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Bodybuilding: Everything You Need to Know

Bodybuilding is a popular sport because it benefits your mind and body. The bodybuilding community is full of people who love sharing advice, discussing competition, and building each other up along the way.
Bodybuilding: Everything You Need to Know
Photo by Humphrey Muleba / Unsplash

Whether you're new to bodybuilding or have been muscle-building for years, a lot goes into this area of fitness. From the different types of bodybuilding to the benefits of the lifestyle, this guide will give you all you need to know about the world of bodybuilding.

What Are the Four Types of Bodybuilding?

To understand bodybuilding, you need to understand the four main types of traditional men's bodybuilding. While everyone has their own preference for fitness goals and workout routines, almost every bodybuilder falls into one of these four categories.

Classic Physique

Classic physique is a division of bodybuilding that focuses on both building muscle and achieving an aesthetically pleasing appearance through well-proportioned muscle building. While many people think of the unattainable look of bodybuilders, the classic physique aims for the more attainable, toned, muscled look that appeals to more people. Leg development isn't as much of a focus in this bodybuilding type. Instead, the focus is mainly on the arms and chest of men.

Open Bodybuilding

Open bodybuilding is the most traditional form of the sport and is what most people probably think of when they hear it. This type places the most significant importance on muscle mass, size, and extreme conditioning most commonly connected to bodybuilding. The ultimate goal is to show off a symmetrical body full of muscle definition in all areas. Open bodybuilding is said to push the limits of the human body by combining high muscle mass with extreme leanness.

212 Olympia

212 Olympia is a section of bodybuilding competitions for those who are notably shorter than the average bodybuilder and, therefore, aren't able to accumulate the same amount of muscle as their taller counterparts. This type gets its name from the requirement that all men in these competitions must weigh less than 212 pounds and be shorter than five feet, five inches tall. However, this area of bodybuilding has the same emphasis on muscle mass and conditioning as the classic physique division.

Natural Bodybuilding

Natural bodybuilding is meant to give bodybuilders a place to compete with others without using performance-enhancing supplements. Natural Bodybuilding has a strict drug testing protocol that will look for anabolic steroids, diuretics, and other substances banned by the division. This bodybuilding sector requires more time commitment because it will take longer to see the desired results without using enhancers. However, it is seen as the fairest type of bodybuilding, making it a good choice for those committed to clean building.

What about female bodybuilding?

Female bodybuilding is slightly different from the male version, but there are also some similarities. More women than ever before are getting involved in the bodybuilding industry, which has led to an increase in categories specifically for female bodybuilders. The 1980s and 1990s are considered the "golden era" of women's bodybuilding, but the early 2000s led us to the more "approachable" categories we have today.

There are six categories of female bodybuilding:

  • Wellness: Started in 2016 and focuses on a "healthy woman" look, geared towards symmetry, proportions, and general appearance, and isn't judged on muscle size or low body fat.
  • Bikini: Focuses on the classic "hourglass" figure with emphasis on shoulder muscles and glutes with a small waist as well as skin tone.
  • Figure: Emphasis on strong shoulders and backs, small waist, narrow hips, good muscle tone, and a body fat percentage between eight and 12.
  • Fitness: This category focuses on appearance but also a demonstration of strength, flexibility, and talents like dance, gymnastics, or cheerleading.
  • Physique: Larger, more defined muscles are the focus of this type, with a body fat percentage between eight and 10 being ideal.
  • Classic Bodybuilding: This category is less popular now than in the "golden era." The competition focuses on muscle mass and tone, body fat levels, and weight, not athleticism, appearance, or femininity, which are part of the other five types.

What are the benefits of bodybuilding?

Many people love bodybuilding because it offers them a wide range of health benefits, both for their body and mind. While the focus of the sport is to build noticeably large muscles, there are other benefits that fitness enthusiasts rave about.

Body Health

The weight training involved in bodybuilding, along with other physical activity, can reduce your risk of heart disease because it gets your heart pumping healthily. It also helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol and can prevent obesity.

