The A-Z of Bodybuilding – Build Muscle & Strength

A-Z of Bodybuilding

Here is a quick guide to all things bodybuilding (an A-Z of bodybuilding if you will) within this alphabet is everything you could need to know about the lifting lifestyle.

A is for Anabolic Window

The anabolic window is a much debated subject in bodybuilding, the idea is that after a workout you have a certain period of time in which to consume protein so that your body has the necessary fuel for your muscles to grow.

Studies have shown that whilst there is an Anabolic window of some description, it is not necessary to immediately consume protein if you have eaten a meal an hour or two before a workout (as the protein would still be in your system) [1].

B is for Bicep Curls

Is there a more famous bodybuilding exercise than the bicep curl? Yet so many lifters perform them incorrectly.

Grab a barbell (or two dumbbells) and stand straight with arms fully extended in front of you. Keeping your elbows tucked into your side, curl the bar up until your hands are in line with your collar bone.

Lower the weight down as slowly as possible, this is the important part.

Don’t drop the weights down, don’t rock back and forth, don’t swing the weights up. That’s how you bicep curl!

C is for Creatine

Creatine is one of the most well-researched supplements in the world, it has been used widely since the early 90s and is responsible for improving explosive power, anaerobic performance, muscle hypertrophy [2], and also has positive effects on brain performance [3].

D is for Drop Sets

Training to failure is a fantastic way to get the most out of your workout, exercises which involve drop sets can increase the amount of motor units activated in the muscle, and increase the hormonal response to exercise [4].

To perform a drop set you should exercise to failure (for example perform a set of bicep curls until you can’t lift the bar up anymore) and then immediately lower the weight to around 50% and then train to failure again.

Do not overdo drop sets as this can lead to overtraining.

E is for Eccentric Training

The eccentric part of a lift is the part where your muscles are lengthening, it is traditionally seen as the easy part of the lift.

In a bench press the lowering of the bar to your chest is the ‘easy part‘ while the pressing is the difficult.

Eccentric training takes that theory and turns it upside down. With Eccentric training you only perform the muscle lengthening part, allowing you to use a much heavier weight.

This can lead to increased force [5], strength, and hypertrophy [6], and can actually improve flexibility [7].

F is for Fasted Cardio

A bodybuilding myth believed by the majority of lifters is that fasted cardio is the best way to burn fat.

On the contrary, studies have found that fasted cardio makes no difference to fat-burning and may even have a negative effect [8].

This is because the cardio performer would have less energy to train, so would perform at a lower intensity.

If you do decide to train fasted, make sure that you take protein and carbohydrates immediately post-workout to fuel muscle protein synthesis [9].

G is for Glutes

Considering that the Glutes are the biggest muscles in the body it is crazy how many people ignore them.

Sure you will see Bodybuilders perform squats, leg presses, and lunges. But when was the last time you saw a Bodybuilder performing a Glute specific exercise? Why not try some Glute Ham Raises or Glute Bridges next time you train legs?

H is for Hyperplasia

In 1986 a study was completed by Larsson and Tesch that found that experienced Bodybuilders actually had a greater number of muscle fibres than regular people [10].

This might sound obvious but the idea that people could grow more muscle fibres (Hyperplasia) rather than just increase the size of their current fibres (Hypertrophy) is subject to much debate in the scientific community.

I is for Interval Training

HIIT has become more and more popular with bodybuilders, and has begun to replace the 2 hour treadmill walks that many bodybuilders in the 90s (and still many today) believed were optimal for fat loss.

Whilst there is an argument for using both well, there are many benefits to HIIT such as improved endurance [11], fat loss [12] and increased Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) [13].

J is for Joke

How do you compliment a barbell?

Nice Rack” 🙂

K is for Knowledge

At this current time, you have more access to information than any Bodybuilder in history. Even Arnold made mistakes, and you can find out what they were and how to avoid them with just a click of a button.

Obviously knowledge isn’t everything in this sport, but it is a huge advantage that you would be crazy to ignore.

L is for LISS

LISS or Low Intensity Steady State is the long, slow cardio that we looked at in the Interval Training Section.

