How Do I Start Bodybuilding?

Did you know that resistance training doesn’t only increase muscle size but it can improve bone density too?

Someone relatively new to bodybuilding

This means that your bones become stronger and more resistant to hits and shocks. The best way to achieve such feats is by getting into bodybuilding and make resistance training a regular part of your life.

Bodybuilding is the art of using resistance training exercises to sculpt a muscular and aesthetically pleasing body.

This involves training both small and large muscle groups as well as reducing body fat as much as possible.

If you’re thinking of getting into bodybuilding, you’re making a good decision! Bodybuilders live a long and healthy life, not to mention that they are highly appreciated for their bodies.

What Are Your Bodybuilding Goals?

To be successful with bodybuilding, you need to become organized and set realistic goals.

Think of bodybuilding not as a sprint, but a marathon. It’s a long-term journey which requires dedication and discipline, but it’s totally worth it.

Here are a few good examples of realistic goals:

  • Bring your body fat percentage around 7% or 7.5%.
  • Put on 10 pounds of muscle in the next 6 months.
  • Enter your first bodybuilding competition

Setting goals really depends on your current fitness level. Go for a very big goal and you might not feel motivated to begin working on it at all.

Set a very small goal and you’ll not make much progress. You need to find something in between.

Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to help you come up with a realistic bodybuilding goal:

  • Am I at my ideal weight? If you’re currently overweight or obese, you need to work on losing excess fat first before you can focus on putting on muscle
  • Am I capable of lifting my own weight in the three most important compound exercises such as deadlift, bench press and squat? If you’re not there yet, make this your first goal

Speaking of exercising, let’s focus on this aspect for a moment.

Exercising Correctly Is Paramount for Muscle Development

Bodybuilders lift heavy weights all the time.

It has been discovered that working in the 4 to 6 repetition range maximizes muscle growth.
Therefore, you need to lift weights which allow you to do no more than 6 reps but no less than 4 either.

For example, if you’re deadlifting a barbell and you can’t do 4 reps, the weight is too much. Stop, remove a few pounds from the bar and start again.

If you can do more than 6 reps, the weight is too light. Stop, add a few more pounds on the bar and do it again.

Doing heavy, compounded exercises such as deadlift, bench press and squat is essential for your career as a bodybuilder. This is what triggers the body to release the most anabolic hormones for muscle growth.

Other important exercises include military press (ideal for shoulders), dumbbell curls and pull-ups.

Believe it or not, bodybuilders don’t really use the nice and shiny machines with built in weight stacks you find in most gyms. They prefer to stick with free weights instead of using these machines because it’s much more effective.

Your First Bodybuilding Routine

It’s true that your first day in the gym can be quite scary, especially if you’re thinking of getting into bodybuilding.

Lifting a barbell weighing around 150 pounds on average isn’t really the easiest thing in the world, right?

Well, that’s exactly what you need to do if you want to be a successful bodybuilder. The good thing is that you’ll get used to the exercises quickly and best of all, you’ll eventually love your routines.

But let’s see how your first bodybuilding routine should look like. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • Day 1 – Chest and Triceps – do a few sets on the flat bench press and a few others on the incline bench press. This will work your chest. For triceps, do dips and overhead triceps extensions with a dumbbell
  • Day 2 – Legs – do a few sets of squats with a barbell on your shoulders. This works your hamstrings, quads and glutes. You can also take a weight in your hand and lift yourself up on your tiptoes to work your calves
  • Day 3 – Back and Biceps – one of the best ways to work your back (and your entire body) is with deadlifts. Do a few sets and remember to always keep proper posture. For biceps, you can do chin-ups and bicep curls with barbells and dumbbells.

These are just a few examples of what you can do in the gym to maximise muscle growth.

Most importantly, always do a few warm-up sets before your working sets with the heaviest weights. Take this seriously! Warming up your body properly prevents injuries. The last thing you need it to be out of the gym for an avoidable injury.

Pay Attention To Your Diet

Even if you can lift heavier than the Hulk, if you don’t eat correctly your muscles won’t grow.

There are 2 things you need to know about dieting when it comes to bodybuilding: eating to put on weight (bulking) and eating to lose fat (cutting).

  1. Bulking
  2. Cutting


A bulking diet involves being in a caloric surplus. This means eating more calories than your body burns every day. As a result, you’ll put on muscle as well as a bit of fat.

