Bodybuilding 101: 60 Rules for a Better Physique!

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
May 6th, 2009
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
65.6K Reads
Do you need a refresher course in building a more massive, stronger and leaner body? Here are 60 short reminders to get you to the next level.

Do you need a refresher course in building a more massive, stronger and leaner body? We all know the basics of bodybuilding: lift heavy, eat the right foods and supplements and get plenty of rest, but at times we forget a few details that can make all the difference. A tip here and a piece of advice there can build up into one strong arsenal of knowledge. Little by little we can move beyond our limits and accomplish what we once thought was impossible. Here are 60 short reminders to get you to the next level in your quest for transformation. So find a seat, drink your protein shake and take a few notes, class is about to begin.

Training Rules

  1. Brad Borland Bicep CurlUse compound lifts: Utilizing multi-joint movements such as bench presses, pull-ups, rows, shoulder presses, squats and leg presses in your routines will ensure you are hitting more than one muscle with maximum weight. This will help you become efficient in the gym. View list of over 400 compound exercises in the M&S Exercise Video Database.
  2. Rest between one to two minutes between sets: This will allow you to maximize not only your time but also the pump by keeping your muscles filled with blood and properly warm during the workout.
  3. Use a weight you can handle: Be sure you are using a weight you have control of. Do not load the bar with so much weight that your training partner is helping on the first rep.
  4. Use proper form: Make sure to use good form for each lift not only for safety but for function of your training. If you just throw the weights around you will not target the specific muscle. Not sure about what is correct technique? View over 600 Exercise Videos.
  5. For the majority of the time use a rep range of 6 to 12: This is the range typically used if muscle mass is what you are after, but strength will come also.
  6. Try low reps occasionally: Every now and then try a rep range of 4 to 6 or maybe even throw some singles, doubles and triples in there to mix things up. But remember to use good form.
  7. Try high reps occasionally: High reps can sometimes kick-start a lagging body part. Maybe try a high rep set or two at the end of a series of sets. Go as high as 20, 30, or even 50!
  8. Train more frequently: For about four weeks or so train each body part twice per week instead of the usual once. You may need to reduce the volume a little but the change will be welcomed.
  9. Train less frequently: The same holds true for those training each body part twice per week. Cut back to once per week every now and then and double up on your volume.
  10. Try doing drop sets for stubborn body parts: Sometimes all you need is a kick in a certain area's butt to get things going again. Use this technique on the last one or two sets of a movement. Perform a set as you would normally do it then strip some weight off and continue with your reps and you can strip the weight several times before the muscle is toast!
  11. Use antagonistic supersets: This is the old technique Arnold used quite often. Superset chest with back, triceps with biceps, and quadriceps with hamstrings. For example; perform a set of bench presses and then without rest move over to pull-ups for a set. Alternate like this until you have completed all of your sets. You will not only save time but you will have a skin-tearing pump!
  12. Once per month do an all negative workout: Reap the benefit of this intense technique by utilizing safe, but effective negative training. Have your partner help you up with a weight you cannot normally do for many reps then lower the weight slowly to resist the negative motion. Make sure to use a spotter, but if none is available use unilateral movements such as one-arm preacher curls, one-legged leg press and machine shoulder presses.
  13. Rest/pause for the big lifts: This technique is great for the "big lifts" such as bench presses (all angles), leg presses, shoulder presses, and bicep curls. Load a bar with a little more weight than you can handle for your normal rep range. Perform a set of 2 to 4 reps then rack the weight for 5 to 15 seconds. Perform 2 to 4 more reps and rack it again. Once more and you are done. One or two series like this is all you need for a particular movement. A smith machine can be your best friend at times like this.
  14. Use forced reps sparingly: It is fine to use forced reps on the last couple of reps of your last set, but try not to attempt them on every single set for countless reps. Lift a weight you can handle with good form then after you have met failure have your partner help a little with one or two more reps.
  15. Blast through weak points with compound supersets: A compound superset is when two sets are done back to back with different movements but for the same body part. This is a brutal way to "wake up" more muscle fibers to get it to react.
  16. Use these intensity techniques sparingly: The last thing you want to do is run into the overtraining state. Use them once per week and one at a time.
  17. Hydrate: Drink plenty of water while you train. We lose an enormous amount of fluid during training and it must be replaced if building a better physique is our goal.
  18. Set a time limit: Some days you may feel like you drag in the gym. Try to get your whole workout in say an hour. This will prevent you from too much lag time and more productivity while training.
  19. Simplify: If you find yourself using every technique in the book, scale back and do straight sets of compound lifts keeping it simple for a few weeks.
  20. Take off: Sometimes what everyone needs is a little well-deserved rest away from the gym to help recharge our "batteries." After a few days away you will be ready to get back at it with a brand new attitude and muscle pump!

