There is a lot of division in the sport of natural bodybuilding. For years there has been a divide between competitors who compete in drug-tested competitions and those who compete in untested competitions. More recently, with an increased interest in a science-based approach to the sport, there has become a further divide between competitors using a science based approach and those doing what works for them, commonly referred to as broscience.
In my opinion, all of this division is not good for the growth of the sport as a whole.
In comparison, crossfit is growing rapidly. My personal opinion on crossfit’s poor training programming aside, one positive thing crossfit does have is a group of athletes who all support each other. This is something clearly lacking in the sport of bodybuilding as a whole and it is readily apparent while scrolling through social media.
I realize this message may be a bit hypocritical coming from someone who writes science-based bodybuilding articles, uses a science-based approach to the sport and intends to continue doing so; however, my goal for this article is to help everyone see common ground between approaches based on science and broscience to begin developing some unity in the sport. Below are 8 things nearly all successful bodybuilders do regardless of their approach.
1 – Control of nutritional intake
There has been a lot of debate over the macro based approaches and meal plans over the past couple of years. There are also arguments about food source, meal timing, meal frequency, macronutrient ratios, refeeding, and a number of other topics. However, one thing all successful bodybuilders do is monitor nutritional intake. This may be while eating a meal plan of only a few specific foods, using a flexible dieting approach, or somewhere in between, but you can be sure that the most successful competitors in this sport are carefully monitoring nutritional intake.
2 – A protein intake higher than the RDA
Bodybuilders are a population known for consuming a large amount of protein to help build muscle mass. Many bodybuilders over the years have protein intakes of 2-3g/lb bodyweight. More recently, science has caught up to practice and has provided further evidence that protein intakes above the RDA in resistance training athletes to support muscle growth. While the protein intake based on science (~1g/lb) is significantly lower than many have previously consumed (~2-3+ g/lb) one thing that is consistent between nearly all successful bodybuilders is that they consume a protein intake higher than the RDA of 0.8g/kg (~0.36g/lb).
3 – Lifting weights focusing on progression over time
There are numerous debates in the sport on the details of a training program such as: number of sets, rep tempo, frequency of training body parts, rep ranges, training to failure, use of machines vs. free weights, and a number of other topics. Bodybuilders who use a science-based approach typically train bodyparts more frequently, avoid failure, use a variety of rep ranges among other things while bodybuilders who use a broscience approach typically train bodyparts once/wk, use higher reps exclusively, and train to failure often. Many use other styles of training combining any number of training variables. While there is a lot of debate on these topics, one thing all successful bodybuilders have in common is that they lift weights. More than that, they also focus on progression in the gym over time.
4 – Increased cardio when dieting for shows
Much like nutrition and training, there is a lot of debate over cardio in the bodybuilding world. Typical arguments include: fasted- vs. fed-state cardio, HIIT vs. steady-state cardio, cardio modalities, and many others. Bodybuilders using a science-based approach tend to do more HIIT cardio in a fed-state while those using a broscience approach tend to do fasted steady-state cardio. Despite these differences in opinion, one thing nearly all successful bodybuilders have in common is that they generally have to add cardio when dieting down for shows. The type, duration, etc. may differ from competitor to competitor, but in general in order to get into stage shape most successful bodybuilders will have to do at least some amount of cardio.
5 – Treating supplements as supplements
Supplements are a part of the health and fitness industry as a whole. In the sport of bodybuilding, there is a wide range of supplement usage ranging from none to a very large number of different supplements. Leaving the debate of whether or not certain supplements are effective aside, one thing most successful bodybuilders have in common when it comes to supplements is that they treat supplements as a supplement to an already solid nutrition and exercise plan rather than attempting to use supplements to make up for a lack of a solid nutrition and exercise plan.
6 – Getting lean prior to peak week
I’m not even sure where to start on the wide range of things bodybuilders do during peak week because I’m pretty sure multiple articles could be written about it. However, although nearly everyone has a different approach to what they do in the week leading up to the show ranging from no changes to changing basically everything drastically
One thing nearly all successful bodybuilders have in common is that they are lean prior to peak week rather than expecting miracles the last week
7 – Mastering posing
This topic does not have nearly as many hot button issues as most of the others previous discussed as there is a general consensus in the sport as a whole that you need to be able to present your physique appropriately to be successful. Therefore, most successful bodybuilders spend time practicing the art of posing in order to best showcase their physiques onstage.
8 – Consistency over time
This is a topic that is commonly overlooked in the sport, especially amongst those just starting out; however, it may be the single most important controllable factor for success in the sport of bodybuilding. Building a winning physique does not happen overnight. It is going to take time which is why most successful bodybuilders have been consistent with their nutrition and training for a long period of time in order to get to where they are currently at in the sport.
One thing I hope you take from this is that these things listed above are done in some way, shape, or form by nearly all successful bodybuilders regardless of approach. Therefore, I would view them as essential keys to success in this sport. There are different approaches to take within most of these categories; however, the big picture pillars of success in the sport of bodybuilding are the same for everyone. Moving forward, the next time you are in a heated debate about science vs. broscience, remember that these approaches actually do have some things in common.