Natural bodybuilding is an increasingly popular sport. When most people think of bodybuilding they think of the unbelievable physiques and rippling muscles of some of the most famous bodybuilders in the world…but a shockingly small number of people realise the dangers and terrible side effects of the performance-enhancing drugs that are used extensively in ‘traditional’ bodybuilding.
Natural bodybuilding is a strictly regulated version of the sport that ensures competitors do not use these harmful substances to achieve unnatural results. This makes the sport much safer and healthier to take part in and levels the playing field as nobody has an unfair advantage.
Natural bodybuilding relies upon the hard work and dedication of those who are passionate about the sport. So, with that in mind, we hope this article will give you the top tips you need start off on the right foot in your natural bodybuilding journey so that you can successfully become part of the amazing community!
1. Set Goals
Setting goals is a great place to start because it will help to keep you accountable, keep your motivation high and remind you of what you are working towards. Goals can be whatever you want them to be and can range from lifting a certain weight to reaching certain measurements, or from a state of mind to feeling confident enough to do something you were previously afraid of.
Make sure your goals are realistic and achievable. If you have a grand end-goal then try breaking it down into smaller, more manageable steps. Reaching small milestones helps you to feel pride in your progress and enjoy the process as a whole rather than feeling frustrated at not ticking off the things you’re working towards.
Taking measurements and tracking your sessions is a great way to keep track of progress and ensure you are continuously improving to work towards your goal. Remember to celebrate each small win that will add up to a big win!
2. Start with the basics
Don’t try to over-complicate things in the beginning. Keeping your routine simple is the best way to ensure that you aren’t overwhelmed and also helps you get a really solid foundation from the beginning. Start with the staple exercises of every bodybuilder’s routine (eg. Squats, deadlifts, bench press etc.). There is a good reason why the same handful of exercises are so popular and have been for generations of bodybuilders…because they work! They are very effective and target the key muscle groups that you need to build up.
Your workouts should consist of a high number of repetitions with light weights at first. We know you’re probably eager to dive in and start pushing yourself to lift heavier but starting out light is the way to go. It allows your body to get used to the movements and you can work on good form before adding more weight. Once you are used to the movements and comfortable with the exercises you should start implementing more weight to build your strength!
3. Diet Routine
When starting your bodybuilding journey, it is best to plan your diet to remain at your maintenance level, meaning you consume roughly the same number of calories as you burn each day.
This means you neither gain nor lose weight. But since you’re starting bodybuilding which is an activity that burns calories, you will end up at a small calorie deficit when eating at maintenance. You eat at maintenance and you burn some calories through exercising which sets you at a deficit.
In the ‘beginner phase’, most people see some great progress as they really reap the benefits of going from a less active lifestyle to one that is carefully tailored to improve their physique. That means you will be able to build muscle and lose some body-fat at the same time.
Once you have made your beginner gains and feel that your progress is starting to slow down, you should start a gentle bulk, which means you eat more calories than you are burning each day in order to gain weight. Bulking is important in bodybuilding as you need to fuel your body sufficiently to build your muscles – something which requires a lot of energy.
4. Warming Up
Everyone knows that you should warm up before exercising, yet the number of people who jog on a treadmill for 3 minutes and jump straight into their workout is unbelievable. We can’t overemphasise how important warming up is, especially as a beginner when you are doing a set of movements that your muscles and joints aren’t used to. Getting into a good habit of warming up thoroughly before beginning your workout is highly advisable.
Avoiding unnecessary injuries in the early days will lead to a longer, healthier, pain-free bodybuilding journey and allow you to continue pushing yourself. Nobody wants to get an entirely avoidable injury right at the start of their training that will restrict them moving forwards. Warming up can also help you get into the right frame of mind going into each workout and can be the time needed to leave any external stresses behind to have a great session.
5. Stick to your routine
Sticking to your routine is a must if you want to be able to efficiently track and measure your progress. Consistency is really important in bodybuilding as all of the slow incremental progress will eventually add up to the amazing results you are hoping for! Changing things up every week will be counterproductive as your muscles won’t be targeted in the same ways by different movements and so building strength in those muscles will take a lot longer.
Repeating the same routine also gives you a very quantifiable way to track and measure your progress. Being able to look back and see that you have increased a certain exercise by so many reps is a great cue that you are ready to up the weight for that one. It’s also nice to look back and see that you’ve improved so much more than you thought!
6. Stay natural
Don’t fall into the trap of comparing your journey to enhanced bodybuilders’ journeys! That is a guaranteed way to end up feeling frustrated and tempted to take the easy way to fast-tracked progress. Staying natural is a commitment to yourself and your long term health and it’s important to remember that when you are getting a little frustrated. It might seem like a great idea to just take a little ‘helping hand’ to make your next jump of progress but no progress is worth jeopardising your well-being for.
Amazing results are absolutely possible in natural bodybuilding and are even more admirable as they have been reached entirely through their hard work and dedication.
7. Understand body morphology
Once you have gotten through the beginner phase and are starting to get really serious about your bodybuilding journey, it’s time to start learning about body morphology. Understanding the different body types and getting to know which category you fall into means you can tailor your training plan to really work in your favour.
Educating yourself on the theory side of things is so beneficial to adapting your approach and being able to analyse your strengths and weaknesses. Learning about body morphology will help you to specialise and realign your goals for what is realistically achievable for you.
8. Take progress pictures
Progress pictures might sound a bit off-putting and we understand that they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, taking a few progress pictures is a great way to objectively see how your body is changing. You can keep them to yourself but we highly recommend taking them! The changes will be miniscule on a day-to-day basis and so you will not notice the physical changes just looking in the mirror.
Having a ‘before’ photo to compare your current physique with will amaze you. It’s great to be able to see the finest of details and really appreciate the way your body is changing. Who knows, by the end of your journey you might even want to share your ‘before’ photos to share just how far you have come!
That’s the end of our top tips for beginner bodybuilders. We hope that you have found these pieces of advice helpful and are feeling excited to get stuck into this new venture.
Many communities are building around natural bodybuilding, like Natural Flex which partnered with us for this article. Remember that natural bodybuilding is just as much about how you feel as how you look and try to make your decisions with the intention of improving your health and mental well-being!