Bodybuilding is more than just a workout. Zumba is a workout. Pilates is a workout. Spinning is a workout. You do them, and then you leave the gym and get on with the rest of your life.
In contrast, bodybuilding is a lifestyle, and you are either in, or you’re out.
That’s because bodybuilding is more than what you do in the gym. You need to follow a specific diet, use the right supplements, and respect your body’s need for rest, recovery, and sleep.
You also need to learn the language (the pump, sets, reps, intensity, 1RM, macros, bulking, cutting, tdee, etc.) so you can talk to other bodybuilders. Bodybuilders often dress differently, too…
What you do outside of the gym is as important as what you do in it. Bodybuilding requires a 24/7 commitment!
In this article, we list the top 15 signs that you’re a real bodybuilder, explaining the significance of each one.
See how many you recognize and grade yourself accordingly:
- 1-5 – bro, do you even lift? (C-)
- 6-10 – not bad, but don’t quit your day job! (B)
- 11-15 – you are a REAL bodybuilder! (A+)
Signs You’re A Real Bodybuilder
- 1. You can look at any meal and tell if it’ll fit your macros
- 2. You know how much weight is on the bar just by looking at it
- 3. You call Monday “Chest day”
- 4. You take a cooler of food with you everywhere you go
- 5. If someone says you’ve gained weight, you treat it as a compliment
- 6. You know where the best mirrors are for showing off your physique
- 7. You call junk food a treat meal
- 8. You know who Zercher, Pendlay, Hackenschmidt, Yates, and Kroc are
- 9. According to food serving sizes, you’re a family of four
- 10. You’ve seen Pumping Iron more times than you can count
- 11. You can’t wear skinny jeans
- 12. You walk like an elderly person after leg day
- 13. You spend more money on supplements than you spend on food
- 14. You’re not fat; you’re bulking!
- 15. Your non-bodybuilding friends think you’re nuts!
- Wrapping Up
Signs You’re A Real Bodybuilder
So, are you a real bodybuilder, or are you just pretending? Here are the 15 signs that you are a TRUE iron-pumping, biceps flexing, vascular, muscular, iron warrior!
1. You can look at any meal and tell if it’ll fit your macros
To build muscle, you need to a) consume sufficient calories and b) eat enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats. After all, you are what you eat, and your body needs an abundance of energy and nutrients to recover and grow.
As a new bodybuilder, you probably had to weigh and measure all your meals to make sure you were hitting your macro targets. But, a few years later, you have likely developed the ability to look at a meal and instinctively know if it contains everything you need.
This handy skill will save you hours of analyzing your meals. Of course, you could easily over or underestimate your food intake. If you are unhappy with your progress, it could be time to stop guessing and start measuring again.
2. You know how much weight is on the bar just by looking at it
While bodybuilders aren’t judged by how strong they are, most still put a lot of stock in how much weight they can lift. That’s especially true for the big compound exercises like squats, bench presses, and deadlifts.
As such, just a cursory glance should be all you need to work out how much weight someone is lifting and if it’s more than you!
You’ll probably also be able to quickly determine what combination of plates you need to load the bar with the weight you need – mainly using 45s, of course!
In fact, when it comes to the 45-multiplication table, most bodybuilders are bonafide mathematical marvels!
3. You call Monday “Chest day”
According to the Weider Priority Principle, you should train your most important body parts at the start of the week, when your energy and motivation are highest. So, it’s no surprise that most bodybuilders start their training week with a chest workout.
The pecs are a crucial body part in bodybuilding and one that most bodybuilders enjoy training. But, while there is nothing wrong with calling Monday chest day, if you want to develop a balanced physique, you should also call Tuesday back day and Wednesday leg day. After all, each body part deserves the same attention as your chest.
Related: The 12 Best Workout Splits
4. You take a cooler of food with you everywhere you go
Food is the bodybuilder’s greatest weapon in the battle of anabolism vs. catabolism. As such, many bodybuilders eat every 2-3 hours, consuming six or more meals per day. Unless you work and train at home, this invariably means carrying food with you wherever you go.
