Bodybuilding is a pretty simple endeavour… we break down muscle tissue by training (stimulus) and then we repair, which leads to muscle growth with adequate rest and proper nutrition.
The problem is in today’s day and age everything is MASSIVELY over complicated. There are now “gurus” and coaches… people are employing these people to help them with their training and nutrition without even having the basic understanding covered.
This is dangerous in my opinion. It leads to the person being “baffled by bulls*it” (as I phrase it) and becoming dependant on that coach (or another coach) which is costly and unhealthy. You have to have a basic understanding. Once you have this, then when you are unable to attain a level of development because of a lack of further knowledge – then consider a coach/guru.
I like to use analogies… so here’s one; Why would you employ an F1 racing car driver to teach you the basics of driving? Worse still, what if you employed someone POSING as an F1 driver who taught you the basics WRONG?
Wouldn’t that be pretty dangerous?
Never fear… Hudson’s here!
So, my aim of this little “Simple Guide to Bodybuilding” series is very simple (a bit like me: simple! There, I said it first!). To get the basics of training, nutrition and supplementation down in one place where hopefully you can walk away a more knowable and happier athlete J
No doubt, not everyone will agree with everything I say in this series – there’s more than one way to tie a shoe lace. But it’ll give a basis from which an individual can work from and tailor to make suit them.
Training… where it all began… hopefully?
It should have begun in the gym, so it seems logical to start this series off here.
When you got into training, you should have thought:
“I want to be in better shape”
“I want to be more muscular”
“I want to be healthier”
However, if you started with..
“I want to compete on stage”
“I want to be famous”
“I want a YouTube channel”
“I want more Instagram followers”
… well this isn’t for you.
I don’t believe in choosing this lifestyle (because that’s exactly what it is) because you want the glory parts. It should be a choice you made because you want self-betterment, not fame and attention.
It should have begun in the gym, and 99.9% of gym goers aren’t doing it optimally, or even correctly for that matter. We waste a lot of time messing around on machines and doing daft things which add no value.
Whenever I’m asked, “how long have you been training for” (which happens a lot, believe me!) I always answer with “well, the first time I stepped foot in a gym I was almost 20 years old, however I didn’t start training properly until a good 18 months after that”.
I learned by watching and reading. I cringe at some of the stupid s*it I did in those first 18 months, but then again, my aim wasn’t to step on a bodybuilding stage back then. I just wanted to be less fat and have big arms.
… yes, I’m yet to accomplish either… before you say it haha
I think I followed some routine from Bodybuilding.com for a good while, then I realised I responded well to training and adopted a very basic “bro-split”. A “bro-split” is typically a one bodypart per week training split… so your typical Chest on Monday, Legs on Tuesday, back on Wednesday… etc
I responded well, very well! My genetics for “building muscle” (or hypertrophy, if you will) is pretty good. Not sure if anyone’s noticed?!
In 2010 I met a guy called Steve Lewis. He was in the gym wearing a West Midlands Fire Service jumper training. Not a huge bloke. Around 5ft 8” in height and about 13stone in weight. I watched him train and realised he knew what he was doing. I got talking to him because I’d done a fair bit of work with the West Midlands Fire Service and it turned out we had mutual friends.
Anyway, cut a long story short he left his number with the lad behind the gym counter and told the lad to give it to me and get me to call him. So, I did. I’ll never forget the phone call… I was sat feeding my eldest son Toby his bottle (he was a baby at the time). He told me I had good genetics for bodybuilding and that I should consider competing. He said he’d help me if I wanted him to.
That year I went to watch the NABBA England with the view of scoping out what I was up against. A year later, after going through various training sessions with Steve showing me how to perfect what I was doing – I did the show. Haven’t looked back since.
What Steve taught me…
I still do what he taught me now. You’ll hear me harp-on on social media about only needing 12 sets per body part. And I still stand by this today.
You train as heavy as you can within a certain rep range following certain rules (which go into in a second), with full range of motion (ROM), basic “compound exercises” (so no cable glute kickbacks guys, sorry!) and leave it all in the gym. 5-6 days a week in the gym, taking rest days whenever needed.
Steve always told me (in his usual direct blunt way!): “If you can’t f*ck a muscle up in 12 sets, you aren’t training hard enough!”
… Pretty simple really!
