This article will take you 14 minutes to read. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!
Welcome to this guide!
Whether you are just getting started as a natural bodybuilder (or not), we’ve put ourselves in your shoes! We created 30 pieces of advice which should give you a good idea of what’s to come and how to get off to the best start.
By the end of this article, you will be able to put these pieces of advice into action. This article sums up most of the materials you can find on this blog. Whether you are a hard-gainer, overweight, “skinny fat” the goal is to skip all the fluff and get you straight to fast results as a natural bodybuilder. If you’re advanced, then it’s a good reminder, and you might find one or two things to reflect on! This guide also applies for anyone who just wants to get fitter in general! This means it can contribute to your sport. This article which was made by myself and Abuga, owner of downhill254 (skateboarding website) is a good example of how these bodybuilding tips can help you perform better at your main sport! This article will take you 12 minutes to read!
So…Ready? Let’s go!
1- Stay a natural bodybuilder!
Why the hell would Natural Flex be called Natural Flex if there wasn’t the advice to stay natural in your bodybuilder journey?
There are a lot of reasons to remain natural:
- no health complications
- no visible side effects
- no post-treatment therapy reliance
Let’s think long term and remember that natural gains can be incredible! Too many natural bodybuilders are putting barriers in their mind on what’s actually achievable. Many natural bodybuilders spend 1-2 hours a day in the gym and push these stereotypical limits that we are being given all the time!
You don’t even need to do that much to get a solid physique. The word overtraining is overrated! People under-train! Stay natural and see how you get on with your first steps in bodybuilding!
2- Set goals
Knowing where you are going will make it easier to reach your goals and will make you feel better in your head to achieve those goals. It’s like telling the captain of a boat to go forward while being blindfolded. He might just end up going in circles.
Setting goals might sound like a chore, but once it’s done, your mind is at ease. It’s actually pleasing to picture yourself the way you want to be. Writing your program accordingly is exciting because you’re writing the pieces which will let you achieve the body of your dreams.
Here are a few questions you should answer before you start:
- Why do I want to get started in the gym?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- Will this help me the way I think it will?
From the get-go, you are aligning your past and present motivation to your actions with a clear mind!
You can use the SMART method to set up your goals, as explained in this article from the corporate finance institute.
We’re going to give you the stereotypical “don’t compare yourself to others” talk. Cliche yes, but it’s also very true, and there is actually no point in comparing yourself to others in the bodybuilding world.
Some people just have different morphologies and genetics which makes it hard to compare.
It does not mean you should not work hard if your genetics aren’t great. If someone has short arms and a big thoracic cage, then they are made to bench. If you don’t, then it’s okay. You might not be as talented at benchpress as this person, but that is the morphology coming into play, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get great results.
There will be some unfair times where people just have better genetics for certain things. There will also undoubtedly be times when YOU also have better genetics for specific movements.
Compare yourself to yourself 🙂
4- Don’t think you’re a hard-gainer
Don’t get intimidated at the start of your bodybuilding journey and don’t think that it will be harder for you. It might actually be, and you might not have the right genetics, but you’re most likely to succeed better than anyone else.
Because no one can steal your motivation and smart training! Genetics can only take you so far! We have a full guide on hard gainers and how to fight this myth.
A quick sum-up:
- You need to eat more! By more, we are talking about making sure you are at a calorie surplus! Also, do not cut too often!
- Train enough
- Don’t be intimidated by people stronger than you, they’ll help you!
- Work on muscles which will make you look big straight away
Go read it and smash it! We’d love to hear stories of people who were skinny but surprised their family and best mates by improving ridiculously fast!
5- Stick to the same routine
You won’t hear this too often, but once you’ve built your program, it’s better to keep it the same way. You will have heard of the saying “practise makes perfect”, so this should make sense!
A lot of people claim you should switch it up. Switching it up means there are no landmarks to work from, and your muscles do not have time to become competent in the areas that you want them to be.
The best thing you can do is stick to the routine that you have taken time to build and which was adapted in a way for you to improve in the long run.
You can read more about this here. Now, what should be in your routine as a natural bodybuilder?
