Bodybuilding requires hard work and serious commitment. Your training, nutrition, recovery and cardio must all be on point if you want to make it big.
From the basics to workouts and what to eat, here’s everything you need to know about training like a bodybuilder.
What is bodybuilding?
Let’s start with the basics. Bodybuilding is one of the most difficult and demanding sports.
Months and years of hard work go into getting the perfect physique for show day, with bodybuilders alternating between strict phases of “bulking” (gaining mass) and “cutting” (losing body fat).
At competition, bodybuilders showcase their muscular development in front of judges who score based on symmetry, definition, and proportion in comparison to others competing within the same category.
What does it mean to train like a bodybuilder?
Bodybuilding training is mostly based on traditional weight and strength training, especially during bulking phases. During cutting phases, more cardio-focused training is included.
Strength training differs between bodybuilders and is usually dictated by parts of the body they want to focus most on developing.
As stage day approaches, the focus becomes more about maintaining muscle rather than building it.
Bodybuilding workouts typically consist of large compound movements like deadlifts, squats, bench press, and rows alongside isolated movements to target specific muscles like triceps, biceps, shoulders, core, and any others identified as needing to be worked on.
Rep ranges tend to change as the season progresses, and more steady-state cardio is introduced, like walking, running, biking, and HIIT-based training.
Bodybuilding basics for beginners
Getting into bodybuilding isn’t something to be intimated by, but you should think about the discipline and commitment it takes to compete. Here are some of the most important things to consider:
- Train correctly. Design a workout programme and stick to it.
- Eat properly. This can be the hardest part to get right, but following the right nutrition plan and modifying it is essential for success.
- Recover right. Sleep and rest are crucial for getting results.
- Cardio. Don’t neglect to do cardio, especially when you need to cut body fat as show day approaches.
Train like a bodybuilder
Now you know what it is and what it takes, here’s how you can train like a bodybuilder.
You should follow a five-day split with five days in the gym and two days of rest.
You can decide which days are spent in the gym based on your lifestyle, but generally it’s best to do two days on and one day off.
Alternatively, you can do a five-day split but with a split between upper and lower body (eg: upper day, lower day, rest day) or between specific muscle groups (eg: back/biceps day, legs day, rest day, chest/shoulders/triceps day, legs day, rest day).
For those with less time to dedicate to the gym, a full-body workout routine might be a better option, but you’ll really need to maximise rest days and do a variety of movements to work all the muscles in the body.
Popular bodybuilder workout routines
There are so many different workout routines, so you’re unlikely to ever get bored.
From muscle group-focused training to full-body training, we’ve pulled together some great workout routines that you can try:
Legs are a must when it comes to bodybuilding. Our ambassadorCollette Anderson keeps it simple with these go-to leg exercises that are a must in any routine.
If you want to work on your chest, try out this workout from Matt Morsia. These moves will have you getting a real pump on and building your upper body for show day.
Cody Walkerhits up some key back movements to add to your gym workout, isolating and working compounds to build bigger back muscles.
Bringing up the rear, Lucy Davis has you covered with this intense glute workout.
And if you’re in need of further workout inspiration, check out this interview withJeff Seid to see what it really takes to be a bodybuilder.
Still got questions? We’ve pulled together answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Which supplements do bodybuilders take?
Supplements play a vital role in bodybuilding. Here are some key supplements you’re likely to find in a bodybuilder’s cupboard:
- Protein powder. Protein is the building block of muscle, and supplementing with it ensures you’re getting enough to maximise gains.
- Creatine. The most researched supplement on the market and proven to help boost results, it’s a staple for anyone doing weight training.
- Fat burners. Every little helps, especially towards stage day. Fat burners like Theromopure Capsules could be the difference between winning and losing.
- Pre-workout. Big sessions sometimes need a boost — a little pre-workout helps you put in the work.
- Multivitamins. From Omega 3 to ZMA, nutrients are key for overall health, which can enhance natural recovery.
- BCAAs. These help to build muscle and promote recovery.
Check out more of our best-selling supplements here.
What do bodybuilders eat?
Nutrition can be the hardest part of bodybuilding. Eating the right food at the right time and in the right quantities is vital. Everybody is different, but your overarching diet must hit daily macro goals with the right balance of protein, carbs and fats, regardless of whether you’re bulking or cutting.
For some real insight into eating like a bodybuilder, check outRyan Terry’s nutrition routine as he prepared for Mr Olympia.
How much do bodybuilders workout a day?
Most bodybuilders have a five-day split routine that requires around 60-120 minutes on workout days, depending on programming. They’re also likely to do around 20-60 minutes of active recovery on a rest day, and some will also include some fasted cardio in the morning or post-session, which could add in another 20-60 minutes.
Do resistance bands work with bodybuilding?
While it’s possible to build muscle with resistance bands, and they can be put to good use for training in some categories, it’s better to try a variety of training methods if you want to maximise results.
What equipment do bodybuilders use?
Dumbbells, barbells, and gym machines such as cable machines and leg machines are the most commonly used pieces of equipment. Cardio machines like bikes, treadmills, and step machines are also commonly used.
How long does it take to become a bodybuilder?
Bodybuilding can be for anyone, but how long it takes to make it to the stage depends on where you’re starting. Bodybuilding is an aesthetic-based sport, which means your body fat and muscle mass levels play key roles in how much training you will need to be stage ready.
Take home message
Whether you’re just interested in getting started or looking to take on bodybuilding as a competitive sport, remember that it takes discipline, commitment, and a lot of self-motivation to show up every day and put the effort needed in.
It's one of the toughest sports physically and mentally, but it can be extremely rewarding. As long as you’re prepared to go all in, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.
Make sure to get a good coach, train correctly, prioritise your nutrition, and you’ll have a chance of making it to the stage for competition season.
If you a helping hand to get started, our muscle bundle has all you need.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.