Nutrition Rules

  1. Eat plenty of protein: You've heard it before; take in around one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. This is essential if your plan is to build instead of maintain muscle mass. For more information on protein, read What's All The Fuss About Protein by Doug Lawrenson.
  2. Eat the right kinds of protein: Make sure your proteins are from lean sources such as lean beef, lean ground meats, turkey, fish such as salmon and tilapia, chicken breasts, protein powders, egg whites with a few yolks, skim milk and fat-free or low-fat cottage cheese.
  3. Eat the right kind of carbohydrate: Stick with complex carbs such as oatmeal, wheat bread, brown and wild rice, sweet potatoes, wheat pasta, and quinoa. This will ensure that your blood sugar stays steady throughout the day to supply you with ample energy for your hard workouts.
  4. Eat healthy fats: Healthy fats are essential for many functions such as brain and heart activity, hormone regulation and energy. Get healthy fats from sources such as oily fish, almonds, avocado, natural peanut butter and oil dressings.
  5. Eat your fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables provide a myriad of benefits including a great source of fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and natural sugars. For vegetables go for dark leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, peas, and green beans and for fruits go with bananas, apples, cherries, blueberries and grapefruit.
  6. Consume fiber: Consuming food high in fiber helps keep blood sugar levels steady and can aid in your goals of leaning up. Fiber provides bulk to foods, therefore making you feel fuller longer.
  7. Don't eat too much: We keep on talking about what to do. Well, here is something NOT to do: overeat. Give yourself just enough food to fulfill your protein requirements and to give you enough energy for your intense workouts and that's it! Eating beyond your needs will result in fat gain.
  8. Eat a surplus while bulking: This may sound contrary to the last principle but you need to eat a little more than what you maintain your current bodyweight with in order to gain muscle. Here is the main point: you only need around 200 to 400 additional calories to start gaining quality weight, not a buffet!
  9. Eat into a deficit if dieting: The same hold true for the opposite. A 200 to 400 calorie decrease is all that is needed for your body to start burning fat for fuel. In other words, starving yourself will just make your body hold on to fat tissue.
  10. Protein for breakfast: Make sure to get in some quality protein as soon as you rise in the morning. Something like some egg whites with one yolk will do the trick. Eggs are easy to digest and are an excellent source of amino acids. Research has shown that starting your day with a protein food will steady blood sugar and rev the metabolism for the entire day!
  11. Complex carbs for breakfast: With that protein you need some energy. Complex carbs with a little fiber thrown in for good measure is perfect for stoking the furnace after an eight hour fasting.
  12. Carb fuel pre workout: Eating complex carbs an hour or so prior to training will ensure you will have enough energy to make it through your entire workout. Try around 50 to 100 grams of carbs.
  13. Fast-acting protein pre workout: This is a good time to surge your muscles and blood with amino acids from a fast absorbing protein source such as egg whites or whey protein powder. By having this rush of protein you will pack the muscle with protein and be ready for the rebuilding process when you are finished. Consume around 20 to 30 grams pre workout.
  14. Quick protein after training: The perfect time to start the rebuilding process post training is within 30 minutes of finishing. Taking a fast-acting protein source will guarantee that your muscles will get the muscle building nutrients they need as fast as possible to grow larger and stronger. Consume around 40 to 50 grams of whey protein powder or egg whites.
  15. Simple carbs post training: With your protein source you need fast-acting carbs as well. The simple sugars will enter into the muscle cells at a quick rate and will react with certain hormones to kick-start the rebuilding process. Try 50 to 100 grams of a simple carb source with no fiber such as Gatorade, white bread, fruit juice, or dextrose.
  16. No fats immediately after the gym: Taking in fats after training will only slow down the absorption of vital nutrients trying to get to the broken-down muscle tissue.
  17. Curtail the carbs at night: As the day progresses lower your carb intake. This will help keep the fat off and aid in fat burning. Have a lean source of protein with a healthy fat and a little fiber. A meat or chicken salad with avocado and oil dressing would be perfect.
  18. Cycle calories: After a while you will hit a plateau in your efforts to either lose or gain weight. The body is incredibly adaptable and sooner or later it will fight change. Try cycling your carbs by having a few days of baseline calories then have a high calorie day followed by a low calorie day. This will keep the body guessing and help to continue your progress.
  19. Cheat once per week: This is similar to the last principle. Have one meal or entire day per week of whatever you want-within reason. Of course don't drink massive amounts of alcohol and fast food, but go ahead and eat some food you enjoy eating and have dessert too. This will shock your body out of its normal routine of eating, but just be sure to get back on your diet plan the following day.
  20. Relax: Relax and be patient. Progress does not happen overnight. With careful planning and diligence your efforts will be rewarded so don't worry too much about making giant leaps. Relax and enjoy the process.

