Sit down with a bunch of bodybuilders and ask them to sum up all the important stuff they've learned and you'll probably hear some interesting info. But sit down with a bunch of experts in the field, guys with years of experience training themselves and working with others, and what you hear may change how you eat and train forever. So that's what we did. We contacted several T-mag contributors and asked them a simple question:
"What have you learned in all the years you've been involved in this field?"
What we got was some darned good advice that could benefit everyone from a rank beginner to a seasoned vet. Listen up as some of the top guys in their fields dole out some knowledge.
Don't always look for new or unique ways of doing things. Most of the best methods and techniques are already well-known.
Don't seek fatigue in your workout – instead, manage it.
Train for function and your appearance will improve as well. The reverse isn't always true, however.
Find a smart and motivated training partner.
Schedule exact times for all workouts.
Keep a food and training log, and learn from it!
Don't train in pain. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something's wrong. Listen and act upon these messages!
Frame goals around behaviors rather than outcomes.
Continue doing what works. (Many times we tend to discontinue doing things which have worked in the past.)
Identify and fortify weak links. This could refer to habit patterns, muscle groups, motor qualities, etc.
In most things, the truth tends to be in the middle (rather than the extremes.)
In resistance training, we tend to focus too much on what to lift and not enough on how or why.
Do more work in the same amount of time (workout to workout) and muscle will grow.
There's no best way. All techniques, methods, paradigms, exercises, devices, etc., have benefits and drawbacks. If your training lacks variety and diversity, you'll accumulate the drawbacks and habituate to the benefits.
It's not so much what you know that's important; it's what you do.
Open minds make the most progress. However, "open" doesn't mean "gaping." Learn to be a critical thinker.
The autotelic approach wins the race every time. Focus on the process, not the result. Do things for their own intrinsic value rather than for the external reward. The best bodies tend to belong to people who just love to train.
We're all capable of much more than we think. I recently saw a photo of a powerlifter squatting something like 600 pounds on a prosthetic leg. I remembered thinking, "Man, what's my excuse?!"
Building an extreme level of size and strength takes years of hard work, perseverance, and dedication, despite the outrageous claims of some unscrupulous supplement ads.
Unless you're eating a minimum of five times a day, you'll never join the muscular elite – no matter how hard you train.
Steroids are not the deadly poisons the media makes them out to be, but they're still powerful compounds that must be used with caution and in moderation.
The basic exercises pack on the most muscle. Those who ignore them at the expense of isolation movements are doomed to remain forever smaller and weaker than those who concentrate on moving heavy amounts of raw iron.
Feeling the muscle work while you train is key for bodybuilders. Heavy weights won't produce growth unless the form is strict and the muscles are trained, rather than the connective tissues.
Height and weight very rarely give any accurate indication of how a physique will rate from a visual standpoint. There are plenty of 250 pound guys who look horrible, and an equal amount of 190 pounders that look like Greek gods.
Dwelling on gaining weight and increasing measurements usually leads to getting fat.
It's always a mistake to put physique goals ahead of career, education, family, and friends. Few will ever make a living from their appearance, but many will lose out on a better quality of life if they are so obsessed.
Of all the self-proclaimed experts you'll meet on your weight-training journey, at least half are complete morons spewing total myths and misinformation.
The majority of personal trainers fit into that half, and also haven't the slightest idea of how to execute correct exercise form.
Most women don't find the overblown development that comes with excessive steroid use attractive at all, and most prefer something leaning toward the Men's Fitness look.
Nobody, despite their best intentions, ever does "just one" steroid cycle.
Cheating on form with heavy weights eventually catches up to everyone in the form of injuries.
Those with the greatest genetics for bodybuilding often disappear the fastest. Having things come too easily presents no challenge. Thus, less-than-perfect genetics are actually a blessing.
Compare yourself only to yourself. Comparing yourself to others will drive you crazy. Focus on improving your own body and don't worry about anyone else.
