Written by Ron Harris
14 May 2019


11 Must Do Rules of Bodybuilding



So you want to get huge, do you? Of course you do, you’re reading a magazine called Muscular Development filled with photos of some of the most freakishly muscular men alive! Chances are, you’re working hard in the gym, eating plenty of good food and taking various supplements. Yet even then, you are probably doing some things that unbeknownst to you are sabotaging your efforts. As someone who has been training for 31 years now and has been around more gyms and bodybuilders than I can even remember at this point, I’ve picked up on some of these violations that keep us from reaching our goals of being as big as we can be. Here are 11 rules you must not break!

 1. Don’t overdo intensity techniques.

 Drop sets, supersets, forced reps, static holds, rest-pause, pre-exhaust and giant sets are all great ways to shock your muscles into the growth zone. But if you do them all the time, they are going to be a lot less shocking! By being more judicious and using each method more sparingly, you will reap the rewards without burning out your CNS and/or having your body adapt to the point where nothing you throw at it will elicit that same response anymore.


2. Don’t make your spotter lift your weights.

Lift your own weights, for God’s sake. What is the point of loading up the bar or using such heavy dumbbells that you can’t do even one rep under your own power? If it’s purely so you can delude yourself into believing you are able to handle x amount of weight in a given exercise, you need to change your way of thinking, fast. A forced rep or two for a few sets per workout is fine, but if you need someone to lift part of the weight for you at all times, you are really doing it wrong. Lighten the load, do the reps on your own, and your results will be infinitely better.


3. Don’t train on an empty stomach.

 You wouldn’t get in a car with a gas tank on empty and expect to go anywhere, so why do you think you can have effective workouts without eating? Some people do it because they have to train early and “don’t have time” to eat first. Really? Wake up earlier and get some eggs and oats in! Others do it intentionally, believing that the miniscule growth hormone spike resulting from training hungry will lead to better results. Think again. You need protein in your system, so your body doesn’t scavenge it from your own muscle tissue for fuel. And you need carbs for your body to convert to glycogen to fuel muscular contractions and allow for a pump. A substantial solid-food meal is best, but a shake with protein and carbs is better than nothing. Training like a bodybuilder on an empty stomach is pretty much a wasted workout.


4. Don’t make excuses.

 I’ve heard them all, and I’ve made plenty of them myself. I can’t get any bigger because my genetics suck, because I’m natural, because I’m too young, I’m too old, I’m the wrong race, etc. Excuses are lies we tell ourselves to feel better about our lack of effort and dedication. Once you assign yourself to some category you are certain can’t make any progress with your physique, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The mind is a powerful controlling force in bodybuilding, and if you have given up mentally, you can be sure you won’t grow. And when you don’t, Hey! You knew you wouldn’t anyway. Check that defeatist attitude and start thinking you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to.


5. Don’t avoid the toughest exercises.

 Avoiding an exercise because it’s dangerous or unproductive for you is one thing. Avoiding movements simply because they are uncomfortable and/or tough to do is just a bitch move! Only a certifiable masochist truly enjoys squats, front squats, deadlifts and a handful of other basic movements that will make you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck. Yet these are the exercises that will give you the most bang for your buck, or for our purposes, slap the most muscle tissue on your frame. Do them, or be prepared for a longer road to the physique you want, with far more twists and turns along the way.


6. Don’t assume more is better.

 Just because three sets of an exercise might give you better results than one set doesn’t mean six sets is even better, and 10 sets better still. What we do in the gym is stimulate gains. Those gains don’t happen unless you rest the muscles and feed them in order for them to recover and grow. There will be a threshold of training volume and frequency that if passed, will only lead to diminishing returns because you have done more than your muscles and CNS are capable of recovering from before you beat them up again. Point blank, if you don’t recover; you can’t grow. You will need to experiment to learn just how much work you as an individual can stand and still make gains. But make no mistake, there is a very real limit you must not cross. Otherwise, training 12 hours a day every day would yield the best results. Try that and you will look more like a Kenyan marathon runner than a bodybuilder in a few months.


7. Don’t rely on gear or prohormones

 Drugs work, there is no denying that fact. Studies have even been done where subjects experienced some muscle growth while being administered doses of testosterone when they weren’t doing any weight training at all! Some guys fall into the trap of half-assing it in the gym when they are using steroids or prohormones, since they figure the drugs will make up for their lack of real effort and intensity. Yes, you probably will still see some gains training like a pussy. They are but a fraction of the results you would see if you were killing it in the gym.


8. Don’t miss sleep

 This goes back once again to recovery, which along with nutrition is commonly not given proper respect and attention. Sleep is when your mind and body regenerate and reboot. You won’t be able to train at 100% when you miss sleep, and you damn well won’t be able to recover and make the gains you should if your rest is suffering. Some of you are genuinely very busy with work and family obligations, and getting eight hours a night may not be feasible. Sleep as much as you can, and grab little naps when you can. Sleep is absolutely critical to your goals of building new lean muscle tissue.


9. Don’t train light all the time

 Just as some guys insist on training far too heavy, more like a powerlifter than a bodybuilder, there are also those at the opposite extreme who purely aim for a sickening pump, and utilize higher reps with lighter weight. Pumps are definitely valuable, but you still need to challenge your muscles too. At least some of your sets need to be in the 8-10 rep range with enough resistance to activate the fast-twitch muscle fibers. For proof of the havoc that training too light can wreak, look no further than the competitive bodybuilders who decide to train lighter during prep only to ‘flatten out’ and lose significant amounts of muscle thickness and density by the time contest day comes around. If your muscles are no longer being called on to move the heavier weights that built their size, they will downsize.


10. Don’t jump from routine to routine every week

 What’s the best routine? There is no one training style that delivers the best results for everyone, but until you’ve tried a few like FST-7, DC, Mountain Dog, or Blood and Guts, you won’t know which one could benefit you. The problem is, a lot of guys only give a new training style a couple weeks to ‘work’ before abandoning it for what they hope is their salvation from smallness and moving on to the next one. Don’t be so hasty and impatient. Give any training system a solid six to eight weeks minimum before evaluating your results and deciding whether or not to continue with it. Often it takes nearly that long just to really nail down the newer techniques and intricacies of a given training methodology.


11. Don’t quit!

I saved this one for last. Muscle growth is a fairly rapid process in the beginner stage of training, then slows down more and more as months and years go by. You will still continue making gains in size and strength, but they will be fewer and further between. There will be phases where you are seemingly doing everything right, yet you still aren’t growing. It’s those dark times when many guys give up on training altogether out of frustration, certain they have reached their full potential even if it’s far less than what they had initially envisioned and hoped for. I’m here to tell you that except for a rare few genetic freaks, reaching your full potential for muscular size can take as long as 20 years. The majority of trainers never see it because they quit long before then. If you can stick it out and keep grinding away, you will eventually find you can build a much better physique than you thought. It’s all a matter of having a little faith and doing the right things with your training, eating, and rest consistently for a very long time.