I've been training now for over 30 years and working full-time in the bodybuilding industry for over 23 years, essentially my entire adult life. In the course of that time, I've learned a lot and I know there is still so much more to learn. Today I'd like to share with you some of the greater truths I've figured out, often learned the hard way.
There are many ways to gain muscle.
Long ago, I was sure there was only one surefire way to gain muscle, and that was to follow the directions of Arthur Jones of Nautilus fame and his right-hand man, Dr. Ellington Darden. I had been messing around with weights at home, in my friend Paul's attic, and at the local Boy's Club all throughout high school. Yet I had no idea what I was doing. I didn't even work back or legs at all, and my exercise repertoire in total was less than ten! But at the start of my freshman year of college in the fall of 1987, I read my first bodybuilding magazine and instantly wanted more information. At the school bookstore, I found "The Nautilus Bodybuilding Book" and the "Nautilus Advanced Bodybuilding Book." I was entranced at the authoritative writing of Jones and Darden, which assured me that brief, high-intensity workouts using Nautilus machines were the best and fastest way to build muscle, and free weights were obsolete relics for unenlightened peasants. For nearly two years, I trained almost exclusively with those machines and managed to go from 140 pounds to about 160, all the way through my first contest at the age of 19 in March of 1989. A judge I came to for feedback started talking about training, and suggested that Nautilus machines might not be the Holy Grail I thought them to be, since all of the many young men who had beaten me incorporated both free weights and machines. Then I joined a World Gym and began to do just that myself - and I put on another twenty pounds (all drug-free, if anyone is wondering) over the next year. That's when I finally started to realize that having a closed mind could be a huge obstacle to my progress. Not to say I didn't continue to stubbornly cling to concepts and beliefs for years to come, but eventually I saw that people built muscle with so many different methods: high-volume or low, higher or lower reps, perfect form, looser form, different exercise choices, etc. The logical conclusion then, was that there were a great many different ways to train that were effective. So now when anyone insists any one system is vastly superior to all others, I know it's just not true. If there was any one vastly superior way to train that delivered better results for everyone who used it, that's how we would all be training!
There are many ways to lose fat.
As with training, there are many different styles of dieting and of doing cardio that produce results. Some people diet on plenty of carbs, others none. Some cut all fats out of their diet, while on zero-carb diets it's common to take in large amounts of fat. Some people stop drinking protein shakes, others don't. Some do their cardio on an empty stomach first thing in the morning, others will have a light breakfast first; and others do their cardio after weight training. Some people have high and low carb days, others take in the same amount every day. Some do their cardio high-intensity interval style, some do it slow and steady. On and on. And guess what? I've seen people get in great shape doing all of these different things and more. Granted, some people will definitely see better results with one method just as they will with various training styles. The only way to know for yourself is to try many out and see what works best for you. Anyone who assures you they know the diet that will be best for you, based on nothing more than it's worked for them or others, is talking out of their ass.
Genetics rule in physique competition
Bodybuilding is the only sport I know where so many people are under the delusion that anyone can be a champion. Nobody is naive enough to think that anyone can play pro football or basketball. We understand that a certain inherent level of athletic talent has to be there first, which is developed and perfected over years of practice and great coaching. But you can't take a kid with zero athletic ability and make him a sports superstar. Bodybuilding is different, and I have to accept some of the blame for that as a magazine writer. Magazines often give the impression that by following the workout routines and diets of the champs, the readers can look just like them. I know some of you will sneer, "yeah, you forget to tell them about all the drugs they need!" Not to say drugs aren't a part of it, because they are - but without the right genetics, literally nothing else matters. Top bodybuilders are not like you and me. They are quite literally genetic freaks. They are born with optimal bone structures, muscle shapes and insertions, and the ability to respond to training with extreme muscle growth. Add drugs into that mix and boom! I have a saying that might sound depressing at first. If you have the right genetics, it really doesn't matter how you train or eat. You'll still look pretty awesome. If you don't have the right genetics, it doesn't matter how hard you train or how well you eat. You're never going to look like the guys on the covers of the magazines. They are pretty much a different breed of human. But the good news is, you will still look so much better than regular people that as far as they are concerned, you look like those guys or close enough. And most importantly, you will definitely look WAAAY better than you used to!
Next time, I will continue this series. I might be able to keep it going for a little while. Have a great weekend!