Overtraining is an individual matter. Some can overtrain working out three times a week; others can tolerate six days, twice a day in the gym. Steroids can compensate greatly in terms of recovery, making it far more difficult to overtrain.
Once you think you know it all, you're toast.
You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit. If you're diet is not on track and composed of sound macronutrients, ideally organic, all the supplements in the world can't help you.
Less is more. If you're tired, train less. If you have energy to spare, train more.
Don't be pennywise and pound-foolish. I've learned the hard way, you get what you pay for. If you want to get something done, hire good help. If you want to get healthy, eat the best foods and take the best supplements. If you want to accomplish an athletic goal, hire the most successful coach or trainer – not someone who won a gold metal or who has a better body than you. Teaching and doing are individual arts and skills that aren't always contained in the same body!
Study, study, study! To achieve your potential in any field requires constant and never-ending improvement. Learning is a life-long endeavor.
Beware of the talking head. In most cases, it's not the "academic-types" that give lectures and write the books that are the true masters, it's the people who give lectures, write books and practice what they preach who we should seek to learn from. They are few and far between.
Work for a healthy body, a strong mind and nourished soul. It's easy to get caught up in one's primary endeavor and to forget about one or more aspects of what make a healthy human being. At 40 years of age, no matter how busy I am, I allot time for my mental, physical and spiritual development. A few minutes a day is far better than none!
Don't sweat the small stuff. If you have time to sweat the small stuff, you're probably not focusing on the big stuff.
If you're unintentionally gaining body fat, you can almost guarantee your life is out balance. Looking back at my life, every time I woke and saw my washboard turning in to a wash tub, I was simultaneously experiencing mental or physical imbalance, which presented itself as stress!
There is an inverse relationship between money spent on marketing and the quality of a product. In most cases, the more money spent to market a product, the worse it is. For example, compare the number of Rolls Royce ads to the amount of Coca-Cola ads you've seen in your life. One gets you there in style and one suppresses your immune system while disrupting your hormonal system. Need I say more?
The further we, as humans, deviate from the environment from which we evolved, the more problematic our bodies and existence become. This relationship seems to be exponential.
The less TV you watch, the healthier you are likely to be.
The chronic consumption of white flower, white sugar and white salt, particularly when consumed in combination, results in a disability of logic and self-discipline. This is evidenced by all the people who don't like to exercise because it's too strenuous and "it hurts." Yet these same people eventually end up exercising because they are so fat, walking up stairs becomes too strenuous, and, "it hurts!"
Ronald McDonald is an excellent marketer but knows nothing of nutrition. For some unknown reason, when a child tells a parent how to drive, how to live, or how to behave, the child is always wrong. When a child tells a parent how to eat, based on knowledge learned from Ronald McDonald, the child seems capable of being correct to the tune of about 100 billion dollars a year! We may be better off driving and living like our children tell us to and eating the way we did before the microscope was invented!
Any sense not utilized or exercised will diminish and then disappear. The longer one dismisses any given sense, the more work it will take to restore it:
• Use it or lose it
• You must practice "listening" to hear
• If you don't "feel" love, you are probably not "giving" enough love.
• If your "balance" is poor, you're probably "out of balance!"
• Insight, foresight, and hindsight are not products of seeing, but products of vision – a vision that comes only from using all your senses.
John M. Berardi
Getting big is a battle and my weapon is a fork. When in doubt I must stop talking about eating to get big. I need to pick up the fork and get to work.
What kind of person needs a mission statement for training? It only makes sense to be big and strong, to regularly challenge the body. I train because I can.
To succeed in weight lifting, do shorter workouts than the magazines want you to, train heavier than your muscles want you to, do more reps than your mind wants you to, and eat more food than your stomach wants you to.
Always remain flexible and try new things in the gym. Over the course of your training lifetime, your goals will surely change and when they change you can change with them.
