10 Reasons Not to Train Like a Professional Bodybuilder

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when attempting to gain muscle is to imitate your favorite professional bodybuilder.

Look Like a 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.
  7. 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.

  8. 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.
  9. 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.

  10. 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.

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25 Responses to “10 Reasons Not to Train Like a Professional Bodybuilder”

  1. Todd says:

    I did a guest post at World’s Strongest Librarian that touched on this topic. The reasons that you outlined are exactly why I stopped purchasing BB mags.

  2. Adria says:

    I love your website and all the great information you always have. I was wondering if it would be possible to get some tips from you on how to increase SEO rating since you seem to be awesome at it??? I would really appreciate it!

    • Steve says:

      I think once I suggested that you write some guest posts for Project Swole. Perhaps a monthly fit tip or a weekly fit tip, or perhaps a weekly summary of daily fit tips? If you write me some guest posts, I’ll teach you about SEO. What do you think?

  3. Fred says:

    hey good article thnx i was actually reading it and it was very useful to me because i went from doing the Arnold Schwarzenegger workout(had to change because too much volume) to a four day week workout doing Day 1 Chest,Back, and Arms; Day 2 Legs and shoulders doing 3 to 5 exercises per muscle group

  4. Fred says:

    hey steve this is my workout routine:
    Day 1
    BB Bench Press 4 x 10,8,8,6
    BB Incline Press 4 x 10,8,8,6
    DB Flyes 4 x 10
    Bent over rows 4x 10,8,8,6
    Db One Arm Row 4×10,8,8,6
    Lat Pulldown 4x 10,8,8,6
    Seated DB curls 4×10
    Hammer Curls 4×10
    Close Grip Press 4×10
    Tricep Pulldown 4×10
    Wrist Curls 4×10
    Reverse wrist curls 4×10
    incline situp 5×10
    Side sit up 5×10

    Day 2:
    Back Squat 4×10
    Leg Press 4×10
    Romanian Deadlift 4×10
    Leg Curls 4×10
    Good Mornings 4×10
    BB Overhead Press 4×10,8,8,6
    DB Side Raise 4×10
    DB Bent Over Raise 4×10
    BB Upright Row 4×10,8,8,6
    DB Seated Calf Raises 5×10
    One Leg Standing Calf Raise 5×10

    • Fred says:

      is this good if not then tell me what i should do and not do.

    • Steve says:

      That’s a rough workout man. Let me reflect…
      Why bother with DB flyes after doing 8 sets of pressing?
      Why do DB rows after BB rows, it’s the same movement?
      Why do lat pulldowns when you could do pullups?
      Why do 8 sets of biceps curls in one day, then another 8 sets of wrist curls? That’s like a waste of 13 sets of your time.
      Why do leg presses after you do squats? Waste of time.
      Why do leg curls after romanian deadlifts? Waste.
      Then good mornings? Don’t get me started.
      I don’t have time for this. The workout routine you posted is horrid. What exactly is your split? When are your recovery days? Don’t make the mistake of using that routine, or at least don’t tell anyone that I told you to do it. Ugh.

  5. Fred says:

    what if i was to do squat then lunges

  6. Ian M says:

    So why do u believe that Stallone used a small amount of HGH over a extended period of time?

    • Steve says:

      Because he is really old and is maintaining a pretty jacked physique over the long term. He never gets injured and has never looked fat or old, except maybe in Cop Land. What is he, like 65 or so, and he looks like he’s in his 30′s. I just think these older actors like Stallone and Arnold, use HGH to get themselves into great shape for movies. Stallone remains in pretty good shape, while Arnold has fallen apart, and I believe Stallone just stays on HGH permanently so he won’t fade. I could be wrong.

  7. Top post mate.

    Articles such as these are great for shedding light on a subject which is clouded with BS media (magazines etc) telling you how easy it is to become mega-jacked with the latest, greatest supplements.

