If you were to ask 10 different professional bodybuilders, bikini competitors, figure or physique athletes exactly what you need to do to become a professional, without question you would get 10 different answers. The fact is, they are probably all right answers. However, they are telling you what worked for them, and what they attribute their success to. In many instances, they may not even know exactly what to credit with their success. They may think its some supplement they are taking, or the fact that they get up every morning at 5am and do an hour of cardio, but in fact, it may not be either of those things. They just know they have been doing those things and having success, so they keep doing them. This is not unlike a baseball player continuing to wear the same dirty socks game in and game out since they seem to win every time they wear the socks. Logically, we know smelly socks don’t equate to winning games, but if everything is going right, why rock the boat? With that said, it is also guaranteed that each one of the 10 professionals you speak to have different workout plans, different diets, take different supplements and even look different from one another. Without a doubt, they all have great genetics, that is a given. However, lots of people have great genetics, but only a select few reach the top of their sport. We can’t effect our genetics, so no use harping on it. If you don’t have the proper genetics to be a pro, you won’t achieve the same level of success. However, regardless of your genetics, you can be the best version of what you are. While all pros have different workouts, diets and everything in between, after speaking to and observing dozens of pros, the below five attributes are universal across them all. Follow these principles and you are sure to be successful.
Ridiculous workout consistency - Without exception, every pro works out with regimented consistency. This is not to say that they are in the gym every single day, pushing their body to the limit. In fact, it doesn’t mean that at all. A good degree of periodization is necessary to achieve your optimum body. However, every day, every week, every month has a plan, and they stick to it. If they are traveling, they find a gym and get in their workout. They schedule days off (or listen to their body) and take those days off to optimize their recovery.
Constant protein intake- Regardless of the overall diet, constant, regular protein intake is requisite. The body needs protein to grow, and it needs protein to maintain muscle. The body can store fat as body fat and it can store carbs in the form of glycogen in the muscles and liver. However, it cannot store protein and amino acids except in muscles. So when we get low on protein, we need it and we pull it from our hard earned muscles. Pro bodybuilders know this and ensure they take in regular protein throughout the day. This is the one diet staple that is non-negotiable.
Adaptable training – Following up on workout consistency, adaptability comes in a close second. This involves being in tune with your body, adjusting to pains and injuries, and taking what your body will give you. It’s not possible to push yourself 100% every single day, nor can you expect to never face injuries, aches and pains. Adaptable training means that we find a way to intelligently work through all the challenges that come along with pushing our bodies to the limit. Pro bodybuilders work around an injury, not through it. Nor do they hang up their weight belt when an injury arises. They tend to the injury and continue to train around the injury.
Taking some time to cruise- An NFL football season is only 16 games out of 52 weekends in a year, that’s only 31% of the time. Even with only playing 31% of the time, the incidence of injury is very high. NFL players are at the peak of physical performance, and this isn’t something you can maintain for 52 weeks a year. Bodybuilding is no different. We go in hard bursts to get to our peak physical conditioning for a show or a shoot, then we need to cruise for a while to let our body recover and heal. This is not to say we stop training and dieting. It means we adjust our training to minimize damage and adjust our diets to accommodate recovery and growth. Those who attempt to stay in show conditioning year round will ultimately burn out. We can still stay in excellent shape, and it’s a good idea to as well. Science has shown that our body’s function at threir best at 12-14% body fat for males and 16-20% body fat for females to minimize inflammation yet stay optimally healthy. So letting yourself completely go will be detrimental to growth and recovery, however, trying to stay at 7% body fat will have an equally detrimental effect.
Emotionless, regimented dedication – Last but not least is the mental aspect of bodybuilding. Without a doubt we have all seen the people who get excessively gung ho about dieting and training out of nowhere. They pour their hearts and souls into it and undoubtedly get amazing results. This never lasts though. They have too much emotion tied to what they are trying to do, and much like your body can’t go 100% all of the time, neither can your mind. Your emotions will wear off and your dedication will wane. Pro bodybuilders have mastered the art of keeping emotions minimal in regards to their diet and training. The just do it, day in and day out. It is a job they are doing and even though they are always doing it, they aren’t 100% mentally focused on bodybuilding at all times.
Overall, no one supplement, workout program or diet is going to get you to be your absolute best. It is a combination of rituals and habits, done day in and day out over a period of time that are going to make the difference. Pace yourself, listen to your body, train and eat intelligently and most importantly, keep the long term goal in mind in your training and dieting. Nearly every pro bodybuilder would give you a different bit of advice as to the secret to their success. The secret is, it takes hard work over a period of time.