Bodybuilding is also great for your muscles, bones, and joints. Regularly using these body parts will keep them strong and flexible, preventing or postponing a wide range of age-related health issues like arthritis and osteoporosis. Basically, this training can be excellent for anti-aging efforts.

Bodybuilders also put a large emphasis on healthy eating, which will make sure your body is getting the right nutrition. Combining a healthy diet with stringent workout programs can help give you the best results, whether you're using bodybuilding for weight loss, muscle building, or general appearance boosts.

Mental Health

Bodybuilding has also been proven to have a wide range of mental benefits. Weight training and aerobics can help lower stress, anxiety, and depression while simultaneously raising confidence and self-esteem through the improvement of your physical appearance. Plus, physical activity releases endorphins in your brain, which will boost your mood and help you handle negative emotions in better, healthier ways.

Regular exercise can also get blood flowing to your brain, providing anti aging benefits such as a decreased risk of developing memory problems as you age. Healthy training will keep your brain thinking quickly, remembering details, and planning to stay healthy for a long time.

When should you start bodybuilding?

You want to start your bodybuilding journey at the right time to get the best results. Of course, there's no specific age that you have to start, but there is an ideal age that will let you see results faster. The best age to start bodybuilding is between 20 and 30 years old. Testosterone levels peak around 19 for men and begin declining noticeably after age 30. Low levels of testosterone are connected to a loss of muscle mass, so it can be harder to build muscle when you're fighting the natural decline of this hormone. Your twenties are the perfect decade to get started on your progress.

While teen bodybuilding has existed, it's worth noting that trying to follow a bodybuilding routine in your teens isn't the best health decision. Instead, teenagers should focus on a more balanced training plan that combines weights with cardio, flexibility, and other types of exercises. This approach will allow teens to prepare for a more stringent bodybuilding routine once they reach their twenties.

Wealth Of Knowledge

Bodybuilding Forums: A Wealth of Knowledge

Whether you're just starting in this world or you've been a professional bodybuilder for a decade, exploring bodybuilding forums is a great way to build your knowledge and share tips with other bodybuilders. A bodybuilding forum is a website where users can post in threads about anything related to the sport. There are threads dedicated to bodybuilding news, tips on proper form, questions about anabolic steroids, nutrition, and more. These sites are a great place to discuss your sport and get advice from a community of like-minded people.

There's no better way to research the sport, talk to others on the same journey as you, and post questions related to your experiences. Posts often generate discussion about health, workouts, support, or other aspects of bodybuilding. Reading articles can give you a basic understanding of information. Still, motivation comes from the community, and the members of bodybuilding forums are there to support you along your journey, no matter where you are in it. Just make sure to check the forum rules before submitting any posts. You don't want to try to discuss anabolic steroids on a natural bodybuilding forum.

Here are some of the best bodybuilding forums for you to check out:

Top Tips for Bodybuilding

When you scan the bodybuilding forums, you'll likely find a wide range of advice, from sound advice for beginners to off-the-wall tips for experts. How do you decide what the best tips are for you to incorporate into your journey? A lot of research should go into your journey before lifting your first weight to ensure you approach bodybuilding the right way.

Looking for a crash course of advice? Here are some of the top tips for bodybuilders, whether you're a beginner or you've been doing this for a while.

Learn Proper Form and Technique First

Nothing will cause you more injury or set your goals back further than not practicing proper form when lifting weights. Improper form can cause you a lot of unnecessary pain and lead to issues with your back or other parts of your body, which can prematurely end your bodybuilding journey.

When you're just starting, take time to learn the proper movements for your exercises. Ensure your back isn't rounded and your stance matches the exercise. Start with your bodyweight to master your technique, then slowly add weights as you get the form correct. Don't be afraid to ask personal trainers for help or watch videos about form for guidance.

Learn the Basics

If you're just starting, learn how to properly do multiple versions of the basic exercises: squats, deadlifts, presses, dips, rows, and chin-ups. When you have these mastered, you're in the best position to move forward with whatever specific exercises you have in mind for your goals. It's worth noting that many people see better results with 10 sets of heavy squats and deadlifts than with a unique leg and back workout routine.

