If you’re like many aspiring bodybuilders, the first place you probably looked for advice when you started out was the bodybuilding magazines that you can find on the newsstands. Typically, these magazines will feature an outrageously large (yet insanely lean) man on the cover who is undoubtedly on an equally outrageous and insane amount of steroids.
In other words, his advice – whether it’s with respect to the latest biceps blast workout or the 9,000 calories of chicken and rice he eats each day – doesn’t hold a lot of merit for those interesting in healthy ways to gain weight through natural bodybuilding. In this article, we talk a bit about how inaccurate and ineffective most of the advice you’ll find in these magazines really is for the up-and-coming natural bodybuilding enthusiast.
First, most professional bodybuilders train on “body part splits” – meaning that they might do legs on Monday, chest on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, arms on Thursday, calves on Friday, and shoulders on Saturday. Then, they’d take Sunday off and repeat the whole sequence again. Those involved in natural bodybuilding simply won’t respond well to this type of program because the lifting frequency is too high, and the amount of work devoted to small muscle groups like biceps and calves is excessive.
If you’re looking to get big in natural bodybuilding, you’re much better off lifting 3-5 days per week with your sessions targeting the big movements. An upper body/lower-body split routine works well, where both the upper and lower body are hit twice per week. Another great option is to do a Mo-We-Fr bodybuilding routine where the entire body is trained on each day. Each of these options allows for adequate recovery and ensures that you don’t get in your own way by training too much.
Second, bodybuilding magazines advocate almost exclusively sets of 8-15 reps, and as a result, their readers have come to think that this is the only way to get big. In reality, though, most natural bodybuilders would be wise to include some heavier training in the 3-7 repetition range to challenge muscle slightly differently by recruiting the harder-to-get motor units and, in turn, activating more muscle fibers. In fact, several well known professional bodybuilders have their roots in power lifting and heavier lifting for sports like football; getting strong is an excellent foundation for eventually spending more time in the classic 8-15 rep “get big” zone.
Third, most diet plans outlined in bodybuilding magazines consist almost entirely of carbohydrates and protein with very little fat. While both carbohydrates and protein are valuable parts of the bodybuilding process, excluding fat to such a great degree is not a healthy way to gain weight. Fat has seemingly countless important roles in the body, from supporting testosterone levels, to bolstering immunity, to maintaining healthy skin and hair, improving cardiovascular health (in the case of the omega-3 fatty acids), absorbing certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K).
So, if you are looking to be successful in natural bodybuilding, keep the quality proteins and healthy carbohydrates, but don’t let total fat intake be less than 30% of your total intake. Just make sure you’re sticking with healthy fat sources like nuts, seeds, olive and flaxseed oil, fatty fish, and the fat that’s naturally found in your food.
If you involved in natural bodybuilding and are looking for healthy ways to gain weight, then stick to the principles we outlined in this article – not those found inside bodybuilding magazines. Are you interested in learning about the best free weight exercises to build various muscle groups? Check out this article.