One of the biggest mistakes you can make when attempting to gain muscle is to imitate your favorite professional bodybuilder.
Do you really want to look like a pro bodybuilder?
If you’ve seen the magazines: Flex, Iron Man, Muscular Development, etc…, you’ve seen the pro bodybuilding routines. These guys train one body part a day, 10 exercises for each muscle group, 6 sets per exercise, 12-20 reps per set, and they put together brutal 6 days per week workout routines, sometimes with 2-a-days.
What they don’t tell you, is that routines written by professional bodybuilders are not going to work for you if you are not either a pro bodybuilder yourself, or an unemployed, juiced up, genetic freak. If you follow these routines, you will overtrain faster than Arnold shows his bare ass in a Terminator movie. At least you will learn how NOT to train, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.
My Experience Training Like a Pro
I wish someone told me all these things before I started on some ridiculous pro routine when I was 16. This guy had me using ramps, training 6 days a week, once a day for two weeks then twice a day for four weeks, and focusing completely on machines, cables, and leg presses instead of squats.
What a complete waste of 6 months that was. When I finally confronted a personal trainer about my sore body and lack of progress, he ripped up my routine and set me straight. Thanks Ted!
Here are 10 reasons why you should not train like a professional bodybuilder:
- The pros already have built their foundation. Most bodybuilders only become pros because of the way their bodies have responded to strength training through the years. More often than not, a pro will have started his training career by powerlifting or Olympic lifting, building a very solid foundation for bodybuilding in the process.
If you are just starting out or if you have never really attempted to spend time training for strength and power, then following a pro bodybuilder’s workout will not work well for you, or at least not as well as a program like Swole 3×5, Werewolf Training, or a generic full body workout routine. Learn how to build a strong foundation before attempting to use a pro bodybuilder’s workout routine.
- The pros are genetically gifted. Some of us were born to look and function a certain way. Pro bodybuilders were born to be strong and muscular. They are the guys who probably would have been knights, blacksmiths, or cattle farmers back in the day. Their bodies comfortably carry more muscle naturally and most of them probably would be big even if they never trained. They are the true mesomorphs.
- The pros know how to diet. Do you know how to get absolutely shredded over the course of 9 weeks? If not, then you will never look like a bodybuilder. These guys look so ripped and hard because they purposely eat with that goal in mind.
If all you know is a bowl of oatmeal and egg whites for breakfast, a tuna sandwich for lunch, a protein shake, and a sensible dinner, then you will never be as shredded as a pro bodybuilder. These guys know the ins and outs of bulking, cutting, carb depletion, carb loading, and dehydration. Learn how to eat to gain and eat to shred, and then you might have a chance.
- The pros eat too much protein. There is a reason the USFDA recommends you eat no more than .8 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight in a day. It is the same reason most fitness websites and magazines recommend you eat no more than 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in a day.
The answer is because you don’t need to eat more protein than that, even if you are exercises an hour or more a day. In fact, too much protein can make you fat from excess calories, and the byproducts of processing too much protein can poison your liver and kidneys. Some bodybuilders will tell you to eat 3 grams of protein per pounds of bodyweight, and that is ridiculous.
- The pros train with too much volume. Many (but not all) pro bodybuilders train for at least 2 hours a day, 6 days a week, sometimes training 2 or 3 times a day. Because they take such a wide array of illegal substances and because they dedicate 100% of their life to bodybuilding, including sleeping 10 hours a night and taking naps all day long, most pro bodybuilders can handle such high volume. Unless you are ready to switch to a full pro bodybuilding lifestyle, your body can’t tolerate quite so much volume.
Furthermore, most people for whom I have trained or design routines, have responded far better to 5-7 rep sets with the occasional high rep set thrown in for muscle confusion, recovery, and neurological reasons. You will mostly find that pro routines involve 12-20 rep sets on most exercises. It works for them, but it probably won’t work best for you.
- The pros train too often. Like I mentioned above, the pros train for hours a day, sometime twice or even thrice a day. Don’t you have work, or school, or family responsibilities? Do you have time for 2-a-days and all the eating and recovery time that goes with it. Maybe during summer vacation, yes, but other times? I know I don’t.
- The pros are not fit or functional. Some of the pros are strong, they still use bent over rows, squats, and deadlifts, but they focus more on isolation movements with cables than on lifting free weights. You’d be hard pressed to find a bodybuilder than purposely trains for strength and power, or one that uses odd objects, bands, chains, or trains like a strongman. I find bodybuilding workouts to be quite boring actually.
You are better off focusing on developing a super solid foundation with compounds lifts than jumping into a bodybuilding workout with endless cable curls and triceps press downs. You will be far more fit and functional if you jump, throw, carry, and drag sometimes using HIIT, HIRT, and extra workouts, than if you follow a pro bodybuilding routine.
- The pros tan. In order to get that shredded, bronzed look, you are going to need a tan. That means either purposely exposing your body to cancer-causing UV rays, or spraying yourself down with some orange liquid. Either way, tanning on purpose just to look buff is not for me.
- The pros use steroids and HGH. What, you didn’t know? Yes, it’s true, professional bodybuilders use steroids. They are not ever tested for most substances, so they gear up all year ’round. Sometimes 10, 12, 20 week cycles are used. Sometimes they stay on permanent maintenance doses, ramping it up for 2-3 months here and there. Either way, to compete with the pros you will have to shoot straight testosterone and more, accept it.
Can you afford that? Do you get drug tested? Do you want to stick yourself with pins a couple times a day? For those of you wondering: no, there is no safe, effective way to put together an oral-only steroids cycle. That will only make you sick and bloated, and you’ll lose most of your gains when you come off. If you plan to juice, you will have to use needles, plain and simple.
So, if you think you want to train like a pro, be able to tolerate the frequency and sheer volume of a pro bodybuilding workout routine, you’re going to need to juice. It is not a horrible thing to do a little gear a couple times in your life, but you have to be at least 21 years old and need to have a solid base built up before starting. Ideally you should already have maxed out your natural potential before even considering the juice.
As for human growth hormone (HGH), it is expensive, illegal in the US, you have to inject it into your stomach, and you have to learn how to cycle it. With steroids and HGH, you can’t stay out these balls to the wall cycles year round. You have to learn how to start a cycle, how to modify it along the way by changing products and doses, how long to run it, and most importantly, how to come off a cycle with proper post cycle therapy (PCT).
HGH is complex, expensive, illegal, and requires research before jumping right in. There are safe ways to use it in small doses over the long term (which in my opinion is what Sylvester Stallone does but I could be wrong), but the safe way is not usually the way pro bodybuilders decide to go. So to look like them and train like them, among all these other concerns, you’ll have to use HGH.
- The pros use insulin. Similar to reason #9, but insulin in the most dangerous. I’ve written before about how to manipulate your insulin levels through food, exercise, and supplements, but this is a whole different ball game. Pro bodybuilders inject insulin, even when they are not diabetic, to make the most of their meals and training.
Problem is, you can’t get insulin without a prescription and if you miscalculate your dosage you will die. Taking too much insulin can put you in a coma or kill you. Don’t risk messing with insulin injections if you don’t have to, and if you want to look like a pro bodybuilder, unless you are a true genetic mutant, you will probably have to use insulin.
So there you have it – a handful of good reasons not to use bodybuilding routines designed by pro bodybuilders. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in this world who can design routines based on heavy lifting and smart eating. If I were you I would listen to the people who were probably once just like you, starting out just where you are, and made their muscle gains the right way.