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How do I Become a Bodybuilder?

By Dale Marshall
Updated May 17, 2024
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It takes determination and self-discipline to become a bodybuilder. No special clothing, equipment, or facilities are necessary. Since the goal of bodybuilding is to grow and develop one's musculature to an aesthetically pleasing state of high development, attention must be paid to the variables affecting that development. Thus, the novice bodybuilder must commit to a regular workout schedule, pay careful attention to nutrition, cut down on or eliminate toxins such as tobacco and alcohol, and get a good rest every night.

A bodybuilder works to build all the muscles of the body to a point of optimum development through targeted exercises and strict attention to diet. For some, bodybuilding is a healthy hobby, while for others, it's an avocation around which to build a lifestyle. Some who excel turn to professional bodybuilding as a career, often training others and writing books on the topic.

Because bodybuilding stresses the body, a novice's first step should be to consult with a healthcare professional before embarking on any serious bodybuilding plan. This consultation may alert the novice to potential health hazards, and should also be an opportunity to review nutrition and safety guidelines. Those who are out of shape will generally be cautioned to begin slowly, to avoid over-stressing the body. Consultation with a trainer is also highly recommended, in order for the new bodybuilder to develop goals and learn workout routines.

Women can be bodybuilders as well as men. For most women, two to three hours per week of bodybuilding workouts will produce a well-toned body without excessive muscle bulk. However, trainers and healthcare professionals can help female bodybuilders design a program that will help them meet their goals.

A bodybuilding routine will usually encompass a month or two. Since workouts can be extremely vigorous, most bodybuilders limit workouts to about 30 or 45 minutes, three or four days per week. Generally, it is best to take at least a day off between workouts. Each workout is designed to work different muscle groups than the previous workout, giving the other muscles time to recover and rebuild.

Many of the workout routines call for progressive resistance; that is, challenging muscle groups with increasing levels of weight to lift or carry. Costly weight-lifting equipment is not necessary, though, as many routines are designed to use the body's own weight to strengthen its muscles. Pull-ups, push-ups, and squat thrusts are three such exercise groups.

Bodybuilders in pre-competition training may temporarily adopt a schedule of more frequent workouts, and some bodybuilders favor programs of “brevity training,” in which the thrice-weekly workouts are no more than seven to 10 minutes each, but are so highly rigorous that they leave the bodybuilder exhausted.

Nutrition is a crucial component of any comprehensive bodybuilding plan. The body needs both energy and the raw materials to build new muscle. Good nutritional planning will ensure both in sufficient quantities.

For many, the primary motivation to become a bodybuilder is to improve their appearance by toning the muscles. Because excess fat obscures muscular development, an initial part of any bodybuilding plan must be to shed excess fat. However, losing stored fat can be a difficult process because, although the body stores energy as fat for emergencies, when the body actually needs that extra energy, it will shift into “starvation mode.” A body in starvation mode will conserve excess fat for as long as possible and even use muscle fiber as a source of energy instead of burning the fat. This is because muscle requires more energy to maintain than fat cells. During a rigorous workout, the body will enter that muscle-burning stage &emdash; called a catabolic response &emdash; after 30 or 40 minutes. This is why workout routines should generally last no more than 40 to 45 minutes.

When the body does burn accumulated fat cells for energy, it does so according to its own plan. Fat deposits in different parts of the body cannot be targeted by specific exercises; thus, while crunches will develop abdominal muscles, they won't necessarily affect the fat covering those muscles.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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