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10 Muscle Building Tips From Bodybuilding Greats

Bodybuilding Greats

At this point in time, we have more advice about bodybuilding than we know what to do with, everybody on the internet appears to know the true secret to success. But who should you really follow?

There is a case for you to listen to scientific journals, follow fitness experts such as Alan Aragon, Bret Contreras, and Brad Schoenfeld.

It is undeniable that they have contributed to Bodybuilding with a scientific approach that has raised Bodybuilding from a hobby to a science. However, none of these experts has won a Bodybuilding contest.

So while their knowledge is astounding when it comes to science, their practical experience of winning a competition is non-existent.

This is not meant as a criticism, just as a reason why you should learn from them about the science behind training, but look to Bodybuilding greats such as Ronnie Coleman, Dorian Yates, Arnold, and Lou if you want to learn how to win.

Here is a collection of tips and quotes from some of the most famous and successful Bodybuilders of all time.

Tip #1: “Focus On Form Not Weights” – Lou Ferrigno

Lou Ferrigno won Mr Universe in 1973 and 1974 and is most famous for his on-screen rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1977 Bodybuilding documentary “Pumping Iron“. He also played the Hulk in the television show “The Incredible Hulk“.

This tip is very important for potential Bodybuilders because bad form is one of the biggest issues with most people’s training.

Removing your ego and choosing a weight that you can lift without cheating will have a large impact on hypertrophy.

As a recent study found the eccentric part of a lift can produce the greater Hypertrophic response when used correctly [1] (i.e. lower your weights slowly and under control, if you want bigger muscles).

Tip #2: “Utilize Cheat Reps Once You’ve Reached Failure” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most famous Bodybuilders of all time, and also the most successful Bodybuilder turned actor.

The guy was truly driven, and his level of dedication to the sport, while not in any way unique, has become legendary. This has translated into all aspects of his life and led to him becoming governor of California in 2003.

On the surface, this tip by Arnie directly contradicts the tip by Lou in that Cheat reps are the exact opposite of good form. But really both points can co-exist.

Training to failure is used often in Bodybuilding to activate more motor units and create more muscle damage, the idea is to ignore a rep-range and just keep going until you can’t perform another rep.

What Arnie did was reach that point and then modify his technique so that he could keep going.

This is completely different from not having form to begin with, which is what Lou was talking about. Schwarzenegger would have perfect form until he physically couldn’t perform another rep and then would change his form to squeeze out an extra couple of reps.

The point of this tip is to concentrate on form, but not let it prevent you from training to your full potential.

Tip #3: “Everybody Wants To Be A Bodybuilder, But Nobody Wants To Lift No Heavy-Ass Weights” – Ronnie Coleman

Ronnie Coleman was Mr Olympia for 8 straight years (1998-2005), he now runs his own supplement business.

There are two ways to interpret this quote, either literally meaning you need to lift heavy to gain muscle size. Or metaphorically, meaning that everyone wants the success but very few are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices.

Tip #4: “If It’s Not Working, It’s Not Working” – Dorian Yates

Dorian Yates was Mr Olympia from 1992 to 1997 when he retired. He now owns multiple gyms and also has his own supplement business.

When Dorian Yates said “If it’s not working, it’s not working” he was talking about following other people’s advice without stopping to think whether it was actually working or not.

Later on, in the interview, he stated that “a lot of people will just persevere and because Arnold said so or Lee Haney said so and because it was all over the magazines, it must be right.

Tip #5: “Most Gyms Can Be Broken Down Into Two Segments. There Are Members Who Socialise And There Are The Champions” – Franco Columbu

If you want to see changes to your body then you need to work for it.

You should not be spending the majority of your time socialising while at the gym.

Of course, the occasional hello or question can be asked. But if you are spending 90% of your gym time talking instead of working then you can’t then complain that you are not seeing any results.

I would suggest avoiding those people who spend the entirety of their workout talking. Put a pair of headphones one, and try to avoid eye contact if you do not want to be disturbed.

Tip #6: “No Exercise Works If You Don’t Feel It In The Muscle That You’re Targeting” – Jay Cutler

You may be performing the right types of exercises to work the muscles you want to grow. However, if you are not activating these muscles correctly then you won’t see the results you would hope for.

When lifting you need to activate the right muscles. Failure to do this could result in other muscles overcompensating, which could lead to bad form and injury.

I would suggest using the lightest weight possible when starting so that you can feel which muscle is being activated when lifting.

This will create a mind-body connection, which should stay in place while you add more weight to the exercise.

Tip #7: “Training A Muscle To Failure Is What’s Going To Make You Basically Build Your Body” – Rich Gaspari

There is plenty of research showing that training to failure is needed for hypertrophy [2], but what is ‘training to failure’?

Training to failure means that you are going to be repeating an exercise until you physically cannot do one more repetition.

Tip #8: “Don’t Confuse Training Long With Training Hard” – Mike Mentor

Are you spending hours in the gym but spending the majority of the time chatting or taking selfies in the mirror? If this sounds like you then you are wasting your time.

You should go to the gym with a plan of what you are going to do and when you are going to do it. You should try not to deviate too far from it.

This can be difficult to achieve at certain times of the day at the gym, with certain machines and equipment being used, but you should try to avoid unnecessary distractions if possible.

Tip #9: “You Need To Be Dedicated, Consistent And Have The Drive To Want To Compete” – Branch Warren

Well, this tip is pretty obvious. And if you are not willing to work towards your goal then you are not going to achieve it.

Dedication and consistent training will give results. It’s a shame that most people are not willing to sacrifice their social life to achieve them.

Tip #10: “Muscle Must Recover Fully Between Workouts To Grow” – Dennis Wolf

Training causes micro-tears in your muscle tissue that are repaired when you rest and when the right kind of nutrition is taken in.

So, while your training efforts are important, if you really want to see results then you need to make sure you give yourself adequate time to recover between workouts.

I would suggest not working the same muscle group within 24 hours. So if you are doing a full-body workout I would suggest 3-4 a week.

With body part splits you can workout more often, but you must avoid working the same muscle on consecutive days. So for example, you should not work your chest on a Monday and a Tuesday. Do it on a different day instead.

Final Thoughts

This article is based around learning from Bodybuilders and whilst there is a lot that you can take away from these greats, it is important to understand that if something isn’t working for you it might just be the wrong way to go.

Arnold and Lou, and Coleman are different from you, in how they trained and the results they got.

This means that you can learn a lot from them, but you will probably get different results.

Dorian Yates won 6 Mr Olympia titles without following any other Bodybuilders’ routine, he created one that worked for him.




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