Once you have mastered the basic moves, enhance them with tempo manipulation techniques and compound movements. You'll be surprised at how much more stimulating and interesting your workouts can be with unique combinations of basic weightlifting moves.

Implement Changes Regularly

No matter how experienced you are, you're at risk of plateauing if you don't implement changes in your workout routine. If you aren't intentional about avoiding a plateau, you will experience one. Plateaus are when you go two weeks without any progress.

To avoid plateaus, make sure your regimen is constantly changing. These changes can be as simple as changing the order in which you perform your exercises or the amount of rest you take between every set. Of course, you can make more extensive changes, like completely changing your workouts. If you can't safely add more weight to an exercise, it's time to replace it with a different move to get the results you want.

Remember to Rest

Many novice bodybuilders want to hit the ground running and avoid rest days, but this isn't a good approach. If you don't let your body rest between workouts, you risk breaking down your muscles and weakening them instead of strengthening them like you want.

You should have a day off between every weightlifting workout for the best results. However, if you like to work out your upper body on one day and your lower body on the next day, just ensure you have two complete rest days every week for maximum results. You should do nothing more strenuous on rest days than a light walk, jog, or swim. Not doing this will hinder your progress more than you think.

Best Bodybuilding Supplements

Depending on your intended results for bodybuilding, there are various supplements you can include in your routine. Of course, it's important to only use legal supplements during your body-building journey. Here are some of the best bodybuilding supplements on the market today:

Creatine Monohydrate

Creatine monohydrate (or just creatine for short) is an exceptionally safe and effective muscle-building, power-enhancing supplement. If you only use one supplement, let this be your choice. Creatine supplements increase your muscle's creatine and phosphocreatine (PCr), which maintain energy during powerlifting or other high-intensity workouts.

Some studies even suggest that increasing your PCr can shorten recovery time between sets as a bonus. Long-term use of creatine is safe and has shown enhanced quality in resistance training. Those who use creatine report between five and 15 percent greater gains in strength and performance.

To get the best results, it's recommended to start with the loading phase with 10 grams for seven days. After that, ingest five grams every day to maintain your levels. Drinking a lot of water when using creatine is essential to keeping your body hydrated.

Looking for the perfect creatine supplement? Here are two great options to consider:


Caffeine is probably the most common stimulant in the world, and that's for good reason. Caffeine is effective in improving performance in endurance and high-intensity activities like powerlifting. However, the results aren't as clear on the benefits of caffeine on resistance training, but it hasn't shown any adverse effects in that area.

Caffeine is proven to decrease fatigue and lower your perception of the effort you're putting into your workout, which can be beneficial for longer or more intense weightlifting sessions. To get the best results, it's recommended to ingest 150 to 300 milligrams of caffeine 30 to 60 minutes before your workout session.

Whey Protein

Fast-digesting proteins like whey are great after your workout because they can help your muscles recover quickly and adapt after strenuous exercise. Supplementing with protein while performing prolonged resistance training (more than six weeks) has been shown to increase muscle mass and strength when compared to those without protein supplementation.

Combining whey protein with a slow-digesting protein like casein can keep your body's rate of protein synthesis up for a longer time, minimizing the muscle breakdown that occurs after your workout. It can also be helpful to combine your protein with high-glycemic carbohydrates within one hour of your training to increase insulin levels and help your overall recovery.

Examples of carbs to eat along with your protein shake include the following:

  • Potatoes
  • White rice
  • Rice cakes
  • White bread

For the best results, ingest 20 to 30 grams of whey or whey/casein blend protein with a high-glycemic carbohydrate within an hour of your workout ending.

Final Thoughts

Bodybuilding is a popular sport because it benefits your mind and body. The bodybuilding community is full of people who love sharing advice, discussing competition, and building each other up along the way. If you're new to bodybuilding, know it's more than the stereotypical, unachievable look it once was. It's about building muscle while looking and feeling good.

Bodybuilding is for everyone. Find a support system, stock up on supplements, and be prepared to see impressive fat loss, muscle definition, and better self-esteem with a community cheering you on while you do it.