So, what are the 12 sets? How do we structure this type of workout? Well, pretty simply… either:
4 exercises – 3 sets per exercise
3 exercises – 4 sets per exercise.
That’s it! I suppose you could argue for 6 exercises and 2 sets per exercises but to be honest I couldn’t be bothered with all the setting equipment up!
Repetition wise, you should be moving weights where you can achieve between 6-10 reps…
Less than 6 reps – go a bit lighter
More than 10 reps – go heavier
Between 6-10 reps – perfect. But keep trying to go as heavy as you can without sacrificing ROM or risking injury. By your 10th rep you should have basically failed, if you have a training partner he/she should be fully helping you hit that 9th and 10th rep.
ROM is VITAL! Don’t half rep! Full reps every set! It’s like stretching an elastic band to stretch it – flexing it a few mm won’t stress is enough – you have to stretch it as far as it will go!
You should also always train to failure. I don’t believe in this “glycogen sparing” or “holding back” rubbish. Get in, make the muscle work to failure and get out!
Your workouts should be no longer than 45-60mins. Shorter if you can!
How to structure a workout
Let’s go over a few basic workouts and exercises I’d do as examples.
I typically do a pull/row/pull/row scheme of exercises;
3x Chins – Tuck your legs behind you, you want the heels of your feet touching your hamstrings/butt
3x Pendlay rows – 90-degree bend, the bar should be hitting just below the pec-line at the top. Use 10kg plates to lengthen the range of motion if you’re shorter
3x lat pulldown (or similar machine pull down… there’s a tonne to choose from) – Don’t be afraid to use your hips on the last few reps to get the weight down. This isn’t “cheating”, it’s “controlled momentum”
3x Rack pulls or one arm dumbbell rows or deadlifts – I’ve only this year started doing deadlifts, after not doing them for over 6 or 7 years, I’ve never been a massive fan of them, but I’m starting to like them. I don’t do them every session, but once in while they’re a nice change. Give this exercise everything – it’s your last one! Empty the tank!
I typically do a press/fly/press/fly scheme of exercises
3x Hammer Strength incline machine press – make sure you fully stretch on this. Use this exercise to get warm.
3x Dumbbell flies – Flies are the best exercises for chest, pressing incorrectly can lead to your triceps and/or delts to take over, however flies eliminates this. Make sure you get a full range of motion and stretch properly
3x Inline dumbbell press – Make sure you tuck your elbows slightly, and press from the arm pits… almost try to follow the plane of motion that an incline machine would, with a slight arc from the arm pits at the bottom to around the level of your chin at the top.
3x Machine / cable flies – Use this to finish your session off on, make sure you fully stretch and contract. Maybe throw some negatives in at the end if you have a training partner and feel up for REALLY making it hurt.
Weights and numbers
Don’t chase numbers on the bar. Weight is irrelevant.
If you squatted 3-plates for 6 reps last week, but today you had a stressful day at work, were up all night with the kids being sick and therefore you’re are tired, had a long drive from a meeting etc and only manage 4 reps – don’t beat yourself up!
You won’t lose muscle! You won’t lose size! You won’t NOT gain muscle!
It’s just your body saying, “yeah I’m not feeling this today”. It’s not an issue, as long as you overloaded it and trained to failure for the “environment” the body is in there and then – you did more than enough, and your session HAS been productive!
Be smart – listen to it. Back off. Don’t cause injury. Don’t be a moron and think “I need to beat last week’s lifts”.
It makes no difference. Push yourself to the limit for that day, at that moment. Make every rep, every set and every session count. Intensity, full ROM and consistency will get you further and with less injuries than a log book ever will.
You cannot red-line your car constantly, same goes for your body. Something has to give… and it’s usually a tendon or muscle attachment!! Not ideal.
The body only understand stress and load. It doesn’t care for ego or a log book. Rest times
Do a set. Catch your breath. Have a drink. Get your focus back to it. None of this 2-3 minute rest periods. Your body will tell you when to go again.
Nothing more or less to it than that. If you try to get another set in within a time period in order to “increase cardio vascular output” or “burn calories” (I’ve seen this done) you aren’t going to get the most out of your session.
On the same score, don’t be sitting around for 10-15 minutes going cold. Keep the momentum, keep the muscle warm and keep the session flowing.