    At the end of the day, it just isn’t THAT easy!

  8. Drewboy says:

    I really wish I had read this when I was in my mid-teens. Muscle & Fitness was all I had, and quite frankly, I felt like a failure when I was so sore after a single workout from that magazine that I couldn’t work out again for another week and a half. It was very hard to continue. Now I do a small fraction of those workouts and get much farther towards my goals.

  9. GW says:

    Just recently found this site and I really enjoy it!

    I’m 40 years old and have been weight training since I was in my mid teens, tapered off in my 20′s and 30′s when my kids were younger, and have been hitting it hard again the last couple years. I have read a lot lately about only training each muscle group once per week and so now I’m wondering if I should be doing something different. Here’s my current routine, any constructive input would be greatly appreciated!

    MONDAY
    Sit ups
    Barbell shrugs – 5 sets
    Tricep extensions – 4 sets
    Decline bench press – 5 sets
    Tricep push downs – 4 sets
    Dumbell shoulder presses – 5 sets

    TUESDAY
    Sit ups
    Reverse wrist curls – 5 sets
    Barbell curls – 4 sets
    Lat pulldowns – 5 sets
    Hammer curls – 4 sets
    Bent over rows – 5 sets

    WEDNESDAY
    Sit ups
    Squats – 5 sets
    Calf raises – 5 sets

    THURSDAY
    Sit ups
    Bench press – 5 sets
    Tricep extensions – 4 sets
    Incline bench press – 5 sets
    Tricep pressdowns – 4 sets
    Dumbell shoulder presses – 5 sets

    FRIDAY
    Sit ups
    Reverse wrist curls – 5 sets
    Barbell curls – 4 sets
    Upright rows – 4 sets
    Lat pulldowns – 5 sets
    Hammer curls – 4 sets

    Saturday & Sunday – off

    All sets start with a warm up set of approximately 12 reps. Remainder of sets are in the 6-9 rep range.

    • Steve says:

      Where is the rest of your leg training? I only see squats and calf raises all week long. I recommend expanding your squat day to include more quad dominant leg exercises like lunges and step ups; call this your “leg day” and move it to Thursday. You should also add hamstring training (deadlifts) to Tuesday, which appears to be back training, but get rid of 2 of those 3 biceps exercises and focus your biceps training on Friday instead. Switch chin ups for lat pulldowns on Friday and do them first in the workout. If you make those changes you’ll be OK, although it certainly isn’t the most efficient workout routine I’ve ever seen.

  10. daniel says:

    Um, yea 2 day splits and full body routines are ok if you are trying to train for a toned athletic physique, which is what most women want. If you want to pack on slabs of muscle you can’t train with TBT or push, pull, legs routines, or upper and lower stuff. You need to focus on building strength and power that is a fact, but having a two day split of full body three times a week will not do it. Squats, Deads, Bench, and OHP should be the staples in any beginners regimen. Assistance work can be thrown in as needed. Each one of the lifts that i mentioned should get their own day and preferable a day of rest in between the deads and squats, this means it’s a 4 day split (legs, shoulders, back, and chest). If you want to look like a body builder you must train like a body builder, not necessarily a pro that uses.

    About the protein intake, there has never been any scientific study that is the end all of the amount of protein someone should ingest. Research and evidence can back anything it wants. Just like the myth that the body can only process 20 grams of protein at a time, that is outrageous. Why? Well lets just put it this way, (besides that fact that a statement like that is so broad a train could run through it) if a human body (any human body, according to the myth) can only process 20 grams of protein than that would mean someone weighing 240 pounds (most NFL players) would have to eat twelve times a day to get their one gram per pound!

    /rant

  11. FitMarker says:

    10 Reasons Not to Train Like a Professional Bodybuilder…

    10 simple reasons why you don’t want to train like a pro if you are not actually a pro. Specifically for newbies and anyone who uses routines from popular pro bodybuilding magazines….

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