While the anabolic window is something of a bodybuilding myth, it’s fair to say that missing meals could undermine your progress, especially if you fail to consume enough calories.
So, if your friends and colleagues say things like “man, you’re always eating!”, you are probably doing something right.
5. If someone says you’ve gained weight, you treat it as a compliment
While the rest of the world is trying to lose weight, most bodybuilders want to do the opposite. Every pound gained is a step closer to becoming a muscular behemoth. If someone thinks you’ve gained weight, what they probably mean is that you’re looking bigger than the last time they saw you.
Bodybuilding mission accomplished!
But, if they ask you if you’ve lost weight and you’re not currently following a cutting plan, it may be time to reevaluate your diet and workout regimen.
6. You know where the best mirrors are for showing off your physique
Bodybuilding is all about aesthetics and the combination of muscle size, definition, balance, and symmetry. In other words, bodybuilders are judged on how they look and not how much weight they can lift.
Even if you have no intention of stepping on stage and competing, you’ll undoubtedly measure your progress by looking at yourself in the mirror.
Because every bodybuilder wants to look their best, you have probably found the mirrors that provide the best reflection. Overhead lighting is perfect for showing definition, and tinted mirrors give your skin a pleasing brown hue. Slightly convex mirrors make you look bigger and broader…
Don’t pretend you don’t have a favorite place to flex and check your physique. Just so long as it’s not in a public place!
7. You call junk food a treat meal
Bodybuilders often have pretty extreme diets. Not only do they eat vast amounts of food, but they also tend to focus on bodybuilding staples like chicken, tuna, cottage cheese, vegetables, and whole grains. Bodybuilders eat for fuel and not for taste!
However, most bodybuilders also allow themselves a cheat meal to break up the monotony of their muscle-building diet. Invariably, that means junk food.
That’s why, if you see a bodybuilder eating a candy bar or a takeout burger, they’ll probably call it a cheat meal.
For the rest of the non-exercising population, junk food is just food, which is why so many of them are overweight!
8. You know who Zercher, Pendlay, Hackenschmidt, Yates, and Kroc are
Some of the best muscle-building exercises are named after the person who invented them, and that’s usually a famous bodybuilder, weightlifter, or strongman.
- Zercher squat– named after powerlifter Ed Zercher
- Pendlay row– named after Olympic weightlifting coach Glen Pendlay
- Hack squats– named after wrestler and strongman George Hackenschmidt
- Yates row– named after six-time Mr. Olympia winner Dorian Yates
- Arnold press– named after Arnold Schwarzenegger
- Kroc rows– named after powerlifter Janae Maria Kroc (AKA Matt Kroczaleski)
- Scott curls– named after the first Mr. Olympia Larry Scott
- Zottman curl– named after strongman George Zottman
But, of course, being a real bodybuilder, you already knew this, right?!
9. According to food serving sizes, you’re a family of four
Bodybuilders have a saying: if you want to get big, you’ve got to eat big. Invariably, this means putting away vast amounts of food, especially when bulking. Some of the most massive bodybuilders end up consuming 6,000 calories or more per day, which is three times what the average person eats!
So, if you want to be a bodybuilder, get used to eating more like a family of four than an individual. You can’t build massive muscles without eating lots of food!
Related: Bulking Meal Plan to Fill Out Your Sleeves and Turn Heads
10. You’ve seen Pumping Iron more times than you can count
Pumping Iron might have been released back in 1977, but it’s still essential viewing for any bodybuilder. It’s the movie that introduced the world to not just the sport of bodybuilding but some of the biggest names in bodybuilding history, including Lou Ferrigno, Franco Columbu, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The movie itself is a fantastic documentary, highlighting the rivalry and camaraderie of the athletes, and it’s pretty funny too. Some of the script is dramatized for entertainment, but it’s also a very inspirational movie.
If you haven’t seen Pumping Iron, you can’t really call yourself a true bodybuilder, so watch it ASAP!
11. You can’t wear skinny jeans
As any bodybuilder knows, friends don’t let friends skip leg day. So while big biceps and a muscular chest are physique must-haves, they need to be paired with a well-developed lower body, too.
