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Do You Need to Train like a Bodybuilder to Look like One?

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Do You Need to Train like a Bodybuilder to Look like One?

I remember back when I was getting my certificate to be a professional fitness coach. Just for fun we had to pick one exercise from a popular fitness magazine and implement it in our training. My friend and I picked an exercise for the biceps, where we had to do over 20 sets with a total of 200 repetitions. An inhumane high intensity. This exercise was recommended from a popular bodybuilder to get the best muscle growth for the biceps. We spent over 30 minutes doing that exhausting exercise. Our biceps were burning. I could barely move my arms for a week.

    Monkey see, monkey do

    If you’re ever planning to climb up Mount Everest, you would need to have a coach. In the months prior to your climb, you would scan the Internet for competent trainers. In a coach you would look out for:

    1. Ability to communicate and coach
    2. Matchability (Gut feeling)
    3. Prior experience (Preferably of climbing Mt. Everest)

    We as humans like to get information from people that are walking the walk and leading by example. The origins of the ‘Train like a bodybuilder to look like one’ -myth are easy to find. As a beginner you go into a gym and instinctively ask the biggest person in there, how he’s able to build muscle. This is a big mistake.

    The biggest person will give you, most likely, an unfortunate and only partially honest answer. The meathead will tell you his exact workout schedule. But the big elephants in the room will not be addressed: Experience, Knowledge Gap and most likely: Steroids.

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    Imagine you’re finding the ideal coach for your Mt. Everest climbing adventure. Yet the coach seemingly needs an extreme short recovery time and gets great results, with workouts containing an inhumane high intensity. You as a hobby climber might try to follow his advice, but the chances are high that the ridiculously high intensity schedule will catapult you into the hospital.

    The Mt. Everest coach didn’t exactly lie to you, yet your baselines are simply on completely different levels.

    Building your fundamentals

    If you want to be the best tennis player in this world, would you immediately start training like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal? No, you would focus the first few years on building up your fundamentals. This is the same thing that you have to do in the gym. Somehow people believe that the gym is the big exception from all the other physical activities. Yet you will need to have a foundation where you can build upon. Focus the first year on building up this foundation to be injury free. The results will be better and longer lasting.

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      Most people start lifting weights while completely neglecting the stability factor of your body, which is crucial in injury prevention. Your body needs to adapt to the stimulus that you put himself through. While the muscles are able to adapt fast, your bones and ligaments usually need way longer. Because the bones and ligaments are less supplied with blood, and therefore with oxygen and nutrients.

      How to train instead?

      I fell prey to the do-or-die mindset before. As a natural athlete, I followed a 5-day split training once. I trained every muscle group hard, but only one time per week. It was frustrating. I didn’t see the muscularity in the mirror that I did expect. Not only that, I also started experiencing wrist and shoulder injuries. I felt betrayed from the advice of the fitness models on Instagram. If you want to structure your training productively, there are three things that you need to consider:

      1. Build a great foundation

      At this very moment I’m not suffering from any injury. I’m reasonably flexible, my strength is on point and I’m able to run 10 kilometers without feeling the need to amputate my lower limbs. I took my time to build a great foundation, and so should you.

      Implement a low-intensity endurance training in your workout schedule, on separate days from your strength workouts. Stretch after your full-body after your workouts or sign up for yoga classes.

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      2. Train with full body routines

      On my strength training routine, I’m either following a full-body workout or a basic upper and lower body-split. This way I’m maximizing my muscle protein synthesis and therefore my muscle gain.

      Bodybuilders have been training with full body routines for ages. It was not until steroids came into the scene, that split training truly became a thing. Steroids decrease your recovery time, increase your training intensity and your muscle protein synthesis.

      3. Increase the level of difficulty gradually

      Don’t fully exert yourself in the first year of your training. Your bones and ligaments need to adapt. From a scale on 1-10, your RPE (rate of perceived exertion) should never go to 9/10 during a workout set. When you stop the set, you should be able to always do 1-2 repetitions extra. If you fully exert yourself, you’re risking injuries.

      Take home message

      If you’re a bodybuilder and got angry at me for writing that article, note this: the saying ‘Train like a bodybuilder to look like one’ is correct, in some way. Bodybuilders are not stupid, if it wouldn’t work they wouldn’t do it.

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      Hard work and training. There’s no secret formula. I lift heavy, work hard and aim to be the best. – Ronnie Coleman, former world class bodybuilder

      As a beginner though, you have a vastly different baseline than a bodybuilder. You will naturally lack experience, knowledge of the training and your own body – and will not consume steroids. You also most likely have different goals: a bodybuilder wants to be in world-class shape on stage, while you might be training to get in decent shape for your beach holidays.