6- Start with the basics
Before you can adapt your program, you have to start with the basics. In the gym, it’s always about the basics even at an advanced level.
Once you’ve built strong foundations, you’re able to adapt your routine. You can tell if your muscles are short or long and you can choose the best exercises adapted to your body morphology!
7- Build your routine in a smart way
Building an appropriate routine is essential.
As mentioned in the previous part, try and see what kind of body morphology you have. Then try to make a routine which is made in a smart way. You have to make sure your muscles are not competing with each other.
For example, doing triceps day before chest day might not be your best option. You also have to prioritise what really matters to you according to your goals. If you’re planning on getting bigger legs, it makes sense to adapt your program to fit this goal.
This would mean training legs twice a week, for example. If you’re cutting, it might be harder to keep up a routine which was as intense as when you were bulking. Everything has to be adaptable, so making your program the smartest way possible is very important.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you must have seen this tip way too many times! That is because it is way too important! We have got a full article on what it means, but let’s try to quickly summarise it.
Specialising comes back to narrowing down your exercise selection to what really matters. What’s the point of doing flies with cables and flies with dumbells in the same session? It’s also about what we said previously – choosing the right exercises for your body morphology and not using exercises which are too similar.
It’s like filling your car with a specific type of fuel, you don’t fill it with something which is not suitable for it.
9- Strength! Build strength.
This is very important as a natural bodybuilder.
One of the first problems amongst beginners is only focusing on volume and forgetting to get stronger. Volume is great and needed for hypertrophy, but if the weights you lift stay the same, you’re not going to grow with it.
Start implementing techniques such as 5×5 and eat accordingly! We explain this in the article “how many reps to build muscle”!
Volume of course! If you only do strength then you are a powerlifter, not a bodybuilder. Muscle gains come when you mix both of these together. Strength and volume!
Don’t do too much volume if you’re just starting. Be reasonable and try to build strength first. Focus on the quality first and always try to push hard without overdoing.Don’t train to failure if you are starting. Just go to 90% in most cases so you’re not burning yourself out.
Your recovery matters!
11- Build an appropriate diet routine
When you’re starting, it’s always a pain to know whether you should bulk/cut or maintain. Here is what we recommend:
The goal is to take it slowly and build an excellent base.
If you were eating at a maintenance level without going to the gym, you’d stay the same. But if you eat at maintenance and start exercising, you’ll start burning calories which wasn’t part of your daily habits. Over time you’ll build muscle and lose weight.
Being a beginner is one of the only times in your bodybuilding journey where you will be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time! Take advantage of it.
Let’s think long term and put yourself in the right mindset!
12- Don’t listen to everyone
This one is important. Of course, don’t be a bear. But not listening to everyone is vital.
Everyone is different, and a lot of people will train hard and get results despite not having the best methods or advice.
There are also a lot of people using performance-enhancing drugs which helps them a lot. Therefore, their advice isn’t always relatable for you as a natural bodybuilder. What you should do is think about yourself and your own traits, your personal lifestyle and morphology.
There is no magic trick to it, and intensification training techniques giving you a good pump or things which sound fancy are often not very useful.
Research most of the things for yourself and reflect on what others say, but don’t apply the advice from every single person.
13- Practice good form but don’t be Mr perfection
Practising proper form is key. So many of us don’t follow this rule, and that’s normal, you just want to get a new PB. To be honest with you, you should practice good form, but you don’t have to be Mr Perfect. Sometimes you have to force it! It’s part of the game. But if you’re going to cheat, do it properly.
Let us give you an example:
If you are doing a rowing set and the weight is heavy, but you keep going for another few reps, you might use some sort of balance. As long as when you are doing this, your chest is still out, and your shoulders are pointing backwards, you are balancing in an okay position.
If you start losing your chest and shoulder starting position, then you should probably not do that.
14- Don’t focus on the pump!
This one is too important as a natural bodybuilder!
Associating a good exercise to how it makes you feel is reasonable and we’ve all been there.
The issue is that anything can give you a pump.
Carrying your luggage, curling 30x1kg, lateral raises with your cat. Is it going to build muscle though? Not really!
