through body fat and stay there most of the year because of the muscle they have already built. The more muscle you have, the more fat you burn. Every pound of muscle burns roughly 50 calories, so if you had 20 pounds of muscle, then your body burns 1000 calories a day on its own. That means without even working out or doing cardio, your body has already burned 1,000 calories for the day. Add a workout on top of that and you are a lean, mean, and fat burning machine.
Olympic lifts don’t make you a bodybuilder
In order to stimulate muscle growth, you need to enter hypertrophy (the enlargement of an organ or tissue from the increase in size of its cells). This is not achieved in power lifting movements, as there is very little eccentric loading. The point in Olympic lifting, is to be powerful and explosive with short time under the weight, versus time under tension exercises used by bodybuilders. There are exceptions but 9 times out of 10, you would overlook an Olympic lifter because their muscle development is usually in their legs, lower back, and traps. Bodybuilders will include Olympic lifts to maintain strength, but at the end of the day, its not about strength but about the “pump” and forcing as much blood into the cells as possible (hypertrophy).
When it comes to supplements, more is not always better
There are a million different types of supplements and just about one for everything you can think of. Reality is, the less you take the better. every supplement you take is more for the body to digest and you are most likely taking more than the body can absorb. You want to get most your vitamins from real food sources, but there is some that you can’t obtain without going over calories. That is why supplements are so popular, because they are convenient. We typically can count our supplements that we take on a daily basis, on one hand. Tat is because most our focus goes into what we eat. If your diet is being held up to what it should be, than your supplement intake should reduce and your body will respond better and you’ll see results faster and also maintain them.