If you're like most people, you'll probably laugh at the suggestion that training is anything like a religion, but that's precisely what bodybuilding is.
It's a devotion to, and a belief in, a set of principles that eventually become a way of life - a philosophy of thought and practice. If you check the
definition of any religion or religious practice, whether it's of western or eastern origin, you'll see it meets many of the same criteria.
By definition a religious way of life is based on an intrinsic belief in tenets of faith that cannot be proven other than through the experience and
results of others. It is the act of believing in an idea so strongly that you have no doubt it will guide your life in the right direction. Faith never
ensures you'll go where you want to go, but it will take you where you most need to be. I find exactly the same phenomenon in bodybuilding.
Can you ever be sure you'll get the results in the gym that you're hoping to attain? Never. Not with bodybuilding and not with anything in life. That's
where faith and discipline come into play and where you continue to persevere and seek to achieve your goals.
Without action, though, faith alone could never guide you to the physique you've always wanted. Just admiring bodybuilders like Chris Cormier, Jay Cutler
or Milos Sarcev - three bodies as different as morning, afternoon and evening - isn't going to make attaining the same look even possible, let alone
probable. So what's an aspiring bodybuilder going to do to reach his goals? Do the footwork!
Doing the footwork involves many factors. To me it means you show up at the gym ready to train, with an open mind and a willing body, as often as is
necessary. You're going to have to decide the details for yourself. I can only give you guidelines. You need to fill in the blanks around them. Essentially,
though, you must do whatever it takes to ensure you are including all the components necessary to give yourself a fighting chance.
Oscar-winning actors will give you the same advice: that while not everyone is going to win an Academy Award for his work in film and actor absolutely will
never win an Oscar sitting at home and missing out on auditions. Think of bodybuilding in much the same way. Maybe you won't be recognized on an Olympia stage
in the way Ronnie Coleman or Flex Wheeler has been, but you will never have a chance at recognition of any kind sitting at home, channel surfing and
Bodybuilding may leave a lot to interpretation and may be a crap shoot in terms of outcome and success, but you can be sure that what worked yesterday will
likely work today, and not just for some, but for the masses. The degree to which you succeed is anyone's guess, but you can be assured of some kind of
outcome if you go to the gym five or six days a week and put in the effort - i.e. do the footwork. Knowing a few simple rules - commandments if you
will - of bodybuilding success will help you a lot. There are no guarantees, but there are tried and true approaches and methods by which many others have
succeeded, or at least achieved their full physical potential. Focusing on these ten commandments will make the road much less bumpy and will allow you to
reach your destiny within the sport.
Thou Shalt Not Think Small.
Thinking small is a big mistake. Unless you want the least life has to offer, you can't think small in terms of what you want to achieve or in terms of your
capabilities. Every successful person knows this, but bodybuilders tend to think small in quite a different way. They actually see themselves as small - no
matter what anyone tells them! Thinking small as a bodybuilder can impede progress and thwart any effort to pack on mass. I remember Jim Quinn used to see
himself as small when he was probably one of the largest guys on the scene. He punished himself mentally, if not physically. Avoid this trap and try to maintain
objectivity in seeing yourself. If you can't be objective, make sure you surround yourself with people who are whom you trust. Your head can play fantastic
tricks on you if you let it. Don't let it!
Thou Shalt Be Realistic and True to Your Potential.
Just as some bodybuilders see themselves as perpetually small, others suffer from what I consider to be a more dangerous affliction. They see themselves as
better and more com-plete than they actually are when they look mediocre at best. That isn't to say they will always look mediocre, but when a bodybuilder
acts complacent and accepts where he is by giving himself a positive nod, his complacency blocks him from realizing what may be his true potential. Always
try to have an objective eye around you - a person whom you trust to tell you the truth about how you look. In fact, I feel pretty sure people hire me for my
eye rather than my train- ing experience. I'll tell them the truth that others won't. Just remember, you cheat yourself when you settle for less than you can
be out of vanity and ego.
Thou Shalt Not Be Lazy With, or Squander, Genetic Gifts.
They say the most talented people squander their talent because they've never had to try as hard as others have. Well, I find that idea to be completely true -
in this sport and in other pursuits. I know a lot of talented bodybuilders who, for at least two or three years of their career, have squandered their talent
and wasted precious time. Most have gotten their act together and made sure they work toward their goals with the same enthusiasm and gut-busting work ethic
that less talented bodybuilders have always employed, but there are a few who will never see what they can really accomplish. If you're talented, don't rest
on your laurels while taking compliments from others. Say to yourself, "If I look this good with such small efforts, imagine what I'll look like when I train
like an animal for a year!"
Thou Shalt Not Avoid Squats Under Any Circumstance.
A lot of pros suffer from this slackness because they think, 'Hell, I have my leg development and all the size I need ... I don't have to squat any more.'