Of course, very high reps can be beneficial for those who wish to work on their weaknesses or very small muscles.
We have a full article explaining this method and also another one explaining why the pump isn’t a reliable source! Check it out.
We’re not just gonna tell you to warm up, everyone knows that! We are talking about REALLY warming-up! Jumping from 20 kg on the bench to 60kg and then 100kg are big jumps. We recommend building up slower than that, even if you are just starting.
In the short term, you might never feel pain, but in 10 years this will undoubtedly affect you. Instead go from 20kg to 40kg to 60kg and 80kg, etc.… And if you are a beginner and 40kg on the benchpress is heavy stuff, do 4-5 sets with an empty bar first.
Even if it takes you a bit longer, you won’t regret it in the long run! Really.
What would a warm-up be without stretching? We all ignore stretching, it can be annoying to get done, however in the long run again, it’s a very positive thing to do.
Right now, you might not feel your body is aching, so you don’t have to think about it. Give it 20 years though, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t listen to your old self! Here’s what you should do to get into this annoying habit without having to spend hours on it!
Do it regularly, about 5 minutes is enough. If this makes it easier for you, then we would recommend you do it this way. You can do more and should do so if you feel like it.
Indeed, 5 minutes every other day is better than nothing, and you don’t need to be a contortionist! Very lightly stretch the muscle parts you’ve trained that day before going to bed.
17- Learn how to train alone
It can be tempting to train with a partner and honestly, why not?
But if you always rely on being with someone for motivation, then this might be an issue the day your friends give up, or for whatever reason, can’t train with you anymore.
Being independent in the long run can turn out to be more productive! Do your sessions with your buddies when you really feel that low. They will probably feel the same sometimes!
Otherwise, just fight it yourself! You’re strong enough. The days your friend might be busy, you’ll probably find the excuse not to come either. Learn how to train alone, in the long run, this will pay off!
And if you are more motivated than your training partner, your friend might eventually slow you down! In that case, meet him at the bar, not the gym!
18- Embrace the suck
Not only might your friend leave you alone and quit, but training will simply just suck from time to time. Yep, the journey as a natural bodybuilder will get tough!
Motivation sometimes gets pretty low, and keeping going is a bitch! These days where you don’t feel like gyming are the days which really matter in the long run.
Don’t only train when you feel like it! That 5 extra kg you’re looking to get on a new PB is made up during these sessions! The more you get used to dragging yourself to the gym when you don’t feel like it, the easier it is to cope with the situation.
Put your best tune on and go!
19- Have a sick playlist
Okay, let’s breathe a bit. All this is a bit overwhelming.
How about planning to listen to some sick tunes!?
Building a playlist which will get you pumped in your sessions can have a massive impact. There is a direct correlation between your performance and what you listen to.
Bangers always give you an extra pump, that’s just the way it is. Of course, it’s not like your bench is gonna go up by 10kg. But if your last PB was 142.5kg and you are trying to make it to 145kg – the right song at the right time can definitely help you get it done!
Whether you are getting some work done at the gym or taking the bus listen to a sweet playlist and discover new music which will be part of your new banger’s playlist!
Save them in your phone for your sessions to come. When you discover a new song with an unbelievable drop, it really can get you that new PB and new highs.
Don’t forget your weaknesses.
As a beginner, you might not want to focus on these weaknesses yet. But as soon as you grow bigger, you will notice these imbalances. Stay aware and work on them as soon as you see them.
People debate whether you should instead entirely focus on your strong parts. This can work, and that is your choice, but the day will come when you’ll have to really work on your weaknesses, and you’ll be happy that you’ve been regularly doing them.
What we suggest is that you acknowledge them. As a natural bodybuilder, you might, for example, be lacking rear delts or upper chest, you can do very high rep sessions regularly to target these weaknesses.
Get these muscles responsive, and if one day you decide to compete and still lack at these, you know that it won’t be as hard as starting from scratch!
Read this article to learn more “Natural steroid like results? sets of 100 repetitions!”
21- Do cardio ONLY if you want to
Cardio to cut down!
…We hear it too often.