Whilst not as fancy as HIIT, nor as popular with Cross-fitters or “Hardcore” gym-goers LISS still has all of the benefits of HIIT with a lower chance of injury.

If you have the time available, don’t be afraid to utilise LISS to help you reach your goals.

M is for Muscle Protein Synthesis

MPS is the most crucial process in Bodybuilding, and it is the reason why protein is so popular.

When you exercise your muscle fibres become damaged, you then use protein to repair them and allow them to grow.

MPS is responsible for muscle hypertrophy and strength gains and is the reason why athletes require twice as much protein as sedentary people [14].

N is for Natural Bodybuilders

Whilst nowhere near as famous as regular bodybuilders, natural bodybuilders deserve respect.

Due to the nature of the industry it is hard to say for certain whether they are completely clean (testing is nowhere near as strict as most sports). But they are definitely reaching their goals without a lot of the drugs that regular bodybuilders use.

Natural Bodybuilders may not look as impressive as regular Bodybuilders, but they have worked just as hard to get where they are.

O is for Overtraining

A controversial subject in Bodybuilding, there are many who say that Overtraining doesn’t exist and that it can be overcome with diet and sleep.

Whilst it is true that the majority of people who go to a gym are not in danger of even coming close to overtraining, there definitely is such a thing as overtraining.

It is important to take breaks every once in a while to recover from exercise, and if you cannot do this then you should take a look at your relationship with exercising as you could be addicted.

P is for Placebo Effect

There is a theory that if humans managed to identify when they are being influenced by the placebo effect then the supplement industry would crumble to dust.

Okay maybe that’s an exaggeration, but listening to Bro’s say that a pre-workout was solely responsible for their bench increasing by 40kg is frustrating as hell.

Q is for Quarter Squats

You are training for Bodybuilding not Powerlifting, so whereas in Powerlifting it matters how much you can lift, in Bodybuilding it is all about how well you can perform the lift.

Full range of motion, slow tempo, and a focus on the eccentric part of the lift are what matters. So quarter squatting, or half-repping a bench press is even stupider than it looks.

R is for Reverse Dieting

Reverse dieting could be a game-changer in Bodybuilding.

The idea is that instead of jumping from a cut to a bulk with the addition of the world’s most eagerly anticipated cheat meal, you instead slowly add calories week by week.

This leads to less fat accumulation and an increased metabolism.

Try it next time you are finishing a cut and see for yourself.

S is for Supersets

An excellent way to save time and to increase intensity in a workout, the superset is a very popular training method in Bodybuilding.

You can either train opposing muscles (bench press, and bent over row for example), or train similar muscle groups such as chest and triceps.

Many lifters utilize supersets when trying to lower body fat.

T is for Tempo

As mentioned earlier, it is not about how much weight you lift, but how well you lift the weight.

Explosive concentric movements followed by slow eccentric movements seem to provide the best results when training for Hypertrophy.

U is for Undertraining

Okay, this is a made up word but I think you’ll like it.

Whilst many people are overly-concerned with the dangers of overtraining, the majority are actually suffering from undertraining.

If your goal is to become a bodybuilder but you are only training three times per week then you are undertraining. Increase your gym sessions or find a more realistic goal.

V is for Vanity

Bodybuilders are constantly portrayed as vain, and to be fair this is a fairly accurate description of a lot of gym-goers.

The dictionary definition of vanity is “excessive pride in one’s appearance” which would describe some bodybuilders, but the majority of lifters are never satisfied with their appearance.

Take pride in what you’ve achieved, but try not to define yourself by it.

W is for Whey Protein

Protein shakes and bodybuilding go hand in hand, and there are many reasons for that.

As mentioned before, the more you exercise the more protein you require for MPS.

Studies have found whey protein to promote fat-loss when combined with exercise [15], and taking whey (or Casein) protein before bed has been proven to aid recovery [16].

X is for X-Factor

There are millions of would-be Bodybuilders out there, yet for the last few years we have had the exact same winner (Phil Heath).