Supplementation Rules

  1. Whey Protein IsolateGood morning whey: Immediately upon wakening down a small whey protein shake 30 or so minutes before your solid breakfast meal. This will halt the catabolic state you may have undergone while sleeping. 20 to 30 grams should do the trick.
  2. Pre whey: It's also a good idea to get in about 20 to 30 grams of fast-acting whey protein 30 minutes or so prior to training. As said before, this can kick start the rebuilding process during training by saturating the blood with muscle-building amino acids.
  3. Post whey: To keep the rebuilding process alive, take in 40 to 50 grams of whey within 30 minutes of training. This will ensure the starved muscle will have ample protein to draw upon.
  4. Post training simple carbs: This would be one of the few times each training day to get away with taking simple carbs. As said in the nutrition section, Gatorade, fruit juice or even specialized supplements such as Volu-Gro are good choices. This quick insulin spike will aid in recovery.
  5. Post casein: If it is in your budget, replacing around 10 to 20 grams of your post-training whey shake with a casein protein product may be a good idea. More research is justifying the benefits of this slow-digesting form of protein regarding immediate recovery.
  6. Casein after dark: Another great time to ingest casein protein is before bed. Since you are virtually fasting for eight hours while you sleep casein is a perfect fix due to being a slow-digesting protein.
  7. Creatine before: Everyone knows the benefits of creatine by now. It saturates the muscle with fluids, therefore aiding in protein synthesis, it can boost recovery between sets and workouts. Consume 3 to 5 grams with your pre-workout protein shake.
  8. Creatine after: Again, another great time to shuttle nutrients in starving muscle is within 30 minutes after training if not sooner. Take in another 3 to 5 grams with your post-workout protein shake.
  9. Glutamine: As one of the most abundant amino acids in muscle cells, glutamine aids in recovery by strengthening the immune system. 10 or so grams both pre and post training will help in the recovery process.
  10. Carnitine: As another "supplement behind the curtain," carnitine helps transport fats to the mitochondria of muscle cells to be burned as fuel. Try one gram morning, pre and post workout and again before bed.
  11. ZMA at night: The combination of zinc, magnesium (ZMA) and additionally vitamin B6 has actually been shown to increase IGF-1 and testosterone levels. 30 to 60 minutes before sleep take 30 mg of zinc, 450 mg of magnesium and around 10 mg of B6.
  12. The antioxidant C: With all of the hype surrounding the latest and greatest in supplement science, you cannot forget your foundation. Vitamin C is a powerful supplement you may never "feel." It works hard to strengthen the immune system so you can come back stronger every time. Take around 500 mg with your post-training whole food meal.
  13. The antioxidant E: Vitamin E has the ability to reduce muscle cell damage and helps with recovery. This antioxidant is also important for skin, nail and hair health. Go with 200 to 400 IUs with your post-training whole food meal.
  14. BCAAs: BCAAs are made up of leucine, isoleucine and valine which are used for fuel during intense workouts thus preventing your body from scavenging hard-earned muscle for energy. At other times of day BCAAs help stimulate protein synthesis and ward off cortisol, the catabolic hormone that can scavenge hard-earned muscle. Try 5 to 10 grams upon waking and pre and post training.