Truth is, you lose weight because you are burning calories.
Cardio burns calories. If you’re someone who loves practising sports and miss working on your heart, you should definitely implement some cardio in your routine!
It’s once again about defining your goals and adapting your routine to it. If you want to bulk, moderate your cardio or adjust your diet routine, so you’re still in a calorie surplus.
You can read more on that in this article.
22- Don’t forget abs
Who wants to do abs when you’ve already worked out for 1h30? It’s usually the last thing you want to get into after a tough session.
You don’t have to do abs 5 times a week anyway, but building a strong base will make you feel good once you cut down. Imagine cutting down and not being able to see your abs!
That can be frustrating, and honestly, it’s probably worth it to train your abs twice a week. Train your abs like any other muscle. Add extra weight to build thick abs.
That’s important. No fluff, just big abs muscles here!
23- Visualise before PBs or sets
Focusing before you do a PB is similar to warming up for a whole session but just for a set.
You’re really trying to focus on getting that lift you’ve set yourself the goal of. No one jumps onto a PB without taking some time to close their eyes and take a deep breath.
Here is an actionable tip:
Try and do this technique not only for your PB but for every set, even if it is just for 10 to 15 seconds.
You will notice your overall session will get more productive and that this tiny window of focus before you perform a set will significantly help you be more productive in the long run.
24- Take pictures regularly
This one can be important if you want to encourage yourself in low moments.
We’re not saying you should post it on Instagram and wait for the likes, but having pictures for yourself to see how much you’ve improved can definitely give you a boost when you feel low!
Bigorexia is common in bodybuilding and if you are always triggered by it, just take pictures once a week and see that you’re either making improvements or at least maintaining!
25- Pictures aren’t enough? Measure yourself
Okay, you really want to make sure your progress is going the way you want it to be?
You might also have bigorexia/body-dysmorphia issues and you want to feel some relief!
Indeed, it is hard to really see how much you’ve done and how much you are improving. It’s hard to notice the small changes when you see yourself 24/7.
Here is the thing. Numbers never lie, and if you struggle to see your progression or aren’t sure what the hell is going on, measuring yourself can be very helpful!
But you have to measure the right way! We’re not talking about the neighbour next door using some loose measuring tape to then claim 18-inch shredded arms.
Meditating can help you go through your bodybuilding journey more easily. That’s a bit stereotypical, but it can play in your favour. Meditating along with visualising and picturing what you’d like your journey to be like.
Sometimes, just going in the stretching area in your gym and laying down with your eyes closed can help. There’s nothing better than relaxing after a gym session and visualising what’s to come.
Just don’t fall asleep for 5 hours!
27- Make great friends – Join your university gym if you’re a student
The gym is about muscles, yes!
Let’s be honest though, that’s also where you will meet some of your best friends. They won’t only be your spotters on the bench but also your wingman at the bar!
If you are a student, you should join your uni gym and if you are starting going to the gym, be open and ready to meet some people!
You won’t regret it.
We have an article on why you should join your university gym!
28- All these positive factors at once will make skyrocket your results!
In the gym when you’re doing everything well, it’s like fooling your body.
It just can’t catch up with how well you’re doing it! Eating enough, training well, recovering well.
It’s an amazing momentum that you get.
So try not to neglect any of these tips!
As a natural bodybuilder, you really want to put all the odds in your favour in order to excel.
29 – Become a beast
One of the last steps…becoming a beast!
There’s always that one guy or girl freak in the corner of the gym that you spot once you start going to the gym.
That one person who knows everyone and everyone asks them for advice.
They’re beasts, and you should aim for the same type of level.
You’re going beast mode.
30- Read Natural flex
We had to promote ourselves a little bit. Just a little bit. Why should you read us?
Because we will always try to put ourselves in the shoes of the natural bodybuilder. We talk about real-life experiences and bodybuilding journeys.
The goal is to find things you can relate to so you can implement it in your natural bodybuilding journey and improve.
Not everyone will say things that will work for you and not all articles will hold the solution to your problem, but reflecting and hearing similar stories to yours could unlock your potential as a natural bodybuilder!