After all, bodybuilders are judged on muscular balance, which means your upper AND lower body need to be equally well developed.
Sadly, this means you may have to forgo some fashion trends, such as skinny jeans. Those big, muscular thighs will probably stretch the seams to breaking point if you can pull them on at all.
However, not wearing skinny-fit jeans is a very small price to pay for having monster-sized quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. In fact, if you can wear skinny jeans, that’s a good sign you need to start paying more attention to your leg workouts!
12. You walk like an elderly person after leg day
Building muscle mass is never easy. In fact, it can be brutal. You need to break your muscles down with intense training so that they grow back bigger and stronger, which is a process called hypertrophy.
Intense workouts are often followed by post-workout muscle soreness.
While this soreness is not necessarily an indicator that your workout was successful, if you train hard enough, some soreness is all but unavoidable.
When muscle soreness affects your upper body, it’s not usually much of a problem. In fact, it may not have any noticeable impact on your day-to-day activities. However, lower body soreness can be debilitating, making even walking a test of your pain tolerance.
While there is a funny side to leg soreness, especially when it’s happening to someone else, it can make you think twice before getting in out of your car or sitting down and standing up.
So, the next time you see a young bodybuilder walking like someone in their 80s, it’s probably because they’re suffering from a “squat hangover.”
13. You spend more money on supplements than you spend on food
While you can build bigger muscle without supplements, most bodybuilders use supplements to help them train harder, recover faster, and make better progress. Good options include:
Individually, none of these products is overly expensive. However, bodybuilding is a sport of extremes, so most bodybuilders use several supplements, taking multiple doses every day.
Financially, this can really add up!
So, if your supplement bill is higher than your grocery bill, you can safely call yourself a real bodybuilder!
But, before you congratulate yourself on your well-earned title, do take a minute to see if you really need all those pills, powders, and potions. Could you get more of what you need from real food?
That’s not to say that using supplements is harmful or dangerous. It’s just that, in many cases, real food is more nutritionally complete and far cheaper.
14. You’re not fat; you’re bulking!
Building muscle invariably means consuming more food than usual. This creates a calorie surplus, providing your body with the energy it needs for your workouts, recovery, and muscle growth. Bodybuilders call this bulking.
While bulking usually leads to increased muscle mass, you’re also going to gain some fat.
While bulking, your hard-won definition will gradually fade, and your muscles may start to look smooth. You might even begin to get a little chunky!
This can be a hard pill to swallow, so it’s best to bulk in the winter and get lean in the spring, so you look your best in the summer and autumn. And if anyone should mention how you’re looking a little on the chubby side, just remind them that you’re bulking, and the cutting diet starts soon.
But you MUST take care not to fall into the perma-bulk trap. If you do, you’ll eventually stop looking like a bodybuilder and start to resemble a heavyweight powerlifter instead!
15. Your non-bodybuilding friends think you’re nuts!
Non-bodybuilders will be baffled by everything you do to build bigger muscles. They’ll probably have lots of questions and misconceptions about your diet, training, and bodybuilding in general, such as:
- Why do you want to be so big?
- If it hurts so much, why do you do it?
- How much can you bench press?
- Is creatine a steroid?
- Will all that muscle turn to fat when you stop?
- Why do you eat so much?
- Isn’t all that protein bad for you?
You can try and explain it to non-exercisers, but they probably won’t get it. They may even think you’re a little bit crazy. If you are a real bodybuilder, you’ll just have to accept that only other bodybuilders understand what drives you and why you do the things you do.
After all, what normal person does squats until they feel like puking while knowing their legs will be so sore tomorrow that they won’t be able to walk normally? And you do that for FUN?!
Bodybuilding is an extreme pastime and sport. But just because it’s not mainstream doesn’t mean it’s any less worthwhile than Jogging, Zumba, or Yoga. Done right, it can be life and health-enhancing and something you can do long into your golden years.
Yes, it does involve intense workouts, strict diets, and supreme dedication, but that’s okay; if bodybuilding was easy, everyone would do it.
If you recognize any of the 15 signs listed above, you should congratulate yourself on a job well done. After all, these are the things you need to do if you want to build the body of your dreams.
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