Don’t think you’re a bodybuilder because you don’t compete or aspire to get huge? Think again. My definition of a bodybuilder is simply an individual who strives to build muscle and lose fat, to any degree of muscularity or leanness. If you have any interest in building even one pound of muscle and/or losing one pound of fat, then you — my friend — are a bodybuilder, and this article is for you!

Although I’ve trained for more than 10 years and have been exposed to some of the most intelligent trainers, doctors and therapists, intelligence does not grant me immunity. I don’t care if you hold a Ph.D. or are a Pro Bodybuilder, you can still make simple errors, either in the gym or out. You’ve been warned.

Just like any other endeavor, bodybuilding is a process learning. We have to rely on previous experiences to build muscle for the future. Nervertheless, we make mistakes that take our muscle building progress off course and we hit a dead end. Don’t panic. This is normal and happens to even the most experienced and intelligent bodybuilders. Becoming aware of the mistakes before they occur is half the battle and the first step to winning the war over our genetics!

Mistake #1
Neglecting Interval Cardio

Of course you want to be as big and strong as a bull, but do you want to look like one, too? An intense weight-training program and clean diet can certainly help you get down to 10% body fat but once you desire to showcase single-digit body fat, you’re going to need to utilize the fat-burning and metabolism-boosting effects of interval cardio workouts. Weight training can only burn so many calories and a clean diet can only be reduced so low. At some point you’ll need an additional weapon to burn off the fat and that’s when interval cardio becomes a valuable asset. My advice is to maintain a minimum of three 20-minute interval sessions every week.

Mistake #2
Not Hitting Your Daily Protein Requirements

Too many guys obsess over how much protein to have immediately after a workout.  It doesn’t matter how much protein you have immediately after your workout if you fail to consume your daily protein requirement! Protein is the main building block to support the muscle you currently have and to provide enough to allow your body to recover and grow from strenuous training sessions. Before you even worry about how much protein to have before or after your workout, ensure you’re getting at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day from at least four different protein sources.

Mistake #3
Not Eating Enough

Bodybuilding requires your body to be in a constant tissue repair mode, which means you need to be steadily supplying nutrition for your body to build new muscle tissue and to recharge its glycogen supply. One or two meals a day isn’t going to cut it. If you eat smaller meals more frequently, like every two to four hours (depending on your metabolism), your body will recover faster. Most bodybuilders grow faster when favoring five or six mini-meals instead of two or three huge meals.  To build muscle, your daily caloric intake should be at least your bodyweight multiplied by seventeen.

Mistake #4
Obsessing Over Supplements

It boggles my mind when skinny guys ask me, “What do you think of MCT oils for muscle growth?” or “How many BCAA’s should I be taking pre workout?” or “What do you think the best way is to take my creatine?” I always reply, “How many calories are you taking in right now?” And I’ll get a reply like, “I don’t know bro…” Are you kidding me? You don’t even know how many calories you’re consuming and you’re worried about supplements? This is called “putting the cart before the horse” which simply means you’re doing things in the wrong order. Before you even think about supplements, know your caloric intake first.

Mistake #5
“Shocking” The Body

There is no doubt that you’ve heard someone say, “You’ve got to shock the body to see faster gains…” or “You’ve got to keep your body guessing to keep growing…” Both of those statements come with a degree of truth but when this theory is taken to extremes it will immediately backfire on you. The problem with this idea is that “shocking” your body prevents you from monitoring or tracking progress. The key to building bigger muscles is to understand that progress is synonymous with results. In short, progress over time equals results. You don’t need to shock your muscles into growth. A smarter mantra is what Mr. Olympia Lee Haney teaches: “Stimulate, don’t annihilate.” 

Mistake #6
Program Hopping

I can’t stand it when people start following a program and then come to the ridiculous conclusion a few weeks later, “The program isn’t working for me…” No kidding, you followed it for two weeks! What were you expecting in just two weeks? It’s taken me 10 years to build my body to where it is now! You must realize that the first few weeks of adaptations to a new training program are neuromuscular, which simply means your body is becoming more efficient at performing the exercises. The visual changes don’t occur until after the neuromuscular adaptations kick in.

Mistake #7
Failing To Make Progress

Remember, progress equals results, and progress takes time. The good news about progress is that it does not need to be in dramatic increments. Small incremental progressions add up, and over time and those many small progressions result in a massive and very noticeable difference in your muscularity. Small incremental changes, even if it’s just one extra pound or one extra rep, are what you should be focusing on each workout.

Mistake #8
Training Your Best Body Parts First

Fess up. Your thighs are looking better than your hams. Your chest looks better than your back. Bodybuilding is about symmetry and proportion – not having the biggest chest or the biggest quads in your gym. To develop a physique with a well-balanced look, you’ll need to stop neglecting the less developed muscles on your body. You probably train your weakest muscles near the end of a workout – go figure! How do you expect them to improve if you always train them last when you’re tired at the end of your workout? Always train your weak body parts first in your sessions and near the start of the week while you have the most energy.

Mistake #9
Lifting Like A Weightlifter, Not A Bodybuilder

Weightlifters are concerned with moving weights from point A to point B without any concern for bouncing or swinging the weights throughout the movement. They select their weights based on the impact they’ll have on those watching rather than the impact they’ll have on their body. They go to the gym to train their ego, not their muscles. If bigger muscles are your goal, it’s not acceptable to use any type of momentum that takes tension off the targeted muscle. Once you start swinging and bouncing the weights it means you lack control and you have zero business touching a weight that you don’t have complete control over. If you don’t have control, it’s too heavy. Bodybuilders focus on constant tension of the working muscle and focus on squeezing it through a full range of motion and will never sacrifice tension for load.

Mistake #10
No Time Off

In the quest to build maximum muscle mass, most bodybuilders are their own worst enemies. It’s absolutely important to be consistent with your routine, but consistent is one thing and constant is another. Not only are you stressing your metabolic system when you train your muscles but you’re stressing your hormonal system, immune system, and nervous system — three systems that take longer to recover than your metabolic system. Not to mention the degree of wear and tear on your joints after years of lifting. Even with perfect nutrition, optimal lifting technique and great supplementation, lifting is very stressful on your joints. The solution to long-term lifting is taking at least two days off every week from weight training and at least one full week off every 12 to 16 weeks of lifting.

Remember, everyone who exercises is a bodybuilder, not just those huge guys in the tiny trunks.

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