Consistency, not novelty, is the secret to uncommon results. Only those too impatient to follow simple, rational, and balanced eating and training programs will choose fringe eating and training methods. And these are the people who won't be in the gym 12 months from now.
The body will always deliver a just dessert for both good and bad decisions. Sacrificing intelligent and balanced eating for more speedy results may work in the short run, but in the long run, the body will have its final say.
The only way to truly understand your physique is by years of trial and error. Appreciate the journey. There's absolutely no shortcut to mastery.
This game is not only about looking good naked and straining under a big plate-loaded bar. It's about experimentation, longevity, piece of mind, confidence, and enjoyment.
I've been training for about ten years. I hope to train for fifty more. I love to train. There are so many programs that work; I don't plan on letting tedious, un-enjoyable programs ruin this for me.
New trainees need an environment rich in supportive and like-minded people. Without them, the psychological and physiological weight of their training will break their resolve. But, once aligned with brothers and sisters in iron, there's nothing they can't accomplish.
Experienced trainees must learn that only the most critical and challenging individuals will push them beyond their barriers. Surrounding yourself with groupies and undiscriminating ego strokers will only lead to stagnation.
Select fitness professionals by the results they produce with themselves and their clients rather than their formal education.
Progression is more important than perfection.
Everyone wants results, but you must be specific in what results you want and what you'll sacrifice in order to get them.
Knowledge is the master plateau buster. Investment in knowledge comes back to you tenfold.
Muscle mass is gained in the gap between training and overtraining.
When in doubt on what to train or what program to follow, ask yourself what routine inspires you the most at that moment.
You must learn what motivates you – videos, music, environment, partners, etc. – and take control over those stimuli.
Wholesome foods increase gains over food supplements every time.
Alternate wholesome food (solid) with supplement (liquid) meals.
Keeping carbs below 100 grams per day facilitates fat loss with every body type.
When dieting, alternate three lower calorie days with one higher calorie day.
Increasing volume every week on lower body, multiple-joint exercises equals muscle-mass gains.
If you have other distractions in your life, your time in the gym and your diet will always suffer until you resolve the distractions.
No matter what anyone says, you can't "reshape" a muscle. If you have poor biceps peaks, you will always have poor biceps peaks.
Excuses are the bastard product of a weak will and mind. Do or do not do, there is no try (with apologies to Master Yoda).
Being envious of another person's lifts or physique is a waste of time. Don't compete against them or you'll lose every time. Compete against yourself and you stand a chance of winning something.
If you spend more than 3-4 days per week in the gym for more than 90 minutes at a time, you're wasting your time. Three to four times per week is all you need.
A significant other (spouse, girlfriend, whatever) who won't allow you to train or gives you a hard time when you leave for the gym will be a serious problem down the line. The best way to resolve this is to get this person to go to the gym with you. It allows you to have quality time together and work out, so it's doubly efficient.
Always strive for perfection. You'll never reach it of course, but the journey is a worthy one nonetheless and you'll learn quite a bit about your own character and what others are made of.
Being able to honestly and objectively criticize yourself (diet, workout, etc.) and to accept constructive criticism from others is the sign of a true winner, a person who can literally accomplish almost anything he wants to.
If it isn't working, don't only ask "why" but ask "how can I fix it?" Maybe your form isn't as good as you think. Maybe your diet isn't as good as you think. Maybe you overtrain. Knowing is of little value though unless you're willing to implement a change.
Change takes time. Bad habits (especially as they relate to diet) are very hard to break immediately. It's great to have lofty goals, but you should have smaller positive trigger points along the way so you won't become discouraged.
Trust nobody when it comes to using or obtaining steroids or other illegal ergogens. If the deal seems to good to be true, it almost certainly is and you're getting bunk gear or worse, being set up for a fall with law enforcement.
Plan your cycles at least 6-8 months in advance. This way, you'll have all the anabolics and ancillary gear you need to have a fruitful and successful cycle.
