So you’ve decided you want to start bodybuilding? There are lots of different reasons that people decide to take up the sport. It’s really important that you be clear about what you want to get out of it, and how much you want to put into it. For some people, bodybuilding is an all-consuming lifestyle, and for others it is a hobby. The more you think about what YOU want out of the sport, the easier it will be to set appropriate goals and measure your own success. 1. Set goals When you set goals it will help you achieve the things that you want to achieve. Set realistic goals, if you don’t you will not achieve them, get frustrated and potentially quit all together. Set goals for the present, midterm, and long term with an end goal. This will enable you to go through the entire process and not get stressed out by constantly looking to the future and one large goal that seems forever away. Enjoy the process, it will teach you a lot about who you are, what you are capable of, and will help you stay motivated for the future. 2. Ask questions The people in the gym that have the look that you want; got that way with hours upon hours in the gym, hard work, educating themselves, and asking questions. Their knowledge can be invaluable to your progress. Remember, these people were once like you and asked questions to better understand how to achieve their goals. So approach them and ask them how they do something or what advice they would give you. You may be surprised how much you can learn. There is a lot of know-how in effective bodybuilding. It is not just about lifting a lot of heavy things. So use the resources that you can to learn. 3. Read There are many great websites, magazines, and books that offer tons of information that can help you to succeed. A lot of the top athletes have been published and have books dedicated specifically to how they eat, train, and their philosophy on the sport. Websites offer great training articles, interviews, and personal opinions of the sports elite athletes. Magazines also offer an in depth look at the best in the business and have many “how to” parts in them that you can utilize in your training. Education is key. The more you know, the better you will become, and the more you will understand the intricate processes of your own body. 4. Keep track Journalize your progress. Write down your workouts, your diet, and supplementation. If you were asked today what you ate three days ago, could you give an exact account of what you had consumed? Most people would say no. If you don’t know what you’re putting in your body, how can you make change? Diet is the biggest part of the equation, so if you don’t get this down you will never have a solid foundation to build upon. Determine how many calories, how much fat, and how much protein you should consume daily. The same applies to your supplementation. The supplements fill in the gaps where your nutrition lacks. Make sure to take your supplements as directed, and that you are on a regimen that works well with the goals you have set in place. Writing out your workouts can be fun and motivating. You keep track of your weights used, reps, and sets and if you are like any other person out there with a goal you will always try to best yourself that next week. This will make your workouts fun, enable you to share them with more experienced lifters for help “this also applies to diet and supplementations”, and will help keep you on track with a more balanced workout and plan of attack. If a body part is lagging you can look at what you have been doing and change it, it’s that simple. If you get all of this working together you will see the progress you want, in turn that will add confidence and motivate you to set the bar higher. You can do this! 5. Balance A lot of beginners live and die by the bench press. They see their friends doing it and do the same. Somehow the bench has become a direct reflection of how strong someone is, the truth is its not. Some beginners will do chest upward of 3 to 4 times a week. This is something you should never do. You want to have a balanced physique, and this most definitely isn’t the way to it. Split up your week into various body parts. Example: Monday-Chest Tues- Arms Weds-Legs Thurs-Shoulders Fri- Back Sat- off Sun-off Without a balanced routine you will end up with a disproportionate body. You will not reach your full potential, you will be injury prone, and you will not achieve your goals. Find a plan that works towards your goals. If you want to bulk up, find some articles and workouts that support it. Also compare articles and find the one that fits you best. There will be varying opinions and workouts demonstrated, so find one that works for you. 6. Cardio Don’t forget about the heart and lungs. While some individual’s goals may be to put on muscle, you should not forget to add cardiovascular training into your workout routine. The standard is about 30 minutes of cardio activity per day. This can include activities such as running for distance or time, jumping rope, swimming, or even walking at an elevated pace. Doing aerobic activities helps to build up endurance, or in other words how long you can perform an activity. On the other side of things, high intensity exercises such as sprinting or HIT cardio is considered anaerobic activity. This type of cardio helps to build up how much intensity you can exude during an activity, such as more reps in less time. It’s important to add in both cardiovascular activities into your workout schedule. 7. Rest If you ask most people whether or not they build muscle in the gym or at home, most will tell you in the gym. The fact is you build them when you are resting; you break them down in the gym. This has been proven by many researchers. Try to get in at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Also consider taking a short nap or two during the day. While you are at rest, protein synthesis takes place. Your body is then able to work more effectively on the muscles that were used the most in that days workout, therefore allowing for more growth and better recovery. 8. Diet Diet is 80% of the equation when it comes to succeeding in bodybuilding. If you are like most people, you eat once or twice a day and probably consume a lot of fast food, or foods that may be convenient for your schedule, but not effective in helping you achieve your goals. The type of diet you need to be on to achieve the body you want may be completely different to what you are used to. To begin follow these easy steps to success below for an example. Eat 5-6 times a day Eat lean proteins- Fish, chicken, turkey, beef Eat more vegetables- Broccoli, asparagus, and green beans Eat good carbs- Sweet potatoes, Oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa Limit your sugar intake, this includes fruits Limit or eliminate processed foods Eat good fats- Nuts/ peanut or almond butter, avocados Drink more water Watch calorie adding condiments Measure you against you – It is easy to get frustrated as you are getting started. There are always guys in the gym who are bigger and stronger. Don’t try to compete with them, or match them for strength. It is often better to lift less with better form than to do more weight with no form at all. Give yourself time to develop, and one day you will be the guy responding to the questions of someone who is just like you used to be. Brandan Fokken (pictured above) is a TEAM Bodybuilding.com athlete and loves working in the fitness industry. He is a Corporate Wellness Manager, a business owner, and does speaking engagements on topics ranging from health and fitness to drugs in sports. His main goal in life is to live a happy and healthy lifestyle, to help others achieve their goals, inspire, educate and motivate others.