Bodybuilding 101: How Bodybuilders Get Massive Muscles

Have you always wondered how bodybuilders get their massive muscles? The bodybuilding cover models for fitness and weight lifting magazines look different from professional athletes, trainers, and pilates instructors you see because they train differently.

Their goal, above all else, is size. They are strong too, but their functional strength is nowhere near that of a strongman competitor or a linebacker, say. Part of the reason is that bodybuilders are shaping their bodies to get a specific look. They are shaping their body to fit the ideal ‘look’ of a bodybuilder.

Bulking and Cutting

Bodybuilders gain and lose weight in cycles, bulking’ up by lifting weights and eating a ton, months before a bodybuilding competition to gain size, then ‘cutting’ by losing any extra fat to get the definition and tiny body fat percentage they are so well known for. At the end of the cycle, they have lots of muscle mass and little of anything else.

The weight training routines bodybuilders use are specific to particular body parts and particular muscles. The idea is to stress that particular body part or muscle as much as possible, with a range of reps and weights, from a number of angles. On a day when you are working out your biceps you might do regular standing bicep curls, cable curls, and concentration curls to hit the same muscle in three ways. Other types of weight lifting regimens generally have a goal other than size. For a track athlete that lifts weights, the goal might be endurance, so reps will generally be high and the weight will be light. A football player is interested in maximizing their short-burst strength, so their lifts will be heavy, with few reps, and pretty explosive.

Volume and Workout

Another difference between bodybuilder training and other weightlifting programs you may have come across is that programs for bodybuilders incorporate lots of sets for each muscle group. This further acts to fully exhaust a muscle. During the many sets, you might vary the number of reps you do and the amount of weight you are using. This stresses the muscle in lots of different ways, not just by lifting very heavy weights a few times.

This style of lifting works the muscles to complete exhaustion, and creates lots and lots of microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tears aren’t enough to permanently damage the muscle, in fact they are important for making the muscle larger (they are the theorized cause of muscle soreness, as well). Once a muscle is stressed completely, you give them plenty of recovery time. During this time, the muscle fibers and immune cells get to work with repairs on the micro-tears. The repair process makes the muscle stronger and more able to handle the same stress again next time, but also bigger.

Here’s an example of a body part split workout schedule:

  • Monday: legs
  • Tuesday: abs, chest, and shoulders
  • Wednesday: biceps and triceps
  • Thursday: recovery day
  • Friday: legs
  • Saturday: abs, chest, and shoulders
  • Sunday: biceps and triceps

As you can see, doing body part routines mean that you will be in the gym, lifting weights, six days a week. It is hard work to gain muscle using this routine. Being a bodybuilder involves a pretty serious lifestyle change when compared to taking up running or playing basketball a few times a week. Besides going to the gym nearly every day to lift, changes in nutrition and proper recovery while on a bodybuilding plan are instrumental to getting big results


Some speculate that he is part man, part animal, but the only thing that you need to know is his obsession and dedication to the art of living lean and helping you to achieve your body fat goals.

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