Some of the foods you should include in your bulking diet include complex carbs (such as brown rice and lentils) as well as plenty of veggies and lean protein.


A cutting diet involves being in a caloric deficit. This means that your body burns more calories than it gets through food and drinks.

Cutting diets are used to eliminate fat while preserving most of the muscle mass gained during the bulking diet.

Bodybuilders cycle through bulking and cutting diets endlessly to achieve the body composition they want.

It’s important to note here that when cutting, you’ll also lose some muscle mass.

For example, if you gained 20 pounds in a few weeks through a bulking diet, it is possible that approximately 10-12 pounds are pure muscle.

When you cut, you lose 8-10 pounds of fat as well as 1-2 pounds of muscle, but the other 8-10 pounds of muscle is preserved.

Another important aspect to remember is that you shouldn’t eat too much junk foods while bulking.

Most people believe that they have a license to eat everything since they need to gain weight. This is wrong because you’ll end up with more fat than muscle and this will drastically impair your overall results.

You should get your occasional cheat meal here and there, but your diet should be mainly focused on lean protein, complex carbs and vegetables and fruits.

Make Sure You Sleep At Least 8 Hours Per Day

The importance of sleep cannot be overstated.

When you lift heavy weights, muscle fibers break at a microscopic level.

The body detects this and repairs the fibers, creating new and stronger ones. This makes your muscles grow.

To grow larger and stronger muscles, your body secretes a growth hormone. This is best released by the brain when you sleep.

The growth hormone is released by the pituitary gland in your brain. Therefore, you need to sleep at least 8 hours a day to ensure that enough growth hormone is secreted to make optimal muscle gains.

Professional bodybuilders sleep even more than 8 hours a day. Some of them take 1-2 hour naps in the middle of the day which helps to grow even more muscle mass.

In other words, if you want to get into bodybuilding, you should be very serious when it comes to your sleep time.

Supplement Correctly

Supplementation is another important piece of this puzzle.

It’s important to remember that supplementation doesn’t mean taking anabolic drugs and/or steroids. In fact, steroids should only be taken by people who already have years of training and they really know what they’re doing.

Note: We do not promote the use of these substances and the information contained within this publication is not intended to persuade or encourage the use or possession of illegal substances. These substances should be used only under the advice and supervision of a qualified, licensed physician.

Instead, you should focus on natural supplements which help your body recuperate quicker and increase muscle development.

Here are a few good supplements you should consider as a bodybuilder:

  • Whey protein
  • Creatine
  • Multivitamin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Caffeine

These are just a few examples and each of them helps you in a different way.

Whey Protein

Whey protein is ideal to achieve your recommended daily protein intake. This type of protein is effective particularly after a workout because it is quickly absorbed by the body. Whey protein taken as supplement is necessary particularly when you’re training heavily in the gym, so don’t ignore it if you want to add mass or preserve your muscle when cutting.

Taking a protein supplement is generally considered a must have when lifting weights. Check out our reviews of the best UK whey protein supplements in our round-up.


For example, creatine is normally found in the body and it optimises muscle growth. You can take about 3-5 grams of creatine per day and be prepared to lift heavier weights in the gym. We’ve looked at some of the top creatine monohydrate supplements in the UK in our roundup review.


A multivitamin complex covers your body’s needs of micronutrients. These vitamins and minerals help to repair muscle damage and improve your general health.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are ideal for joint and heart health. They are taken by professional athletes to help with joint recovery after strenuous workouts. Omega-3 fatty acids are also good for the brain and they have been associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease, so they can protect your heart.


Caffeine is good for hunger suppression. It’s best taken during a cutting phase to reduce your cravings or hunger pangs while you’re in a caloric deficit. At the same time, caffeine also increases the metabolic rate, so it’s useful when dieting to lose more weight. It’s also a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements to give a boost for a more intense workout.

Make The First Step Towards Reaching Your Bodybuilding Goals Today!

Remember that even iconic bodybuilders such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu started their bodybuilding careers with a first step!

You should also make that first step today, whether this means writing down a realistic goal, doing your first routine at the gym or even finding a workout partner to motivate you. Good luck!

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Team MT

Team MT is the editorial team of MuscleTalk. With over 20 years experience we write quality, evidence based, articles. In addition to creating original content, we also edit and fact-check any articles we feature by external writers.

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