  15. Arginine: converted to Nitric Oxide (NO) in the body arginine is a powerful supplement with a host of benefits including increased blood flow allowing nutrients and hormones to do there job. Go with 2 to 3 grams upon waking, pre-workout and 30 to 60 minutes prior to sleep.
  16. Give green tea a try: Green tea can inhibit the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine resulting in higher levels of the metabolic hormone and increased fat loss. Combined with caffeine, green tea extract is one powerful and widely used natural supplement chalk full of antioxidants. A cup or so three times per day before meals can aid in recovery and help burn fat.
  17. Try one supplement at a time: Taking every supplement in the book all at once is not a wise practice. How will you know which one works and which one is a waste of your time and money? Take one for 4 to 6 weeks and documents your results. Over time you will know well enough what you need for your specific goals.
  18. Not all supplements work for everyone: Do not be surprised if a particular supplement works for your buddy and not for you. Everyone has a different metabolism so be patient in finding what works.
  19. Give some supplements time to work: As said before, give a particular supplement time to do its job. Being impatient will not only waste of your time but your money as well.
  20. Look to Muscle & Strength Nutrition & Fitness SuperStore has a huge selection of your favorite supplements at very low prices. You can also check out supplement articles on there use and effectiveness. With articles, Q and A sections and forums has you covered.
Martin Andersen
Posted on: Sat, 01/06/2018 - 13:11

Very good tips on training. But you need to reset you head about nutrition.
After many years I want Vegan. And learned that you dont need all the supplements just plenty of good food.

Posted on: Sat, 05/31/2014 - 07:44

Sports is my life

Posted on: Fri, 05/30/2014 - 02:11

Has got to be the beast I have come across so fare thank you

satish kumar
Posted on: Fri, 12/13/2013 - 10:33

thank u very much .ita really help full to me

Posted on: Thu, 12/12/2013 - 23:50

Great article! Comprehensive yet concise!

Posted on: Thu, 12/12/2013 - 21:42

very nice article. thank

Posted on: Thu, 07/12/2012 - 19:45

This is such a great article for body building. I learned many new things.

One question:

Does it make a difference if you take your pre/post workout powders DURING your workout? I like to keep my self hydrated while working out and I take creatine DURING my workout (in between sets). Does it make a difference?


Posted on: Mon, 10/24/2011 - 00:54

Thank u

Posted on: Tue, 10/25/2011 - 10:49

You are welcome!

Posted on: Sun, 11/21/2010 - 12:33

You are welcome!

kevin green
Posted on: Wed, 01/06/2010 - 15:53

this is such great advice! You even have my secrets creatine and zma.
Got me up to a 405 bench at age 53 first time. But just creatine lately and have been stuggling. I forgot the zma. helps you to sleep like a baby also. I am going for zma Now brand about 15 bucks cheap like kaisan creatine 15 bucks also lasts me about a month and a half.
I preach this to others but nobody listens so... thanks for a great great article!