When you look at Ronnie Coleman, Rich Piana, Kai Greene and Phil Heath, what do all these men have in common? Sure, they’re bodybuilders, but that doesn’t happen overnight. In reality, bodybuilding takes years, if not decades, of continued dedication. If you’re an aspiring bodybuilder, this article is for you. We’re going to cover the top 6 bodybuilding tips that can help you transform from skinny to bodybuilder status.
- Understand your genetics
It’s undeniable that genetics play a role in bodybuilding success. When studies were conducted on Ronnie Coleman’s genetics, researchers found that he has high levels of ACTN3, a gene variant associated with abnormal capacity for strength, power and muscle development.
If you’re a natural ectomorph, transitioning from skinny to bodybuilder is going to be more difficult than if you’re a mesomorph, like Ronnie. When you understand your genetics, you can adjust and optimize your training program to maximize your genetic muscular potential.
- Become more anabolic
You’re either in a catabolic or anabolic state at all times. Catabolism refers to the breaking down of muscle and fat for energy. Anabolism refers to the synthesis of muscle tissue and replenishing energy stores. As you have guessed, for bodybuilding, you want to maximize anabolism.
As explored in this 2019 study, there are various ways to become more anabolic, including:
- Sleeping 8 hours per night
- Shorter more intense workouts focused on compound movements
- High protein intake
- Eating fast-digesting carbs immediately after training
- Prepare to lift heavy
Ronnie Coleman won Mr. Olympia eight times in a row, and can be famously quoted saying “everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights”. The mechanism for muscle growth depends on your ability to lift heavy. Heavy weights cause muscle damage, mechanical tension, and metabolic stress - the three fundamental mechanisms required for hypertrophy.
- More is not always better
Contrary to popular belief, recent research shows that doing long workouts or training too frequently can inhibit muscle growth. This is based on supercompensation theory, and can be shown in the stimulus-recovery-adaptation curve as shown in figures 1 and 2. Essentially, you need to recover fully between sessions to continually increase strength and muscle mass.
Optimal Training Frequency - Figure 1
Poor Training Frequency - Figure 2
- Don’t forget the basics
One of the most effective and underutilized tips for bodybuilder beginners is to not forget the basics. Training and supplements are vital, but so are the fundamentals like drinking enough water and sleeping 8 hours a night. If your training is optimized but the fundamentals aren’t, you won’t progress.
If you struggle to drink enough water, get your hands on a WOLFpak flask to keep your water cool throughout the day.
- Eat for function
Ex-Mr Olympia Jay Cutler said “I don’t eat for taste, I eat for function” and this is key. Eating nutrient-poor foods will impact your ability to recover, build and train properly. Skip the processed foods and switch to nutrient-rich, naturally calorically-dense foods like peanut butter, rice, oats, and animal protein.
- Be patient
The average natural man will gain between 0.25 to 0.5 lbs of muscle per week, and 1 to 2 lbs gained per month. This isn’t an overnight thing, particularly if you’re an ectomorph. If you closely monitor all the variables you can control, like diet and exercise, it can overpower the variables you can’t, like your genetics.
If you want to transform your physique from skinny to bodybuilder status, you need to be prepared to put in the work.