      I don’t eat for taste, I eat for funciton. – Jay Cutler

      Stop spending 3 hours in the gym every day and don’t do 20 sets for your biceps if you don’t want to be a competitive athlete. Focus on building your fundamentals, structure your workout and train with a reasonable intensity.

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      More by this author

      Florian Wüest

      Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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      Last Updated on January 13, 2022

      10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

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      10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

      A honeymoon is important.  The wedding is over.  The months, or even years, of stress and planning are finally over.  It’s time for the two of you to relax, settle in, and start enjoying your time together as you embark on your first journey as a family.

      To make the most of this time for the least amount of money, it’s important to focus on what you want out of a honeymoon.  This isn’t your typical list of touristy honeymoon locations everyone goes to.  Rather, it’s a list of cheap honeymoon experiences a couple can enjoy together, regardless of where it’s at.

      1. Camping

      A week long camping trip is a fantastic way to see how you mesh together as a couple.  You’re put in a low impact “survival” situation where it’s just the 2 of you and nature.  You have a chance to see how your new spouse handles themselves when left with the basics of life.  There are amazing national parks all over the United States where you can camp for a week for $20-30, disconnect from technology, and enjoy some of the natural wonders our nation has to offer.

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      2. Staycation

      You don’t have to go anywhere for a honeymoon.  In fact, the tradition of taking a honeymoon vacation is a relatively new one.  Prior to the 19th century, a honeymoon involved staying home together for a month to get to know each other physically.  Think of how blissful it could be to take a full month off work, disconnect from the outside world, and focus entirely on projects together.  You may not be wowing your friends and family with pictures of some exotic location, but they’ll be envious of your escape from the rat race nonetheless.

      3. Island Getaway

      People tend to overspend on their honeymoon vacations to Hawaii, Tahiti, etc.  Going to these places doesn’t have to be expensive.  You don’t need to stay in a 5 star resort when you’re on a Best Western budget.  You’re there to be in the atmosphere of the island, not a hotel room. Book a cheap flight and sleep in a hotel alternative, on the beach or in your car.  It’s the view in paradise that really matters.

      4. Fancy Resort

      Book an expensive resort, spa, or retreat in the city you live in.  While this may seem counterintuitive as a cheap destination, when you consider your savings on airfare and other travel costs, you can afford to be treated like royalty within your own city limits.  If you book a honeymoon package, you’ll end up with a lot of free amenities and extra attention.  There’s no need to fly halfway across the world to live the good life.

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      5. Road Trip

      The journey is often more fulfilling than the actual destination.  If you fly out to some exotic locale, you’ll be stuck on a plane for 8-30 hours.  Rent a luxury car, pick a handful of places you each have always wanted to visit, and go on an adventure.  You can keep food costs down by packing your own snacks, but it’s always a good idea to sample the local delicacies wherever you go, even if it’s only a few states over.

      6. Charter a Boat

      If the ocean is your thing, a week-long cruise can cost you $1500-$3000 per person, depending on the destination.  You also have to factor in travel costs to and from the cruise, alcohol, souvenirs, and on-shore excursions.  You’ll also be surrounded by people.  For the same price (and often much cheaper), you can charter your own boat and enjoy the experience in private.

      7. Las Vegas/Atlantic City

      If gambling is your thing, these are the places to do it.  Which one you choose depends on your preference, budget, and proximity.  The way to make this vacation cheaper is to gamble smart.  Stay away from low odd tables (i.e craps, roulette) and read up on the MIT blackjack strategies to beat the house.  If you do it right, you can win enough for a free trip (and gain a valuable team skill in the process).

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      8. Themed Retreats

      There are weeklong retreats all over the world where you can fully immerse yourselves as a couple into a hobby you’re both passionate about.  Go on a yoga/meditation retreat, a ranch, a vineyard/farm, a backpacking adventure, treasure hunt, or whatever you’re into.

      9. Working Honeymoon

      Your honeymoon doesn’t have to be a vacation.  For a truly memorable experience, dedicate a week to a charity or volunteer organization.  You can drive out to a campground to help restore it in the offseason.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to volunteer to help out your local animal shelter, plant trees, help the homeless, etc.  Use the time to do something together as a couple that will fulfill you spiritually while contributing to the community.  Just because you’re on a honeymoon doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

      10. Festivals, Fairs & Special Events

      Every city, state, and country has festivals, fairs, and special events.  Find one you’re interested in.  If you time your wedding right, your honeymoon can be a trip to one of these festivals.  Burning Man, SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Renaissance Fair, regional harvest festivals, Mardi Gras, New Years Eve in Times Square, a movie premiere, or whatever you’re into.  If you plan your honeymoon at the right time in the right place, the possibilities are endless.

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      Featured photo credit: Josue Michel via unsplash.com

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