Never start a cycle if you don't have every little thing you need and have every little detail in place. Murphy's law is bound to bite you in the ass if you don't.
Douglas S. Kalman
There are truly great supplements out there, but weeding through the marketing hype of bad products often destroys the positive message from getting to those who need it.
Ephedra combined with caffeine (as in MD6 or Ripped Fuel) is truly not well understood by medical doctors or the lay press, thus untruths get repeated by the ignorant.
Two great books that are under-appreciated (but hopefully not for long) are Sports Supplements and Supplement Encyclopedia (see SupplementBooks.com).
One key to being successful as a sports nutritionist is truly understanding exercise biochemistry and drug metabolism.
Runners can benefit from supplements marketed to bodybuilders.
HMB still doesn't work.
People judge you by the friends you keep.
There is a world of difference between medical-nutrition therapy and sports nutrition.
Nike is right. Just do it! is a great logo and a motto for life.
There are no "wonder drugs" that will totally make up for poor nutrition or training.
Diet is the most important factor. Period!
It's hard not to, but don't assess your progress by comparing your physique to others.
Not every training session is going to be "awesome" and leave you exhilarated.
Minimize your consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs. Androgens are okay though. (Hee hee.)
Being young and having higher Testosterone levels doesn't mean you can get away with anything in terms of a poor diet, training, drug use, etc.
You have a 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 chance of being the next Ronnie Coleman or whomever is featured in a magazine layout.
Yes, bodybuilding is great and you should take your physique and health seriously, but don't let it get in the way of other important aspects of your life.
Don't lift weights to get laid. It rarely increases your chances, and if it did, it's only because you're more confident when approaching women.
Listen to your elder peers, as they've discovered things that could save you a lot of trial and error. At the same time, don't listen to someone simply because they're huge. What works for them probably won't work for you. (They could be on drugs or a genetic freak.)
Never take off your rubber!
Keep a detailed food log, at least until you get the hang of eating like a bodybuilder. If you aren't willing to keep a food log, don't bug me with questions about your diet and physique goals.
Training harder will not make up for a poor diet.
Most people will never look like a pro-bodybuilder, even if they trained the same and took the same amount of drugs. (And who wants to look like that anyway?)
Health matters. Take your antioxidants, folic acid, and fish oils.
Smart training is better than hard training.
Most people have no business using steroids. Most steroid users don't have enough knowledge to be using them.
Genetic limits exist, but you're probably no where near yours so stop using that as an excuse.
There is no "best" workout or diet. If someone tells you that, they're selling something.
Listen to the experts. Read the studies. Keep up with the science. But in the end, do what works best for you.
Stay open minded. Today's golden rules may be tomorrow's tragic fallacies.
Protein is great. Fat is good. Carbs are tricky little bastards.
Squat, deadlift, chin-up, dip, bench, row. The rest is secondary.
Mike Mentzer was goofy. But read everything by Ayn Rand anyway.
The effectiveness of a diet is not related to how miserable you feel while on it.
Never pull TC's finger, no matter how nicely he asks you to do it.
1RM's are overrated and often pointless, unless you're a competitive powerlifter.
A quality low-carb protein powder should be the first supplement you purchase every month.
Using good form, even if you have to lift less weight, is more productive than "ego-lifting."
Use free weights a lot. Use machines a little.
Soft drinks and cold breakfast cereals are physique killers.
Weight training will not make a woman "too big" unless she's using a buttload of steroids. Those women who say that are either misinformed or making excuses. Those men who tell women that are just afraid of strong women.
If you can train the same muscle group three times per week, then you aren't training very hard.
The worst place to get advice about training or nutrition is from a professional bodybuilder.
Until they start advertising free weights on TV, don't buy any training device you see on TV.
Some people won't try certain exercises or training programs because they're too worried about what other people in the gym will think. Don't do that.
