Q: My goal is to become a drug-free bodybuilding champion, one day earning a pro card in one or more of the natural organizations. You’ve done that, so what are the key things you feel have been most important to your success?
A: In no particular order, here’s my list of what I feel are the essential elements for achieving personal and competitive success as a natural bodybuilder:
Proper diet. Your diet must be on point and in accordance with your goals. Natural bodybuilders need to get adequate nutrients every day, spread out over six to seven meals, eating a variety of healthful foods.
Adequate rest. The body replenishes, repairs and recuperates while you’re at rest. That’s when hypertrophy actually takes place. If you don’t sleep at least seven to eight hours every night and limit other physically exhausting activities, you can kiss your chance at a championship physique good-bye.
Intelligent training approach. When I use the word intelligent in regard to training, that means: 1) moderate-volume, high-intensity workouts; 2) steady progression in both weights lifted in good form and intensity of effort; 3) regular variation in training protocols to stave off plateaus.
Consistency. You must apply the three foregoing elements every day if you want to be successful as a natural. You can’t eat well one day and lousy the next. You can’t train hard one week and take the next week off. You can’t lose sleep for a few nights and make it up over the weekend. Natural bodybuilders must be diligent and meticulous in approaching the sport to reach the upper tiers.
Sacrifice. While I would never tell people to push aside family and friends or completely abolish other activities and events from their lives, a certain amount of sacrifice is definitely required if you are to pursue the sport of bodybuilding seriously—especially drug-free. I’ve had to miss countless barbecues, parties and sporting events simply because I was preparing for a show and needed my rest and/or didn’t need to be around tempting foods or alcohol. That’s not to say that I’m antisocial, just that I’ve had to carefully pick and choose which events are most important for me to attend, and which would truly work against my bodybuilding goals.
Positive attitude and outlook. I believe in the power of the mind and just how prolifically your thoughts and feelings can affect the results you achieve in the gym—and in life. Trust me when I say that if you have complete faith that you can achieve the physique that you want and belief in yourself and your path, you’ll have a far greater chance of seeing your goals come to fruition. The body and mind can’t be separated, and what you can visualize in your head can be one day “held in your hand” if you believe in what you see wholeheartedly.
Self-awareness. You need to become an “expert” on your own body. At first glance that may seem easy, but in truth it takes a lot of work to get completely in touch with your entire physical system. I believe that at least for your first five years of training—and perhaps longer—you should keep a detailed log of every workout, complete with comments on how each exercise makes you feel on the workout day and the days afterward. You need to treat yourself as an ongoing subject in an experiment. Attempt to learn as much about your personal physiology as possible and how different training methods, foods, sleeping patterns, supplements and life events affect it. Only with that knowledge can you truly understand how to make continuous progress.
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-book, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout, which includes complete printable workout templates and a big Q&A section, is available at X-Workouts.com.