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I Can’t Work, I’m a Bodybuilder

ironmanmagazine.comRecently, a new IFBB pro let his fans know via Facebook that he would probably be forced to retire after only two contests, since he had lost his supplement contract several months prior. To make ends meet, he would be forced to go back to work full-time, which he believed would make it impossible for him to make the improvements he needed to place higher.

That may sound bizarre to some, but I’ve actually known many pros and top amateurs—even some amateurs far from the top—who believed that they could not work a job and continue to make progress with their physiques.

Certainly bodybuilding is a tremendously demanding lifestyle. I’m not aware of any other sport in which there is a constant need to eat at intervals of every two to three hours every day, with the meals being very specific foods to support hard training, muscle recovery and growth. Things get even tougher during a contest diet, as calories and carbs come down and with them energy levels. Cardio is often bumped up to as much as two 60-minute sessions a day on top of weight-training workouts that are typically a minimum of an hour long. How is someone supposed to dedicate that much time and energy to bodybuilding and still work eight or more hours a day?

It’s been done, and it continues to be done. I won’t even mention the millions of men and women around the world who do it, because the argument can be that, theoretically, they aren’t able to reach the highest levels due to their efforts being compromised by a pesky job. Back in the 1960s Sergio Oliva managed to win three Mr. Olympia titles while putting in 10 to 12 shifts a week at a Chicago meat-packing facility. Ronnie Coleman won his first several Sandows while working full-time as a police officer, eating his diet meals in his patrol car. Porter Cottrell, a top pro in the ’90s, was a firefighter throughout his career, just as rookie pro Steve Kuclo is today. Many others work as personal trainers, a natural fit for high-level bodybuilders.

So now let’s get back to you, the “regular” guy or girl who wants to build the best physique you are capable of. The odds are very high that you have to work because no supplement companies or magazines are sending you a check every month to be a bodybuilder. Does that mean you’ll never reach your goals because you aren’t lounging around all day eating and napping between workouts? Hardly!

Many people work in some type of office, which allows for an hour lunch break and two shorter breaks. You can easily fit in three meals during your workday and hit the gym after work.

What if you have a more physically demanding job such as construction? I was actually discussing that with four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler recently. In his early days of training and competing, he still did work a job that involved manual labor. What he did was to eat a large meal once work was finished, then rest about an hour—usually taking a nap—before training.

The belief that you can’t reach your goals as a bodybuilder unless someone is paying you to stay home and focus 100 percent on your training, eating and rest is a myth. Sure, it would be nice if we didn’t have to work, but in this world things cost money. That doesn’t mean you have to choose between working and bodybuilding—and don’t ever use the fact that you have a job as an excuse for why you can’t be the best bodybuilder you can be. Too many people have managed their time and energy efficiently and proved that it is indeed possible. In fact, some of them have turned pro, won pro titles and even the Mr. Olympia while holding down a full-time job—so you’d better find another excuse!


Editor’s note: Ron Harris is the author of Real Bodybuilding, available at

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