Being muscular won't make up for the fact that you have no social skills with women and no personality. But it's better than being a lard ass and having no social skills with women and no personality.
You know that guy in the gym that looks the same month after month and year after year? Don't be that guy. If you are that guy it's probably your diet.
People who get on message boards and forums and rudely tell others that their way is the only way and everyone else is stupid are usually the most ignorant, fattest SOBs out there.
Listen for a change in her breathing. That's the first sign. As climax nears, don't change the motion or tempo of your tongue. (Oh wait, wrong survey.)
Overanalyzing and over-planning a future diet or workout plan can often be an excuse for not starting it. Sometimes you just have to toss the book out the window and pick up the damned weights.
A good training partner can be as effective as a steroid cycle. A bad training partner can be as counterproductive as soy protein and a workout you got out of Flex, MuscleMag, or Muscle and Fitness.
Dissatisfaction is the basis of progress. Once you become satisfied, it's over.
You're going to get criticized no matter what you do, especially if you're trying to achieve something and rise above the flock. Do it anyway. Negative criticism from others is often a sign that you're on your way up in the world.
People often confuse stagnation with stability.
Building the body you want is never as easy as you think it's supposed to be. It'll take much longer than you think too. But do it anyway. The rewards are worth it and the effort can change your life for the better.
Lonnie Lowry, PhD
Hunger can't dictate when you eat. Bodybuilding nutrition demands a disciplined schedule.
Under-eating sabotages more novice and intermediate bodybuilders than anything else.
Overtraining sabotages almost as many intermediate bodybuilders as under-eating does.
Large muscle groups require about a week to recover after intense, damaging training. Leave the Monday, Wednesday, Friday bench press obsession to the "townies."
I don't especially care how much I bench.
If more people would squat, the world would be a better place.
Dietary fats are not evil.
Dietary supplements have come a long way but beginners' expectations usually aren't realistic.
Coach John Davies
Integrity – Create large, honorable footsteps in your walk through life.
Faith – In what you're doing is right and to persevere through the most trying moments.
Commitment – Be relentless in your attack on your goal.
Proactive – Be aware of potential changes to your situation and react in a fluid manner.
Focus – Apply yourself to your goals and visualize achieving them.
Knowledge – Absorb as much as possible. Understand the needs to make your goals happen.
Michelle T. Vixen
You are what you eat, so if you eat crap expect to look that way.
Inconsistency will sabotage any good training plan.
Good pain tells you you're working hard; bad pain tells you you're hurt. Learn to know the difference.
Use your brain for more than counting reps.
Sometimes cheating on your diet is the best thing you can do.
Keep a food log and a workout log.
Don't stare at people in the gym. You tend to trip over things.
T-people are just normal people in great bodies.
ART (Active Release Technique) is a beautiful thing.
Sleep is more important than you think it is.
Squats and deads are killers, but make for a great ass and legs.
If you have a question, just ask. T-men love to help a T-vixen in distress.
If it doesn't make you sweat, it's not a workout.
The heavy bag is my friend.
Hard works pays off; just give it some time.
Good form is more important than heavy weights.
Increased effort won't make up for a poorly planned program.
Before performing any exercise always ask yourself, "What is the purpose
of this exercise; is there a better exercise I could be doing?"
The benefits of high strength levels are not limited to competitive athletes.
Training to failure is rarely beneficial or necessary.
The bench press is a poor measure of complete upper-body strength.
Adequate grip training is often a forgotten element in pursuit of total-body strength.
There's not a linear relationship between a trainer's knowledge and his or her hourly rate.
Specificity of exercise doesn't necessarily lead to transfer of benefits.
Increased performance precedes body-composition changes.
The body responds especially well to change.
At the present time, free weights are better than machines.
Any exercise device purchased on TV at 2AM that comes with an "easy payment plan" sucks.
Know and understand what motivates you and stay focused on it.
Get your information from a variety of sources. No single person has all the answers.