This attitude is a big mistake for anyone. Even Tom Platz continued squatting after building tree trunks for legs! Besides, you don't have to load the bar with
495 every time. You can use a lot of different techniques with squats, but squats build the legs that put you in the winner's circle. If you have an injury,
maybe you can work on the Smith machine for additional support, but get that squat action in at all costs. Coleman still squats, Wheeler still squat, and you
can bet Jay Cutler is squatting his ass off on the east coast!
Thou Shalt Avidly Pursue Diversity in Workouts.
Don't go into the gym with the attitude that you can do the same routine over and over again. When Arnold's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding came out in
1985, it was a great success, but he made a big mistake by putting in that line that said, "Don't fix it if it ain't broke." He knew what he meant, but I don't
think anyone else did. That single line has caused bodybuilders to settle for the results they get from one set routine, and has thus prevented many of those
athletes from changing their program. Arnold knows what he's doing. Just assume that you don't! Get results, but then move on and see if you can get even better
results from another routine. Staying with one routine would be akin to never traveling outside California -never going to another state - because California
works for you. How do you know New York wouldn't work better for you? The same idea applies to bodybuilding. Try new ideas to see if what you know works,
actually does work as well as you believe.
Thou Shalt Push to Failure.
Most bodybuilders train to failure only in the first year or two and then they conveniently forget about it. They tell themselves, "No, I can't push to failure
if I want size. I'll stick with my 8 reps." The only problem is, they forget how to train hard and the 8 reps they do brings them nowhere close to failure.
Folks, you don't have to train to failure in every set, during every exercise or every workout, but you should go to the limit in plenty of individual body-part
workouts, particularly those where you're looking for an extra inch or two. Maybe squatting to failure isn't a good idea if your training partner is off that
day, but you can train to failure on leg extensions or hamstring curls, either by using drop sets, or just by squeezing out the last rep in a standard set.
This is a simple technique that can really make a difference.
Thou Shalt Not Avoid Working the Hamstrings.
I see this neglect all the time. I believe you should train hamstrings just about as often and as intensely as the quads. People mistakenly look at leg-training
as one and a half-one unit of training for the quads and half a unit of training for the hams. Wrong! Many guys get up onstage with full quads and half-full
hamstrings - disgusting! If you have huge quads, imagine how big your legs would look if your hams jutted out as far behind as your quads do forward. That kind
of leg development is what judges are looking for in the pros. There's no excuse for not training legs as hard as any other bodypart. Just be-cause they're out
of sight, that doesn't mean you get to skip them. Prioritize legs by doing them first in a pre-exhausting workout, before squats or leg presses. Then finish with
Thou Shalt Pursue Muscle Separation Doggedly.
Muscle separation is an objective bodybuilders most often neglect. When I work with clients, I find many don't know what separation means anyway, so they can't
know how to train for it unless they are taught. Separation exercises are very specific and should be included in almost all precontest workouts. Use cables and
a lot of negative rep work to achieve separation. Force that is pulling against you (a cable) in a steady tension is what you want. You can do arm work, chest
work, shoulder work and even leg work with cables. Don't skip this important aspect of your training. And don't forget to pose a lot before a competition, not
just when you are practicing your routine. Posing creates separation as well.
Thou Shalt Never Apply the Word Overtrain to Leg Workouts.
Let me derail a myth now and get it out of the way: There is no way to overtrain your legs! A lot of people will disagree with me, but they're usually not the
people with big legs. I've been involved in bodybuilding for years and 1 know one fact to be true. Overtraining the quads and hamstrings is damn near impossible.
You can suffer strain from incorrect form or application, but actual overtraining is truly difficult to do. I don't know anyone - and I mean anyone - who trains
his legs hard enough to even come close to overtraining. I'm not referring to frequency of sessions - that's a completely different consideration. I mean
overtraining the legs in one isolated workout. That possibility is so unlikely, I'd say only one person in 100,000 could do it. The point in telling you this?
Don't stop at 30 sets, thinking you're going to eat away at muscle. You're not! Go to 40 sets. You'll thank me when you see the results. Legs are a bodypart you
can and should push to the limit. Think like this and you'll have way more massive legs in a year's time than you ever would by thinking conservatively.
Thou Shalt Endeavor to Deserve Lengthy Recovery Times.
Work hard and then you can take time off. People doing the one-bodypart-a-day, five-days-a-week (with weekends off) routine have the right idea, but they don't
train nearly hard enough to deserve six days off between bodyparts. You should definitely rest your muscles and recuperate, especially if you're a natural
bodybuilder. If you're a guy who's always on a cycle, use it for a change instead of squandering it and working out at 50 percent intensity. That goes for rest
times between sets too. Don't take five minutes between sets. Keep moving. Even if you're resting up from doing a set of leg press, you can do curls or some other
exercise in between. Shawn Ray never rests more than a minute between sets and keeps his workout moving at a fairly rapid pace. I don't know a lot of people who
can keep up with his level of stamina. He still lifts heavy too. That philosophy has led to a longevity no one else in the sport has yet enjoyed.