You can take all the right drugs, eat right 24/7 (including birthdays and Christmas) and live in the gym …. Yet there will always be someone better.

Once you embrace this fact and accept it you can finally begin to enjoy Bodybuilding for what it is, a personal journey.

Y is for Yerba Mate

Yerba Mate is a performance enhancing supplement that is high in caffeine, it is mostly used in A-Z lists as the writer couldn’t think of anything for Y.

Z is for Zinc

It helps you sleep, which is an essential part of any training regime. Lift big, eat big and get plenty of rest for recovery!

Click Here for the Best Muscle BuildersReferences

[1] Aragon, A., Schoenfeld, B. 2012. Nutrient timing revisited: is there a post-exercise anabolic window? Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 10(5)
[2] Cribb, P., Williams, A., Stathis, C., Carey, M., Hayes, A. 2007. Effects of Whey Isolate, Creatine, and Resistance Training on Muscle Hypertrophy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 39(2): 298-307
[3] Rae, C., Digney, A., McEwan, S., & Bates, T. 2006. Oral Creatine monohydrate supplementation improves brain performance: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial. Proceedings of the Royal Society London. B. 270: 2147-2150
[4] Willardson, J. 2007. The Application of Training to Failure in Periodized Multiple-Set Resistance Exercise Programs. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 21(2): 628-31
[5] Kelly, S., Brown, L., Hooker, S., Swan, P., Buman, M., Alvar, B., Black, L. 2015. Comparison of concentric and eccentric bench press repetitions to failure. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 29(4): 1027-32
[6] Roig, M., O’Brien, K., Kirk, G., Murray, R., McKinnon, P., Shadgan, B., Reid, D. 2008. The effects of resistance training on muscle strength and mass in healthy adults: a systematic review with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine 43(8): 556-68
[7] Nelson, R., Bandy, W. 2004. Eccentric Training and Static Stretching Improve Hamstring Flexibility of High School Males. Journal of Athletic Training 39(3): 254-258
[8] Schoenfeld, B. (2011) Does Cardio After an Overnight Fast Maximise Fat Loss? Strength & Conditioning Journal 33(1): 23-25
[9] Kumar, V., Atherton, P., Smith, K., Rennie, M. 2009. Human Muscle Protein Synthesis and breakdown during and after exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology 106(6): 2026-2039
[10] Larsson, L., Tesch, P. 1986. Motor unit fibre density in extremely hypertrophied skeletal muscles in man. Electrophysiological signs of muscle fibre hyperplasia. European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology 55(2): 130-6
[11] Burgomaster, K., Howarth, K., Phillips, S., Rakobowchuk, M., Macdonald, M., McGee, S., Gibala, M. 2008. Similar metabolic adaptations during exercise after low volume sprint interval and traditional endurance training in humans. The Journal of Physiology 586(1): 151-60
[12] Zhang, H., Tong, T., Qui, W., Wang, J., Nie, J., He, Y. 2015. EFFECT OF HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING PROTOCOL ON ABDOMINAL FAT REDUCTION IN OVERWEIGHT CHINESE WOMEN: A RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL. Kinesiology 47(1): 57-66
[13] Gillette, C., Bullough, R., Melby, C. 1994. Postexercise energy expenditure in response to acute aerobic or resistive exercise. International Journal of Sports Nutrition 4(4): 347-60
[14] Tarnopolsky, M., Atkinson, S., MacDougall, J., Chesley, A., Phillips, S., Schwarcz, H. 1992. Evaluation of protein requirements for trained strength athletes. Journal of Applied Physiology 73(5): 1986-95
[15] Hulmi, J., Laakso, M., Mero, A., Hakkinen, K., Ahtiainen, J., Peltonen, H. 2015. The effects of whey protein with or without carbohydrates on resistance training adaptations. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 16(12): 48
[16] Res, P., Groen, B., Pennings, B., Beelen, M., Wallis, G., Gijsen, A., Senden, J., Van loon, L. 2012. Protein ingestion before sleep improves post-exercise overnight recovery. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 44(8): 1560-9

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